Pat Black

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since Dec 20, 2009
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Recent posts by Pat Black

D Taylor wrote:So much good info here, thanks for all the help and ideas!
Where to start...

Pat, regarding the 3 gallons of water per square foot. Do you remember where you found that info?

I think I read that in Greenhouse Gardener's Companion by Shane Smith. Great book, but non-technical when it comes to thermal mass.
8 years ago
The gas company has a 50 foot wide easement through my land and installed a pipeline in 1965. They drive it once or twice a year. Trees have grown up inside the easement all by themselves. As long as the gas co can drive through, they don't seem to have any issue with the trees. They could take them out if they wanted to, but that is cost prohibitive for them.

My experience is that the oil and gas people don't really give a damn where their actual easement is and will drive anywhere on your property. Consider fencing the easement prior to construction to prevent them from damaging even more of your land. You have to keep them where they belong. Unless you have posted no trespassing signs, legally they can go anywhere.

Once the pipeline is in, the only portion of the easement they really use will be the area immediately above it. So think of it as a one lane road going through there. For restoration purposes, you could toss seed balls full of adapted useful species and they would never know or care. If they are digging up rock to put the pipeline in, they will haul material for bedding the pipeline and might leave you with piles of waste rock. So be sure they agree to haul the waste rock away unless you want it.

The land value issue, well, who's to say what the highest land value would be? You could build a highrise luxury condo development on that 3/4 acre and it would be worth a heck of a lot more than a blueberry patch. So I am not so sure I can follow your logic.
9 years ago
Cedar wood is great, or consider galvanized steel. Pressure treated lumber is toxic and not what you want in a food producing space. All that water that rots untreated lumber is still going to go into your treated lumber and then leach out toxins. You are guaranteed holes in the poly and condensation between the layers that drips down onto the PT wood. A single layer of poly is no protection from the toxins.

In cold climates, you're going to need 3 gallons of water per square foot to prevent freezing in a freestanding structure. So a 1000 sq ft greenhouse might need 3000 gallons. Your "pond" would have to be mostly above ground for all that thermal mass to enter into the equation. You can do container gardening on top of barrels, tanks, or part of the pond so you don't lose so much growing space.
9 years ago
North Carolina State University might be worth a look. You can take Introduction to Permaculture for credit with them. They also research organic greenhouse production. Talk to Will Hooker there. He teaches permaculture and his home is all permacultured out.
9 years ago
Most professional growers using fluorescent tubes for plant lighting will run the lights for 18 hours a day. You have to use the 40 watt tubes. The normal cool white works fine unless you are trying to get something to flower. The tubes must be 2 - 6" (5 - 15 cm) above the plant canopy to get enough light intensity. The T-5 tubes are the most efficient tubes out there. Better to have a night time temperature lower than the day time temperature to help keep the plants compact.

When a plant does not get enough light, it tends to make smaller leaves and longer stems (etoliation.) Lack of light does not tend to cause interveinal chlorosis (patches of yellow between green veins on the leaves.) Chlorosis is a nutrient deficiency that can have many causes. Could be lack of magnesium, a lack of calcium that influences magnesium uptake, excess salt buildup in the soil, lack of nitrogen, etc. If the plant is yellow everywhere, it's getting so little light it's unable to make chlorophyll.

Unless it's a plant that really likes to be wet all the time, it's best to let the top of the soil dry down in the pot before watering again. Thorough but less frequent watering is key to preventing root rots.

Importing plant material from Iceland to Portugal may require a phytosanitary certificate that might be impossible for a home grower to obtain. Bringing seed with you would likely be no problem.

9 years ago
Are you growing tomatoes with verticillium resistance? Check the resistance codes on the seed packet or in the catalog. There are varieties with high resistance to vert wilt.

9 years ago
Sorry I haven't logged on here in a couple a months. Springtime farming took up all my time. Fence post top rail is available at any hardware store that has a construction material yard. It is used at the top of a chain link fence. It is galvanized steel, 1.375" in diameter, and comes in about 10' and 20'lengths.

Most growers will make or buy a jig and bend the pipe into a semi circle. A 20' pipe makes a hoop that is 12' wide and 7' high. You can look at a pipe bending jig here:
9 years ago
I prefer drop down sides to roll (or push) up sides. You're trying to vent out the hot air that is trapped at the top of the hoop house. Top down ventilation is superior to bottom up. I think there's higher costs with drop down, though.

In my area there are a lot of people who have built the PVC/rebar tunnels. None are standing after the 2nd season. The PVC gets brittle and the structures fail with the wind and snow loads we experience. PVC is also not very permacultural. If you're thinking over a longer time frame, making bows out fence post top rail turns out to be less expensive than PVC due to its lifespan.
9 years ago
My farm has been certified organic before there was even a national standard. Depending on where you live, it's not necessarily expensive to be certified. There is a federal program that reimburses 75% of your costs.

That said, there are plenty of reasons not to certify. I agree that if all you're doing is direct marketing, it's not needed. The <$5K sales exemption allows smaller growers a way to avoid certification.

But really the main reason I am seriously considering dropping my farm's certification is that it's becoming increasing difficult to comply with the changing interpretations of the regulations. Maybe if all you're doing is field cropping with rotations and cover crops for fertility you won't have much problem there. But if you use any external inputs in your organic system plan, you will someday get a letter from your certifier that product X is no longer allowable and you have to discontinue use immediately. It doesn't matter if stopping the use of the product destroys your crop, you have to stop with no advance notice. Then, if you decide you're just going to sell the crop as "conventional" you would not be able to ccertify that land for another 3 years because you used a product that yesterday was organic and today is not.

Certified naturally grown is a cute farmer pledge but carries no real enforcement mechanism and is largely people agreeing to something they could hardly understand, therefore not very meaningful. The farmer has to take a pledge that they are following all the NOP regulations. As I said above, the regs are in a constant state of reinterpretation and modification. The chief inspectors at certifying agencies are all at it fulltime, keeping abreast of all the changes. No peer farmer review program would ever be able to be fully knowledgeable of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regs to be able to certify another farm.

Here's an example. Let's say a farm uses chilean nitrate to supply nitrogen in a field. Is that organic or not? Under Certified Naturally Grown, the peer farmer who's reviewing your farm has to research the correct ways in which chilean nitrate may be used in crop production. Well the federal register will give you one place to look, but you would have to keep up on NOP bulletins for the complete information. The current NOP interpretation is that chilean nitrate can only 20% of the total nitrogen required to produce the crop. So if you have a field of mixed vegetables, the grower has to identify the crop in the field that uses the least amount of nitrogen to mature. Everything else in the field can only receive the same rate as the crop needing the least. It's obvious that a peer review would never in practice catch such a violation of the NOP standards. And even if it were caught, what's the enforcement? If you cheat under CNG, who's going to sue you to stop using the label? If you cheat under NOP, USDA yanks your certification and you can be fined. They have enforcement people.

My bottom line criticism is that CNG claims its farmers are following NOP rules, but none of the farmers are really fully knowledgeable enough to know for certain. Without a written organic systems plan that can get reviewed by the experts, it's not able to meet NOP rules. Record keeping and expert verifiation the fundamental basis of organic certification. Anything else is believing what a farmer tells you.

With CNG being pretty low in meaning, why not make up your seal and just use that instead? Then you don't even need another farmer to come over and see what you're doing. Call it Certified Natural By J Kunkel.

If you want a "close enough" certification for marketing purposes, CNG fits the bill. But don't think you'd have a smooth transition to NOP certification after you get a CNG stamp of approval.

9 years ago
I like to germinate tomato seeds at about 78 - 80 degrees F. They germinate well all the way up to 90, but after that they become recalcitrant. Below 70 and they germinate very very slowly. I verify the soil temps with a meat thermometer that is calibrated.

Direct sowing just seems like asking for trouble, but if you like, just do what it takes to get the proper soil temp and protect from cutworms and all assorted miscreants such as birds, squirrels, rabbits, voles, etc.

I germinate tomatoes indoors 4 week prior to transplant. Leggy, rootbound plants are less productive than a plant that is just filling out the pot. They need a lot of light just as soon as they are up. The collars to avoid cutworms is good. Then, some kind of shade cloth to keep the heat and light levels down for a hot fall planting and you're good to go. If you plant under a sheet or row cover or shade cloth then hardening off becomes less necessary. You can plant out a few and see how they fare while hardening off the rest if you so desire.

Highest tomato yields come from doing everything perfectly right.There are few years where that comes together here, but when it does, wow the harvests go way up.
10 years ago