Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tabletop Greenhouses: Burpee or Bust

Several people have asked me what I think of the little miniature seed starting greenhouses, AKA: tabletop greenhouse. My answer to this is simple: If it’s not a Burpee brand greenhouse it’s not worth it. Every other brand I’ve tried has been an exercise in frustration. The Burpee brand “Ultimate Growing System” on the hand, is fantastic. Here’s why...

Other brands don't work the way Burpee does.

Other brands, like Jiffy, don’t actually use a self-regulated watering system. They use a submersed irrigation system that inevitably doesn’t water your seedlings evenly or regularly. You have to keep refilling the tray, depending on where you live that could be several times a day. Here in Arizona, where it’s extremely arid, even in the colder northern regions, you have to hover over the trays to keep the water level right.

Also, when you do add water to these things, it trickles through channels, flooding some seedlings, and leaving others dry. I actually had to use a squeeze bottle to water these things when I tried them, just to get the irrigation even.

And then the seedlings sit in the excess and runoff from the watering, increasing the chances of drowning and root rot.

How Burpee tabletop greenhouses work:

The Burpee tabletop greenhouse, by comparison, uses an automatic, self-regulating watering system that takes advantage of the siphoning abilities of good seed starting mixes that are typically high in peat moss. In other words, they suck, but in a good way. The Burpee system pulls the moisture up from a mat that in turn pulls moisture up from the cistern, which is below the seeding trays. The seedlings never sit in pools of water, so the chance of them downing is completely eliminated, and the chance of root rot is reduced so much it seems like it’s eliminated.

With the Burpee system you only have to fill the cistern at most once a day, and vent the greenhouse every so often. There’s no hovering involved. Even when I lived in Phoenix I only had to top-off the water in the cistern once a day, usually in the mornings, and vent it once in the afternoon. Because the seeding trays are elevated, venting is as easy as taking the clear top off for 5-10 minutes and letting the plastics and little baby leafs dry out. As soon as the condensation is gone you pop the top back on and go about your merry business.

Also, with the Burpee system you can buy replacement parts, while the other brands tend to make you by whole new kits. This comes in handy if your cats discover the joys sucking on the thermal watering mat like mine did. And, because the Burpee greenhouse uses actual pot cells you can use your own seeding mix if you want.

One would say that the only drawback to the Burpee Ultimate growing system is it’s price. And once would be wrong. Yes, you can get a Jiffy greenhouse system for $5 on sale at WalMart, but this is an instance where you get what you pay for. Actually, it’s been my experience that this would be $5 wasted. The $20 you spend on a Burpee system will get you a few years and several hundred seedlings, while the other brands usually don’t give you anything more than a headache.

For tabletop greenhouses my recommendation is Burpee or bust.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Where have you gone, Reclaiming the Farm?

We haven’t posted in quite a while, and we apologize for that. It’s been a very busy winter, spring, and summer. Over the winter we were addressing one 'issue’ after another, just trying to keep up with the damage Mother Nature was doing to the house. The spring brought new issues, and we found ourselves working feverishly to save the orchard.

But, it was the summer that’s really had us doing back-flips. You see, in early summer, June 30th to be precise, the neighboring town of Yarnell burned to the ground.  The fire that consumed over a hundred homes in this tiny, picturesque community gained national attention. Not for the homes lost, but for the 19 local firefighters who died in the blaze. Yes, it’s that fire. The Yarnell Hill Fire, which killed 19 of the 20 elite firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hot Shots.

The world knows about our Hot Shots. But, the world turns a blind eye to the others that were devastated by that fire. The people who survived. The people who lost everything except their lives.

This area, Yavapai County, is a collection of small towns, all revolving around the larger not-quite-city-sized-town of Prescott. No one town can really survive on it’s own. We’re dependant on each other to fill in all the gaps and function as a larger community. So, when one of us is in trouble the others step up.

That’s exactly what Yavapai County, and the whole of Arizona, has been doing for Yarnell. Stepping up... or, at least doing our best. We here at Wolf Gardens are no exception.

Da Man hasn’t been working much for his employer due to normal off-season stuff, so he’s been home with Da Kids and the Hippylady for the most part. Mom, on the other hand, has been spending 50-60 hours a week at the Yarnell Relief Center, volunteering as the maintenance manager for the facility. She’s also been trying to get articles written for her various publishers in the mornings and evenings.

So, things are busy here. Da Man is running horde at Reclaiming the Farm, and Mom is dead tired, but getting lots of experience in doing all sorts of useful things. The entire family does what they can to help with the Yarnell Rising effort.

So, if we don’t post for a while, or seem to go off on tangents, please forgive us.

If you would like to find out more about Yarnell, or what you can do to help, please visit any and all of the links below.

Yarnell Fire Fun
Items needed 

A variety show will be held at the end of this month to help raise money to help rebuild the town. For more information download and print the image for this post.