Participant Forum: App Tech

Many thoughts on app tech

Picture of Melinda Kelley
Many thoughts on app tech
by Melinda Kelley - Thursday, November 19, 2020, 12:40 PM

I too enjoyed the videos, but as I viewed them it occurred to me that the appropriate technology that am most interested in the use of low tunnels and hotbeds.  I’ve made low tunnels for several years now (testing them in various spots on our property – to maximize the sun in different seasons; critical because of our shade issue), with a fair amount of success.  I have (or rather my very helpful husband has) constructed two new beds this winter (in pre-tested locations) and have planted a much wider range of winter greens; I’m optimistic about having a more diverse and plentiful crop through the spring.  See a photo below.

I also tried a cold frame for the first time last year, however my results were mixed.  I hadn’t realized that the height of the frame and angle of the plexiglass makes a difference, depending upon the sun exposure.  Ours were a bit too high for shorter plants (or seed starting trays) inside to be exposed to sufficient light, so I had to do a lot of propping and lifting.  I definitely need to reconsider repositioning this year – I’m thinking about moving it to the front, where there’s more full day sun in the winter (and I don’t have to worry about my neighbors’ mosquito spray drifting over, because they don’t spray in winter).  The angle of the sun may still be an issue, though.

I like all of these experiments because of their ease and cost; while I am not enthusiastic about the plastic involved (e.g., the low tunnel covers), I am able to reuse each piece for years, and have made use of rocks and other materials that we have on hand already to hold down the edges.  The improvement or adaptation I would like to try is hotbed gardening.  I first saw a large hotbed being built on a gardening show (over last winter) and was impressed with the potential of hot manure (even growing up in the country, I didn’t have any "exposure" to manure, because my family never had any livestock).  When things open back up after COVID I will have a source for hot manure so I am considering my options, e.g., building a box under my existing cold frame to hold manure and straw, or starting anew with a separate hotbed system.  I am also wondering if there is some way that I can turn the cast iron tub that a friend gave me last month (in our garage ready for repurposing) into a hotbed?!  I was unable to find any videos of a tub-to-hotbed conversion online (perhaps not surprisingly), but if anyone has any thoughts on how this could work or whether it’s the worst idea ever (and I should just turn it into a planter), I’m open to feedback. 

The solar dehydrator was fascinating.  I’m still not sure I fully understand how the heat movement generates such a powerful airflow, but it’s very impressive.  I do wonder if the height shown of the setups is necessary to create the critical level of airflow?  A shorter version would work better for me, because I don’t necessarily need 10 or more drying racks (and would be easier to convince my husband to build), but the physics of it might not work.  Kathy also pointed out in her post that there might also be challenges in areas of high humidity – and we certainly have that in Maryland.

I love the idea of solar as well, but after many attempts at analyzing our sun exposure over the past few years (including consultations with solar companies), it’s clear that we have too much shade on our roof to make it work.

Videos on making a hotbed, if you're interested: