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Re: solar gardening / worm compost

In a message dated 2/3/97 6:49:05 PM, you wrote:

>While reading Kathy Ging's "Liberated Salad - Biodiversity at the Table" 
>I thought of this book. "Solar Gardening" Has any body read this, or use 
>any of the techniques (small coverings for year round growing) if so 
>please share your results.  It seemed legitimate.  Thanks to Kathy Ging 
>for sharing such a great article.  I hope to incorporate this into a 
>nutrition / health promotion program for low income persons in the near 
>future.  The saftey nets are being pulled out from under people so it's 
>time to teach self reliance!   
>Does anyone have info on earthworm composting (under your sink / limited 
>space) ?  

Yes, I have a LOT of experience with small solar growing devices.  Our
comparisons showed, for example, that a gallon plastic milk jug with the
bottom cut out equals the solar cones in apparent rate of plant growth and
that they can be left on the plant longer, being closer to the shape of a
plant.  At the cost of the Kalwall we were using, one could afford to buy the
milk and pour it on the ground for the jug!  (Not that we recommend that.)
 This was in 1980 and maybe the price situation has changed a little and you
would have to drink the milk to save money.  The elipicical cross section
solar pods work but they are a dumb design.  The Rodale models, based on
their research in the 1970s, with 45 degree glazing aimed south, are much
more efficient.  Personally, I'd rather make hotbeds in most any climate
where I need a cold frame or pod.  

In Georgia, I put milk jugs over some tomatos and others just covered when we
had frost.  the ones with milk jugs overheated there, even withthe lids
permanently off, and the plants that roughed it bore earlier and more.

Here are some tips.  Condensation is an issue.  I found with our pods (We had
dozens of the damn things.) that the condensate would run down the glazing
and freeze the pod to the frame.  It turns out that ice has quite a bit of
tensil strength.  Four of us, in pretty good shape, got one each on a corner
and tried to remove a pod from the frame.  Instead, we ripped the frame
itself out of the frozen ground--the ice held.  Try pulling an ice cube apart
some day.  It's a pretty strong crystal.

My solution, which should be all over the place by now, I hope, is to run a
bead of clear silicone caulking down the sides of the glazing near the edge,
so that the condensate drips back into the pod instead of running to the
frame.  This also reduces the rate at which these things will rot.  You
grow-frame has, in effect, its own rain.  The drip line is clear on the soil
in the pod, and you can plant well to either side of it.

If bitter cold weather is expected, harvest LARGE plants so that there is a
lot of soil showing a day or two, at least, before the temperature drops
below 0 F.  The soil is the best thermal mass in grow frames but needs to be
exposed to sun to collect the therms.  We considered darkening the soil with
charcoal, but never got to it.  Here, I have black muck for soil--no problem
except that I am in a hot climate so I need to cover the soil most of the
year or cook the plant roots.

Thermal mass in grow frames is a waste of time.  During the cold weather, we
found that the drums of water exactly compensated for the space they took
up--net gain for the bother, zero.  The other 9 months of the year, we did
not have the use of 1/4 to 1/3 of the frame space.  Bad deal.

I suppose your book told you that you need really souped-up soil for grow
frames, greenhouses, etc., to compensate for limited volume.

Finally, and most important, the main reason why plants die, when they do, in
solar growing devices, from greenhouses to cloches, is that people do not
ventilate them.  With grow frames and cloches, this makes the activity a zone
one function.  You could easily top 100 F in a grow frame by 9 a.m. when it
is below 0 F outside.  You must crack the frame.  With greenhouses, you need
about 20 percent of your floor space in vents--twice as much vent space
should be at the base as at the crest of the greenhouse.  With the simpler
devices, you just have to keep thermometers in them and get out there while
your coffee is heating at dawn.  There are some tricks for cheating--solar
chimneys and solar vent openers (thermal pistons).  While you can use a
heat-actuated expansion piston to open a grow frame, it is really pissing
away money to spend that much for such a small space.  

Regarding earthworm composting, the best source probably is still Mary
Applehoff's Worms Eat My Garbage, Flowerfield Press (or something like that I
think she changed the name slightly), Kalamazoo MI USA.  I don't know if Ann
Wigmore ever wrote up her system in the zillions of publications that
 Hippocrates Health Institute put out.  I was the token craven meat eater on
the teaching staff there in Boston.  In any case, Anne (I think it is with an
e?) did famously when she was home, but the staff could never follow her
instructions and ended up with a smelly mess.  Mary still publishes her book
and has a special version for classroom use too.  She really knows her stuff
and does it at home.

I'm not going to look up Mary's address as I've gone way over the time I have
to answer mail.  Maybe someone else on the list will give it if your book
store can't find the title with the info given.  Try her name also with one f
at the end.

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since
1982), Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now correspondence
permaculture training by email. Copyright, 1996, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, P.O.
Box 2052, Ocala FL 34478 USA  YankeePerm@aol.com  

We don't have time to rush.