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Old 06-03-2011, 10:45 AM  
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Eureka, Montana
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Gardening in Montana

Well, here goes another summer trying to grow a garden in Montana and not let frost kill it! Even the cool nights seem to slow the growth and production, so we've taken to keeping a huge collection of old sheets and blankets and covering things like potatoes and beans every night. The extra warmth seems to help.

What ways have you adapted gardening to this climate?
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Old 06-03-2011, 01:33 PM  
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Have you given any thought to cold frames? A wood frame can be cobbled together from scrap wood and polyethylene can be stapled to the frame. A small heater should suffice. I've also heard of placing a black painted barrel of water inside to soak up heat during the day & heat the unit at night.
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Old 06-03-2011, 05:27 PM  
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Originally Posted by blucher View Post
Have you given any thought to cold frames? A wood frame can be cobbled together from scrap wood and polyethylene can be stapled to the frame. A small heater should suffice. I've also heard of placing a black painted barrel of water inside to soak up heat during the day & heat the unit at night.
I've been reading about cold frames and there seems to be a lot of ways (and sizes!) to build them. Hmm...water for thermal mass. That's a good idea and it seems like it would work. I'd prefer something that didn't take electricity or fuel. Thanks!
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Old 06-04-2011, 01:25 PM  
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"Hmm...water for thermal mass. That's a good idea and it seems like it would work. I'd prefer something that didn't take electricity or fuel. Thanks!"

Got the idea from a passive solar house. It was an A Frame design that utilized heavy curtains on the window-wall (closed at night) and columns of 50 gallon drums painted black to absorb heat during the day..
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Old 06-08-2011, 11:24 PM  
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Cool! That'd be a neat house to see! We're building a PVC greenhouse right now, and I'm thinking of setting a row of buckets along the back of the raised beds, between the plants and the plastic cover, and filling them with water. We have dozens of 2-gallon buckets from the grocery store bakery dept.

Think that would work? Or should they be in the center of the greenhouse, down the middle of the walk aisle? This thing will be about 10' by 8', and about 6 1/2' tall in the middle.
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Old 06-09-2011, 11:20 AM  
mohel
 
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We have dozens of 2-gallon buckets from the grocery store bakery dept.

Think that would work? Or should they be in the center of the greenhouse, down the middle of the walk aisle? This thing will be about 10' by 8', and about 6 1/2' tall in the middle.
The 50 gallon drums were right near the window wall in the A frame so I think position is less important than volume. If you 2 gallon containers are the same soft plastic I'm thinking of you might need to rough up the surface with sandpaper before painting them a dark absorbent color.
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Old 06-09-2011, 12:33 PM  
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Yeah, the 2-gallon buckets are just the white plastic. I didn't know about roughing them up before painting them. Good to know.

We do have some 50-gallon barrels. I think they'd take up too much room in a small greenhouse like that, which is why I thought of a row of smaller buckets all along the planters. If the bulk of thermal mass in one container would work better than the collection of smaller buckets I could probably put one or maybe two of the barrels in there instead.

We collect rainwater off our house and sheds, and the excess is stored in stock tanks and 50-gallon plastic barrels in the garden. We don't have a well, so whatever water we use on the garden is either rainwater ('fresh' or stored) or has to be hauled from town. This time of year we fill everything we can so we have water in July and August for the garden.

We also mulch well and keep our soil in good shape to reduce water needs.
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Old 06-10-2011, 06:49 PM  
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Use Krylon Fusion spray paint and you won't have to rough up those containers.

But what is important if you go with passive solar heat is to make sure those buckets get enough sunlight during the day to allow them to heat up really well and then slowly release that heat back into your cold frame during the night or on cold days.

And I'd be looking at standard 5 gallon buckets with a lid so the water doesn't evaporate. They'll take more time to release the heat and they are really easy to find for free all over the place.

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Old 06-10-2011, 11:26 PM  
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Yeah, the 2-gallon buckets are just the white plastic. I didn't know about roughing them up before painting them. Good to know.
I worked for a car painter for a bit. He said paint will adhere to most rough surfaces so it should work although flexing plastic might be a problem.



Quote:
We do have some 50-gallon barrels. I think they'd take up too much room in a small greenhouse like that, which is why I thought of a row of smaller buckets all along the planters.
I was thinking about that and had an idea. What if the barrels were mostly outside the greenhouse but using convection they could feed warmed water (thru convection?) to the one or two barrels within the greenhouse. Consider those inside being laid sideways under your growing tables. Your seals need to be first rate but that shouldn't be difficult.
The only Montana I've seen was a few hundred miles of highway but it was clearly dry high desert so your supply of sunlight should be great. It's mild here in Oregon but while I'm very pro-solar I often wonder if there's every a way to regain the initial costs in my state. Entire months of rain are the norm here.

Quote:
We also mulch well and keep our soil in good shape to reduce water needs
My neighbors laughed at me a lot the year before I tried my first garden. I'm no farmer and went to the books to learn how to prepare the soil.
First I dug out the top 18 ins, to 2 ft. of my 14 x 6 ft. garden. I added an inch or two of sand for drainage too. Then all that summer I filled my van with my neighbors grass clippings. Marvelous things happen just sitting in hot garbage bags for a few weeks.
By Fall I had a fairly impressive mountain of rotting grass all ready for it's winter work. I now covered the crass with the two feet of earth removed earlier and dumped a big bag of lime on top.

That winter was very cold but also had heavy snows. Mt. Grassclippings grew so warm no snow would lay atop it. By early Spring it was steaming night & day.
The first crop of tomatoes required two extensions of poles until they reached 14 feet and bore obscenely large red fruit. No one laughed again and I was teaching Soil Prep 101 the rest of that year.

Is a well impractical? A reliance on rainwater is fine now but what if Mount St. Helens carpets you with a few inches of ash? I'm a big believer in having a solid Plan B for critical commodities and at 6.5 lbs. per gallon water is darn heavy to move around in quantity.

I used to keep a 100 gallon plastic vat in my mother's kitchen. (she was not amused). It used gravity to feed age, pre-aerated water to the tanks holding 3000 fish in the basement. Chemical companies and large medical supply houses too them out but it's best to know what they had once contained. Rural fire departments often can be extremely helpful filling things.


If the bulk of thermal mass in one container would work better than the collection of smaller buckets I could probably put one or maybe two of the barrels in there instead.

We collect rainwater off our house and sheds, and the excess is stored in stock tanks and 50-gallon plastic barrels in the garden. We don't have a well, so whatever water we use on the garden is either rainwater ('fresh' or stored) or has to be hauled from town. This time of year we fill everything we can so we have water in July and August for the garden.

We also mulch well and keep our soil in good shape to reduce water needs.[/QUOTE]
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Old 06-10-2011, 11:56 PM  
mohel
 
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Use Krylon Fusion spray paint and you won't have to rough up those containers.
So true, Krylon is cheap but dependable. The 5 gallon ones you suggest are of a firmer plastic and don't get the slightly greasy feel of the lighter plastic containers.
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