Friday, February 7, 2014

Not so much "balcony" any more... and other tales.

At the end of November last year, Senior Management and I moved home, from flat-with-a-balcony to house-with-a-garden. This now somewhat negates the title of this blog, but I don't see why that can't just be the name of the blog anyway - it's where this madness started - so I'm keeping it! :)

Orchids... in a garden.
So, for the last two months, the orchids have been slumming it in temporary accommodation along the side of the garage. The first few days were certainly a learning experience. Strong winds and neighbourhood cats took their toll on the potted plants, with plenty found on the ground looking very sad. Fortunately, there have been very few casualties from the move so far, and some of the plants seem to have responded quite well to their more "natural" environment, increased air movement and of course, more light.

We addressed the cats and wind with a combination of hastily erected shadecloth windbreaks, tying pots to shelves with gardening "twist ties" or wire and repotting into heavier (clay) pots with rocks at the bottom. So far it seems to be working.
 
Orchids in a garden (well, along a wall next to a garden, anyway)
The contraption to the left with all the mounts is an old folding clothes horse used for drying clothes, we re-purposed it for orchids by hanging it from a pole above the roofing beams. Cable ties!
Orchids-in-pots
Note the piles of potting mix scattered here and there...
The shadecloth windbreak barriers can be seen to the left and right (white "cloth").

One of the nice "pluses" of this particular home is that it has a 1,500l rainwater tank in the back garden, which cuts right back on the number of trips I do every week to buy R/O water for the plants (and fish) to make up for the terrible quality of the local municipal water.

Of course, this little town in Africa gets a bit chilly for most of our plants, so we've been turning our attention to what will happen in a month or two when the weather takes a turn toward the chilly. Senior Management decreed that a greenhouse was the best solution, and I'm not arguing that point!

So, we've bought a greenhouse from Easy Greenhouses, a 8'x12' (about 2.59x3.83 meters) Rion plastic affair; Easy Greenhouses calls the model they sell a "Grand Gardener 46", but it seems to be a sort of hybrid between Rion's "Prestige" and "Grand Gardener" range in terms of features. The extra vents this model offers over some of the less costly models will certainly make a difference under that hot African sun!

Senior Management ponders the future spot for the greenhouse.
The amount of digging involved will be... painful.
Of course, installing this thing will now take quite some preparation to get into the ground and erected, and the appropriate services (particularly power) safely out to the spot where we'll erect it. There's currently a massive pile of boxes in our garage, pending clearing out the "vegetable patch" where it will live, levelling of the ground and installation of the plastic foundation. And of course, the construction of a suitable trench and laying of suitable conduit to carry power and some low voltage electronics (aka ethernet cables and security system cables) down there (in separate conduits for the mains and low voltage stuff, naturally!). Because, really, how can a greenhouse not have 1) power 2) internets 3) the option to not have all your plants going "walkies"?
Greenhouse-inna-box.
Well, quite a few boxes...
The serious purpose for the ethernet is monitoring conditions in the greenhouse with the InterSeptor. I haven't decided whether I'll put the main body down there or just the sensor - in any case, because pulling cables is a major pain, I'll have two ethernet cables going down there anyway. (One of the many things I do at work is networking, and I know how to do structured cabling for LANs. Of course, I'd love the outside link to be fiber, but that's a bit over the top). I'm leaning more toward leaving the main body in the house as it's then going to be on the UPS.

I'll be sure to keep you all updated on the progress of the greenhouse build, and I should really do some updates on the status of some of the plants...!

Pictures from cellphone camera.