2018 Chronicles

This page lists the notable events of 2018. All events are listed in reverse chronological order (the January articles are at the bottom of this page).

Summary: 2018 was a busy year. Although we lost most of our citrus trees, the greenhouse arrived in the nick of time to save the bulk of our plotted plants. We upgraded the rain covers on our hydroponics tanks (to solve the rainstorm flooding issue) and we tested new (simplified) designs for raft supports. We lost the battle to propagate Japanese Ashitaba and we replaced the 12′-tall heat shield trellis after it blew down in a storm. Finally, we designed and installed an interior in the storm shelter.

Storm Shelter Interior Build 101118

Shown empty (above), the storm shelter awaits an interior. The U-shaped attachment points welded to the roof will bear the weight of the interior cabinetry.

To our knowledge, this is the only storm shelter with a cat entry (shown above). The cat entry has a sliding steel door and a staircase that connects the shelter to the house.

Shown here after completion, the upper cabinet doubles as a cat cage. The doors of the cabinet are vented open in this image (above). Note how the cabinets are anchored to the U-shaped attachment points welded to the roof of the shelter.

During testing, the camera in the upper cabinet/cage captured this image of Fluffy, who successfully negotiated the tunnel from the house, and the cat ladder to the upper cage. Unfortunately, the cats don’t really like the storm shelter and we haven’t been able to come up with a successful method for herding them inside in the event of a storm. Stay tuned!

This image (above) shows Sheba climbing the cat ladder to reach the upper cage.

Storm shelters are never large enough to hold all the stuff that you’d like to store inside the unit. The pantry (above) was installed behind the door.

In addition to the upper cage, cat ladder, and pantry, we also installed a sleeping platform (with removable doors), adjustable shelves, LED lighting, first aid kits, battery backup units (EcoFlow Delta 1300), and more.

After lots of thought, I finally figured out that we can bolt steel cabinets to the exterior of the shelter to add even “more” storage capacity. After investigating tool boxes for pickup trucks, we settled on rolling steel storage cabinets, which can be quickly rolled into place and bolted into place.

EDEN Garden Photos-HD 090118

Constructed of 2″ PVC (in 3″ sockets) and erected in a 2’x22′ space on the hot side of the house, the heat shield trellis is designed to protect the wall of the house from the hot summer sun. Planted in Confederate Jasmine and a variety of vining plants (luffa gourd in this photo), this tall trellis (11′ foot tall) served its purpose well until high winds brought it down in the winter of 2018, at which time it was shortened to 6′ tall.

EDEN Garden Photos-HD 082218

The following series of images show EDEN as it looked on 082218.

The Bitter Melon trellises (above) and the Upo patch (on right).

Japanese Ashitaba (above) beneath the new shade frame, designed to reduce the direct sunlight on the Northeast patio (the coolest patio on the property). Although we tried to simulate the cool humid coastal conditions of their native environment, our area is just too hot, and all attempts proved unsuccessful.

Asparagus fern in Raised Beds #7 and 8 are looking good (above). Transplanted from the garden of one of our friends, we hope the plants survive. Stay tuned.

Surface Cleaning 080618

With 116 yards of concrete and six paver patios, maintenance is always a big chore. Pressure washing the concrete is a regularly occurring task. Licensed and insured, Pierce Mobile Services LLC (above) handles most of the work for us. Offering outstanding service at very reasonable prices, we can’t recommend them enough. Find them on Facebook @piercemobileservices. Contact information is listed on our EBG Suppliers page.

Office Wiring 071018

It’s a mess, and this is only a small portion of the office wiring.

Moringa Seedlings 060218

The Front Beds 052618

The Front Patio 052618

In the Greenhouse 051418

The Rear Garden 051418

Ashitaba Cover Frame 050118

EDEN Garden Photos 031618

Springtime and Monkey Grass

Plastic fencing (above) is attached by wires (to the steel frame) to provide portable trellises within the cover frames of each raised bed.

The portable PVC supports for the row cover fabric (sheeting) is clearly visible above. The steel cover frames, some with PVC arches for attaching sunscreen (or string-reinforced plastic sheeting), can also be seen. The row cover fabric can be seen in action below (see EBG Snow Covers Photos 011818).

Originally planted around the perimeter of the raised beds to provide aesthetic appeal, the roots of this monkey grass had a habit of pushing the concrete blocks out of alignment as it grew. Thus, it all had to be relocated to the back garden where it provides an attractive perimeter for several unstructured plots.

Hydro Tank Liner Change

To make them easy to remove for tank maintenance, the steel rain cover frames of the hydroponics beds are fitted over short tapered posts that are bolted to the frame of the tank itself (above). Constructed of the same galvanized pipe that is used for chain-link fences, this socket-and post design on our gen-2 tanks proved very effective. Note that there is no need to move the cover frame away from the tank. It is merely lifted and supported by 2×4 boards (as shown above and below) to provide the room needed to replace the tank liner.

After three years of outstanding service, sun damage (around the rim and outer skirt) made it necessary to replace the hydro tank liners. Originally lined with a continuous sheet of string-reinforced plastic, we decided to use Billboard Vinyl instead (shown below).

Cut from inexpensive 14’x48′ sheets of recycled vinyl (from Bilboard Vinyls) the new liners are laid carefully into the tanks, the corners gathered and pleated, and draped over the top tank rim, where they are stapled into place. A length of quarter-round molding is nailed around the top rim of the tank to protect against abrasion from our new rim-mounted raft supports. Although sun-resistant, these vinyls are not waterproof. We tried painting them with a heavy coating of Flex-Seal but that attempt proved disastrous! The Flex-Seal leaked and it took several days to dismantle the tank to let it dry out. To solve the problem, we added an inner liner of string-reinforced plastic sheeting. The combination of the two liners worked out nicely and we relined the other tanks in the same manner.

The new lining is laid carefully into the tank (above), the corners gathered and pleated, and then draped over the top rim to provide a skirt that protects the outside wooden walls of the tank from the damaging effects of the sun. Note how the cover frame is suspended from 2x4s that are bridged across nearby tanks.

With rafts, raft support frame, and air hoses removed for liner replacement, our first (“gen-1”) tank is shown on the right. Our gen-2 tanks are shown on the left. We use recycled shopping carts as task carts. The gen-2 raft support frame shown here (constructed of half-inch PVC pipe) was later simplified to create a gen-3 version that slides along the top rim of the tank.

Beneath the vinyl and plastic liners is a half-inch sheet of Styrofoam, cut to fit the floor and walls (one wall is shown above).

The new liners have been installed and the cover frame refitted (above).

Billboard Vinyl Rain Covers 022618

To test the billboard vinyl (prior to replacing the tank liners), we changed out the rain covers on our gen-2 tanks. The cover on the left (above) shows green sunscreen fabric under a sheet of string-reinforced plastic. The plastic degrades in about two years of exposure. The tank on the right has the new vinyl cover. No sunscreen fabric is needed. The vinyl also lasts about three years. In addition to eliminating the need for sunscreen fabric, the vinyl is stronger and doesn’t cave in during a heavy rainstorm (a cave-in can swamp the tank).

Frozen Water Photos 011818

EBG Snow Covers Photos 011818

Row cover fabric is draped and clamped to the portable PVC cover frames (above) to provide protection for the Bok Choy in these raised beds. The PVC frames can be seen uncovered above (see Springtime and Monkey Grass).

Greenhouse Photos for EBG-6 011418

Arriving in the nick of time, we transferred everything from the garage to the new greenhouse (above).

Packed to the rafters: The green leafy plants on the bottom and middle shelves (above) are Japanese Ashitaba. When the sun is shining, the heat inside the green house builds up quickly (even on a cold winter day). Doors at each end help to provide ventilation. We also run a large portable fan to keep the air moving. The relatively flat peak (of the roof) is ideal for keeping the heat at a manageable level. Tip: Excess heat is just as dangerous (to plants) as freezing temperatures.

A green house is great in Winter, but it can be nearly useless in the Summer when interior temps exceed 100 degrees. Several of our friends use cold frames and we studied their examples carefully. Cold frames don’t get as hot in the Summer months (due to an opaque cover) and this is an advantage. Unfortunately, they’re hard to move, their covers have a limited life, and rain shedding can be tricky. Our unit had to be moveable, easily maintained, and nearly indestructible. We chose a steel-framed skid-mounted unit from R&K. Clad in replaceable Lexan panels, we ordered extra shelves on both sides, and an extra door and window (to provide ventilation).

We plan to raise the unit 8″ in the Summer months (by placing it on concrete blocks) to maximize ventilation. It will also be necessary to add a retractable sun cover to keep the temps down (stay tuned for this design). Because it has a sturdy steel frame, relocation is possible and leveling is easy. We’ve purchased several products from R&K Portable Buildings (see the EBG Suppliers page for contact info) over the years, and we’ve never been disappointed! Note the electric Utility Heaters ($16.95 each from WalMart) on the floor in the foreground of the photo above.

Garage Photos 011318

While waiting for the new greenhouse, we stuffed all that we could into the garage (above).

Aside from providing a convenient semi-conditioned space, the garage offers a large door that makes it easy to wheel our plants in and out quickly—even the 6′ Euphorbia milii aka The Christ Thorn. We use carts and hand-trucks to do the moving.

Our garage also contains folding plastic seedling tables with overhead Grow Lights. Seedling trays rest on warming mats that provide the constant temperatures needed for healthy growth. Electric timers allow us to control the length of the growing day.

We get all of our equipment (and lots of free advice) from Coast Hydroponics in Pensacola. Stop in and talk to Joe when you get a chance. You’ll be glad you did! (See the EBG Suppliers page for contact information.)

Tip: Depending on their size and wattage, Grow Lights can sometimes require that you upgrade the breaker for the electric circuit in your garage. The garage proved so useful that we added new circuits to accomodate more lights.