I’ve tried quite a few different lettuces using the Kratky Method, growing them in individual containers, and Gaviota is by far my favorite. Not only does it grow well in the nutrient solution, but it grows fast. The leaves are perfect for salads. If you just rip the end off of it, it breaks down into perfect bite-size pieces. If you were to cut the entire head off at a certain point, all the leaves come apart. No chopping, no fuss, just a single cut. Starting at 3-4 weeks it’s great for cut & come again harvesting. I like to harvest 1/4-1/3 of a plant and put it in water in a bowl in the fridge and overnight it becomes even more crisp.
- Add-a-Motor D80 – $100
- Wemo Mini Smart Plug – $30
- Heavy Duty Traverse Curtain Rods – $50
- If you don’t already have one, Amazon Echo Dot
There are some very expensive solutions out there for motorized curtains, most come with a RF, Z-Wave or IR remote that would require an additional hub to bridge the connectivity between the Amazon Echo and the curtains. Some curtains even have networked add-ons so they can be controlled over wifi, but the costs add up to well over $800 in most cases, and I would rather not purchase a fixed length rod and add unnecessary hubs or highly specialized brand specific equipment if not absolutely necessary to preserve flexibility if I move to a new place.
If you already have devices that you want to control with RF or IR then you could pick up the Broadlink RM2 Pro. It will learn the specific codes required to manage your devices but it requires an extra Android device running an app called Broadlink Tasker to act as a bridge between your Amazon Echo and the Broadlink device. That’s really unfortunate as this would be an amazing device with direct integration to the Echo or through IFTTT. If you only want to control IR devices you have more options like the Logitech Harmony Hub that have direct integration with Alexa.
The Add-a-Motor D80 is the super simple mechanical device that makes opening and closing the curtains possible with something as simple as a Wemo switch. The D80 is basically a relay switch with an adjustable ring that determines how long the motor runs and at the end of the run it flips the switch for the motor direction and shuts the motor off. It makes some noise that you can hear in the video below but it’s not excessive.
The D80 does require curtains that have a string to open and close the curtains. These are called “traverse curtains”. I haven’t seen them since blinds were all the rage in the 80’s except at my grandma’s house, but they’re not terribly expensive at $30-50 depending on the size, and are far better for tall windows. The shorter length rods tend to have the strings fixed to one side or the other while the longer rods that have a center draw can usually be changed to a left or right draw, and the pull string can additionally be changed from one side to the other.
The Wemo switch needs to be set up with an “auto-off” of 1 minute. So you turn the Wemo switch on, and depending on the width of travel for your drapes, the D80 will run for 10-30 seconds before the mechanical switch is flipped and the motor stops. The Wemo switch remains on until the minute elapses and then turns itself off. The next time the Wemo switch is turned on, the motor runs in the opposite direction and the process repeats.
The caveat with this set up is that you have to turn on the switch to both open and close the curtains and saying “Echo turn on the curtains” to close the curtains is not as lexically satisfying as saying “Echo close the curtains” or “Echo turn off the curtains”. Setting this up with IFTTT you can say “Echo trigger curtains” which is better as there is nothing contrary in the statement.
After last year’s onion experiment I have wanted to try a much larger variety of onions for 2017, and expand on the growing conditions.
I started several varieties mid-November and a few more mid-December. I started the seeds with my usual method of using a small container to start with a high density until they are mature enough to separate and grow on their own. This works well given the finicky nature of onion seed germination. I now have far too many starts for the area I can grow them in – I’ll have to give some away.
The varieties I’m growing this year are:
|Yellow of Parma||5″||22|
I used approximately the same number of seeds per variety but there are drastically different numbers of germination that you can see above. The ones with high germination came from Baker Creek and not only were the seeds good quality but they were not stingy, offering more than 5x the amount of seed for the same price as the seed I got from other places.
As a rule this year, I want to take the volume of the fully grown onion bulb and have at least 3x the volume of soil. So for example, the largest, Ailsa Craig, the diameter is 6 inches which assuming a perfect sphere is 113 cubic inches, if the pot is 6 inches in diameter, the height would need to be 12 inches to get 339 cubic inches of soil. So the easy rule is to take the onion diameter for the diameter of the container and double it for the height of the container.
To put the size into context, a gallon is 231 cubic inches, so extrapolating that to the different sizes:
|6 in||12 in||3393 in||1.3 gal|
|5 in||10 in||1963 in||0.85 gal|
|4 in||8 in||1013 in||0.44 gal|
Finding containers that fit that precise criteria is going to be fairly impossible, so I am going to custom make many of them in 5″ and 6″ diameters. The smaller ones can go into the standard 4″ square pots or some red 16oz Solo cups (with holes poked for drainage. The smallest ones I will plant in large bunches in larger containers.
The custom made containers I’m going to make from heavy commercial landscape fabric. There are plenty of posts out there on how to make custom grow pots so I won’t elaborate in this post. The great thing is that they collapse down for easy storage, and are very easy to sanitize and reuse. Of course if you wanted to buy pre-made grow pots, they come in standard gallon sizes.
The landscape fabric I linked to is less than $30 and is 3′ x100′. If I were to use the whole roll I could make 120 – 6″x12″ pots which would cost $0.25 each in fabric plus a few cents for thread. Each bag takes 5 straight lines of sewing, taking into account easy folding & cutting I could make 15-20 per hour.
I am going to have these grouped in trays that will always have water in the bottom so they will not dry out. The water will wick up from the bottom to the roots as needed.
One thing to note is that I am not making any distinction between long & short day onions in my selections. Since my climate is conducive to an extended growing period, I’m seeing if I can have the short day onions start to bulb out in April-May-June and then the long day onions to bulb out in June-July-August. That’s a range of roughly 120-180 days so we’ll see what happens.
Update: I made the grow bags, and they take more like 6 minutes for each one if I’ve got everything organized. The 1″ distinction between diameter makes a huge difference in the resulting sizes. I was barely able to hem the 4″ bags on my sewing machine since they were so small. I thought they wouldn’t be very stable given the height, but the 5″ & 6″ bags are quite stable. The 4″ size can get knocked over pretty easily.
I wish I had more space for the rest of the onions I didn’t get to plant out, but I planted the extras all together in a small container to give to a friend so they’re not going to waste. I’m really curious how the small 1″x3″ tall onions will turn out in their dense planting, and if I’ll be able to get full size onions in the grow bags.