Tagged: alaska grown

Heirloom tomatoes – What are they?

heirloom tomatoesHeirloom tomatoes. I think we have all seen them. Big, plump and multicolored. But what are they and where did they come from? According to Carolyn Male and Craig Lehoullier, two top tomato experts, heirlooms fall into four categories:

Commercial heirloom1.  Commercial heirlooms: Open pollinated tomato varieties more than 40 years old, introduced by seed companies somewhere around 1950.

 

 Family - Pink oxheart2.  Family heirlooms: Tomato seeds that were passed down from generation to generation creating some of the best varieties available. Like the pink oxheart shown above.

 

Created heirloom3.  Created heirlooms: Cross-breeding between heirlooms and/or hybrids until the desired characteristics are achieved. This has been known to take 5+ years

 

 Mystery heirloom4.  Mystery heirlooms: Natural cross-breeding or mutation between heirloom varieties. This is how most heirlooms originated.

 

 Where did the term “heirloom” come from you ask? Well Kent Whealy of Seed Savers Exchange first used “heirloom” in relation to plants in a speech he gave in Tucson Arizona in 1981. He had asked permission to use the term “heirloom” from a man named John Withee, who had used it on the cover of his bean catalog. John had taken the term from Professor William Helper at the University of New Hampshire, who first used “heirloom” to describe beans that friends gave him back in the 1940’s. To me heirloom means a family item that has been passed down for many years and is kept within the family. Pretty cool how it was applied to tomatoes.

heirlooms1Heirloom tomatoes have a large range of flavors and colors. The best tasting tomatoes you have ever had! Their flavors range from smoky and deep to candy-like and sweet. You never know, your neighbor could be growing the best tomatoes in the world in their backyard and you would never know it.  Heirlooms are a dying breed. You should be able to find them at some farmers markets and maybe a few big box stores. But if we could teach our children to keep their own gardens, the future could have an abundance of heirlooms and not just tomatoes but all types of heirloom vegetables. Wouldn’t that be sweet??

 

Want to read more about heirloom flavors? Check out this article.

And learn some new greenhouse tomato growing tips here.

Buying a Greenhouse?

If you are thinking about buying a greenhouse this season there are a few things you may want to consider. Many options are available to the backyard horticulturist these days, but in addition to their price tag there are many things that set them apart.

Perhaps one of the most important things to consider is strength and longevity. When investing such a large sum of money you want to be certain that the greenhouse will be something you can enjoy for many years to come. Things such as snow and wind load, life expectancy of the glazing material, and manufacturer’s warranty all play an important role in this.

sunglo snowloadIn mild climates where snow fall and wind speeds are low, a weaker and often cheaper greenhouse may suffice. But in harsher climates where the snow accumulates and the winds blow, one bad storm could leave you suddenly out of a greenhouse and all the money you paid for it. A greenhouse company that does not state their wind and snow load ratings probably does not want you to know what they are. Over the past 35 years Sunglo greenhouses have survived everything from the snowfall of Alaska to the hurricanes of Florida, and we have structural engineering reports to back our claims of an 80 mph wind load and 34 pounds per square foot snow load. Most recently we had one survive Hurricane Sandy, and you can read more about that here: Hurricane Sandy Survivor.

The life expectancy of the glazing material a greenhouse manufacturer uses also determines how long you can expect to enjoy your greenhouse. In most cases the warranty covering the greenhouse is a good indicator of this, but not always. The 12 year warranty included with every Sunglo greenhouse guarantees that your glazing material will sunglo greenhouse glazingbe “free from problems caused by the effects of sunlight for twelve years.” Sunglo uses only the highest quality UV stabilized, impact resistant acrylic, and we find that most customers enjoy at least 15 to 20 years without having to replace a single acrylic panel. Being able to replace individual panels is also unheard of in the backyard greenhouse market. More often than not your typical backyard greenhouse will require complete replacement in 10 years or less, but we see no reason to scrap a perfectly good aluminum frame that lasts a lifetime. The ease with which you can replace the individual panels is all because of our patented Therma-Truss system, and for more information about this and the differences between acrylic and polycarbonate please read : Acrylic vs. Polycarbonate.

Another thing to consider is energy efficiency. Our dual pane greenhouse panels are 1.5 inches thick. This equates to 38.1 millimeters. In comparison, your standard backyard greenhouse will be dual pane, but the the panels range in thickness from 6 to 8 millimeters. The thickness of the panel is important because the space between the panes creates insulating dead air space. Second only to a complete vacuum, dead air space is one of the best insulators known to man. If you intend to use your greenhouse all year round, as a Sunglo is designed to do, then spending a little more initially can save you a great deal of money in the years to come. For more information about another way your greenhouse can help you save money please read: Overwintering in the Greenhouse.

american greenhouseIn addition to the unmatched value of a Sunglo, you and every other American you know benefits from buying American. Sunglo greenhouses are one of very few still made entirely in these United States of America. Almost every other greenhouse on the market is an import from countries such as Germany and China. Not only does your purchase of a Sunglo greenhouse help to bolster our economy, but you get the benefit of support from actual people who enjoy aiding our fellow horticulturists. Starting with the initial assembly and continuing throughout the many years you will own your greenhouse, we will be here to help in any way we can.

If we haven’t convinced you that Sunglo Greenhouses are the strongest, longest lasting, and most energy efficient greenhouses under the sun please call us toll free at 1-800-647-0606. Most of our staff are proud Sunglo owners themselves and would be more than happy to answer all of your questions.

Sunglo Greenhouse – Top of the List

Sunglo greenhouses made the Gardener’s Wishlist this year published in the longest running gardening column in North America! And at the top of the list no less!

Link to Article

Jeff Lowenfels, pictured at left, has been writing his column for over 36 years now. That dates back to the first Sunglo greenhouse ever sold.

 

 

Disclaimer: Picture is a fictional representation. Jeff has been writing his column for a long time, but not quite that long. For more about Jeff Lowenfels please visit his website.

Overwintering in the Greenhouse

greenhouse snow loadOne of the things I enjoy most about spring is planning out my gardens for the season. However, it also used to be one of things I dreaded as I began to tally up the cost of buying new plants every year. Having a greenhouse has allowed me to overwinter all of my beloved container plantings, and some of my garden perennials that cannot survive the winters here in the northwest. I have put a great deal of time into designing and caring for the container arrangements around my house, and now I do not have to park in the driveway during the winter while I store them in the garage.

pot in potLast year I started using a pot in pot system where I buried larger pots in the garden that the perennials’ pots can fit into. This makes pulling them in the fall much less labor intensive and then in the spring I just put them back into their prearranged spot and cover both pots over with mulch. This has also allowed me to incorporate rare plants that are not recommended for my hardiness zone into my landscape. I know pride is a sin, but it is always satisfying when someone says, “How did you get that to survive? I tried and it didn’t make it through the first winter.”

Then I proceed to tell them about how my greenhouse has allowed me to really take my gardening to the next level. I opted to get the all season package that included a heater, motorized intake shutter, exhaust fan, and all the thermostats to automatically control them at the temperatures I set. To ice the cake it also came with a wireless weather station that allows me to monitor the temperature and humidity of the greenhouse from my kitchen. All I have to do is check periodically to make sure the pots do not get bone dry and the climate controls do the rest. I do not have to worry about pesky rodents, freezing, fluctuations in soil temperature, or dessication from being exposed to cold dry air because my plants are protected within the greenhouse.

Sunglo in AlaskaThere are only a couple of things to keep in mind when you set out to overwinter your plants in a greenhouse. In the early fall, I gradually reduce watering and fertilization and allow the plants to harden off outside until just before the first frost.This puts them into a state of dormancy and keeping the greenhouse temperatures between 45° and 55° F throughout the winter prevents them from coming out of it prematurely.This is very important because any undesired growth at such low temperatures will more than likely be weak and therefore highly susceptible to various infestations.

overwinter greenhouseThis is where a Sunglo greenhouse truly outperforms the competition. The exhaust fan, motorized intake shutter, and heater, all controlled by individual thermostats, ensure that the temperatures stay within the desired range. Most hobbyist greenhouses on the market use a paraffin wax piston to automatically open a vent of some sort. It is impossible for this type of passive ventilation system to maintain temperatures between a specified range.

sunglo snow loadDuring dormancy water uptake is dramatically reduced, but you must be careful not to let the soil get to dry. Just a slight dampness to the touch is sufficient. I considered installing a drip watering system on an irrigation timer this year, but decided against it. Colder temperatures and overly wet soil can spell certain doom for roots and the plants that depend on them. Instead I will continue to check them periodically and I suspect they appreciate the company.

overwintered plantsAs spring approaches I raise the temperature to between 55° and 65° F and gradually increase it from there. Some people prefer to keep the temperatures in that range until they move their plants out of the greenhouse to ensure they are hardened off. I have found that a strong oscillating fan and cooler night temperatures promotes strong enough growth for outdoor conditions. I also wait until I am absolutely certain there will be no more frost before I move anything out into the garden. I resume regular watering and begin an incremental fertilization schedule starting at half strength. By sometime in March I have the temperatures high enough to start spending some quality time in the greenhouse again and begin to germinate seeds, pot up the dormant cuttings I have taken over the winter, and get back into the business of what I love most.

I still enjoy planning out my gardens every spring, but with most of my plants all ready to go I now marvel at how much money I save. The question I am most asked is, “Isn’t the cost of heating the greenhouse throughout the winter more than the plants are worth?”  To which I always inwardly ask, “How do you put a value on keeping that which you love so much alive?” But in all honesty, being as serious a gardener as I am,  the unrivaled insulation of my Sunglo’s dual pane design keeps my energy costs well below what I used to spend on plant material every year. If you are interested in taking your gardening to the next level or have more questions related to overwintering please give us a call.

Sunglo 1200C Greenhouse Construction

Inspired by Roy’s video post on Youtube, I set out to construct an entire Sunglo 1200C greenhouse in one day for demonstration at the Alaska State Fair last week. As you can see in the video below Roy is still the ultimate champion, but I came pretty close.

Alaska Demo Build on Youtube

All together it took about a day and a half. My thanks go out to Roy for not only the inspiration, but for all his helpful advice on how to shoot and edit the video as well.

Alaska Fair DemoToward the end of the video I included the construction of the cedar benches and vinyl shelving that are available in all our greenhouse models. Watching the assembly you can see why they support over 75 pounds per 30″ by 30″ slat. They are super tough, tie the greenhouse together very nicely, and smell like heaven. Another great feature of this particular demo is the double door. One door closes onto the other allowing for an unobstructed entry way of over five feet when both doors are open.

Sunglo goes AlaskaIf you have not dropped by to see us yet, you still have time to see this demo at the Alaska State Fair. I had a great time preparing for the fair and taking in the sights around the Matsu Valley. The natural beauty of Alaska and the people who live there will remain fresh in my mind until I finally get to return for next year’s fair.

 

Alaska State Fair

2012 Alaska State Fair

 

It’s official. We will be at the Alaska State Fair again this year.

 

 

Although two weeks of delicious fair food may be bad for our waistlines, every year proves to be better than the last. If you have been thinking about buying or building a greenhouse and you live in Alaska this is a great opportunity to see one fully constructed and have all your questions answered. It also gives us an opportunity to visit with our numerous Alaska customers. Hearing about how well our greenhouses hold up to extreme conditions is always one of the highlights of the fair for us. With an unsurpassed R3 insulation value, 80 mph wind rating, and over 2500 pound snow load, our greenhouses were made for Alaska.

big cabbage
That’s a big cabbage!

If you are at the Alaska State Fair this year swing by. We will be running fair only specials on all models. It is not to late to have a fully constructed and operational greenhouse that will provide you with fresh produce all throughout this winter. We will also be selling our demo model fully constructed and outfitted at a deep discount.