Thursday, April 29, 2010

Here is our lovely greenhouse; it's a bit drab and weather-worn on the outside, but instead is a pure delight for the senses. Especially if you've been surrounded by snow and ice for eight months. Fleet ops delivers water to an inside tank twice a week, and between humidifiers and leaf transpiration that's used to keep the greenhouse humidity around 20% most days. Outside is 10% or less, so it feels like a tropical rainforest when you step inside. And there's LIGHT! 17 hours a day of bright full-spectrum lighting. Everything is hydroponic and the plants grow quite fast. I volunteer on sundays, balancing nutrients in the tanks, pruning, and transplanting, and there's very noticeable growth every week.
The plants are really sensitive to low water levels and nutrient/pH disruption. All this has to be measured and adusted every single day. In the Antarctic climate evaporation is fast and a single day of imbalance will cause a whole row of tomatos ( carefully nurtured for months) to wilt and nearly die... The plants are less sensitive to temperature and humidity fluctuations, which occur depending on weather conditions outside. The greenhouse is about 75 degrees most of the time, but frost builds up in most of the corners. Myself and another firefighter come in on Sundays so the greenhouse manager can have a day off. I've never dealt with hydroponics before, so it's a great experience.
Food production was a bit delayed since the building is almost condemnable and had to be shored up at the beginning of the season. But in the past couple weeks we've had our first ripe tomatos, cucumbers, and mixed salad greens. We also grow assorted herbs and edible flowers including mint, thyme, lemon basil, coriander, nasturtiums, and violas. Finally, there are some hot peppers which should come into bloom soon.
After the work's done, it's time to lounge in the hammock with a good book...

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