Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Solar Pod's First Winter

Back in the beginning of October I finally got around to digging out a section of the garden for the base of the Solar Pod. It needed to be in the ground to keep the pod below the freeze line. Even with digging it down the whole base isn't below ground since my garden is on a hill. I plan to fill in the exposed side with wood chips just as soon as I have a little extra free time. So far the exposed side has held up ok, though the plants on that side have recently shown some very minor frost damage as we've had multiple nights in a row that have been well below freezing.

Here is the base of the solar pod before I installed it in the ground. The actual instructions call for foam insulation, multiple layers, and aluminum parts which I ignored. Earth is a pretty solid insulator, and I'm going to put that to the test this winter.

Here I am planting seeds in the Solar Pod which we have lovingly named the Mouse Trap. I planted Kale on the right, Lettuce on the left, and Spinach in the middle. From this angle you can see that it is buried into the garden, and has insulation along the top which helps create a good seal to keep the heat in.

The Mouse Trap is held open by a recycled notched 4x4. It is pretty darn stable, but still a little scary.

October 16th, and the lettuce green have started to sprout.

October 24th, and the lettuce greens are doing nicely. The spinach and kale have also sprouted. My friend Steve had two extra Boston lettuce seedlings which are in with the spinach.

November 13th, and the lettuce and kale are looking like healthy seedlings now. I've gone in and thinned them out at this point. For whatever reason all but two of the spinach seedlings have died off. I think mostly because the condensation seems to be lightest in the middle of the pod so they may have dried out a bit too much. This is the last day that I watered the pod. No more water until the spring to try and prevent the plant's cells from bursting during very cold weather.

December 2nd, and holy cow I can't believe all of the green inside of the pod. It makes me so happy when I open it up and the happy greens greet me. I have to be careful to only open the pod when it will get plenty of sun to heat back up again and when the ambient air temp is above freezing. My big goal is to have a Christmas dinner with fresh greens from the garden!

Addendum for Thom:

While I have been very happy with the results so far building the Solar Pod was a trial that I'm reluctant to go through again. To map out the end arcs I went through a very careful process of measuring the template included in the book and converting each measurement to full scale and then mapping it to the end boards. This was error prone, and didn't work out well.

If I had to do it again I think I would take the template to a Kinko's or something similar and see if they could blow the template up to full size so I could just tape it to the end boards and cut it out. In the end though a curve is just a cruel shape to try and get right with simple tools at home.
I also left out the central conduit they talked about. I tried using a conduit as they described and it just wasn't right. We'll see if I pay for that when we get a heavy snow, but I think the pod will hold up just fine without it.

My friend Steve and I have talked about drawing up plans for of our own design to build next spring based on our experience with this pod. The primary focus being on simplicity of design so we don't suffer through all of the frustration we did when we put this one together. If we do and we succeed we'll be sure to post the plans.

My final 2 cents would be that if you're looking to build one come up with a good plan for creating the end plates first and foremost. They are the hardest and most important part of the pod.

6 comments: said...

I love your pod. Your plants are going to be very happy, and it looks like your current crop is doing well.

Pam J. said...

Very, very impressive! I don't like to admit when I'm jealous, but I am. Fresh lettuce in December = happiness.

frank@new york city garden said...

This is cool. I've been thinking about this sort of thing for my broccoli, but too late and too far away to manage.

Anywsy, nice work!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this looking forward to an update.

Anonymous said...

where did you purchase the fiberglass for the solar pod?

C4 said...

I got it from this company:

It is expensive, but has certainly done its job.