Flowering in Frost: How to Care for Orchids in Winter

People have different motivations for growing and caring for orchids. Some like to compete in prestigious contests. Others raise orchids for profit, and still others grow them in the hopes of creating a more beautiful flower via crossbreeding. Whatever the reasons, orchid enthusiasts can agree on common issues — like ensuring these blooms survive the winter.

We offer the following tips on how to help your precious orchids make it through the colder time of year.

Ration Sunlight

As available sunlight becomes scarcer during the winter months, move your orchids to a sunnier spot. A good location to make the most of sunlight when days are shortest this season is at an east-west position. Add a grow light if the orchid is a type that needs a higher light intensity, such as the cattleya, dendrobium or vanda.

You can see if the amount of light is too much for the orchid by observing the leaves; it’s too much light if they turn yellowish-green or red. If the leaves turn dark green, it’s exposed to too little. Also, feel the leaves. If they’re warmer to the touch than the ambient air, it’s overexposed to sunlight and should be moved to a darker spot.

You can also control the amount of sunlight your orchids receive without constantly moving them by using greenhouse window shades. Using shades to limit or maximize sunlight exposure for your orchids can more easily be done with the industry leading automated versions we install.

Watch the Temperature

Common types of orchids require a temperature of between 55° and 80° F to thrive. Should the temperature average 60° to 65° F, you must resort to artificial means of raising the ambient temperature. Adjust the thermostat, or you can augment it with the use of cheaper portable heaters.  Never expose the orchids to higher temperatures by placing them near fireplaces or heating vents. The heat needed by orchids must be humid, not dry.

Water them Right

Regardless of the weather or season, it’s common practice to water orchids early in the day, so they dry out by evening. To prevent your orchids suffering from cold burn, water your orchids less often in the winter. Your orchid container’s size likewise dictates how often you need to water them. A 6-inch pot requires water every seven days, while a 4-inch pot, five to six days.

The potting medium used by the orchid is also important; an orchid set on bark needs more water than an orchid set in sphagnum moss. Note that bark tends to dry out faster than sphagnum moss, but a bark-mounted orchid’s roots may be sufficiently moist.

Poke the pot with your finger about an inch into the pot; if you feel moisture, don’t add any more water. Your orchid’s potting medium should be damp, not soggy, and never bone-dry.

As a rule of thumb, it’s better for orchids to be slightly under-watered in winter as less water means less moisture in the plant cells, as excess moisture could crystallize and kill the orchid.

Worst-Case Scenario

Should something go wrong and your orchid or orchids appear to have perished, don’t assume they’re dead and send them to the compost heap– they may have life left in them and can be revived.

When this happens, let the orchid medium dry, and keep it in a humid area (you can use humidifiers), away from direct heat and sunlight.

Don’t water the orchid and wait for new sprouts to grow. Once there are new sprouts, water the orchid with plain water, then follow up with a small dose of fertilizer and elements as new roots grow. You may even notice that this winter shock your orchid experiences may trigger new buds and flowering.

Final thoughts

Ensuring your orchids survive the winter is a delicate balance. Apply the right amount of water, light, and temperature. If the worst happens and it appears that your orchid or orchids have died, don’t give up on them and treat them as if they were newly re-potted.

Reduce the light exposure, apply some fertilizer and nutrients, space watering by 10 to 12 days, and your orchid could come back from the brink and make it through the winter.

And if you’d like to tilt the odds in favor of your orchids surviving the cold, choose the more acclimated species like cymbidiums, masdevallias, miltonias, odontoglossums, oncidiums, plain-leaved paphiopedilums or sophronitis orchids.

If you found this information on orchid care during winter interesting, we have other resources you can read.

We can assist you in every aspect of building a new luxury greenhouse that suits your tastes and meets your particular needs and specifications. Our mission is to ensure homeowners like you can enjoy the splendor of greenery within or close to your home, year-round.

Should you desire a quote for building your own conservatory today, you can contact us here.

In the Mood for Gourmet, Every Day? Grow Your Own Indoor Herb Garden

Fresh foods made from locally grown ingredients are all the rage. And if you’re going to be cooking with fresh ingredients, why not grow your own herb garden to have on hand?

The rising popularity of gourmet food has increased the demand for fresh ingredients, specifically herbs. Apart from the convenience of never having to go far to find fresh ingredients for your dish, with an indoor herb garden it’s straight from ‘farm’ to table.

Raising an herb garden in the luxury of your own garden room lets you enjoy fresh scents, flavors, and taste, all year round. Below are some tips to help you start your indoor gardening project.

Invest in good lighting

Your sunroom or garden room makes the ideal environment for growing sustained and harvestable amounts of herbs. This is because intense light (or anywhere from 6-8 hours of direct light) helps herbs produce the oils that give them their distinct flavor.

East- and west-facing windows give your plants an abundant amount of bright sun for about six hours. In the winter days, south-facing windows receive most of the sun.

In the winter, when abundant sunlight isn’t always a possibility, invest in artificial lights. Pick the right, energy-efficient grow light for your type of herb, to keep your plants healthy. Be sure not to use a sunlamp – these are for people and can do more harm than good for the plant.

Choose the best herbs to grow

Note that not all herbs can grow well indoors. Some herbs (such as dill and cilantro) will require constant replanting after trimming, making them the least viable choice for an indoor garden.

Meanwhile, perennial herbs, such as chives, rosemary, thyme, mint, oregano, and bay laurel are some of the easiest to grow. You can buy these from young plants at your local garden center. There are also herbs that you can start from cuttings (such as mint) and then those that are best started from seed (like basil and chervil).

Before buying seeds or young plants, ask the seller if the herb you intend to buy can thrive in an indoor garden.

Decide between soil and hydroponics

The discussion of using soil vs. hydroponics is often a lengthy one, given the number of factors to consider and what the individual wants to achieve.

Hydroponic systems are the choice for many indoor plant growers, as they make more efficient use of space compared to soil. Hydroponics don’t depend on external factors. Instead, it allows you to create the nutrient mixture, humidity, temperature, and growing schedule that’s ideal for growing your herbs indoors.

Starting your very own garden comes with plenty of benefits, both to your health and your budget. An indoor herb garden is not just a healthy choice for you, but it also makes valuable use of your luxury garden room. Ask Conservatory Craftsmen about building a garden room that’s perfect for growing plants and herbs. Call us at 612-281-4985 or fill out our form today.

Summer Greens: Edible Plants to Grow in Your Garden Room

Summer is here, and with it comes the opportunity to surround yourself with gorgeous plants – an act that can boost your mood and reduce depression and obesity. You don’t have to be outdoors to do this, either; with garden rooms, you can bring the beauty of greenery inside your home.

Garden rooms are ideal for growing edible plants, as these rooms provide the right conditions and the right amount of light indoors. You can grow almost anything in a garden room, but for summer, it’s better to tend to plants that can sustain the heat.   

Leafy Green Vegetables

It can be difficult to make the perfect home-grown salad when you have the juiciest tomatoes but dried up lettuce and spinach. Luckily, there are other leafy greens that can withstand the summer heat. Plants such as Chinese spinach, rhubarb chard, Malabar spinach, and sweet potato greens can be great substitutes for lettuce, spinach, and other salad greens. These plants can grow much faster in a garden room, where climate conditions are controlled.  

Strawberries

Fresh summer strawberries are among the most popular, most nutritious and refreshing fruits in the world – and you can easily grow them in your garden room. This plant loves well-lit, warm places, and are happy to grow in jars and hanging baskets. No matter where you plant them, strawberry plants can flourish as long as they are taken care of properly.

Parsley

Parsley is a popular herb that’s used in salads, sauces, and soups. It also often used as a garnish. Rich in vitamins A and C, as well as iron, this herb tastes good and is good for you. Parsley grows best in a cool and sunny area, planted in loamy soil with good drainage. It does well when planted in a container.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are fruits that require proper planting so that they can provide a plentiful harvest throughout the summer. They aren’t the easiest plant to grow, but they are one of the most popular.

Tomato plants need strong, direct light, so make sure you place them in the sunniest part of your garden room. Make sure that you plant them deeply in a big pot that you’ve filled with good quality soil. In the heat of the summer, you will have to water your tomato plants twice a day – the goal, though, is to keep the soil moist and not too wet.  

Eggplants

Eggplants are delicious, versatile vegetables that grow well in large containers. In order for eggplants to thrive and grow properly, you need to place them somewhere with full sun and good air circulation. You also need to keep their soil evenly moist so make sure that you provide enough moisture.

These are just some edible plants that can thrive in your garden room. If you don’t have a garden room to house your indoor plants and are looking to build one, turn to Conservatory Craftsmen. We can both design and build the luxury garden room of your dreams. Simply get in touch with us by giving us a call at 612-281-4985 or 888-345-7915.

A Guide to Keeping Your Greenhouse Toasty During Winter

The polar vortex this year left many Americans shivering in temperatures as low as minus 28 degrees. It was so cold that even the postal service in states like Minnesota suspended their services. If we humans are struggling to actively keep ourselves warm during winter, what about our crops?

Whether you’re protecting your plants with a simple greenhouse or luxury greenhouse, you have to take extra steps to keep them toasty. Even winter crops need warmth to grow. Here’s how you can keep your plants and crops comfortable.

Install a Greenhouse Heater

Greenhouse heaters are a surefire way to keep your crops warm during the winter. However, you have to consider the energy source and positioning. Heaters come in gas, oil, electric, or coal variants. Your choice depends on which resource is abundant in your area.

If you live somewhere in Wyoming or West Virginia, opt for coal. Live in Texas or California? Oil or gas is your best bet. If you’re afraid of exhaust from gas, coal, and oil heaters, get an electric one.

Position your thermostat at plant-level so it can get accurate readings. Like the one you have at home, keep your greenhouse thermostat away from direct sunlight to prevent its sensor from going haywire.

Reinforce Your Windows

Your greenhouse windows let sunlight in, while protecting your crops from the elements. But is it enough?  Check the glass for cracks and seal them with putty immediately. If you want to double down on heating, literally do so by double glazing them.

Double glazing means having two layers of glass in one window. This technique reduces heat loss in your greenhouse. If you’re on a budget, replace your panes with multi-wall polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a plastic material that comes in two, three, and five-wall variants. Apart from being affordable, they’re durable, and they diffuse sunlight evenly. No more worrying about hotspots.

Classic Composting

Composting has been practiced for over 2,000 years now. You probably now that it’s a way to introduce nutrients to your plants. But its process also creates heat that insulates your crops. You can buy compost from your local gardening store and spread it on top of your soil.

You can also create your own compost pile in your backyard. Although you can add to a compost pile in the winter – freezing temperatures prevent it from breaking down into ‘soil’, so plan way ahead. Compost can be made from a mix of dead leaves, flowers, sawdust, newspapers, banana peels, and more. Don’t add any dairy or meat because they will rot and attract pests.

You also need a bottomless bin to store them in while keeping them on the grass. Pile them in the bin and add water for moisture. It will take around four to five weeks before the compost breaks down into a soil-like consistency that you can then incorporate into your crops. Feel free to throw in more scraps into the pile so you will have a steady supply.

Keeping your greenhouse warm can be physically and financially tough. You’ll spend a fair amount of cash on acquiring new equipment like a heater and double glazing. You’ll also be in the harsh cold while maintaining your greenhouse and compost. However, all those efforts will be worth it once you get a bountiful harvest.

Get Your Dream Greenhouse

The best way to protect your garden is by keeping them in a greenhouse. Conservatory Craftsmen offers beautiful glass rooms for your plants with their luxury greenhouses. We build using the latest technology and the finest materials.

Get your dream greenhouse with us today. 

The World Horti Research Center

I never tire of a new trip to the Netherlands. The Dutch have such electricity in the air. Its as if they have discovered a secret, and being Dutch, they are only too happy to share it. My current trip to the Netherlands is to spend some time at the World Horti Research Center, where horticulture has just crashed headlong into agriculture, and it’s winning.

Whatever we were growing for fresh food in a field in the past, can be more efficiently and effectively grown in a greenhouse.

  • We visited a greenhouse that had dug a well 2.4KM into the earth to obtain the heat required to heat the greenhouse, year round. After the initial investment, all heating costs were no cost from that day forward.
  • Glass evenly distributes the sunlight to all plants the same so there are no slow/fast maturing spots in the greenhouse, just even ripening.
  • There is also a device that can be installed where you go through it to get into the greenhouse, and it cleans your feet and hands. Sanitation is an utmost priority!

Whether tomatoes or flowers, massive quantities are grown on no wasted water, grown evenly, because the market shopper wants all produce to look the same every day of the year.

The WHRC has three main objectives.

A third of the building is dedicated to education. Students from far corners of the earth come to learn. These students are learning the most current methods of crop production and taking these skills back to China, Russia, USA – you name it. The Dutch are not about to keep this a secret.

They realized is that there are few people in the world prepared to embrace this new form of Ag/Hort. There are plenty of eager investors around the globe that are ready to throw money at these forms of crop production, but few candidates can apply who have the necessary skills.

Another third of the building is dedicated to companies in the industry who want to display their contribution to the new technology. Locally, Honeywell is well represented as a forerunner in environmental controls. Other companies display growing mediums, automation of many kinds. For example, there are lasers that prune plants to consistent sizes, screens that not only keep bugs out of the greenhouse, but keep the pollinating bees in the greenhouse (special bees are rotated every 30 days in the fruiting greenhouses [tomatoes]). Every new innovator of production products is there in a 365 trade show set up for all the world travelers that come daily to visit.

The final third of the structure is research greenhouses. New varieties are tested for market, new techniques are tested, and quantitative research is shared here. Companies will lease a greenhouse bay about 25′ X 60′, segregated from the attached growing area next door, and they will work intensively to explore new depths in the world of greenhouse growing.

The WHRC is located in the shadows of the International Flower Auction, a 2.5 million sq ft building in which the bulk of the world’s flowers are brought in fresh in the morning and shipped to markets around the world at night. I was here merely a year ago when the first steel column was set in the soil to begin construction. Today, it is a vibrant, bustling center for business and knowledge converging on an untapped frontier of world horticulture.

Trends ‘grow’ quickly here. A year ago, I never saw a ‘living wall’ today they are everywhere. Inside and outside of buildings, signs for companies are made of living walls, highway barriers are living walls. It’s just an example of how fast these trends are being adopted and made commonplace throughout the world as the Dutch set the pace for the industry that will soon feed the world.

Conservatory Building: 5 Decisions to Make Before You Begin

The materials, the style and many other factors of building a conservatory can help or hurt the environment.

Conservatory Construction Techniques Can Fight Global Climate Change

The natural resources of the world, though abundant, are being threatened by climate change and global warming. As a result, people are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint; how much energy we consume, the environmental factors in which their food is grown, and how to incorporate it all into our everyday life. A conservatory or greenhouse is where lifestyle meets practicality and sustainability.

When planning a home renovation, consider a conservatory or greenhouse. Traditional orangeries that originally functioned only as a place to grow plants and flowers have evolved into truly unique spaces in which to live. Conservatories and greenhouses are as custom as any other room addition; specialty muntins, hand woodworked details and stained glass makes each crystal palace one of a kind. Temperature control features keep the room comfortably tempered, without adding to electricity bills.

Read the guide below for the five decisions to make before you begin building a conservatory, or any home extension:

1. Know your goals.
Before anything else, you need to determine what you’re using the space for. Understand the size your property can accommodate, and how the design will work with the existing structure of the home.

2. Create a plan.
Now that you know what you want and what purpose the addition is for, you need to map out your plan. Communicate openly and regularly with your builder; make sure that all payment installments are in writing, and that expectation is set in terms of time to completion.

3. Set up a budget.
In setting up a budget, make sure it is realistic and within your means. This is a complicated process as the budget can restrict the whole process. Get quotes from several trusted contractors and understand the cost of labor in relation to the cost of materials.

4. Hire the right people.
Ask for as many references and feedback as you can before handing over any deposits. Check for negative feedback and complaints as well as certifications. Your choice will depend on your goals and budget, but there should be a long line of clients willing to offer a recommendation.

5. Prepare for inconveniences.
Because you hired the right people, this step, in theory, should be unnecessary. But the reality is that big projects with many details can run into unforeseen issues. Make sure to set aside a few extra dollars for unexpected problems.

Solar Savings: 5 Ways to Conserve Energy in Your Home


As energy costs continue to rise and environmental concerns grow, it helps to start thinking about ways on how you can minimize your home’s daily energy consumption.
There are now ways for you to conserve and offset the amount of non-renewable energy your household uses on a daily basis.
There are also ways for you to generate your own electricity so you won’t have to be entirely dependent on the power grid. Here are five ways to conserve energy in your home.

1. Harness the power of the sun.
One way to reduce your daily power consumption is to use solar power as an alternative source of energy. Among alternative and renewable sources of energy, solar is one of the most popular and easily accessible. To harness the power of the sun, photovoltaic solar panels store a bit of excess energy on a rainy day. While function is paramount, homeowners are incorporating them to work with the overall design of the home.Using solar power has numerous benefits. Not only does it help you minimize your daily power consumption, it also allows you to save money on utility bills. It also lets you qualify for tax incentives because solar power enables you to reduce your carbon footprint.

2. Use screens or blinds
Instead of turning up the air conditioning, consider installing shades or blinds in your windows. Shades and blinds, which can be automated for ease of operation, reflect solar heat away from your house on a hot day. In the winter months, that same technology retains heat. Instant climate controls without the high costs.

3. Take advantage of geothermal heating and cooling
Using geothermal heating and cooling is another way to conserve energy in your home and reduce your electricity costs. This system relies on a pump to circulate water through underground pipes. Through the Earth’s natural temperature, your water supply will be naturally cooled in summer and heated in winter.

4. Utilize passive solar heating
Passive solar heating is the benefit of southern facing windows, which capture the heat and sunlight all year round. This heat is distributed in the rooms nearby, therefore reducing your daily energy consumption. If your conservatory or greenhouse is built on the south side of the home, planting trees outside will offer shade in the summer. In the winter when the leaves fall, the sun will be able to reach the windows and the heat will be trapped inside.

5. Switch off and unplug electronic appliances that are not in use
Perhaps the simplest and the easiest way to conserve energy in your home are to switch off and unplug all household appliances when they are not in use. As long as they are plugged in, electronic devices will continue to consume electricity even if they are in standby mode. Unplugging home appliances and electronic devices as a habit will reduce your daily power consumption.

The Case of the Homeless Lemon

 

This lemon needed a conservatory home built for it in Atlanta, GA.

The “Homeless” Meyer Lemon

I received a call from a lady with a slight southern charm to her voice, right after Christmas.

She said, she needed a conservatory and was coming to see me, ON NEW YEAR’S DAY!

Well she showed up, Meyer lemon in hand and declared that this lemon “needed a home.”

As it turned out, a recent storm had removed a huge beech tree from her back yard, and it was time for a ‘do over’ of the back yard.

Coupled with the fact that she had just bought a Tesla and had no place to charge the vehicle, a garage was also on the list.

She had studied and planned for quite a while and was clear what she wanted to have.

A conservatory to her was a place to grow many varieties of plants for great joy and healthy eating.

She grows herbs and other edibles and wanted access to them all year round. In addition to growing plants, she also wanted to be able to spend serious time in the conservatory, enjoying the Atlanta seasons and even sleeping in her room as well.

Carol commissioned CC to build a conservatory to house her Meyer Lemon tree.

Jim and Our New Friend, Carol

I first visited her when the construction of the garage was first breaking ground. She had a great contractor named Wes who looked after her every detail.

We had come up with a plan for the conservatory that was a bit of a cruciform with a linkway to the garage, as there was a second floor to the garage plan (a bit of an apartment) and it had a window we could not remove. Solution? A linkway from the garage to the conservatory.

We also designed a lantern roof for the second elevation of the roof to gain a lot of height, for tall plants and trees.

She invited me to stay as a guest at her house and we got started early every day, laying out and planning the room.

Her Tesla was being charged from a cord that extended from the driveway into the laundry area, where she unplugged her dryer to charge up the car! She was so very eager to get the project to a point where she could park in the garage and charge her cool car.

The landscape garden was laid out and the room was designed to fit as a feature in the garden.

We did the pre-manufacture of the room and shipped it and our crew to site. On site we assembled the steel portal frame (for the lantern roof) and began to build the conservatory.

Local stone masons were on hand building the stone knee walls and work progressed along in a wonderful fashion.

Jim and Mary, the great neighbors next door, put up the crew for the 10 days we were there and everyone got to work and relax with one another. Truly a unique experience.

We completed the Conservatory and left Carol to fill in the blanks with her many orphan plants from the patio and the house.

An arial shot of the completed conservatory complete with the hanging bed she had envisioned.

Completed Conservatory with “Tingling” Bed

Her conservatory was designed and built to serve many functions.

The Conservatory’s Hanging “Tingling” Bed

She then began a plan. She wanted a work table to hang in the middle of the room, but she also wanted this work table to transform into a bed, so she had a place to stay on the beautiful Atlanta star lit nights.
She called it a Tingling Bed but it is a wonderful creation that doubles as a work table and a comfy sleeping quarters for a truly remarkable lady from the south who is as smart and gracious as any Southern Lady could be.

Historic White House Conservatories

Would you believe the White House probably had the most historic US Conservatory you have never heard of? The conservatories of the West Wing, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

white-house-conservatoryPres. Buchanan was the first to add a wooden greenhouse on the roof of the west terrace in 1857, adjacent to the State Dining Room. One could enter a private world of plants and flowers grown for decorating the entire White House. The flowers grown in this conservatory provided for one of the most elaborate White House weddings in history. Nellie Grant, the daughter of Ulysses S. Grant, had the entire East Room covered in flowers. The crown which she wore upon her head was made of orchids from the conservatory as well. Unfortunately,the structure burned in 1867 and was replaced by iron and wood structure twice as large as the earlier one. They were most fortunate the entire building did not burn at that time.

In the 1870s and 1880s additional conservatories were added to the exterior of the White House, including rose houses, a camellia house, orchid houses and a house for bedding plants. One was removed to add the West Wing by Teddy Roosevelt, the other was removed for no apparent reason that we can find. However, in their day, these structures were used to grow all the produce and flowers that graced the White House — all year long.
white-house

Mrs. McKinley loved to celebrate the holidays in the White House Conservatory, as evidenced by stereoscope photos she used for her Christmas Cards. Abraham Lincoln grew lemons in the White House Conservatory and gave them as gifts. On his last day, he met a foreign ambassador in the conservatory, peeled an orange and ate it while offering another to his guest.

A conservatory on the White House has its place in history when our Nation had an abiding appreciation for the very objectives you are achieving through your garden — the growth of fresh nutritious foods.

Today’s conservatories easily meet the green building standards President Obama is so committed to. In many of the structures we build, we use solar glass that collects Solar Power, produces electricity and are completely self-sufficient. Imagine a year round garden room that literally costs nothing to operate and extends your passion for healthy, nutritious food to year round.

What the White House is now missing, you can have for your own. Call us and we will help you fulfill your dream.

Water and Lighting in a Greenhouse

Water and light are crucial to enjoying a thriving greenhouse. Here are a few helpful tips for installing drip irrigation and some advice on the best lighting for a greenhouse.

Water and light are essential to plants, and in a greenhouse you’ll have to provide both. There are several different watering methods to choose from: hand watering, capillary mats that bring water up from below, overhead watering, and drip irrigation that delivers water directly into each pot.

ts-200391680-001_vines-growing-in-greenhouse_s3x4A drip irrigation system is easy to lay out and is very cost-effective. It delivers small amounts of water over long periods of time, so plants stay uniformly moist. Installation is fairly simple:

Be sure the mainline that carries water into the greenhouse is sunk underground at least four feet, which is below the frost line, to make sure the water in the line doesn’t freeze.

Use a 3/4-inch poly pipe as the water supply line. Position it to run down the length of the bench.
From the main line, connect lateral lines to run between pots.

Set the system on a timer to ensure regular watering.

Once the water system is in place, you’ll need to address any lighting needs. Although fluorescent lights are popular, they help the gardener more than the plants. This type of lighting is good to work by, but plants need more light, especially in northern regions.

A high-pressure sodium bulb does a better job of simulating sunlight to stimulate plant growth. A 125-watt bulb gives off plenty of light when hung at least three feet above plants or seeds. This is a good distance to avoid heat burn.

Grow lights help to lighten shady spots and propagation areas in the greenhouse. What you are germinating or propagating determines how long you need to leave the lights on, usually an average of 12 to 16 hours each day. If you are growing tropical plants, you may need to set up grow lights if the plants don’t get at least eight hours of sun each day.