Advice sought on small greenhouse and soil blocker

I am looking to streamline my seedling operation, mostly for vegetable growing. At this point I start about 700 seedlings a year. With a small greenhouse I would transfer all the operations outside the house. I see that Johnny is offering a 5X8 thing at $295. Any advice is appreciated, including temperature management, invasion by critters or diseases, durability, light requirements, etc. I am thinking of placing the GH in a spot that receives sunlight until 1pm when the leaves are out. I can place a 55 gallon drum of water in the GH as thermal ballast.
i would also like to switch from peat pots/jiffy/seedling trays and go the soil block route. I lose too many plant to transplant shock, and also the trays deteriorate after a while. I see that there are many blockers on the market. I think I want the 2X2 inches basic block, just the right size for some of the large greens transplants ( due to many cabbage moths I prefer my transplants to be big, so they can fend for themselves), but there are ways to have also 1X1 inch heads. I think I can make my own soil by mixing my sandy soil with wood ash and compost (plus sterilization by boiling). Again advice appreciated as to the best model for me, multiple heads, efficient operations, anything else I need to know.
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We have two soil blockers, one makes four 2" x 2" blocks in a square configuration, the other makes four 2" x 2" blocks in a line. They haven't been used for several years now. We start almost all of our seeds in paper pots that we make ourselves from newspaper. I made various sizes of pot makers from different sized hardwood dowel. I counter-bored one end of the dowel about 1 inch deep with a forstner bit. Use a paper cutter to cut the proper sizes of newspaper, wrap the paper around the dowel, fold one end into the counter-bored hole. The fold holds the tube in shape, needs no tape or glue. Simply slip the tube off, place in a grow tray and fill with starting medium. When it comes time for transplanting, plant paper pot and all. Plants never look back. Very economical. As to recommending a small greenhouse I only have a recommendation against the one we purchased a couple of years ago from a local building supply. It is an 8'W x 10'L x 7'H unit made by a company called Harnois in Quebec, Canada. It is steel framed with a reinforced plastic cover. The cover was supposedly UV stabilized but, I seriously doubt it, as it started to disintegrate before the end of the first season. No satisfaction from the company. I just checked on their web site and could not find a similar unit so, I presume they discontinued it. Good idea if they did.
Ross Southern Ontario, Canada. New AgCanada Zone 5b 4317'15" North 8013'32" West To email, remove the obvious from my address.
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This is interesting although I only looked at http://members.tripod.com/toppertwo/soil_blocks.htm#Small%20bottom
if the soil is cohesive enough not to fall apart when formed into self standing blocks, wouldn't it be easier to just fill a large tray with soil and cut air barriers with a knife or pizza cutter? Afterwards you could further seperate the rows or columns with newspaper if you weren't confident with just the air barriers.
by soil I mean seed starting medium of course
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good question. What I care about, of course, is maximum efficiency in the whole process. I can now seed a tray in a minute or so (seed being cheap). I am finding, however, that I spend too much time replanting things that have bolted or went into transplant shock, in part because sometimes I use the 288 cells trays, which have little soil attached to the rootlets. So I am going to go with the larger blocks which is potentially a lot more work. The things that shock/bolt most often are cardoon, cukes (and next year I expect watermelons too), peppers, savoy cabbage, dandelion, and a type of green chicory. Brassicas in general are tricky, wait too long and they become rootbound, go out too early and they get shocked. I don't have the time to ferry trays in and out to harden them (I just time my plantings according to the weather, if it is sunny I do other yard work, if it is overcast I plant), so I am hoping that giving them a bigger pot/block will please them enough.
Now the pizza cutter won't work (it is not deep enough, and it will cut the bottom of the tray, and then you have a mess). I have experimented with half Scottex paper roll cores for the cucumbers (they are 5'' deep, the cukes won't shock when transplanted), and that looks good. One possible option is to use those cardboard grids inside wine boxes (those that keep bottles separated). In fact, if you cut one with a large paper cutter you will get three such things. But I suspect that roots will happily grow into the moist cardboard. That is why I wanted to hear about first hand experience with the blockers. Things like, when you pick up the block, how do you do it, does it fall apart, etc.
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simy1 wrote:

I've used the 2" blocks for 2 years now, mostly for tomatoes,peppers and flowers. It's really pretty easy if even I can figure it out. The blocks don't fall apart if they're the right consistancy (if they're not, add more water or soil stuff accordingly.) I use a spatula (pancake flipper) to lift them for transplant, which direct into the soil or a pot is a breeze.
Kate
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For approx. $295.00 you can put together a solar only "hoop house" (that's a google term for you) including some nice material from Northern Greenhouse Sales to cover the hoops. Mine (12x18) uses 20 foot rebar covered with 1/2 inch pvc, and I built 2x4 endwalls and use 1x3 furring strips to secure the skin to (these are horizontal battens). You'll get a good idea from any pics you see on the web re: hoop houses.
You'll get about 5-6 weeks on both ends of the season with this, no thermal ballast required (free-standing version). For a detailed treatise on how this all works in a production setting, see Eliot Colemans books..
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Thanks. I already have five hoophouses, two of them walk-in made of rebar. I was looking for something better insulated, and with shelves for the seedlings.
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Here is the one I bought last year. Of course right now when it is 90+ outside, it does not get used. There are other greenhouses listed there. http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?prodidw&whse=&topnav=&cat=&s=1
Susan N.
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simy1 wrote:

I have a 6' x 8' hobby greenhouse. Last year we shut it down in late Oct because I didn't want to pay the costs to heat it. It was shut down again Jul & Aug because it was too much of pain to cool it. I'm planning on starting it up just after Labour Day weekend for fall crops and things I want extra seeds from. I was lucky with invasion from critters. Light requirements involve a grow light once the natural lighting isn't enough. Trust me on this one, a 55 gal drum will take up way too much room in a 5' x 8' greenhouse. I use jug and other containers painted black and spred throughout the greenhouse. If you are anywhere where you get freezing temps forget about it. The space iss too small and not air tight. I tightened ours up with clear marine silicone that really helped but still not enough.

I use a potting mixture and the 9 packs. To prevent damping off use a chamomile tea mixture sprayed on the seedlings.
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