The evolution of an orchid-growing space


(2000 A.D.) My outdoor growing platforms have an open grill bottom and open sides for circulation (though a rim keeps plants from being blown off), with plastic sheeting (double layer in areas for lower-light paphs and phals) and wood lattice for shading, and are about 2 feet above the ground. The plastic also keeps the rain off; I water early in the day and don't have to worry about crown rot. I do have to replace the plastic yearly, as the sun and weather here aren't very kind to it. The tops are hinged (with nails in the ends; nothing fancy here) to allow access for watering and inspection (shown open here for a better view of plants). The front foot (not visible- photos are rear view shots) of the two southmost units is covered only by clear plexiglass, with no shading, for the more sun-loving plants, such as Brassavolas, Vandaceous plants, Schomburgkias, Vandopsis, Ansellia, and a couple of bromeliads. All constructed mostly with scrap and a few bucks for the plastic. I try to save the $ for the plants, not the extras!! :) I hope this encourages those who don't have greenhouses that this sort of thing can be easy and affordable. This is the 5th year I've put them out for the spring/summer/fall and I've had far more flowering than before. Since the plants outside range from the high-light vandas to cattleyas, paphs, phrags, masdevallias, bulbophyllums, etc., I am constsntly experimenting with light levels. I have attempted to position the few which REALLY want the least light under the additional shade of bromeliad leaves. I must say the plants are far stronger and generally hardier than before.

Aaaack! Help! I'm out of control!!

Now it's 2003 and as I have gradually been adding to the setup it has grown quite large. The original platform (behind me) is now 23' long and the newer one is about the same (in front) and then of course there are the stanhopeas hanging on a 20' length of fence behind the photographer (pic is deliberately a litlle fuzzy, as I don't like having my pic taken). In the early spring and late fall, I cover them when temps dip below the 45 degrees F. When it goes down into the 30's, I pipe out 'heat' from the house via a 4-5" black plastic tube. It is set up with a 5" fan blowing house room temp air out of the den window up under the skirt of the tarp which is in turn weighed down all around with bricks and large stones. The tarp takes on a 'puffy' look like a balloon, and the plants are sufficiently warmed. This enables me to extend the outdoor growing season from 2 weeks to a month at both the spring and fall ends. As long as the day temps are at or near 70F, I think they benefit from being outside. Often it prevents having to bring the plants in just because of a temporary cold snap. I don't cover them as much anymore, as the tarp required is, literally. larger than my house. What I try to do now is leave most of them out til nighttime temps are dipping into the 40's. The phals, bulbos, catasetums, and vandas then come in, and everything else stays out til it's hitting around 40degrees, then I bring the rest in axcept for the parvi paphs, disas, laelia species, and coldloving dens, etc . Now I usually just use the 'heat' setup on these when it's near freezing. (SEE DETAIL PICS)