Preparing for Spring: Starting Seedlings Inside

starting seedlings inside

Despite the winter weather, it’s almost that time of year again to start our seeds for the spring. Most annual flowers and vegetables should be started about six weeks before the last frost, but it’s important to research your plants to get your timing right. Remember to start your seeding trays with sterilized seedling soil and use clean containers. Specific seedling containers or flats can be purchased, but small trays or egg cartons are good alternatives. If making your own containers, be sure to poke holes in the sides near the bottom.

Light and temperature are very important to seedlings. For optimal seedling growth and strength, read your seed labels to see what conditions they require to start. The majority of seedlings will require your grow lights to be on 24 hrs a day during the first portion of their lives. You can cut back on lighting once your plants are growing. However, the less light you provide, the more your plants will stretch or become “leggy,” which weakens the plant. Make sure your heat mats are set to the correct temperatures as specified on the seed labels. Most seeds sprout best between temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which is easily maintained in a greenhouse with propagation accessories. If you have seeds that start at range of temperatures, it is possible to set your temperature at an average range to germinate a few varieties if desired.

Be careful when watering the seedlings, as they are sensitive to too much or too little water. Make sure to water with warm water rather than cold water. Once your plants have their second or third sets of leaves, they will be ready for transplanting. Move them to individual pots filled with potting mix and plenty of compost for best growth.

Always refer to the seed labels when starting the indoor sprouting process, as some seeds may need to be soaked, scratched, or chilled before planting. We recommend teaming up with a neighbor or friend when starting seedlings, since a packet of seeds often yields much more than expected. Gardening with a partner can also act as an incentive to keep your plants happy and healthy, whether through working together or a little friendly competition!


Case Study: Using Sliding Glass Windows to Create a Dynamic Entertaining Space

sliding glass windows for entertaining

Challenge

In an effort to compliment a valued outdoor pool where the family spends much of its summer, a Pennsylvania resident constructed a timber-frame pergola and pavilion. The pergola design shades an outdoor fireplace, grill, and patio space. While offering scenic views of rolling country hills, the pavilion shelters a bathroom, kitchen, and dining area from the elements.

The client required a flexible schedule with which to finish the construction of the pavilion so that spatial limitations could be gauged. In need of a door and windows to complete the enclosure, the client reached out to Solar Innovations®.

Solution

sliding glass windows for entertainingSolar Innovations® was eager to work around the client’s schedule. The project was broken into two halves for the client, one half being completed and shipped five months before the second. The project encompassed the installation of a three-panel folding door, five sliding windows, and four custom triangular fixed windows.
The sliding windows enable cross ventilation to cool the pavilion’s interior space. The windows come equipped with fiberglass screens to keep bugs from entering the enclosure. The three-panel folding door can be collapsed to unite the patio and pavilion. The end door of the three-panel folding door can also be swung open like a terrace door while the other two panels remain fixed. The glazing specified for all of the units is 1” LoE 272 tempered insulated glazing with argon filled airspaces for thermal efficiency.

The client’s pergola and pavilion, now equipped with quality doors and windows, further the functionality and appeal of the pool space. The pergola and pavilion have become ideal spaces for outdoor gatherings and summer recreation, and the enclosure offers inspiring views while also providing a refuge during inclement weather conditions.

Project Details

Series: SI8000 Thermally Broken Multi-Track Sliding Glass Window System,

Finish: AAMA Class I Dark Bronze Anodized

Glazing: LoE 272 Tempered Insulated Glazing


Case Study: Utilizing a Custom Glass Structure for Rooftop Access

custom glass structure for rooftop access

Challenge

Exploring ways to meet the New York City building code on egress, a New York townhouse resident decided to use the opportunities afforded by a renovation to bring extra light into their living space. The new code had invalidated an existing ladder and roof hatch on the fourth floor as a suitable form of egress. Instead of rebuilding a similar exit, the architect decided to rip out the ladder and roof hatch, puncturing the roof to accommodate a new set of stairs. A one-hour fire rated wall was constructed alongside the single stringer staircase. The architect then approached Solar Innovations® to discuss the installation of a structure to protect the floors below from the elements. The design required a glazed structure that would provide exceptional thermal and water protection while admitting paramount levels of daylight to enter the residence below.

Solution

Solar Innovations® collaborated with the architect to design, manufacture, and install a straight-eave lean-to walkway with one gable end and one back wall. The structure’s pitch was specifically designed to achieve the required clearance in relation to the rise of the staircase.

The structure, which boasts glass walls on three sides, permits a significant amount of light to penetrate the stairwell. It is equipped with an in-system awning window for ventilation. In order to achieve optimal thermal performance, one inch insulated glazing units with an argon filled airspace were installed. In addition to its practical uses, the egress acts as a focal point of design along the residential rooftop. This unique rooftop structure that doubles as a skylight permits the townhouse to meet NYC building codes on egress and illuminates the stairwell with plentiful natural daylight.

Project Details

Series: SI5201 Irregular Straight Eave Lean-To Walkway with One Gable End & One Backwall

Finish: AAMA 2603 Standard White Duracron

Glazing: 1” LoE 272 Clear Annealed Laminated Glazing


Keep Your Plants Healthy: Minerals for Plant Growth

minerals for plant growth

Minerals are essential for healthy plant growth, but choosing the right soil and minerals for your plants can be overwhelming. Our greenhouse experts have broken down the main minerals for successful gardening, and what to expect if your plants are not getting enough of any of them.

Nitrogen
Nitrogen is used by all plants more than any other mineral. Lack of nitrogen can cause many different symptoms in your plant, including yellowing of the leaves, excessive growth, lack of fruiting, and weakening of the plant. It is important to make sure your plants get enough nitrogen, because a lack of nitrogen tends to make plants more prone to disease and insect attacks.

Phosphorus
Phosphorus is an important mineral that is used to transfer energy in the plant during the metabolic process. It promotes root and seed development in the fruit of the plant as well as helps the plant itself become more drought and cold tolerant. A phosphorus deficiency can cause stunting of growth and maturity, poor coloration in the leaves, and may even cause your plants to not seed.

Potassium
Potassium is important for the enzymes that are involved in the photosynthesis process and cell structure of the plant. It also helps with water absorption, fighting diseases, and improving the fruit or vegetables.

Calcium
Calcium helps the plant roots and tips become stronger and more developed. A lack of calcium causes plants to not bud, or even lose fruit once it develops.

Magnesium
Magnesium is important for the development of plant cells to efficiently undergo photosynthesis and provide a better seeding. Deficiency of magnesium causes leaf discoloration, making the leaves appear old or withered.

Sulfur
Sulfur gives the fruit its color and odor characteristics. Therefore, a deficiency in sulfur in your plants causes a lessening of color and taste.

Manganese
Manganese helps the enzyme development in the plant cells. A deficiency of manganese will make the plant leaves look like they have yellowish stripes. Iron, copper, and zinc also play a similar role as manganese but are more toxic to plants if too much is applied.

Boron
Boron is important in plants because it assists in the transformation of sugars and in the germination of pollen tubes. A lack of this mineral will stop self-pollinating plants from pollinating, and will also harm the pollination process of fruit trees and corn.

There are a wide variety of essential minerals for plant growth, so it is important to get a professional soil sample taken at least every three or four years in addition to when fertilizing your garden, fruit tree crop, or even fields of corn and grasses. Always use a well-balanced fertilizer with all the trace minerals to keep your soil stocked with the essentials for your plants.


Inside Solar: Wood Terrace Door

wood terrace door

At Solar Innovations®, we’re always excited when we get the chance to install a product in our own corporate office.

wood terrace doorToday we welcomed a wood terrace door to our second floor showroom and office space. The White Oak door features a dark bronze anodized aluminum cladding exterior for exceptional thermal and weather performance in any climate. Wood is a popular choice in both residential and commercial applications, as it lends a warm, inviting atmosphere to any space. It is also an extremely versatile material; depending on the design, wood can be used to create a traditional feel, like an English wood conservatory, or a contemporary look, like a streamlined wood curtain wall. Wood is available on our operable walls, doors and windows, skylights, and structures.

Keep an eye out for more Inside Solar updates to stay updated on any additions to our space!

 

Interior of the White Oak terrace door


Project Spotlight: 16-06-111 Private Residence

aluminum straight-eave lean-to greenhouse

Solar Innovations® Architectural Glazing Systems’ install team recently completed work on a residential greenhouse in Virginia. The SI5207 aluminum straight-eave lean-to greenhouse is equipped with a SI2250 out-swing terrace door on both gable ends for convenient access from the structure to the outdoors. In order to provide the proper growing environment, a complete line of greenhouse accessories was added to the structure, including an iGrow control system, thermostat,
temperature and rain sensors, heater, retractable hose system, drip irrigation system, circulating fan, sliding plant hanger, three hanging trellises, and three deep aluminum straight-eave lean-to greenhousesided seedling benches. Seedling benches can be filled with soil to grow plants directly in the benches’ beds; they allow a flower bed or vegetable garden to be brought straight into the greenhouse and provide a raised working space so the gardener does not have to get on his or her knees to maintain the seedling bed. Ridge and eave vents, which are operated through the control system, provide ventilation and allow air to circulate to naturally regulate the temperatures within the greenhouse. This structure features LoE 272 insulated tempered glazing and AAMA 2603 Natural Clay framing finish.

 
This straight-eave lean-to greenhouse offers an unmatched growing environment for a residential gardening enthusiast. Solar Innovations® Architectural Glazing Systems can engineer and build greenhouses in any size, shape, and configuration for various applications, including hobby, commercial, research, educational, institutional, and specialty greenhouses


Sharing the Fruits of Our Labor: Banana Harvest

banana harvest

As you enter the main office building on our campus, you are greeted by an entryway greenhouse environment complete with a beautiful koi pond and numerous fruiting tropical plants. We grow bananas, pineapples, limes, lemons, and even cumquats. Right now our banana trees are producing very well and we are sharing the fruits of our labor with our employees by supplying our cafeteria with bananas. We are also preparing some of them for freezing to make delicious banana smoothies to share with our team members at a later date. Our banana trees are 100% natural and are not sprayed with pesticide or any other chemicals.

 

Fruit smoothies in training

Fruit smoothies in training

Our greenhouse experts raised our banana trees from corms, the bulb structures from which each banana plant sprouts and grows. Starting from a corm rather than from a pup, or young plant, often assures better success. The first step is to rinse the corm in warm water to wash off any fungus that may have developed during shipment. The corm should have two or three rhizomes, which are like flower bulbs. Find a pot or container suitable for the size of your corm that allows two to three inches on all sides so the corm does not touch the pot. Use a very light soil with a significant amount of peat moss and vermiculite in it. Cover the rhizome but leave the center of the corn exposed; the corm will be covered only once the rhizomes start to grow and develop a small stem or trunk and a few leaves. Water the banana plant thoroughly and keep the soil damp but not moist, allowing the soil to dry out periodically between watering. Fertilize with a ½ strength liquid fertilizer, such as a 5/5/5 or 10/10/10.

 

Once your plant starts growing, keep it in a well lit area that is warm and humid. A specialized greenhouse is perfect for growing tropical plants. Your plant should produce a flower or crown within the first year and develop fruit within the next four months. Using a higher potassium base fertilizer will help your plant produce better fruit that ripens sooner. Once your plant becomes mature, you will find small pups growing alongside the larger plant; these can be cut from the main rhizome and transplanted. However, leave at least one to replace the main plant, because after the fruit is harvested, your main plant will die and should be removed from the corm.

 

We’re very thankful for our successful banana harvest, and look forward to more success from our tropical greenhouse to brighten our winter months.


Project Spotlight: 13-09-012 Akron Rubber Ducks

commercial folding and sliding glass walls

Today is National Rubber Ducky Day, and to celebrate, we’re highlighting a project Solar Innovations® completed at Canal Park, home of the Akron Rubber Ducks. This project featured several units, including four SI3350 folding glass wall systems, three SI5200 vertical wall systems, and four SI8200 multi-track sliding wall systems. All of the units were finished in Dark Bronze Anodized finish for a coherent and contemporary appearance.

The folding glass wall systems, located on the ground level, allow the stadium restaurant to expand its floor plan in good weather by opening up the space to accommodate an outdoor dining area. On the upper level, diners are similarly able to experience the fresh air and outdoor views offered by the sliding glass walls.

Operable walls are a great way to create a flexible dining space and bring in natural light to make a restaurant welcoming and bright. While this is an example of commercial folding and sliding glass walls, Solar Innovations® can custom design a product to meet any application.


Case Study: A Cut Above — Utilizing Wood Laminate Interior to Enhance Custom Skylight Design

wood laminate interior to enhance custom skylight

Challenge

While constructing their expansive residence, New Jersey homeowners approached Solar Innovations® with a request for a skylight that would offer both attractive wood finishing and superior thermal performance. The skylight would reside atop a conical roof that housed a grand spiral staircase. The skylight’s design would add a modern aesthetic to the traditional forms that have been incorporated into the residence, while still offering a feeling of grandeur in order to seamlessly blend into the existing architecture. As a final request, the residents asked that the skylight be engineered to be capable of supporting the weight of a chandelier.

Solution

Wood glu laminate interior with durable aluminum exterior

Wood glu laminate interior with durable aluminum exterior

Solar Innovations® met this design challenge by utilizing Eastern White Pine glu laminate rafters for their attractive appearance on the interior of the skylight. Glu-lam is an alternative to solid wood beams, and instead uses several pieces of wood melded together. This allows for younger trees, planted with the intent of early harvest, to be used to create the structural members. It also allows for a greater variety of species without compromising a project’s budget. Wood interior provides a contemporary appearance and the unmatched warmth and beauty of real wood. The glu-lam was coupled with an aluminum Flexible Glazing System on the exterior to add structural integrity to the design. The rafters match the existing roof slope and come to a point to complete the conical form. A hub sitting at the center of the skylight acts as the support for the chandelier. Solar Innovations® had one of the Eastern White Pine glu-lam rafters routed and capped off as a hidden wire chase to meet the electrical needs of the chandelier. This custom skylight gives the residence a modern aesthetic that is not only attractive, but also boasts superior thermal performance and longevity.

Project Details

Series: SI5206W Wood 14-Sided Polygonal Skylight

Finish: Custom Paint to Match “Patriotic Blue”

Glazing: 1” Insulated Tempered Glazing


Staying Positive: Recovering from a Tilapia Disaster

Recovering from a tilapia disaster

Raising any kind of animal is hard work, and can be both rewarding and devastating at times. This week at Solar, we truly experienced a hardship regarding our tilapia system. The auto fill value in our aquaponics system became stuck open overnight and poured gallons of cold water into our tank, allowing the water to grow much colder than safe for the species. We lost the majority of our smaller fish that simply could not handle the 50 degree water. In addition, some of our larger fish that were ready for harvest did not survive. In the wake of this small disaster, we are reflecting on our reliance on automatic systems and how to prevent any similar future situations.

 

If you rely on automatic devices of any kind, it is always good to frequently check to make sure these devices are functioning at the level you expect them to. Preventative care and upkeep of the entire system is necessary to prevent—as much as possible—any setbacks similar to what we faced this week.

 

A healthy large white tilapia

A healthy large white tilapia

To reflect on the positive aspects of even this situation, the cold temperatures of the water taught us a few things about tilapia. Many large fish survived the low temperatures, and once they were heated up again, are performing normally. In addition, the population of white-colored tilapia was much more affected by the cold than other colored fish in the same tank. Most of the larger fish that did not survive were white in color. There is likely an interesting research topic here. However, our own fish will not be testing it out—for now we are closely observing the population for any side effects that may have accrued from the extreme temperature change. The tilapia are being pampered; we are slowly replenishing the beneficial bacteria and salt levels to lower the stress on the fish, and testing the water quality a few extra times to make sure the tank is returning to normal.

 

To continue looking on the positive side, our fish-to-water ratio has benefited from the cull of the population. Previously, our tanks had been doing so well that the breeding population took over and we had too many fish in the tank. Now, our tank and population sizes are back in balance, and this season’s harvest will ensure that they continue to stay that way.