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Thread: Creating the best HL conditions?

  1. #1
    Smile, it makes people nervous :) MH1's Avatar
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    Question Creating the best HL conditions?

    Right- I've been meaning to make this post for a while, so here goes.

    For a while now, I've been wondering how to create the right habitat for nepenthes given my own conditions. I'm not one to rush into doing something blindly, and my attempts at making growing areas for them have not quite reached the right kind of requirements. For this reason, I have stayed away from Neps + Helis- although it has been difficult!

    So, for Highlanders, the general consensus is that the following conditions are needed:

    - Decent humidity
    - Temp ranges roughly between 15C/59F and 23C/73F
    - Good lighting (although strength can be less than strength for 'dews)
    - And as an aside, space for maturing

    I have problems with the temperature bit, with foreseeable problems with light.

    Unlike a lot, I have sufficient ease in lowering individual room temperature at night in the Summer, as the overnight lows outside are around 10/50-12C/53F. That means I can open a window at night and the temps usually drop to around 15/59-16C/61F in my warm, west facing bedroom. If my conditions were like this year round, I would have little problems. However, in Winter, my house usually hovers around 9C/48F in the rooms we don't heat (which is all apart from the living room). This temp barely fluctuates due to cloud, trees and other factors which block the sun from our house in winter (the sun is pretty low in winter where I live, so just living on a hill is enough to block out a lot of sun). This persists from mid Autumn to mid Spring. My first question is, could a highlander survive in this room alone, given lighting- especially during the constant low temps?

    My solution for this was to place all of my plants in a tank, which warms the air around them to 20-23C. There is probably a good temp drop in the tank in Winter (I only set it up in late spring, so unsure of actual drop). However, in Summer the temp doesn't drop enough despite the coolness of the room at night. I would estimate temp ranges from 19/66- 25C/77F. The other problem with this set-up is that most neps will outgrow it within a year or so. But again, is this set-up already acceptable?

    It's a bit of a dilemma- I would simply move the plants between if I didn't know that they're fussy about being moved :/

    I have 2 possible solutions, but they have do holes in them...

    1) I set up a metal grow rack with lights, like a lot of other people do- but again, I'm unsure as to whether this will create a good enough temp rise in the winter, considering that it's open to the air. I have no worries about humidity where I live- in Summer the inside of our house has 60-80% humidity, depending on how awful the weather is outside. This would in theory have more space, because you could remove upper shelves to let the neps carry on growing upwards, but would reduce space for smaller neps, and make it harder to keep smaller plants well lit due to distance between the fixtures and the plant.

    2) We have a spare little 1920's uninsulated extension on our house which is even chillier year-round and stays about 10C constantly, but gets even colder in winter- never goes below 4C though- it would probes make perfect UHL conditions if I got it sorted. This would be perfect as a grow room as I would have as much space as I wanted for plants to mature. However, there might be a problem in heating the room to the right temp- could lights alone hear the room to 20C+? Or would I need a heater or something? Also, when said plants get large, how would I light them? One possible solution is a hot, high-output bulb like a metal-halide, but I have no clue about how they work or the pros and cons of them, apart a from the fact that the bulbs give off enough heat to fry plants and are expensive. They might also increase the chances of my house being raided by a drugs squad LOL.

    I have also thought of A/C systems, but I have 0 technical knowledge, have no clue where to find one in oh-so-cool England and am pretty sure they are painfully expensive due to the fact that no-one here actually needs one.

    All suggestions and opinions are wanted- although remember that cost is a big factor for me. I'm 16- so my income is pretty small. This is also why I haven't splashed out on plants that I'm not sure I can keep- I simply can't afford it.

    So in summary, is it possible to grow HLs in my house-considering temps, or in my tank- again considering temps? I would love to know how you would solve this problem.

    Thanks a million for reading!

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    Bobblybook's Avatar
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    Hi MH1,

    I live in Melbourne where we get some 45 deg days in summer (in the shade..) as well as some 0 deg nights in winter so I've experienced unfavourable conditions at both ends of the spectrum. May or may not help you but I'll give you my experiences

    First off, I don't see why you're contemplating an A/C system? Your only problem seems to be bringing the temp up during winter days, unless I'm misreading your post horribly. If you mean as a way to cool the room if you used MH lighting, I wouldn't really bother if you have a window you can open to cool it - why waste money on something you don't need!

    In terms of plants surviving the cold. They usually won't be happy and will slow/stop for the winter until things warm up. I've had a lowii in a terracotta pot outside during 1 C nights (prob below 0 due to the terracotta cooling effect) and it's growing after surviving that winter. For most high-elevation highlanders I'd think they would survive but not thrive in constant cool temps. Intermediates I would be careful with.
    My plants I have outside are covered in plastic in winter and the sun helps warm their air, so they generally get warmer temps than the sub-10 C maximums. I bring most of my Intermediate/warm loving plants such as N.veitchii (even highland forms), LL N.truncata and similar temperature plants in for the winter - even then they don't like the 10 C nights near the window. The rest stay outside all winter under plastic covers.

    I would recommend trying to get the daytime temps in winter up to at least 15 C if possible - it's easy with sunlight but obviously you don't have that. I would also be wary of cold, damp winter conditions with low air circulation.

    One question - how did placing the plants in the tank raise temperatures by over 10 C?? I can understand if you were using lights or had sunlight but it sounds like you have neither at the moment. Also I don't find my plants very fussy at all about being moved. I know there's a couple of species notorious for sulking such as burbidgeae, but the majority I find are fairly accepting of being moved, especially if it means better conditions. The only thing I've found they don't like is going from a closed tank set-up in very high humidity to outdoor or household humidity, or low light to extremely bright etc.

    Also for tank growing: I've tried it but yes, they will out-grow it. I keep some smaller species/hybrids in a tank now but anything that will grow large I don't bother. Might as well find a spot where it's happy outside now instead of waiting. If there isn't anywhere you can find to put it then you probably don't want to be buying that species

    It sounds like you have great potential highland conditions though with a bit of tweaking. I thought most of England experienced sub-0 temperatures regularly in winter, which it sounds like you're able to avoid!

  3. #3
    Smile, it makes people nervous :) MH1's Avatar
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    Thanks, yeah, I know they survive, but I'm after a long term, perfect solution. Maybe I'm being too perfectionist, but I want to try and keep things constant and make the ideal conditions for picky and non-picky alike. I wanted opinions on which set-up is best, and maybe other ideas. Experiences of similar set-ups as well.

    To clarify- because I can be really, really unclear - I waffle.

    I never really have contemplated A/C truly, it's just that I notice some growers doing this in tanks to lower the temp in Summer, if that makes sense. It's not a viable option for me as I stated, and I said it because I wanted to point out to people who might suggest it that it isn't really possible.

    The reason why I posted was to try and find a way that avoided the cold, wet, low circulation periods in the winter- it's a big problem for me because I live in a poorly insulated victorian house! I just want to try and avoid set-backs.

    Placing in a tank raises temps because I put water in it, then place warm fluorescents on top. The warm bulbs heat the semi-contained air, which is humid because of evaporating water, and helps maintain a warmer temp. It works, anyway . And yes, that's why I don't want to move them around too much- the difference might be too great etc etc.

    And as for putting them outside- my lord I can dream. Winter is already on it's way- it's forecasted at 13 degrees all week! :/ And it is true about not buying things you can't grow, but if that was the case I'd only be growing hardy plants. You are very lucky that you can grow your plants outside, if only partially- I live in northern England, and have a very narrow window for 'summer'. Where I live we very often have summer days that peak at 13C. Autumn and Spring are simply a continuation if winter.

    And I wish I avoided sub 0! I only touched on summer temps outside . -18C last winter, and the winter before that too. This year we didn't go above freezing for 2 weeks, on 2 occasions.

    But still, you think that growing in my room is possible, as plants will slow down, but survive. It would be hard getting it above 15 tho, so I will still have to consider other options :/

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    Bobblybook's Avatar
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    Ah I see. Yeah I find growing outside is much easier if the plants can handle the temperatures - so many factors that are just set to "automatic" such as light spectrum, air circulation, day-lengths fluctuating throughout the year, temperature drops etc. that you have to try and manually emulate indoors.

    Fluorescent lighting definitely works for heating a tank but as you said they will eventually grow
    I don't have any experience with those temperatures, a little out of my range! It might be worth your time to post a thread over at cpuk forums (www.cpukforum.com) - unsurprisingly they have a lot of members in the UK You can probably even learn a bit about their setups by looking through the boards and how they deal with the cold/low light conditions.

  5. #5
    Oh, the humanity!! TheFury's Avatar
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    I would say the grow room sounds like a great idea if you can swing it. Maybe pick up an electric heater for the coldest days of winter. But perhaps I'm just living vicariously through you; I would love to have a whole grow room to work with!

    But if you go the way of the grow rack, you can definitely regulate internal daytime temps. Take a look at my latest effort. Just wrap the whole rig in opaque cellophane (get it from a packaging supply store). Before I cut holes for all the ventilation fans I'm using, I was getting temps at least 20F higher than ambient temperature. Not too shabby! If you had a duct that drew cool air in from outside if it got TOO hot, you'd be sorted in the summer.

  6. #6
    Smile, it makes people nervous :) MH1's Avatar
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    BB- it's true- outdoor growing is much simpler. Shame that I don't live in Cali- they just grow stuff outside year-round, the lucky things. And honestly, you don't really want to expand your range to that degree if you don't need to. And I don't want to expand mine to northern USA standards, haha! And I am a member on CPUK, and go there just as often, but I find it's a bit more technical and have no clue what people are on about- for a set-up noob terra is far easier to understand!

    TF- yep, it is my long term plan to use it- I've been slowly breaking the idea to my parents. If I were to do it tho, I would do it with the MH and co sort of lighting so that I could grow stuff out- so research is probs needed. And yeah, that grow-rack looks like it could work, still the same space issue, but it's a step up from a tank, for sure! How do you get the fan to pull cold air in? Is the window constantly open or something? On another note, do you have problems with pests getting in? Have you considered a filter or something?

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    Oh, the humanity!! TheFury's Avatar
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    Space is definitely an issue for larger Neps, but you can configure your rack differently than mine. The shelving unit I (and many others here) use has 5 shelves by default. You don't have to put all the shelves in, and you can adjust the height of each. If you wanted to, you could configure your rack to consist of just two very tall shelves, each with 3' or so of height to work with. That might not make it any better for Neps that sprawl horizontally, but the rack is 18" deep so a Nep would need to be a real honker before it outgrew the rack.

    I get the fan to pull cold air in by running a duct to an open window. This pic shows it better:


    The fan dumps the cool air right above the lights on the lower shelf. There are also two exhaust fans - one on the top to draw the heat off of the lights, and one that vents the side of the top shelf. The window is always open, but you an buy attachments for this duct hose like a baffle that basically seal your window off. That comes in handy during colder weather (and rain!).

    I don't have a problem with pests getting in. Most of the pests are already inside my rack (springtails and such)! But the fan that pulls air in through the window is also behind a screen, so outdoor critters wouldn't be able to get in anyways.

  8. #8
    Smile, it makes people nervous :) MH1's Avatar
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    Oh, ok, I did see that photo- it was just that I was wondering how you coped in bad weather! The fact that it can be sealed sounds better- I live in a small town- so no worries of break-ins- I just, as you guessed, had the thought of dealing with an open window in summer- I'd be freezing!

    As for the taking the shelves out, I had thought of it- but wondered about how that would affect lighting etc- it seems you can't have both, I guess...

    I've been looking into HID as well- bit expensive and slightly confused as to whether HPS and MH run off the same ballast/reflector or not and exactly how far the light is spread and how close the lamps should be... still weighing up options.

    I suppose I could also put this said rack into the extension, and just leave it open- it might be cool enough inside to lower the temps anyway. Gah- too many ifs and buts.

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