Since March 2014 when I landed in this state, SRQHoyas has been evolving from inside the sunroom. A lot of trial and error has occurred and now I believe I have 'Nature from Within' figured out and the plants have been rewarding me with much new growth and few dropped leaves.
From the outside this structure seems to be very simple and calm but from within there are various ecosystems that I had to learn about and deal with keeping the needs of the hoyas in mind. First there was the layout of the room which I had already mapped out prior to giving the builders the dimensions of the space. There was little room for rearranging but at one point I thought all of the benches must be moved to the perimeter of the room in order to capture as much sunshine as I possibly could. But as the seasons changed, I soon learned that I was going to spend much time and energy 'chasing the sun'. My goal was to find what worked best and leave it that way. The plants now have their 'forever home' and are all in their 'forever space'.
I access this room by thru sliding glass doors that are in my Dining Room. These doors stay open most of the day when I am at home since I am in and out most of the day and because Nico, my doggie, then has access to her doggie door to the fenced backyard. I find that when I close them, someone ends up walking or running into the glass because they expect it to be open. As you can see, the brick wall was the exterior wall of the home prior to constructing this room.
I refer to this area as Nico's Lounge since this is where she spends most evenings sleeping while I work. Her job is to keep me company and she does her job well if it is after 5pm EST.
As before in the Florida Set Up...the hoyas are placed on the benches in alphabetical order as to make the fulfillment of my orders easier. This is the beginning of the alphabet and also the start of the big 'U shaped' configuration of the benches. This area also gets the afternoon sunshine from the windows which provides some but not near enough light for growth. Keep in mind that this is an actual structure built to keep nature out and comfort in. The windows are tinted and well insulated although they do open to one side. The warmth provided is also welcomed during any season so this is the space that was most coveted prior to installing the lighting sytems throughout.
Walking back toward the huge wall of windows that make up the west end of the room is where the Hoyas that names begin with the letter L have ended up. The West Facing wall would be ideal for the most light except for the 55 year old tree that blocks a good bit of the natural light for most of the summer season when it is full of leaves. Also the hanging hoyas provide a screen from the west side so what I thought would be bright light year round is at best filtered light.
The hanging hoyas line the western side of this room and as with the plants that are being supported upright with bamboo hoops. These also are in alphabetical order for the most part. Much sunshine comes through when the leaves have fallen from the change of seasons but again is filtered through tinted windows. The hoyas near the hanging support bar dry out quite quickly since the temperature is a bit warmer up closer to the ceiling. These plants are rotated often so they receive ample light on both sides of the plant.
Hoyas hang in 4" as well as 6" pink and white pots for the span of the glass wall like a curtain of green. The other advantage to this is they provide privacy from the backyard neighbors that seem far enough away but during the darker hours the inside of the room is visible since it is lit up like daytime.
As you can see in the photo, I have also supplemented the outside light with 3 LED lightbulbs which I daisy chained together and positioned to shine on most of the plants. I am not yet convinced these lights are as desireable as the T5 fluorescents and the Metal Halide bulbs I am hanging from up above. But the need to shine vertically as well as keeping the pathway open to foot traffic warranted this homemade solution. For a closer look at the configuration, I show more in a blog.
Also along the back wall I have positioned a pump system that I use to transport water from a Rainbarrel outside the room to water, feed and mist the hoyas.
During the warmer months I have four rainbarrels collecting water for the hoyas as well as irrigating my yard and vegetable garden. For the colder months I find that only one barrel is neccessary as I must keep the water from freezing with the use of an aquarium heater which hangs inside the conatainer.
This hose is then run in through a window, that I sealed off, then down along the wall on the floor to the irrigation pump.
I have found the plants respond much better to rainwater all year even though the water, from a faucet inside the room, is chlorine free and set at 80°F. Of course if the barrel runs dry the inside water will work just fine.
The 'Daddy' of all my lights is the 1000 watt Metal Halide light with a round reflector. This fixture covers a 10ft x 10ft area and provides much needed winter heat to the room. The plants that I stratigically placed under this light are the newest finds from Thailand...or at least some of them. I brought 3 of these lights with me, when I relocated, but decided to only hang one at this time due to the cost of operation.
To hang the fixture was tricky since I chose not to hang fixtures from the ceiling if at all possible. The existing ceiling fan turned out to be very stable and useful in this process.
Also, keep in mind that these kinds of lights depend on a very heavy Digital Ballast to power the bulb. This too had to find a secure space near the ceiling. I found plant 'S' hooks in various sizes very useful in the configuration of this room.
I will also thank and give credit to Doug of VermontHoyas.com for advising me to have power installed into the ceiling of this room while it was being constructed. Since he grows indoors in the Northeastern United States, he had the experience to know that the days can be quite short and grey and hoyas may need to have another light source to thrive and survive! Thanks Doug!!!
The only other Metal Halide light I have installed at this time is a 600 Watt Metal Halide with a rectangular shaped hood. The ballast is a bit less cumbersome and could also suspend that from the great fixture hanger! I chose to place the un-named species of Hoya (Hoya sp.) below this one.
The eastside facing side of the room is also the side that receives a bit of outside light during the night hours. I found that the plants suffered greatly during those months because they require a very dark period as humans do. I installed three black room darkening roller blinds on the windows on that side. As I drilled into the walls of the room, to secure the blinds, I happened to hit a wire and shorted out a breaker that controlled a large part of the room...ooops. I called the builders and they sent two guys out immediately, to remedy the problem, secure the exposed wire and hang the remaining two blinds...that's great customer servcie!
My propagation area happens to be on this side of the configured room too. Above I have 4 foot T5 Fluorescent Light fixtures and below I have metal trays that sit on Heat Mats. My cuttings root with in 7-10 days under these conditions any month of the year. I also am growing yellow tomato plants and Gerbera Daisys from seed in this area. I am hoping to get fruit on the tomato plants and get a head start on spring Flower Bed planting with these experiments.
Rounding out the plants are areas in the inside of the the 'U configuration'. The smaller plants that have been restarted or those that need special attention are here.
The hoyas beginning with M - P are here and share the light from the 1000W light.
The R - Z plants end the alphabet in this space, all below the T5 fixtures with alternating grow and Foliage bulbs.
The Pink are for Blooming and the Blue for Growth.
The T5 fixtures are from Hydrofarm and a 4 feet x 8 bulbs. The great thing about these is that these can hang horizontally of vertically and three can be daisy chained together and powered by one outlet.
I also purchased additional lights and I chose a newer model from EnviroGro. The only drawback I have noticed so far is that they do not offer to option to daisy chain together so I opted for a three outlet adapter to simulate this which just means there are more cords leading to the ceiling outlets. I note the date I turn these lights on to know when to replace the bulbs for ultimum light output.
The sunroom has four skylights that are useless and do not benefit the plants. If I had it to do over again I would have opted for Solatubes instead since they provide tons more light for less cost and chance for leaking in from the roof.
My 'Old Faithful' potting bench is still with me and continues to serve my needs well. I stain and seal it every few years, tighten the bolts and screws and it has lasted me since 1998.
This is where I store my supplies, work on my laptop and prepare orders for shipping. A flat screen TV hangs just above and keeps me informed and entertained throughout the workday and evening.
Since installing the lights the room is easily kept at or above the goal of 73°F. During the day the heat does not assist at all and I have noticed temperatures up to 80°F. This being during the times when the outside temperatures stay below 40°F. I can only imagine what summertime days will heat up to inside the room? It appears that the heaters may only be needed during the winter and when the lights are not in operation which is 9pm through 7am. Let's see if the power bill reflectes those seemingly advantages to running the lights!?
I had designed this Sunroom would be a very 'Green' area...aside from the plants...I did what I could to make it energy efficient. The Solar Panels installed just outside the space charges a battery that will run small voltage items. The sun has successfully powered my Lawn Mower all summer and now is charging the battery to my Snow Blower.
There are quite a few critters who have made this space their home by choice or by being planted there. I noticed a short time after arriving from Florida that a couple of lizards had stowed away in the plants for the trip. One poked his head out of the conduit bar that I have the plants hanging on and another was noticed being chased by Nico one afternoon. They has somehow dissappeared by escaping during the summer months when I carelessly neglected to close the doors?
I decided that after noticing many spider 'ropes' being spun each night it might be a good idea to bring a few more of those anoles back to the space. Funnily enough, in PA I must pay for these critters in contrast to seeing them by the tens each day in the Sunshine State. Either way, Charlie and Freddie are healthy and happy and seem to be doing their job which is to keep the insects at bay without the need for pesticides. Spiders are welcomed as opposed to the snakes and Cuban trees frogs that used to invade my space although I still am on guard for the frogs who used to camoflouge themselves as rocks on top of the mix in my pots. I've yet to see a snake slithering anywhere on the property and am getting used to leaving the doors open each time I pass through.
I now again have an area that is set aside for 'Babies' which translated are the return of SRQHoyas offering well rooted plants. This space is expected to grow as time goes on and the plants are able to produce the vines need to restock SRQHoyas.
We are very happy in our new home and hope to have SRQHoyas running at full capacity in 2015!
Thanks so much for growing hoyas and as always...HAPPY GROWING!!!
Winter 2011-12 Set Up