Camera set up for ultra wide angle & long exposure photography

This is my set up:

Thought process on the lens selection:

Earlier this year I was looking for the perfect ultra wide angle lens to go with my Sony A7RII Mirrorless Full Frame camera. Initially I wasn’t in the mindset of doing a lot of due diligence and bought the Rokinon 14mm F2.8 AF back when it had a much higher rating on Amazon. I took it to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens to test it out, and I tossed every single photo from that shoot, boxed the lens up and sent it back.  That was a lesson well learned. What was promised: sharp, low distortion, ultra-wide images. What was delivered: super soft images, even in the center, even when manual focused, with the worst edge smearing, and corners that were stretched & smeared to oblivion. I realized I was going to have to do a lot more homework on this category of lens.

After that I spent quite a while finding photos online taken with the different ultra-wide lenses I was considering. Even the newest lensmaker on the block, Venus, with their Venus Laowa 12mm f/2.8 with “close to zero” distortion had smearing in the edges & corners of many images I saw. To be fair, not all images had smearing, but it’s hard to tell from random strangers photos whether they were cropped or not, and a lot of images taken with an ultra-wide end up getting cropped. The straight lines were impressively straight with that lens, and the details were quite sharp throughout most of the image, so I’m definitely not saying that it’s a bad lens and I’m not saying you shouldn’t consider it,  I’m just saying that the examples I saw and my criteria eliminated it from my consideration.

Clearly, I can’t get past the smearing with ultra-wide lenses, and it’s going to happen with every ultra-wide lens to some extent, which is disappointing. I feel it ruins the photos, and I would crop the images down to eliminate the smearing, and at that point, a 12mm or 14mm lens is pointless when your final output may as well have been taken with an 18-20mm, right? So I changed my criteria.

Lens pick:

I settled on the Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 lens. Holy heck it is definitely pricey, but the images I saw from this lens were fantastic, and it is now my most used lens. The front element is small enough you can still use ring filters, which is perfect for my set up for reasons I’m getting to. The sharpness, low distortion, very little smearing in corners and only with some subjects, and angles make this a great lens. The featured image at the top of this post, and the example images at the end of this post were taken with this lens.

Thought process on filter format types:

At the same time that I was looking for my ultra-wide, I was also trying to figure out my filter strategy before spending more money on the neutral density filters. I had been playing with some square filters from Lee Filters. That’s how I discovered that square filters are cumbersome to set up and take down, and I never used them as a result. That’s unfortunate because with ultra-wide lenses you usually lose the option for ring filters and have to buy an expensive setup to hold even larger, even more expensive filters. Money aside, the amount of equipment you carry with you doubles under that scenario, and I find that untenable.

In addition to the cumbersome nature of getting the whole set up on the lens, you have to focus your shot and get the shutter calculation before you put on a 10 or 15 stop filter. If you want to recompose, you have to slide it back out, hold it or put it back in a case, recompose, refocus, put it back in. The square filters also didn’t glide into my filter holder, it took some effort, and on a beach it was difficult to get the filters in without disturbing the composition. PITA.

Ring filters on their own are actually worse for a 10 or 15 stop filter because it’s hard to get the threads aligned, and you don’t want to strip the threads on the lens or the filter, and the whole remove, re-compose, re-focus, replace is so painful and time consuming. I hated it. I was thinking, why can’t these things just attach with magnets? Surely something like that has to exist, right?

Ring filters are the best choice because of magnetic mounts:

There is one brand called Xume that makes magnetic solutions for lenses & ring filters.  You need one Xume lens adapter ring for each lens, and then one Xume filter holder for each filter. I also have the Xume lens caps so I never have to remove the lens adapters. The Xume system is quite easily the most favorite part of my photography set up. Using any filter with this system is a dream, particularly long exposure. Everything is fast to set up and take down. The magnets hold the filters and lens cap very snugly, and come off with just the right amount of effort. The only downside, and it is a minor one for me, is that if you want to use two filters, you have to screw the two together. If you want to use three filters, the weight of all three may be too much for the magnets to hold. I’ve never used three filters, and it is only occasionally that I will even want to use two. This also means that you can’t use the Xume lens cap and have a filter attached by the magnetic lens adapter.  If the filter is meant to be semi-permanently attached like a UV filter, in which case it is fine, just set it up as follows: lens >> UV filter >> Xume lens adapter >> lens cap.

Get one filter, adapt to all your lenses:

I have three lenses right now, and they are all quite different in size, but I didn’t want to buy filters for each size, or more Xume adapters than necessary. This means I need a camera lens step ring for each of two of my smaller diameter lenses. My 18mm Zeiss lens has a 77mm ring diameter and is the largest, so Xume lens adapter goes directly onto this lens. On my 90mm macro lens, I have a 62mm diameter, and on my 28mm it is 49mm diameter. The 62mm>>77mm step ring I leave attached to my 90mm macro lens at all times with the Xume lens adapter attached to it. You can’t even tell the step ring is on there. For the 28mm lens, a 49mm diameter is quite small so the 49mm>>77mm step ring is a bit more obtrusive in a smaller camera bag so I usually don’t leave it attached.

Selection criteria for ND filters:

Onto the actual neutral density filters. I tried a couple of highly rated ND filters, and was disappointed. My ideal test is to be able to blend two photos seamlessly together, one a fast exposure to capture moving objects like leaves, people, animals and freeze them, a second image as a long exposure to smooth out clouds, water, and distracting people. A perfect ND filter would mean the only thing I should have to adjust between two photos to blend them would be the exposure, since it’s usually a bit off when you take one at 1/200 second and another at 163 seconds (15 stop) with variable light happening throughout. The worst of the bad ND filters left so little image data that the color cast couldn’t even be fixed, details were low, and highlights & shadows were almost non-existent. Some others required a lot of effort to get the photos to match up.

ND filters that are simply perfect:

The one brand of ND filter that passed that test quite easily is Breakthrough Photography.  For the example shot below I used the Breakthrough Photography 6 stop 77mm ND filter. The two images below are straight out of the camera and converted to JPG. The 6 stop shot is slightly darker, but other than that they are pretty spot-on visually. The histogram reveals how close they are in tones with a fairly close match at the darker and mid-range tones The big difference is in the highlights, which are where most of the motion is happening and being smoothed out and is expected. For the final composition, most of the image is from the 6 stop ND shot with the birds and fishermen blended in, so mainly everything along the top of the pier.

Pier at Crissy Field - no filter
Pier at Crissy Field – no filter, no crop

Pier at Crissy Field - 6 stop ND filter
Pier at Crissy Field – 6 stop ND filter, no crop

Histogram - no filter
Histogram – no filter

Histogram - 6 stop ND filter
Histogram – 6 stop ND filter
Pier at Crissy Field - final composite
Pier at Crissy Field – final composite

Effective Spider Mite Control – Organic Recipe

Growing indoors, I am eventually plagued by spider mites at least once a season. It’s always discouraging when those small strands start appearing between branches. I usually start a new internet search, re-reading all the things I’ve already tried before, hoping to find something new. I tried all the concoctions that are safe for use indoors, and around fish, and while they inhibit the spread, the continuous applications are exhausting.

This last time around was different. This time they were growing on my key lime tree, that I had grown from seed, and is now over 3 years old. It was just recovering from larval gnats that almost killed it. It lost nearly all it’s leaves and I pruned it back to ease up demand on the remaining roots while they grew back, and to stimulate some re-growth of branches. There was no way I was going to let spider mite’s kill this tree. They were also on my Aleppo Pepper, and they love to kill my peppers.

I was reading about diluting alcohol and spraying that on plants to dry the insects, OR applying diatomaceous earth to the plant in puffs.

I’ve tried the alcohol spray before, and while it works, it doesn’t get them all, and when you think you’ve killed them all and let your guard down, they always make a resurgence.

I never used diatomaceous earth because the mess of spraying a fine powder that is hazardous to human lungs around the house is a non-starter.

That’s when I got the idea to mix the diatomaceous earth (DE) into the alcohol solution and spray that on the plants. The nice thing about having the DE in a solution is it’s not going to be as big of a breathing hazard, it will go directly where it is targeted without floating off and will distribute on the plant quite nicely. When the alcohol solution evaporates, the powder will remain stuck to the plant, and since it will be dry again, will be effective in killing any insect that walks through it. The alcohol diminishes the number of spider mites, and the DE will continue to kill anything left that survived, or kill anything that hatches later on.

If you spray it indoors, you do have to mop up anything that hits another surface before it dries, or you can let it dry and wipe it up with a wet cloth, but it’s pretty inert, and very easy to clean up, so I don’t worry about spraying it inside.

Recipe for 1 liter spray bottle:

Shake the bottle frequently while spraying to keep the DE well distributed.

I removed the webs & sprayed both the key lime tree & the pepper plant twice, separated by 24 hours, making sure to coat the undersides of the leaves and all the nooks and crannies. I inspected both plants twice a day after that. There were two occasions where a single thread showed up on the key lime tree. I removed it and gave it a spritz for good measure. The pepper plant never had a single thread come back. After two weeks I used some plain water to gently spray the leaves and rinse off any DE that wants to come off. You can easily wipe it off dry as well. It’s now been 3 months and without any further treatment, there have been no more signs of infestation.

It’s fast, cheap, effective, organic, and I’m happy to finally have something that works against these things.

Cornbread: gluten free & vegan/vegetarian

For vegan just don’t use any of the dairy and substitute another liquid & oil.

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a medium size baking dish.

Thoroughly mix the following in a bowl:

  • 100g masa harina, or cornmeal as finely
    ground as possible
  • 125g oat flour, or use raw oats and make them into a flour using a spice grinder or food processor
  • 125g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

In a separate measuring cup mix the following:

  • 240ml liquid of choice, water, milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut water, tea
  • 75ml oil/fat of choice, avocado oil, ghee, butter, coconut oil, or whatever oil is on hand, melt if necessary
  • 4 tsp vinegar, something light like rice wine, or apple cider, but any acid will do
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients thoroughly together, pour it in the baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

You can eat it while it’s hot, but it will be a little crumbly. When it cools, it will have a perfect, moist texture.

Travel hacks for allergy & asthma on planes & in hotels

If you have allergies to fragrances, if fragrances trigger your asthma, if you respond negatively to chemicals used in cleaning products, or if you have an allergic reaction to towels and bedding at hotels, this article is for you. If you have any other suggestions beyond what is listed here, feel free to leave a comment to help other travelers.

There is nothing worse than being stuck in planes or hotels that are atrociously full of fragrances or chemicals that affect your ability to breathe and sleep. Unfortunately fellow travelers on planes either don’t think their amount of fragrance is bothersome (they get really desensitized to their own smells) or they think they should use more fragrance as a courtesy to others since everybody is in such close proximity for so long. Many hotels don’t seem concerned at all about air quality, and hotels are more and more frequently constructed so that guests can’t open windows.

Personal air filtration mask

The most important thing I carry around, and I do carry this everywhere, is a mask that can filter smells and particles. Respro is a UK company that creates masks for a wide variety of purposes, but primarily focus on air pollution and allergies. The masks consists of 3 main pieces, the shell, the filter, and the exhaust valves. All 3 are interchangeable and have different properties so when you order replacement filters & valves you can choose accordingly. The initial purchase includes all 3.  I prefer the Ultralight shell with Techno filters & the Powa valves. The Ultralight makes it easier to breathe in and is more comfortable for sleep.

It’s important to get a good fit with these masks, if any air comes in around the edges of the mask, the air will take the path of least resistance and defeat the point of wearing it. They really do a good job of greatly reducing fragrances breathed in. I have slept with this on several occasions, and I’m a light sleeper. I’ll be honest, it is not the best sleep, but it’s much better than not being able to sleep at all. The best time I had wearing this was in Japan where they have a strong culture of wearing masks for a variety of reasons. There was a lot of agricultural smoke in the countryside and cigarette smoke everywhere, and the people I encountered really liked the mask.

Portable air purifiers

While filtering air at the point it enters your body is practical and efficient, it’s better to not have to wear it and get clean air. To that end a portable air filter like the Austin Air Healthmate Jr can be helpful. If you have any experience with air filters, you know that they’re not an instant fix for air quality. For hotel rooms, it will take several hours to reduce air quality issues by half, and from there improvements are slower over the next day (depending on many factors), but if you are staying in a hotel for several days, an air purifier can help a lot. There are very few air filters you can consider portable enough to pack in a suitcase, but the Austin Air Healthmate Jr is one, another alternative is AireOx which also has a model with a 12v plug you can use in your car.

Hotel attributes:

Even better than having to haul an air purifier or wear a filtration mask is finding a hotel that has good air quality. There was a small trend for some hotels to have dedicated rooms for a small fee that are asthma & allergy friendly, but I have yet to travel anywhere that has a hotel like that, and it seems to be dying off as a marketable feature. What you can do is look for specific features and query certain terms in hotel reviews.

Look for a hotel that has:

  • Hard floors – carpet cleaners can output harsh, long lasting chemicals and fragrances
  • A balcony – guaranteed ability to exchange the air in your hotel room, and a place to escape to if the indoor air is particularly bad
  • Windows that open – completely sealed hotels are becoming more common to control energy costs, and simplify maintenance but you have no control over air quality

Search hotel reviews:

Use a website like Tripadvisor to search hotel reviews for specific terms like “smell”  to instantly get a sense of air quality at the hotel and “window”  to see if the windows open or if there are other issues. Less often people will use “fragrance” or “air quality” to describe particular issues if they are keen to these issues.

Tripadvisor also has a Q&A section where you can ask fellow travelers about their experiences with air quality & fragrances at the hotel, and often times the hotels themselves will respond, but it’s ultimately more effective to speak directly to the hotel to get a timely response.

Message the hotel:

Hotels want you to have a good stay but you have to communicate your requirements up front, preferably before booking to see if they can accommodate your request, and again after the booking has been made so they can associate your room with the request. The responses will run the gamut from total ignorance about their ability to provide an allergy friendly environment for your stay to over the top reassurances and elaborate details about how they will prepare the room for your stay.

If you can get your request to the hotel manager or to housekeeping, your chances for success are much better. Front desk staff typically have no idea what the housekeeping staff do, and there is very little communication that happens between those groups. It is always okay to ask that the room be cleaned with fragrance free products, and for no fragrances to be sprayed, and for the room to be aired for a good period before your stay. If there is low demand at the hotel, you can even ask if they can leave your room unoccupied for several days (easier to be honored if you will stay there for a week or more).

Do ask if they ever spray scents onto the bedding itself – it will be there for ages – avoid a place that does that at all cost.

Also ask how they clean carpet and fabric furniture. Oftentimes the products use to clean them leave fragrances that dissipate over several weeks and are particularly harsh to breathe.

If you are allergic to down feathers, it is especially important to talk with the hotel directly before booking. Either the hotel will be able to provide hypoallergenic bedding alternatives and air the room, or they can possibly provide hypoallergenic rooms, but it may be better to avoid a specific hotel in that case.

Come to the hotel prepared for anything:

While you can ask that the linens and towels in your room are washed with fragrance & dye free detergents, and without the use of fabric softeners, I feel it’s riskier to add this on top of the other special requests, and even if you do ask, it’s best to be prepared in case housekeeping forgot, or was unable to fulfill the request.

  • King size flat sheet – fold this in half and put this between the hotel sheets and over the hotel pillow (or bring your own pillowcase as well) bring a colored sheet so it is easy to spot when you are packing so you don’t forget it
  • Microfiber quick drying towel – or get creative, don’t towel off after a shower in hot or tropical areas, just get dressed, or use a t-shirt you’ll wear the next day to get dry and hang it to dry after, or if you have the time, use the blow dryerf
  • Soap case & soap – Use this for body & hair, you never know what you will get with hotel shampoo and soaps
  • Crystal deodorant – This stuff really works but you need a good application. I find the spray to be easier and more effective than the crystal itself, but you have to get travel size, or you can just mix your own after the flight, just get some potassium alum and mix 1/2 Tbs per fluid ounce of water in a small spray bottle
  • Packing cubes – Not related to asthma & allergies, but these make living out of a suitcase and going through security inspections so much simpler.

Stay packed

Keep everything travel related that you can’t do without packed in your carry on between trips. At home my carry on always has the travel power adapter, a spare mask filter, spare usb battery power pack, usb cables, usb cable adapters, all my packing cubes, the soap case, spare nail clippers & tweezers, and a ton of other various odds and ends. When I do pack for a trip, I take out what I definitely won’t need and put it in a pile for when I get home so I can put everything back in the carry on for the next trip. Nothing’s worse than getting to a foreign country and not being able to power up your communication devices.

Final word

I hope that this has been useful. There have been many difficult lessons learned along the way. It’s a difficult, but not impossible task to travel with asthma & allergies. It’s possible to arrange for the best experience, and be prepared for any surprises.

Summary of growing onions in San Francisco 2017 – Ailsa Craig onion

Ailsa Craig onion in fabric pot
Ailsa Craig onion in fabric pot

For a history of this story, please see the previous post on planning.

Overall growing onions in the fabric pots was fairly successful.

There was one very obvious issue though: the major temperature swings in San Francisco this summer caused many of the onions to bolt much too prematurely. Some days it was roasting hot and the next it was foggy and freezing again. This unpredictable weather made them panic and go into survival mode rather than continue growing the bulb. Once they started bolting there was no way to stop that process. I naively chopped some of the seed heads off thinking that would stop the process, but the stem just keeps growing bigger as if it still had a purpose.

The sizing of the fabric pots worked quite well. The onions that didn’t bolt grew to nearly the size of the container.  I think I started the long day onions a few months too early and that kept the size down a little. Next year I will start them in January.

The largest one I grew came in at 516 grams (1.1 lbs), and there were a couple others of a similar size. The Ailsa Craig’s can get up to 1 kilo, so these were on the low end of the good range.

I am letting a couple of the onions that bolted go through flowering  so I can collect the seeds and use them next year. They are quite beautiful.

Ailsa Craig onion weighs in at 516 grams (1.1 1b)
Ailsa Craig onion weighs in at 516 grams (1.1 1b)

Gabriella F1 Onion

I started this onion from seed in November and harvested them in June (210 days). It’s a short-day onion, grows from 3-4.5″ in diameter. I grew them in my hand made grow pots custom sized for them. They worked quite well. From this variety I got 5 full sized, 4 medium sized, and 1 runt.

Given that I live in a long day onion zone, but can grow year-round, this year I will start the short-day seeds in September, and try multiple short-day varieties, and start my long-day seeds in January.

Can’t wait to see what happens with the long day onions.

Gluten Free Bread Recipe made with Lentil (Urad) Flour

After many (mostly) delicious and nutritious experiments with leavening lentil flour to make bread, this is by far the best result. One of the ingredients, methylcellulose K4M, might seem a little unorthodox, but it makes all the difference. Methylcellulose, better known as Metamucil, has different gelling properties at different temperatures, enabling it to capture yeast bubbles to let flours that normally wouldn’t rise well, hold onto the gas and lift higher. Different types of methylcellulose have different properties, and K4M is the one that works best for gluten free baking.

One of the important steps is proofing overnight in the refrigerator. In wheat flour recipes, overnight refrigeration enhances the flavor, in lentil flour recipes, the yeast breaks the stronger flavor down and makes it taste much better.

Mix the following together in one bowl and let gel for several minutes:

Mix the following together in another bowl and let the yeast activate:

  • 1/2 c Water – 110F
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Yeast

Mix the following together in a large glass bowl, sufficient for the first rise:

Pour the gel onto the flour, and then the yeast on top of that. Mix until everything is incorporated. It will be sticky. Cover with cling film and let rise until doubled in size.

Line your baking vessel with parchment paper and scrape the dough out of the bowl and into the baking vessel. Shape the dough with a spatula, then cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 350F and transfer the dough directly from fridge to oven and bake until golden brown. Let the bread cool completely before slicing with a good serrated knife.

Gaviota – Favorite Kratky Hydroponic Lettuce

Mature Gaviota Lettuce grown in Kratky Method Hydroponics
Mature Gaviota Lettuce grown in Kratky Method Hydroponics

I’ve tried quite a few different lettuces using the Kratky Method, growing them in individual containers, and Gaviota is by far my favorite. Not only does it grow well in the nutrient solution, but it grows fast. The leaves are perfect for salads. If you just rip the end off of it, it breaks down into perfect bite-size pieces. If you were to cut the entire head off at a certain point, all the leaves come apart. No chopping, no fuss, just a single cut. Starting at 3-4 weeks it’s great for cut & come again harvesting. I like to harvest 1/4-1/3 of a plant and put it in water in a bowl in the fridge and overnight it becomes even more crisp.

Voice Activated Motorized Curtains, Cheapest Solution, no Hub

Required materials:

There are some very expensive solutions out there for motorized curtains, most come with a RF, Z-Wave or IR remote that would require an additional hub to bridge the connectivity between the Amazon Echo and the curtains. Some curtains even have networked add-ons so they can be controlled over wifi, but the costs add up to well over $800 in most cases, and I would rather not purchase a fixed length rod and add unnecessary hubs or highly specialized brand specific equipment if not absolutely necessary to preserve flexibility if I move to a new place.

If you already have devices that you want to control with RF or IR then you could pick up the Broadlink RM2 Pro. It will learn the specific codes required to manage your devices but it requires an extra Android device running an app called Broadlink Tasker to act as a bridge between your Amazon Echo and the Broadlink device. That’s really unfortunate as this would be an amazing device with direct integration to the Echo or through IFTTT. If you only want to control IR devices you have more options like the Logitech Harmony Hub that have direct integration with Alexa.

The Add-a-Motor D80 is the super simple mechanical device that makes opening and closing the curtains possible with something as simple as a Wemo switch. The D80 is basically a relay switch with an adjustable ring that determines how long the motor runs and at the end of the run it flips the switch for the motor direction and shuts the motor off. It makes some noise that you can hear in the video below but it’s not excessive.

The D80 does require curtains that have a string to open and close the curtains. These are called “traverse curtains”. I haven’t seen them since blinds were all the rage in the 80’s except at my grandma’s house, but they’re not terribly expensive at $30-50 depending on the size, and are far better for tall windows. The shorter length rods tend to have the strings fixed to one side or the other while the longer rods that have a center draw can usually be changed to a left or right draw, and the pull string can additionally be changed from one side to the other.

The Wemo switch needs to be set up with an “auto-off” of 1 minute. So you turn the Wemo switch on, and depending on the width of travel for your drapes, the D80 will run for 10-30 seconds before the mechanical switch is flipped and the motor stops. The Wemo switch remains on until the minute elapses and then turns itself off. The next time the Wemo switch is turned on, the motor runs in the opposite direction and the process repeats.

The caveat with this set up is that you have to turn on the switch to both open and close the curtains and saying “Echo turn on the curtains” to close the curtains is not as lexically satisfying as saying “Echo close the curtains” or “Echo turn off the curtains”. Setting this up with IFTTT you can say “Echo trigger curtains” which is better as there is nothing contrary in the statement.

2017 Onion Crop – Planning

After last year’s onion experiment I have wanted to try a much larger variety of onions for 2017, and expand on the growing conditions.

I started several varieties mid-November and a few more mid-December. I started the seeds with my usual method of using a small container to start with a high density until they are mature enough to separate and grow on their own. This works well given the finicky nature of onion seed germination. I now have far too many starts for the area I can grow them in – I’ll have to give some away.

The varieties I’m growing this year are:

VarietyBulb sizeQty
Zebrune Shallot1″x3″34
Tropeana Lunga1″x3″36
Red Wing3.5″16
Yellow of Parma5″22
Ailsa Craig6″9

I used approximately the same number of seeds per variety but there are drastically different numbers of germination that you can see above. The ones with high germination came from Baker Creek and not only were the seeds good quality but they were not stingy, offering more than 5x the amount of seed for the same price as the seed I got from other places.

As a rule this year, I want to take the volume of the fully grown onion bulb and have at least 3x the volume of soil. So for example, the largest, Ailsa Craig, the diameter is 6 inches which assuming a perfect sphere is 113 cubic inches, if the pot is 6 inches in diameter, the height would need to be 12 inches to get 339 cubic inches of soil. So the easy rule is to take the onion diameter for the diameter of the container and double it for the height of the container.

To put the size into context, a gallon is 231 cubic inches, so extrapolating that to the different sizes:

6 in12 in3393 in1.3 gal
5 in10 in1963 in0.85 gal
4 in8 in1013 in0.44 gal

Finding containers that fit that precise criteria is going to be fairly impossible, so I am going to custom make many of them in 5″ and 6″ diameters. The smaller ones can go into the standard 4″ square pots or some red 16oz Solo cups (with holes poked for drainage. The smallest ones I will plant in large bunches in larger containers.

The custom made containers I’m going to make from heavy commercial landscape fabric. There are plenty of posts out there on how to make custom grow pots so I won’t elaborate in this post. The great thing is that they collapse down for easy storage, and are very easy to sanitize and reuse. Of course if you wanted to buy pre-made grow pots, they come in standard gallon sizes.

The landscape fabric I linked to is less than $30 and is 3′ x100′. If I were to use the whole roll I could make 120 – 6″x12″ pots which would cost $0.25 each in fabric plus a few cents for thread. Each bag takes 5 straight lines of sewing, taking into account easy folding & cutting I could make 15-20 per hour.

I am going to have these grouped in trays that will always have water in the bottom so they will not dry out. The water will wick up from the bottom to the roots as needed.

One thing to note is that I am not making any distinction between long & short day onions in my selections. Since my climate is conducive to an extended growing period, I’m seeing if I can have the short day onions start to bulb out in April-May-June and then the long day onions to bulb out in June-July-August. That’s a range of roughly 120-180 days so we’ll see what happens.

Update: I made the grow bags, and they take more like 6 minutes for each one if I’ve got everything organized. The 1″ distinction between diameter makes a huge difference in the resulting sizes. I was barely able to hem the 4″ bags on my sewing machine since they were so small. I thought they wouldn’t be very stable given the height, but the 5″ & 6″ bags are quite stable. The 4″ size can get knocked over pretty easily.

I wish I had more space for the rest of the onions I didn’t get to plant out, but I planted the extras all together in a small container to give to a friend so they’re not going to waste. I’m really curious how the small 1″x3″ tall onions will turn out in their dense planting, and if I’ll be able to get full size onions in the grow bags.

From top to bottom: Ailsa Craig (9) Yellow of Parma (8) Gabriella (10) Valencia (10)
From top to bottom: Ailsa Craig (9) Yellow of Parma (8) Gabriella (10) Valencia (10)
Top left: Tropeana Lunga Top center: Zebrune Top right: Ringmaster Bottom: Red Wing
Top left: Tropeana Lunga Top center: Zebrune Top right: Ringmaster Bottom: Red Wing