Saturday, April 24, 2010

European Forcing Cucumbers

This year I decided to spend slightly more for my cucumber seeds and purchased Telegraph Improved cucumber seeds, which are a European forcing cucumber. I read that they set fruit without pollination, and that they only produced a few male flowers.

I kind of expected female flowers right from the start, but that was not the case. Like other cucumber varieties these plants apparently do not begin to produce female flowers until they are fairly mature. Well, at least mature enough to support reproduction.

The magic number, at least in my case, seems to be four feet in length. Yesterday I was rewarded with the appearance of two female flowers at the very growing tip of one of the plants. This morning there were two more female flowers developing at the base of the plants. Keep up the good work girls!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Simple tomato training solution.,

Last evening I reviewed the section of my greenhouse growing book that dealt with training tomato vines. The book advised against using the greenhouse frame to support the plants, as the weight of the plants and fruit would most likely bend the frame.
Damn, that is exactly what I was planning, so now I had to improvise Plan B, and quickly!

Plan B involved constructing a frame to support the plants from above. The solution was to use 2" x 3" studs with the top cut at a 55 degree angle to match the slope of the roof. It was a simple matter to anchor the studs to the channels so that they do not move. Drilling the studs and inserting 5/8" oak dowels to span the studs provides overhead support for the plants, and the addition of the dowels strengthens the entire assembly. Now, the force will be directed straight down, with little or no stress on the frame. This solution was simple and economical as the cost was less than ten dollars.

Another nice feature is that it is not a permanent addition, and it can be removed and reinstalled as required. Additionally, it passed the wife test; as the said: "it looks nice."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Homebuilt aeroponic system

Finally, I have had an opportunity to try my home-built aeroponic system in the greenhouse. The unit is shown above planted with Salad Bowl and Capitan lettuce that was transplanted to the unit a few weeks ago.

There is a lot of hoopla about aeroponic units being so much superior to other methods of hydroponic gardening, however my experience is that it performs just about as well as my other units.

The downside is that it is more difficult for a beginner to construct, and it may be more prone to clogging and leakage.

As long as I have it, I will use it, but I would never pay what they want for a commercially constructed unit.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hydroponic bonsai! Are you serious?

The idea of growing a hydroponic bonsai would make all of my former bonsai gurus cringe, however, I just have to give it a try to satisfy my curiosity.

This poor little crab tree was selected to be my guinea pig in this experiment. It has been loitering around not doing much for the last twenty years or so, and it appears healthy enough to survive being transplanted into a hydroponic environment. The plant needs some pruning to refine the shape, but I can't bring myself to remove any of the buds at this point, so it will have to wait until the buds drop themselves. If any fruit develop, then all bets are off regarding pruning until next season.

The plant has been potted in my standard mixture of half coir and half agricultural perlite, and it will remain in the greenhouse for the season. At this point I will use the same nutrient mixture that I am using for cucumbers and see how the plant reacts.

This should prove interesting indeed.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Growing on autopilot.

Except for the vent openers the greenhouse is running on autopilot. The autopots and drip ring systems have been planted, the heater is set for 45 degrees, and timers control the aerospring and ebb and flow systems. I can break out the market umbrella, Adirondack chairs, iced tea, a good book, and take it easy.

As soon as the lettuce currently in the greenhouse has been picked I will replace it with Swiss Chard and beet greens. Both of these vegetables do very well in the greenhouse, along with the warm weather vegetables, as long as the temperature is not allowed to rise too high.

As the temperature increases I am spraying the floor and the pea gravel along the sides of the central isle to increase humidity and modify the temperature. Additionally, the shade cloth, fans and vents can be employed to fine tune the conditions in the greenhouse.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Peppers planted

The Giant Marconi peppers have been planted in the drip ring systems, and this just about completes the initial planting in the greenhouse.

The TDS is about 1700 with a pump cycle of one hour on and two hours off.

I have already begun to remove the first flowers, and will continue to do so until the plants are about ten inches high. I find it is better to give up a few early fruit to increase the overall production of fruit.

This year I intend to pick the fruit when it is green and glossy rather than allow the fruit to ripen to red on the plant. Although the red peppers are sweeter, they take weeks to ripen, and this reduces total fruit production.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Telegraph Improved cucumbers

The cucumbers were also been planted in autopot systems today. This year's variety is Telegraph Improved, described as follows:

Telegraph Improved Cucumbers
60 days. Telegraph Improved is one of the most requested open-pollinated greenhouse varieties. Our strain is grown in England and is derived from the original Telegraph Long. Dark green, smooth-skinned, 10-14 inch fruit are burpless, mild flavored, and never bitter. The plants will grow up to 8 feet in a greenhouse, are easily trellised, and set fruit without pollination. Performs very well outdoors too.

The medium is the same as the tomatoes, half coco coir and half agricultural perlite. The initial TDS is 1600, and again I may adjust the TDS as I observe how the plants progress.

Rather than a trellis, I will support the plants using vine clips and twine suspended from the overhead. And, like the tomatoes, I will not allow any side shoots to grow, and the tendrils will be removed as the form, so that the plant does not waste energy growing them.

I am already removing the male flowers as they form, however I have not seen any female flowers, nor do I expect to until the plants are at least four feet long. In respect to producing offspring plants; are smarter than people, as they will not produce offspring until they can support them......

Early tomatoes for sure.

Two varieties of tomatoes have been planted in the autopots and they are looking good so far. This year I have planted Money Maker and Sweet Cluster, both of which are greenhouse varieties, and they can also be grown in the garden. The Sweet Cluster already have buds forming, so I may be in for an early crop, however I have no experience with either of these varieties so only time will tell.

At this point I am running a TDS of about 2,000, and as the plants develop I will be adjusting the mixture slightly from time to time.

I will not be using any frames or cages this year to support the plants. The plants will be supported by twine attached to the overhead frame, and fastened with vine clips. Additionally, I will not allow any side shoots to develop so that I have simply one long vine running up the twine.

At least that is the plan.....

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Opening the greenhouse for the season

As if a switch has been turned on the weather has moderated enough to place the plants in the greenhouse.

The above photo shows a modified aeroponic unit containing Parris Island Romaine and Waldmans Dark Green lettuce.

Tomorrow I plan on potting the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, and I hope the weather cooperates going forward. We are still not out of the woods in upstate New York, however, I am going to chance it. If the weather turns nasty, I can bring them back inside for a day or so, but it is a chore I would prefer to avoid.