Monday, June 28, 2010

Season's first salad

Finally, the greenhouse is producing all the ingredients necessary for a salad. The harvest in the photo includes: red romaine (silva), telegraph improved cucumbers and sweet cluster tomatoes.

My three year old granddaughter, Ava, had a great time helping to pick these vegetables, and she really enjoys her time in the greenhouse. The conversation usually goes: What are you doing Pop? Can I help? Can I do it? From that point forward she usually has things pretty much under control. These are moments to really cherish.

I have started a replacement crop of cucumbers, and I have also started a greenhouse tomato called Tropic. I am not sure I will have enough time left in the season for the tomatoes, however I am going to give it a try. Last season I had the greenhouse going until mid-November, so I may just have enough time to see how the Tropic cultivar performs.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Succession Planting

Today I removed and replaced two of the Telegraph Improved cucumber vines even though the vines were still growing and producing fruit. It was obvious that the vines were beginning to slow down and were past their peak.

The remaining vine seems to be more vigorous, and hopefully it will keep going for several more weeks. I expect that the replacement plants will be producing fruit by late August, and again, hopefully, they will continue to do so until well after the first frost.

In the above photo the cover has been left off the Auto-Pot's float valve to better illustrate how these systems work. Gravity feeds the nutrients to the tray where the valve maintains the correct level. The system is very reliable, however, it is advisable to check the valves occasionally to make sure roots have not grown through the barrier on the bottom of the pot interfering with the valve's operation.

Heat toleant lettuce

Even though I have seeds for a number of varieties of lettuce that have some degree of heat tolerance, I doubt that there is a variety that will not bolt under the current conditions in the greenhouse. Afternoon temperatures are averaging at least eighty degrees, even with the shade cloth in place. The tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are doing fine, however, in order to ensure a reliable supply of lettuce I have elected to grow it indoors.

Currently I have two ebb and flow systems planted, and they should provide enough lettuce for our needs. The system in the photo is planted with Slo-Bolt, Capitan and Bughatti lettuce, and I am using a compact fluorescent lamp for lighting. Another system has been planted with romaine and traditional loose leaf varieties using a 90 watt Tri-Band LED producing red, blue and white light.

There is not much sense in having a supply of tomatoes and cucumbers and not having any lettuce...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

No more buying annuals.

Recently we made a trip to a local garden center to purchase annuals for our rock garden. We spent forty dollars on plants, which were mostly dahlias, zinnias and gerbera daisies. The average cost per plant was around five dollars.

For the last few years I have been buying seeds at the end of the season when they are sold at a reduced price. From time to time I will select some to grow on a trial basis. At the beginning of March I planted three seeds from a package labeled Unwin's Dwarf Dahlia, mixed colors. In only seventy days I have three magnificent plants, each of a different color, as illustrated above.
Never having grown dahlias, I was very pleased with the results, and they certainly add some beauty to the greenhouse.

This of course got me thinking: "why are we purchasing plants at five dollars each, when I own a greenhouse?" The answer to that question is that I was so concentrated on vegetables, that I never even gave flowers a thought. Checking my seeds I find I have seeds for a few dozen different annuals, some of which I have never opened, or grown.
Going forward, I will start annuals for the rock garden early in the season when I start the vegetable seeds.

And, while looking through my seeds I came across several packs of seeds I received as a gift from a seed vendor. Included was a pack of seeds for Wala Wala onions, so I am going to try to grow a few of them hydroponically in a self watering container. The high water content in these onions is what makes them so sweet, and they need lots of water. If anything, hydroponics should provide them a perfect environment. Time will tell.....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Five is the magic number.

Three years ago, when I first built the greenhouse, I really had no idea of how to use one. I quickly found that it was not a simple matter to putting plants inside, and letting nature take its course.

Since then I have been sputtering along mostly on trial and error, however, this year I decided to finally invest a few bucks and purchase a number of books on gardening, and greenhouse gardening in particular.

One of the books stated that it is a common practice with commercial greenhouse growers to limit the number of fruit on a truss to five. The reasoning being that it would produce larger fruit, more uniform in size. Additionally, that if all the flowers on the truss were allowed to form fruit, the truss may become too heavy and break off, and you would lose all of the fruit.

When the time came to begin removing all of the small developing fruit, in excess of the magic number five, I was tempted to ignore this piece of advice. Now, I can see the results, and I am satisfied with my decision to follow the book's advice.

The greenhouse plants are indeterminate, and will continue to grow throughout season, so there will be plenty of trusses yet to come.

Thinking back, I can recall tomatoes the size of a golf ball, or pea, at the end of a truss, at the end of the season. It simply makes sense to remove these fruit before they develop, so that the plant can redirect its energy into the remaining fruit.