Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tropic trial

The tropic tomato plant mentioned in my July 19th. post is making excellent progress. Several trusses have developed and set fruit, and it appears that the fruit is going to fairly good size; judging from the rate at which it is developing.

One site says that these plants can grow up to eight feet high and another site said that they grow to twenty feet high, however, I have already topped off the plant at about five feet. My rationale is that it is late in the season and I am hoping that by topping off the plant I will hasten the development of the existing fruit. My primary objective was to grow larger fruit, but taste will be equally as important as size, so I am attempting to have at least a few ripe tomatoes this season.

Additionally, I am trying a reduced nutrient level for this test:

Germination to first true leaf fully expanded TDS 450-550
First true leaf to third true leaf fully expanded TDS 550-600
Third leaf to transplant TDS 600-800
Transplant to second cluster set TDS 800-1,100
Second cluster to topping TDS 1,100-1,600

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Test Grow

Yesterday, in search of a replacement hose connector, I visited the local Wal-Mart garden center. I thought that if I waited until the first of September I would be out of luck; as Wal-Mart would be pushing Christmas stuff and playing carols by then. (translate greed)

As I had some time on my hands, and needed fertilizer for the soil garden, I thought I would see if they had any end of the season bargains. Next to the Miracle Grow I found their brand of fertilizer. The price seemed reasonable enough, at $3.62 for a pound and a half of fertilizer, with an NPK of 15-30-15. Reading the guaranteed analysis I found that the product had a reasonable amount of most all of the nutrients I would need for hydroponic use. The ratios are slightly off, but may be within acceptable limits for lettuce and pot greens.

Deciding to test the fertilizer for hydroponic use, I added two rounded teaspoons of the fertilizer to five gallons of water. In addition, I added two rounded teaspoons of calcium nitrate, and three teaspoons of epsom salt. When I checked the TDS I found it to be slightly over 1,000, and to my surprise the pH was right at 6.0. Will wonders never cease?

The solution has been placed in an ebb and flow system to test on leaf lettuce and endive. If it is successful I will use it for growing salad greens, as it will be a very economical substitute for the professional nutrients I have been using. The professional nutrients will then be reserved for crops with more stringent requirements.

Time will tell......

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Silverbeets don't mind the heat

I always thought of silverbeet, or Swiss Chard, as a cool weather crop, however I tried them in the greenhouse a few years ago and found that they can tolerate the summer heat.

Although we could use the young leaves in a salads, I will let this batch grow to maturity. The taste difference between chard grown hydroponically in the greenhouse and field grown chard is immense.

That said, I doubt that it would make sense for anyone to grow it this way commercially.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The heat is getting to all of us.

I know the above image has nothing to do with hydroponic gardening, however I thought I would share it anyway.

Obviously the heat is affecting the little guy in the photo, as well as the soil garden, the lawn, and the plants in the greenhouse.

I am actually looking forward to cooler temperatures so I can begin to grow some greens outdoors, rather than in the grow room.

Trying a different approach

Starting seeds has always been my least favorite activity when it comes to hydroponic gardening. Seeds started in rockwool have a tendency to push out of the medium after having germinated, which is generally not a problem, however, I find it annoying having to push them back in.
Additionally, maintaining just the right amount of moisture is always a problem, as I get so involved in other projects that I tend to forget the seedlings.

Finally, I have a method that is, up until now, foolproof. The seeds above are growing in two old AeroGarden units and being lit by a red/blue 90 watt LED. These seeds were placed in a moist coffee filter until the coat split and the radicle began to appear. The seedlings were then transferred to the pods and placed in the AeroGardens with a quarter strength hydroponic nutrient solution. The pumps are running 24/7, and the photoperiod is 14 hours with the light suspended about a meter above the units. When these seedlings have four true leaves and a decent root system I will carefully transfer the medium and seedlings to one of my larger hydroponic systems and replant these systems.

Over the last month or so I have started several batches of seedlings by this method, and the results have been superior to the traditional methods I had been using.

If you run across an old AeroGarden at a garage sale, and can buy it for a few bucks, you might consider buying if for seed propagation. The plastic pods are reusable, and there are any number of alternatives to buying supplies from the AeroGarden folks.