Monday, January 24, 2011

Strange bedfellows

Each day when I open my grow chamber I can't help but be amazed at how adaptable plants can be.

The photo above is captioned to illustrate the how different species can adapt and survive in the same conditions. Most of the plants are lettuce, however, the Calceolaria is a florist's plant native to the Chile and Peru, and the Cineraria is a florist's plant native to the Canary Islands.

My growing conditions do not even come close to the growing directions on the seed packages, but the plants are thriving. Plants have been adapting to new conditions since ancient man began to carry seeds with him as he migrated from place to place in search of new hunting grounds.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hand pollinating a cucumber flower

The female flowers on the Spacemaster cucumber plant are starting to be fully developed, and if I want cucumbers I have to pollinate them.

To pollinate the plant, I remove a male flower from the plant, and cut the petals from the flower. Holding the flower by the base, I transfer pollen from the anthers of the male flower to the pistil of the female flower. It is much the same as using a small brush; simply make light contact and gently rotate the male flower.

If I have enough male flowers, I will transfer pollen as long as the petals remain open and on the female flower.

Two flowers were pollinated yesterday, and I think the operation was a success, as the small fruit buds are beginning to grow larger.

Time will tell....

Seedling development

I had a time lapse video in process for the last several days to illustrate the growth of seedlings and their transition to the vegetative stage from the root development stage.

As I needed the camera to record the development of a pollinated cucumber flower, I terminated my video a little earlier than intended.

The video does manage to capture the increased growth rate as the seedlings enter the vegetative stage.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lo and behold! A female cucumber flower has appeard.

Much sooner than I expected the cucumber plant has presented me with its first female flower. That is all well and good, except I have been removing the male flowers to redirect energy back into the plant.

As soon as I saw the female bud beginning to form I stopped removing the male flowers. Fortunately, there were still a few male buds remaining, so I have been collecting pollen on an artist brush to use to pollinate the female flower.

If possible, I will use a male flower to pollinate the female flower by removing the petals and transferring the pollen from the male anthers to the pistil of the female flower.

Still, I wish I had used the little leaf variety,
as this parthenocarpic plant produces cucumbers without pollinators.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Now I remember

The cucumber plant is sending out male flowers, lots of them. Now I remember why I don't like to grow them indoors: these flowers make quite a mess when they drop from the plant.

At the very least, the notion that red/blue LED lighting is too weak, or does not have enough spectrum, to bring a plant to the flowering stage has been dispelled.

I suspect, though, that I have a long wait until I see a female flower. However, in six more weeks I will be starting my greenhouse plants, and this project will end, cucumbers or no cucumbers. Time will tell..

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Low Tech Propagator

My propagation area is located in an unheated portion of the basement, so I constructed an enclosure to capture most of the heat generated by the 24" 24 watt T5 tube.

One end of the enclosure has a removable panel to allow for access to the seed tray for watering. This simple enclosure has raised the temperature from 58 to 71 degrees, which is ideal for seed germination. Without the enclosure the heat would simply dissipate; with the enclosure there is no need for a heating mat.

When viewing the photo I thought that the project looked rather high tech, like something from a sci-fi film. The enclosure performs as intended, and it cost nothing to build, as it was constructed from various pieces of scrap material.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

This has been a real challange

Thinking that I should try something more difficult to grow hydroponically; I cast around the seed catalogs looking for a candidate. In an obscure seed catalog, I came across calceolaria seeds, and I thought: this would be perfect.

When we were first married we purchased a calceolaria plant from a florist, and it was dead within a very short time. Now, I find that that is what calceolaria do! They are only intended to be enjoyed while flowering, and then discarded. I have not seen one of these plants in decades, however, the unusual shaped flowers make it worth trying. The flowers are shaped like little pocket books.

Calceolarias thrive best in a cool atmosphere with plenty of ventilation, so I thought that my grow chamber, during the winter, would provide ideal conditions.

Although the plant in the photo above does not look like much, it represents about three months of coddling
to get it to this stage. The seeds for this plant are the smallest seeds I have ever attempted. One sneeze, and the ballgame would be over, before it even began!

That said, I guess I should be thankful to have even gotten this far.

LED results

The plants in the photo above are the offspring of the seeds I began germinating and featured on my November 10, 2010 post.
Today, I drained the nutrients and added a clearing solution to the system, and I will harvest and replant this system within a few days. The only light these plants have received, since germination, has been from the red/blue LED, and it should be evident that they are very well developed for plants being grown indoors.

The plants on the right side of the system are Jerico romaine lettuce grown from seed I purchased from High Mowing Seeds.

Organic Jericho Lettuce - Heat tolerant romaine for summer harvests. Bright green leaves, unique silky texture and sweet flavor even in the heat of the summer. Good selection for indoor or outdoor cultivation. Jericho has some tolerance to powdery mildew and downy mildew as well as excellent resistance to heat stress and tip burn.(Lactuca sativa)"

I am adding more romaine types to each planting, as cos types are very high in vitamins A, C and calcium.

Visiting various forums I see a continuing debate regarding LEDs. I will not participate in the debates, however, I posted a photo on a forum of the spacemaster cucumber to illustrate what is possible using LEDs. One resident "expert" replied that I should add a few 23 watt CFLs to get some vegetative growth so the plant will flower! Moving the bottom leaves aside, I can already see flowers, in great profusion, beginning to form. So much for visiting forums, and resident "experts".

Simply having the plant produce flowers satisfies one of my objectives for this project: will this type of lighting support flowering?

I have removed the growing tip of the main shoot, four nodes above the plant's surface, to redirect the plant's energy outward. My experience with this variety has been: that although it is supposed to only grow 2' wide and 8" high, I have had it grow 8' wide, and 6' high! That is not an option indoors.