Sunday, March 27, 2011

Swiss Chard coming up.

I am just about ready to pick the chard I have been growing in one of my new flood and drain systems, and it looks fantastic!

For this batch I ran the TDS at slightly over 1300 with the pH at about 6.5 and changed nutrients every two weeks.

Another change I am making is to reduce the photoperiod for leaf vegetables to fourteen hours. Also, for lettuce I am reducing the TDS to about 450 - 500 in an effort to slow down the growth, and by doing so I think I will get better tasting plants.

When the chard is harvested it will be replaced by beet greens, which are among our favorite pot greens. They are hard to find in the market, and expensive when you do find them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Calceolaria clone

The cutting taken from the Calceolaria plant on February 28, 2011 has taken. Not only has the cutting rooted, it is also beginning to bud. The small cluster of flower buds is in the center of the cutting in the photo above.

It took about five months for the parent plant to flower, so having the cutting bud in only three weeks blows me away.

In spite of the success with this project I have decided to leave Calceolaria growing to the experts.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The tomato seedlings are developing rapidly.

Yesterday, and again today, conditions were perfect in the greenhouse. My tomato seedlings received at least five hours of direct sunlight on both days, and already I can see the seedlings responding.

Even though there is still snow in our yard, the temperature in the greenhouse, in the afternoon, is above eighty degrees. My light meter has a maximum reading of 5,000 foot candles, and the light falling on the plants pegs the meter. I would think that the level is closer to 10,000 footcandles, however, tomatoes will take all the light they can get.

After I remove the seedlings from the greenhouse they are placed under a 400 watt HPS lamp four hours. After four hours under the HPS light I place them under the 90 watt red/blue/white LED for another seven hours.

Considering the prices I paid for the seeds, I intend to pamper these seedlings as much as possible.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Seedlings for greenhouse

Today I planted the tomato seedlings that I started on March 1, 2011 into 3" pots filled with coco coir and perlite. I will be top watering them with nutrient solution with a TDS of 550 and a pH of 6.0 until they are transplanted into the autopots.

The pepper seeds have all germinated, however, the seedlings are still too small to be transplanted at this time.

The tomato seedlings have been placed under a dome using the red/blue/white 90 watt LED. I will give them a few days to recover from transplanting before I attempt to place them in the greenhouse during the afternoon. Today, the sun was was shining brightly, and the temperature in the greenhouse was a toasty eighty degrees, but I had nothing I could put in there to take advantage of these great conditions.

I hope that planting them on the ides of March does not bring me the same luck as Julius Caesar had on this date.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Additional capacity

A friend, who is just starting into hydroponics, was in the process of ordering bus tubs to build ebb and flow systems. The company offered free shipping on orders over fifty dollars, so I asked him to order extra units so I could build two more systems for my growing area. As I had the pumps and fittings, the two new units I added cost $12.50 each.

We have more than enough lettuce and salad greens, so I will use the additional units for two of my very favorite pot greens: Swiss chard and beet greens. The chard, pictured above, is a great selection for these units, as are beet greens. Both grow upright, and the plants support each other when packet tightly together. When the weather permits I will place the two new systems in the greenhouse, as both of these varieties can tolerate warm temperatures.

All, except one, of the seeds that I planted for the greenhouse have germinated, and, it has only been seven days since I planted them. I am not surprised so much that the tomatoes have germinated, but to have pepper seeds germinate in less than a week is somewhat unusual.

I have not given up on the remaining seed, and if it germinates my success rate will be 100%. Perhaps this is an omen that Mother Nature is going to smile on this year's gardening endeavors.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spotted Aleppo

The plant in the photo above is Spotted Aleppo, the heirloom variety mentioned in my post of February 18, 2011.

I'll be the first to admit that it is not a vary attractive plant, and I was tempted to title this post ancient and ugly.

It is, however, apparent to me that this will be a "do again" variety, to add texture and interest to our menu. It's redeeming qualities are that it grows quickly, and I seriously doubt that any problems such as tip burn, common to less robust varieties, will be an issue with this cultivar.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Plant choices for 2011

Today, the first of March, is the date I have been waiting for to start the greenhouse and garden tomatoes and peppers. The cucumbers will have to wait several more weeks before they are started.

I "bit the bullet" and purchased expensive hybrid greenhouse variety seeds to grow this year: Cobra, Trust and Tropic.

Cobra - A Hybrid Greenhouse Tomato. Cobra has gained strong recognition both in greenhouse and open field production. High yields of uniform glossy fruit. Large, round to oblong, 7 ounce fruit are firm, extremely resistant to cracking with excellent external quality. Tolerance to Tobacco mosaic virus. Start seed indoors 6 weeks before last frost. Maturity is 65-70 days from transplanting.

Trust - This variety has earned its reputation as one of the best greenhouse varieties in America. That is due to its heavy crops of large 8 to 10 oz. tomatoes that ripen to a uniform bright red. Firm fruits hold up well after harvest and plants are highly disease resistant, including protection against leaf molds. Indeterminate. 78 days.

Tropic - Strong vines with multiple disease resistance bear heavy yields of large, firm red fruit. Developed for Florida, it is resistant to gray leaf spot and leaf molds and tolerant to early blight. Well suited for pink harvest. Also used as a greenhouse tomato. Indeterminate. 80 days.

The Cobra and Trust seeds, with shipping, cost more than a dollar per seed. I found the Tropic at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and purchased a lifetime supply for about six dollars. It pays to shop around.

I now have enough AutoPots to completely fill both sides and the back of the greenhouse, so all of the warm season plants will be grown in AutoPots.

As I had great luck with the peppers in my soil garden last year, I decided not to use and drip ring systems in the greenhouse this year, and I will grow the peppers in the garden. Again this year I will be growing Giant Marconi and Corno Di Toro, as we absolutely love these varieties.

Additionally, I have started a few Super Beefsteak and Black Cherry tomato seeds for the soil garden.
If the price of fresh produce continues to rise it might be prudent to hire armed guards to patrol the garden and greenhouse. :-O

Ava and I planted the seeds today in Oasis horticubes moistened with dilute nutrient solution. From germination through the first transplant I will grow them using the 90 watt red/blue/white LED and a sixteen hour lighting cycle. Hopefully, by mid-March, the snow will melt and I will be able to set the seedlings in the greenhouse on sunny days when the temperature is above sixty five in the greenhouse. If we have an extended cool and cloudy period I will place the seedlings indoors under a 400 watt HPS grow light.

I am hoping to be able to plant two crops of tomatoes in the greenhouse this year. I just finished a book on vegetable breeding, and the author, a Ph D. in biology from Harvard, with twenty years experience as a geneticist, questions the hybrid tomato industry, as does another Ph D. plant breeder, as tomatoes are inbreeders. I intend to save and start seeds from these expensive hybrids, and see how the F2 generation grows.

As always, time will tell...