Thursday, June 30, 2011

Starting round two.

My assistant and I have begun to replace the tomato plants on the south side of the greenhouse. The replacement plants will consist of clones of the existing plants, as well as the new greenhouse varieties Lola and Arbason.

This year I tried a test grow on the south side plants using Miracle Grow for tomatoes and calcium nitrate. The plants did really well until I decided to end the test and reverted to regular professional hydroponic nutrients. After the change the plants reacted to the switch, and the outside edges of the leaves turned brown. Eventually, the new growth returned to normal, but the plants really look stressed. The tomatoes, although not as large as I would like them to be, are alright.
I really don't mind replacing the plants, as I planned on doing this anyway, but not for another couple of weeks.

The plants on the north side of the greenhouse have been receiving the professional nutrients from day one, and they are doing just fine.

I will also be replacing the corno di toro peppers in the garden with cloned tomatoes, as it is still early enough to do so. For some unknown reason, the peppers are long, thin, and are extremely hot. We don't like, and have never grown, hot peppers, so why this batch is so hot will remain a mystery.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Getting pickled.

The little leaf cucumbers in the greenhouse are really starting to produce, so I decided to make dill pickles. I searched online as, I wanted a recipe for a small batch of pickles that could be fermented in a crock.

I found a recipe that could be used to make as few as six pickles, and that is exactly what I wanted, as making pickles is not one of my fortes.

After following the instructions to the letter, letting them ferment in the crock for the required number of days, I found the pickles to be extremely salty. Much to my dismay, they were so salty I had to throw them away. At this point, I decided that I might as well forget the idea of making dill pickles.

Just by chance; the very next day my wife came across a post regarding Morton's salt on a cooking site. The person was complaining that when she used Morton's salt, according to the recipe, the result was too salty. She posted that she had determined that Morton's was TWICE as salty as other salts. Yup, Morton's salt is what I had used.

Well thought I, why not adjust my recipe, cut the salt in half , and try another batch. Ava, my granddaughter, loves pickles, and she has been sniffing the crock and asking when the pickles would be ready. Today we opened the crock and I let her taste the first bite, her eyes lit up and she said: "Fantastic", and they truly are!

I am going to file this recipe in a safe place because it is a keeper.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I guess it is hybrid vigor.

In an earlier post I wrote that
I would be replacing the Trust hybrid tomatoes with Arbason and Lola tomatoes next year. Now, after watching the Trust plants mature, I am not so sure that is a good plan.

At the very beginning of summer the plant in the photo has twenty one fruit set, and each one is perfectly formed. As it has almost reached the peak of the greenhouse; I have removed and cloned the top section, which will be planted in a different location.

Last evening I was served a "supermarket" type tomato at a restaurant, and it was dry and completely tasteless. It made me think of something Andy Rooney once said:

“The federal government has sponsored research that has produced a tomato that is perfect in every respect, except that you can't eat it. We should make every effort to make sure this disease, often referred to as 'progress', doesn't spread.”

From what I have read online; Trust is supposed to be a great tasting tomato, however, I will have to wait awhile to confirm that statement.

Again, time will tell...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Early harvest.

Much to my surprise both of the "off the shelf" Super Beefsteak tomato plants have ripe tomatoes. Usually, I don't have any ripe tomatoes until the first of July, so this is a pleasant surprise. That said, I still think that the greenhouse varieties will be better performers. Both of of the Super Beefsteak had a few deformed fruit that were removed, however, I have not seen any deformed fruit on the greenhouse varieties.

The little leaf cucumbers are really starting to get ahead of me. I am fermenting a crock of dill pickles from the first batch that I picked, and it looks like I will have to start thinking about another batch real soon.

These cucumbers are supposed to be compact plants, but they have grown over the peak of the greenhouse and are almost down the other side. Now I have an arch of cucumbers, and I forget the fruit hanging from above and keep bumping my head on them.

I am only letting the tomato plants set four trusses and then I am topping them off. Replacement plants have been cloned and a few seeds of new varieties were started and the new seedlings have been transplanted into pots. Somewhere around the first or second week in July I will replace some of the existing plants with new plants.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This project has been put off too long.

The plant in the photo above is Waldmann's Green lettuce. which is the standard variety in long dark looseleaf types.

Although seeds for this variety are inexpensive and readily available; I intend to grow this plant for seed. Why bother? Well, for two reasons; I have never grown lettuce for seed, and an ideal specimen of lettuce can produce up to 60,000 seeds! This I just have to see to believe. It is probably true, as lettuce seed is really cheap.

Generations ago seed saving was not only common, but essential. Ancient man carried seed with him on his migrations, forcing plants to adapt to new conditions or perish, and they crossed with native plants producing new varieties.

Given the conditions in the greenhouse in summer, I would think that it would not take too long for this plant to go to seed.

Time will tell...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Scaled down project

Years ago when I worked in manufacturing we would do what is known as pilot projects. When developing a new product or equipment; rather than build or produce a full scale version we would build and test small scale versions first. That is what the photo above represents: a pilot project.

For whatever reason I have difficulty growing eggplant. I have grown enormous plants, but alas, no fruit would form or mature. I tried any number of ways to pollinate the flowers without success, so I sort of gave up on eggplant, kind of.

Also a few years ago there was a craze for miniature vegetables, and I must have ordered seeds for miniature plants, but I simply don't remember doing so. While going through my seeds I found packets for miniature peppers and eggplant, which gave me the idea for this project.

I planted one miniature eggplant seed on May 7, 2011, exactly one month ago, knowing that it was really late in the season to be starting eggplant seeds. My plan is to grow this plant in the greenhouse and experiment with nutrient levels, and if necessary move the plant inside in the fall.

Another reason for growing this plant is that my granddaughter, Ava, will love being involved in growing a tiny vegetable. The plant itself is supposed to be small, with three or four inch eggplant, if I can get it to produce any. And, if nothing else, eggplant flowers are kind of attractive.

As usual, time will tell...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bughatti and Galactic lettuce.

The red/blue/white LED that I was using for seed starting for the greenhouse has been sitting idle for quite sometime, so I decided to put it into service.

All of my ebb and flow systems are in use, and I decided to go with one of my modified aeroponic systems. I placed six lettuce plants, three each of bughatti and galactic, into the system two weeks ago.

I rarely check the system, as it operates pretty much automatically, so I was impressed when I drained it for the first time and saw the growth of the plants.

I am running a twelve hour photoperiod with the the TDS averaging 550 and a feed cycle of one hour on four hours off.

It has been my experience that active systems such as this are much more productive than passive systems like DWC and wick systems.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hydroponic beet greens

A small batch of beet greens, which were growing in an ebb and flow system, under a 90 watt red/blue LED, were harvested today. This is the first time I have grown beet greens using an LED, and the LED light seems to have made the colors much more intense than when grown using fluorescent lighting.

I had simply intended to drain and refill the nutrients, however, my wife said that she thought that the plants were getting too large, and that they would be tough if I let them grow further. Naturally, I yielded to her opinion and terminated the grow sooner than I had planned.

The plants were just short of sixty days since I started the seeds, and I intended to let them grow another two weeks. I was, though, beginning to be concerned about a slight curl at the tips of the leaves. Though I don't grow beets greens often, I did not recall the leaf tips being curled, and I know it sure was not caused by wilting.

I suspect the curl was due to the TDS being too high, and hopefully this post will remind me to adjust the TDS downward the next time I plant beet greens. The TDS used for this batch was 1560, which was well within the suggested range of 1260 - 3500. Some of the suggested ranges are published by hydroponic suppliers, and I have found over the years that they tend to recommend higher concentrations than necessary. I will use a more moderate approach on the next batch and adjust the TDS range to 900 -1100 and see what happens.