Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31, 2012 plantings

Today was a busy day, as in addition to making pickles, I also started three ebb and flow systems in the basement.  The top photo is Swiss Chard growing under the 90 watt red/blue/white LED, while the center photo shows Early Wonder beets, for beet greens, growing under T5 fluorescent lightingThe system in the bottom photo contains Spotted Aleppo lettuce, which will be grown in a tent.  This 18th-century Romaine lettuce was sold by Philadelphia seedsman, Bernard McMahon, in 1804. The leaves are speckled with a bright reddish-brown variegation that is highly ornamental.

As I have not been using the tents, or six band flower series lights, while the greenhouse has been operational, I decided to try growing lettuce using six band LED in a tent.  Previously, the six band lights have only been used for plants that require high levels of light, like tomatoes and cucumbers.  This will be the first time I have used one of the large lights for lettuce.  

May 31, 2012 journal

This is the day Ava has been waiting for all winter; the day we have enough cucumbers for a batch of pop's garlic dill pickles.  

Actually, picking the cucumbers encourages the plants to produce even more cucumbers, so it is a win win situation.

Now, it is just a matter of mixing the brine, placing the spices and cucumbers in the crock, and the hardest part, waiting.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28, 2012 journal

Late this afternoon the temperature was above 90 degrees, which is beginning to be not so unusual for this early in the season.  That being the case, the temperature in the greenhouse would have been over a hundred degrees if I did not apply the shade cloth.

Even though the tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants are warm weather crops, the mid afternoon sun, combined with the high temperature, would damage the plants in the greenhouse if the shading was not applied.  In this case, I am using a 45% black poly shading material, which is very durable and will last for many years.  With the deck behind the greenhouse applying the shading is very easy; I use a long aluminum pole to drape the cloth over the greenhouse.  In fact, it is so easy to apply the shading, that I don't hesitate to apply and remove it as conditions dictate.  

The author of one of my greenhouse gardening books states: only a tiny percentage of hobby greenhouse owners actually grow in their greenhouses, rather, they are used only for starting plants and extending the season toward the end.   However, in my opinion, difficulties aside, there is a great deal to be said for protected growing.  Traditionally, in this neck of the woods, Memorial Day weekend has always been considered as the earliest date to safely plant annuals and warm weather vegetables.  The above photo, taken on Memorial Day, illustates the obvious benefits of protected growing, as the plants are already well on their way to maturity and fruit production.  

Ava, who's pink watering can stands ready for use, is anxious to start picking cucumbers to make garlic dill pickles.  She can start tomorrow, as there is already enough cucumbers for a small batch, and it is not even June yet.....

Protected growing, ya gotta love it. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22, 2012 journal

Yesterday I completed running the nutrient lines to the autopots and filled the reservoirs with nutrients, also, I ran airline connections to the reservoirs for aeration.  In addition, there are cut off valves installed on each reservoir, and on the feed line to each smart valve. That said, I am still not at the point that I am ready for automatic feeding.

I decided to use separate reservoirs for the cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplant, although, the eggplant and tomato requirements are very close, and I could have combined them. 

One of the Turkish/Italian eggplants can be seen in the large black autopot on the lower right of the above photo.  This variety is different from a normal eggplant, in that instead of individual flowers, it is growing a truss with five buds, much like a tomato plant would do.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17, 2012 journal

When checking the cucumber plants today I was quite amazed to find that every one of the plants already has female flowers. I find that remarkable, considering that is has only been sixteen days since I planted the seedlings in the greenhouse.

I have made several changes in how I am growing the plants this year, and they seem to be making a big big difference.  The changes include growing on a trellis and not pruning any lateral shoots until they have at least one female flower, and, I have been mixing a witch's brew of supplements that I received as samples from a hydroponic dealer.  Still, I think that hand watering until the plants are well established is making the biggest contribution to the improvement in plant performance.

The tomatoes are also responding to warming weather and longer days; they too are starting to develop flower buds.

Overall, I am satisfied with the results so far.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14, 2012 journal

Finally, all of the preparation and planting is completed and the greenhouse is fully operational.  Although all of the nutrient feed lines are in place, I am still hand watering the plants, and, I plan on continuing to do so for a while yet.  I still feel that manual control of watering is best early in the season when the plants do not require a lot of water.

The tomatoes, shown above, have been secured to their supports and are really looking good, which I attribute to the hand watering.  The first crop I am growing this year are an equal mix of Tropic and Trust, both of which are greenhouse varieties.  The cucumbers are flowering and happily climbing the netting, so all is well, so far.

In addition to the tomatoes and cucumbers two Turkish/Italian Orange eggplants will be grown in the greenhouse this season. One is planted in the large black autopot just above the heater, and the other has been planted in my homebrewed autopot, which is not visible in the photo. 

As I have more annual flower seedlings than my son and I can possibly use, I am also grow some flowers in self watering containers in the greenhouse, just for fun.  One seed packet contained a mixture of cut flower seeds.  So, I have several plants that I have no idea of what kind of flowers they are.  This should be interesting for Ava.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6, 2012 journal

The sun finally decided to pay us a visit today and by afternoon the greenhouse was above eighty degrees for the first time in more than a week.

The above photo is a planting of thyme, oregano and rosemary that will be used for cooking.  My thinking is that as long as I am going to grow them, I may as well make it as attractive as possible. 

The herbs are planted in coir and perlite, and will occasionally be fed used hydroponic nutrients.  I find that herbs are pretty hardy and the more they struggle to survive, the more essential oils they produce, and consequently, the better they taste.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3, 2012 journal

The weather has been cool and cloudy for the last several days and the forecast is for these conditions to continue throughout the weekend.  The recently planted cucumbers and tomatoes in the greenhouse show no apparent signs of new growth, and I suspect the lack of sunlight and heat is a major factor in slowing them down.

Two Turkish/Italian eggplant seedlings were potted and placed in the greenhouse where I will grow them all season.  I was looking for something unusual, and this variety fits that description nicely.  The plants should grow to be four feet tall and have orange fruit with green stripes, with the fruit being about the size of a tomato.  Well, that is what they are supposed to look like, if I succeed in growing them.  Growing unusual plants is part of the fun of gardening in my opinion.

The photo shows two different varieties of lettuce, however, looking at the plants, for the life of me, I can not find any difference in the two varieties.  If there is a difference, I think it would have to be determined by testing the DNA.  It kind of makes me wonder if the seed vendors just make up their own names.