Sunday, April 28, 2013

Journal April 28, 2013

Ava returned from her trip to Disney World in Florida all rested and ready to plant, so I turned her loose on the tomatoes intended to grow in the autopots in the greenhouse.  It only took an hour or so to mix new media and finish planting the autopots.  

She also brought me a gift from Florida, of all things another plant!  The plant is a Parlor Palm, Neantha Bella, which is a miniature tree that should max out at four or five feet.  As this plant does not like direct sun light, but prefers shade, I placed it in the tent with the cantaloupe.
With the autopots planted I am opening the greenhouse for the season, as it is no longer practical to move the plants indoors.  The small electric oil filled radiator was used twice last week and it did a great job of keeping the greenhouse above fifty degrees at night, even with the outside temperature in the mid thirties.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Journal April 25, 2013

Ava has her heart set on growing cantaloupe this season, however, I have my doubts about her being able to grow them in her raised bed garden.  Not that it is an ability issue, but rather a weather issue; as melons need heat, and this area comes up short in that department.  That said,  we are going to give them our best shot

Just in case, and as sort of insurance, I decided to grow one indoors, in one of the tents, using the six band flower series LED.  The seedling was planted today in a large autopot system, with the EC at about 2 and the pH at 6.8.  The photoperiod will be 16 hours, and at this point I have the heater set for 70 degrees. 

I am thinking of placing heavy duty trellis netting across the tent to support the plant and any melons that might grow.  An online search for hydroponic cantaloupe did not come up with anyone growing them, so this may be, like the olives, another first.

The sun was shining brightly this afternoon, but it was cool enough for a light jacket or fleece shirt when outdoors.  I spent a good portion of the afternoon in the greenhouse, where the temperature was about ninety, running new feed lines and getting the autopot systems ready to plant the tomatoes.  

The nighttime temperatures this week are going to be quite cold, however, I decided not to bring the plants indoors.  Instead, I am heating the greenhouse using a small electric oil filled heater.   The heater has been used for the last two nights, and the temperature in the greenhouse has ranged from 45 to 50 degrees at night, which is just fine.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Journal April 23, 2013

I purchased three 9.5" self watering containers at the Wal-Mart garden center today to continue repotting some of the larger olive trees.

Today's candidate was the Kalamata olive tree received and potted on December 3, 2012.  The above composite photo shows the tree when received, on the left, and today on the right.  Once again, the image does not do justice to the transformation since being received, as the pot sizes are quite different.

Other than branching out, the most dramatic change is the reduction in height.  When the tree was received, it resembled a telephone pole.  Several inches were removed from the top of the plant to encourage the plant to be bushy rather than upright.  At this point, I am satisfied with the current height of the tree, and I will most likely not allow it grow much higher. I will continue pinching out the lateral branches, to encourage lateral, rather than vertical growth.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Journal April 22, 2013

Today I replanted two more olive trees into larger containers, the Arbequina and the Amfissa.  The above photo shows the Amfissa, as it was photographed today, and when I received the plant on December 17, 2012, five short months ago.

The photo, although it shows how much the plant has filled out, does not really portray the phenomenal growth accurately, as the image on the left was taken from much further away, and the pot is much larger.  To say that I am pleased with the progress would be a gross understatement.


To date, three of the trees have been moved to larger containers, and I am thinking that the next size up is about as large as I intend to go.

How I determine that it is time to up pot the plant; is to poke a chopstick into the media around the perimeter of the pot, if there is a lot of resistance when inserting the probe, it is is time to transplant.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Journal April 21, 2013

Last night the temperature dipped to 28 degrees F, and the forecast for the next several days calls for the nighttime temperature to be below normal.  With temperatures in that range, it is really not practical to run the heater at night, so I am bringing the plants indoors in the evening and back out in the morning.  To say the least, it is a chore with so many plants.

During the day today the temperature outdoors did not get out of the forties, with strong gusting winds.  However, the sun being much higher in the sky drove the temperature in the greenhouse to almost ninety degrees.  Despite the outdoor temperatures, the plants are loving the light and heat provided by the greenhouse, as witnessed by the Tropic tomato below beginning to flower.

With Ava in Florida visiting Disney World, we have had some spare time on our hands to work on overdue projects.  So, I replaced the seals on the greenhouse doors, installed the vent openers, and repaired some fencing.  To make better use of the webcam in the greenhouse, I moved the thermometer to above the door, now I can see the thermometer with the camera set in the position I use to monitor the door.

Going online, I can tell if the vent openers are working, see the temperature, and by the reflection on the door, know if the supplemental lights and ventilation are working.  It is a neat little toy, and worth the forty dollars I paid for it.

My quest for the perfect method of cloning olive trees continues, and the current project looks to be the most promising so far.  The cutting from the oblonga tree is shown above in the propagator.  The reason it looks to be the most promising; is that the cutting has not lost a single leaf, and it is going on two weeks since I struck the cutting.

After taking the cutting, I placed it in Clonex, and held it there for almost a minute to allow the Clonex to be absorbed by the plant tissue.  The cutting was then sprayed with an anti wilt solution before being planted in coir and perlite.  The media was pre-moistened with nutrients, mixed specifically for root development.  

The propagator is sitting on a heat mat, and the light is a 24" T8 grow light with a photoperiod of 14 hours.  Last, but not least, I have been spraying the INSIDE of the propagator several times a day to keep the humidity high.  So far, I have not had to add any nutrients at all, as the media is not getting a chance to lose moisture.

After almost two weeks, the leaves on the cutting are alive, soft and pliable, and the upper leaves, which had a yellow cast when I received the plant, are turning a nice healthy green.

If, and when, the plant begins growing again, I will know if the cutting is a success.  At that point, I have no intention of disturbing the roots.  The plant will simply be removed from the propagator and placed with the other plants.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Journal April 18, 2013

The absolutely last olive trees for my collection arrived today from a farm in Texas.  I was looking for an Italian varietal, as I really was not sure of the origin of the OblongaUsing Google as a search tool, I found a site on page four or so that had a nice selection and great pricing.  The site was: Sandy Oak Olive Orchard.

The price per tree in four inch pots was only ten dollars, however, they wanted about fourteen dollars for UPS, and another ten dollars for a box.  That would make the cost twenty four dollars to ship a ten dollar tree.  Ridiculous

So, I contacted them, telling them that as I intend to grow the trees hydroponically, there is no sense shipping the soil, and, that the tree could be shipped bare root with the roots wrapped in wet paper and a plastic bag.  Additionally, I said that the Post Office has a priority service where they provide the envelope and two trees could be shipped for about five dollars.

Well, they said they did not know that, but would check.  When they got back to me they said they could do that, but charge two dollars to wash the soil from the roots, and a handling charge of two dollars and fifty cents per tree.   I was still not happy with the extra charges, but agreed, so I ordered two trees, as the shipping price with the Post Office would not change.

 The trees, shown above, are a Pendolino in front and a Chamlali in the back. 

Pendolino is considered a universal pollinator and is compatible with all other cultivars. This cold hardy varietal originated in Tuscany, and is a constant and abundant producer.  The oil is light and fruity with the olives being medium sized.  This variety is also an early producer.

Chemlali: This variety is the most common cultivar in the central and southern regions of Tunisia. It is resistant to drought and very cold hardy. Chemlali is self-fertile and begins to bear early. It is a constant intermediate producer.  The oil has a mild, fruity flavor that stands alone or blends well with other varieties.  Although the olives are small they are delicious and suitable for the table. 

Normally I would remove about two thirds  of the trunk and clone the sections when I plant the trees, but I did not do so with these trees.  The trees were obviously stressed from being shipped, and, to my amazement, the Chamlali actually has OLIVES ON IT!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Journal April 12, 2013

The above photo shows the Arbequina olive seedling on November 6, 2012 and again on April 11, 2013.  It has been written that olives grow slowly when container grown, however, I am not finding that to be the case at all.

The Arbequina and Manzanillo varieties both fruit early, so I am forcing two years growth into one year to speed the process along.  All of the olive trees received in the fall did not get a winter rest period, but were grown indoors throughout the winter.  I do intend to give them a cold period of a few hundred hours this fall and then bring them in and start the forcing process again.

Someone asked if I planned on growing the trees as bonsai, and my response was no; but using bonsai techniques I intend to limit the size of the trees.

My goal is to  have the trees produce olives, and though olives make excellent bonsai candidates, to produce olives the trees require periodic branch pruning, which is not consistent with bonsai shaping.

 Using bonsai wiring for shaping young trees to allow better light penetration is very helpful though, as seen in this Mission olive seedling.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Journal April 11, 2013

When inserting the moisture probe into the media of the Manzanillo olive, I could feel that it was meeting with a lot of resistance from the root ball, so it was apparent that it was time to move the plant to a larger pot.

That the plant was only received on November 13, 2012, and already needs to be repotted, speaks to how quickly it has adapted to being grown hydroponically.

From this point on, I do not intend to do any further pruning of the branches, in case the plant is going to flower and fruit this summer and fall.

It would not be unusual for this variety to fruit early, and I would dearly love to see it do so.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Journal April 10, 2013

As it does not appear that the Trilye olives from Turkey are going to be in my olive grove, I used the refund to purchase a different variety from a nursery in Oregon, Forest Farm. There is room for twelve plants, and with today's addition I now have eleven.

The new plant, seen on the left, is a variety called Oblonga, and, as I understand it, the unusual name refers to the shape of the fruit.  The plant on the right is a cutting from the top of the plant.

There seems to be conflicting information regarding this variety online, so I am not sure who to believe.  The variety seems to have been developed from a volunteer found in an orchard  near Corning, California around 1940.  The USDA claims to have performed a DNA analysis, and claims that Oblonga and Frontoio are really one and the same.  Others claim that Oblongo is related to Picholine, and still others think it is a separate variety altogether.  

As far as I can tell it seems mostly used for a rootstock, as it has excellent resistance to root rot.  Having said that, it does have a decent sized olive, and will also produce a decent tasting oil, so as far as I am concerned it meets my criteria for being a table olive and a source of oil.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Journal April 7, 2013

Finally, the olives have been moved to the greenhouse, on a more or less permanent basis, for the season.  If the nights get really bitter, I will bring them back inside, but they are pretty hardy trees and should have no problem.  Having said that, I do have the heater on and set for forty five degrees, so they should be fine.

Using a remote control light switch, I will activate the LED grow lights in the morning, during cloudy periods, and just before sunset until about eight in the evening.  I am a firm believer that light is the most important ingredient when growing plants.

The olives are really growing much much better than I ever expected when I started this project.  When I was researching growing them in containers I read that they would grow very slowly, but that has not been the case.  In fact, it has been just the opposite, and I am totally amazed at how quickly they are growing.  Each and every tree is literally busting with new growth, to the point that I have to pinch the growing tips every few days to keep them compact.

At first I was not familiar with the nuances of growing olives, and would fret over the color of the new growth, thinking the pale color was a nutrient deficiency.  The yellowing of leaves by natural senescence also threw me for awhile, however, I am becoming more familiar with the plants and find that with a minimal amount of care olives are fun plants to grow.  

Man has been growing olives for more than 7,000 years, and olive oil has long been considered sacred; it was used to anoint kings and athletes in ancient Greece. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples as well as being the "eternal flame" of the original Olympic Games.

Along with monounsaturated fats, olives are rich in vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that neutralizes damaging free radicals, along with polyphenols and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. 

I almost forgot to mention that when cured, they taste absolutely great!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Journal April 6, 2013

Night temperatures are still too cold to leave plants in the greenhouse overnight, so each day I bring them from the basement growing area to the greenhouse and return them in the evening.  

 I could use the heater, however, to keep the tomatoes and peppers growing I would have to set the thermostat much higher than I would like to.  The olive plants can take lower temperatures, but I plan on giving them as much heat and light as possible to keep pushing them.

For the greenhouse and garden the tomato varieties are: Trust, Tropic, San Marzano, Rutgers and Japanese Black Trifle; the peppers are: Cubanelle and Golden Marconi; as for the cucumbers, I am deciding between Telegraph Improved and Little Leaf.

Sadly, the Trilye olive trees from Turkey may have gone permanently dormant (died).  One day after being removed from the envelope that they had been confined to for several weeks, the leaves began to dry, and now they have fallen off the plants.  Still, hope springs eternal; so I will continue to care for them hoping that they will revive in a month or so.  

This time the seller refunded my money as soon as I notified him that plants were drying out.