Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Journal July 31, 2013

In previous posts I outlined my saga in trying to obtain a Trilye olive tree to grow hydroponically.  Success was in reach when I found that the seedling that I purchased from Turkey was still alive and  starting to grow.

All of my efforts were for naught, as today I was visited by an SITC Officer from the USDA and the tree was confiscated to be destroyed immediately.  It seems that purchasing plant material from foreign counties is not permitted by USDA regulations.

Rather than direct my frustration at the USDA, I prefer to direct my hostility toward Ebay.  Plant material from foreign sources is sold daily on Ebay; so you have to ask why do they not prohibit the sales; the answer most likely being: that they make a profit from the sales.

In fact, I posted on the Ebay forum that it was a waste of time to purchase plant material from overseas after the Trilye seedlings arrived dead.  The seller, goldenpera_com , refused to return my money, and Ebay would not intervene.  Instead, Ebay sent me a nasty-gram saying that they would suspend my account if I continued posting such comments.

Lesson learned,  I you want plant material, don't buy it on Ebay, and don't buy seeds or plants from overseas.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Journal July 28, 2013

This year's harvest of cucumbers from the greenhouse is proving to be the best ever.  Both the little leaf and telegraph improved, shown above, are still providing lots of fruit.

With that being said, I have made a decision not to grow cucumbers in the greenhouse next year, as they are much too messy and take up far far too much space.  Going forward, I will grow them in a raised bed outside on a trellis, and grow sweet peppers, such as Giant Marconi, in the space now being used by the cucumbers.

As I will be removing the cucumber plants in the next few weeks I am cloning six tomato plants to replace the cucumbers in the greenhouse.  I intend to limit the plants to one or two trusses and grow them into the fall.

I am taking a different approach with these cuttings; in that they are much larger than the first batch, and, I am not using just plain water.  These cuttings are being sprayed with a full strength nutrient solution, and so far they look fantastic. 

One of the aeroponic cloning system makers recommends plain water on their site, and I followed their advice with the first batch.  Although they rooted, they were pale and unhealthy looking, but are now recovering after being planted.

 Sometimes it is just best to follow your own instincts and do you own thing I guess.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Journal July 11, 2013

The tomato cuttings I placed in the aeroponic cloner on July 6, 2013 have started growing roots, in only 5 days; lots and lots of roots.  It is pretty impressive, as I am only using plain water out of the tap. The olive cutting in the single plant unit looks healthy and shows no signs of wilting or stress. 

I am using different spray patterns in the cloners; the unit with the tomatoes has six 360 degree stationary spray nozzles, while the unit with the olive cutting has a fogger/mister spray head. Today, I built a three plant unit, which I will use with a rotating 360 degree spray head.   I will compare the performance of the different types of spray heads on different types of plants.

As seen in the unit above, I have added a fluid level indicator to each of the units as a further refinement.  All of the parts are interchangeable: pumps, spray heads, covers and inserts, so I now have one, three, six and ten plant units.  And, as it is not necessary to have a cutting in an insert to prevent it from leaking it makes them even more flexible.

The out of pocket cost for the above unit was $1.18 to purchase the top at Wal_Mart, so all three units were built for probably around ten dollars each, excluding the pumps, which I already had.

Recently, my wife purchased a blueberry bush for our garden that is fantastic, in  terms of having plenty of large blueberries about the diameter of a nickle.  To test the rotating spray in the above cloner, I took three cuttings from the blueberry bush and placed them in the cloner.  If they root, we will have three nice blueberry plants for free.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Journal July 8, 2013

As I had a spare pump that someone gave me a few years ago I decided to build another aeroponic cloning unit.  For this system I only cut a single opening for the cutting, and there is a single 360 degree spray head directly beneath the cutting.

The pump is rather large, and operating in the relatively small confines of a 5 gallon bucket it has a tendency to heat the liquid.  To compensate for the heating I decided to run the pump 15 minutes on and 30 minuets off,  24/7.  This cycle should be ideal for olives, as they prefer to be on the dry side. 

Two cuttings were taken from the Arbequnina olive tree to experiment with; both were dipped in Clonex; one was placed in the cloning unit and the other was planted in the garden under the shade of the blue berry bush. 

At this point I  have three aeroponic units, and all components are interchangeable.  Also, I ordered a spinner, shown above, for less than four dollars to experiment with in these units.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Journal July 6, 2013

Yesterday I was browsing Ebay looking at hydroponic offerings and came across several aeroponic cloning devices.  The descriptions and the claims of how they performed made for some interesting reading.  The claims state that plants can be cloned in as little as four days; also that the continuous spay causes the plants to put out roots faster because it irritates the plant.  Well, I don't know about that one, but I'll take that claim at face value.

I know that aeroponic systems work, because I built several, however, I have never tried cloning with an aeroponic system.  It was my intention to clone six tomato plants for replacement plants for the greenhouse, so I thought I should build an aeroponic cloning system and give it a try.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 The only parts I needed and did not have on hand was the 1/2" PVC pipe and a few fittings.  A quick trip to Home Depot and for less than ten dollars I had everything I needed for a decent system.

As I had several dark colored five gallon buckets and lids on hand I decided to use one of them to house the system.  So I assembled the necessary parts, pieces and tools and got to work.

 As I wanted six plants, I cut six 2"holes in the lid of the bucket.  Next, I took six 2" net pots and cut the netting from the bottoms, as I only wanted the collar to support the neoprene inserts. 

The next step was to measure and cut pieces for the spray manifold.  Holes for the spray heads were then drilled and tapped using a 10/32 tap.  As most of the spray heads available are 10/32, it is a simple matter to replace and experiment with different spray heads. A threaded coupling on the bottom of the manifold screws directly into the pump making the system rigid and very stable.  It was not necessary to glue the pieces together as the pieces fit snugly; and the parts can be disassembled for compact storage.  

Six cuttings were than taken, dipped in rooting hormone, and placed in the neoprene collars which then went into the system.  

 After test running the system outdoors to check for leaks, there were none, I placed the system under a 90 watt red/blue/white LED.  The photoperiod will be 16 hours, but the pump will run 24/7.

It remains to be seen how it works, however, by using net cups and expanded clay pellets the system can be used to grow pretty much anything aeroponically.  As the covers cost about two dollars each, it is a simple matter to reconfigure the system for different sizes and numbers of cuttings.   When not in use the system can be disassembled and the bucket is not altered in anyway.  

 As I stated previously, the spray heads all use the same size holes, so I ordered five fogger/misting heads on Ebay.  These are the preferred micron size for cloning plants hydroponically, and fogger/misting systems are supposed to be the ultimate system for cloning.   I am thinking at some point I will try an olive cutting in this type of system to see what happens.

If this works; the possibilities are pretty attractive; like buy a plant, take it home and clone several more.  

Time will tell......

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Journal July 3, 2013

The more I looked at the greenhouse with the small bench in the center aisle, the more I liked the idea of using the center aisle for growing.  I built another matching table so there are two small benches at the very end of the aisle.  At this time of year the center aisle gets the full benefit of the sun directly overhead and it is a shame to lose the space; getting to the plants is not an issue, as I can still kneel on the benches to reach them.

Growing olives hydroponically is still a learning experience for me, and I had a problem with a few of the plants.  I don't believe anyone has ever tried to grow them hydroponically so there is not much information on the subject online.

Two of the larger trees began dropping leaves that were still green, and it sort of had me baffled as to why.  The trees appeared healthy in every respect, except I would find several green leaves laying on the surface of the media.

Since then, I have determined that the problem was over watering. I had been watering the plants until the liquid ran into the reservoir at the bottom and then empty the excess.  Even with the sun beating down, with the temperature in the greenhouse approaching ninety, olives apparently do not transpire much and use a lot of moisture.  

Letting the plants dry almost completely has pretty much solved the leaf drop problem, so going forward I intend to just give them a periodic small drink and keep them fairly dry.

The telegraph improved cucumbers are about a foot long and I am going to let them grow another six inches; which will bring them up to what would be considered normal size for this variety.