Friday, August 30, 2013

Journal August 30, 2013 Melon Time

Last fall when we picked the last of her green beans, my Granddaughter Ava said that she would like to grow cantaloupe in her garden next year.  I really did not know whether the season was long enough in upstate New York to produce a decent melon, however, I purchased seed on Ebay for variety that was supposed to be just right for our zone.

The seeds were started early in the spring, but as we had a cool damp spring, they were not doing all that well.  We decided to plant a different variety using some seeds off the rack at Home Depot.

Today, we picked our first melon, it is the variety from Home Depot, and it is a beauty.  The melon below is called Hart's jumbo, and it certainly is jumbo.

So why post it on a hydroponic gardening blog if it was grown outdoors?  The answer is: that every time I drained an ebb and flow system, I dumped the "used" nutrients on the melon patch.  Over the years I have found that "used " nutrients are really not completely used at all.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Journal August 28, 2013 - Aeroponic Basil

Shopping, grocery shopping in particular, is my least favorite activity.  On one of the few occasions I accompanied my wife to the market I saw a display of hydroponic basil.  A single small plant, still in a horticube with roots showing, was being sold for $3.99.  

The basil was grown in a greenhouse about a half hour's drive from our location;  so I made note of the grower's name intending to call him to see if a visit was possible.  When I called a few days later, I explained that I was also interested in hydroponic growing, had a small greenhouse, and asked if it would be possible to see his greenhouse sometime.  The response was they allow no one to see their operation; kind of like it was Area 51 or something.  Let's face it, growing hydroponic basil is really not rocket science, basil is among the easiest crops to grow hydroponically.

The crop above is Burpee's Plenty, which is being grown aerponically.  This variety is one of my favorites, as it has large leaves and does not tend to flower too quickly.  

Being somewhat of a fanatic about water remaining in the bottom of the tub after the flood cycle, I made two more modifications to the tubs, in addition to the grate on the floor of the tub. As the roots could grow through the grate and reach the small amount of liquid in the bottom of the tub, I added a 1/4" drain tube directly on the bottom of the tub. The drain, being so small, does not interfere with flooding, as the pump has capacity flood the tub regardless of the small opening.  Additionally, I installed weed barrier cloth on the bottom of each tub to further prevent the roots from reaching any standing liquid.

As the summer winds down, I am working less and less with the greenhouse,  gearing up for indoor growing.  To that end, I have started seeds for Giant Marconi peppers and Trust tomatoes to be grown in tents during the winter.  For this upcoming project I will be using a new plant support system, that I think will be ideal for indoor growers.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Journal August 20, 2013

Continuing my quest for unusual tropical plants  Ecbolium Viride has been added to my collection.  This plant has a most unusual flower of aquamarine, which is rare in the plant kingdom.  

This small shade loving greenhouse plant is native to India and Malaya, where is it used for medicinal purposes to treat: jaundice, menorrhagia, rheumatism and tumors.

The seeds were only started on August 8, 2013;  they are now in the domed tray under the LED grow light where they are really thriving.

Out of curiosity I checked for root development on one of the olive cuttings today.  I  was astounded to find adventitious roots forming on one of the cuttings taken  two weeks ago.

Apparently, the combination of 80/20 agricultural perlite/peat, along with the heat mat, spraying the inside of the dome and the nutrients I conjured up are working.

Time will tell......

Monday, August 19, 2013

Journal August 19, 2013

So far all of the cuttings planted in perlite and peat are looking really good.  Spraying the interior of the dome and using the heat mat has kept the humidity constantly at 99%, with the temperature in the 80s.

Even with the humidity that high, it has been necessary to give the cuttings a slight watering every few days, as I can feel the pots getting lighter.  Apparently, the 80% perlite and 20% peat mixture readily gives up moisture.

The older trees in the greenhouse have been showing signs of over watering lately, to the point that I ordered a new Manzanillo tree thinking I might lose the one I have.  Deciding to intervene, and take corrective action, I repotted all of the older trees using a mixture of 70% perlite and 30% peat to avoid over watering.  In doing so, I noticed that the coir was compacting and holding too much moisture, all right for tomatoes and cucumbers, but not for olives.  Going forward, I will let the olives almost completely dry and just give them a sip of water from time to time.  The days are getting shorter and I want them to go dormant this year, so they may as well get used to it.

The Manzanillo olive tree shown above was received today, and I am quite pleased with the deal.  Last month I ordered a tree in a 4" pot, after waiting almost a month I decided to write and inquire about my order.  The guy wrote and said they were out of trees in 4" pots, so he said he could refund my money, or send me an orchard tree, but it had to be shipped bare root.  I told him to send the orchard tree, as I would have to remove the soil in any event.  

Three days later the tree arrived from California, the guy paid almost as much to ship the tree as I paid for the tree and shipping.  The tree has been planted in a 70% perlite and 30% peat mixtue in a large self watering container.

Also, the tree had a large branch with twin trunks growing from the base, almost at the soil line.  The branch was removed along with a small section of the trunk to form a heel cutting, and, the twin trunks were separated, so I have two heel cuttings now being propagated.

All in all,  not a bad deal.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Journal August 18, 2013

The roots on the basil in the aeroponic cloner, mentioned a few posts back, are long enough to reach the nutrients in the reservoir, so now it will really take off.

Most likely I will dedicate one of the aeroponic units to basil, using a small CFL light to grow it.  My wife really loves fresh basil,  yesterday she bought seeds for Lemon Mrs. Burns and Purple Petra basil, so I guess she expects me to continue to grow it.

For this crop the EC is 1.5 with the pH at 6.1, which is working out nicely, so I guess I will stick with that.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Journal August 11, 2013

After a few day's experience of having the domed trays in the greenhouse I decided to move them indoors.  Conditions in the greenhouse were just too variable to deal with.  When the sun was out the temperature in the trays would be over a hundred degrees, even with shade covering in place.

It was the constant battle to control the temperature and provide diffuse light for the cuttings which finally made me see the light, literally.  Actually, the conditions I can provide indoors are superior, and much more consistent than I could ever achieve in the greenhouse.

 Checking the temperature and humidity in the trays after they were indoors for about twelve hours the humidity was 99% and the temperature was 77 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The red/blue/white 90 watt LED adds absolutely no additional heat to the tray, while providing ideal lighting for cuttings to root.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Journal August 8, 2013

The tropical seedlings were potted in self watering containers today and the cuttings were replanted in a different media.

The tropical plants in the containers were started from seed 59 days ago.  The center plant is Caesalpinia pulcherrima - Red Bird of Paradise and the two on either end are Majidea Zangueberica - Black Pearl Tree - Mgambo Tree.

Above is a closer view of the Majidea Zangueberica, which is native to East Africa.  It is kind of nice when your tropical plant looks like a tropical plant.

Last night I read online the procedure an olive farm uses to propagate olive cuttings.  The media they are using is 80% perlite and 20% peat moss, so today I transferred my latest batch of cuttings into this mixture also.  Of course the olive farm has an automatic misting system in their greenhouse, which mists the cuttings for 8 seconds every 8 minutes.  I am just going to have to rely on misting the inside of the dome periodically and hope for the best.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Journal August 5, 2013

Rather than let the cloner sit idle I reactivated it today to grow six basil plants to completion.  This is the first time I have really used the small 150 watt LED, which is only running on about half power, as I am only using the vegetative stage.  Still, the light level at the plants is about 2,500 foot candles, which is more than enough for basil.

The major improvements in this aeroponic unit over the other units I have built in the past is that it will not leak, and, as it has six spray heads, it will continue to function if one head clogs.

 The tomato clones that I just removed from this unit are the best I have ever produced, so building it was well worth the effort and the ten bucks I spent for parts.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Journal August 4, 2013

The second batch of tomato clones, the batch that I added kelp extract and nutrients to, has rooted.  These were the actual growing tops of the plants in the greenhouse; they are much better than the previous batch, so I decided to plant these.

After potting, the seedlings were thoroughly watered, misted, and placed in a shady spot to recover.  Tomorrow I will transfer them to the greenhouse, where I will let them fully recover in filtered light until I am ready to replace the existing tomato plants.

At this point I plan on using the aeroponic unit to grow basil to completion; six plants of a variety of basil called Plenty are just about ready to plan in the unit.  The basil will be grown indoors in one of the tents using an LED grow light.  

Having grown basil aeroponically previously, using fluorescent lighting, I am looking forward to seeing it grow using the LED lighting.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Journal August 3, 1013

 The cucumbers and trellis have been removed and what a difference it makes in terms of light in the greenhouse.  Additionally, as the tomatoes can tolerate more heat and light, the shade cover is not necessary, unless the weather is really hot.

The LED flood light has been relocated so that it is now directly above the bench, which is a much better location for light distribution.  In its new location the coverage is much better than it was previously.  Using a radio remote, the light can be activated from the house when needed, rather than  having it on a timer.

Removing the cucumbers and trellis frees the entire north wall of the greenhouse, so I wasted no time putting it to good use.

A domed 1020 tray containing cuttings, olive and tropical plant seeds, now nestles against a section of the north wall.  My objective is to take advantage of the sunlight, but not too much sunlight, so I am filtering the light when it is directly on the tray by suspending shade cloth from above, much like the curtain over a stage.  Sunlight falling directly on the tray with the dome in place would cook the contents.  To keep the humidity high, I am spraying the inside of the dome, but not the plants or pots. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Journal August 2, 2013

To replace my confiscated Trylie tree I ordered an Arbosana olive tree from a small operation in Georgia.  The total cost of the tree was ten dollars, which included shipping.  Truthfully, I did not expect much of a tree for ten dollars; as I figured it was about a five dollar tree and five dollars for shipping.

UPS has already delivered the tree and I am amazed at the quality and service.  The tree was packaged in a carton obviously custom made for shipping these trees and it was protected with bubble wrap.

As for the tree itself, it is growing vigerously, well rooted and large enough to yield a pre-bonsai and two cuttings.