Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Journal September 29, 2015 - Turning this year's annuals into next year's annuals

The days are getting shorter and cooler, the annual flower bed has been pulled up and the soil turned over.  During the last few weeks I have let the flowers remain on the plants, so that the seed pods would dry.  

This evening I spent an hour or so separating and packaging the seeds for next year's flower bed.  Seeds are inexpensive, so why bother?  Well, I get a lot more satisfaction out of growing plants from seeds that I have saved.  It sort of makes the plant "completely mine."

The lettuce in the aeroponic units is just about ready for harvest.  I noticed that the folks that make the Aerogarden have a new unit for sale; it would be interesting to compare their results with my homemade unit.  Their seed pods and nutrients are expensive, while I am using only a tablespoon of generic dry nutrients and epsom salts.

Outside, I can see that Mother Nature is dipping her brushes into the paint buckets getting ready for the fall display.

Another sign that fall is approaching is the emerging fungi on the forest floor.  This time of year I love to roam the woods classifying and photographing the seemingly endless varieties of fungi.  The above is:  Unicorn Salmon Entoloma, pretty, delicate, deadly.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Journal September 21, 2015 - Aeroponic lettuce

The Green Ice lettuce growing in the first aeroponic unit needs to be drained and replenished.  It is already at the point that it can be used as cut and come again; harvesting the larger outer leaves, letting the plant regrow.

The second unit, growing the Merlot and Red Salad bowl lettuce, is coming along nicely also.  While the Green Ice is receiving professional hydroponic nutrients, I am using inexpensive generic nutrients from Wal-Mart in this unit.  

One of the net pots containing the Green Ice lettuce is shown above.  Now that the root systems are exposed to the misting nutrients the plants will really grow quickly.

It has been my experience that lettuce can be grown using generic nutrients like Miracle Grow.  To add some magnesium, I mix four tablespoons of Epsom Salt to a gallon of water to make a concentrate.  When adding the nutrients I add about an ounce of the concentrate to  the nutrient solution.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Journal September 17, 2015 - Coffee

Sometime ago I tried to grow a coffee plant, however that was when I was using coir and perlite for media; the plant did not like the media at all and did not survive.  Coffee likes the same type of soil as figs and olives, so I thought I would give growing coffee another try.

Coffee does not need a lot of light, which makes it a good candidate for a house plant.  It is an attractive evergreen, and if it ever flowers, the flowers will add a nice scent to a room for several days.  Add to that, it could actually produce beans that can be roasted and brewed.  Nice.

First I thought I would plant seeds, but you need fresh seeds, so I bought some from a seed vendor on eBay.  Then, I found that it could take two to six months for the seeds to germinate.  Again, looking on eBay, I found a coffee plant for sale, so I made an offer of four dollars.  I did not really expect the seller to accept the offer, but he did.

When I received the plant I found that there were actually ten small plants in the pot.  Well, I was not about to throw away nine plants, so I submerged the pot for several hours to load up the seedlings with water, then separated and planted each individual seedling.  

To my amazement, it appears that all ten plants are going to survive being transplanted.  Just what I needed, ten more plants to house and care for...

As long as I was planting, I struck cuttings from the Empeltre and Manzanillo olive trees.  Both trees had double trunks, so the cuttings had to be removed anyway.  Add two more plants to the collection.  To top it off, the two pots on the end contain nine Cattura coffee beans.

The above plant is a Tropic tomato, that I am thinking of growing indoors, in a tent, after I close the greenhouse.  Several years ago, a guy decided hydroponics was not his cup of tea, after he had spent a considerable amount of money on equipment.  He sent me an email and told me to come over to his house and just take the stuff away.  I went and looked at what he was doing,  tried to get him to make some changes and continue, but he had had enough.

Among the items that he gave me was a 400 watt MH grow lamp, like I need another light.  Still, I have never used one of these lights, so I am thinking of using it to grow the above plant.  

The literature with my Go Pro said that the WiFi frequency was different from the DJI drone's frequency, so there would be no problem using the WiFi for a downlink to my android.  Wrong!  When I tried it, I lost control of the drone and just managed to grab a landing strut and recover the drone without damage.  It was necessary to re-flash the firmware on the drone and recalibrate the controller, so today I took the drone for a test flight at Grafton Lakes state park.  

Just a few short weeks ago there were hundreds of people in the park.  Today, I don't think I counted more than ten cars.  That makes it an ideal location to fly the drone, so I will be spending more time at the park as the leaves begin to turn.  That said, I can see from the photo above that some of the trees are already starting to change.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Journal September 8, 2015 - Keeping the cost down

For this batch of Merlot and Red Salad Bowl lettuce I am simply using Expert Gardener plant food from Wal-Mart, where a 1.5 pound box will cost under five dollars.

Hydroponic nutrients are buffered the hydroponic dealers will tell you!  Well, yeah, when I added a table spoon of nutrients to the tank, the pH was only 5.9, so I had to add a whopping 5 ml of pH up to bring it to 6.0.  Big deal.  

An EC of 2.0 using a tablespoon of the inexpensive nutrients in two and a half gallons of water, not too shabby I'd say.

Again, I selected the largest and best looking seedlings and tossed the rejects.  It is not a bad idea to start more than twice as many seeds as you will need, after all seeds are cheap.

If you decide to build one of these systems, the pass through for the pump wire is the main problem in controlling leakage.  There are a few solutions to the problem, one of which is a simple notch in the top of the bucket and a corresponding notch in the lid.  That one works best for me.

A 90 watt red/blue LED with a photoperiod of 16 hours will be used for this batch of lettuce.  The pump cycle will again be fifteen minutes on and fifteen minutes off.

Once operating, there is no further involvement necessary, other than draining are replacing the nutrients every two weeks.  Nice!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Journal September 7, 2015 - Green Ice Lettuce

As summer  transitions into fall there is going to be less work involved with the greenhouse and garden, so it is time to think of indoor growing.  While testing the lettuce seeds for viability, I found a few varieties that I like that were still viable: Green Ice, Merlot and Red Salad Bowl.  As several of the seeds that were tested sprouted quickly, I decided to grow them instead of throwing them away.

As I wanted keep the process as simple as possible, I decided to use a few of my small 5 gallon aeroponic systems.  For the Green Ice lettuce I am using a simple T with three 360 degree spray heads.  The spinning heads look cool, but in practice I have found that they have a tendency to either clog or stick in one position.  With aeroponics, it is important to make absolutely sure that the reservoir has no small debris in it before you add the nutrients.

The seedlings should have a few true leaves and some roots showing from the sides of the cubes prior to being transplanted.  Actually, these seedlings could have been a little larger to lessen the shock of transplanting.

The seedlings are given a short soak in nutrient solution prior to being separated.  At this point, I select the largest strongest seedlings, but it is always good to have a few spares on hand, as transplanting is a traumatic experience for these tiny plants.

Getting the seedlings into the 2" net pots is a delicate procedure, so you may damage a few seedlings in the process.  I place a few hydroton pellets in the bottom of the pot to provide support, also, I remove about 1/4" of the top of the cube to expose enough of the seedling for the foam collar to hold the seedling firmly in place.  For someone doing this for the first time, I would suggest having several spare seedlings on hand.

After filling, the system was test run for an hour to check for leaks.  The EC is slightly above 2 and the pH is a 6.4, which I thing will be ideal.  A simple inexpensive timer will be used to turn the pump on and off every fifteen minutes.

I will be using a 150 watt LED grow light in a tent for this grow, with a photoperiod of 16 hours.  Actually, as only the growth setting is being used, the wattage is much less. 

It is not unusual to find that some of the outside leaves droop and do not come back after the trauma of being placed in the pots;  they can simply be snipped off without harming the plant.

Like the olives, I want to be able to propagate figs, so I am looking at methods of propagating them: seeds, cuttings and tissue culture.  I saw one enterprising person selling fig seeds on eBay for about a buck a seed.  Not in this lifetime!

Using one of the figs we purchased at Trader Joe's, I removed the pulp and soaked it for two days, the same as you do with tomatoes.  When the viable seeds sank to the bottom, they were collected and placed in a coffee filter moistened with dilute nutrient solution. 

I should know if they are going to germinate in about two weeks.  The problem is, that there is no way to tell if the plant is male, or female, until it has grown.  The male plants do not produce edible fruit, but still it is going to be a learning process.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Jounal September 5, 2015 - One more tropical

Another fig tree arrived today, this one is a Violet De Bordeaux, which I have been told is delicious.  I must say that ficus are nice looking plants, which are supposed to be easy to grow.

Historically, they have been around since the dinosaurs, one of mankind's first cultivated plants, even before wheat and barley.  

Even in the few days I have had the plants, I can see new growth.  Usually, plants that have been deprived of light in transit for a few days take sometime to recover, not these though.

Coincidentally, the local Trader Joe's outlet had a sale on fresh Black Mission figs over the weekend.  We had never eaten fresh figs, so we purchased and tried a package.  They are really good, and are supposed to be very good for you besides.  

One shipment of large black nursery pots has arrived, so I started transferring the olive trees to larger containers.  It is turning out to be more of a chore than I expected, so I am only doing four trees a day.  After repotting the trees I am placing them in the greenhouse, as I want them to acclimate after the shock of being transplanted.  After a few days in the greenhouse, they will go back outdoors and I will tackle another four trees.  

The larger tree,  on the left side of the photo, third from the front, is a Brown Turkey fig tree.  That is the tree that was lost for a few days in the postal system.  Several of the bottom leaves had turned yellow and had to be removed, however, I can already see new growth, so I guess there was no real harm to the tree.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Journal September 2, 2015 - Off on another tangent, figs.

Three small fig trees have arrived and are in the greenhouse: Brown Turkey, White Marseilles and Black Mission.

Also, I have a bearing sized Brown Turkey tree on order, however, at present the damn Post Office has misplaced my priority shipment.  What is frustrating is: that you pay for second day service,  when it shows up a week later they do not refund your money.

There is another variety, Violet De Bordeaux, on order.  When that tree is delivered, that will be the last fig tree I intend to buy.   I never knew, that like olives, there any number of varieties of figs.