Wednesday, December 31, 2008

If you grow vegetables you will love this link!

I found this on line and thought I would share it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rube Goldberg would be proud of this install.

The UV LED project box is simply suspended by a clip from the reflector shield, as I just could not bring myself to build any sort of support for it.

I decided not to put any more effort into it until it convinces me that it has made a difference in producing flowers.

The photo was taken on December 30, 2008, and we will see when the first Carnation bloom appears. (It is best to be optimistic)

Plant lighting for indoor gardening.

Below is a quote from Texas A&M's site regarding lighting requirements for plants:

Day and Night:

Day length or duration of light received by plants is also of some importance.Poinsettias, kalanchoes and Christmas cactus flower only when days are 11 hours or less (short-day plants). Some plants only flower when days are longer than 11 hours (long-day plants), while others are not sensitive to day length at all (day-neutral plants).

Day Length:

Increasing the time (duration) plants are exposed to light can be used to compensate for low light intensity, as long as the plant's flowering cycle is not sensitive to day length. Increased light duration allows the plant to make sufficient food to survive and grow. However, plants require some period of darkness to properly develop and should be exposed to light for no more than 16 hours per day. Excessive light is as harmful as too little.. When a plant gets too much direct light, the leaves become pale, sometimes burn, turn brown and die. Therefore, protect plants from too much direct sunlight during summer months.

Supplemental Light:

Additional lighting can be supplied with either incandescent or fluorescent lights. Incandescent lights produce a great deal of heat and do not use electricity very efficiently. If artificial light is the only source of light for growing plants, the quality of light or wavelength, must be considered. Plants require mostly blue and red light for photosynthesis, but for flowering, infrared light is also needed. Incandescent lights produce mostly red and some infrared light, but very little blue light. Fluorescent lights vary according to the amount of phosphorus used by the manufacturer. Cool-white lights produce mostly blue light and are low in red light; they are cool enough to position quite close to plants. Foliage plants grow well under cool-white fluorescent lights, while blooming plants require extra infrared light. This can be supplied by incandescent lights or special horticultural fluorescent lights.

This phrase in particular caught my attention: " Plants require mostly blue and red light for photosynthesis"

The LED grow light I am planning will only produce red and blue light. The theory being; why waste energy producing green, orange, yellow and violet, when the plant does not use, or need it? Plants reflect green light, that is why they look green to us..

As an experiment I have added a small project box containing six UV LEDs to the lighting supplied to the dianthus and ornamental pepper. The spectrum is in the UV-A range of near visible light. I have read several studies regarding the effect of UV light in plant growth. Some studies have concluded UV is detrimental, and some conclude it is beneficial. The LEDs I added have a wavelength between 395 and 410 nm. This wavelength is not considered harmfull and is very near the wavelength of blue light where photosysthesis begins.

Again, time will tell....

Bending the seasons

My 18 month old grandchild, Ava, delights in, and makes a major production of, presenting her grandmother with a flower. I try to have something in bloom for her whenever she visits. She is only here a few minutes before she is standing at the basement door waiting for me to take her to the growing area to collect her prize.

The flowers in the photo are Pot & Patio Asters, which have been growing in the Folger's container since September 12, 2008.

The Asters are being replaced with Carnations, which I am going to force into bloom. The Carnation already has buds, which have been forming for sometime while it has been growing with the lettuce.

Hopefully, you can tell by the photo that hydroponics is not expensive, and it is not rocket science. Anyone with basic hand tools skills can make a system out of pretty much any container.

In this case all that was necessary was to cut a circle to accommodate the net pot. Then, I drilled a small hole in the cover to pass an airline through, and attached an air stone. Any pet store has the tubing, pump and air stone. The cost for all would be about ten dollars.

I use hydroton expanded clay pellets to support the plant, but pea gravel would also work. Fill the container with enough nutrient mix to bring it to the top openings in the net pot. Place the air stone on the bottom, and turn on the pump. You are now have a hydroponic system!

I have grown: strawberries, lettuce, greens, a full size tomato, and all kinds of flowers in one of these systems. I call it my one plant wonder. All that air oxygenating the nutrient mix will make the plant grow very vigorously.

For someone just experimenting, or just getting started, an all purpose nutrient mix would be best. If there are no hydroponic dealers locally, an online search can locate nutrients.

Beginners think they can just toss in some fertilizer, like Miracle Grow, and away they go. That will work for a week or two, however, after awhile your plant will begin showing signs of stress. I did a comparison of nutrients and found that Miracid most closely matched the hydroponic mixture I use. It was close, but, that only counts in horseshoes. For instance, plants need calcium, not much, but it is absolutely essential, and it is not included with garden fertilizer. I tried to add calcium to a mix of Miracid by adding calcium supplements from the health food store. It does not dissolve well at all. As CO2 mixed with calcium carbonate is pumped into the sea to rescue coral reefs, I tried using carbonated water to dissolve the calcium. While it worked to some degree, the plants still showed calcium deficiency. Take my word for it, buy commercial hydroponic nutrients. Mixing your own is not worth even trying, unless you are growing on a commercial scale.

All you need now is a sunny window, or strong light source, and you can bend the seasons also. Good bye soil borne problems, welcome to hydroponics.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mini Propagator

As I am continually starting small batches of seeds to keep the ebb and flow systems populated, I find the small propagator above to be ideal. It is a discarded container used to package greens from the supermarket.

Conveniently, it has small indentations on the top which can be drilled to provide ventilation. I drill 1/8" holes in about a quarter of the indentations.

A future post will feature this unit being used to start seedlings using Red/Blue LED grow lighting. If they progress as I expect, I will attempt to grow something to completion using only the LED lighting, and compare the results to fluorescent. Efficient as fluorescent lighting is, LED is probably 70% more energy efficient. Compared to HPS lighting, it is 90% more energy efficient. It is a technology that will someday replace all other forms of grow lighting, as well as residential lighting. RPI is investing millions into research on this technology. Change, you gotta love it!

Well, not everyone does. While browsing the web I came across a gardening forum and read some of the posts concerning container and indoor gardening. Many of the issues members were having revolved around soil borne problems. One person posted photos of his plants completely covered with aphids. He was growing in his apartment under lights. Pray tell me where did the aphids come from, if not the soil? I have insecticide soap around somewhere, but it has been many many moons since I needed it. If I get an insect, it hitchhikes in, or slips through the screens.

There is a section on the forum to suggest blogs to be added for members to view, but the blog has to be approved by the moderator. I did a post and suggested my blog as an alternative form of gardening. Shortly thereafter I received a reply from a guy named Roger. He wrote that although the blog was well written, and while it was a fascinating topic, it needed more garden tips, and "things I overheard around the nursery."

Duh, the blog shows crops, outlines growing techniques, gives nutrient strength, ph, photo periods, and how to build vs. buy your systems. And, what the hell would I be doing eavesdropping around the nursery? I have not been to a nursery in years, I don't buy plants, I grow them from seed. You would be more likely to find me at Home Depot contemplating turning a mortar mixing tub into an ebb and flow container to accommodate 30 or 40 net pots.

As my sainted Irish uncle Patrick used to say to me: "Leprechaun, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Stir Fry In Process

Although we enjoy fresh salads in the winter, warm tasty greens are a welcome addition to our table.

As an added bonus; all of the above oriental vegetables can used for salad, stir fry, or soup greens. The small Joy Choi added to vegetable soup tastes pretty much like swiss chard. The Rubicon Chinese Cabbage grows so quickly under lights in the ebb and flow system you can go from seed to table in about four weeks.

It was not necessary to alter my growing conditions, or nutrient mix, to include these vegetables with the lettuce.

When I began growing under lights this winter I considered having a different nutrient mix in each of the three ebb and flow systems for the different stages of growth: seedling, vegetative and ripening.

Early on I decided to concentrate mostly on salad greens, and adjusted the systems to a vegetative mixture. The TDS is between 1500 and 1900, which I know is high, however, it was changed yesterday, and it will decrease quickly as the plants are growing rapidly.

Another advantage is; the higher TDS allows me to include a few flowers in the system until they reach the bloom stage. There is a Dianthus growing along with the lettuce, and I can see buds beginning to form. In a few days I intend to place it in an individual container with a mix specific to the bloom stage.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Heirloom Seed Catalog

This week we received a very elaborate 124 page full color catalog, printed on coated stock, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. As a retired purchasing manager, I am aware of the cost involved in producing a catalog like this. It appears that these folks are very serious about marketing their seeds.

The catalog contained some unusual varieties of vegetables that I just could not resist, and as an added bonus, they are heirloom seeds.

It was difficult to select seeds to order, as there were so many different types to choose from. I managed to confine my order to these seeds:

Lettuce: Rouge Grenobloise, Gentilina, Brune D'Hiver, Gotte Jaune D'Or, Sanguine Ameliore or Strawberry Cabbage Lettuce
Oriental: Kwang Tung Leaf

Future posts will feature some of the above in addition to some unusual varieties I have in the propagator presently.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Our area in upstate New York is in the process of recovering from a severe ice storm. Everything was coated with an inch of ice, and hundreds of thousands of homes were without power for several days. As of today, there are still tens of thousands without power. One night the temperature was at four degrees, and it was not fun at all. The hotels were filled, and there were no generators, batteries, propane, or kerosene heaters to be found for sale anywhere in the area. We were without power for four days, however, I am fortunate enough to own a generator. Well, we have been through this any number of times over the years, so be prepared is a good motto to keep in mind.

As I was using the generator for the basic necessities of life, I gave no thought to the plants in the basement. Now that our power has been restored, thank God, I checked on the plants. To my amazement, they not only survived, they seem to have continued to grow. The plants in the photo have had no light for more than four days!

The large plant on the left is an ornamental pepper I have been growing since September. When we were first married, 42 years ago, we bought an ornamental pepper as the first plant for our apartment. It was dead in about two days. Over the years we tried several more times to grow them, with the same result. At that time, neither my wife or I knew how to grow anything. Since then, we have progressed to bonsai, orchids, and pretty much any other type of plant. In September while on vacation in Maine, my wife saw me walking toward the ornamental peppers in a supermarket and she said: "You are not going to buy another on of them are you?"

I had noticed that several of the peppers had fallen off the plants and were on the floor. So, in the interest of preventing anyone from slipping on them, I picked up a few. When we returned home I started two seeds and selected the strongest looking sprout to grow in the ebb and flow systems. Now, it is covered with flowers, and is about half again as large as the plants the market had for sale. Once again hydroponics has worked its wonders.

My original intention was to see if peppers were indeed self pollinating, as I have seeds for gigantic peppers to grow in the greenhouse next season. However, it was fulfilling to finally succeed in growing one of these plants.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fragrant Choi

This vegetable, also called Mak Choi in Hong Kong, produces fragrant leaves which are very popular in Hong Kong and Southern China. The Chinese love the distinctive flavor.

It is used for salad and stir-fry, and the leaves can be harvested at any stage.

As it is highly adaptable to various conditions, it is suitable for growing all year round in subtropical and mild climate areas, and I am finding it is especially suited to my grow room conditions.

It does, however, require a bit more space than conventional leaf lettuce.

And again, you are not likely to find it available from your local produce dealer

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tis The Season

As we progress into winter the seed catalog folks begin filling my mailbox with gardener's porn. Not that I mind in the least, as it sure beats credit card offers. (remember them?)

I am sure the seed vendors sell mailing lists, as I receive catalogs from dealers I have never heard of before.

A recent catalog from Pinetree Garden seeds caught my interest, as it had a nice variety of unusual vegetables and flowers . Additionally, the prices and shipping charges were the lowest I have seen to date.

The items I ordered were:
Australian Yellow leaf lettuce @ .95 per pack
Red Deer's Tongue lettuce @.95 per pack
Tom Thumb lettuce @.95 per pack
Mache (member of the Valerian family) @.90 per pack
Merveille de Quatre Saisons lettuce @.95 per pack
Matina Lettuce @.95 per pack
Pelleted Calceolaria @.95 per pack.
Midnight Ruffles lettuce @1.10 per pack

The total for the seeds and shipping was eleven dollars and change. This vendor uses recycled paper for their catalog and shipping envelopes. My order was received promptly and I am happy with the seeds and service.

When I get a good deal I like to share it, likewise with a raw deal.....

Pinetree's site is:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pampered Plant

The plant in the photo is a Black Cherry tomato started from seed on November 5, 2008.

The description cherry is more to describe the color of the fruit, rather than the size of the fruit. The tomatoes are more of a medium size, and the plant is very very prolific. Each truss can produce six or more tomatoes, and the plant will continue to produce fruit for as long as it continues to grow.

Last summer I passed some of them around to my neighbors, and they all raved about the taste. I plan to grow at least one plant in the greenhouse next summer and I may simply take a cutting from this plant for that purpose.

This will be my first attempt to grow them under lights, and most likely I will have to prune the growing tip to control the height of the plant.

As for being pampered; the plant is in an Autopot with a TDS of about 2500, and a pH of 6.5. The growing media is a 50/50 mixture of coco noir and agricultural perlite. It is receiving sixteen hours of light each day, and a timer is periodically providing ventilation and humidity. That should be pretty close to being Plant Heaven.....