Monday, August 24, 2009

Tiny Tim Tomatoes

I really wanted to start this post with something like the V8 commercial; Wow, I could have had a real tomato. The Tiny Tim tomatoes that I started on May 30, 2009 are ripening, and they really don't taste too bad.

If I had it to do over though I would have started a full size tomato, and I have just the candidate, Early & Often Hybrid. I found these seeds in my seed stash and these tomatoes are supposed to have 8 oz. fruit and take only 68 days following transplanting.

In case I want to try indoor tomatoes this year I started one seed of the Early & Often tomatoes. If I do decide to grow them I will use the 90 watt LED grow lamp to do so.

Recently I received an email from the CEO of Harris Seed and I would like to share some of what he wrote:

"For many new gardeners that tried their hands at vegetable gardening this current season, it may be fairly easy to become discouraged. You might think you just don't have that "green thumb." Don't fret, my friends, as most of this year's lackluster garden harvests can be directly attributed to bad weather, and that is clearly out of your control.

We have had some nasty wet weather in the northern tier of the USA, and too much rain is not what the doctor ordered for bountiful harvests. We have also experienced nearly record cold temperatures for June and July. Cold nights are not good for many vegetable species, like peppers and tomatoes. The sweet corn harvest in the East is two to three weeks behind. Weeds are out of control."

I must agree that this has been a lackluster season, even with the greenhouse. I know some people who lost their entire garden to heavy rain and blight, so I guess I should be thankful for what I did manage to grow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Seed starting

With summer's end approaching I will be starting to grow lettuce in the greenhouse. To lessen the chance of bolting I have selected only seeds that can tolerate some degree of heat.

We just received some seed I have been trying to get for some time, Mignonette Bronze. The description reads as follows:

Mignonette Bronze
60 days. Excellent for hot and tropical weather, slow to bolt, frilled leaves, bronze-green heads. A superb type for the hot parts of the country, this heirloom was introduced in 1898.

To start the seeds I place them moist paper towels until the seed coat splits and the radicle emerges. At that point, I use a chop stick to make small holes in Oasis Horticubes, and using tweezers I gently place the seedling in the hole and "tuck it in" to develop.

As you can see by the photo I plant more than one seedling in each cube. When the second set of true leaves develop I cut them apart with a razor knife and plant them in the ebb and flow systems.

I thought I would give the Sure To Grow cubes one last try and planted six Green Ice lettuce seeds in them. They are in the six cubes on the bottom, and I took the photo just before I pitched them in the trash. My batting average with these cubes is 100%, that is 100% failures. So far I have not managed to grow a single plant in these cubes.

The only two cucumber seeds that managed to emerge from the Sure To Grow cubes perished after they were planted in the AutoPots. They appear to have dried out due to the coco coir and perlite drawing the moisture out of them, however the seeds planted in rockwool are well on their way.

Although the Sure To Grow folks claim to have two or three hundred happy growers using their product, there does not seem to be testimonials online to verify that claim. When the trash collector leaves on Monday he will be taking the Sure To Grow samples with him to the land fill.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I am spoiled, but there is no comparison

I am about two weeks from harvesting another batch of chard and I was planning on starting another fifteen or twenty plants until this morning. My plan changed when my wife announced that one of her friends told her that a farm in Kinderhook, NY had pick your own chard for $1.25 per pound. We all know how ladies are when they are on the scent of a bargain, so I thought discretion is the better part of valor and said sure let's go.

I was not impressed with the place at all. When you arrive they give you what they call a "map" and list of vegetables that can be picked, after that you are on your own.

We could not find the swiss chard so I went back to entrance and told them I was having difficulty finding it. The man said "did you see the tomatoes?" I replied that I had, and he said that the chard was before the tomatoes. Then he said "there are only a few rows and you have to look for it because the weeds are higher than the chard."

I thought: this does not sound good! Well, we found the chard right where he said it would be, but it is nowhere near where the map shows it should be. They must be handing out last year's maps to save money.

To make a long story short; we picked about fifteen pounds of chard. I have never seen field grown chard, and I thought it looked pretty awful compared to mine. We had some for dinner and it was tough, stringy and bitter. My wife looks at the bright side and says it will taste better in January. For my part, when this is gone, it will be the last batch of field grown chard I intend to eat, ever.

I would wager that you could look through all 300 feet of their chard and not find one perfect plant, and, that you could look at every plant of my chard and not find one imperfection.

And, there is no comparison when it comes to the difference in taste and texture. Commercially growing chard hydroponically may not be economically practical, and that is a pity, as few will ever get to enjoy it as we have.

If you are into hydroponics you should consider growing a batch of chard. It grows quickly and requires minimum care.

My next greenhouse experiment will be hydroponic cabbage. I am not crazy about cabbage, however I could never grow it in my garden because of insect damage, so I am determined to finally grow one.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

LED grow lamp used for for supplemental lighting

It appears that our cool cloudy summer is going continue into August, so I decided to add some supplemental lighting for the swiss chard.

The low wattage LED grow lamp has been suspended six to eight inches above the plants and a timer turns the lights on at 7 pm and off at 12 am. In the morning the light is turned on at 6 am and I remove the light when I open the greenhouse for the day.

I am not sure what, if any, effect it is having on the chard, however it really makes the greenhouse look like the Twilight Zone at night.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Built in obsolescence?

The very first hydroponic system we purchased was Emily's Garden. We were looking for something basic to get us started, and this system seemed ideal.

Over the years I have progressed to more active systems, however from time to time I would use the Emily's Garden, particularly for larger plants.

A few months ago my reservoir began leaking from a crack that developed at the drain grommet. It was not from any damage that I caused, it was a simple case of fatigue, as the plastic is thin and fairly brittle. Understandably, I was disappointed, as the system cost about eighty dollars when new, and it had not been in continuous use since I owned it.

After measuring the cover I headed off to a local department store to locate a suitable container to serve as a reservoir. Fortunately I found a storage container the exact size of the cover. After applying a coat of green paint to prevent algae I installed a top hat grommet and drain tube.

This replacement reservoir is made of thicker plastic, which is more pliable than the original, and I am willing to bet that it is going to last much much longer.

I paid less than five dollars for the storage container and it is more durable than the original. This incident makes me wonder if this was a case of planned obsolescence on the part of the manufacturer.

The rebuilt unit is pictured above growing six dwarf tomato plants.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tiny Tim becomes Baby Huey

The Tiny Tim tomato plants have far exceeded their predicted growth height, which according to the seed package would be ten inches if grown in pots.

When I measured them two days ago, the larger of the two plants was 35" tall, and it still appears to be growing.

Not having grown this variety before I am not familiar with the growth pattern, however, the plants could simply be leggy from lack of light. We have just suffered through the wettest July on record, EVER!

Next season's cucumber and tomato seeds have already been ordered, and I will be growing only varieties intended to be grown under glass.