Sunday, November 29, 2009

Indoor Swiss Chard

Today I picked a good size batch of Swiss Chard that has been growing in an ebb and flow system under the T5 fluorescent lights. There is enough chard for at least two meals, and the quality is absolutely incredible.

The chard was prepared immediately after picking, as chard is extremely perishable, and it begins losing some of its nutrient value shortly after being picked.

In addition to the chard; in the past week I have picked about ten large lettuce plants. The value of the plants that I have been able to grow offsets the additional cost that the lighting adds to our utility bill.

In a previous post I wrote that I would not be growing chard indoors again, however, because we enjoy it so much, I am going to waffle and grow another batch.

I have planted a variety from Japan called fudanso umaina, and I doubt that few people this side of the international dateline have ever heard of it, much less eaten it. That is another benefit of hydroponic growing, in that you can obtain seed to sample new vegetables much easier that you can obtain the vegetables.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A perfect indoor lettuce, Slo-Bolt

The above photo is Slobolt lettuce, which is quickly becoming my favorite variety for growing indoors under lights.

The description from the seed vendor reads as follows:

48 days. . Plant produces very flavorful lettuce even in hot weather! This is a very slow bolting variety. The outer leaves may be picked off as it grows. It has a delightful crispness and mild flavor. For use in greenhouse growing and outdoor planting.

I might add that it germinates quickly, and really thrives when grown hydroponically.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

UFO LED in use

The first batch of lettuce was harvested today for our Thanksgiving meal, and another batch of Slo-Bolt has been started.

After cleaning the system I installed a top hat grommet and added an airstone to the reservoir. Additionally, I installed reflective metallized film around the stand. The UFO LED is suspended by adjustable hangers 12 inches above the plants, and it will be raised as the plants progress. The light intensity at plant level measures just under 4,000 foot candles at this height.

Adjacent to this unit there is a unit that is identical in all respects, with the exception of the lighting system. The lighting system for the adjacent unit is a 150 watt compact fluorescent. At plant level the foot candle reading is about 3200 foot candles. How a 90 watt LED can produce a higher light level reading than a 150 watt fluorescent beats the heck out of me.......

In any event, this should be an interesting trial.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another crop started

The modified aeroponic system has been activated and planted with Slo-Bolt lettuce, and in three or four weeks there will be enough growth to allow harvesting the outer leaves.

It occurred to me that I failed it mention in the video that the unit has a fill drain tube on the side, and an opening on top that may also be used to add nutrients. Although the fill drain tube is not critical, it makes servicing the system much easier. It should almost go without saying that each hydroponic system needs a drain tube.

I use the same fittings that I use on the ebb and flow systems, and interchange them when a unit is not being used. The fill drain tube can also be used to draw a few ounces of nutrients from the system for testing, and I calibrate mine to be used as a fluid level indicator.

Modified aeroponic growing system

This short video demonstrates what I call my modified aeroponic growing system. It was built from a tote that I purchased at Wal-Mart, a small pump, a piece of PVC pipe with end caps, and some airline tubing. The net cups are standard at any hydroponic dealer site, and may be available at some Home Depot garden centers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Merlot lettuce

The plants in the above photo are Merlot lettuce that has been growing in an ebb and flow system under T5 lights in the basement. Merlot is supposed to be: "The very darkest of all reds for salad, and very highest in antioxidant anthocyanins." The lettuce you purchase in your produce section is most likely grown for its commercial productivity, rather than its health benefits. Just another reason to consider if you are thinking of growing your own.

We have had an unusual period of sunny mild weather in upstate New York recently, and that has allowed me to place several plants in the greenhouse each day to take advantage of four or five hours of natural light.

I find that although the plants grow fine under the fluorescent lighting, Merlot, and other pigmented lettuce, will obtain much more intense coloration if they are given high levels of sunlight. Not that color has any effect on the taste of the lettuce, but it certainly adds some eye appeal.

This variety almost looks as attractive as a house plant, and is almost too attractive to pick. Almost, but not quite.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

UFO LED + Aerospring = Explosive Growth

The plants have been under the UFO LED in my homebrewed aerospring for three weeks now and I will begin to harvest the outer leaves today.

My original objective was to determine if the UFO LED could be used to grow anything to completion. To say that I am amazed would be an understatement at this point. The growth in only three weeks has been phenomenal!

My next objective is to build another identical setup, and I expect that the two systems will economically provide an almost unlimited supply of fresh greens.

This method of growing surely must be economically viable for commercial use, and I would expect that someday it will be implemented.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Growing swiss chard under lights

Although the temperatures have been slightly above normal during the day I have decided to close the greenhouse for the season and begin indoor growing.

The chard needs a few more weeks before it is ready to harvest, and it is now happily growing under the T5 lights in an ebb and flow system.

I have, however, changed my thinking on growing chard and beets indoors, and I will concentrate on lettuce, flowers, and a few herbs.

A big factor in my decision regarding chard and beets is the space that is required. When you consider that the entire crop in an ebb and flow system really only provides enough chard for one or two meals after it has been cooked; it is not worth the trade in prime indoor space. In the same space I can grow enough fresh lettuce for more than a dozen salads, and we really enjoy the lettuce that we grow. So, it becomes a simple case of space economics.

Last evening our dinner included a salad of French butterhead lettuce from the greenhouse, and it was SO GOOD that it was a big factor in my making the decision regarding concentrating on salad greens during the winter.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Growing lettuce indoors under lights

The romaine lettuce placed in the modified aeroponic system on October 24, 2009 is doing great.

As much as I like the greenhouse, I feel that growing indoors affords much better control over growing conditions.
Having grown lettuce indoors for a number of years I can pretty much predict the outcome.

Frequently I visit gardening forums to view the posts, and in particular the posts concerning indoor gardening. I read post after post asking for help controlling all sorts of problems that can be attributed to growing in soil.

Honestly, if the only way I could garden was by using soil, I would not even bother.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

UFO LED Evaluation

This photo records the progress of the lettuce in the aerospring unit using the 90 watt UFO LED since October 20, 2009. The growth in just two weeks has been amazing, and although I could begin harvesting leaves from the plants, I will let them grow for one more week before doing so.

This unit is a veritable lettuce machine which requires very little maintenance. In keeping with my usual routine I have changed the nutrients at two week intervals, but other than that, it simply chugs along unattended.

Now I am regretting that I have waited so long to test the aerospring unit.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nine months of gardening

Even though November has officially arrived I have decided to continue to use the greenhouse. If it gets to the point that the heater is running frequently, I will move the remaining plants indoors and finish them in the grow room.

Today it is cloudy bright, and with the vents open the temperature in the greenhouse is in sixties. Yesterday the temperature was approaching the eighty degree mark with both the vents and the door open. The extended weather forecast indicates it may be possible to continue for awhile.

The lettuce is receiving about four hours of supplemental lighting, however, the beets and chard are not, and they do not seem to be slowing down.

At this point there is no doubt that there will be plenty of green produce for Thanksgiving Dinner.