Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A real mixed bag

The ebb and flow tub above contains a variety of plants all happily coexisting under the same growing conditions. The nutrient solution was changed today, and the current TDS is 740.

The crinkly lettuce that resembles endive is tango, and I can tell just by looking at it that it is going to be a do again, and again. The large burgundy lettuce in the rear center is midnight ruffles, the small burgundy lettuce in the center front is bugatti, directly in the center is a calundula, front left is a marigold named calypso and front right is a melampodium named showstar.

Although the lettuce and flowers have different requirements; I find that most plants are pretty adaptable, and will do their best to survive as best they can, given the conditions of their environment. The melampodium is showing slight signs of nitrogen deficiency, however it is setting flowers, and the new growth is dark green. The plant is obviously drawing nitrogen from the older lower leaves to supply the new growth, causing the lower leaves to turn slightly yellow. As long as it is growing and producing flowers I will just let is sputter along.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Japanese Chard

The fudanso umaina, or Japanese chard, is just about ready to harvest. According to the seed supplier it can be used when young as a salad green, or when mature like spinach.

Although it resembles regular chard it is a more compact plant. The seeds were purchased from Kitazawa Seed company, and this is what they have on their site regarding this variety:

"Umaina is a tender Japanese Chard. The leaves are deep green slightly waved and smooth. The mid-rib is pale green with short stalks. This variety is can withstand warm and cold temperatures and slow bolting. It is prepared like pak choi and very similar to spinach."

My only observation, as I have not eaten it yet, is that it is easy to grow and adapts well to hydroponics.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wide spectrum UFO LED trial

After having decided to try the wide spectrum UFO LED on plants that must flower to produce fruit; I will perform the test with two varieties of tomatoes, and Sarian strawberries grown from seed.

This unit is a 3rd. generation grow light, and differs from the other unit as it also contains white full spectrum LEDs in addition to the red and blue.

I am using a 50% mixture of coir and perlite for all of these plants and, initially, a mild general purpose nutrient mixture.

When the plants are more developed I will replant the full size tomato plant in an AutoPot using coir and perlite for the medium. At that point I will only have that plant under the wide spectrum LED. The totem tomato, which is dwarf, and the strawberries, will be grown in self watering containers under the remaining LED.

At least that is my plan, and again, time will tell.....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mixing tub flood and drain system

As the greenhouse is closed for the winter I decided to refurbish my large ebb and flow system while it sits idle.

For quite sometime I have been unhappy with the reservoir under the tray, and I think I have finally found the ideal reservoir. All this time it was in the back of my pickup truck serving as a storage box.

The upper tray is a large rubber mixing tub that can be sourced from Tractor Supply or Home Depot. Pretty much any container that will support the tray can serve as a reservoir. A small pump from Harbor Freight Tools and a few fittings will complete the system.

This large system will comfortably hold about 30 4" net pots, and it will last for many years. A commercially built system this large would cost hundreds of dollars, however, I think I may have less than fifty dollars invested in my system.

I have seen posts on gardening forums where people think that hydroponics is expensive in terms of equipment and nutrients. By using a little ingenuity and common sense; as the old
George and Ira Gershwin tune went: It ain't necessarily so...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Almost harvest time

After only nineteen days in the modified aeroponic system the Slo-Bolt lettuce is at the point that I can begin harvesting the outer leaves.

The plants in the aeroponic system under the UFO LED were transplanted a few days after these plants, but they are almost as large. Both systems produce excellent results, however, the UFO LED is much more energy efficient than the compact fluorescent. I can not imagine anyone growing indoors using a 400 or 500 watt HPS system.

Even though I am not fully utilizing all of my systems, I am producing all the table greens we can use, and then some. So, I am really thinking of growing a full size tomato plant using the 4th. generation UFO LED that I just received.

Just in case I decide to proceed, I have started seeds that I found among my seed stash. They are for a determinate plant that only grows 30" tall, and produces 3" fruit. The local markets are now charging $2.49 per pound for tomatoes, and they are not all that good.

At the very least, growing a tomato will satisfy my curiosity as to how the UFO LED will perform with a flowering plant.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Food for the soul

Mostly my indoor gardening is focused on lettuce and table greens, however during our bleak New York winter I like to grow a few flowers to brighten our dreary days. The above photo is my first bloom of the 2009 season, Zinnia, thumbelina.

In addition to the zinnia I have calendula, pot marigold, melampodium and a Sarian strawberry underway. A dozen bulbs are also being forced in some used coir and perlite, and I expect them to be in bloom in early January when they will be most appreciated.

No special attention is given to the flowers, as I just place them in any ebb and flow system that has space to spare. They seem to adapt and grow in whatever conditions are prevailing. Most likely that is due to pure dumb luck......

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hydroponic Fudanso Umaina

Being a vegetarian no one would ever call me a galloping gourmet when it comes to my diet, however there are not too many vegetables I do not like, and I am always open to try a new vegetable.

Today I planted the Fudanso Umaina in an ebb and flow system, and hopefully we will like it. It is supposed to be a Japanese version of chard, but the seedlings look slightly more squat and stubby than regular chard.

After this experiment I will be trying Kyoto Mizuna, Saltwort, Tatsoi, and Bughatti lettuce, and I doubt that any of these are available unless you grow them yourself. Like always, time will tell....