Friday, February 26, 2010

Another interesting blossom

Somewhere I read that a healthy calendula plant could have as many as five flowers open simultaneously. Just prior to taking this photo I removed six blossoms for a bouquet for my wife, and if I counted correctly this specimen had at least twenty one.

In addition to being edible I found that the plant is a virtual pharmacy. This quote is from the site More Than Alive:

Excerpts from Practical Herbalism

Calendula is a remedy long used throughout Europe and the Americas for wound healing and ulcer treatments. Culpeper speaks of the flowers, either fresh or dried as being “much used in possets, broth, and drink as a comforter of the heart and spirits, and to expel any malignant or pestilential quality which might annoy them.” Ellingwood recommend it for varicose veins, chronic ulcers, capillary, engorgement, hepatic and splenic congestion, recent wounds and open sores, and severe burns. Calendula petals have often been used to add color and flavor to breads, soups, pickles, and salad oils.

Internal Usages:

  • Bleeding, Hemorrhoids
  • Cramps
  • Fever
  • Hemorrhage
  • Measles
  • Skin Eruptions, Fungal Conditions
  • Ulcers, Digestive Inflammation
  • External Usages:

  • Bee Stings, Insect Bites
  • Earache
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Sinus Lavage
  • Skin Diseases, Eczema, Psoriasis
  • Sunburn, Burns, Scalds, Ulcerations
  • Vaginal Discharge
  • Varicose Veins
  • Wash wounds
  • Wounds, Abrasions
  • Special Considerations:

    Do not confuse this plant with the more common garden Marigold, French Marigold, or Tagetes.


    Calendula is one of the best herbs for treating local skin problems. It may be used safely wherever there is an inflammation on the skin, whether due to infection or physical damage. It may be used for any external bleeding or wounds, bruising, or strains. It will also be of benefit in slow-healing wounds and skin ulcers. A very useful anti-septic ointment can be made by combining it with Comfrey root, Oregon Grape Root and Myrrh.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Scarlet Starlet

    Scarlet Starlet is the name given to this marigold cultivar. For whatever reason I had a very difficult time getting these seeds to germinate, however it was worth the effort.

    After the blossom opened I decided to look for a photograph online to compare to my plant. While performing my search I came across a history of marigolds, and found it very interesting. Who would have believed that the earliest known uses for them was to cure hiccups and being struck by lighting?

    For other history buffs who might be interested here is the link:

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Home grown lettuce, for sure!

    This afternoon while having lunch my wife commented that home grown lettuce was so much better than supermarket lettuce. The thought occurred to me that you can not get more home grown than what I grow in the basement!

    The photo shows this week's harvest from one of my modified aeroponic systems that was grown using the 90 watt LED. The system only holds six 4" net pots, however, it produces enough lettuce to just about fill a five gallon container. The crop included several varieties with mixed textures and colors, and prior to bagging the lettuce we mixed them together. Even with several of my systems not operating we have more greens than we can possibly use, so we will be sharing our harvest with my son and his family.

    Today I finally decided to try the nutrients that I purchased at the greenhouse supply company last summer. The challenge was to determine the ratios to fit my requirements. The instructions read: "For Professional Use Only", and they would be fine if I were mixing an ocean of nutrients.

    After weighing two pounds each of the nutrients and calcium nitrate I made a concentrate of each in one gallon jugs. To a full five gallon bucket of water I added my standard dilution of epsom salt, 1.5 oz. each of the concentrates, and crossed my fingers.

    I was hoping to achieve a TDS reading between 750 and 800, and the reading was 800, with a pH of 6.5. Perfect!!

    Anyone who is into hydroponic growing should really investigate dry nutrients, unless cost is not important to them. Consider that only a tiny fraction of the weight of the premixed nutrients is the nutrients themselves, and you are paying to ship all that water from the supplier to the dealer. That is almost a dumb as buying bottled water.

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Harvesting lettuce

    The plants growing in this ebb and flow system are being grown in 3" regular square plastic pots. I had been using 4" net pots for all my systems, but I decided to try the regular small pots in the ebb and flow systems.

    I am making this change because the square pots allow better space utilization in the rectangular tubs. As the ebb and flow systems flood for fifteen minute cycles, the pots perform just as well as net pots in these systems. Additionally, they are a third to half the cost of net pots.

    The plants in the photo were placed in the tub as seedlings, and have not been removed from the system. It is apparent from the photo that they are tightly packed in the system, however, they are not affected in the least.

    These plants are being readied for harvest, with the reservoir containing Flora Kleen diluted to 2 tablespoons per five gallons of water. I have noticed that plants will continue to grow for some time while being flushed, so I will let them stay in this system, and harvest each individual plant as needed. I expect that the greens will last for quite sometime using this approach.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Bughatti lettuce

    Bughatti, described as a red oak leaved lettuce which is extremely slow to bolt, is another relatively obscure variety I have grown recently.

    My experience indicates that Bughatti adapts very well to indoor hydroponic growing conditions.

    The seed companies are filling my mailbox with catalogs, and I continue to look for unusual varieties to grow. Several varieties are recommended for greenhouse growing, however, I have not found a single loose leaf variety that did not grow well hydroponically, either indoors, or in the greenhouse.

    I avoid heading varieties, as they simply take too long to develop, so I have no experience with them.

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    Storage bags

    A few weeks back I purchased a package of re-usable storage bags that are treated to absorb and remove ethylene gas to extend the storage life of produce and other items.

    Although I had my doubts, I find that they do exactly that. Bananas will begin to turn brown in just a day or so, but in one of these bags they actually retain their color for more than a week.

    We are using the bags for fruit and vegetables, and we are very satisfied with the performance of the bags.

    In addition to the bags we have purchased storage containers treated in a similar manner so we can keep our excess bounty fresh longer.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Just in time for Valentine's Day

    Today when recharging one of the ebb and flow systems I picked several flowers and placed them in a vase. Needless to say my wife was probably more pleased with receiving the flowers than she would have been with a batch of salad greens.

    The zinnias have been discarded, even though they were still producing buds. The plant has been growing since October, and it showed no sign of slowing down. However, it was extremely pot bound, and beginning to take up too much space.

    I have noticed that seasonal plants, that normally have a limited cycle when grown outdoors, continue long past their normal cycle when grown indoors, hydroponically, under artificial lighting.