Friday, December 31, 2010

Three weeks into my Spacemaster cucumber grow

The time lapse video above records five days growth of the Spacemaster cucumber plant under the 90 watt red/blue/white LED.

I know the lighting looks weird, but that is the nature of the beast. At the very least the video confirms the rate of growth possible using LED technology. When I first positioned the camera, I set the height of the light at what I thought was appropriate for a few days growth. I had to raise the light twice during the five day period, as the plant was growing much more quickly than I expected. Even doing that, the plant grew right out of the field of view, and I could not reposition the camera without ruining the video.

My next attempt at time lapse photography will be, if possible, to capture the transformation of a flower bud into a full grown cucumber.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dutch Winter Brown Lettuce

Thomas Jefferson apparently liked this variety of lettuce, as he planted it twenty seven times in his winter garden at Monticello.

The very idea of brown lettuce did not seem so appealing when I first read about this variety, however, I thought I would give it a try anyway. I sort of expected it to look like a cow pie, and it is not that far off. I will, though, give it the benefit of the doubt, grow it to maturity, and taste it. Hopefully, I will be pleasantly surprised.

No matter how it tastes, preserving the germplasm of these rare heirloom varieties makes them worth growing. If we don't grow them, and save seeds, they will be lost, and lost forever.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Maintaing production

After harvesting the red salad bowl lettuce the system has been replanted with Vivian and Slo-Bolt lettuce.

From experience I have learned to moisten the expanded clay pellets prior to transplanting the seedlings. Also, I pour a small amount of nutrient through the pot immediately after placing the seedling into the pot. This procedure prevents wilting caused by being transplanted, and the seedlings recover quickly.

This batch should be ready to begin picking in three to four weeks.

Holiday Harvest

The crop of red salad bowl that I planted for the holiday was harvested today; there were a dozen or more plants that yielded three bags of lettuce. I would imagine that finding salad bowl anywhere in a supermarket would be nearly impossible, in this hemisphere, on Christmas Eve.

Vivian and slo-bolt seedlings were placed into the system immediately to maintain continuous production.

My Spacemaster cucumber grow is into week two and is progressing very well. The plants are a very healthy green and very compact. Presently I am running at 950 ppm with the pH at 6. As soon as the plant begins producing male flowers I will add more PK to the mixture. It will be interesting to see how long it takes until the plant begins to produce male flowers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Six days into the Spacemaster grow

The cucumber seedlings are still in the root development stage, but have managed to add a few more true leaves.

It was necessary to turn off the LED to get an idea of the true color of the plant, as it appears to be almost black when the light is on. It is, in fact, a very deep healthy green, and very compact. So far, so good.

I ordered a different variety for the greenhouse next spring, and if I had the seeds in hand I would have tried these indoors rather than the Spacemaster.

These seeds were ordered from High Mowing Organic Seeds, and considering that they are for greenhouse growing, the price was very reasonable. Here is next year's variety:

"Organic H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber - Parthenocarpic plants produce fruit under stress and without pollinators, guaranteeing high yields in the field or under cover. Compact vines are multi-branching and will climb easily while small leaf size allows for easier fruit visibility when harvesting. Medium-sized fruits are smooth and tapered with white spines. Widely adapted for greenhouse or field. Works well in containers. Developed and released by the University of Arkansas in 1991. (Cucumis sativus)"

Although we liked the Telegraph Improved cucumbers that we grew last season, the plants were gigantic, with some leaves at least 18" across. This variety seems more appropriate for our small greenhouse.

Time will tell...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Trying Spacemaster Cucumbers indoors

We have been picking more salad greens than we can possibly use, so my wife suggested that I use a system to grow cucumbers.

Cucumbers are not my favorite plant to grow indoors, but to keep peace in the family I decided to oblige. My choice was: Spacemaster cucumbers, which are supposed to be: "
Great for small areas. Short,hardy vines. Slender,dark green fruits, 7 ½" long. 56 days."

To grow them I will be using my home built autopot containing a 50/50 mixture of coir and agricultural perlite. The lighting is a 90 watt red/blue/white LED with a photoperiod of 16 hours. I have added a valve to the feed line to control nutrient flow during system maintenance. The valve can be seen in the lower right corner of the photo above.

By the time the cucumbers have run their course I will most likely leave the setup, and switch to starting annuals for the outdoor garden and greenhouse.

This variety will require hand pollination, however, Ava loves to pollinate cucumber flowers, so I will delegate that chore to her....

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Results of Planning Ahead post of 11/09/2010

The seeds I began germinating on my November 9, 2010 post have been planted and are entering the vegetative stage.

The above photo shows two of each variety growing in a modified aeroponic system using a 90 watt red/blue/orange LED light.

Presently, I have three different variations of LED grow lamps: red/blue, red/blue/white and red/blue/orange. In my opinion there is no difference in the performance of these lights; each variation performs equally as well as the others.

Also, today I picked another 30 ounces of leaf lettuce, which has a market value of about $24.

Monday, December 6, 2010

LED grow lamp results

Cassandra is the variety of lettuce pictured above and it is described as follows:

"A superb quality, pale green butterhead of excellent flavour, with well-filled voluminous hearts. Lettuce Cassandra is resistant to most races of downy mildew and Lettuce Mosaic Virus. Ideal for growing all year round, especially summer and autumn outdoors. Harvest: 10-12 weeks from sowing. Very easy to grow."

I found it to be all of the above, except it does have a slight tendency toward tip burn. As my test grow only took 6 weeks from seed start to salad, the tip burn may be associated with the rapid growth and calcium not getting to the tips. In our opinion, the tender butter colored interiors of the heads make it well worth growing.

Six plants were placed in a modified aeroponic unit on 11/8/2010 using a 90 watt red/blue LED with a photoperiod of 16 hours, and in less than four full weeks the plants were ready to harvest.

Out of curiosity I asked my wife to price specialty lettuce at the local market, and when she returned she said that specialty lettuce was being sold for $3.99 for 5 ounces. After trimming, the above plant yielded 7.5 ounces, or to put it another way, the market value of the produce was $5.98. As there are six pots in the system, the value of the harvest is in excess of $35.00.

To continue the economic evaluation; I estimate the cost to run the LED for four weeks at about $3.00. The nutrients and seeds I estimate at well under a dollar, so we have $31.00 in produce for basically nothing but a little effort.

The book I am reading says that commercial growers may use as many as six different pesticides when growing lettuce. Consider that the EPA has deemed each of them as being safe. Then, consider that the EPA has no idea of the synergistic effect of these six chemicals on your body.

I have to believe our little effort is being rewarded, both economically, and in terms of our health.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Getting festive

Seeing as how it is getting closer to Christmas I thought my wife would like to have something a little more in line with the spirit of the season as part of our Christmas dinner.

After looking through my seed stash I decided on red salad bowl lettuce, based on its colors and tender delicate texture.

I am thinking that Martha Stewart herself would like to serve this at her holiday table.