Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 30, 2011 journal

The new six band flower series light has been installed in the second tent, however, both tents are sitting idle awaiting the tomato and pepper seedlings. I estimate it will be at least three or four weeks before the seedlings are large enough to be transplanted into autopots.

Slowly but surely I have been replacing all of the fluorescent lights with LEDs, and the addition of the new six band light allowed me to replace the 125 watt fluorescent light in the grow chamber with the 90 watt red/blue that I had been using in one of the tents.

The only remaining fluorescent light is the six tube Pioneer T5 light in the grow chamber. When it becomes necessary to replace the tubes in that light, I will purchase a large LED rather than replace the tubes. At that point, I will finally be gardening using strictly LED lighting

The above photo shows Fordhook Giant chard that has been growing under the LED for about a week. Even at this stage I can tell that there is an improvement over using the 125 CFL light.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 21, 2011 journal

Apparently, adding the heaters to the tents was one of my better ideas, as the few degrees of additional heat has kick started the tomatoes into ripening. Also, I thought it as being appropriate that they are ripening on the first day of winter.

As the Balcony Hybrid is a determinate variety, its life cycle will be over soon, so replacement seedlings are being grown to replace the plant. I will be growing two Mountain Princess plants in the tent this time, and, I am only going to allow one or two trusses to set fruit on each plant. Additionally, when fruit has set, I will increase the nutrient strength to slightly above normal in an effort to increase fruit size.

In the adjoining tent I plan on growing Giant Marconi peppers, and I am looking forward to trying them under the six band flower series LED by Pro LED Systems.

The bottom photo shows a system planted with red salad bowl and Australian yellow leaf lettuce that is coming along nicely. The beet greens have been replaced by Fordhook chard, as we are just not eating as much salad during the winter and I did not want the system to sit idle.

Friday, December 16, 2011

December 16, 2011 journal

Our Calendula is blooming! Just having a few flowers around during the winter sure helps to dispel the winter blues.

The Mountain Princess tomatoes and Giant Marconi pepper seeds have not only sprouted, but are developing their first true leaves. Tomorrow, I will plant the seedlings in four inch pots, in coir and perlite, so they can develop for two or three weeks.

My plan is to use Peters Professional nutrients, with a TDS of about 1700, for both the peppers and tomatoes. That level is slightly high for peppers, and slightly low for tomatoes, however, I do not think it will cause a problem. I just prefer not to have to service two reservoirs, if possible.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 14, 2011 journal

Four replacement Little Leaf cucumber seedlings have been replanted into autopots. Two will be grown using a red/blue 90 watt LED light, and two will be grown using a red/blue/white 90 watt LED. I do not expect to see any appreciable difference in the performance of these lights. And, I do not expect to see any cucumbers until around Valentine's day. (keeping my fingers crossed)

I have been noticing that the Balcony Hybrid tomatoes in the tent are not making much progress. There are a lot of green tomatoes, and they seem to be getting larger, slowly, however, there is no sign of any of them ripening anytime soon.

Winter is upon us in upstate New York; the temperature in the tent is averaging in the mid sixties during the day, and dropping to the mid fifties during the night. According to the Ohio State interactive model, maturing tomatoes should have a daytime temperature between 72 and 75 degrees. I am convinced that the reason that growth has slowed to a trickle is the lack of warmth. After all, tomatoes, like cucumbers and peppers, are warm season crops. I had thought that the lights would provide sufficient heat during the day, but, being LEDs, they generate little heat.

In search of an inexpensive means of adding heat to the tents; I wandered around Wally World looking for SMALL fan forced electric heaters. The units I selected cost under fifteen dollars, and seem to be exactly what I need. They have a thermostat, and power selections of 600, 900 and 1500 watts. Additionally, they have a fan only setting, which will allow me to remove the small circulation fans I currently have in the tents.

Not being too concerned about the nighttime temperature, I connected the heaters to the timer circuit controlling the lights. Using the lowest, 600 watt, setting, I adjusted the thermostat to 75 degrees. A remote thermometer has been placed in the tent with the tomatoes, and the temperature is now averaging between 70 and 77 degrees, which is about ideal. The relative humidity is also well within the acceptable range, so, hopefully, I will see an increase in growth rate soon.

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 9, 2011 journal

The Tetra dill has grown very well indoors in the ebb and flow system. There are a few large flower clusters forming, and I am going to let them go so I can collect and save the seeds. The only problem I have with growing dill; is that the constant smell indoors can make you hungry.

In the last few days I have started seeds for the Mountain Princess tomatoes, Giant Marconi peppers and Fordhook Giant chard. Also, I have transplanted Red Salad Bowl lettuce into an ebb and flow system.

The tomatoes on the Balcony Hybrid are starting to get larger, which was my objective when I removed many of the blossoming branches.

My plan for the Mountain Princess tomatoes is to grow two plants in the tent, however, I plan on only allowing one or two trusses to set on each plant. My thinking is by doing so I will force the plants to produce much larger fruit than they would if I let more trusses set.

Replacement cucumber seedlings are now growing under a red/blue/white LED. This batch will be raised using the standard nutrients that I use in the greenhouse.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6, 2011 journal

We harvested an ebb and flow system containing twelve plants of Green Ice lettuce today. I did not weigh the yield, however, it was enough to fill a 1.25 gallon bag.

I have no idea of how much a comparable amount of greens would cost at the market, as we no longer bother to check. What is important is the satisfaction I get from indoor growing, and, spending quality time with Ava, teaching her to garden.

This afternoon she opened the bottom of the tent with the tomato plant, stuck her head inside, and called out: "everything is OK Pop, the temperature is perfect, and the CO2 is working." Not too bad for a four year old child.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 4, 2011 journal

The Pinwheel Zinnia we planted to defy Mother Nature is blooming. Ava and I have been keeping it a secret so she can surprise her grandmother, who will naturally make a huge fuss when Ava gives her the flower.

The beet greens are ready and can be picked at anytime, however, I will not pick them until a few hours prior to cooking. Doing so will ensure that they have their best flavor and nutritional value when prepared.

This variety of beet, Early Wonder, is the best cultivar I have found yet for growing hydroponically indoors. All of the plants are of uniform size and are blemish free.

Monday, November 28, 2011

November 28, 2011 journal

I thought Ava would really enjoy watching the wonder of a flower opening, so I set up a time lapse camera to
, hopefully, record the opening of our Pinwheel Zinnia blossom.

As a matter of fact, I am looking forward to seeing how this turns out myself. I guess I am still a kid at heart, but aren't we all?

I am already planning my next tent grows, so I have ordered seeds for Mountain Princess tomatoes, and I will also be trying Giant Marconi peppers. This time I will use different nutrient mixtures for the plants.

The reason I picked the tomato variety is because it can be grown in a container, and, it has full sized fruit. These should be interesting also.

Organic Mountain Princess Tomato - HEIRLOOM Mountain sweet goodness! Grown for generations in the Monongahela National Forest region of West Virginia. Fruits are 8-10 oz, orange-red and perfectly round with a mild tomato flavor. Very productive plants bear quick and early. Works well in containers. A customer favorite for six pack sales. Determinate(Lycopersicon esculentum)

Days to maturity:68 days

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27, 2011 journal

A dozen seedlings of Galactic lettuce were planted in an ebb and flow system today. The TDS was 982 with a pH of 6.0, and I added 15 ml of hydrogen peroxide to the nutrients for added oxygen.

More and more I am leaning toward growing just leaf and romaine varieties of lettuce. Butterhead varieties tend toward tip burn under my growing conditions, and head lettuce is a waste of time, as it just takes too long.

The cucumbers are giving me a hard time, as after I switched to the flower/bloom nutrients, the plants completely stopped growing. I had five cucumbers set, and the plants aborted all but one cucumber.

I have not used any commercial hydroponic nutrients for several years, following a thirty percent increase in pricing by General Hydroponics. I have brewed my own since then, and have been very happy with the results. However, last fall someone gave me all of their hydroponic equipment and supplies, including nutrients. I tried using something called Liquid Earth on the cucumbers and tomatoes. Although the tomatoes are doing fine with the Liquid Earth, the cucumbers are now struggling.

I have switched the cucumbers to my normal nutrients, and if the plants do not respond quickly I will start new plants.

As I stated in a previous post; growing cucumbers indoors can be a humbling experience.

And in summary, the tomatoes under the Six Band Flower series light are producing so many blooms that I have begun removing some of the new budding branches in an effort to begin the ripening process. This is surely one prolific plant!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hydroponic beet greens

The beets in the above photo are just under four weeks from seed, and I expect that we will harvest them within two weeks.

I have found that this variety, Early Wonder, is an excellent choice for beet greens. Although the recommended TDS level for beets is 1260 - 3500, my TDS is about 830, and the beets do just fine at that level.

Going forward, I plan on using one ebb and flow system just for beets, chard and oriental greens. Also, as I plan to begin using my new six band flower series light soon, I will be growing these greens using a red/blue/white LED,rather than the CFL light I am currently using.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 19, 2011 journal

As an alternative to removing blossom bearing branches from the top of the plant, I decided to try to raise the light to the maximum height that I could attain.

To do this, I removed the adjustable plant hangers that I had been using to suspend the light; then attached caribiners to the light rails. The light was attached directly to the caribiners, with the hanging straps doubled.

Now, the light is 51" from the floor, and the top of the plant is 16" from the light. At this distance, the reading is still in excess of 5,000 footcandles.

This is as high as the light can ever be, but, that is fine with me, as I never expected to be growing a plant this large indoors anyway.

Also, today I terminated the trial of growing cucumbers in the modified aeroponic unit. The plants were growing fine, however, I could no longer stand looking at the mess they were making. It created such a jungle, that Ava was using the plants as an alien planet for her Star Wars figures to explore.

I replaced the plants with two little leaf seedlings planted in AutoPots, and I am sure Ava will come up with an appropriate scenario for using this planter on Monday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 16, 2011 journal

The Balcony Hybrid tomato is now eight weeks old, and it is amazing how much fruit this plant is it producing.

I am finding that growing in the tents is actually easier than growing in the greenhouse, as conditions are pretty constant, and just about perfect for any warm season crop. It is so easy in fact, that if I had a very large reservoir, I could start the plants and completely ignore them for weeks at a time. Gravity feeds the nutrients, and timers control the lights and ventilation, so there is really nothing for me to do, other than tap the trusses occasionally for pollination.

Yesterday, I started seeds for a variety of red lettuce called Galactic. It has become kind of a tradition that we have red lettuce with our Christmas meal, and I expect that this batch will be ready just about in time for the holiday.

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14, 2011 journal

I can tell by looking at the female flowers on the cucumber plants that this project is going to be a success! Large flowers, such as shown above, are a sure sign that the fruit is going to set.

For whatever reason, I have always had difficulty growing cucumbers indoors, now, it appears that my ship is about to come in. Even though the plants are still rather small, it looks like the first flush of cucumbers will be enough for a small batch of garlic dill pickles.

If you are into hydroponic growing, and you are looking for a challenge, I suggest you try to grow cucumbers indoors. Most likely you will find it to be a humbling experience.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13, 2011 journal

Today I planted a small Balcony Hybrid seedling in my revised homebuilt AutoPot. The size of the tray has been reduced to better match the size of the pot, and, hopefully, prevent any more overwatering of small plants.

I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find what I thought would be the perfect tray to use for this system. I walked the aisles of Home Depot and Wal-Mart looking for an idea, and all that time I had the perfect container at home. The container is, of all things, a shallow cat litter pan that I had been using to wash hydroton.

All in all, this may work out better than if both plants survived, as it appears that these plants produce a lot of tomatoes in a short period of time. There is exactly a two month difference in the age of the plants, so we may have fresh tomatoes over an extended period.

Additionally, I decided against using the 90 watt LED to light Ava's Aerogarden. The LED has been replaced with a 24" single tube fixture using a 6400K T5 bulb. In my opinion, this approach is equal to, or better than, using the Aerogarden bulbs. It is certainly less costly.

So, other than the unit itself, I have an operational system devoid of any Aerogarden supplies. The pods contain open cell foam used to weatherseal air conditioners, the nutrients are homebrewed from Wal-Mart plant food, epsom salt, and calcium nitrate, the light I have already mentioned.

Seed starting using foam in the pods is a little tricky, so if you plan to try it I will be happy to explain it, just place a request in the comments section.

Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11, 2011 journal

The Balcony Hybrid tomato plant has begun to set fruit while it continues to bloom profusely.

As the light was at the maximum height that the tent would permit, I had to improvise and double the suspension cables back on themselves to gain another few inches in height to accommodate the plant.
That said, being determinate, I doubt that the plant will get any higher. The bottom of the light is now forty inches above the floor of the tent, so I now know the maximum height of any plants that I can grow in the tent. The light is now seven inches above the plant, and the top of the canopy is receiving in excess of 5,000 footcandles of light.

One persistent comment that I have read concerning LED lighting is that it does not penetrate into the plant. Well, I took another reading four inches down from the top of the plant, and the reading was a respectable 3,000 footcandles.

I have had this note in my files for sometime, but I don't remember which school I borrowed it from:

"The connection is light intensity and photosynthesis .Tomato plants start to synthesize at around 200 foot candles and for normal growth, flowering and fruit setting they need a minimum of 500 preferably 1,000-2,000 foot candles of light.

Tomatoes require about 500-1000 footcandles of light for proper flowering and fruit set. However, the problem of winter needs to be considered. Tomatoes are also warm season plants. It could certainly get too cold for them in winter if they were near the windows, as required for their full amount of light.

I would suggest setting up some additional grow lights in the room to make up the difference in footcandles. I would also suggest making sure to heat the room to at least 60 degrees + for your warm season vegetables. With these conditions, you should be able to still enjoy your own garden food in your basement."

As for myself, I have no doubts about the advantages, and benefits, of growing with LED lighting. If someone tells you that they do not perform as advertised, either that person purchased an inferior light, or their gardening skills are not up to par.

I am so impressed with the six band flower series light from ProLED Systems that I have placed an order for an additional unit. Although my 90 watt LEDs are giving me good results, they don't compare to what I am seeing from the six band flower series light.

On a final note, regarding growing in the tent; when comparing the conditions in my tent against the Ohio State University's Interactive Model
, I find all of my conditions, except the EC level, indicate a success level of 95% to 100%. Their recommended EC level for my current conditions is in excess of 3100 micromhos/cm, however, I do not feel comfortable running the EC that high.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 6, 2011 journal

The cucumbers are now beginning to produce female flowers, and as the plants are parthocarpic it will not necessary to pollinate them.

This morning I found the Balcony Hybrid tomato plant beginning to lean. I guess I really should have provided support and pruned the plant sooner.

To support the plant I added bamboo sections around the main stem and reinforced them with wire ties. Additionally, I placed vine clips on the large fruit bearing branches and fastened them to the light rails with twine.

Some of the larger branches, those without flowers or fruit, were removed to lessen the burden on the supports.

To say that I am pleased with the performance of the six band flower series light by Pro LED Systems would be an understatement!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November 3, 2011 journal

The Dutch Winter Brown lettuce, show in the top photo, is entering the vegetative stage and I expect we will enjoying some of it with our Thanksgiving meal. This variety is truly a heirloom, as Thomas Jefferson, according to his journals, planted it in his gardens for many years.

It has become our custom to defy Mother Nature and include an annual flower with plantings during the fall and winter months. My choice this month is a pinwheel zinnia, which can be seen in the lower left corner of the container. As Ava loves pink, she has selected a Dianthus, Ipswitch Pink, and we have also started a Calendula, Sunshade, for additional color.

The cucumbers in the AutoPots are doing really well, however, there is still not a hint of a female flower. Out of curiosity I decided to let a few male flowers develop and open, thinking that that may hasten the process of fruit development. Still, I think that plants are smarter than people, and will not produce offspring until they can support them.

P.S. Later in the day I found a female flower!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ava's new garden

Today I resurrected an old Aerogarden unit that I had stored in the attic. I placed it there thinking that I would give it to Ava at some point in time.

My intention was to try the unit using LED lighting, rather than use the lamp housing and Aerogarden's bulbs. In my opinion, bulbs for these units are a limiting factor, as it is recommended that they be replaced every six months. The cost of a pair of bulbs for this unit is about twenty dollars; adding the price of bulbs to the price of their seeds, the cost of growing anything becomes rather steep. It is common knowledge that LEDs will last for several years, which makes me wonder why the Aerogarden folks did not elect to use them.

As soon as I opened the box I heard: "what's that Pop?" When I explained to Ava what it was, and what I was going to do, she said: "Can I have it?" Well, as that was my intention anyway, it is now Ava's new garden.

Right away she wanted to plant strawberries! I have planted strawberries from seed before, and they take FOREVER! With a little persuasion she settled on Flame lettuce, so we shaped some foam
air conditioner weatherseal to fit the pods, planted the seeds, added dilute nutrients, and fired it up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 1, 2011 journal

While my assistant harvested the rhubarb chard I was busy transplanting the Early Wonder beet seedlings into netpots. Although Ava is only four, she has at least two years experience in hydroponic gardening. She can pick up tiny seeds with her small fingers, and as her eyes can focus at incredibly close distances, she can plunk them into growing cubes faster than I can. I am considering raising her salary from five to eight cents an hour.

I am going to wear out the zipper on the tent looking at the Balcony Hybrid tomato plant as it flowering like mad. I have had the seeds for this variety for several years, but have never grown any, so I have no idea of what to expect other than what is says on the package.

A horizontal support has been provided for the cucumbers in the AutoPots, as they are getting too close to the light and I can not raise the light any higher. I am going to let them grow a short distance horizontally, and then point them downward again, kind of like an inverted U. Still, they are only producing male flowers. It beats me as to why a plant that does not need male flowers to set fruit would produce so many of them.

I can't help but think ahead of what I am going to grow next with the six band flower series light. Giant Marconi peppers would be my first choice, but using it with an active system, such as my modified aeroponic system is also an interesting possibility.

The folks at Pro LED Systems have developed a great product, and I wish them success in launching it in this difficult economic environment. To make matters more difficult, there are people purporting to be experts populating gardening forums that denigrate LED lighting, and in some instances all artificial lighting. I lifted this quote from a guy who calls himself Durgan at the Idigmygarden forum: "
artificial light leaves a lot to be desired, expensive and inadequate for most plants to produce other than a bit of vegetation or greens." On another forum, someone was pretending to have this vast knowledge of the physics of plant lighting and expounding why photons, produced by LED lighting, would not penetrate a plant, and therefore LED lighting was useless. The sad thing is that many of the people participating in the forums are new to hydroponic gardening and take this drivel as gospel.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30th journal

Today I transitioned the nutrients for the tomatoes and cucumbers, growing both in the AutoPots and modified aeroponic system, to the bloom/fruiting stage. The tomato plant has several fully developed flowers, and I have been tapping the trusses to pollinate them. I fully expect to see fruit forming on the tomato plant in a week or so, however, the cucumber plants are only producing male flowers, which I remove as soon as they form.

Yesterday, I changed the nutrients in the modified aeroponic system and removed two of the plants. It was a shame to destroy two beautiful plants, but there is simply not enough room for four plants. The roots are about eighteen inches in length and are dangling right in the reservoir, as well as being bathed by the pump, so growth is increasing rapidly. I expect that plants in the active modified aeroponic system will soon surpass the plants in the passive AutoPot systems. The problem being, that I have no idea of how I am going to support the plants in the modified aeroponic system. I may elect to just let them do their thing and wander wherever they please.

Also, I modified my homebuilt AutoPot and will be using a smaller tray. I guess I was so caught up in the level of fluid released, that I did not also consider the volume released. All in all, the overwatering problem turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I learned a valuable lesson.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good things from the garden

Ava and I frequently sing the Green Giant jingle while working, however, we have changed the words to: good things from the garden, garden in the basement, because, that is exactly what we have.

We will be harvesting this batch of Flame lettuce soon, and we have started a replacement batch of Green Ice lettuce just to add a little variety. Flame is really representative of the type of lettuce I really like, as it is tasty, tender and visually attractive.

The dill growing in the container is Tetra, sometimes known as Dukat. I have been looking for a compact variety to grow indoors, and this one fits the bill nicely.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Activities October 26, 2011

The rate of growth of the Balcony Hybrid tomato plant growing under the 6 band flower series light by Pro LED System is hard to believe. There are several trusses with flowers forming and some of the flowers are opening already. It is at the point that I must give some serious consideration to placing a support system around the perimeter of the plant.

On the other hand, the plant under the 90 watt red/blue/white LED is not doing well at all. The problem is not so much the light, as my home built AutoPot system. The plant has been severely overwatered to the point that it may not survive.

The problem, as I see it, is that the tray I am using is too large for one plant. The tray works alright in the greenhouse, as the plant is using a lot of nutrients through transpiration. In the tent, the humidity is high and the plant, being small, does not use the nutrients as fast; as a result it sits in about an inch of liquid for several days. My solution is to use a smaller tray, or add some ballast in the tray to displace some of the liquid. Also, I am thinking that it would be best to control the nutrient flow manually until the plant is more mature. In my view, problems are part of the learning process and that is what this is all about.

Another batch of lettuce, Dutch Winter Brown, has been planted in one of the ebb and flow systems to replace the batch of Grand Rapids lettuce I harvested yesterday.

As the rhubarb chard is nearing harvest, I have started a replacement planting of Early Wonder beets for greens to replace the chard.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cucumber grow update, first week's growth

The Tom Thumb lettuce in the ebb and flow system has recovered from being transplanted and is now starting to grow nicely. I find that this variety, for some reason, tends to drop the first few sets of leaves after transplanting.

The Little Leaf seedlings have been growing in my modified aeroponic unit for a week now and they are making great progress. The plants are very compact and a deep healthy green. At some point I will most likely remove two or three of the plants, as there is simply just not enough room for four plants indoors.

Finally, I have found a variety of dill that is compact, adapts to a small pot, and grows well hydroponically. The variety is called Tetra.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cucumber grow update

The cucumbers in the AutoPots are entering the vegetative stage and growing rapidly, so much so that I had to start thinking about adding a support system. I am going to use the same method that I use in the greenhouse; twine suspended from the light hangers using vine clips to attach the plants. At some point I will add horizontal support for some lateral runners.

Although the plants are only receiving slightly less than 2,000 footcandles of light, they are very compact, with many male flowers beginning to form.

The plants in the modified aeroponic system are also making good progress.

As a test I planted two plants of dill in an ebb and flow system along with the lettuce. Although dill has a long tap root it, seems to be adapting to the four inch net pot.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another approach to growing cucumbers indoors

I have two Little Leaf cucumber plants growing in AutoPots under a red/blue/white 90 watt LED, and they seem to be doing fine up to this point.

As I had four seedlings left over, I thought I would try to grow them under a red/blue LED in what I refer to as my modified aeroponic unit.

My intention is to compare the difference in growth, if any, between a passive system, such as the AutoPots, and an active system, such as the modified aeroponic system.

Additionally, I wanted to try some of the additives that I received as samples, so I concocted a witch's brew containing: Peter's Professional, calcium nitrate, epsom salts, Athena's Aminas, Olympus Up and Zeus Juice in various proportions. The TDS is a comfortable 1610 and I adjusted the pH to 5.5.

As usual, I will be running a 14 hour photoperiod, and the nutrient cycle is going to be one hour on and three hours off.

As stated above, my objective is to compare the growth rate between the two systems and evaluate the supplements, so I may just continue this grow until I have achieved those objectives. I am also curious to see if the plants flower with only the red/blue spectra.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Balcony hybrid progress

The plant mentioned in my October 3rd post is making progress and I expect it will really begin rapid vegetative growth very soon.

The Pro LED Systems light is doing a fantastic job of keeping the plant compact.

I have added a homemade CO2 generator to the tent with the output tube placed in a tray of water. The CO2 will benefit the plant, while the evaporating water will add humidity to the tent.

The daytime temperature has averaged in the high seventies, with an average humidity in the mid to upper fifties. The temperature drop at night is running about eight degrees, so thus far I am really happy with the tents.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chard harvest and tomato switch

The yellow
chard was harvested today, and I am really happy with this variety. It is not as large as Fordhook Giant, however, that is fine by me, as I enjoy the leaves more than the stalks.

Even after all of the years I have been growing hydroponically, I am still amazed by the quality that can be achieved, as there is not one blemish on any leaf, and, these plants have never had a single drop of pesticide applied.

The Totem tomato plant in the second grow tent has been replaced by another Balcony Hybrid. The plant was overwatered and remained so for 24 hours, or more, as the feed line to the valve did not seal properly. I can not understand why hydroponic suppliers can not standardize on feed line. In my supply cabinet I have several variations of feed line, all quarter inch. There is a noticeable difference in gauge, wall thickness and pliability, in fact, there are as many variations as there are hydroponic dealers in the area. The line in question was much too brittle and did not form a seal. The Totem plant would have recuperated, and survived, but it would set it back awhile, so I decided to replace it.

Another consideration was that I had grown the Totem previously, and although it was alright, I prefer a larger tomato when available. The replacement plant was going to be tossed, as it was a "just in case" plant, and the more I looked at it, the more of a shame it seemed not to grow it.

Ava assisted in the disaster recovery, and has claimed the second plant as hers as a reward for her efforts.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Not resting on my laurels

Somehow I just could not resist that title for this post. Several years ago my wife returned from the local farmer's market with two small plants in 6" pots. She said that the plants were laurel, and she had asked the farmer to order them specially for her because she has always wanted a laurel plant. I thought: "four plus decades of marriage and you never mentioned your wanting a laurel plant." At times like that silence is golden. There is a big difference between wanting to own a plant, and taking care of it, because yours truly got custody of the laurel plants.

The first frost of the season was due last night, so I placed the laurels and the orange tree in the tool shed to protect them, and today I began getting them ready to bring them into the basement for the winter.

The laurel, shown above, received it's annual pruning and repotting and the trimmed leaves will be dried and used for seasoning. Over the years I have sort of grown to like these plants, as absolutely nothing bothers them. Insects avoid them, drought does not bother them, nor does cool, damp, rainy weather. They just sit on the patio and grow and grow. Additionally, they take spending the winter in the basement, in dim light, right in stride. In essence, they are an ideal house plant.

This variety of laurel is Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae, better know as bay laurel. It is also commonly called bay leaf and can be found on the spice rack at the local supermarket. I can't imagine what the tub full of laurel would be worth if you were to purchase that much from the supermarket. Then again, I can't imagine what we are ever going to do with all this laurel. That will be my wife's problem.

This is what Wikipedia says about laurel:

"Bay leaf (plural bay leaves) refers to the aromatic leaf of the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying."

What has all that have to do with hydroponics? Well, for several years the plants have been potted in used media from the AutoPots that would normally be discarded, and fed with used nutrients. I guess that it would be fair to state that they are also growing hydroponically, and they are doing great.

P.S. I happened to accompany my wife to the Fresh Food Market today; while there I checked the price of bay leaf. The price of a small envelope was just under three dollars, however, the unit price of bay leaf was listed at $9.96 per OUNCE!
I would say that it is a house plant that earns its keep.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Indoor greenhouse

I have, on occasion, seen grow tents referred to as indoor greenhouses, and that is probably an apt term to use in respect to the environmental control that can be achieved.

Today, I officially began using both of my new indoor grow tents to actually grow something to maturity. I decided that it would be much simpler to use single pot AutoPots in both tents, sharing a common reservoir, as the nutrient needs would be the same for both systems.

The system shown above will be growing a medium sized determinate variety called Balcony Hybrid, while the other tent will be growing a variety called Totem.
In addition to the nutrient reservoir, the tents are also sharing timers for lighting and ventilation,

The light, shown in the photo, is the light mentioned in my September 25th post. It is a 126 watt, 6 band Flower Series grow light. I measured the intensity of the light, in the position shown above, and the reading at plant level was in excess of 5,000 footcandles. In the tent containing the Totem plant, I will be using a 90 watt 3rd. generation red/blue/white LED.

In normal operation the valve is covered, however, I purposely left the cover off the AutoPot smart valve until I was assured that the reservoir was feeding nutrients to the tray.

My primary objective at this point is to become familiar with using the tents, while learning to control the environmental conditions, if the tomatoes are a success, that will be a bonus.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Growing Swiss chard hydroponically indoors

This post is an update up on my post of September 11, 2011 titled: "Nothing Beats Beets".

The plant in the photo is the same plant shown on the September 11th post, and it should be obvious that the plant has grown significantly in a little over two weeks.

Although the recommended nutrient level for chard is 1260-1610, I have been growing the chard, along with lettuce, at a TDS level of about 800.

The beets mentioned in the previous post have already been harvested and enjoyed. This chard can be harvested at anytime, so a replacement planting of rhubarb chard is in progress.

When planting beet or chard seeds, the seed is actually a fruit containing several seeds, you should expect several seedlings to come up close together, however, all but the strongest must be removed.

I have found, with beets or chard, that it is best not to wait for true leaves to develop before placing them in the hydroton. The seedlings tend to have a spindly shaft supporting the cotyledon leaves, so I like to give them as much support as possible. When placing the seedlings in the net pots, I rest the cube containing the seedling directly on the bottom of the pot; then I fill the pot with hydroton to just below the cotyledon leaves.

To lessen transplant shock I soak the hydroton in dilute nutrient solution for ten minutes before I begin planting. Additionally, I turn on the pump and flood the tray while I place the seedlings in the tray, then continue flooding for about twenty minutes after planting.

In about three weeks we will have another nice batch of chard.