Monday, February 28, 2011

Taking a shortcut

Today I started a clone of the calceolaria plant, which will be placed alongside the mother plant in the ebb and flow system. It should be interesting to see if the cutting develops roots and grows to maturity. When I started the plant from seed, it was months before the seedling grew to the size of today's cutting.

The mother plant continues to bloom, and there are literally dozens of seed pods forming. When the pods have dried I will break them open, then, hopefully, collect my seeds.

The seeds for this plant were not available locally, relatively expensive, and difficult to locate, which makes seed saving an attractive option.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another historic grow

Today I began another historic grow, historic in terms of the varieties that is. These are the seedlings from yesterday's post, and it is exactly two weeks from the date the seed packages were unsealed.

I am using a red/blue 90 watt LED with a 16 hour photoperiod. The light is 19" above the plant surfaces with the intensity, measured at plant level, ranging between 1,500 and 2,000 footcandles.

The nutrient feed cycle is 15 minutes every four hours, with a TDS of 711, and a pH of 6.4. Additionally, I am dribbling CO2 into the grow tank during the lighting cycle.

Now to the historic aspect, the varieties are:

Tom Thumb (1850s) A small growing green lettuce with heads that only get 3-4" across. Very tasty! Crisphead type.

Spotted Aleppo (pre1731) An ancient variety that had been grown in Aleppo, Syria for a long time prior to being introduced into Europe in the early 1700’s. It was also grown in colonial America and was offered by Bernard McMahon in 1804 and many other North American seed companies until the 1870’s. Spotted Aleppo is a beautiful loose headed Romaine type of lettuce with many bronze speckles. Romaine type. RARE.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Getting ready to start seeds for the greenhouse.

I feel that the CO2 generator/injector, that I built and posted recently, has really made a difference in my seedling production.

The seeds shown in the above photo are only thirteen days from the day I opened the package and moistened them. I can see a noticeable improvement over previous batches of seedlings, so I am adding these CO2 generators to my other propagators.

The enclosure in the photo was constructed from scrap materials; the interior is shown in my January 5, 2011 post. As it is located in an unheated part of the basement, I placed pieces of scrap carpeting on the top to capture the heat generated by the T5 light. The temperature, with the lights on, is a comfortable seventy two degrees, and it can be lowered simply by removing sections of the carpeting. Additionally, the end panel is removable for access and temperature control. As these units only use a 24 watt lighting tube they are super energy efficient and cost effective.

Each of these small propagators can produce 16 to 24 seedlings every two weeks or so, which is more than adequate for our home needs.

In search of the seeds

I kind of like having these colorful little plants among the more mundane edible plants, so I want to save the seeds. The only information I found regarding saving seeds from these is to let the flowers dry on the plant and then collect the seeds.

Well, the first flowers have dried, and they actually fell off the plant when I moved them to examine them. Using a magnifying headset, tweezers and a scalpel I dissected the flowers in quest of seeds, and found: nothing. I would have thought that the seeds would be located within the purse itself, but apparently that is not the case.

Upon closer inspection of the plant itself I think I have located where the seeds will form. In the center of the plant, where the first flower was growing, I believe I see the ovule, and it is still green and remains on the plant.

Hopefully, by letting the that part of the plant dry completely, and then opening the ovule, I will find my seeds.

At some point I will also clone the plant and see if that is a more efficient way to grow these.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Saved from the recycling bin.

As the weather is keeping me indoors pretty much, except for shoveling and snow blowing, I have been catching up on projects and looking for things to keep my mind occupied.

To enhance the small propagators, as illustrated in my January 5, 2011 post, I decided to automate the addition of CO2 to the propagators by adding a small CO2 generator/injector.

The generator is nothing more than a gallon container; to which I added two cups of sugar, some warm water and a teaspoon of yeast.

A length of airline tubing is inserted into a hole drilled in the top of the container and is run to the propagator. The yeast eats the sugar and produces CO2 in the process. The CO2 fills the container and flows through the tubing to the propagator and seedlings. Not exactly rocket science, but it works just dandy.

After placing the seedlings in the media, and the media in the propagator, I place them under the light and let the light stay on continuously for 48 hours. When I resume my normal 16 hour lighting cycle I remove the CO2 injector feed line from the propagator just before the lights are to be turned off. The valve must be left slightly opened to allow some CO2 to escape, as the yeast will continue to produce CO2 and it will pressurize the system if not allowed to escape. The result would be a small bomb, and BIG mess.

The systems produce CO2 until the sugar is depleted, and I check the output every few days by placing the tube into a glass of water. If it produces bubbles, it is working, if not, I toss the contents and refill the container.

The amount of yeast to sugar is not critical, however, more yeast means more CO2, but it will use up the sugar faster. I am now using 2 cups of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of yeast, which should keep the system perking along for about two weeks.

My first batch of seedlings using this method look fantastic.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hydroponic Calceolaria

My Calceolaria, Valentine Hybrid, is blooming just in time for Valentine's Day.

I thought I could see a face in the photo, so I cropped the photo to accent my perceived face. My wife says she can see a resemblance, but she will not say who it resembles.

Yesterday I terminated my cucumber grow, as it was simply taking too long, and I need the space, and light, to start plants for the greenhouse. Next fall I will use another variety and growing method for indoor cucumbers.