Friday, July 29, 2011

This year's second planting

As of today all of the autopots have been replanted with either tomatoes or cucumbers.
The north (left) side of the greenhouse has six systems with cucumbers, and the south side has seven systems with tomatoes. The reservoirs have been adjusted for their specific crop: tomatoes at 1600 ppm with a pH of 6.5, and the cucumbers with a ppm of 1600 with the pH at 5.5.

The plants range in size from seedlings, that are just developing true leaves, to plants with fruit already set. The difference in age should further prolong my growing season well into the fall.

Additionally, I have started three types of dill: Fernleaf, Bouquet and Tetra. The seeds were germinated in moist coffee filters and placed in horticubes when the radicle developed. Knowing that dill does not transplant well, I will set the cubes into self watering planters as soon as possible after seeing a true leaf develop.

I wrote in an earlier post that I also tried to start McCormick's dill seed from our spice rack as a trial, however, as of today, not a single seed has germinated. The seed coats are swelling, but the seeds show no sign of germination. I am wondering if they are somehow treated to prevent germination, or, if they are so old that they simply are no longer viable.
Just out of curiosity I will continue the trial for another week

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Unlimited salad bar.

We have been enduring a heat wave in the northeast with the temperature approaching one hundred degrees. Growing lettuce in this heat would be impossible, as there are no varieties that could withstand these temperatures without bolting. In my opinion, factoring in aphids, slugs, and other pests, growing lettuce outdoors is really not practical, or worth the effort.

As I write this post, the temperature outdoors is in the nineties, and the humidity is also high. In my basement, where I am growing an endless supply of greens, the temperature is a comfortable 75 degrees with the humidity at 54 percent.

I asked my wife how much the markets were charging for lettuce this time of year, considering the problems associated with growing lettuce in the summer. Her reply was that she does not even bother to look anymore, as it has been so long since she has had to buy any.

Considering the little effort involved in growing hydroponically indoors, we feel that the results are well worth the effort.

In the winter, the folks on the gardening forums are writing that they just can't wait until spring to get back to their gardens, however, they fail to consider that they could be gardening indoors 365 days a year if they wanted to.

Friday, July 22, 2011

There is still time, but not much.

In order to maintain a continuous growing regimen I have been trying to anticipate when each plant in the grow pots should be replaced with either another plant, or a different variety altogether.

On sort of a staggered schedule I have now replaced all of the tomato plants on the south side of the greenhouse with either new seedlings, or plants cloned from the previous plants.

The fruit on the tomato plants on the north side of the greenhouse
is beginning to ripen, so I am planning on replacing the tomatoes with still more cucumbers in the near future.

This variety of cucumber should be ready to harvest in 57 days, so there should be plenty of time for the seedlings in the photo to mature and produce a crop. I have already replaced the original cucumber plants, started in the spring, and the replacement plants are forming flowers. The plants in the soil garden are now producing fruit, so we have had a continuous supply for weeks now, and I hope to keep the supply going into the fall.

I needed dill for another batch of pickles today, so I asked my wife to pick up some at the market. She paid $2.49 for a very small packet of dill, so I have decided that growing my own dill is well worth the time and space. I have started two varieties of dill seed that I had in storage, Fernleaf and Bouquet; we also had a small bottle of McCormick's dill seed in the spice rack, so I started some of them also.
I am guessing that the seed from the spice rack will do just as well as the seeds from the seed supplier.

As usual, time will tell...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Miniature eggplant

It appears that my project of hand pollinating the miniature eggplant has been a success as the plant has quite a few miniature eggplant forming, and it continues to grow and bloom. I do not, however, have any idea of what I am going to do with these tiny eggplant.

That said, I have come to the conclusion that the reason that I was not successful in growing eggplant in the greenhouse previously was my choice of variety. Apparently, the Florida Highbush plant I tried to grow required different environmental conditions in order for it to set fruit.

To pollinate the flowers, in addition to shaking them, I inserted the tip of a small artist brush into the center of the flower and rotated it to transfer pollen from the stamens to the pistil

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets.

The title is borrowed from a song written for the 1955 musical Damn Yankees, however, in this case Lola is a variety of tomato, and what she wants is plenty of light.

Territorial Seed Company writes this about this variety:

"80 days. Lola is an eye-catching charmer with veritably everything one could dream of in a tomato, plus the added benefit of an indoor cultivating variety. Big, plump, luscious fruit are lipstick red with a delightfully delicate flavor and absolutely divine aroma. The tomatoes develop a round, slightly squat shape, averaging a hefty 7-9 ounces each, and offer superior storability. Potato-leaf, indeterminate plants.

F1, F2, V, ToMV"

The plant in the photo is receiving about six hours of supplemental lighting each day from a 90 watt LED. The reason for the supplemental lighting is because the plant, being shaded, is not receiving direct sunlight, and tomatoes love light.

To really produce, tomatoes need at least 30,000 footcandles of light per day. My intent is that what the plant is lacking in intensity, I will supplement by increasing the duration of light it receives.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Replanting Little Leaf cucumbers

Today, my assistant and I picked all of the small gherkin size fruit from the Little Leaf cucumbers in the greenhouse and started another batch of dill pickles.

We removed the plants and replaced them with two Little Leaf seedlings that I had started a few weeks ago. The plants that were replaced were still growing, however, I feel that they lose vigor and slow down after awhile. I guess it is like life; as you get older you slow down some.

The plants in the soil garden, started on the same day as the replaced plants, are now just beginning to really set fruit, so we will have a continuous supply for quite sometime. In mid-August, I will replace the greenhouse plants to try to grow cucumbers as late in the season as I can get away with it.

Two for one.

When the Trust hybrid was approaching the peak of the greenhouse I removed and cloned the top section.

Rooted and planted, the cloned top is already forming buds, and we expect to have some of these wonderful tomatoes to enjoy until late in the season.

In an earlier post I wrote that I intended to plant a seed from this hybrid to see what the F2 generation was like, however, I read a post where someone had tried this and the tomatoes were ugly and tasted awful. I think I am going to pass on that experiment.

When growing tomatoes it seems to be either feast or famine. We can't wait for our first homegrown tomato of the season, and now we have so many that my wife is thinking of making and freezing marina sauce. Go figure.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Trust trial conclustion.

The new varieties, Arbason and Lola, are going have to be super performers to outperform the Trust hybrid.

Not only are these tomatoes hardy and productive, they taste as good as any tomato I have grown in the greenhouse to date.

In addition, they look terrific; when it come to food, eye appeal is important, as if you expect something to taste great, it usually does.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Arbason and Lola trial.

The Arbason and Lola seedlings have been planted in the greenhouse, and I will be using red/blue/orange LEDs for supplemental lighting to give the seedlings a little extra boost.
There is an adjustable plant hanger advertised on TV, also sold by Wal-Mart, that I found ideal for suspending the LEDs. It is half the cost, and works better, than the adjustable hangers offered by the local hydroponics dealers.

Another reason for adding supplemental lighting is to overcome shading from adjacent plants that are still producing fruit and have not yet been removed.

Some minor modifications have been made to my home built autopot, one of which will hopefully improve the performance. As seen in the photo, I added a plug on top so that I can check the level in the tray without disturbing the plant. Additionally, the reservoir tray had a slight elevation molded into the bottom, which prevented the valve from completely closing.

To overcome this problem, I cut a quarter inch thick piece of plastic to fit the reservoir, forming a new completely flat floor. The valve was then secured to this plastic piece with a small stainless steel screw to prevent it from moving or floating.

The latter modification should allow the media to dry slightly, and not get soggy, before the reservoir is refilled.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pilot project progress

To recap the pilot project; I am trying grow a miniature eggplant in the greenhouse, because to put it mildly, I have been less than successful in growing eggplant. I can grow gigantic plants, but getting them to set fruit has been a problem, or more like a disaster. Well, my one and only attempt was to try to grow an enormous eggplant bred in the 40s to grow in Florida, that in itself may have contributed to my downfall. The plant was surely enormous, the eggplant were non-existent.

My test specimen was started from seed on May 7, 2011, and the plant is doing fantastic, so much so that it is attractive enough to be a houseplant.

As shown in the photo above the plant is flowering, so the project is humming along nicely, but now comes the hard part. When I researched hand pollinating eggplant; I found that doing so is not really necessary. The pollen is supposed to just drip from the stamens to the pistil. That is, of course, unless the temperature is not too hot, or too cold, or the air is not too humid. If all else fails you can resort to hand pollination by gently rubbing a clean artist brush around inside the flower. All this makes me wonder why eggplant don't cost $400 each.

Just to be on the safe side, my assistant ,Ava ,went at the flower with an artist brush today, and pollinated the hell out of the flower. Well, she has loved hand pollinating flowers since she was two, so why not?

Time will tell...