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.