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.