Sunday, December 30, 2012

Journal December 30, 2012

In a previous post I wrote that I had read that propagating olive cuttings was an art form, but the author did not provide any details.  While surfing the web last evening I came across the International Olive Council's site. ; and while the information regarding propagation on the site is geared toward major growers, I did find some useful information that I could apply to my growing conditions. 

To date not a single cutting taken from one of the trees has rooted, but I am not discouraged at this point, as this is, after all, a learning experience.  As I was removing the tops of the plants to encourage lateral growth, I tried to start the cuttings, regardless of the growing stage of the plants.  

The plants arrived in November and were preparing to go dormant for the winter, which is apparently not the time to take olive cuttings.  According to the site, the cuttings should be taken from actively growing plants.

The mission olive kind of went into shock when I pruned a foot off the top, and it  remained inactive for several weeks.  For the last few weeks the plant has been sending out new lateral branches and buds, however, it was still too tall and needed to have about another foot removed to get it to where I want it, namely a bush.

I decided to remove another section from the tip, and try to clone the cutting, as it is definitely actively growing. I removed a 5" section of the plant and trimmed off all but four leaves, cut an incision at the base of the cutting about 1" in length, and dipped the cutting in Clonex rooting gel.

In essence, I pretty much followed the instructions on the olive council's site. As I do not have misting equipment, I placed the cutting under an improvised dome, and I will mist it by hand several times a day.

More than 2500 years ago, the Romans planted olive trees by the millions across every territory they conquered, and they did not have rooting hormones, or misting equipment either. 

From the suggested production schedules on the site, I found that commercial growers allow four months for seed germination. As my seeds were only started in November, I guess I still have a while to wait for germination.  

As I still have seeds remaining, I decided to incorporate the site's methods of seed germination to my conditions; so I soaked four seeds in vinegar and thoroughly cleaned the seed coats.  The seeds will be allowed to dry for ten days, and then I will soak them in water for eighteen days prior to planting them.

Why you have to dry them and then rehydrate them is a mystery to me though.  I wonder if the ancient Romans did that?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Journal December 29, 2012

The plant in the above photo may not look very impressive, but to me it represents a milestone in my propagation experience.

In my December 20, 2012 post I wrote about attempting to clone the growing tips of olive branches and posted a photo of three tip cuttings.  The tip cuttings from the seedlings died within a few days, however, the tip cutting from the sucker has developed roots and is shown already planted in the photo above.

Considering that cuttings from mature plants take several weeks, or months, to root; and seeds can take several weeks, to a year, to germinate; propagating an olive plant in 11 days is pretty amazing stuff to me.  As anyone who has grown olives knows: olive trees can live for over a thousand years, so they are in no hurry to do anything.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Journal December 25, 2012

The 150 watt LED grow light  has been installed, so the conversion to total LED lighting is now complete.  In addition to the savings on fluorescent tubes, the use of LEDs in the grow chamber will reduce energy consumption by about 2500 watts per day, so all in all it is a no brainer decision.

The light levels, with the lights at the heights shown, are from 1,000 to 4,000 footcandles in each system.  Those levels are more than adequate for lettuce and greens.  And, with multiple lights, it will be a simple matter to replace an ebb and flow system with a tray of flower or vegetable seedlings for the greenhouse or garden when required.

Actually, there is a front panel that encloses the entire grow chamber, and it is also covered with reflective mylar, so the light levels will be slightly higher when the chamber is fully enclosed.  An additional benefit is that the LEDs produce practically no heat, so there is little chance of burning the tips of the plants should they get too close to the lights.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Journal December 20, 2012

There was a good sized sucker growing out of the roots of one of the manzanillo seedlings I was discarding, so I thought I would give it an opportunity to grow.  The sucker is about 1 inch high, however, the roots are, in proportion to the plant, gigantic.  

Purchasing seedlings is OK, but I am bound and determined to grow some of my own plants.  That said, the cuttings are a disaster, as so far not a single cutting has taken. I think the reason is that I have been keeping them too moist, and I need a rooting hormone for hard to root cuttings.  Mort Rosenblum, in his book Olives, writes that taking olive cuttings is an art form.  It is too bad that he did not go into more detail about the process.

Out of curiosity I uncovered the olive seeds that we planted at the beginning of November to see what, if anything, was going on with them.  A few show no changes, and a few have enlarged by about 25% and the seed coat has turned from dark brown to light tan.  I guess I will have to let nature run its course with the seeds.

Somewhere I read that the growing tips contain active cells, which will grow whatever is required, kind of like stem cells I guess. As I was pinching out some growing tips to direct the growth sideways, I decided to try to root the tiny tips.  The tips were coated with rooting  hormone and placed in horticubes, and the horticubes were place in a covered dome under a grow light.

If this works, I will have three new plants, and some additional experience.  If not, I am out twenty four cents. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Journal December 16, 2012

When I first began to think about growing olives hydroponically, I really had only heard of a few varieties; chief among them was the manzanillo, kalamata and mission.  One of the first plants I ordered was the mission olive on eBay, however, the plant was deceiving, as it looked all right, but was really dead on arrival.  A replacement mission plant was ordered from the Olive Branch Tree Farm, and although it is OK, it was very tall and slim with few side branches.  It was intended to be a large upright tree, but I need a short bushy tree for container/greenhouse growing.  I am removing sections of the main stem to force the growth downward and sideways, however it is going to take quite some time to get it to where I want it.

Finally, I have found a mission olive plant that meets my expectations, and it was a bargain.  I stumbled across the vendor on Dave's Garden of all places, and I never thought to look there previously.  This little beauty cost only $12 plus $8 for priority shipping from Eldon Tropicals.

I guess it is the romantic history of the mission olive that I find so appealing.  That probably comes from watching all of those Hollywood westerns when I as a kid.  It conjures up visions of an adobe mission with red tile roof and bell tower, with a kindly old padre in brown robes ringing the bell.  And indeed, the mission olive was brought to California by Junipero Serra and the Franciscan fathers from Mexico to the Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1767.  The Franciscans spread their religion and olive culture up the coast of California, and some of their beautiful old trees are still growing.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Journal December 8, 2012

Ferdinand, our manzanillo olive tree, is literally bursting with new growth; this is in spite of being removed from its native California; stuffed into a box for a week and being transported clear across the country; and having its roots cleaned of soil and its top pruned drastically.   Considering Ferdinand has only been growing hydroponically for three weeks now, I think that the results are simply fantastic.

As olives can tolerate some shade, the addition of the mud men makes Ferdinand attractive enough to serve upstairs as a house plant for short periods of time.

 Today I ordered an Amfissa olive from a person in Athens, Greece.  At first I thought that the Amfissa was a rare variety, however I found that they are the most planted variety in Greece.  Most people think of the Kalamata olive when they think of Greece, but the Kalamata is not as popular in Greece as the Amfissa. 

As the Amfissa meets my criteria of being a table olive and early to bear fruit, I really don't care about its popularity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Journal December 5, 2012

Out of curiosity I had planted the supposed Manzanillo seedlings purchased and refunded on eBAy.  They have been planted for a month, but have shown absolutely no sign of life.

In the process of discarding them, I noticed nodules beginning to grow off the main trunk under the surface of the media.  The trunks themselves appeared to be lifeless, however it appears that there is still life in the root system.

The entire upper portion of the trunk has been removed, and I replanted the root system in a smaller pot with the nodule slightly above the media.  

The arrow in the photo is pointing toward the nodule, which has a tiny green tip.  The stub of the old trunk is to the right and slightly below the nodule.  

The pots were placed in the heated domed tray with the cuttings, and it should be interesting to see what happens next.   I am thinking that the root system will devote all of its energy to the nodule now that the trunk is gone.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Journal December 3, 2012

Another beautiful plant arrived yesterday, the Kalamata plant from Temecula Olive Oil Company.  The plant was much larger, but was pruned prior to being potted.  I saved the trimmed sections to be used as cuttings, however, I doubt that they will take.  

Looking at the plant I can see that it has been saddle grafted, which means the rootstock is not a Kalamata. Apparently, Kalamata olives are notoriously difficult to propagate via cuttings; in any case, I planted the cuttings just in case I might get lucky.

Although it has been less than four full weeks since the Arbequina olive tree was received and transplanted; it is responding nicely to being grown hydroponically.  In fact, I am finding that olives make ideal houseplants and I wish I had thought of growing them much sooner.

The Arbequina is being grown indoors under LED lighting until I can open the greenhouse again in late March.  Ava and I are naming all of the plants with names appropriate to the country of origin of the olives, Ava is in charge of selecting the names.  We have Ferdinand and Isabella from Spain; Omar from Tunis; Terese, Antonio and Mario from Italy; Pythagoras and Alexis from Greece, and of course the Arbequina, Pepito, also from Spain.  

I am firmly of the opinion that olives make good candidates for container or houseplants, whether or not they produce olives, as they are so attractive and easy to grow.

Time will tell....

Friday, November 30, 2012

Journal November 30, 2012

The Frantoio olive tree ordered from the Temecula Olive Oil Company arrived safely today, and I am well pleased with the tree.  It is exactly the size I like to work with, and it arrived in excellent condition, even though it was in transit for well over a week.  

After opening the carton I was in the process of removing the soil and planting the tree; when my wife suggested that I not prune it back and clone the cuttings.  She said: "why not leave it alone for a few days."   I am sure it was out of sympathy for the tree that she made the suggestion, as the tree had been deprived of heat and light for so long, however, I decided to follow her advice so I did not prune it back right now.  The tree was planted in a self watering container and placed in the tent under the six band LED grow light.  It can recover for a while in my pseudo-Mediterranean environment, where the temperature is always in the mid-70s with the humidity in the mid-40s.

When the tree begins sending out new shoots, I will prune the main trunk back to about six or eight inches above the soil line.  My objective is to have two laterals off the main truck shaped like a martini glass.

When selecting trees I am looking for varietals that produce table olives, as I just can't imagine getting enough olives to produce oil, and, oil production is not an easy process for a home gardener.


The primary varietal used in Tuscan oil production, the Frantoio olive tree is useful to the home gardener as well. This olive tree is self-fertile, meaning it doesn't require another variety to set fruit, but is also an excellent pollenizer to other olive trees. The Frantoio olive tree grows in semi-pendulous fashion, with dark green-gray leaves. The fruit also makes a good table olive after curing, with a slightly nutty flavor to the medium-sized fruit.

The Mission olive tree that was ordered on eBay has been replaced and my money was refunded.  The seller claimed the tree was hardy and would come back if I misted it frequently.  I responded that the leaves were so dry that they cracked like corn flakes when flexed, and that I could mist the tree with holy water and it was not coming back.  So much for plants on eBay.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Journal November 25, 2012

The first ripe tomatoes, grown with the 450 watt LED, were picked today.  Last year the first tomatoes grown indoors were not ready until the first day of winter, however, this year they are really early.

When I came upstairs for dinner this evening, the first thing my wife said was: "these tomatoes are delicious!" I can't be sure, but I am thinking that the molasses contributed to their exceptional taste.

The cucumbers are just about finished, and I will remove the plants from the tent tomorrow and use the tent to really push the olive trees until they can be placed in the greenhouse in the spring.  Hopefully, by not allowing them a dormant period, I can get two years growth in one season. 

The lemon and bay trees are in the basement for the winter, and the only light they are getting is from a 4' shop light above the plants.  They are watered occasionally with used nutrients from the ebb and flow systems and they are thriving with hardly any care.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Journal November 20, 2012

System number four contains a nice crop of baby romaine lettuce that will make a nice addition to our Thanksgiving meal.

The Manzanillo seedlings that I purchased on eBay have been placed in the tent with the Trust tomato, however they show absolutely no sign of life. The person who I purchased the seedlings from on eBay chose to return my money rather than get an unsatisfactory rating on eBay. As I understand it, your cost of doing business on eBay inceases if your ratings drop. As of this point, not one of the plants that I purchased on eBay have met my expectations. That said, all of the plants that I purchased from professional growers have been satisfactory.

 The plant in the above photo is a Manzanillo olive that I purchased from a grower in California. Although the plant is exceptional, I am not going to provide a link to the grower's site, as his service was not up to par.  After four emails and four phone calls trying to obtain shipping/tracking information, I was just about to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau when the postman delivered the plant.  Two days after the plant was received I finally received the shipping information.

This plant was very large and in beautiful condition when I received it.  After Ava and I finished potting the plant, I pruned the plant to encourage a shorter bushy growth pattern, and segments of the branches that were removed have been started as cuttings.

Another plant that I purchased on eBay is not doing all that well, it is the Mission olive. Again, I have ordered a replacement from the Olive Branch Tree Farm in Florida. The plant purchased on eBay took 11 days to arrive from California. As the growing medium was mostly sand, the plant had completely dried out en route. The seller responded that I should mist the plant frequently, and it would come back, as it was a hardy plant. If this plant responds, I will call it my Jesus plant, as it would have risen from the dead.

My recommendation would be not to purchase any plant material on eBay.

I needed an olive tree from Italy to complete my collection of olive varietals from around world, so I ordered a Frantoio from:Temecula Olive Oil Company  

This company's price and shipping cost was very reasonable, and, their service was excellent, as my order was shipped in a matter of hours after completing the transaction.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Journal November 14, 2012

It was cold and windy today with the temperature in the upper 30s, however there was not a cloud in the sky, so the temperature in the greenhouse reached the mid-70s a little after noon. Whenever possible I  turn off the grow lights and move plants to the greenhouse, which is what I did today.

It is only been a few days since the olive trees have been transplanted into the self watering containers, however, already I can see signs of new growth; surprisingly not one plant exhibited any sign of stress.

The Trust hybrid tomato plant is still sending out new leaders and forming buds. Again today I removed two leaders to force the growth back into the tomatoes. I just checked the conditions in the tent, and they are ideal for growing tomatoes; the temperature was 73° and the relative humidity was 53%.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Journal November 13, 2012

The mission olive tree that I purchased on eBay finally arrived today. I was really beginning to think that the post office had lost this shipment. Although the tree spent almost a week in transit, without light or water, it arrived in fairly decent condition. That said, I still wasted no time in preparing it to be grown hydroponically.

This tree is about six years old, however it is only 10 inches in height. It was being trained for bonsai, but it has now been rescued and will be allowed to grow into a small bush, though confined to a container.

The Mission olive originated on the California Missions and is now grown throughout the state. They are black and generally used for table consumption.  The fruit is of medium weight with a slightly asymmetrical ovoid shape. Prized as a dual-purpose variety, being used in green and black pickling as well as oil production. When mature, the fruit has about 22% oil content. 

The postman also brought a Barouni olive seedling today that I purchased from The Olive Branch Tree Farm.

Once again I feel fortunate in having had the opportunity to speak to the owner/ grower, whose name is Tony. I explained to Tony what I wanted to accomplish, and he suggested that I not let the trees go dormant for the first two years, but to "grow the hell out of them in the greenhouse."  Following the third year, the trees should be given a minimum of 250 hours of cool temperature and allowed to rest, with no fertilizer and little water.  Tony thinks that by doing so I will have a crop of olives in the third year.  They have been growing olives for fifty years, so I would guess that they know a thing or two about the process.

The Barouni Olive Tree was developed in Tunisia, Africa, and is the olive commonly used for curing olives at home. Research conducted at California Universities have shown the Barouni Olive to be very resistant to cold temperatures, and still produce its beautiful, green fruit.

Over a century ago the Barouni Olive tree was imported into America from Tunisia for orchard trials and has successfully passed the test as a commercial olive tree. Ranging in height from 15-20 feet, the Barouni Olive tree is a popular backyard tree to grow, because the olives can easily be harvested from smaller trees. The common use for the large Barouni olive is as a table olive, and for olive oil extraction the Barouni olive will not work. The Barouni olive ripens in October and November as a black fruit with an oval shape, and it is very cold hardy for the Eastern U.S.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Journal November 10, 2012

Today I received an email from the person in Greece that I purchased the olive seeds from.  I have quoted the email below:

"Scarification process .
Place seeds in a glass container.Pour enough vinegar into the glass to cover the seeds.Gently stir the seeds.
Let them soak for about 10 minutes.Remove the seeds, wash them and sow them immediately. It is best to sow into small seedling pots.Bring a small pot of water to boil.Remove from the stove.
Place the seeds into the water. Make sure the water covers the seeds.Allow water to cool to room temperature.Remove the seeds, dry them and sow them in a growing medium.This process is easier for larger seeds.Take the small nail file or sandpaper and run either of them back and forth along the seed. The purpose is to weaken the seed coating enough for the seed embryo to break through the hull.Once filed or sanded, wash the seeds, dry them and sow in a growing medium.This process can be used for much larger seeds.Taking the knife, nick each seed, making a tiny cut through the seed coating.Wash and sow. Place a thin layer of compost in shallow vessel of some kind and place the olive tree seeds on top of the compost. After the seeds are placed, moisten the entire mixture well with a spray bottle Keep the mixture damp, but not soaking wet, and in a warm place that receives plenty of sunshine. Germination may take up to several weeks, but just remain patient and keep the conditions optimal for germination by maintaining constant watering and steady warm temperatures. Transplant the seeds, as soon as they've germinated (begun to sprout), into a pot that is filled with sandy, quick-draining soil. An optimal soil preparation is to mix 1 part of normal potting soil with 3 parts of cactus potting soil. Adding some additional sand to the mixture will help, but extra sand should make up no more than 5 percent or so of the final soil.

Water the seedling well and place it in a warm, sunny area. During this initial stage, it's best to continue growing the olive tree indoors, in order to protect it, even if warm conditions exist outdoors as well.Prune the lower leaves off of the olive tree as it begins to grow, encouraging upward growth and its development into a tree instead of a shrub. Water your olive tree only after the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch. Make sure it stays warms and has good access to sunlight. All our seeds are providing trees and the trees are able to provides olives ."

As I had already tried the hot water method, I decided to try planting two seeds using vinegar. Ava and I each planted a single seed, and as everything with Ava turns into a contest, we are now engaged in a race to see who's seed germinates first. 

 I received two seedlings in the mail today that I had ordrered on EBay.  They were supposed to be Manzanillo seedlings, however, I doubted that they were olive seedlings at all, as the bark, roots and buds are a reddish color.  Additionally, the description for the sale stated that they were to be 5 to 6 inch seedlings, but the plants I received were more than 18 inches in length.  I wrote to the vendor and told him I did not think I received the correct item.  I said that the seedlings looked more like cherry trees to me, and also stated my concern about the length. .  The vendor, plant1onme, wrote and said that the seedlings were dormant: that they turn that color because they have been kept in a cooler; they ran out of small plants and shipped larger plants instead.  I replied that I had serious doubts about the plants, but that I would not leave any feedback at this time, but would force the plants from dormancy and determine if they were olives or not.  And, if not, the feedback that I leave will not be very favorable.

Manzanillo a large, rounded-oval fruit, with purple-green skin, originated in Dos Hermanas, Seville, in southern Spain. "Manzanillas" means little apples in Spanish. Known for a rich taste and thick pulp, it is a prolific bearer, grown around the world.

Manzanillo is ranked as the world's number one table olive. Its cropping ability, disease resistance, texture and flavor combine to place it at the peak of medium sized table olives, and its medium/high oil content also makes it a valuable oil cultivar. Manzanillo was introduced to California in 1875. Manzanillo is the most popular canning variety. Not quite as cold hardy as Mission it is still wildly grown in California. A more rounded, spreading tree growing to 30-35 feet. The fruit matures in October and early November but is usually harvested in September. Fruit is processed as mostly black-ripe and green-ripe olives. They are also suitable for oil as oil content is good (20.3%). 

Time will tell if my seedlings are Manzanillo.  In any event, I have ordered a tree from an olive farm in California.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Journal November 8, 2012

When the postman arrived shortly after lunch today, he brought two additional olive trees and the olive seeds I had ordered from Greece.

Today was cold, very windy, the sky was overcast and leaden, with the temperature in the upper 30s. Despite the weather conditions, the temperature in the greenhouse was in the mid-40s, so I decided to pot the olive trees in the greenhouse. Then, to my surprise the clouds parted, and the sunshine raised the temperature in the greenhouse to a balmy 65°.

 Below are photos and information regarding the trees I received today:

Arbequina is a cultivar of olives. The fruit is highly aromatic, small, symmetrical and dark brown, with a rounded apex and a broad peduncular cavity. In Europe, it is mostly grown in Catalonia, Spain, where it occupies 55,000 hectares, but it is also grown in in Aragon and Andalusia, as well as Argentina, Chile, and Australia. It has recently become the dominant olive cultivar in California, largely under highly intensive, "super high-density" plantation.

The name comes from the village of Arbeca in the comarca of the Les Garrigues, where it was first introduced to Europe from Palestine in the seventeenth century by the Duke of Medinaceli.
Agronomical characteristics

Arbequina trees are adaptable to different conditions of climate and soil, although it does best in alkaline soils; it thrives in long, hot, dry summers, but is frost-hardy and pest-resistant. Its relatively small cup, allows it to be cultivated under more intense, high-density conditions than other plantation olives. The variety is very productive and enters early into production (from the first half of November). The fruit does not ripen simultaneously, and has an average resistance to detachment. Unlike most varieties, Arbequina has a high germination percentage and that makes rootstocks.

The crop is costly due to the small fruit size. It is not very well suited to mechanized harvesting, as a consequence of low weight of the oil and the abundance of pendulous branches, but the performance in manual harvesting is much higher than the other varieties raised in Catalonia.

Although sold as a table olive, Arbequina olives have one of the highest concentrations of oil [20-22%] and are therefore mostly used for olive oil production. Harvesting is easy since the trees are typically low to the ground and allow for easy hand picking. Oils made from Arbequina are generally buttery, fruity, and very mild in flavor, being low in polyphenols. The combination of low polyphenol levels and high levels of polyunsaturated fat as compared with other olive cultivars means that it has relatively low stability and short shelf-life.

Koroneiki is a cultivar of olives originating in Greece, the trunk is typically gnarled and twisted.
TREE: A tree of medium vigor with a spreading habit and an open canopy.
FRUIT: The fruit is small ovoid and slightly asymmetric, yields with a very high content of oil.
AGRONOMY: Resistant to leaf drop, adaptable to different conditions of climate and soil.  They are drought tolerant, frost-hardy to 14 degrees and pest-resistant.  Trees will produce olives in two years with full production in 5. A very high quality oil variety, exceptionally heavy cropper coming into production very early. Fruit size is quite small. Proving well suited to warm non frost regions.

COMMENTS: This is a good drought resistant variety. The oil is high in oleic acid and very stable, high quality oil olive. 

Both of the above trees were purchased from the Olive Grove tree farm in Florida. I had originally ordered a different variety than the Koroneiki, however, after speaking with Dedi, one of the owners, and explaining how I intended to grow the trees, Dede suggested the Koroneiki rather than the variety I originally ordered. 

Dede said she thought what I was going to do was "so cool, and she wanted me to succeed." When possible, I will try to speak to a grower, as you can get very valuable information from them. I have added a link to their site below, in case anyone is interested in trying to grow an olive tree hydroponically. These folks are great folks to do business with. 

The Olive Grove Tree Farm Nursery

Now, as for the olive seeds from Greece; the person that I purchased the seeds from was supposed to provide information as to how to germinate the seeds, however he did not.

I did not consider that the big deal, as I already knew how I intended to start the seeds. First, I soaked the seeds for about 90 minutes in hot water to soften the seed coat. Then, I rubbed the seeds on fine grit of sandpaper to thin the seed coat so that the embryo was almost exposed.  The seeds were then placed in a growing cube, and the growing cube was planted in a 3 inch pot at a depth of approximately 1 inch.

Both the seeds and the trees have been placed under a 90 W red/white/blue LED in a warm environment with a photoperiod of 16 hours per day. 

Now, it is just a matter of letting nature take its course.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Journal November 5, 2012

The Olea Europaea seedling arrived today, and I wasted no time in preparing it to be grown hydroponically. The first step was to remove all of the soil from the roots by rinsing the seedling under tepid tap water.

As these trees can reach a height of about 30 feet, growing the tree in a container will be very similar to growing a bonsai. The difference being, that I will grow the tree hydroponically in coir and perlite, and, I will do a very minimum amount of root pruning and shaping.  The particular variety of this seedling is unknown, however it will produce olives, and can either be a bonsai or full size tree.  In this case I intend it to be a dwarf potted plant, neither a bonsai, or full size.

After cleaning, the seedling was planted in a self watering container using a mixture of coir and perlite that was moistened with a very dilute nutrient solution.

As Olive trees prefer a fairly dry environment, I plan on top watering the plant and letting any excess drain into the reservoir below. I do not intend to use the reservoir, or wick, as Olive trees will not tolerate wet feet.

To acclimate the seedling to its new environment I placed it in a cool location, giving it an abbreviated photoperiod of 10 hours, with about 500 foot candles of lighting. I plan on leaving the seedling in the cool location for about a week before placing it under an LED grow light.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Journal November 2, 2012

The tomatoes that Ava I planted for Santa are ahead of schedule, it looks like some will be ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

A few days ago I noticed that the margins between the veins of the leaves were beginning to turn yellow, which could either indicate an iron, manganese or zinc deficiency. To make matters even more confusing, it could also mean a nitrogen deficiency. I decided to increase the nitrogen level in the nutrients slightly and also added about a tablespoon of liquid iron. When I checked the plants today there was a great improvement in the yellowing, so I must have guessed correctly.

Today I harvested a nice batch of the greens from system number two. I have found that the best variety of beets for greens is early wonder.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Journal October 29, 2012

This year's batch of indoor cucumbers promises to be the best ever!

One surprising aspect is that fruit is forming well above the lights. Apparently, if the main portion of the plant is receiving adequate lighting, fruit will form in deep shade.

Deciding that I needed a new challenge, I ordered three olive tree seedlings to be grown hydroponically, both indoors, and in the greenhouse. In addition, I ordered a small batch of olive seeds from Greece.

The varieties of olive seedlings I ordered are: 2 Manzanillo and 1 Olea Eeuropaea.  The seeds are for an Anatolian olive tree and are also Olea Europea. 

I am fairly confident that olive plants will grow well hydroponically. In any event, they are well suited to my growing conditions, in both the greenhouse, and indoors under LED lighting.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Journal October 28, 2012

Today I planted two batches of romaine lettuce in system number four, the varieties are: Little Caesar, and baby romaine.

This will probably be the last time that I use fluorescent lighting for growing. At some time in the near future all of my growing will be under LED lighting.

The driving factor in the replacement of fluorescent lighting with LED lighting is the cost of fluorescent tubes. My existing fluorescent fixture has six tubes, and the cost to replace the tubes annually is almost $100. On the other hand, LED lights can last up to 10 full years.

Recently I purchased a new LED grow light that I will use in my grow chamber to replace the large fluorescent fixture. When this light is installed the grow chamber will have: a six band flower series LED, a 90 W red/blue LED, and the new light.

The new light has 50 3 W LEDs with the spectrum being: red, yellow, orange, blue, white, green, UV, IR.

In addition to being more cost-effective in terms of replacement, the LED lighting will also lower my energy cost.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Journal October 25, 2012

I decided to get rid of the Burpee Super Beefsteak plant and concentrate on the Trust.  Over the course of time I have found that the most valuable asset in growing, is the time  you are investing.  If a plant is not performing up to  my expectations, I just toss it and move on.

With respect to the Super Beefsteak plant; I also destroyed the seeds, as I felt that this variety is just not suitable to my growing conditions.  That is not to say that it may not perform well in someone else's environment.  Upon inspecting the bottoms of the immature fruit, I found that every small fruit was splitting on the bottom, with an opening like a navel.  Inside the opening, small balls were beginning to form, and, in my opinion the fruit would look hideous.

On the other hand, the Trust plant is only 22" tall and has three trusses with fruit, all perfectly formed.  It was in the process of developing another truss, however, I decided rather than push my luck and raise the lights, I would remove the growing tip and limit the plant to the existing three trusses.

On another topic, while looking for something in our storage area for canned goods, I found that my wife had purchased a quart of molasses.  Seeing the bottle brought to mind something that I read quite sometime ago.  That something was: molasses is the "secret ingredient" in a many hydroponic nutrient additives.  

Researching the nutritional value of molasses, I found that it does indeed contain a host of minerals that would be beneficial to plants: Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, and Selenium.  And, add to that sugars, which myth has it,  may sweeten the tomatoes.

In any event, I decided to give molasses a try, however, there is not much information online about using molasses for hydroponics.

To 500 ml of very hot water I mixed in 5 ml of molasses to make a concentrate.  My usual procedure is to water the tomato plant with about 700 ml of nutrients when required, so I put 100 ml of molasses concentrate in the watering container and added 600 ml of nutrient solution.  I will use this mixture as a  trial to try to determine if molasses is a "secret ingredient" for hydroponics.

It should be interesting to see if the molasses makes any noticeable difference in the growth of the plant, or the taste of the tomatoes.  If so, I will add molasses to the list of other common ingredients that I use in hydroponics, along with: vinegar, baking soda and Epsom salt.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Journal October 21, 2012

Much like the guy telling the story about the one that got away; many people don't really believe the rate of growth that can be achieved with hydroponics.

The above photo is for comparison with the photo of the cucumbers on the October 10, 2012 post.  The photo illustrates only ten days growth, not to mention that several small cucumbers are also forming.

Quite honestly, with the controlled conditions in the tent and the duration and quality of the light that they are receiving, the plants are doing much better than they would do in the greenhouse in the spring.  

I almost expect to open the tent some morning and be attacked by a giant vine.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Journal October 19, 2012

The video above compresses an entire week into less than two minutes.  I learned quite a bit in making the video, and hopefully what I learned will be applied to the next time lapse sequence.

For instance, I should have focused tighter on the plant, capturing a frame every fifteen minutes instead of every six minutes.  Also, the lighting could be improved by moving the light from directly overheard to slightly to the side for better definition.

That said, the cucumbers in the tent have given me another surprise, as there are several female flowers forming and not a single male flower is open.

Under normal circumstances, the male flowers form at least two weeks before I see the first female flowers. Not that I am complaining. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Journal October 15, 2012

The growing tip has been removed from the Burpee Super Beefsteak plant.  My original plan was to remove the tip after the first truss set, however I since decided to let more trusses form, as the plants are doing great under the large LED.  At this point, the plant has three trusses with fruit set.

That said, I removed the first two large fruit that had set on this plant as they were completely deformed, to the point of being ugly.  It seems the first large bud on each truss is setting a malformed fruit, however, as to why, I am clueless.

As a comparison, the Trust hybrid has one truss with fruit set, one truss with open flowers and one truss forming.  All of the fruit on this plant are normal and perfectly shaped.  

As Ava is in school now, and I am getting bored not having her around everyday, I thought I would make a more serious attempt at time lapse photography. 

Using an adapter, I converted a mogul based grow light to a standard base compact fluorescent to light this experiment.  The bulb is a standard 23 watt daylight compact fluorescent straight from Home Depot.  There is a single cucumber seed planted in the self watering  container, and the camera is taking a photo every six minutes in an attempt to capture the germination process as a time lapse video.  The light is on 24/7 and I have no idea of the effect this is having on the emerging seedling.  It should be interesting in any event.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Journal October 10, 2012

The cucumbers are at the point that I had to give some thought to providing some sort of support.  To accomplish this I added a length of poly twine from the top of the tent to each plant, and began attaching the plants with vine clips.  As this variety sets most of its fruit on lateral branches, I strung twine from each of the four corners, attaching the twine with wire ties.  More support for lateral branches may be added as the vines grow and the light is raised.
My great tomato contest is progressing nicely, with the Burpee Super Beefsteak now firmly ahead of the expensive hybrid, Trust.  The Super Beefsteak, seen on the right, is larger, and has three trusses formed, two of which have already set fruit.  The Trust has one truss formed, with a few fruit ready to set, and one small truss beginning to form.  

The large LED is doing a fantastic job with these plants in the grow tent.  Growing conditions are ideal, with the daytime temperature averaging about 74 degrees, and the humidity in the mid 50s.  With the intense light level, the fruit seems to be growing larger, and faster, than it does in the greenhouse. 

Hydroponic gardening allows me to continue to garden indoors, when most gardeners are putting their tools away for the season, and dreaming of next spring.  My current projects include: tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, basil, chard, beets, carnations and asters. 

Ya gotta love it!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Journal October 7, 20`2

The cucumbers in the tent are sending out tendrils looking for something to climb, so I anchored a piece of twine in the pot and tied the other end to a support bar.  The lower lateral branches will be allowed grow along the floor of the tent.

When grown in the greenhouse, the leaves on the lower portion of the plants are fairly small, however, when grown under lights, all of the leaves tend to be of equal size.  The reason being: in the greenhouse, the light intensity drops off after the light passes through the glazing.  With the base of the plant almost on the floor, the intensity is reduced considerably by the time it reaches the lower leaves.  As the plants grow and climb the suports, the leaves and fruit tend to be much larger as they get closer to the glazing.  When using the grow lights; the lights are raised as the plants grow, so the level is pretty much consistent as they develop.

When I walk into the greenhouse on a sunny day, my eyes do not notice much of a difference in light intensity, but if I were to measure the levels the difference would be very apparent.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Journal October 6, 2012

The flower on the Burpee Super Beefsteak, that I described as huge in my previous post, has set fruit.  There are still some petals remaining on the bud, however, the immature fruit can be seen, and it is also HUGE!

Most tomatoes set fruit the size of a match head, or smaller, but this small tomato is almost the size of a dime.

I definitely plan on saving seeds from this tomato, if it survives to maturity.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Journal October 4, 2012

The flowers in the photo are on a Burpee Super Beefsteak tomato plant.  The first bud to form was huge!  When it opened, I found that it has two of everything: petals, stamens, pistils; all on one stem.  I don't think I have ever seen this, but it should be interesting to see what forms.

Today I decided to take a stab at a time lapse sequence of a Chabaud Carnation bud opening.  In an effort to speed up the process, I have placed the plant under a 125 watt 6500k compact fluorescent grow light and will leave the light on 24/7.

With the cool, damp, cloudy, rainy weather hanging in I am fighting powdery mildew on the cucumbers in the greenhouse.  The systemic fungicide works to some degree, however, I will most likely just continue until the larger fruit is harvested and then call it a season for the greenhouse.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Journal October 3, 2012

The four Carnation plants were brought inside today and placed under a 90 watt red/blue/white LED grow light.  Their fragrance permeates the entire basement, but that is fine with me.

As much as I would like to make a time lapse sequence of a Carnation bud opening, I may not even bother to try as they take forever to open.

In the next day or so I will also bring Ava's Everlasting Strawflowers indoors.  They have been a big disappointment, as they have been in prime space in the greenhouse since the first of June, and have not produced a single flower.  The plants are over three feet tall , dark green and apparently healthy.  If a few weeks under an LED does not induce flowering, I am going to terminate the project, as I have spent four months on it at this point.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Journal October 2, 2012

Two Little Leaf cucumber seedlings were planted in self watering containers containing a half and half mixture of coir and perlite today. The plants will be grown in a tent using a six band 126 watt flower series LED with a photoperiod of sixteen hours. I am planning on using Peter's Professional nutrients, maintaining the EC about 2.5, and the pH around 5.6 - 5.9. Initially, the light is suspended 15" above the tops of the plants, and the reading is slightly under 5,000 foot candles, which is really 3,000 foot candles above the minimum required.

The fruit on the cucumbers in the greenhouse has just about stopped growing due to lack of sunshine.  The last several days have been overcast and rainy;  simply not conducive to growing plants.

The tomatoes in the tent are progressing nicely, with the Burpee Super Beefsteak still slightly ahead of the Trust.  Today, two very large flowers opened on the Beefsteak plant, which will now require pollinating.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Journal September 28, 2012

We have had a small lemon tree for several years now, and currently the tree has both lemons and buds.  I have never seen it have both at the same time; it could be due to the warm weather, or the frequent drenching of used nutrients I give it.  Whatever the reason, I am not going to complain.

The tomatoes in the tent are coming along nicely, and so far the Burpee Super Beefsteak is ahead of the Trust.  The Burpee plant has a large truss with some very large buds forming, with another smaller truss forming about an inch above the first truss.   The Trust variety is forming one very small truss, and is a slightly smaller plant overall.  So much for hybrid vigor.  Who knows though, it may very well catch up. My plan is to limit the plants to either one or two trusses.  In any case, it should be interesting to watch the progress.

Four cucumber seedlings are in 3" pots under a red/blue/white LED.  They will remain in the small pots until four to six leaves have developed.  At that point, I will transplant them to large self watering containers.  They will be grown in one of the  tents with a six band flower series LED grow light.

Today I picked the Outredgrous lettuce and planted a replacement batch, along with a batch of Early Wonder beets for beet greens.  All of the plants, in all of the ebb and flow systems, look fantastic!  The modification of placing the grating and window screen in the bottoms of the trays has made a tremendous difference, to both the plants and maintenance.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Journal September 25, 2012

The above represents my first attempt at time lapse photography by stitching digital still images into a video.

It appears somewhat crude, but I learned a lot from this test.  First, I need to change the cycle to capture an image every 10 minutes to make the motion flow more smoothly.  And, the lighting needs to be improved, dramatically.  

One surprise I found when viewing the video, is that tomatoes apparently have a circadian rhythm governed by the photoperiod.

The video shows three days growth of a Trust tomato in a grow tent using a LED grow light.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Journal September 20, 2012

Tank one was planted with a dozen seedlings of Fudanso Umaina today, with the EC  about 1.1, and the pH close to 7.  Umaina is a compact Japanese chard, and like regular chard likes a slightly higher pH.

The chances of anyone else in the state growing Umaina are most likely very slim, and the chances of anyone growing it hydroponically are even slimmer.  The chances of anyone growing it hydroponically, under LED lighting, are probably too high to even calculate.

One of my future projects is to attempt to make some time lapse videos of plant growth and movement, which I also intend to post on the blog.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Journal September 17, 2012

A dozen Tom Thumb lettuce plants were placed in system 3 today, that would be the tank on the left above, along with three plants of a variety of basil called Plenty.

The tank on the right contains Outredgeous romaine lettuce, which has already yielded at least three meals, while the tank in the center contains two varieties of dwarf romaine.  A replacement batch of seeds for the Outredgeous has been started to replace the existing plants.

At this point there are still two ebb and flow systems sitting idle waiting to be planted . They will be planted with beet greens and a Japanese chard called fudanso umaina.  The seedlings for these plants are presently too small to transplant.

As for the greenhouse; I estimate that I am still at least two weeks away from picking enough cucumbers for a batch of dill pickles. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Journal September 16, 2012

When I opened the greenhouse this morning I found that one of the Carnation plants had bloomed.  Not only is the flower beautiful, it has a delightful fragrance as well.  That was one of the reasons that I planted Carnations; for the fragrance.

The flower shown above is a Chabaud, and I currently have four other Carnation cultivars started.  My plan is to cross pollinate the different varieties, collect the seeds, and see what grows when the crosses are planted.

Having always thought that Carnations would be difficult to grow, I had not tried them, until now. As it has turned out, they are among the easiest plants I have yet grown in pots.

So far, two of the varieties are bushy, and two are upright, slender and require staking.  I have just started seed for a dwarf variety and will throw them into the cross pollinating mix as well.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Journal September 14, 2012

The 450 watt LED grow light was installed in one of the tents today.  I will be testing the light to grow tomatoes indoors, and while doing so I will be comparing the a greenhouse hybrid against a standard open pollinated variety.

The recommended height from the canopy for this light is thirty inches, however, with my hanger arrangement I was only able to get the light 26 inches above the top of the plants.  At this height, I measured a full 5,000 footcandles, which the the maximum reading for my meter.  At some point, as the plants grow, it will be necessary to remove the adjustable hangers and attach the light directly to the overhead supports.

Rather than use Autopots for this trial, I am using two self watering planters that I purchased from Agway for about seven dollars each.  A two pot Autopot system would cost about seventy dollars, or more, as a comparison. I expect that these planters will  perform equally as well, or better, than the more expensive Autopot system.

Additionally, I feel that these containers have the advantage of letting me adjust the nutrients, and add supplements, much more readily than the Autopots. 

The nutrient EC is slightly under 3, with the pH at 6.1, and the photoperiod will be sixteen hours.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Journal September 8, 2012

As the outdoor gardening season comes to an end I am gearing up for indoor growing, and, to be truthful, I am actually looking forward to indoor growing for a change of pace.

My wife has asked me to grow lettuce that is more robust than the leaf lettuce varieties, so I  have switched to romaine lettuce. at least for the time being.  The tray above contains baby romaine and little Caesar, which are, as of today, 28 days from seed.

The nutrient solution has an EC of 1.10 with the pH at 6.1.  For five gallons of water I used 1 teaspoon of Expert Gardener plant food, 1 teaspoon of calcium nitrate, 2 oz. of epsom salts, from a concentrate of 4 tablespoons per gallon of water and 1 teaspoon of baking powder to adjust the pH.  It should be evident from the photo that the plants are thriving on the above mixture.

As for the greenhouse: The first female flower is forming on the cucumber plants.  The tomatoes have been giving me problems with blossom end rot, which I think is being caused by the autopots overwatering them.  I have reverted to manual control of the valves, and I have been adding additional calcium to the nutrient mix.  The strawflowers are a big disappointment, as the plants are huge and healthy, but have not produced a single flower.  On the other hand, the carnations are doing fantastically and have several flower buds developing. The tomato seedlings intended for indoor growing have been transplanted to larger pots, and Ava's purple pitcher plant is thriving, although it has yet to catch a bug.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Journal August 2, 2012

A batch of Waldmann's dark green lettuce was planted today in one of the tents using a six band flower series LED.  

As seen in the photo, I have added a grid and screen to the bottom of the ebb and flow tub to prevent the roots from remaining in water.  I expect this to be a big improvement in the ebb and flow system.

For nutrients I used the following:
5 gallons of water
3 tablespoons of Walmart's Expert Gardener plant food.  (any commercial water soluble will do)
1 1/2 tablespoons of Epsom Salt.

As the pH was only 4.9 I added 2 teaspoons of baking soda, which raised the pH to a respectable 6.1.

When completed, the nutrients had an EC of 3.9, with the pH  at 6.1, which is high for lettuce, however, it will work.  I will adjust the amounts slightly when I refill the system in two weeks. 

The point is; that you don't have to buy expensive nutrients, or supplies, from hydroponic dealers. For example, the solution to adjust pH from General Hydroponics costs about a dollar an ounce, while baking soda, which works just as well, is dirt cheap.  The same holds true if you need to lower the pH.  Don't rush off to the hydroponic dealer, trundle on down to the grocery store and get a quart of white vinegar.  Your plants will never know the difference.

The author of one of my greenhouse growing books denigrates hydroponic gardening because he claims it requires expensive equipment and ties you to a hydroponic dealer.  Additionally, he thinks that the claimed results and advantages are mostly hype.  In my opinion, he obviously did not delve too deeply into the subject of hydroponic gardening.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August 1, 2012 journal

As the replacement tomato plants develop their second truss I have begun to remove the growing tips.  So far I have removed the tips of two plants, however, there are at least nine set buds on each plant.  

My intention is to force the plant's sugar production into developing fruit, not vegetation.  As the season winds down, and daylight hours fade, it is simply not practical to let the plants develop further.

Today I planted eight replacement cucumber seedlings, even though I did not feel they were quite ready for planting in the autopots.  Again, time is of the essence if I want to have a crop before the season ends.  

I lost almost an entire month of growing, as the plants I placed in the greenhouse on July 7, 2012 had to be destroyed.  The reason being, that in an effort to prevent powdery mildew, I sprayed the plants with a mixture that I found on the web that was supposed to prevent mildew from forming.

Although the garlic and water mixture was doing OK in controlling mildew, I thought I would try another natural preventive preparation.  The formula called for baking soda, cooking oil and dish washing detergent.  The mixture was prepared according to the directions given and applied to the plants, and, to my horror, the next morning every area sprayed with the mixture had turned white and was desiccated.

For the new crop I plan on using Bordeaux solution to control mildew, even though it is sort of messy.  The constant high temperatures and humidity this growing season are very conducive to the spread of powdery mildew.  In fact, this has been the most difficult year that I have had since I started the greenhouse, That said, I also learned more this year than any previous year.

 So, I guess there is a silver lining after all.

Friday, July 13, 2012

July 13, 2102 journal

After only one month and one day after taking the cuttings to clone replacement tomato plants the new plants are being transplanted into AutoPots.

Both of the plants in the above photos have two trusses formed already, and the plant in the top photo has open blossoms.

Had I elected to start seeds, I would be just now seeing true leaves beginning to form.