Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 26, 2012 journal

Today was a cold sunny day and the temperature outdoors did not even make forty degrees, however, the sun brought the greenhouse temperature to the mid eighties, so I was able to move the peppers and tomatoes to the greenhouse for the afternoon.

Even though the main stem of the pepper plant is about equal to a quarter in diameter, the weight of the peppers is causing the plant to tilt. As a precaution, I decided to reinforce the plant by adding supports. The supports consist of a few sections of bamboo, surrounded by wire ties. Simple, but effective.

Already there has to be more than a dozen peppers set on this plant, and I am going to have to begin picking them, while they are still small, to encourage production. That said, small for this variety is about seven inches in length.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25, 2012 journal

Growing the Giant Marconi indoors is turning out to be one of the easiest projects ever, as these plants need little, if any, manual pollination. Be that as it may, I may have to remove some of the fruit, as I doubt that the plant can support all of the fruit that has set.

Today I started Tropic and Trust tomato seeds for the greenhouse. The Dahlia seeds for the annual garden have germinated and the pepper seeds for the garden are beginning to germinate.

The cucumbers in the ebb and flow system are sending out male flowers and are responding nicely to a higher EC of 1.9. I am finding that daily monitoring of the pH and maintaining the level at 5.6 is critical to their overall health.

Friday, February 24, 2012

February 24, 2012 journal

When I purchased the Mountain Princess seeds I had several criteria: determinate, early, compact size, medium sized fruit, suitable for container growing. My original plan was to grow them in the tents, allowing only a very limited number of trusses to develop.

I am so totally impressed with this variety, that I have changed my mind, and will allow the plants to develop normally. I did, in fact, remove a few trusses, however, watching the plants and fruit develop convinced me that I should determine the full potential of this variety.

Another consideration is that being small plants, they can easily be moved to the greenhouse when it becomes operational, thus giving us tomatoes as early as April this year.

For greenhouse tomatoes this year I will be starting seeds for Tropic and Truss on the first of March. My long term plan is to clone a few plants in August, and grow them indoors in tents next winter, then perhaps try my one truss experiment.

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20, 2012 journal

Today was another sunny day with the temperature in the greenhouse in the mid eighties this afternoon, so the grow lights got a good rest. This winter, though far from over, is going to spoil me.

Seeds for Giant Marconi peppers, for the soil garden, and a few dwarf dahlia for the annual garden, were started today.
Again this year, I plan to continue to grow salad greens indoors under lights, and not fight the bugs and other problems associated with growing greens outdoors.

The above photo shows prizehead lettuce grown from seeds that were purchased at Agway a few weeks ago for a dollar and change. There must be a few thousand seeds in the package, and I can pretty much guarantee that I can get about 80% of the seeds to grow to maturity using coffee filters and horticubes. Personally, I think seeds are one of the few bargains left on the market.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 19, 2012 journal

It was another nice day today and we still have absolutely no snow on the ground. Although the temperature outdoors was cold, about 39, I decided to let the plants take advantage of the sun in the greenhouse, where the temperature was in the mid sixties.

While taking my daily moisture reading , I saw something unusual lurking just under the top leaves of the pepper plant. Upon investigation, I found the bottom of a chubby four inch pepper, which is growing upside down inside the plant. The plant being so dense, the pepper can not grow in the normal position. I knew that there were a lot of small peppers, about the size of the end of my finger, but finding one this large was a big surprise.

I guess the Mountain Princess did not want to be bested , as I also found a small tomato hiding behind a leaf, but, it is nowhere near as big as the pepper.

My plan, for this year, was to wait until the first of March to start seeds, however, I am going to alter my plan and start some peppers for the soil garden this week. It will most likely be the first of March before they germinate anway.

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012 journal

The above photo
is being posted to illustrate why I believe Autopots overwater plants indoors, and why I advocate the use of a moisture meter and shut off valve when using them indoors.

As can be seen in the photo, the reservoir is completely dry, as the valve to the nutrient tank has been turned off for over a week. Still, the moisture level in the media is 9.0 on a scale of 10. If the valve had not been turned off, the reservoir would have refilled a week ago, making the media very soggy indeed.

The CEO of Autopots UK sent me a PDF showing Autopots being used successfully to grow cucumbers. That said, the example was a greenhouse in Barbados, where conditions are very much different than the conditions, indoors, in a tent, in upstate New York.

Following his advice for the best EC for cucumbers, I lowered the EC on the cucumbers I am growing in the ebb and flow system to 1.4. The result is that I can now see signs of nitrogen deficiency.

I guess the moral of this post is: Using trial and error, determine what works best for you, and YOUR growing conditions.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Journal February 10, 2012

Ava presented her grandmother with the the last of the flowers from the calendula and zinnia plants today. The plants were still growing, but showing their age. When I checked the tags in the plants, I was surprised to find that they have been growing since October, so they have nothing to be ashamed of, as they did a yeoman's job producing flowers.

In a normal winter we would have had about six feet of snow by this time in February. This winter, we have had hardely any, and the temperatures remain above normal. As much as I like LED lighting for growing, I can't resist giving the plants natural light when conditions permit.

The three tomato plants spent the afternoon in the greenhouse; this being the first time these plants have been exposed to natural light. It is, in fact, the first time that they have been out of the tents.

With that said, the plants are such a healthy color green, that they appear almost blue green with very compact internodal spacing. Yet, there are still those who insist that: "LED technology is not there yet."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Journal February 6, 2012

Today, while turning the pepper plant to inspect the backside, I found that there was a fully opened flower that I had not seen before. The plant has quite a few buds, so I will have to pay close attention to the plant from now on, so that I can pollinate the flowers as they open.

All of the Mountain Princess tomatoes have trusses with buds forming, but it will still be several days before the flowers form. And, if the weather continues to be mild, I will bring the plants into the greenhouse in the afternoon, to allow them to bask in the warmth and sunlight. The temperature in the greenhouse was in the 80s today, and I can not recall it ever being that warm in February. Not that I am complaining.

The cucumbers in the ebb and flow system are starting to put out tendrils, and so far, look fantastic. Cucumbers are a good "notification" crop, because it there is a problem with your growing conditions, cucumbers will be the first plants to show it. I have not used the el-cheapo Wal-Mart nutrients for cucumbers before, but they seem OK with it. That said, I plan on changing the nutrients weekly, instead of every two weeks, just to be safe.

It is hard to believe I will soon be starting seeds for the coming season. Where does the time go?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2, 2012 journal

The feed lines to the AutoPots have been turned off for several days and the reservoirs are completely dry, however, the meter is telling me that the moisture level within the pots is about an 8 on a scale of 1 - 10. That said, the plants are doing fantastically well! I venture to state that they are the best I have yet grown indoors.

The Mountain Princess tomato, shown above, is an extra plant that I was going to discard but decided at the last moment to grow instead. This morning I thought I could see a bud cluster forming, and by lunch the cluster was indeed visible.

I have been removing suckers, as I want to limit trusses to the main stem for support. After the first truss has set I will decide whether I am going to allow an additional truss to form.

The part I am unsure of is how much foliage the plant should have to support one or two trusses. I suppose it would be best to err on the side of too much, rather than too little.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Journal February 1, 2012


Three cucumber seedlings have been planted in an ebb and flow system replacing the plants growing in AutoPots. These seedlings will be grown using a 90 watt red/blue/white LED with a photoperiod of fourteen hours. The initial EC was 1.6 with a pH of 5.6 and the cycle is fifteen minutes on every six hours.

The ebb and flow system is filled with hydroton, with the net pots containing the seedlings buried in the hydroton. In addition, I have placed a layer of ceramic tiles on the bottom of the tub to protect the roots from any liquid that might remain in the tub between cycles.

I am firmly convinced that when using an AutoPot indoors it is absolutely necessary to control the release of nutrients to the reservoir manually, as there was a dramatic improvement in the cucumbers after I began monitoring the moisture levels. Still, I felt that the plants were so stressed from being overwatered, that they would most likely never fully recover. However, I was able to make a small batch of pickles using my own cucumbers, grown indoors during the winter, and that in itself was rewarding.

The chard that has been growing under the red/blue LED for the last six weeks was harvested today. We have enough for probably six individual servings from one ebb and flow system and the quality is fantastic, with the leaves being so green that they appear to be artificial.

As I am using highly efficient LED lighting and inexpensive off the shelf nutrients, the cost to grow the chard is hardly worth considering.