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.