Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Journal December 23, 2015 - Gentilina lettuce

After having received 14 hours of light for the last several days the Gentilina lettuce seedlings were ready to be planted.

Once again I have decided to grow them aeroponically.  Although it is possible to grow more plants in a flood and drain system, the aeroponic systems are easier to maintain, assuming you have no leaks.

The plants will have a photoperiod of 12 hours, with an intensity of just about 5,000 foot candles.  That intensity is not necessary,  however, it should not harm the plants.

After my morning walk I took a look around our property to see if the unusual warm weather was having an effect on the plants.  The foundation plants are still green, the gazania is putting out new growth, dill seed is germinating, and the chives are thriving.

Christmas is forecast to be warmer here in upstate New York than it will be in Los Angeles.  The greenhouse is still open, with the forecast for the warmer temperatures to continue into next week, it will probably remain open into January.

I am not complaining, it could stay this way and I would not mind at all.....

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Journal December, 6, 2015 - Seed starting

The Gentilina lettuce seeds have been placed into horticubes to further develop prior to being placed into the aeroponic systems.

In my opinion, horticubes are far superior to rockwool, in that they do not have to be pH adjusted and are almost impossible to over water.

That said, I find the pre-punched holes in the cubes are far too big for tiny seedlings, like lettuce.  To overcome this, prior to placing the seedlings in the cubes, I use the end an artist's brush to punch a small hole on the bottom of the cubes for the seedlings.  Using tweezers and the artist brush I place the seedlings in the holes and "tuck them in."

The cubes are fine as is for larger seedlings like cucumbers, but work better for me using the above method for small seedlings.

Once tucked in, the seedlings are placed under 2 24" T5 grow lights until they have a few true leaves and roots showing from the cubes.

Using the 1/4" tube I can exhale CO2 into the tray a few times a day to help the seedlings along.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Journal December, 2015 - Seeds sprouted in 48 hours.

It may be difficult to see in the above photo, however, every one of the Gentilina seeds have sprouted within 48 hours of being placed in a moist coffee filter.  The filter was placed in a plastic bag, which was placed near a light source.

This illustrates the importance of having fresh seed, for lettuce in particular.

This will be my swan song in terms of Fairy Gardens, although I have found making them an enjoyable process.  They have been placed in my den, on a shelf under an LED grow light.  All of the plants I have used are terrarium plants, so they will require little maintenance.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Journal December 2, 2015 Fairy Gardens

Making the Fairy Garden with Ava turned out to be such an enjoyable process that I decided to make a few more.  There is enough space under one of the LED grow lights in my den to accommodate three or four small gardens, so that is my plan at this point.

Today I started seeds for Gentilina lettuce to be grown in two of the aeroponic units.  It was necessary to purchase seed, so I placed an order with  The seeds were received yesterday, however, the sell by date is only three weeks away.

That is normally not a problem, but with lettuce is it definitely will be a problem.  The seeds were placed in the refrigerator in an attempt to prolong their viability.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Journal November, 25, 2015 - Completed Fairy Garden

Ava was here today and she completed her domed fairy garden.  We have a layer of gravel for drainage,  landscape fabric to prevent the soil from getting into the gravel, soil with charcoal for odor control, gravel to maintain moisture and prevent fungus gnats.  In addition, we added Osmocote timed fertilizer, so it is a very low maintenance garden.

She is really really really proud of her project, and well she should be.  As for me, it made my day so see her  so enjoy working with plants.

Grandchildren are the best!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Journal November 24, 2015 - Fairy Garden Started

On her last visit my granddaughter Ava wanted to speak to me in private, so I knew something was up.  She wants to make a present for her parents for Christmas, with of course my help.

We have kind of settled on a Fairy Garden, so the above photo shows the preliminary arrangement.  On hand, I had the container, ground cloth and figurine, however, it was necessary to purchase the plants, activated charcoal and cacti and succulent planting mix.  Making a short trip to the local reservoir, I was able to collect several niece pieces of drift wood for accent pieces, so on her next visit we will put the finishing touches on the garden.

At this point the olive and fig trees are still in the greenhouse getting their chill, and last night they got a good one, as the temperature went down to twenty degrees F.  Even with the heat on low the water in the watering bucket had ice on it this morning.

Last Thanksgiving we had a snow storm, but this year the forecast is for the temperature to be a mild fifty degrees or so.

We  have had several calm sunny days, which were ideal for getting in a few more drone flights before the weather turns nasty.  

I wanted to take a photo of my drone in flight, but when I returned home and was putting the drone away I found that while I was photographing the drone, the drone was photographing me.

Below is a photo of the Hudson River valley looking west.  The photo was taken at the Frear Park golf course in Troy, New York.  Just about the lake, slightly to the right of center, the large waterfalls at Cohoes, New York are just visible.  They were a major attraction in this area in the 19th Century.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Journal October 16, 2015- As the season end

The weather service is forecasting overnight temperatures in the twenties in the coming days, so I thought it prudent to place the olives in the greenhouse today.

To keep the daytime temperature to a minimum, I plan on opening the vents and doors.  The goal is to give the trees about four hundred hours of chilling, with an average temperature of 50 F or so.

Yesterday, in anticipation of the frost, I picked the last of the green beans and pulled the plants.  Today, the raised bed was replanted with Italian Purple and Canadian Music garlic.  All of the bulbs planted were from the crop we harvested this year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Journal October 14, 2015 - End of growing season is almost here.

The weather service is forecasting frost this coming weekend, so it is time call a halt to this year's outdoor gardening.   To that end, I picked all of the fruit remaining on our one eggplant, removed the plant from its container and stored the planter for next year.

The plant was in a planter called: The City Picker Patio Garden.  All in all I found that the planter performed exceptionally well.

Several years ago a man sent me an email telling me to come to his house and pick up his hydroponic equipment, which he no longer wanted. The equipment was practically new, but he had given up on hydroponics. I offered to help him, but he insisted that I take all of the equipment.

One of the items was a 400 watt HPS grow light, that I have never used, until now. I have decided to try it to grow a Tropic tomato in one of tents to see how it compares with the big LED grow lights. First, I ordered a 400 watt MH conversion lamp on eBay for ten dollars, delivered. MH is for the vegetative stage, when the plant has at least two trusses in flower I will replace the conversion bulb with the original HPS bulb to get the fruiting process underway. 

My intent is to only let two or three trusses develop, then remove the growing tip, as I have limited height in the tent. That, and the bulb is very hot, as opposed to the LEDs, so the plant can not get too close to the bulb.

To dissipate the heat I have had to run the ventilator throughout the entire photoperiod. If worse comes to worse, I'll simply replace the light with an LED grow light.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Journal October 10, 2015 - Autumn Display

This post has absolutely nothing to do with gardening, sorry to disappoint you.

Right now the foliage in New York is coming into peak color, so I thought I would share some images of Mother Nature's finest work.

Off the beaten path, Martin Dunham reservoir, Grafton New York, October 6, 2015

First Pond, Grafton, New York, October 10, 2015

 First Pond, Grafton, New York, October 10, 2015

First Pond, Grafton, New York, October 10, 2015

This is one of the big weekends for leaf peeking, and there is an endless stream of traffic on nearby route 7; with people heading to Vermont to "see the leaves."  Go figure.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Journal October 3, 2015

I purchased a pineapple at Aldi's for a little over two dollars,  as I wanted to see for myself just how difficult it would be to start my own plant.  

Today I removed the top of the fruit, stripping off the bottom leaves to expose an inch or so of the core.  The top was placed in a jar of plain water, with the water covering the exposed base of the core.

The jar has been placed under a LED grow light, along with the plant purchased on Ebay, in a warm environment.  

The plant purchased on eBay came from a nursery, so it was most likely grown from a slip or sucker.  It is my understanding that plants propagated this way will produce a pineapple about a year sooner than plants propagated from the crown.  I guess I will just have to wait and see.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Journal October 1, 2015 - Another tropical

On one of the gardening forums that I belong to a woman posted photos of a beautiful pineapple that she had grown in her greenhouse.  She also posted that she has been growing them successfully for several years.

When I posted that I thought it was a great idea and wanted try one, she replied that it would take patience, which I have in abundance.  

That said, to speed up the process I looked on eBay for pineapples and ordered one for $5.99.  I expected a tiny plant, however, I was shocked by the size of the plant when I opened the box today.

Still, I plan on starting my own plant from a store purchased pineapple within the next few days.

For a scale reference, the black pots next to the pineapple are three gallon nursery pots.

Even with the cooler temperatures the soil garden is still producing.  Today I picked these green beans, a few peppers and two eggplant.  The beans are still flowering, so I think they will be producing until the first frost takes them out.  The single eggplant has at least six or seven more good sized fruit on it.  It is hard to believe how many eggplant we picked from that single plant this season.   The tomatoes still have some green tomatoes, a few of which are starting to ripen.

The beans are in the raised beds, which have really been productive.  This is their second crop this season, as we used them for garlic, onions and cucumbers earlier in the season.  When the beans are finished, I will replant them again with garlic bulbs.  Ya gotta love it!

Yesterday we received a tremendous amount of rain in just the matter of a few hours.  Locally, several streets were under water, with people stranded in their cars.  As the olives were still outdoors on the deck, they really got soaked by all the rain.  As more rain is forecast during the coming week, I moved the olives into the greenhouse to keep them from drowning.  Hopefully,  I will be able to move them back outdoors to get their 400 hours chill.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Journal September 29, 2015 - Turning this year's annuals into next year's annuals

The days are getting shorter and cooler, the annual flower bed has been pulled up and the soil turned over.  During the last few weeks I have let the flowers remain on the plants, so that the seed pods would dry.  

This evening I spent an hour or so separating and packaging the seeds for next year's flower bed.  Seeds are inexpensive, so why bother?  Well, I get a lot more satisfaction out of growing plants from seeds that I have saved.  It sort of makes the plant "completely mine."

The lettuce in the aeroponic units is just about ready for harvest.  I noticed that the folks that make the Aerogarden have a new unit for sale; it would be interesting to compare their results with my homemade unit.  Their seed pods and nutrients are expensive, while I am using only a tablespoon of generic dry nutrients and epsom salts.

Outside, I can see that Mother Nature is dipping her brushes into the paint buckets getting ready for the fall display.

Another sign that fall is approaching is the emerging fungi on the forest floor.  This time of year I love to roam the woods classifying and photographing the seemingly endless varieties of fungi.  The above is:  Unicorn Salmon Entoloma, pretty, delicate, deadly.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Journal September 21, 2015 - Aeroponic lettuce

The Green Ice lettuce growing in the first aeroponic unit needs to be drained and replenished.  It is already at the point that it can be used as cut and come again; harvesting the larger outer leaves, letting the plant regrow.

The second unit, growing the Merlot and Red Salad bowl lettuce, is coming along nicely also.  While the Green Ice is receiving professional hydroponic nutrients, I am using inexpensive generic nutrients from Wal-Mart in this unit.  

One of the net pots containing the Green Ice lettuce is shown above.  Now that the root systems are exposed to the misting nutrients the plants will really grow quickly.

It has been my experience that lettuce can be grown using generic nutrients like Miracle Grow.  To add some magnesium, I mix four tablespoons of Epsom Salt to a gallon of water to make a concentrate.  When adding the nutrients I add about an ounce of the concentrate to  the nutrient solution.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Journal September 17, 2015 - Coffee

Sometime ago I tried to grow a coffee plant, however that was when I was using coir and perlite for media; the plant did not like the media at all and did not survive.  Coffee likes the same type of soil as figs and olives, so I thought I would give growing coffee another try.

Coffee does not need a lot of light, which makes it a good candidate for a house plant.  It is an attractive evergreen, and if it ever flowers, the flowers will add a nice scent to a room for several days.  Add to that, it could actually produce beans that can be roasted and brewed.  Nice.

First I thought I would plant seeds, but you need fresh seeds, so I bought some from a seed vendor on eBay.  Then, I found that it could take two to six months for the seeds to germinate.  Again, looking on eBay, I found a coffee plant for sale, so I made an offer of four dollars.  I did not really expect the seller to accept the offer, but he did.

When I received the plant I found that there were actually ten small plants in the pot.  Well, I was not about to throw away nine plants, so I submerged the pot for several hours to load up the seedlings with water, then separated and planted each individual seedling.  

To my amazement, it appears that all ten plants are going to survive being transplanted.  Just what I needed, ten more plants to house and care for...

As long as I was planting, I struck cuttings from the Empeltre and Manzanillo olive trees.  Both trees had double trunks, so the cuttings had to be removed anyway.  Add two more plants to the collection.  To top it off, the two pots on the end contain nine Cattura coffee beans.

The above plant is a Tropic tomato, that I am thinking of growing indoors, in a tent, after I close the greenhouse.  Several years ago, a guy decided hydroponics was not his cup of tea, after he had spent a considerable amount of money on equipment.  He sent me an email and told me to come over to his house and just take the stuff away.  I went and looked at what he was doing,  tried to get him to make some changes and continue, but he had had enough.

Among the items that he gave me was a 400 watt MH grow lamp, like I need another light.  Still, I have never used one of these lights, so I am thinking of using it to grow the above plant.  

The literature with my Go Pro said that the WiFi frequency was different from the DJI drone's frequency, so there would be no problem using the WiFi for a downlink to my android.  Wrong!  When I tried it, I lost control of the drone and just managed to grab a landing strut and recover the drone without damage.  It was necessary to re-flash the firmware on the drone and recalibrate the controller, so today I took the drone for a test flight at Grafton Lakes state park.  

Just a few short weeks ago there were hundreds of people in the park.  Today, I don't think I counted more than ten cars.  That makes it an ideal location to fly the drone, so I will be spending more time at the park as the leaves begin to turn.  That said, I can see from the photo above that some of the trees are already starting to change.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Journal September 8, 2015 - Keeping the cost down

For this batch of Merlot and Red Salad Bowl lettuce I am simply using Expert Gardener plant food from Wal-Mart, where a 1.5 pound box will cost under five dollars.

Hydroponic nutrients are buffered the hydroponic dealers will tell you!  Well, yeah, when I added a table spoon of nutrients to the tank, the pH was only 5.9, so I had to add a whopping 5 ml of pH up to bring it to 6.0.  Big deal.  

An EC of 2.0 using a tablespoon of the inexpensive nutrients in two and a half gallons of water, not too shabby I'd say.

Again, I selected the largest and best looking seedlings and tossed the rejects.  It is not a bad idea to start more than twice as many seeds as you will need, after all seeds are cheap.

If you decide to build one of these systems, the pass through for the pump wire is the main problem in controlling leakage.  There are a few solutions to the problem, one of which is a simple notch in the top of the bucket and a corresponding notch in the lid.  That one works best for me.

A 90 watt red/blue LED with a photoperiod of 16 hours will be used for this batch of lettuce.  The pump cycle will again be fifteen minutes on and fifteen minutes off.

Once operating, there is no further involvement necessary, other than draining are replacing the nutrients every two weeks.  Nice!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Journal September 7, 2015 - Green Ice Lettuce

As summer  transitions into fall there is going to be less work involved with the greenhouse and garden, so it is time to think of indoor growing.  While testing the lettuce seeds for viability, I found a few varieties that I like that were still viable: Green Ice, Merlot and Red Salad Bowl.  As several of the seeds that were tested sprouted quickly, I decided to grow them instead of throwing them away.

As I wanted keep the process as simple as possible, I decided to use a few of my small 5 gallon aeroponic systems.  For the Green Ice lettuce I am using a simple T with three 360 degree spray heads.  The spinning heads look cool, but in practice I have found that they have a tendency to either clog or stick in one position.  With aeroponics, it is important to make absolutely sure that the reservoir has no small debris in it before you add the nutrients.

The seedlings should have a few true leaves and some roots showing from the sides of the cubes prior to being transplanted.  Actually, these seedlings could have been a little larger to lessen the shock of transplanting.

The seedlings are given a short soak in nutrient solution prior to being separated.  At this point, I select the largest strongest seedlings, but it is always good to have a few spares on hand, as transplanting is a traumatic experience for these tiny plants.

Getting the seedlings into the 2" net pots is a delicate procedure, so you may damage a few seedlings in the process.  I place a few hydroton pellets in the bottom of the pot to provide support, also, I remove about 1/4" of the top of the cube to expose enough of the seedling for the foam collar to hold the seedling firmly in place.  For someone doing this for the first time, I would suggest having several spare seedlings on hand.

After filling, the system was test run for an hour to check for leaks.  The EC is slightly above 2 and the pH is a 6.4, which I thing will be ideal.  A simple inexpensive timer will be used to turn the pump on and off every fifteen minutes.

I will be using a 150 watt LED grow light in a tent for this grow, with a photoperiod of 16 hours.  Actually, as only the growth setting is being used, the wattage is much less. 

It is not unusual to find that some of the outside leaves droop and do not come back after the trauma of being placed in the pots;  they can simply be snipped off without harming the plant.

Like the olives, I want to be able to propagate figs, so I am looking at methods of propagating them: seeds, cuttings and tissue culture.  I saw one enterprising person selling fig seeds on eBay for about a buck a seed.  Not in this lifetime!

Using one of the figs we purchased at Trader Joe's, I removed the pulp and soaked it for two days, the same as you do with tomatoes.  When the viable seeds sank to the bottom, they were collected and placed in a coffee filter moistened with dilute nutrient solution. 

I should know if they are going to germinate in about two weeks.  The problem is, that there is no way to tell if the plant is male, or female, until it has grown.  The male plants do not produce edible fruit, but still it is going to be a learning process.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Jounal September 5, 2015 - One more tropical

Another fig tree arrived today, this one is a Violet De Bordeaux, which I have been told is delicious.  I must say that ficus are nice looking plants, which are supposed to be easy to grow.

Historically, they have been around since the dinosaurs, one of mankind's first cultivated plants, even before wheat and barley.  

Even in the few days I have had the plants, I can see new growth.  Usually, plants that have been deprived of light in transit for a few days take sometime to recover, not these though.

Coincidentally, the local Trader Joe's outlet had a sale on fresh Black Mission figs over the weekend.  We had never eaten fresh figs, so we purchased and tried a package.  They are really good, and are supposed to be very good for you besides.  

One shipment of large black nursery pots has arrived, so I started transferring the olive trees to larger containers.  It is turning out to be more of a chore than I expected, so I am only doing four trees a day.  After repotting the trees I am placing them in the greenhouse, as I want them to acclimate after the shock of being transplanted.  After a few days in the greenhouse, they will go back outdoors and I will tackle another four trees.  

The larger tree,  on the left side of the photo, third from the front, is a Brown Turkey fig tree.  That is the tree that was lost for a few days in the postal system.  Several of the bottom leaves had turned yellow and had to be removed, however, I can already see new growth, so I guess there was no real harm to the tree.