Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Journal May 27, 2015 - Autopot - My Version

Finally got around to doing a serious test of my home built Autopot, so far so good.  That said, I have no idea of what kind of pepper plant is in the container.  

When I was starting tomato seeds, I found a package of seeds for mixed sweet peppers that had been in my seed collection for about three years, so I started some of them also.  Now, I have several unidentified pepper plants, but as long as they are sweet peppers I really don't care.

The plant is kind of strange, as it appears to be "leggy", but it has been getting more than adequate light, so it may just be the nature of the plant.  Hopefully, it will put out some lateral branches and fill out.

As for the system, it consists of a regular off the shelf pot from Wal-Mart, a kitty litter tray painted green, a piece of masonite board, also painted green, and an Autopot float valve.  I purchased the valve from a dealer in Texas a few years ago for ten dollars.

The reservoir is the black five gallon bucket on the shelf, which is attached to the float valve by 1/4" black tubing.  A good estimate of what it cost me to put this system together would be slightly less than twenty dollars.  

The five gallon container was filled with water when I potted the plant two weeks ago,  it is still 3/4 full at this point.  The media is my olive growing media, which I am now using for just about everything in the greenhouse.

The major change this year is that I am not feeding any of the plants from the reservoirs, they simply contain water.  Now, there is absolutely no chance of the lines clogging with sediments.  When I want to feed the plants, I shut off the valves from the reservoir and add the nutrients by top watering.  To fill the reservoirs, it is a simple matter of bringing a hose into the greenhouse and filling them from the hoseKeep it simple.

The nice feature of the Autopots is that, when working correctly, they maintain a consistent moisture level in the media.  This reduces blossom end rot and misshapen  fruit, both tomatoes and cucumbers.  

Even though I have had the greenhouse for several years, it is still very much a learning process.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Journal May 20, 2015 - Attaching a tendril

Time lapse photography has me off on another tangent from gardening, again.  I thought it might just be interesting to see exactly how a cucumber tendril goes about finding and attaching itself to a support.  The tendril is very hard to see in the view finder, so I hope it will be visible in the video.  

In an effort to smooth out the video, the frame rate has been changed to one frame every four minutes.  And, I suspect that this may happen very quickly, as the plants seem to find and attach themselves to the netting minutes after I place the netting in the greenhouse.  The camera settings are: ISO 200, F11 @ 20.

As an experiment, I have a selection of both greenhouse and regular varieties in the greenhouse this year: Tropic, (greenhouse), Super Beefsteak (regular), Mortgage Lifter (heirloom) and Arbason (greenhouse). They all are doing great at this point; lots of blossoms and setting nice fruit. All seems to be going too well so far, but I am waiting for one of Murphy's laws to kick in any day now.

The Bougainvillea is still flowering and I am beginning to wonder if it will ever quit.  It seems to like the out of the way spot I found for it in the greenhouse, so I am going to let it fight it out with the cucumbers for the netting and see who wins.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Journal May 17, 2015 - Time lapse video of flower bud opening.

The time lapse video of the pinwheel zinnia bud opening is finished.  While I am somewhat pleased with my first attempt, I can see a lot of room for improvement.

There is another plant about to flower and I am doing another time lapse, with, hopefully a few improvements.

It totally amazes me how much plants move around and we are not even aware of their doing so.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Journal May 16, 2015 - Protected growing

My greenhouse tomatoes reflect the benefit of protected growing, as this is the weekend that people in my growing zone, 5B, can safely put their tomatoes in the ground. The greenhouse plants already have several trusses in flower, while some have set fruit. I am thinking that perhaps I will have my first ripe tomato sometime in June.

Although all of my tomato plants were started on the same day, the greenhouse tomatoes far outpace the plants in the garden.   The garden plants are about a foot tall and have a single truss with just flowers on them.  Still, the garden plants are far ahead of plants currently being sold by local nurseries and big box stores.

While on the subject of big box stores, my wife made an impulse purchase while checking out at the Home Depot garden center.  Right next to the register they had a display of City Picker Patio Garden Kits, and she bought one.

Following the instructions, I added potting mix, dolomite, fertilizer and the plants.  That was more than a week ago and I must admit that it performs like the literature says it will.  So far, the plants are growing very well, with absolutely no maintenance other than pouring water into the fill tube every few days.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Journal May 13, 2015 - Pinwheel zinnia bud photo

A few pinwheel zinnia plants were placed in pots early on to be used for time lapse photography.  My thinking was that they produce buds on long stems, which would be fairly easy to isolate. 

One bud looks like it is getting ready to open, however, I am really not sure how long it will take, or how much higher it will grow before it opens.

Today was a cold, windy, overcast day, so I decided to set up for a time lapse sequence.   At first I tried using a light box, but the lighting was flat.  Next, I tried strobes,  which made the lighting too harsh.  Finally, I settled on a simple key light and fill light setup using 6500K fluorescent bulbs.

The ISO was set to 200, the shutter speed at 25, the F stop at 11, the interval between photos is fifteen minutes, with 1650 frames allocated for the project.  My plan is to stitch them together to make a 24 frame per second video.

When I composed the shot, I allowed some wiggle room for the plant to grow, hopefully the bud will not grow right out of the frame.

Now, it is just a matter of waiting to see what happens.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Journal May 11, 2014 Greenhouse cucumber support

The Mathilde cucumbers have been planted in the greenhouse and the netting to support them has been installed; the plants wasted no time in attaching tendrils to the netting.  It seems that within very few minutes the plants seem to find the netting and attach themselves to it.  I am thinking of making a time lapse video of a tendril wrapping itself around a section of netting.

There is definitely a learning curve associated with using my new soil mix in very hot weather.  When we returned home from shopping around noon the tomatoes were severely wilted, as the valves attached to the reservoirs were turned off.  I wanted to let the containers dry slightly to apply nutrients, but I did not anticipate how quickly the plants would use water in this heat.

Other than that I am completely satisfied with how the soil mix is performing, but I will let the automatic watering valves handle the job in warm weather.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Journal May 2, 2015 - Instant bonsai

About a year and a half ago, on eBay, I bid on 20 plus olea europaea cuttings that had been planted and left in a colandar for about five years. The seller had no idea of what variety of olive they were, but I bid fifteen dollars and won. I had to file a dispute when he failed to ship after two weeks and I ened up getting them for free. I separated the plants and planted the larger plants in 8 inch pots to mature, howver, one plant looked like it had potential to be a bonsai, in terms of small leaves and shape. So, today I placed it in a bonai container to become an "instant bonsai." With just a minimum amount of training I think this is going to make a nice bonsai, as it is already about seven years old.