Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Journal May 30, 2017 - Double cross

Today I cross-pollinated these Phalaenopsis so I wanted to make a record on the blog of the date and what the parent plants look like.

The plants are really nothing special, they are what are now called "Grocery Store Orchids" by some people.  To many people, this is the variety that comes to mind when they hear the word orchid.

Also today, I harvested a Phalaenopsis pod from another cross to use as a test for a process known as green seedpod flasking.  

The idea is that by harvesting the pod prior to its opening and sterilizing the pod and removing the seeds in sterile conditions there is less chance of damaging the seed, vs. trying to sterilize the seeds after removing them.   

The pod was sterilized for 20 minutes in a 20% water bleach solution with frequent agitation.  Placed under the hood the pod was rinsed in sterile water before being opened.

The media is my own concoction and I will be more amazed than anyone if this actually works.  I have media that is specific for Orchid seeds that I purchased from a lab, but I am holding that until the remaining pods have been on the plant a little longer.  

The big question that hangs over this process is the age of the pod.  Some sites state it should be 120 days from pollination, some recommend six months, another a year, still others say wait till it turns yellow, others say wait until it is soft, still others say you can obtain viable seed 2/3 of the way through the period.  Who to believe?

Anyway, I have extra pods to experiment with, so I thought I would go with my own instinct and try this pod at about 100 days.   It will at least give me a practice run in working with a live pod and seeds.

On the topic of seeds, I expected to see seeds when I cut open the pod with the scalpel, not so, I found white fluffy material.  Using the tweezers I deposited clumps of it on the media and sealed the vessels and hope for the best. 

Upon examining the pod and remaining material under the microscope when I finished I could not see anything that remotely resembled a seed.  That said, it looks exactly like some other attempts I have seen on the web, so time will tell I guess.

The media contains distilled water, sugar, agar, 1/4 teaspoon of Orchid food, Super Thrive, coconut water,   Inositol and vitamins B and D.  That should be potent enough to grow hair on a golf ball.

The vessels have been placed under a 24 watt T5 grow light with a photoperiod of 8 hours.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Journal May 27, 2017 - Shade for the orchids

I wanted to place my heat and light loving orchids in the greenhouse along with the tomatoes and peppers for the summer, however, the light levels were too high for Cattleyas, even with the 45% poly shade cloth on the greenhouse.

After giving the problem some thought I came up with a workable solution: a temporary shade.

Using a folding frame that I had for camping I made a tent of shade material that came with a blow-away greenhouse some years ago.

Now, under the temporary cover, the light level during mid-day is about 3,000 foot-candles, which is ideal for Cattleyas. It is not pretty, but it works.  It is a simple matter to add or remove the tent as needed.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Journal May 25, 2017 - Tomato plants fruiting

This is the weekend that most gardeners in New York will be placing their tender plants like tomatoes in the ground.  For my part, I elected to go with the long range weather forecast and planted tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in the ground several days ago.

All of the plants have buds or small fruit and are much larger than anything available locally at garden centers.

The greenhouse tomatoes are much much farther ahead of the garden plants, even though they were started on the same day.  Once again, the difference is protective growing, where heat and light work their magic on the plants.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Journal April 12, 2017 - Hybrid orchid seedlings

At this point, as a result of purchasing flasks, I have well over a hundred hybrid orchid seedlings.

My expectation was when I bought the flasks that many of the seedlings would not survive being removed from the flask, but I was wrong as very few were lost.

The seedlings are in the small 2" or 3" pots and there is another tray not shown in the photos.  So, as I can not possibly raise all of the seedlings I am going to have to try to sell the excess plants, either on EBAY or at the orchid society meetings.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Journal May 6, 2017 - Another orchid for the collection

Another hybrid orchid was added to my collection today: Ryc Mem Darlene T Atkins x Higher Ground.   The plant, shown above, was purchased at the Northeastern Orchid Society meeting held today in Colonie, NY.

A representative from Woodland Orchids in Charlotte, NC was the guest speaker today and she brought several hybrid plants for sale.  Woodland does not sell from their greenhouse or ship plants but sells only at orchid society meetings so I could not pass up an opportunity for an unusual hybrid.

All of my plants are grown in ugly plastic pots that do not lend themselves for display when the plants are in bloom; it would be nice to be able to bring the plants into the living area to enjoy the flowers while they bloom but the plastic pots present a problem.

To make the plants more presentable I purchased a few inexpensive pots for display only.  To accommodate different sized and shaped pots I purchased pots quite a bit larger than the pots that the plants are grown in.   The plant and growing pot are placed in the display pot and the area around and on top of the plant are filled with expanded clay pellets.

When the plants are watered the water runs right through the clay pellets and out through the drainage holes on the bottom of the pot.  When the water stops dripping from the pot the plant can be put on display again.  When the plant is no longer blooming it is a simple matter to remove the expanded clay pellets and reuse both the pellets and display pot for another plant.

This year I have decided to grow banana peppers in the greenhouse rather than cucumbers.  At this point, I am not really sure how I will support the plants so I added bamboo canes for now.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Journal April 26, 2017 -Season started.

Today I washed and disinfected the interior of the greenhouse, mixed potting soil for the autopots and planted six tomato plants on one side of the greenhouse.

My plan is to plant peppers on the other side of the greenhouse this year, but that is going to have to wait for a week or so.

The tomatoes for the garden are getting too big for the 3" pots, so I will have to transplant them to 4" pots as they can not go into the garden for several more weeks.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Journal March 23, 2017 - Orchid collection just about complete

There is one more Cattleya cross on order, and after that arrives I am calling it quits for buying plants.  From this point on, any plants that I add to our collection will be those I have grown myself.

The Phalaenopsis plants have four new plants starting from the nodes on the spikes that I applied Keiki paste to.  It is amazing how easy and quick that process was, and, strange things are happening to the Dendrobium and Cattleya plants that had the paste applied to their nodes.  It is really too early to tell what is going on, but things are growing from the nodes.

The orchid seeds are doing absolutely nothing, however, I am sure that the seed I purchased on eBay had a lot to do with that.  Hopefully, soon I will see a seed pod forming and I will have millions of fresh seed to work with.  To that end, I purchased media from a lab that is in the business of starting orchid seed.  It is my intention to try and compare their media with my homebrewed media at some point.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Journal March 21, 2017 - Spring will be a little late this year.

The calendar says it is spring, however, Mother Nature played a nasty trick last week and dropped more than two feet of snow on our area  Tomorrow the temperature is forecasted to be a balmy 26 degrees F, but hold off on the Bermuda shorts for a while yet.

At this point, I am anxious to get the olive trees out of the basement and into the greenhouse, as I want to change one of the tents over for growing orchids. 

Right now the orchids I have are on the grow table in the basement where the conditions are ideal for them in terms of temperature and humidity.

I am mainly interested in what effect the light will have on them.  In searching the web I have found very little on growing orchids under the type of lights I will be using.  The intensity is not as important as the spectrum, and these lights are designed with the spectrum optimized for plant growth, be it vegetative or flowering.  1500 to 2000 footcandles does not seem like a lot, but the plants are shade loving and have not been exposed to the specific spectrum these lights will be giving them.  The conditions may not be totally ideal, but I intend to play with the photoperiod, intensity, and spectrum and see how they react.  If anything, over the eons plants, have learned to adapt, so let them adapt and let's see what happens.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Journal - March 18, 2017 - Clone your orchid, the easy way.

If you want to clone one of your favorite orchids there is a fairly easy way to make an exact duplicate. Keikis, or baby plants, grow on the canes or flower spikes of some orchid species, such as Dendrobium, Epidendrum, and Phalaenopsis orchids. Growers use Keiki paste on nodes on the canes or flower spikes to encourage the orchid to produce Keikis. I purchased mine on Ebay for about eight dollars and it can be used to clone hundreds of orchids, as you only need to apply a tiny amount, one time.

You simply use a razor and tweezers to remove the protective sheath covering a node and apply a tiny amount of the paste on the undeveloped node beneath. The paste contains a growth hormone that encourages the node to develop into a new baby plant or Keiki. I applied the paste to four nodes on the flower spikes of two Phalaenopsis plants on March 5, 2017. In only twelve days I can see new plants forming on every node that was treated. If the plants are flowering at the time you apply the paste, like mine are, there is a slight chance that the baby plant will form and produce a flower spike. How cool is that?

It will take several months before the Keiki forms a decent root system and can be removed and planted, so leave it attached and let it grow. There are several how to videos on youtube.com.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Journal March 10, 2017 - New plants

Today I received an Orange Firestar Epidendrum Reedstar that I had ordered from Hirt's Gardens.   As plants that I had previously ordered from Hirt's were found to be infested with insects I immediately removed the potting media entirely from the roots and closely examined the plants.   When doing so I found that what I had actually received were two separate plants, so I potted them I individually in 3" pots.  In the photo above they are the two plants in the front center.

The large plant shown in the back of the photo was also received today, it is a Cymbidium KOUSHU TANGO "Shall We Dance?"   It is larger than I would have liked, however, as it needs cooler conditions than my other plants I will grow it in a different location and simply deal with it.

Also today, I repotted the Phalaenopsis plants into 3" pots, and I am trying a new method of cloning them.   More on that to follow.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Journal March 9, 2017 - Another orchid flask

Today I received and planted another hobby flask.  This one contained at least 25 plants and the total cost including shipping was about twenty-five dollars.  The above photo shows the flask immediately after I received it.  

The seedlings are Epidendrum magnoliae x cattleya alaorii, a cross that should prove interesting, when grown to maturity they will definitely be worth more than a dollar each. 

Once again I planted the larger plants separately and grouped the smaller plants four to a pot.  For the larger plants, I used long fiber sphagnum and for the smaller plants, I used shredded sphagnum.

As this tray will be in a cooler environment I placed a heat mat under the tray.  Also, I decided to use just the vegetative setting on the LED grow light to see if that encouraged faster growth.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Journal March 7, 2017 - Deflasking orchids

If you have patience and are not in a hurry purchasing a hobby flask is one way of obtaining orchids inexpensively.  Of course, you are going to get about twenty-five plants all the same, so it is even better if you can share the cost with a few other growers. 

With that said, I recently purchased two hobby flasks and intend to invest some time in growing the plants to flowering size, with the goal of selling them at one of the orchid society meetings sometime in the future.

After receiving the flask I removed them from the vessel and removed the agar while also separating the plants by rinsing them under tepid water in the sink.  I was fortunate in that the plants separated easily without breaking off any of the fragile roots.  In the flask that I received there were about thirty plants, so the cost per plant was slightly over a dollar.

 The lab recommended planting in long fibered sphagnum moss and keeping the humidity high for the first few weeks.

Not wanting to waste a single plant, my assistant with tiny fingers was assigned the job of planting the small plants,

The variation in the size of the plants in the flask was a surprise.

It was recommended that the plantlets be kept in high humidity for the first few weeks, then to gradually acclimate them to more normal growing conditions.  Spraying the inside of the dome, not the plants, will keep the humidity at an acceptable level.  Feeding, if at all, should be very light, about quarter strength.

At some point,  I want to hybridize orchids, so I am attempting to germinate Phalaenopsis seeds.  I have already cross-pollinated a few flowers but while the seed pods mature I am trying to germinate some seeds I purchased on eBay.

The seeds are very tiny and difficult to work,  they are best sterilized in a syringe and placed in the vessel using the syringe. 

After planting the seeds I thought it best to use a microscope to check the detritus before I discarded it.  As it turned out, there were more seeds in the detritus than I has planted, so I sterilized the whole mess and placed it on media in a vessel.

It is a matter of finding a procedure that works best for you and your conditions.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Journal March 2, 2017 - Orchids are coming into bloom.

I thought I'd mention that the orchids are coming into bloom and share some photos on my blog.  After all, it is a shame to have these beauties and not share them with those who might appreciate them.

Why mention them on a hydroponic blog?  Well, orchids grow in an inert media in a symbiotic relationship with mycelium.  They take no nourishment from the media they are planted in or on but must be fed periodically, just like plants in hydroponic systems.

Just for fun, I prepared media today to start Phalaenopsis seeds using tissue culture procedures.  As I have no experience in starting orchids from seed this should prove interesting.

To be safe I will start hundreds of tiny seeds, but I have no idea of what I would do with hundreds of tiny orchids.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Journal - February 10, 2017 Olive trees blooming.

In an attempt to keep the olive trees from blooming indoors in the winter and let them bloom in the spring outdoors I kept the photoperiod to the daylight hours of the winter solstice.

In spite of my efforts, they are beginning to bloom anyway. 

In their natural environment, they bloom in late spring, however, each year my trees bloom in late January or early February.

The trees are not exposed any natural light, as they are in grow tents, so all I can think of is that they must have some internal trigger that tells them it is time bloom. It is not an aberration, as the varieties I have are from several parts of the world and mostly all are beginning to bloom.

So, I guess the answer is to increase the light cycle to 16 hours per day, grab a brush, and hand pollinate them.

Not complaining, just an observation that we will never understand plants completely.