Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hydroponics Results

Well, I have put an end to my rooftop hydroponics experiment. While the air pump was bubbling in the hydroponic setup on the roof, I had kept one lettuce back, mostly because there was no more space for it in the tray on the roof. This one, I left on my windowsill and hand watered just about every day, just enough to leave a little pool of water in the holding tray. Every day, the lettuce either used up the water or it evaporated. The result is the much larger lettuce you see on the left side here. It had been planted at the same time as all of the others but is clearly much larger! I think that means the rooftop hydroponic setup was a failure. I think it is probable that there was simply too much water and the plants were drowning. They need more air around their roots to breathe. The only other thing I can think of is maybe the roof is too sunny for lettuce to grow nice big leaves? I have read in some places that some plants grow smaller leaves when they have lots of sun, but I'm guessing it was mostly the drowning.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Planting Time!

It's April 24th and these Stupice tomato plants have been sitting on my windowsill, growing faithfully for 2 months. Started back when there were feet of snow on the ground, here they are! They already have flowers in full bloom! Don't they look ready for the outdoors? =) I'm hoping for the earliest tomatoes I've ever had. Stupice has been my favorite and most successful variety since 2007, when I had 1 plant gifted by a generous gardener in the West Village. That year, it had been covered in healthy tomatoes all slightly larger than a normal cherry tomato. They were delicious, hardly ever split from a rainstorm and never had blossom end rot or pests. I'm hoping for more of the same!
I put each plant in its own bucket, where it will grow out the rest of the season. As usual, I buried the plants as deep down as I could get them without covering the healthiest leaves and flowers. In the planting hole, I put a healthy amount of crushed egg shells and bone meal. (It got dark out in the middle of the afternoon.)
Then the sun came out again! Doesn't this tomato look so happy?
I decided to try something new this year. Scallion seeds didn't grow for me, but I remembered that the scallions in the supermarket almost always have little roots at the ends. I bought a bunch at the corner market, chopped the tops for some food and decided to plant these.
Here they are, planted with some tiny chive and chinese chive seedlings. We'll see if the seedlings make it.
Also new in the garden are 2 Josee reblooming lilac plants, which are supposed to grow only 4-6 feet high. I'm hoping for some nice screening of my neighbor's windows and fragrant flowers. I bought a big bag of bark mulch at Saifee Hardware and have used some in this pot.
Here's my other lilac in the closer pot. The other pot is something my neighbor planted and left on my roof. Not sure what it is.
Finally, here are squash and zucchini seedlings I started. Hopefully they'll stay alive until the peas are done and I have space to plant them.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hydroponics Update

A week later and my hydroponic plants have grown a little, but not incredibly.
Here's a close-up of some red lettuce and a swiss chard in the right corner.
Here's a close-up of a speckled lettuce. Maybe it's speckled trout lettuce, but I can't be sure because it came in a packet of mixed lettuces (Rocky Top Lettuce Mix from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds).
I picked this red lettuce up out of the tray and there were long roots growing out of the bottom of the solo cup. I guess that's what I made those holes for.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Good News, Bad News

There's some good news and some bad news in the garden today. I'll start with the good news. Last year, I didn't hook up the automatic watering system until June 5th and depended on mother nature to water all my plants. That resulted in many dead plants, including (or so I thought) my Tulameen Raspberry plant, which I do dearly love. Turns out the Tulameen survived after all! You can see new leaves popping up from the bottom, here, surrounded by darker strawberry leaves. I'll be removing the strawberries after they have their season.
More good news, I planted my potatoes! Here are the white potatoes I got from FreshDirect, didn't eat, and let sprout on my window sill. Many potatoes that you buy at the supermarket will have been sprayed with some kind of anti-sprouting agent, to keep them edible for longer. These were probably sprayed, as not all of their eyes have sprouted, but a few did and I want to experiment.
They went into a half-filled 5-gallon bucket. I covered them with about an inch of soil after this picture was taken. Here's to hoping! When planting potatoes in containers, I've read many recommendations that you add soil as the plant grows because the potatoes grow from the stem of the plant. If you add soil, more potatoes will have the chance to form. I read one recommendation that you should aim to have 1 foot of growth above the soil line throughout the growing season. I won't get to add MUCH more soil, but maybe another 10 inches or so. These may also be spaced too closely, but it's an experiment. We'll see what happens =)
These are my blue potatoes, which are planted in a large blue bucket my neighbors left on my roof. I covered these with more soil after taking the picture. They will also be covered with more soil as they grow taller. I've read that potatoes like acidic soil. These are planted with some compost made from orange rinds, so should be plenty acidic!
More good (or at least not bad) news! The hydroponic veggies are not dead. They have even grown a tiny bit! But, they did appear to be drowning a little, so I raised them all slightly out of the water, by adding a small piece of bamboo stick between the peat pots and the styrofoam. It lets the peat pots sit just a bit higher out of the styrofoam hole than they were previously. I'm waiting for some exponential growth now =)
Ok, here's the bad news. The pigeons got to the peas! I HATE THE PIGEONS. They sometimes chomp on the peas and sometimes pull them right out of the soil and let them die above ground, like this one:
A couple of years back, I bought bird netting, but I was just too lazy to actually put any up. I've gotten over my laziness now. It doesn't look pretty, but vegetable gardening isn't always a glamorous thing. Function over form, people. Function over form.