Monday, May 25, 2009

Baby Tomatoes in Rockwool

Four days and counting and the little baby tomato plants start popping out of their seeds and stick up their baby cotyledon" leaves. These will be followed after a while by the true leaves. But it's always great to see the little ones pop out of their seeds and get started.
I've mixed up a gallon of normal strength nutrient but I typically cut it 4:1 with water when I'm first starting. I don't want to hit the little baby tomato plants with too much nutrient strength.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Finally Getting Around To It

Procrastination is the name of the game. I am only now finally getting around to seeding my tomato plants. Yeah, yeah, yeah ... I know I should have done it at the end of last month or maybe even earlier. Better late than never. Now I have to get going. Here's what I seeded in a matrix of 11 rows and 8 columns. We'll see what comes up.

My procedure is to take a sheet of small rockwook cubes. I use really small ones if I can, about 3/4 inch on a side and about 1 1/2 inches tall. They come in a sheet. I then saturate the sheet with them all together in fresh water and then put seeds into the individual cubes. At this point I don't use any nutrient but I put the rockwool sheet in an aluminum pan (one of those disposable kind of pans they sell to cook brownies in at the store) and flood the pan with some dilute nutrient so that some nutrition, but not at high levels, wicks up through the rockwool to the plants.
There are a couple of rows in there that are there just for curiosity. Row 1 has five French Dona seeds from 2005 to see if they will germinate. Maybe not, but you never know. Row 3 is a row of old pepper seeds that I think I harvested from some jalapenos I grew a couple of years ago. I just found them in the basement so I thought I'd take a chance. Then Row 4 is a row of seeds harvested some unknown time ago from green peppers bought at the store. Probably none of these will germinate, but then I'll know.
I'm thinking about doing a germination experiment just for the fun of it because I never throw out the seeds I don't use, so I have seeds going back a number of years, often of the same varieties. Science is fun!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Time to get going ...

Well I've been sitting around doing not much for a while now so far as hydroponics is concerned. But now that exams are finished, grades are in, and all the 2009 graduates march on Sunday at the college I teach at, I'm quickly running out of excuses not to get to work on my hydroponics system for the Summer.
I've mentioned that it's going to be a passive system, probably several passive systems so I can compare them to see how relatively effective they are. I'm planning to do maybe 1) a smart valve system, 2) a wick system, 3) some kind of float system and put pretty much the same plant varieties in each. That way I'll be able to compare the system effectiveness. I was also thinking about doing some nutrient experiments.
Some years ago when there was a pretty active hydroponics listserv on the web, there was a fellow in California I think who was always trying to grow hydroponically with a mixture of Miracle Grow and Epson Salts. I thought it might be fun to experiment with that as a nutrient system too, just for the fun of it. Generally though I've been really happy with TotalGro's Steiner mix. I think I talked about that in an earlier post.
The last day to expect frost here in the Shenandoah Valley is May 17th which just happens to be the day our new graduates walk. So I'm expecting to get really serious next week.