Thursday, July 30, 2009

What It Looks Like Today: July 30, 2009

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Here we are July 30, 2009 and we've got blossoms and some tiny tomatoes developing. Of course that's what you expect when you started late from seeds on May 21. The rundown of the systems are 1) Deck system in pots with potting soil being fed Miracle Gro -- three plants doing very well, 2) four plants in rather bad clay soil with plastic cups with the bottom cut out so they can be watered and being fed Miracle Gro, and 3) three tubs, each with five plants creating a jungle on an elevated platform in the back yard. These are all hydroponic wick systems, also doing well but pretty much unsupported so just sprawling all over the place. There are a bunch of other tomato plants in pots on one side of the platform on the ground which are the overflow plants that I didn't have the heart to just throw away -- so they're doing their best in pots with just potting soil and water. I may give them some Miracle Gro too.

The nutrient strength in the wick systems is 20-24 CF measured with a Dipstick meter. I took a couple pictures of roots as they grow out of the bottom of the cups down into the nutrient solution so you have an idea of how that works. About all I have to do is go out, water, check the nutrient strength and add a little concentrate to bring it up to the target nutrient concentration. I do that every couple of days. When the tomatoes start getting bigger I'll take some more pictures. The next interesting part is harvesting tomatoes and measuring them. I have this great little electronic scale that reads out very accurately, which I use to make all kinds of weight measurements.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Status Report

Well it's July 7th and I'll just make this a short status update. The three plants in pots on the side deck are doing great. Jessica and I added a third tub to the frame that is sitting on sawhorses in the back yard. I still have a ton of tomato plants just growing in rockwool in an aluminum throwaway cake tin. I keep adding nutrient since as long as they're happy I might use them for something. Along one side of the yard we planted four of the tomato plants in dirt. So now we have fifteen tomato plants in wick system tubs. Three in pots with potting soil that was just laying around on the side deck and four along one side of the house in rather poor clay soil but with some added mulch. I'll add photos when I'm feeling like taking the pictures. Right now they are all small since I didn't start the plants until around May 21st which is very late.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Transfer Time: Wick and Pot

Sooner or later you have to move the babies into the real world, or at least as much of the real world as you're going to expose them to. In this case I decided to try to do wick systems as the primary hydroponics system and use some plain old potting soil pots for a control and back up system. The problem is that I had surgery on June 17th and I'm just not up to a lot of construction. So here is a sort of status update. I actually have three tubs and each cover has five holes in it. There are plastic cups in each hole with slots cut on two sides with a strip of material threaded through (actually a tee shirt cut into strips about 3/4" by 18" or so, one strip threaded through the cup with a little rockwool in the bottom. The plants were in mesh pots in other little plastic cups and now I just transfered the mesh pots with the developing tomato plant into the cups with the wicks.
Each tub holds about 8 to 10 gallons of nutrient and right now I have the nutrient conductivity factor at CF=19, which is just fine at this stage. I may ramp it up a little later. I'm not trying to oxygenate the tubs so we'll see what problems that poses. Also I'm counting on the roots following the wicks down into the tank. This should be pretty low maintenance as systems go with only an occasional ramp up of the water and addition of nutrient to bring it up to the conductivity factor I want.
The back up is three rather ordinary pots with one plant each. These are in a potting soil mix that came with a system I bought a couple of years ago, nothing very special. I'm running these for comparison and because Jessica says we must get tomatoes this year, so if I blow it with the wick systems at least this will fill the "must get tomatoes" imperative. I'll clue you in on how it's going in a while.