Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Sign of the Future:— The Totally Tomatoes Catalog Arrived

The Totally Tomatoes Catalog came floating in through the mailbox today. That's a sure sign that the Winter design dreaming period is about to begin. The past season was the first no-sweat, easy to run float system contrasted with a backyard, largely neglected garden. Both systems were pretty neglected, that was the beauty of them. I did have to add water to the float system ever few days after the system got well underway and there remains the issue of a better support system for the plants. But for all of that the systems met the majority of my goals.

Easy to operate: CHECK!

Inexpensive: CHECK!

Lots of tomatoes: CHECK!

I didn't grow very big tomatoes so Jessica gave me what for. She's always after me to grow big tomatoes. The systems this past Summer depended on old seeds, at least a year old and fairly small cultivars. The Dona's were the smallest but I always love them. Part of the reason I used old seed is I couldn't find very good sources for Dona seeds. Maybe that will change.

If you want a Totally Tomatoes Catalog their address is 334 West Stroud St., Randolph, WI 53956 and their website is Totally Tomatoes I enjoy it because it has so many varieties. It's just fun to read.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 13th Summary

Well I thought I'd do a recap of the total tomato weight taken from the garden and the float system and discovered that I can't find the notebook that has the data from August 31 through September 21 where the count picks up in a new notebook. So I can only give the totals with a hole in the data which I'll have to fill in when I find that book.

FLOAT SYSTEM: 34.06 pounds
GARDEN: 26.73 pounds

Found the missing book which took the totals up to:
FLOAT SYSTEM: 49.44 pounds
GARDEN: 46.79 pounds
We also had a mysterious volunteer in the flower garden in front of the house left over from one of last year's tomatoes which we noticed and it contributed a whole bunch of small tomatoes totaling 29.75 ounces, pushing 2 pounds ... didn't actually get them all so there were some more.

Since there were at least 14 plants in the garden that's not a great record, but a lot of tomatoes actually didn't get picked. The Float system had 10 plants but a third of them were small tomatoes and that was also true for the garden since there were a lot of Dona's and they tend to be small 3 and four ounce tomatoes. When I find the other notebook I'll add that data to get the overall total.

I'm a little disappointed in the total since generally with the NFT systems I've had larger per plant totals. On the other hand the float system was essentially zero hassle compared with the NFT systems where a pump failure or a power failure will cost you the whole system in a few hours. Great fun! Don't know if I'll have a chance to do it again next Summer since we're thinking about a trip, but it might work if we schedule it right. I was thinking that this system might work well on a platform with some sort of grow down a slope kind of netting. I've tried something like that with an NFT system but it was more hanging and that stressed the plants too much. We'll have to see. As Winter approaches I go into sketching and design mode thinking about new systems.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hydroponics 2010 RIP

Yesterday we took down the float system and the garden. It only took a little more than an hour to pick up all the dried stalks of corn and root up the dwindling tomato plants. The hydroponics float system took even less time since you just dumped the nutrient and then took the plants, although there is always a tangle of roots, and pulled them out and put them in the trash cans.

We scavenged some green tomatoes and some last minute ripe ones and got about ten pounds in that category. The total summation for the season will have to wait a while until I have a few minutes to go over all the records.


Overall this float system was a big success. It grew a lot of tomatoes, more than the garden despite having fewer plants. The support system was a disaster but tomatoes grow anyway so it wasn't all that big of a disaster. Next time we put out a float system we'll fix a better support design. I've already got one in mind. I don't know if we'll do a hydroponics system next Summer. The better half says she has plans and you fellows know what that means.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Little Catch Up Ball ...

A friend of mine sent me a very nice email saying that he was worried about me since there had been no update on the gardens since September 12th. My only excuse is that I've been very busy. However in the interim I've topped off the system at least 3 times putting in two cups of concentrate twice and one and a half cups just today when I topped it off. I may have missed a topoff here since that would be 9 days (but that sounds about right, an average of 3 days between topping off).

I've also been taking a large number of tomatoes off both the garden and the float system every couple of days. The counter never gets empty, just more and more tomatoes ... I'm getting really tomatoed out since Jessica has abandoned eating them, the challenge is all mine even though I've given some to the neighbors.

As I take them I keep a record, weighing each tomato. But I'm way behind in posting the data. I used to just post it to a spread sheet (I should go back to that). But I'll get around to catching up in a few days.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pictures and Such ...

Well here the counter is covered with tomatoes. I'm eating them as fast as I can and they are still rolling in even it the density is a bit slower than in the past. Probably only another few weeks of tomato harvesting left.

This is what the garden looks like. You can see that it has a lot of tomatoes still coming. There are something like fourteen tomato plants in the garden and frankly they've been prolific but not as nice as the hydroponics tomatoes. For some reason a lot of garden tomatoes seem to be a little hollow. I'm guessing it is some kind of deficiency. They also have not tended to turn red as uniformly as as the float system tomatoes.

Here are two views of the float system. In the first you can see the floats and the pool and get the picture of how they just sort of fell over and were all skewed to one side by the rains and wind. I really think the system has been terrific, but it certainly doesn't look like much right now. I'm still taking a lot of tomatoes off it but you have to hunt them up by picking through the leaves.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Topped Off and Ratty ...

Well I've taken a ton more tomatoes off the garden and the float system. Today I topped it off again driving it down to CF=12 and adding two cups of concentrate to bring it up theoretically to 24. Have not checked however. I really have to update the harvest statistics and put up pictures. Both systems are starting to look a little ratty. It's the end of the season or getting close to it. The float system supports pushed over so the plants are mostly on the ground.

We even got a volunteer out in the front of the house and I picked five little tomatoes off that fellow this afternoon. They are small Dona type tomatoes but they looked good even though it's been completely neglected. I'll try to remember to take pictures soon so that what a ratty system looks like can be seen. I've really been neglecting the garden system too. So the result has been that the tomatoes from the float system have tended to be better since the garden has received no fertilizer and no watering but natural rain of late.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Catching Up

I've been a little slow in updating the page the past few days. So rather than bore you with all the individual data I'll just update the numbers and totals from August 23rd to August 31st.
So the total harvest between the Garden and the Float system has been 709 3/4 ounces for a total of 44.36 pounds of tomatoes. Pretty good and there are many more to come.

Both the Garden and the Float system are looking a bit ratty with the 95+ degree days. I've refreshed the float system by topping it off with water and adding a cup and a half of nutrient concentrate on the 29th and again today the 31st. I probably did another one but didn't record it.

Totals: G: 339.75 ounces; F: 370 ounces.
8-23-8-31 G: Atkinson/AL 9 at 52 1/4 for a total of 21 at 121 1/2.
8-23-8-31 G: Dona 33 at 104 3/4 for a total of 70 at 218 1/4
8-23-8-31 F: Atkinson/AL 9 at 54 3/4 for a total of 27 at 163
8-23-8-31 F: Dona 36 at 104 3/8 for a total of 86 at 207
8/22 G: 3 Atkinson/AL 5, 5, 6 5/8 for 12 at 69 1/4
8/22 G: 14 Dona 1 3/4, 2, 2 1/2, 2 5/8, 2 3/4, 2 7/8, 3, 3 1/8, 3 1/8, 3 1/8, 3 5/8, 4 3/4, 4 3/4, 4 7/8 for a weight of 44 7/8 and a total then of 37 at 113 1/2 ounces.
8/22 F: 4 Atkinson/AL 5, 5 1/8, 5 1/4, 8 for a total of 18 at 108 1/4 ounces
8/22 F: 14 Dona 3/4, 7/8, 1 1/4, 1 1/4, 1 3/8, 1 3/8, 2, 2, 2 1/2, 2 3/4, 3, 3 1/4, 3 3/8, 3 3/8 for a total of 29 1/8 ounces for a total of 50 at 102 5/8 ounces.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tomatoes Keep Coming

Yesterday I decided to replenish the nutrient so I connected a little hose to the circulation pump and pumped about four buckets of nutrient out of the float system which started at about a concentration of 27 and after carrying the buckets away and putting water in it went down to about 12. I added 2 1/2 cups of concentrate with the expectation of taking it up to about 25 and this morning it's at about 24 and maybe 4 inches deep.

The harvest from the past two days of tomatoes was 35 tomatoes weighing 114 ounces in total. This is a mix from the garden and the float system. So far we've harvested 49 tomatoes from the garden and 68 from the float system for a total of 393.625 ounces (24.6 pounds).

Totals: G: 182.75 ounces; F: 210 7/8 ounces.
8/22 G: 3 Atkinson/AL 5, 5, 6 5/8 for 12 at 69 1/4
8/22 G: 14 Dona 1 3/4, 2, 2 1/2, 2 5/8, 2 3/4, 2 7/8, 3, 3 1/8, 3 1/8, 3 1/8, 3 5/8, 4 3/4, 4 3/4, 4 7/8 for a weight of 44 7/8 and a total then of 37 at 113 1/2 ounces.
8/22 F: 4 Atkinson/AL 5, 5 1/8, 5 1/4, 8 for a total of 18 at 108 1/4 ounces
8/22 F: 14 Dona 3/4, 7/8, 1 1/4, 1 1/4, 1 3/8, 1 3/8, 2, 2, 2 1/2, 2 3/4, 3, 3 1/4, 3 3/8, 3 3/8 for a total of 29 1/8 ounces for a total of 50 at 102 5/8 ounces.
8/11 G: Corn picked three total now 5. and likely only a couple more.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Only a little more than a week of August left and then we're into September and school. I checked the system this morning and the rain we've been having and the slightly lower temperatures seem to have extended the fill time. CF =24 and I picked a lot of tomatoes from the float system. I'll bring the total up to date below.

Totals: G: 121 1/4 ounces; F: 158.25 ounces.
8/20 G: 2 Atkinson/AL 5 7/8, 6 1/8 for 9 at 52 5/8
8/20 G: 7 Dona 2 7/8, 1 3/8, 1 1/4, 1 3/4, 4 1/8, 4 3/4, 3 5/8 for 23 at 68 5/8 ounces.
8/20 F: 1 Atkinson/AL 5 3/4 for 14 at 84 3/4 ounces.
8/20 F: 8 Dona 7/8, 4 5/8, 1 3/8, 1 3/4, 1 1/8, 4 1/2, 2 1/4, 3 1/8 for 36 at 73 1/2 ounces.
8/11 G: Corn picked three total now 5. and likely only a couple more.

So let's have an assessment shall we. The float system has been awesome and a big surprise. It has grown terrifically but the haphazard support system I came up with has been a disaster. The rains and winds have blown it over so the plants are mostly all over the ground. Next year it I do a float system I'll improve the supports. I have some simple ideas for that that I should have thought of this year. Experience is a great teacher.

I may swap out the nutrient in the float system soon because the plants are looking a little poor which always makes me think perhaps the nutrient is getting out of balance. Maybe tomorrow!

The garden has been a surprise too, especially the garden tomatoes which have been doing great. Powdery mildew took out the squash early and I just didn't plant very much corn, but the few ears we got were good.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Power Failure and Continued Harvesting

The system was showing signs of distress and I didn't quite know what was wrong. Some of the plants looked like they were shriveling up. I checked the nutrient level and at 27 it was pretty high, but then I noticed that the pumps were off. The ground fault detector had fired and apparently the contribution of the splashing is pretty important. I added water and CF =16 so I added a cup of nutrient.

Since last count I've picked 14 tomatoes. Four were picked from the garden and the other ten were picked from the Float system. Total harvest for both systems is currently 222 3/8 ounces or 13.89 pounds. Given the number of plants this is not too great a yield, but there are still a lot of plants and tomatoes to pick from. The scorching days have produced lots of splitting and I've lost quite a few tomatoes to the ground due to failure of support systems. So there are no shortage of problems. Still even this leaves lots of tomatoes on the kitchen counter top. We've been having tomatoes every night with dinner.

Totals: G: 89 1/2 ounces; F: 132 7/8 ounces.
8/17 F: 6 Dona 1 7/8, 1 3/8. 1 1/8, 4 7/8, 4, 3 1/4 for 28 at 53 7/8 ounces
8/17 F: 4 Atkinson/AL 5,5,5 3/4, 6 1/8 for 13 at 79 ounces
8/17 G: 4 Donas 4.25, 4, 3 3/8, 2 4/4 for a total of 16 at 48 7/8 ounces
8/15 G: Dona 3 at 4 3/8, 2, 4 1/8 for a total of 12 at 34 1/2 ounces.
8/15 F: Dona 2 at 1 3/8, 5 for a total of 22 at 37 3/8 ounces.
8/15 F: Atkinson/AL 2 at 6 1/4, 7 for a total of 9 at 57 1/8 ounces.
8/14 G: Dona 3 at 2 1/2, 3 1/2, 4 5/8 for a total of 9 at 24 ounces.
8/14 G:Atkinson/AL 2 both 5 ounces for total 7 at 40 5/8 ounces.
8/11 G: Corn picked three total now 5. and likely only a couple more.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Seven More Tomatoes

A little rain tempered the transpiration. This afternoon the CF = 27 and it was about three inches deep. We'll see how it does tomorrow. Meanwhile I think it is interesting that the float system is currently more productive in weight than the garden. The garden actually has more tomato plants about 14 than the float system which has 10 and they were planted the same day.

Totals: G: 75 1/8 ounces; F: 94 1/2 ounces.
8/15 G: Dona 3 at 4 3/8, 2, 4 1/8 for a total of 12 at 34 1/2 ounces.
8/15 F: Dona 2 at 1 3/8, 5 for a total of 22 at 37 3/8 ounces.
8/15 F: Atkinson/AL 2 at 6 1/4, 7 for a total of 9 at 57 1/8 ounces.
8/14 G: Dona 3 at 2 1/2, 3 1/2, 4 5/8 for a total of 9 at 24 ounces.
8/14 G:Atkinson/AL 2 both 5 ounces for total 7 at 40 5/8 ounces.
8/11 G: Corn picked three total now 5. and likely only a couple more.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Took about thirteen tomatoes today

System was down to a depth on the shallow side of about an inch and a half with a CF = 27 so I topped it off and added 2 cups of concentrate.


Totals: G: 64 5/8 ounces; F: 74 7/8 ounces.
8/14 G: Dona 3 at 2 1/2, 3 1/2, 4 5/8 for a total of 9 at 24 ounces.
8/14 G:Atkinson/AL 2 both 5 ounces for total 7 at 40 5/8 ounces.
8/11 G: Corn picked three total now 5. and likely only a couple more.
8/14 F: 7 Dona 3/4, 1 3/8, 1, 3/4, 1, 1 1/4, 2 3/8, 3 3/4 for a total of 20 at 31 ounces.
8/14 F: 1 Atkinson/AL 7 1/2 ounce for a total 7 at 43 7/8 ounces.

No one has mentioned to me that I was putting up the dates incorrectly ... so I fixed it today for this post and hopefully I'll be paying more attention going forward. I should mention too that the Dona/Atkinson/AL distinctions are sort of arbitrary because I'm really sorting the data more or less by weight where <>= 5 is Atkinson/AL.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

TOTALS: G: 44 ounces; F: 55 7/8 ounces.
10/12 G: 2 Dona, 4, 2 7/8 for total of 6 at 13 3/8 ounces.
10/8 G: Atkinson/AL 5 1/4,6, 6 3/8, and 7 3/4 for 4 more total 5 at 30 5/8 ounces.
10/11 G: Corn picked three total now 5. and likely only a couple more.
10/10 F:Atkinson/AL 2 at 7 3/8 and 7 1/8 for total of 6 at 36 3/8 ounces
10/10 F: Dona 1 at 1 1/2 for a total of 13 at 19 1/2 ounces
10/11 G: 2 Dona, 2 1/4, 1 for total of 4 at 6 1/2 ounces.
10/10 G:Dona 1 at 1 1/2 for a total of 2 at 3 1/4 ounces
10/8 G: Corn picked 2 and they look good. Total = 2 corn

Got some rain last night so float system was fine, CF slightly down from the extra water, but 90+ degrees will likely fix that quickly enough today. Current temperature (5:41 p.m.) is 96.8 F.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Making Up a Batch of Concentrate

Yesterday's top-off left me about out of nutrient concentrate so I had to make up a new batch this morning. I use the Total Gro Steiner hydroponics solution and it's just great. LOOK HERE The 8-5-16 mix is talked about HERE The site also have numerous other nutrient combinations and lots of technical materials for those who want to understand what is going on more deeply. This is fascinating stuff if you are technically inclined.

I mix up a concentrate by combining one pound of the white mix in a gallon of water and separately one pound of the blue mix in a gallon of water. This gives me a gallon of white concentrate and a gallon of blue concentrate. This is further diluted at about one ounce of concentrate to a gallon of water to make working strength solution. Note that when I say I added a cup of concentrate I mean a cup of the white (8 fluid ounces) and a cup of the blue (another 8 fluid ounces) to the system's tank. So I'm really adding two cups of stuff. You can't combine the concentrates at the concentrate concentration (there's a tongue twister) because it will cause essential nutrients to combine chemically and precipitate out and then you will have nutrient deficiencies.

So this morning my CF =22 and the system is fine but I was out of concentrate so I made up two gallons of white and blue solution. It took maybe half an hour since I carry all the paraphernalia, a bucket, a scale, some bags of powered 8-5-16 fertilizers and sit around contemplate the scenery as I mix things up. Now with two gallons of each I'm good for the rest of the Summer I figure.

This is just great fun! It's one of the best hobbies in the world.
Harvest Update — 3 more corn and 2 Donas from the garden 2 1/4, and 1 ounce.
10/11 G: Corn picked three total now 5. and likely only a couple more.
10/11 G: 2 Dona, 2 1/4, 1 for total of 4 at 6 1/2 ounces.
10/10 F:Atkinson/AL 2 at 7 3/8 and 7 1/8 for total of 6 at 36 3/8 ounces
10/10 F: Dona 1 at 1 1/2 for a total of 13 at 19 1/2 ounces
10/10 G:Dona 1 at 1 1/2 for a total of 2 at 3 1/4 ounces
10/8 G: Corn picked 2 and they look good. Total = 2 corn
10/8 G: Atkinson/AL 5 1/4,6, 6 3/8, and 7 3/4 for 4 more total 5 at 30 5/8 ounces.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Couple More Tomatoes on the Counter

Went out to check the system. CF = 27 and maybe 2 inches deep at the shallow end. Will need some more water soon. Picked two more tomatoes and surveyed the status of the rest. They have tended to be reddening from the bottom with the top staying green relatively longer. I've been picking them and bringing them in to counter ripen which has worked fairly well so far. The Harvest scroll below is documenting both the current picks and the cumulative number and cumulative weight by variety although really it's just small and large. The Donas have been really small and the large are not exactly gigantic. Basically 2 ounce and 7 ounce tomatoes so far. Went out later and picked two more tomatoes from the Float system when I checked the CF it was 32 so I decided to top it off and added 1 1/2 cup concentrate which should take it to around 22.

10/10 F:Atkinson/AL 2 at 7 3/8 and 7 1/8 for total of 6 at 36 3/8 ounces
10/10 F: Dona 1 at 1 1/2 for a total of 13 at 19 1/2 ounces
10/10 G:Dona 1 at 1 1/2 for a total of 2 at 3 1/4 ounces
10/8 G: Corn picked 2 and they look good. Total = 2 corn
10/8 G: Atkinson/AL 5 1/4,6, 6 3/8, and 7 3/4 for 4 more total 5 at 30 5/8 ounces.
10.8 G: Dona 1 3/4 for 1 at 1 3/4 ounces
10/8 F: Dona 3 at 1 1/4, 1 1/4, and 2 1/2 for a total of 12 at 18 ounces.
10/8 F: Atkinson/AL 4 7/8, and 3 1/2 for total of 4 at 21 7/8 ounces.
10/4 F:Atkinson/AL 2at 4 3/4 and 8 3/4 for a total of 2 at 13 1/2 ounces.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Update after G.K. Chesterton Conference

Came back from the 29th Annual G.K. Chesterton Conference, which was great and found the CF = 32 and the system down, but not so far down that it might not have held for another day. So it still seems to hold for about three days. I topped it off with water which drove the CF down to 16 and then added a cup of concentrate (both white and blue) and it came up to CF = 20 on a quick look so I left it. Later when I went out and checked it had slipped up to CF =22 which is about what I thought it would do.

Checked out the garden and decided to try to harvest a couple of corn. They look great so we're having the first corn tonight for dinner. I've posted everything below in the Harvest section.

10/8 G: Corn picked 2 and they look good. Total = 2 corn
10/8 G: Atkinson/AL 5 1/4,6, 6 3/8, and 7 3/4 for 4 more total 5 at 30 5/8 ounces.
10.8 G: Dona 1 3/4 for 1 at 1 3/4 ounces
10/8 F: Dona 3 at 1 1/4, 1 1/4, and 2 1/2 for a total of 12 at 18 ounces.
10/8 F: Atkinson/AL 4 7/8, and 3 1/2 for total of 4 at 21 7/8 ounces.
10/4 F:Atkinson/AL 2at 4 3/4 and 8 3/4 for a total of 2 at 13 1/2 ounces.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rain and Topping Off

This morning around 10 it was 86 F outside and the CF = 32 and I decided to top the system off which I did at 12 o'clock -- it ran down to a CF = 18 and I added a cup of concentrate to bring it up to 24 if the 1.5 per quarter cup would hold which it doesn't seem to have been, but I'm a creature of consistency and rule.

A relatively heavy rain storm came through last night and actually blew limbs off the tree, blew the float system plants heavily to one side and actually blew down three of the tomato cages in the garden. I straightened up the tomato cages, left the float system as is since there's not too much to be done in its present jungle state and picked up a few of the limbs blown off the tree. There are lots of tomatoes reddening on the vine and now the corn is getting to a size which likely means it should be picked but I'm no expert on when corn should be picked since this is the first time in about 18 years or so that's I've planted any.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Picked an Atkinson or Abe Lincoln from Float System

CF=30 and picked a 4 3/4 ounce tomato from the Float System and later noticed another red one which was hiding at weighed in at 8 3/4. Plan to top the system off tomorrow afternoon and see if it will go three days.

10/4 F:Atkinson/AL 2at 4 3/4 and 8 3/4 for a total of 2 at 13 1/2 ounces.
10/2 F:DONA 4 at 1 5/8,1 1/2, 1 1/2, 1 1/4 total 9 at 13 ounces.
10/2 G:Atkinson/AL 1 at 5 1/4 ounces
7/31 DONA 1 at 1 1/4 so total now is 5 at 7 1/8 ounces.

Today is fairly overcast and mild temperature 86 F. We're expecting hotter days the rest of the week so the transpiration will increase.

Monday, August 2, 2010

First Garden Tomato Picked Today!

It rained yesterday and this morning the CF =20 (actually the other meter said 14 which panicked me a little because that's low enough to foster splitting and I had splitting my tomatoes. Anyway I added a cup of concentrate which took it up theoretically to about 26 so we'll see. Meanwhile I picked the first tomato off the garden and it was one of the larger ones, either an Abe Lincoln or an Atkinson and weighed in at 5 1/4 ounces.

10/2 DONA 4 at 1 5/8,1 1/2, 1 1/2, 1 1/4 total 9 at 13 ounces
10/2 G:Atkinson/AL 1 at 5 1/4 ounces
7/31 DONA 1 at 1 1/4 so total now is 5 at 7 1/8 ounces.

Pictures later! Later has come! Picture Summary: Top: the Jungle (the float system with the plants all over the place) the fruit is hard to see with the foliage. On the Left is the Garden with the tomatoes most in evidence because the foliage is less luxuriant and the plants are confined in a more orderly manner. The picture on the right is a cluster of tomatoes in the jungle. These are the larger ones either Atkinson or Abe Lincoln, not sure which. Then the lowest picture is some Donas in the jungle. They are tending to split which I think may be due to low nutrient levels and the cycling of the nutrient as the system transpires, especially on the super hot days we've had when it got into the low 100's.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Topped off around 10 a.m.

Well topped off the system this morning (was it this morning, seems longer ago than that) and it ran the CF = 15 so I added two cups of concentrate and it was CF = 22. The system was down about as far as I've seen it, less than an inch of water on the low side. I filled it.

Filling the system is easy. You just put the hose in and turn it on and wait until water overflows the side and starts running off the blocks the pool is sitting on. Typically then I check the nutrient level which is down because it has been diluted. The degree that it is down tells you a little about how much transpiration you've had.

Later this afternoon it rained and it must have been fairly significant because the CF went down to 18. Not sure how that worked so I'm leaving it alone until tomorrow. Meanwhile took another very small tomato off the system from the same section where I got the others. It is slightly split (annoying) and is only 1 1/4 ounces. They are way small. There are lots of larger ones coming along but they are all green.

Some of the garden tomato plants look really cool. I'm going to take some pictures tomorrow. One is turning red which is nice. August is shaping up to be harvest month, at least the beginning of harvest.

7/31 DONA 1 at 1 1/4 so total now is 5 at 7 1/8 ounces.
7/26 DONA 3 at 1 3/4, 1 1/2, and 1 3/8 for a total of 4 at 5 7/8 ounces.
7/20 SQUASH total 8 at 63 5/8 ounces.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Late Thursday Update

Thursday is winding down. I really have to start getting motivated to do real work. Between fooling around with my blogs and Facebook I've been neglecting the thing I should be doing. I've been working on Activity Sheets for some of my Fall classes and trying to get motivated to do some more image processing work on the Shroud of Turin.

Today I checked the float system nutrient level and they had gone down slightly to CF = 24 and the depth of nutrient was still OK. We had some serious rain yesterday and it promised to rain much of today and didn't. Some of the tomatoes in the garden are starting to develop a blush so I guess we'll actually have some tomatoes to harvest before too long. We've take four small Donas off the float system so far and none off the garden. The squash have been about done in by the powdery mildew, drat. I probably should have gotten something to spray for that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Morning Adventure: the Bagworm Levitation

Well at 10:00 the temperature was about 82 and then an hour later it was 88. The CF = 20. We went out to breakfast at Cracker Barrel around 10 and returned about 11. Coming out of Cracker Barrel we saw the most mysterious sight. A small bag of leaves seemed to be hanging in the air occasionally spinning. You could not see the thread it was hanging on. We got in the car to leave but were fascinated by this thing and watched it. As we watched it, it lowered itself the some three and a half to four feet to the ground occasionally spinning. We were so fascinated we stopped the engine and got out to go look at it after it hit the ground. It was moving somewhat spasmodically and then the head of a worm peeked out and it tried to free itself from the leaf like caccoon it was in. We left but I checked out bag worms when I got home and the picture here is the one that is closest to what we saw.

Now in the later afternoon the CF = 25. That's about the level I like to operate at, but it's likely to be higher as the transpiration continues.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Topped Off and Added a Cup and a Half

Went out and checked the system and decided it was too low to let go so I topped off the float system. When I got out there the CF = 30 and after topping off it had fallen to nominally 16 so I added a cup and a half of concentrate and I'll check it after lunch to see where it has stabilized.

By this afternoon when I checked it it had gone up to CF = 21 which is a move of 5 points from 16. I would have expected something more like 3 pts per half cup but that's not been the case.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Three More Donas

7/26 DONA 3 at 1 3/4, 1 1/2, and 1 3/8 for a total of 4 at 5 7/8 ounces.
7/20 SQUASH total 8 at 63 5/8 ounces.

By the way, Donas should be bigger then these so I'm not too sure what this seed actually is.

Today the system got up to CF = 27 as transpiration continued. The temperature at 16:33 is 95.9 degrees F. So while the news weather promised us a cooler day it really didn't turn out that way. I'm expecting to have to top the system off tomorrow, but I'm going to let it go for now and check it tomorrow morning and see if I have to top it off then or can try to let it go through the day.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Scorcher Continued ... 103.3 degrees F at 4:07 p.m.

When I went out this morning tenish the CF = 30 to 32 and the float system was down to about 2" on the low side maybe a smidge more. Then I went out a few minutes ago (it's almost 4 p.m. here) and the CF was no longer readable, over 34. I figured it was time to top it off so I ran in water until it overflowed and then read the CF = 17. I'll add some more concentrate later, but right now I think I'll just let it transpire.

Got back from church about 7 p.m. and CF =19 at equilibrium so I'll wait until tomorrow. If it is a scorcher like today then the transpiration will take the CF up a few points.

I also picked the first red tomato of the season:

7/24 DONA 1 at 1 1/4 ounce ... they are small tomatoes but these are smaller than I'm used to seeing Donas so I'm wondering if I got the right thing. We'll see as things transpire (no pun intended).

The one I picked was the lowest one there. The picture was taken yesterday. They've all reddened up a little more since the picture was taken.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Some Pictures

Here are a couple of pictures of the float system and the garden today after Ben did some hoeing and straw covering. It was pretty late afternoon when I shot these which is why the light is the way it is.

Another Scorcher ...

Well today was another scorcher. High 90's to low 100's and transpiration like mad. When I went out the CF =18 which is crazy (way too low given that I added two cups of concentrate yesterday) so I went and got the other Dipstick I have and it read 22 which convinced me that I had a problem so I scrubbed the tip of the other one and then they came into correspondence at CF = 22.

Ben Shirkey and Owen Keefer came over in the morning. Ben actually hoed around in the garden and laid down some straw so that we could compare strawed and weeded growth to unweeded growth. Owen and I admired Ben's technique. It must be nice to be young. Then we all went to lunch and Jessica came along, which was fun.

Later I went with Owen to see "Salt" which is a crazy movie of the plot within a plot within a plot kind with never stop action and some fairly ridiculous premises. By the time we came out around 4:30 or so the temperature reading in my car was 109 (but that was likely skewed by the car) by the time we got back to my house it was 98 (i.e. the car thermometer read 98) and when Owen left some time later the inside radio thermometer to the sensor on the porch was reading 102 ... so a scorcher for sure. I went out later and measured the nutrient and go a number like CF =28.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pumping Down and Replenishment

Well the system was fine but I thought I'd do a pump down so I pumped 3 buckets out and dumped them on the garden. Then I put the hose in the pool and brought it up to overflowing and the CF = 12. So on the strength of expecting 1.5/quarter cup I added 2 cups of concentrate (that's two cups of white and two cups of blue ... if you don't know what that means search on TotalGro or Total Gro and you should get a post where I explain the nutrient thing). Surprisingly the system has only come up to CF =22 when I was expecting CF =24 but that's OK.

Overall I've been quite pleased with this float system. It has ten tomato plants in it. They are all flourishing as far as I can tell right now (we'll see about the harvest), and the system is easier to maintain than my NFT systems by far. I also don't have to worry about power failures since the only thing that will happen is that the system won't have oxygenation for a while. Also it is easy to exchange the nutrient since I have a pump right in the system which I can use to pump over the side.

The only bad thing so far is the support structure. A friend of mine is using these supports with strings to hold up his garden tomatoes. I think the same idea only arrayed around the float pond would work well. Something to try next year. I'm too lazy to try to fool with it this year.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Three More Squash, but Still Waiting On First Tomatoes

Well looked at the system this morning and you have to say it's sprawled all over the place. It's hard to see the little pond in there and the support structure was too flimsy to resist the winds which pushed it to one side a few days ago. I'm already thinking about alternatives for next year. Over all this has been a really easy system to set up and run. We'll see about yield. It's definitely a jungle and just finding the tomatoes might be a chore.

Lots of tomatoes coming along on the float system and in the garden. CF = 20 which is surprisingly low since I put a cup and a half of concentrate in it yesterday.
I picked three more squash and updated the harvest table below. I'll probably narrow the focus a little and only do the cumulative update as the list is getting a mite long.

7/20 SQUASH 3 more 6 5/8, 7 1/4 & 8 1/4 ounces for a total of 8 with a total weight of 63 5/8 ounces (3.97 pounds)
7/14 SQUASH 8 5/8 ounces total of 5 now and total weight of 41 4/8 ounces.
7-5 SQUASH took another one out of the garden 10 1/8 total of 4 now at 32 7/8 ounces
7-2 SQUASH took one out of the garden 9 1/8 TOTAL 3 totaling 22 3/4 ounces
6-30 SQUASH took two out of the garden today (1st Fruit) 5 7/8, 7 3/4 ounces.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday A.M. and later P.M.

Well at 10 a.m. on Monday morning the CF = 30 and the pond is definitely well down and can be topped off so that's 3 days and they were fairly well scorchers. But it is starting to rain so I'm going to put off any topping off for a while. Some of the smaller tomatoes (Dona's) in the pond system are starting to show signs of color so maybe we'll start tomato harvesting in a week or so.

In afternoon, around 3 p.m. I topped the pond off which took the CF down to 18. So based on a nominal expectation of a 1.5 tick for every quarter cup I added a cup and a half of concentrate. Later I checked and didn't see the rise I'd expected getting only about a CF of 22 which seems way too little so I'm thinking maybe the tip of my conductivity meter needs a little scrubbing, but it was reading 30 earlier so go figure. It's been a fairly hot day currently 92.5 and was over 93 earlier.

A couple more squash are looking harvestable and there are a number of corn on the corn stalks so we'll get a little corn. I have not touched the weeds so they are growing in a lively manner. I'll post new pictures soon for anyone who is interested.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fill-Up Time

Went out and checked the nutrient strength and level. CF = 24 and the level was actually not all that bad probably almost 5" but I decided to add water. After I added the water the CF had fallen (at least transiently) to CF = 19 so I added a cup of concentrate and that raised the nutrient strength to a quick look of 23. We'll have to see what the equilibrium level will be.

Watered the garden for a while too. There are lots of green tomatoes in both the float system and the garden but none have started to turn red yet. So at least if there is a nice rain intervening the hold time between refresh is nominally five days.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yesterday the system had been going down in water level to the point where I thought I'd have to add water this morning. But it rained last night and it must have been a humdinger since the pond was full this morning and the nutrient level had declined to CF = 20, so I'll have to add concentrate later.

P.M. 14:54 hours CF =22 so I'm going to leave it alone for at least today.

Pulled out the latest squash from the garden.
7/14 SQUASH 8 5/8 ounces total of 5 now and tota weightl of 41 4/8 ounces.
7-5 SQUASH took another one out of the garden 10 1/8 total of 4 now at 32 7/8 ounces
7-2 SQUASH took one out of the garden 9 1/8 TOTAL 3 totaling 22 3/4 ounces
6-30 SQUASH took two out of the garden today (1st Fruit) 5 7/8, 7 3/4 ounces.

It's hard to say when to take a squash ... these are all young before they fully mature and have big seeds inside which makes them more tender I think. In any case the ones we have eaten so far have been great.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cool Days Make the System Go Longer

A couple of cool days and a fair amount of rain and the CF =19 this morning, so I added a cup of nutrient and expect it to go to something like CF= 25 or thereabouts. Temperatures at 12 o'clock are still not steamy hot at 86 degrees F, but a bit warmer than the past couple of days which were overcast.

Well the temperatures have crept up over the day to 89 and then started coming down and are 87 right now and the system stabilized at CF = 24 but I expect to probably top it off tomorrow. I took a couple of pictures which I composited from top to bottom: 1) Float System, 2) Some tomatoes in the float system (these are either Atkinson or Abe Lincolns, not sure), 3) Some Tomatoes in the Garden System, and 4) Some wilt (checked some pictures and it looks like it is probably a mild case of powdery mildew) or whatever you call it on the squash in the garden.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Morning Topped Off the System

Pretty far down ... only a little over 3" but CF =24 so the fact that it was cooler after the rain kept the transpiration from being too high. Topped the system off with water and that took the CF down to CF =17 so I added a cup and a half of nutrient ... at 1.5 per quarter cup that should bring it up 7.5 points to about 24.5 or thereabout. I'll check that later after it reaches equilibrium.

Surprisingly it only went to CF =22 so I'm curious about that. The temperature went up to a whopping 96 degrees F today, peaked a couple of hours ago and it down to 91.6 now. (19:16 hours).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Finally Some Rain

It finally rained yesterday and it was a bit of a downpour. The system weathered it nicely so I'll probably wait until tomorrow to add water. It didn't add too much to the pool but enough that the CF fell to CF = 24 which is down from CF = 27 which it had reached before the rain. So I'll let it go until tomorrow to refill it. It's also cool outside which makes the biggest difference in transpiration.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

These Hot Days Are Drawing Down the Kiddie Pool Fast

10:30 6" CF=20
14:50 5" CF=23
I've started thinking about ways to augment watering the pool so that the system can go a few days without attention. One obvious way seems to be float valves and I certainly should have a few around from earlier systems. I don't want to leave such a system hooked up to the house water pressure but maybe a tank with a pump or even a siphon set up to a float valve might work just fine.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just Dropping Too Fast

Well gave up on it and decided to top off the system.
CF went from about 34 down to 18 and added a cup of nutrient which took it up, non-equilibrium, value of 22. Will have to check the equilibrium point in the morning.

Watching the Float System

10:22 7/7 4.625" CF = 27/28
So in a day we lost about an inch of water. We also came up about six points in conductivity. I'm going to let it go until tomorrow about this time and see how it fares.

16:51 7/7 3.875" CF = 32-36 I'm still resolved to let it go until tomorrow but it is quite far down.

It's amazing how much transpiration you can get once the plants get rather large. The garden tomato plants are much less rich and varied and their leaves are a lot smaller and lighter green which makes me wonder if they have some nutrient deficiency. The soil in the back yard is none too good.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Day In the Life

10:15 7/6 Float depth 5.5" CF = 22 Checked the garden and found two little squash starting out. It's interesting to watch the birds spook out of the garden when they see me coming. They like it there because I turn the sprinkler on and they have a cool place to hang out. There are also lots of bugs buzzing around the squashs' big yellow flowers.

14:00 7/6 Float depth 5.25" CF = 25 and it is hot outside.
17:50 7/6 Float depth 5.0" CF = 26/27 the depth measurement are likely a little uncertain since I'm making them by putting my finger on the dipstick (my conductivity instrument) where the water hits it when it is against the bottom of the kiddie pool.

19:30 7/6 Float depth 4.75" CF=28

Monday, July 5, 2010

Squash Are Leading the Pack

7-5 SQUASH took another one out of the garden 10 1/8 total of 4 now at 32 7/8 ounces
7-2 SQUASH took one out of the garden 9 1/8 TOTAL 3 totaling 22 3/4 ounces
6-30 SQUASH took two out of the garden today (1st Fruit) 5 7/8, 7 3/4 ounces.

Lots of small green tomatoes but it'll be a while before they are red. Generally when I log produce it's along the following lines:
date type number weight cumulative-# cumulative-weight

You can put this into a spreadsheet and make nice graphs too.

Continuing with ... Status ...

The pictures in the previous post give the overall look of both the float system and the garden. So I thought I'd put up the pictures of the status of the tomatoes. The picture on the left shows a set of tomatoes ripening on the vine in the float system stacked on top of a plant with a single tomato so far in the garden ... there are others with tomatoes but this is the biggest. It looks bigger than it is because I fooled with the picture to make sure you could see it. It is actually about the same size as the ones in the float system. Then at the bottom I put a picture of the first two squash that came off the system a couple of days ago.

Pictures and Transpiration

Well I topped off the system and it went from about 4.5" to about 6.25 inches and a CF of maybe 29 to 32 in there somewhere to a CF = 18 so I added a cup of concentrate and it's now running around CF=23. So the question is: How long can I safely leave the system without topping it off and changing the nutrient ... as the season continues the interval gets shorter and shorter unless you get a slug of cool days.

Transpiration and All That

Well this A.M. found the CF at 29 (which is a big jump) and the depth of the kiddie pool on the left side (the deeper side since it is not quite level) was 4.5". I'll probably top it off. When the CF jumps like this it indicates two things: 1) a lot of transpiration since if the plants are just consuming nutrient the CF should stay about constant but when there is a lot of heat and yesterday was a barn-burner, the plants absorb moisture but not nutrient and that runs the nutrient concentration up (at least that's how I construct the observation). 2) I have not been keeping detailed track of the depth of liquid in the pool but it's come down something like three inches (I sort of get an idea when I stick the dipstick in since I push it down to the bottom of the pool and observe where the liquid comes up to. So I'm going to top it off again today.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Oldies But Goodies At Growing Edge

SEE HERE I got a kick out of this which is a link at The Growing Edge which features some of my old articles. Well the hydroponics hasn't changed, so if you like a walk through past adventures this is a fun place to start. It goes back to some of my early NFT systems. Unfortunately most of the pictures aren't featured. The egg plant was a hoot!!

Maintenance 7-3-2010

Checked the nutrient level at 10:15 a.m. and found it had reached equillibrium at CF=19 so I added a cup of concentrate which took it up to CF=25. That is a quick measurement so I'll have to check later to see what equilibrium is. This suggests that a full pool responds at about 6 pts/cup so 1.5 points per quarter cup. I've been using 2 pts/quarter cup as my heuristic.

19:15 hours CF still equal to 25. So I guess that stabilized. The sense I have of this system is that it is about as robust as any I've done. The plants look terrific, are flowering well and setting fruit well ahead of the garden with bigger and lusher plants. Moreover because of the floats the system maintains a uniform contact with the nutrient. I'm still concerned with how it will fare as the fruit gains weight and tends to sink the floats, but at this point I'm very pleased. The central fountain, although it has mostly disappeared into the jungle is still merrily providing the splash necessary to oxygenate the water and the circulation pump which is just pushing the water around in a circle seems to have discouraged the mosquitoes. So I'm pleased as punch with the system.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fill'er Up

Well when I got back from a visit to the college, about 4 p.m. I went out and checked the system. It was at CF=28 (some of that might be temperature correction?? -- the Dipstick is temperature corrected but that's up from the morning). I decided to top the pool off to overflowing so I ran water into it until it overflowed the side and then added 3/4 cup of nutrient concentrate. A quick look seemed to be CF=24, but I'll check when it reaches equilibrium and now we'll see how rapidly it goes down.


Checked float system this a.m. CF=24 and it looks relatively down, may top off later today, but more likely I'll let it go into tomorrow to see how it is going. It was last topped off on 7/29 so that would be only 3 days ago and the question obviously is: How often will it have to be topped off as we get into the fruit development period. It's annoying to top it off every day. In a commercial system I'd have some sort of depth maintenance float valve system and an automatic doser. But manual maintenance, while not at all difficult, tends to mean you can't leave the system for a period longer than the replenishment time.

7-2 SQUASH took one out of the garden 9 1/8 TOTAL 3 totaling 22 3/4 ounces
6-30 SQUASH took two out of the garden today (1st Fruit) 5 7/8, 7 3/4 ounces.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Checked the nutrient level this morning and it was at CF=20 and everything was chirping along very nicely. I didn't add any water, but I did add a half-cup of concentrate with the goal of bringing the level up to CF=24. I checked immediately after adding the nutrient and got CF=26 on the concentrate entry side, and CF=22 on the diametrically opposed side, so I am imagining that it will come to equilibrium at about CF=24. Mission accomplished! Check it later.

A few hours later it looks like the system has stabilized at CF=23 ... so maybe I'll add a little more nutrient, but Jessica is painting the back door and bothering her at this point may get me painted.

Added a quarter cup of nutrient and waited a while to measure it: Currently the CF =26 so I'll just leave it there for a day or so. Seems like the water level is down more than I would expect. I'll let it go through tomorrow and look at it again on Friday morning.

6-30 SQUASH took two out of the garden today (1st Fruit) 5 7/8, 7 3/4 ounces. Great start! Film later ...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Topping Off and thinking ...

Well on the morning check I found the CF=28 which is a clear indication of a lot of transpiration without uptake of nutrient and the level was down. We've had a hot couple of days and the plants are getting quite large. I topped off the system and checked the nutrient level. It had dropped to 19, so based on the observation that a quarter cup of concentrate elevates the nutrient level about 2 points I added a half cup. I'll check a little later to see if that took it to 23 which is what I expect.

A little later has come and gone and the equilibrium seems to be about CF=22 so I'll add another quarter cup of concentrate later. So in summary I topped the system off on the 25th and now on the 29th I topped it off again so it's running down in something like four days in the current weather. Still from the standpoint of maintenance this has been the least work of any system so far. It's also pretty safe since you don't have to worry about power failures since all that does is turn off the oxygenation and circulation pumps or a while but it doesn't keep the plants from getting nutrient which happens in my NFT systems.

This has me thinking about how float systems could be enlarged and improved. I've done tubs in the past and they worked especially well for things like lettuce and basil. So far this float system is working well for tomatoes, although I'm still concerned that as the fruit set and the plants get heavier that the weight will sink the floats and the support system, which was improvised from tomato cages, will prove inadequate for its use. We'll see. That's one of the fun things about being a hydroponics hobbyist.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Garden In Perspective

The garden is a patch in the backyard that is something like 12 to 15 feet approximately on a side and it has 8 corn plants, 12-15 tomato plants and a slug of yellow squash so I thought I'd give a little picture and a little perspective.

As you can see from the shot at the right the float system is nearer the house and it's around 3 and a half feet in diameter or there abouts. The garden plot can be seen in the background. Mostly I've just been watering the garden and as you can see the weeds are loving it, but so are the plants and they have a head start.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Status ...

Well after equilibrium the float system settled to CF=23 and I've not bothered to increase it. The garden tomato plants are doing well and I'll put some pictures of those up in a couple of days. I've got 8 corn stalks, a whole slug of yellow squash, and about ten or twelve tomato plants in the garden. They are not as lush or advanced as the tomatoes in the float system, but they are coming along too. There are lots of bloom on the squash and so far two little yellow squash are out there lying on the ground. The weeds are doing well too, but since the plants had a head start most of the weeds are pretty far behind.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Refreshing the Nutrient: Easy Since There Is Already A Pump In The System

Well it seemed like a good time to refresh the nutrient. If you leave nutrient in a system and just replace water and top off the nutrient if there is any imbalance it tends to increase and ultimately cause problems for the plants. So this morning I went out and swapped a lot of the nutrient by pumping it out of the pond and dumping it on the garden which has not been fertilized.

I pumped 3 and a half buckets out before replacing it with fresh water and topping the nutrient off with 2 and a half cups of concentrate. That brought the CF to 22 but it was not in equilibrium so I'll check it later. Mission accomplished. The frames are working fairly well to sequence the plants off the float so that the support is divided. I don't want the floats to submerge although so far they seem pretty good. These tomato plants are doing markedly better than those in the garden.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Quick Update

Topped off the float system today with water and added 3/4 cup of blue and white concentrate. CF=23 but was not necessarily at equilibrium. I'm going to be curious to see how fast the nutrient level goes down now that the plants are getting pretty big and setting blooms and what not.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A couple of add ons ...

I forgot to mention a couple of things earlier. Just came in from measuring the system and got a CF=23 so I guess I have to confess that the earlier estimate was a guess and it was a little off.

Yesterday I topped off the system with water and mixed up a gallon of nutrient concentrate. You do that rather easily by mixing 17 ounces of white mixture into a gallon of water, and then 17 ounces of the blue mixture into a gallon of water. That makes two gallons, one of white and one of blue, concentrate. The general rule is one ounce of concentrate makes one gallon of nutrient (that's one ounce of each mixed into the gallon of water ... you can't mix the concentrates at full strength because then chemical reactions take place that precipitate out some of the nutrients, but when they are mixed at the delivery strength they don't react. Don't ask me, I'm a physicist not a chemist, apparently there is a concentration requirement.). Anyway I'm not sure how much water is in the pond because I didn't measure it, just added nutrient until I got the readings I was looking for. A quarter cup of concentrate moves the CF in the pond about 2 points.

At some point it will be a good idea to pump the nutrient over the side and maybe use the old nutrient to fertilize the garden and refresh the nutrient in the pond. The reason for that is that the nutrient is balanced for tomato plants but there is no guarantee that it will stay in balance and our instruments are too crude to tell since we only look at overall ion concentration. So every month or so it is a good idea to empty the pond and replace it with fresh nutrient.

There is some build up of algae in the pond, but not very much since most of it is not directly exposed to sunlight. All in all it's going well. The CF (Conductivity Factor) instrument I'm using is the truncheon which was developed in New Zealand. It works very well and I think they have skyrocketed in price to about $130.00. When I bought mine it was less than $100. I have two because I couldn't resist seeing what the new one was like. Turned out to be not too much different from the old one, just a little prettier. They are both working just fine.

Rats Nests and Jungles

Well there are ten tomato plants in this float system and they are getting pretty crowded about now so they need some sort of support and expansion system. So today I bought some of those wire supports that can be used with tomatoes. Generally they are mounted as triangles, but I just stuck-em in the ground and tried to surround the pond but giving me access at the near side in this view. You can also see the electrical hook up to the two pumps. One pump is the fountain which is hopefully supplying the oxygenation of the water, and the other pump is just in there providing circulation in the hope that they will deter any mosquitoes that come by.

Here's the garden, well a portion of it anyway. These tomatoes were planted in rockwool at the same time. They are flourishing well enough, although it is hard to see them clearly with all the weeds that are starting to flourish too. This is why I call it "The Weedless Garden" when I use hydroponics. I am not, repeat not, going to go crawling around in there digging up the weeds. The tomatoes were all planted in a cup with the bottom cut out to head off any cutworms and also gives you a target if you want to fertilize which I have to confess I have not done so Jessica was on my case today because she doesn't think it is fair to the plants in dirt not to fertilize them when the plants in the float system have total access to nutrients. So I'll probably do that.

It will be fun to compare the tomatoes when they come off the vines and see if there is any difference. Anyway I'm going to be trying to get the tomatoes in the float system to come out and so that they are not so crowded, get them to grow into the supports. We'll see how well that works. Overall I'm quite happy with the system. The plants are growing well despite being crowded. CF=22 right now. I've added water only once or twice since June 4th and maybe a total of a cup of nutrient (cup of both white and blue). I have not been logging it. I should but this system has been so easy I just haven't been.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What A Difference a Week Makes!

I was a little concerned about how taking a trip to Groton, CT for a week would work out. We went up there to see our youngest son graduate from Sub School. That was quite cool! We also visited the U.S.S. Nautilus and an active duty Los Angelos class attack boat, the U.S.S. Providence.

The whole while though I was a bit concerned about the float system. I had topped it off and left it completely full of water and with the nutrient running at CF=22. So when we got back late on Tuesday I ran back into the backyard with a flashlight (we got home after dark) and looked at the system. All seemed to be fine. It was about two inches down and the CF was 22. Today, the 10th, I took a picture to put up here. As you can see the plants have grown quite a lot. I still don't have a support system set up or even thoroughly worked out, but that is next on the agenda. The plants in the float system are more robust, larger and more vigorous than the plants that are in the tilled soil in the backyard. (See Below)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Morning Ministrations

Well this morning I went out and turned on the sprayer (a little fountain kind of thing) to water the small garden plot. While I was at it I went over and measured the conductivity factor of the float system and was quite surprised to find it at CF=18, down from the value of 20 which I was expecting it to be at. So I added another half cup of blue and white nutrient concentrate to bring it up to a robust CF=22.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Maintaining the System

First addition of water occurred today. I'm quite curious to see how well the system responds to neglect. So far, with the plants being quite small as yet, the system has required little attention. Today I topped off the liquid in the pond taking it up close to capacity adding something like 2 inches of water. Before the water was added the CF=21 and after the water was added it had fallen to about CF=17 although I didn't wait for it to gain full equilibrium. I added a half cup of blue and white Total Gro Steiner concentrate and that appeared to return the pond to nominally CF=21. I'll check tomorrow to see if that is what it is at when it reaches equilibrium.

I've not yet mixed up any new concentrate so I'm using up the last gallon of concentrate that I had from last year. I'll probably have to mix up more before long. To mix my concentrate I mix one pound of blue nutrient power into a gallon of water and then a pound of the white mix into a different gallon of water producing one gallon of blue and one gallon of white nutrient concentrate. One ounce of concentrate (both blue and white) added to a gallon of water produces a gallon of nutrient at CF=24 (roughly).

So far the plants look great and somewhat healthier than the similar plants planted in the rototilled patch (about 15'x15') in the back yard. I've added no fertilizer to the backyard patch which may contribute to the fact that they look a little more anemic and have some yellowing of the lower leaves. I'm thinking of that patch as something of a control against which to measure the progress of the little float/pond system.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Perking Up!

Memorial Day is for remembering our loved ones fallen in combat in our nation's conflicts and also those who have served in the armed forces, especially those sent in harms way. They used to plant tree, still do I expect, to honor and remember.
I thought I'd put up a picture of the float system today. As you can see if you compare this picture with the one from a couple of posts ago, the plants have grown a bit. I'm still running the system at a CF=19. The next time I fool with it I'll take it up to about 22 or so. There are two pumps in the system. One is driving the central fountain which is there to cause water to drop into the pool and oxygenate the water. The other is just circulating the water to keep it moving. So far it is working well.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Quick Post

Not too much to say. I rototilled a patch about 15'x15' in the back yard and planted all the rest of the stuff a few days ago. The float system is working well. I checked the nutrient level a while ago and it was CF=17 so I added a quarter cup which should bring it up to about CF=19, but was too lazy to check. The tulip tree keeps dropping blooms and these little strips onto the system where they either get into the nutrient and mess up the pumps by getting stuck on the intakes or they settle on the top of the floats. I take them off but I need to come up with a better strategy for this.

I'm still thinking about the support structure for when the plants start to get large. Right now I'm thinking about tapping thin wall conduit into the ground as a post and then using T-fixtures in PVC make a little PVC fence that the plants can grow out to and hang over. I'll show it in a photo when I get a round to actually building it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rototilling and Floating

We have a little baby rototiller we got to do some conventional gardening. I assembled it yesterday and fired it up and tore up some of the back yard to plant some corn and squash and such, mostly the "such" will be the rest of the tomato plants that are currently still in rockwool cubes since I planted ten tomato plants in the float system.

It rained some today, not too much. I checked the system this afternoon and except for the darn tulip tree flowers dropping off and onto the system everything seems to be flourishing. The CF was 17 without adding any nutrient, so all is well. I'll probably take it up to about 20 soon. And take it up higher later. I've usually run at a CF of about 24 when the plants are mature.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 1: OK So Far!

Day 1: Went out to check the system since it rained last night. The CF was 14. CF stands for Conductivity Factor by the way and it is a measurement of the ion content in the water from the hydroponics plant nutrients which are all chemical salts (a salt is just a chemical compound that disassociates in water like common table salt although that would not be a good plant nutrient).

I added a circulation pump to the pool since I don't want to get mosquitoes. A few years back when I ran a tub float system with just aquarium aeration I got little squiggly mosquito larvae wiggling around in the nutrient and that really turned me off. I figure with a robust pump circulating the water that might not be a problem. It was funny though because the circulation caused the floats to start turning too.

I added a quarter cup of white and blue nutrient concentrate to bring the CF up to 16. The plants looked a little beaten down. We're planning to rototill a plot for a conventional garden in the backyard and grow corn, squash, and the rest of the tomato plants that are currently growing on the screened in deck in rockwool cubes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Float System Deployment

Well I've been watching my seedlings grow for some time now and we've had some unseasonably chilly days, although none below freezing, and now it is past the normal time where you risk a freeze so today we deployed the Summer 2010 float system. The idea is simple enough build a simple float system in a kiddie pool and put the plants in it. The kiddie pool is only a little over three feet in diameter, I cut the floats (actually Jessica did the cutting) 34" in diameter and the center region is about six inches in diameter. Because the pool is larger at the top than the bottom the float has a lot of lateral movement when the pool is full.

STEP 1 put down a pad with concrete tiles (we did this because we had the tiles from another project, generally I'd just put it on the ground but this was nicer.).

STEP 2 was to cut the floats out of 4'x2' pieces of 2" thick Styrofoam. That was very easy. We cut them to a diameter of 34", each a 17" radius using a marker and a string as a jury-rig compass. The cut a hole in the center for the waterfall.

That was pretty easy. You can see the pump with the water feature in the center. The idea is to splash some water back into the pool to oxygenate the water. We'll see how well that works by how well the plants thrive.

STEP 3 was to drill holes in the Styrofoam which wasn't too hard but you had to come at it from both sides because the Styrofoam was thicker than the hole cutter. A nail to line it up from the other side solved that problem. So "Vala!" then dropped little plants from my stash in little plastic cups with the bottom mostly cut out so the roots could escape into the nutrient. Then I brought the conductivity up to a CF=14 since the plants are still young. I'll adjust that in future, and here's the finished system.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Floats Are Coming

Went out to the hydroponics design system center (Home Depot in this case) and hunted up some nice thick foam to use as floats in the mini-float system. A sheet of 2" maybe 3" thick foam 4'x 8' went for $27 which is about twice what I need but it will be fun cutting it up, popping some holes in it and getting it all ready for the roll out. Meanwhile the little plants started popping out of their seed shells yesterday and are perking up. I mixed up some 1/4 strength nutrient and poured it into the container with the rockwool cubes so the little pants will had some source of nutrition since the rockwool cubes and ordinary tap water don't provide much. The French Dona's are way out ahead of the Abraham Lincolns and Atkinsons in terms of germination. I've always liked the Donas, but had a hard time finding seeds for them last year. I'll try to get around to taking some pictures for the next posting.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Summer 2010 Is Coming ...

Well I finally got off my can and soaked some rockwool cubes and stuck some tomato seeds in them. I've been incredibly lazy. I just pulled a sheet of rockwool cubes out of my stash in the basement and put them in those little plastic starter trays and soaked them with water, no nutrient. Then I put three kinds of seeds in the six-cell rows, four rows each: 1) Abraham Lincolns, 2) Atkinsons, and 3) Donas. All the seeds were leftovers from last year so I hope I don't have a germination problem. Well that was a tough ten minutes work, now to relax.

The other adventure was what should the system design be? I bought a little hard plastic kiddie pool about four feet in diameter for $10 and I'm planning to make it into a baby float system with a central waterfall for oxygenation. This is sort of a follow on from last years largely failed wick systems. The waterfall should address at least one problem. Float systems don't like heavy plants however since the floats tend to sink then so I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that since I really only want to grow tomatoes. I think maybe just radiate the plants out to stakes (that might be just the ticket).

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I've been wondering what a float system with a fountain sort of thing in the center might do. They have these little plastic baby pools for kids that might do for a float system, not the blow up kind, the hard sided kind. It might be possible to either make a little central waterfall or a fountain that doesn't go too high, you don't want wind to blow the stream so it doesn't land in the pool.

The idea would be to make floats in circular sections so that a hole in the center existed which could house a kind of cone shaped fountain or waterfall. This could be fun and not all that difficult. The trick I've always found is making the floats. Most of my Styrofoam floats have left a lot to be desired. I probably should look for a better float material or at least a better way of cutting the Styrofoam.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Getting Warmer ...

Well it's getting warmer and when March arrives it's hard not to start thinking about hydroponics. This year I'm going to try to go back to NFT since the passive wick system was a big disappointment last year. I'm sure I could make a better wick system, but I don't want to do a really big job and I definitely want tomatoes this year. So some sort of small NFT system seems in the cards.

Another kind of system that would be fun to make is some sort of fairly large dynamic float system. I loved this video I saw some time back ... it was a YouTube and I'm not sure where it was, maybe I can find it. So far no luck. It was a HUGE commercial system with continuous feed onto rafts and a big waterfall to oxygenate the water. If anyone sees it send me the link PLEASE.