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.