Tomatoes 2016

Tomatoes July 28, 2016
Tomatoes July 28, 2016

From bottom left, around the outside:  A ripe Black Krim, a not so ripe Black Krim, a counter ripened Big Beef and Green Berkeley Tie Dye.

The small ones in the middle, again starting from the left, Purple Bumblebee, (slightly above) Supersweet 100, back down to another Purple Bumblebee (to show the variation in shades) and bottom right is a sun gold.

I included some of the classics because colors are hard to capture and this way you can compare the exotics.

The classics, for me, are Black Krim, Supersweet 100 and Sun Gold.  All of them taste yummy this year as other years. I tasted one Purple Bumblebee and want to reserve judgment. Haven’t tried the Berkeley Tie Dye yet, either.  I will report back after tasting.

I do not have any large yellow tomatoes yet.  Pineapple seedlings died in the tray and Gold Medal (formerly named Ruby Gold) haven’t ripened.  The Gold Medal plants have stopped growing, acting like determinates, although Tomato Growers lists them as indeterminates.

In a normal year, the tomatoes would just be getting started now.  With our severe drought and the longest heat wave that I remember, it’s hard to tell what will happen.  I’ll let you know.

 

Chlorotic Seedlings 2016

Chlorotic Tomato Seedling
Chlorotic Tomato Seedling

Although I’ve done the same things this year, as far as I know, a lot, not all, of my seedlings have developed these leaves of an unhealthy, pale green.

As usual, I started seeds, one to each 2″ soil cube made with Pro-Mix .  Fertilized with a half-strength solution of Miracle Grow when true leaves appeared.  (Seedlings are supposed to carry their own “food” to this point.)

My favorite theory is that the small soil cubes (like the basil below) dried out on the heat mat and then got flooded when I watered.  That inconsistency would interfere with the plants ability to take up water and nutrients.  It’s my favorite theory because I’m potting everything up, anyway.  As usual, I do that when they have a couple sets of true leaves or earlier, if I see roots at the edge of the soil cubes.

Most of the web sites on this issue are written for mature plants and because the problem is on the newer leaves, most sources would indicate an iron deficiency.  But why this year and not others?

Other theories are a magnesium deficiency, although that would be easy to treat with Epsom Salts, again, why this year only?  And web sites that show pictures of magnesium deficiencies show more damage than just a poor color.

Other years, I’ve had damping off problems and fungus gnats, as well as mice that ate my seedlings, and a cat who ate them and upchucked green goo on my putty colored carpet (sigh).  This is a new one.

So, as I was potting up, I cleaned all of the flats and the watering can with a 10% solution of bleach in water, just in case.  I sprayed the plants with the same fertilizer solution — if for some reason they can’t get food through the soil, maybe they can get it through their leaves.  It has small amounts of both iron and magnesium as well as the usual.

I’m also considering a test where I also spray a few plants with an Epson Salts solution, a teaspoon in a pint of water, because of anecdotal evidence that tomatoes love the stuff.

Doing several things at the same time isn’t a very scientific way of finding out the cause but mostly, I want my seedlings to thrive.

Chlorotic Basil Seedling
Chlorotic Basil Seedling

Waht’s This?

It’s supposed to be Mizuna, maybe from a packet named Kyoto Mizuna, but I’m not sure.  I buy from a couple of sources and not sure which package I used this time.  Even Kyoto, which is supposed to have fatter leaves, does not have rounded serrations.

I reordered and will throw out all other packages in my stash labeled mizuna, but what do I do with these plants?  Do you think they are some other kind of mustard (mizuna’s family)?

not mizuna?
not mizuna?

Coming of Age

An exercise that I wrote in my Thursday writing group.  I have been working intensively on fiction writing skills and not on my blog. It IS garden related so I thought I’d post it here.

Red, it’s almost always got to be red, the color of lust, the beating heart, the cut-vein red of an open wound.  And round like the sun, with the curving, firm heft of a young woman’s breast. 

Anticipation is a part of it, the days waiting, praying to the weather gods, not too cold, not too wet, now not too hot, please.

Worship of the bees.  Just in case, I take an old electric toothbrush to the blossoms or snap my fingers next to their small yellow flowers.  The pollen is necessary.

And smell.  There has to be a ripe, rich odor, slightly acid, sweet.  The tannic smell of brushed branches, their green-yellow sap burning my skin, is all a part of this.  The summer’s first tomato.

It was tomatoes that bought me to this garden, to any garden, in the sense of tending plants.  Well, them and roses.

I was raised on a farm.  My first memories are of vast fields.  Planting corn, it was my job to stomp each hill once the seeds were covered.  The hills went on, beyond my father’s towering frame, to the sky.

I realize now that much of my early years in the garden were because there was no childcare, no pre-school. So I spent my summer days learning soil, small red bugs lighting up the brown; curly fat worms, spiders, my playmates.  Weeds the enemy, the purpose of our labor.

Rebel youth,  I grew to hate the heat, the work and the isolation of the farm, to dream of living in a house like grandpa and grandma’s in Detroit where evenings were spent on shaded porches, chatting with the neighbors, the ice cream shop a short city block away.  Someday, I thought.

Boarding schools and colleges and big cities later though, I hungered for tomatoes.  Grocery stores sold pinkish things that would turn some approximate shade of red but never make my heart beat faster.  Never remind me of the sun’s heat in August or the last pickings under a cold harvest moon in October, racing to beat the frost.

Now I need a patch of ground, a piece of the sun for myself and the bearing of the tomatoes inside of me, long buried seeds, waiting for a rebirth that only I can bring.

Summer Veggie Problems

cucumbers on supports
cucumbers on supports

Ironically, when I was searching for information about a problem with wilting dahlias, I came across a couple of pictures that looked just right.  When I clicked on them in the search engine, it was from an earlier blog of mine.  And I never got an answer and never came back to it.  Real helpful Gaias Gift lady, she says sarcastically.  What MAY have happened, is what’s happening this year, the plants are recovering.  I don’t know if they will produce any blossoms but they are not wilted in the cool of morning and evening and less wilted in the daytime.

On to this year’s veggie problem.  I was so excited at the healthy growth of my cucumbers; Sweet Success again.  I started them indoors in soil cubes and they transitioned wonderfully in our warm spring.  Then I saw lots of little cukes forming with flowers at the end and I was salivating.  No signs of vine borer anywhere this year yet.  (Now I’ve done it.)

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAlas, almost all of those little cucumbers have done nothing except sit there and petrify. This COULD be a pollination problem except that Sweet Success aren’t supposed to need pollination.  And they are all female so I wouldn’t know how to do that anyway??  So did I get the seeds I ordered?  I sent off a question to the seed company and got an immediate request for more information; pictures and such.

The one and only cucumber that’s grown to full size hasn’t filled out at the blossom end the way it should but I wanted to keep the plants producing.  It does show promise in its length.

I purchased Super Sweet 100 tomatoes from the same source and have been grumping because they are getting so much SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAbigger than any of that variety and much later.  See the leftmost two tomatoes in the picture; picked green.  Next to the two Sun Golds on the right, picked ripe.  I’ve been picking Sun Gold for weeks; so the seed company got that question, too.

Whatever the red ones are, the chipmunks prefer them <weak grin>.

Swiss Chard Experiment – LED lights

Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard was one of those things that I used to like growing better than eating.  There are so many different colors to feed the eye.  But once I used it in Molly Katzen’s Pasta with greens and feta, that changed.  So yummy; so pretty; my favorite, just for the looks is any red variety.

So as I started to grow greens under LED lights I became curious as to whether I could make this recipe in the winter with my own greens.  Swiss Chard showed up on lists of things that people had grown successfully but there wasn’t much information; it can often be used as a micro or baby green; I think it was even in some baby and micro-mixes that I tried under the lights before I gave up on mixes (that’s a different story).

The seedlings were well beyond micro or baby sized when I blogged about them on February 1, 2015.  As I mentioned in that post, I put three of the 2″ soil cubes into 3″, round coir pots.  The pictures show them on the right (with some Simpson Elite lettuces in the picture before they are cut, but you can ignore them for this post.)  To make it clear, the plants you see in both flats are from the same batch; the ones on the right were potted up.  My poor record-keeping would make any real scientist want to shoot me but I don’t think the two flats were treated differently in any other significant way.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe results suggest that Swiss Chard wants deeper soil to mature normally.  In the pots, the coloring is better, the stems are wider and the leaf shape is more elongated, more similar to what I would get in the garden. However, all of those characteristics are less than what I would expect from mature chard, grown in the summer garden.

Taste tests next.

Tomato Seedling Problem

another shot
another shot
Brandywine tomato with problem
Brandywine tomato with problem

I threw out about two thirds of my Brandywine seedlings yesterday as I was potting up my tomatoes into three inch peat pots.  The leaves were starting to curl, wilt and yellow.  With a close look, I was thinking maybe scale but the fuzz is not something that I associate with scale.  Then saw pictures and descriptions of older plants with early blight.  I’ve never known it to hit seedlings. Any ideas?

LED First Harvest 2013

Under the lights
Under the lights

These greens were targeted for Thanksgiving but my timing is a little off.  Someone said Thanksgiving was late this year?  In the harvest picture below, from bottom left, clockwise:

  • Cilantro:  Calypso, which takes cool weather, bolts slowly and can be grown as cut and come again.
  • Shiso:  Aka Perilla; this is a red variety that I pick small for its color.  It does put out more leaves after being cut and has a very muted, almost-mint flavor.
  • Mizuna:  The common green variety.  I like the results of growing it under lights as outside, it seems to attract every chewing insect known.  Until growing it inside, I’ve always had to eat holey leaves.
  • Purple Mizuna:  See the single leaf in the middle of the board, with spoon for sizing.  My latest trial and I dunno?  I was thinking it was too little leaf surface to use up space under the lights and it’s skeletal shape is a bit off-putting, but it has the nicest peppery flavor.  It made my last egg salad sandwich quite elegant.
  • Spinner with Red Sails and Simpson’s Elite Lettuce
  • Majoram:  I got the nicest tasting marjoram plant at Lyman Estate’s herb sale this spring; normally I would let it die this winter but it’s SO good that I started cuttings under the light.  They weren’t happy; I’ve lost all but one; it’s more stem than leaves and I keep cutting it back without improvement.  But if I can just string this one plant along until next season, the genetics are there.
LED harvest
LED harvest

Total harvest this year so far has been about 12 oz.  Very fresh and pretty; organic, too.  The organic fertilizer that I’m using is based on fish pooh and kelp.  Sundays, when I fertilize, are smelly.  And I’ve learned from experience to only mix what I need.  It gets truly abominable when it sits.  It’s interesting that a few days after fertilizing, most of the smell is gone, well-metabolized by the fast growing plants.

 

Salad in January

Fresh from the "farm"
Fresh from the "farm"

The family has named my LED light setup, the farm.  I like it.  I haven’t posted about it much this winter because I have no idea how many pictures of lettuce growing in flats the world really needs.  But this is from my second set of seedlings and the last experiments before I convert their use to growing seedlings for the garden.

Simpsons Elite and Red Sails are still the staple crop and will continue to be.  I start one flat and then split them between two when they need the room. The red sails varies in color depending on how much light it gets; with some of the plants in the middle of the flat getting very red. These were picked small.  I can pick for weeks but at some time the plants get tired and brown easily.  I picked the last good leaves from the crop I timed for Thanksgiving and threw the rest of those plants on the frozen compost pile today.

The two plants that are keepers from this year’s experiments are mizuna, the spikey leaved green at the front of the crisper and a variety of perilla called “Britton”, the small, bright pink/purple leaf toward the back left of the crisper. Both of these plants offer distinctive flavors in addition to textures and color that contrast and enhance my main crop lettuces in the bowl.  Although I find it’s easy to drown out those subtleties with the stronger flavors that we usually add to salads; crudities like sliced onions and even most salad dressings.

The perilla leaves are supposed to have green tops with red undersides.  But grown under the lights and picked as baby greens, they stay red on both sides, although the underside is brighter.  I didn’t get good germination but the day I planted I saw that the seeds do better with cold treatment, before planting.  The rest of the packet is in the freezer.

I’ve always had trouble growing apetizing mizuna in the garden as it’s a favorite of chewing insects.  And while I’ve eaten what’s left, it’s not an attractive salad green when full of holes.  There are no pests under the lights.  I’ll be growing more of it next year.

The stringy stems you see in the crisper are cut and come again cilantro, another experiment that worked.  One pot has served more than my winter needs.  I need to come up with ways to use it when fresh tomatoes aren’t in season.  I’ve been using it chopped over salads and bean dishes.  The variety is Calypso; it seems to do well under the cool conditions and along with the lettuces.

I also grew half a flat of mache and I’m not sure whether to do so again.  It could be a fertilization problem but the leaves never got as big as they do outside and I didn’t get a strong nutty flavor from the ones I picked.  Another downside is that I can grow two crops of lettuces and baby greens in the same time that it took the Mache to mature.

 

Rosemary in the Winter

I grow lot of my heat loving herbs in pots and then bring them in for the winter; they don’t go under my LED lights as I don’t want to introduce outdoor pests to that area.  But I can usually get a few years out of a Rosemary plant by overwintering it near a window.  I can have fresh herbs for cooking and any fallen needles make the vacuum cleaner smell good.

A more ambitious garden friend has taken cuttings and thinks they’ve rooted.  A very few of us on the gardens list were chatting about when to pinch back and fertilize.  The consensus, if you can call it that with only three people chatting, was that it was best to wait until the plants were showing signs of active growth, probably at the growing tips of the four to six inch stalks.  And then someone said, could they be putting energy into buds at the end without it being evident and well, none of us seem to know the answer to that.

My potted plant from last summer is doing the opposite; it’s growing numerous but weak stems from the ends.  This is the side of the plant that has been closest to the window.  These weak sections do not concentrate the oils well or develop much flavor, either.  I’ll cut them off when the plant goes outside this spring.

Rosemary's winter growth
Rosemary's winter growth

More Critter Wars

 

Black Krim eaten by chipmunk
Black Krim eaten by chipmunk

So I guess this kind of mesh doesn’t  prevent chipmunks from eating tomatoes as they ripen.  From a wine purchase, it was the easiest to apply.  Just slip it on; no tying.  I thought they might take advantage of the open ends.  But no, they just ate through it.

Critter wars

 

Brandywines in mesh
Brandywines in mesh

I mentioned my problems with chipmunks and watching them eat almost all of last year’s tomato crop.  They seem to have an uncanny ability to know when a tomato is going to turn color and demolish it the same day.  When I stopped at one of our local farm stands for some 4th of July raspberries, the woman who took my cash suggested mesh bags, like the ones that onions are sold in, to protect my crop.  It’s not really feasible for all of my crop, like the sprawling bunches of cherry tomatoes, but for some of my prized, large heirlooms, it may be.

I don’t honestly know if mesh will work.  The woman who made the suggestion had actually used brown paper bags.  She said that they’d worked well, even ripening the tomatoes more quickly, but she quickly learned that they had to be emptied and reset after every rain or they’d hold the water and rot the tomatoes.

The problem with mesh is that I know my little chipmunk friends can eat suet through the suet cage and I’ve seen them use their sharp little claws.  They may be able to eat the suet through the mesh.  Or maybe, the strangness of the stuff will deter, on its own.  Although I doubt that.  These are very tame chipmunks.

Black Krim in mesh bag
Black Krim in mesh bag

If a  coarse mesh will work, the easiest to apply is the plastic mesh “jackets” that they use to separate bottles of wine when they are packed two to a bag.  They don’t need to be tied, just slipped on.  And their natural stretch settles in around the  tomato and can easily expand as it grows.

I had a couple of different bags; the one that I purchased with limes in it had the smallest mesh.  It’s all an experiment.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Planting Onions and More Weeds

Ailsa Craig onion plants from Johnny's
Ailsa Craig onion plants from Johnny's

Hard to believe that these will ever grow again.  I’ve always grown my own from seed and always had small (but yummy) onions.  Ailsa Craig, a sweet, large (for others) onion is my favorite.  When I saw that Johnny’s had them as plants for sale I decided to try them.  They arrived on a Wednesday and instructions said do not water, leave in a cool dry place.  They should be able to live for three weeks off the bulb.  So this is what they looked like on Saturday.

planted onions
planted onions

Cleaned off the dry stuff and trimmed the ends again.  Planted in a staggered swath like little solders.  Slightly drunken soldiers but that’s my fault.  Johnny’s suggested an elaborate system of raised beds and a trough running through the middle with a couple of inches of fertilizer in it.  I gave up on that plan when I read that the rows needed to be 36″ apart.  It may grow prize winners but I don’t have that kind of space.

 

As I was harvesting compost from a sort-of pile around the sort-of wood pile; well decomposed for a wood pile at this time; I found another plant where it should not be.  But what a pretty picture!

Bleeding Heart on the woodpile
Bleeding Heart on the woodpile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as a large thistle hiding under the edge of the tarp in the purchased soil.  I don’t have problems with thistle, so expect this is another hitchhiker with that exotic, strangely alkaline stuff.  Notice the finely cut, deep green leaves.  If it were embroidery, you’d have to pay a bundle.  Nature is extravagant.

Thistle
Thistle

Chenonceau – It has Heart

This was one of the first gardens that I visited in France.  My first trips took me to the Loire Valley, along with many other visitors to the chateaux that dot the country and line its rivers.  Although I’ve visited many other gardens in France with more horticultural interest, this is still a place where I return when I can.  It has heart.

For one thing, it has a lovely vegetable garden, which is not well visited, btw. If you look carefully, you may find artifacts of intensive gardening, for which the French deserve so much credit.  Many of my pictures were taken there, including the rampant flowers.  Probably for cutting.  Crafty products and flower arrangements are sold on the property. The Orangerie Restaurant is conveniently located near to the food gardens and I’ve enjoyed several really great meals on the patio, looking out over the lawns.

Another reason I may be soft on this place is the influence of women.  There are many other sources for its history but all of them agree about the powerful and influential women who held and nurtured the buildings and gardens.

 Note the pictures of the knot garden.  The knots appeared to be lavender, cut close.  That part of the garden was dressed in white that visit, with climbing white roses around the walls.

[oqeygallery id=24]

Out and In

garden bed with glass covered mache
garden bed with glass covered mache

Although we’ve had warm weather off and on, it only served to pack the snow tightly to make it harder to melt on warm days like yesterday. 

mache
mache

Dry steps from the deck let me get to the garden to see if the mache was showing any growth and it was not.  Friend Margaret thinks it’s a problem with the variety and recommends “Vit”.  I think I’ve tried it with the same results but may try it again next year to be sure.

Lifted the glass to remove the snow.  A little more light can’t hurt.  Not that there IS a lot of light.  This time of year our warm days come from the south and are usually overcast.

letting in the sun
letting in the sun

Inside, under the lights, I’m finding that the pea shoots, harvested as baby greens will put out a second growth.  Probably not as robust as the first, but still another serving for me.

You can see a bit of my passive humidifier, water over glass stones.  It doesn’t work terribly well in the cool basement but better than nothing.

pea shoots under LEDs
pea shoots under LEDs

LED New Setup

Finished.  While I understand the meaning of the word, I don’t do it very well.  Last weekend I made enough progress on the new setup to move the cool weather plants, but caught a cold that’s slowed me down this week.  After a small wiltdown because the fan in this light creates a lot more dry air so that the plants need more water, everyone seems to be happy. 

new setup
new setup

The frame is made from a saw horse kit.  The legs are 5′ long 2X4s.  And the crossbar is a 1 X 3′, about 4′ long.  I’m still trying to determine the optimal measurements so extra lengths just hang there.  I can always cut later.  My desk is in this area so I’ve found that an old quilt helps keep the light out of my eyes while I work at my desk.

eye saver

The sides are made of 1/4″ sheeting.  They are just laid across a bar (1 X2) that also strengthens the rigidity of the structure.  The sheeting will be covered with silvered mylar or aluminum foil after the lettuces adjust to the stronger light.  I’m leaving them freestanding so that I can easily get to the plants from either side.

sides made from 1/4 sheets
sides made from 1/4 sheets

From left to right are a few pea shoots, ready to harvest; Simpson’s Elite Lettuce, Red Sails Lettuce and the remainder of the old batch of lettuces that have been cut several times.

Under the cool weather tent
Under the cool weather tent

I was curious about how the old lettuces would age in their small soil blocks.  They are showing some stress with the occasional brown tip, and all of the new leaves stay small.  But I’m still getting salads and sandwiches from them.  The basil continues to grow very slowly under the old setup.  I designed the “tent” thinking two would fit in my basement but I’m undecided about whether to try a warm plants setup this year.

LEDs again

I’ve purchased a new, larger light and I was hoping to have pictures of the new, more permanent basement setup.  Between poor design and construction skills, it’s not ready yet.  So here is a quick status, with pictures, instead.  Click on the pictures for a bigger view.

root structure on old lettuce
root structure on old lettuce

The older lettuces are showing signs of stress with more tip burn on the outer leaves.  I was not sure how long they would last in 2″ soil cubes.  But there’s still plenty to harvest from them.  I will probably harvest and throw away about half of the older plants to make room for the second planting which is approaching maturity. 

picked lettuce tip burn after a week in the fridge
picked lettuce tip burn after a week in the fridge

Some of the picked lettuces developed brown tips in the lettuce keeper after about a week in the fridge.  This is not the bad stuff, which happens on the inner leaves of growing plants.  However, it gives me something to improve upon.  While the simple cause of tip burn is not enought calcium uptake, it seems that its not a problem that can usually be solved by making more calcium

old lettuce plants
old lettuce plants

available to the plant. 

Low light sometimes contributes, but too much light will, too!  I’ll try to compile a some of the resources that I’ve found or that friends have sent me in a different post, specifically about this issue in lettuces. 

basil

The basil is getting two hours of low speed “wind” a day from a fan to, hopefully, strengthen the stems.  This is in addition to being on a heat mat.  And it’s still growing exceptionally slowly.  Growing warm weather plants may not be worth the energy; hard to measure since I’ve mixed them in this temporary setup. 

Also trying to get more variety by starting micro greens.  It was a package of mixed greens and that may be a mistake. 

micro greens
micro greens

When you are working with such short development cycles, if one green is a few days behind another it creates problems.  And you can tell these would like to have a bigger share of the light.

My goal is to blaze a trail (if feasible) for us northern gardners who have a spare bedroom or some unused basement space and who want to extend their growing season inside with LED lights.  I don’t find many others in my research; the most help is coming from greenhouse growers.  But here is yet another innovative business trying to grow under LEDs for commercial use:  Podponics.

LED First Harvest

LED lettuce harvest
LED lettuce harvest

I picked some of my first batch of lettuces last night from under the LED lights.  I had them tested by Everiss Labs and since this was the first time I’d ever seen tissue test results, I was a little concerned that the nitrogen levels were a little high and the calcium levels a bit low.  Although I had no direct way to tie these percentages to the ppms that are used to measure the nitrates/nitrites when scientists talk about the issues of low light lettuces, I thought this might indicate that the plants had a problem with high nitrate/nitrite levels that would make them unhealthy to eat.  However, when I asked for clarification from the lab, they said absolutely no problem, not to worry.  The averages weren’t meant to delineate healthy ranges, just averages from plants over the years and my marginal variations weren’t significant.

Lettuce plant and sample

I had wanted a worst case analysis for the testing, too.  I’d fertilized them 24 hours before the test (Scotts Miracle Grow again).  I don’t think they really needed it; this was part of the test plan.  And since I read that nitrogen levels go higher at night, picking my sample first thing in the morning would have helped make it worst case, too.  From now on, I will not fertilize for a week or two before harvest and always, only the minimum necessary.  The second batch, already under the lights, is made with a combination of ProMix and compost; I’m hoping that will have everything the plants need.  And I’ll harvest in the evening, after a full day of light; the lettuces may be sweeter that way.

To the right is a shot of the sample that I sent to the lab (bottom), and remaining plant.  Notice the strong root structure; air pruned because of the soil blocks.  I expect these may bolt a little earlier than lettuces with all the root space they need but we’ll see.  With a new flat started and a pot of basil to go under this same light, I am at or above the space limit so some of them have to go, anyway.

Marginal leaf tip burn on lettuce
Marginal leaf tip burn on lettuce

Another possible, very low level symptom of high nitrogen stress, that I actually had to look for, is leaf tip burn.  What I found was on a couple of the older leaves and when it’s really a problem, I read, it’s on the inner, newer growth.  But it is related to low calcium in the tissue.  Low calcium uptake is associated with the low light (high nitrate/nitrite) issues of lettuce, and while this is so marginal that it’s not really a problem, I thought I would post a picture.  Since most of us are judging plant health from observations, it’s good to know what to look for.

So it’s harvest time!  Although the lettuces are about as clean as lettuces can be, I soaked them in very cold water in the lettuce keeper as I normally do and rinsed and drained them.  A taste test before I put them into the refridgerator revealed sweet and crunchy.  Here is a picture of “the farm”, as sister (aka the backup LED light gardener) calls it.
The farm
The farm

From seed to the table in eight weeks is a happy outcome, in my opinion.  I’ll stick with leaf lettuces for now but work on more variation in my harvests.  And probably smaller batches so that I have a few plants ready at any point in time.  For more information about timing and processes, see the category LED light growing or ask a question in your comments.  Sharing is half the fun.  The other half is eating!  Fresh and healthy from “the farm” to the table.

Outdoors and In

The temps are forecasted in the teens, next town over to the west and north.  I went out to see what I could get before it was frozen and came back with a couple of handfuls of good stuff.  Small but brightly colored Swiss chard, Piracicaba and Parsley.
garden harvest 12’10’11

Here is where it came from.

sad Piracicaba plants
Sad Piracicaba plants
But still producing Piracicaba blossoms
But still producing edible Piracicaba blossoms
Swiss chard
Swiss chard

 And here is the self seeded mache (corn salad).  I left a few of the plants go this spring, hoping to get a fall crop.  These will probably not grow very much until next spring. 

self seeded mache
self seeded mache

 I picked this one, less than 2″ accross but I’ll add it to the salad bowl.

mache (corn salad)

 And here is a shot of my indoor lettuce.  Kicking myself, as I watered them today and then found the test kit in a soggy plastic bag on my door.  I’d intended to give them a shot of fertilizer, 24 hours before sending off the sample as a worst case for high nitrogen but I don’t think I can wait much longer to start harvesting the bigger leaves.

Indoor Lettuce
Indoor Lettuce

Lettuce under LED lights, week two

Lettuces under normal light
Lettuces under normal light

The lettuces continue to put on mass.  The red colors in Yogoslavian Red (heading lettuce) are showing up nicely but it’s also the slowest growing.  And I cannot see a visible difference between Australian Yellow and Simpson Elite (with toothpicks). 

I split the soil cubes between two flats to give them more room and now I do a littly dosie doe with the flats every day to move the outside lettuces closer to the light. Fertilized again; I will drop back to once a month now, I think.

Just to recap, for people who stumble accross this post first:  Lettuces planted 10/23; sprouts show by 10/27; lights out and no heat 10/29-11/3; put under LED array on 11/8.  See Week One and It Begins for more history.

I ordered some “Red Sails” from Pinetree Seeds, an easier red leaf lettuce and I’ll start my next batch as soon as they arrive.  Hopefully, this weekend.

lettuces under LED array