Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hydroponics at Fox Valley Technical College

Hydroponic Basil - think how easy pelletized basil seed would be to plant in the cells.
Tissue culture begins with meristematic tissue from a mother plant.
Once the individual plants grow they need to be separated and planted out.
Determinate tomatoes seem good candidates for hoop house production.
Indeterminate plants need to be de-suckered to successfully grow in a hoop house
Pollination means shaking the plants when in flower or finding bumble bees to do the job.
Each basil plant has its roots growing down in a solution that is pumped through the cells.
Personally, the parsley is a true experiment because the basil is more valuable.
Fresh and ready for pesto - very tender flavorful leaves.

I had a good visit at Fox Valley Technical College this last week and visited my good friend Jim Beard and the tissue culture lab and the hydroponic greenhouse. Both structures are devoted to not only teaching these skills but experimentation with them too.

The tissue culture lab had a number of specimens growing on culture media under fluorescent lights. Some of them showed signs of needing transplanting as there were multiple plants growing on the mediums. I remember how orchid tissue culture was quickly used to replicate award winning plants. This was especially useful for the first red cattleya and the first yellow phaeleonopsis orchids developed and demand for them made tissue culture plants one sure way to get exact plants of the award winners into more greenhouses.

The Fox Valley hydroponic house had indeterminate and determinate tomatoes growing in buckets and strung up on strings as they grew. Pruning the indeterminate plants was necessary to keep them growing on one main stalk - just like we do here in the summer tomato patch. There were also, as the pictures show, lines of basil and flat leaf parsley destined for the kitchens of the college.

The college has built a much larger hydro house that will be heated with insulated pipes in the floor. A wood burner outside the hoop house will heat the solution that will pass through the pipes and warm a brick floor and the hydroponic hoop house when its finished. I will be back down to Appleton in February and the house should be almost up and running by then.
All of this makes me want to invest in a home system to grow -yup- lettuce. If I had three or four runs with a dozen plants per run, with some good timing, we might be lettuce sufficient here in winter. Using fluorescent lighting and the ambient heat in the basement, the cost might be even with purchasing lettuce from the store. However, I would have to think mine was better. Pelletized seeds are becoming more and more useful all the time - no wonder I liked them from the beginning.

Always something to experiment with and try as each new growing season begins and maybe with hydroponics the growing season here in Wisconsin can be more productive in winter too.

Happy Gardening

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January Explorations

Not quite hydro because this system has soil but also has a water reservoir at the bottom of the pot. Still a great way for us to grow peppers is in the EarthBox system.

January is usually book and seed time with some thoughts about next seasons explorations too.
I like to check out the garden books at the library and see what I haven't seen before or what might give me a new bit of info. "Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook" by Ron Kujawski and Jennifer Kujawski ($14.95 Storey)was a new one for me. I found the premise exactly what one needs to prepare and execute the garden success plan. The sub title is: Perfectly Timed Gardening for you most bountiful harvest ever - and I think with their plans it might work. The average frost free chart in the back of the book shows they are thinking about everyone not just their neck of the woods - western Massachusetts. I like it - maybe it will be on my shelf too.

The other book "The Vegetable Growers Handbook" by Frank Tozer ($22.95 Green Man)is a manual about 200 common vegetables with good information on each one - an introduction, nutritional content, soil, planning and planting suggestions, care, harvest and cooking suggestions and a few recipes. I just liked the format and all the information about each vegetable. Take a look at them both if you can and I think that you will like one for sure if not both.

Also this week a serendipitous trip took me into a new, for me, garden store here in town. Garden Supply Guys on the west side of Green Bay, off of Velp Ave ( 752 Memorial Drive) is a Indoor, Outdoor, Hydro and Organic supply place. ( What piqued my interest was all the equipment that is out there for the indoor grower. Way back when my greenhouse failed and became too expensive to heat through the winter; I built a light area in the basement which I still use. Shop lights and fluorescent fixtures with gravel filled trays became a place for me to winter over some of my plants and continue to grow orchids. That poor stuff is so primitive compared to what is available today. And along with improved light structures there is hydroponic equipment that is seriously tempting me. With some of the new systems of light and hydro setups I could have lettuce and herbs all Wisconsin winter down in the basement. The space requirements have been reduced and the engineering has improved so that it just looks like something that might be in our future here. Plus when I saw a guy in Missouri growing orchids in quarry caves I knew indoor gardening was here for sure.

Next week I have a visit to Fox Valley Technical College to get some more information and my good friend, Jim Beard, hints that a basic Hydro course might be in the works for next year at the college - might mean back to school for me - we'll see. For now its fact finding on hydroponics and what it all entails.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking Back at 2011

Its time for those "First Steps" into the garden - Thanks to Vincent Van Gogh
Wake up time is January for the amaryllis.
They are the show stoppers after the Paper-whites.

One needs these for the early dark days of winter.
To be followed by the boldness of these.
The greenhouse in early April just after the heat is turned on for a month.
Spring pruning will bring on a good harvest.
The greenhouse heating mat on the job.
I planted more of these species crocus this fall too.
I have noticed more pellitized seed available this year - great idea.
My Grandmother's favorite spring flower.
Late spring storm that wrecked the 25 plus year old cedar trees.
But made for more growing space in 2012.
Pretty in pink.
Hoop house harvest.
Grow chives for all the native bees in your yard.
The 2011 tomato patch.
My little name lost mini geranium.
Greenhouse space is summer time cucumber space.
The pest that has arrived this year in my garden NEVER to go away.
Blue ribbon fair entry.
The chicken experiment that was not to be - Black Australorps.
My other grandmother's favorite flower.
Mini Zinnia "Profusion" aptly named.
There is not better garden fragrance than the Four-O'clock.
One of those potted fruit plants - Black figs.
Garden interruptions - for a week in Canada fly fishing for Northern pike.
Fresh harvest.
Dried for winter munching.

High winds took down the hoop house - so I built another.
My last flowers of the season were these.
2011 was a great apple harvest year - we are still eating them fresh even in 2012.

I think I will take you back through the year with a few repeat pictures because new snow on the ground makes looking at spring and summer more fun than ever.
I was given a copy of the 2012 Farmers Almanac and there was good interesting reading in the notes on 2012 trends - other kinds of pot plants than just tomatoes and peppers - fruits - maybe figs? A green tomato to look for "Green Envy" - the green salad tomatoes this year were good too. "Making the best better" about grafting tomatoes! Wow! what a great idea as we already know. A section on sunrise and sunset garden beds, one on noon-time shadow beds, and one about cardinal direction beds. Also a nice article about keeping bees, and one on growing under lights and with hydroponics too - all interesting. Check out a copy at the grocery or newsstand.
Happy Gardening in 2012