Thursday, January 17, 2013

PLANTING: AG Salad Greens Kit

P+3 Days
(Note: "P" stands for "Planting". So the heading refers to days since planting. Oldest to most recent.)

Way back when I first bought my AG, about a year ago, I also bought the Salad Greens Kit. But then I bought some Romaine Lettuce seeds and went with those. You can see my blog of that experience, if you wish.

I haven't done anything with my gardens since around August or so, when my pepper and tomato plants petered out. I thought now was a good time to re-engage with my gardens and pulled out the greens kit. I never took it out of the cellophane so I assumed it was still essentially fresh. The test sproutings of the seed batch were back in 2011, about 1.5 years ago. No telling what would sprout now.

Well, after two days, I am happy to report that 6 of my 7 pods have sprouted. Man, those greens are go-getters! I remember the Romaine took off quickly, as well.

Overview. Look carefully and you can see some sprouts.

Wow. All that in just 2 days.

The pods don't all have the same type of greens.

P+4 Days

I promise I am not going to be like some helicopter parent always saying, "Ooh, look, look! Look what my lettuce did today!! Ya gotta see it!!" I plan to blog meaningful events and milestones. Not just shove some test on the site just because its a new day.
With all of that said...

Ooh, look, look! Look what my lettuce did today!! Ya gotta see it!!

No, really. Now, maybe I'm just having amnesia or something concerning the Romaine I grew a year ago, but this stuff just seems to be shooting out of the pod. Keeping in mind the pix above, here is what has happened over 24 hours:

This stuff seems to be growing about as fast as my Genovese Basil, last year, and that stuff just sprinted the whole time. At this rate I'll have all of the lids off by day 5.

P+6 Days

Well, all but one pod now have their lids removed. I don't imagine I'll be blogging this planting for a few days. There are only some many different ways I can say, "Look! My lettuce is just a little bit larger today!", and just adding more "!" or putting the "@" sign in place of the "oo" in "L@@k" is just lame and frankly unnecessary. Once they are a lot larger, or something peculiar has happened, then I'll update.
Anyway, here they are:

Not so much to look at. Check back in a week or so.
P+13 Days
Steady as she goes. Leaf lettuce is pretty hard to mess up (unless you nuke it with nutrients). One of the included varieties is Red Leaf, so I suppose that explains this:

That had better be a "feature" and not a "bug"!

Otherwise, you can see that other than growth, its all just kind of moving along. I did add a little water today. I could have waited but wanted to get a little fresh in there.

A bit spindly, but I guess that's normal.

PLANTING: Bell Peppers

I have recently fired up my AG Extra, along with my AG 7. Last year I tried to grow a tomato and a pepper plant in the same AG Extra. The both grew, but because their rates were uneven it caused a lot of problems. I got 5 or 6 decent tomatoes and a couple of nice green bells.
The bells were from Aerogrow and the tomatoes were from Park Seed Co.

Anyway, I am at it again, though I am just planting bells. One pod is the second one that came in the Bell pepper kit from Aerogrow, so it will be interesting to see how it likes living with another bell. The other is a Cajun Belle Hybrid from Park seed.

There are 4 seeds in the AG Bell pod and I put 3 in the Cajun Belle pod.

P+6 Days
I activated these on the 4th. Below are pictures of each pod, taken on the evening of the 10th. Fast-growing lettuce, these aint! Although as you'll see, one plant is a sprinter, relatively speaking.

First up is the second Bell pod from AG. Keep in mind that this pod has been sitting in an unsealed box since March or so of last year. And the seeds were harvested before that. So to be honest I have no idea if any of the 4 seeds will germinate, and if so, how healthy the plant will be. But as soon as I know, you'll know.

Hard to tell but there might be something happening.
Next are the Cajun Belle seeds from Park Seed. I estimate these are probably 6-10 months "fresher" than the AG seeds.

All three seeds germinated!
So the Cajuns have a "leaf up" on the competition!

I'll post here again once the plants have come up through the slitted cover.

P+7 Days
WOW! That was fast. No lie. The picture right below this text was taken less than 24 hours after the one above it. In fact, the Cajun is growing so fast I panicked and thought it might be a tomato instead of a pepper. A quick browse to Park Seed allayed my concern. Still, though. The AG seeds need to get going. Their label says germination in 8-14 days. Obviously that's not true for the Cajuns.
On a side note, I am really really impressed with my Samsung Galaxy SIII camera. All of the pictures taken for the current projects are from it. It takes some really nice close-ups!

Just motoring along!

P+13 Days
Well, the AeroGrow pod has finally showed up, and the Cajuns are motoring along. My Extra had a failing pump so I replaced between now and the last posting. Since the plants are so small now, I just popped the pods out of the grow deck and laid the down on some moist paper towels while I worked. It took about 15 minutes. They don't seem to have suffered.

I had to use foil light blockers because I misplaced my light blocker pods. Oh well.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sub-Irrigated Planter

UPDATED: 10-JAN-2013
So my Fresno chili peppers did quite well until the leaf cutter ants found them. Literally (and I mean that literally) over a 24 hour period, they stripped all but maybe 10% of the leaves off of the plant. Since it was in the bucket it was easy enough to move 50' or so feet from where it has been. About 3 weeks later, after the plant had mostly recovered, they did it again. At that point, I was pretty disgusted and frustrated and pretty much left it alone after that. I was later able to grab a handful of peppers as they ripened and that was that. In September the plant actually re-bloomed a bit and put out a few peppers but I was not actively tending it and I left them to the birds, or ants.
The bucket was within a couple of inches of the grass in both locations so this spring I am going to plant something else in it and have it up on our deck. It gets unobstructed west sun (no trees for blocking) and so gets incredibly hot there from June through August. It will be interesting to see if the small volume will make it impossible to keep the soil from getting too hot for the roots. Maybe I'll wrap it in foil or something.

Below originally posted on 29-MAR-2012:

DIY Sub-Irrigated Planter.
Sort of a very poor man's Earthbox.
I have planted a single Fresno Chili pepper plant.
All of the parts cost about $30-40. Including plant.
Not shown in the pics are some dowels I bought to help support the plant once it gets bigger.

I take two 5gal buckets and drill small holes in the "inner" one. Also a larger hole to take the water bowl.
There is a 3rd hole to allow the watering tube to extend into the water reservoir.

Here's the outer bucket, with 1 of 2 overflow holes to handle excess watering.

Here's the water bowl. It hangs down into the water reservoir that exists between the inner and outer buckets.

Here's a closeup of the water bowl. There are three other slits like this one to allow reservoir water to make its way into the soil.

Stack the drop the water bowl into the large hole and then stack the two buckets.
Stick the watering tube down into the reservoir. Fill inner bucket with soil:

Cover the top of the bucket with plastic and stick the plant trough a slit in the plastic.

Monday, January 7, 2013


Don't worry, despite the title, you won't hear about that, "One weird trick to make your lettuce EXPLODE!!"

 I will add assorted tips here when I get them. For now I will edit sections in this post, to build it out.
Some of these come from the AeroGrow instruction sheets, some from online forums and others from personal experience.

  • Soak your sponge in the same water you will use before adding seeds and before planting. If you have an AG seed kit, soak it in the same water+nutrient solution you will use for growing. Again, before planting.
  • If using a "Grow Your Own" kit, after sponge soaking, try to get your seeds to embed a little in the sponge, as opposed to just laying them in there.
  • Do whatever you have to to get that dome off the pod BEFORE your plant leaves contact it.
  • Essentially, once you have leaves that are out and above the pod label, you can pretty safely remove the dome. It is there to promote initial germination.
  • It really does help, apart from some herbs, to have your grow lights on during the day and off at night. I recommend either activating your unit around 6:30am the first time, or around 10:30pm. If the latter, refer to the AeroGarden Usage Guide for help with causing your unit to think it is the "end of the day". Lights off at 10:30pm and on at 6:30am.
  • Pre-mix your nutrients and your water, as appropriate for your plant type,  in a gallon jug for periodic refilling to keep your tank water where it needs to be. (From "ocarolina" on AeroGarden Growers)
  • Whenever it is time to add a full pack of nutrients (ADD NUTRIENTS light activates), siphon off the entire amount of water in your tank and replace with fresh water/nutrient combo. See SIPHON section below.
  • With the 6 and 7 pod Aerogardens, be mindful of the nutrient levels if you are not maxing out your pod usage. The AeroGrow supplied packs are pre-measured assuming that all recommended pods will be used. For the first fill up, use the amount recommended for full pod planting. After that, use 50-60% of that amount. Please note, though, that this is not necessarily true with the bigger plants like tomatoes, etc. In an AG7, only 2 pods are used, by design.
  • Get a thumb tack and use the point to ensure that the scored areas on your pod labels are actually separated from each other.

  • NEW When cleaning your 6 and 7 pod AGs, after growing a large root system plant (like tomatoes and peppers), be sure to take apart the underside of the grow deck and get into the water channels. You do this by unscrewing the underside from the upper side (about 10-12 screws) and pulling the two layers apart. Guarantee you there will be a lot of roots up in there. I recently pulled about 2' worth after growing both pepper and tomato plants in my AG Extra.

  • Be careful with the place where the hood cord plugs into the hood. Especially when you lower the hood almost to the bottom. The cord plug binds a bit against the telescoping hood arm, causing it to bend at a significant angle. I tend to prop my plug head against the top of the lowest section of the arm. 
Lowest post setting, bending hood power cord
Cord propped on post ring.

  • The area under the grow deck is a maze of tubing and water channels. These will interfere with some of your plant pods and may require the arms of those pods to be trimmed accordingly. I suppose you can probably manhandle them into place but I found it easier to trim the lower portions of 2 or 3 of the arms.None of my sponges have fallen out, though your mileage may vary if you use non-AG sponges.

  • By day 5 or 6 you'll likely want to remove your domes. Of course, use common sense when dealing with pokey plants.
  • If you are filling 5 or fewer pods on an AG7, use a full 8ml pack for the initial planting. After that, use the 5.5ml packs, or go for 4-6ml if you are administering nutrients from bulk.

  • There are 2 tubes: short but hard and long and flexible.
  • The short tube goes into the AeroGarden tank. The longer one goes into the receiving bowl.
  • Make sure that the squeeze bulb is screwed on firmly but not over-tightened.
  • Begin squeezing the pump until you get some liquid in the receiving bowl. Once you do, make sure that the end of the longer hose stays under water. This will help pull the tank water into the bowl.
  • You'll also want to keep the shorter tube under water in the tank.
  • I'm not sure about this but I left the unit plugged in and the pump running while I removed the water.