fresh from the garden

fresh from the garden


Welcome to the ramblings of a fifty-something suburban "farmer"

Hoping that if you should stumble upon this blog my daily musings might bring a little smile to your day.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

hydroponic potatoes in a barrel WOW!!

In an effort to cheat mother nature and get as much of a head start as possible on this growing season I decided to try growing hydroponic potatoes. I'd read that they are doing it in Vietnam with good success. The thing is they are doing it more traditionally in rows similar to raised beds but soilless w/ coir and nutrient solution ie. hydroponically. I've grown potatoes in a barrel with mixed results but I had an idea. The lighter the media I grew in the larger and more prolific the yield ,SO coir should be AMAZING (I Hope). So far the results are quite promising as the plants have grown 30 inches Since 03/09 and are already starting to throw some flowers. .The procedure is as follows:
One 55 gal food grade barrel w/  16 -5/16 holes in the bottom and 6 around the edge (about ¾ “ up on the side) sitting in a  Barrel cover w/ 2 inch lip (think of it as a coaster or plant dish) .Six inches of coconut coir in the bottom. Start 8 seed potato pieces . when they are about 8 inches high place them on the six inches of coir already in the barrel . Pile moist coir around them until only about 2 inches sticks out .As the plants grow continue to add coir until the barrel is full of coir. The plants will grow up and eventually stick out of the barrel by up to 2 feet . If you add nutrient solution (ph 5.9 EC 2) to the bottom in the plant dish it will wick up . It’s a good idea to top water when you add more coir so that the coir will settle a bit . The potatoes will flower (either white or purple flowers) These will contain potato seeds (not to be confused with seed potatoes). When the plants die back it’s time to knock over the barrel and harvest up to 100 pounds of potatoes . Not bad for four square feet.
  I plan on doing this with numerous barrels using 4 different varieties of fingerling potatoes as well as Yukon Golds and more Kennebec and Katadin Maine potatoes . If this process works one could potentially grow a ton of potatoes in less than 100 square feet. That's pretty amazing! I've heard of people stacking tires to do the same thing WARNING!!!!tires leach toxic chemicals. Isn't the idea to clean up our food sources ? I'll add more pix and updateas they grow. Any questions or comments would be welcomed .Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Incredible Perpetual Corn Machine

Let me first qualify this by saying there are no magical powers to this system .I also REALLY hate buying produce that has been picked unripe and shipped thousands of miles for me to pay top dollar for inferior nutrition and flavor. So I'm always looking to  try new ideas (it's also part of my job). I just had an idea to match together a early dwarf bicolor corn (63 days /9weeks) with our Farmtek microdutch  hydroponic systems (with some modifications) . This same idea could be probably also be accomplished w/ soil grown 5 gallon pails or grow bags. I'm trying that also as a way to have corn for my farmers market before Memorial day. This is my first run at this idea and I will keep you all abreast of it's weekly progress. Conceptually it seems sound ,we'll see if it plays out in reality. So here goes .
The seeds:
I'm starting out with two different varieties .
    Thumbing through the large pile of seed catalogs I got this  year I found a variety from Burpee called On Deck. It's an early 63 day bicolor sweet corn that has been bred for growing "on your Deck". It's only supposed to get 4 1/2 to 5 feet tall  and produce 2-3 ears per stalk. The biggest drawback are that it is a hybrid (no seed saving) and the cost $6.95 per packet of about 60 seeds.
My other candidate is another early dwarf bicolor hybrid from Territorial seed company called Quicky . The main difference here being I got 1/2 pound of seed for $10.25. The other difference is germination. Quicky has nearly 100% germination vs. the "on deck " has only about 80%. plan on writing burpee about this. I tried soaking and not soaking , soaking was worse got about 20%.
The Equipment:
   I'm using a Farmtek microdutch  dutch bucket system . For the hobbyist I think it's a great little system that produces a good amount of High quality vegetables in an extremely small footprint.So far I 've grown cherry tomatoes ,Slicing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini squash and cabbage we have trials in line for bush beans and Broccoli. The only modification is  that I went with six buckets vs. the four it normally comes with. This Mod is what should give us the ability to  harvest 1 bucket per week forever (alright maybe not forever but you know what I mean). we are testing a plant based organic OMRI listed fertilizer designed for hydroponics  that has performed well in our initial trials w/ peppers and cukes  If it works then I will release the name .  Now I know some of you are saying OMG you're using plastic to grow food ,the petroleum The chemicals . I understand your point but also look at how much petroleum would be used to transport my corn across country EVERY week and How much water is needed to get it to grow as well as the equipment to harvest it. This system uses about 15% of the water that soil growing would and also doesn't deplete the soil.
The process:
  when you think of the perpetual corn machine think of a gattling gun.
 it takes 9 weeks for this corn to mature.
Week 1 plant the seed into a rock wool cube
Week 2 check progress as seed should germinate then repeat week 1
week 3 check progress and repeat week 1
Week 4 plant the first plants into the system then repeat week 1
Week 5 Plant the second plants into the system then repeat wk1
Week6 Plant the third plants in to system and repeat wk1
Week 7 plant the fourth plants into the system and repeat wk 1
Week 8plant the fifth plants into the system and repeat wk 1
Week 9 plant the sixth plants into the system and repeat wk 1
Week 10 Harvest the first bucket ,clean, replace  and  plant the seventh  plants into the system and repeat wk 1
and so on and so on and so on.
 I've noticed that in growing small corn patches pollination can be a real challenge .it seems that the tassels are dried and empty by the time the silk comes out resulting in partial or incomplete ears . My theory is that since these plants are only 1 week apart that there should never be a shortage of fresh pollen . And yes I am talking about almost 50 plants in a 30x36 space while that can't work with soil it can with hydroponics because there is always plenty of nutrients for every plant as the system pumps fresh nutrients for 2 minutes every two hours.
 So we'll see. I think it looks very promising. Please let me know what you think.