Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 133: Red, we have red! Well, yellow at least.

Well, finally we have some tomatoes turning yellow. After 4 days without water, even (was out of town). Heh, maybe that's the secret. At any rate, finally have some produce. take a look!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 125: Heavy Pruning, Lots of Growth

Still waiting on ripe tomatoes. The biggest tomato was heavy enough to bend the stem it was on. Actually, it's a cluster of three tomatoes, the biggest about the size of a golf ball.

The tallest vine has reached the ceiling (Super Sweet 100s). They seem to want to keep growing up past the lights.

I did a thorough watering and a moderately heavy pruning - maybe all this extra growth is taking energy away from making big ripe tomatoes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 115: Tomatoes apparently grow slow when they have insufficient light

The tomatoes overall look pretty good, although at this point they have reached their maximum height and are brushing up against the lights. I've done my best to lop off the tops, which was hard to do, since the had buds on them. I feel like I wasting tomatoes. Anyway, the Super Sweet 100 has brown on one set of leaves, but looks decent overall. Loads of tomatoes, I'll have to do a count soon. Some of the leaves are brown and crackly at the tips. I've been watering fairly frequently, on the assumption the good drainage won't let me overwater. Every other day or so. I've done some pretty hardcore pruning near the bottom of the plants and on any branches that don't look so hot. I've had a few branches snap recently, which doesn't seem to kill even that branch, but I do need to tie them up.

Anyway, here are some picture of the tomatoes, with a penny for comparison.

This branch is hanging down pretty precipitously. I'm predicting I will be kicking myself for not supporting it when it snaps off, probably soon. Super Sweet 100s.

More Siper Sweet 100s. These guys are growing incredibly slowly. But they look good, so I won't complain.

Red Cherry, Large Fruited. These guys seemed to start slower than the Super Sweet 100s, but they after bulking up faster.

Fourth of July Hybrid. The biggest tomatoes so far, but a far cry from their purported full-grown size of 4".

How long until I savor a tomato from my basement?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 105: The Waiting Game

None the the tomatoes has ripened yet. The largest is a Fourth of July Hybrid that's slightly larger than a cherry tomato (grows to 4" supposedly). There are many cherry tomatoes on the cherry tomato plants and they are growing quite a bit larger, but not full size yet. Here are some pictures. First, the flagship:

And some of the cherry tomatoes...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 98: 35 Tomatoes and Counting

Current counts:
  • Big Boy Hybrid: 4 flowers
  • Fourth of July Hybrid: 5 tomatoes, 9 flowers
  • Super Sweet 100 Hybrid: 24 tomatoes, 37 flowers
  • Red Cherry, Large Fruited: 6 tomatoes, 29 flowers
I would like to get a scale so I can measure how many pounds of tomatoes we actually get. Ok, maybe ounces is more appropriate.

Here's what the hardneck garlic we planted a while back looks like.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Day 97: Taking Forever!

    I guess it's a side effect of the insufficient light, but the tomatoes are taking forever to swell up. I've kept them well watered. They're just growing slowly. But growing nonetheless. Someone at work proclaimed, "You can't grow tomatoes indoors, there's not enough light." Incorrect! Although they're certainly not thriving the way the outdoor non-deer eaten ones did.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Day 92: Calamity and Chaos

    So we're getting sprayed for termites. Which unfortunately takes place in and around the underground garden. My assistant tried to be helpful and moved three of the plants out of the basement in advance of the pest guy coming. In the move #4 (Big Boy) got broken about half way down the stem. My staking was sufficient for stationary plants, but didn't hold up well to a move. I suspect that that plant is done for. Although the stem isn't broken off, there is a break. I guess we'll see if it comes back.

    And it turned out the pest guy couldn't come today, so it's not happening until tomorrow. Spoke with the guy and he recommended covering the plants. So I put up a tarp around them. I'm hoping it will keep the bulk of the poison out. At any rate they claim the poison won't hurt the plants at all. We'll be sure to wash the tomatoes before using them.

    Here's what the setup looks like now, heh.

    So the bad news is I've probably lost one plant. But at least the rest are battened down for the termite spraying storm.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Day 89: Three Months In

    So, day 89, almost three months in, and my labors are starting to bear fruit. I counted a total of 18 tomatoes on three plants ranging in size from the head of a pin to about the size of a dime. In addition to the protomatoes, I counted a total of 60 flowers on four plants. I only counted flowers where I could see at least a smidge of yellow. The breakdown:

    - Big Boy Hybrid: 2 flowers
    - Fourth of July Hybrid: 4 tomatoes, 8 flowers
    - Super Sweet 100 Hybrid: 10 tomatoes, 30 flowers
    - Red Cherry, Large Fruited: 4 tomatoes, 20 flowers

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Day 87: A Cornucopia of Tomatoes

    This one is bigger than a pea.

    Flowers give way to fruit.

    This one is substantially larger than a pea. Maybe a third of the diameter I would expect from a cherry tomato. Although this plant is the Fourth of July Hybrid, so it's supposed to be 4" when mature. In addition to this one, the two cherry tomatoes have visible fruit on them, and the Big Boy Hybrid is not far behind.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Day 86: One.. Two... Three... Three Wonderful Tomatoes, Ah-hahaha.

    Here are some quickie photos of my tomatoes, which now number THREE. The largest is smaller than a pea, so I'm not making salad plans just yet.

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    Day 84: Flower Power

    The blossoms are coming on strong. We even have our first actual tomato, though it's the size of the head of a pin at the moment, so I won't crow too loud. To review, the remaining plants are:

    1. Mortgage Lifter - culled.
    2. Steak Sandwich - removed.
    3. Burpee's Summer Choice - Growing, looks good. But no buds yet. Rather short. Seed packet suggests 73 days until first fruit.It'll be two more weeks before we see anything from this guy, and I'd be pretty surprised even then if it fruited.
    4. Big Boy Hybrid - Looks great. Supposedly can get two lb fruits, though the ones we had in the garden last year never got that big. 78 days until fruit says the seed packet, but so far only two bud clusters. Still, I figure in maybe a couple weeks we could have some tomatoes from them.
    5. Fourth of July Hybrid - Doing fabulous, but well off schedule for its purported 49 day first fruit. Four nice blossom clusters.
    6. Early Girl Hybrid - Passed on.
    7. San Marzano - Possibly the least impressive tomato plant left. It seems at least a month behind the others. Supposedly 82 days until first fruit, not even close.
    8. Super Sweet 100 Hybrid - This one is doing great. Four nice blossom clusters, growing like a weed. About 127 cm tall. This one also has the distinction of being the first one to bear visible fruit. Tiny, but visible. 70 days until first fruit, we've blown past that mark, but still, it's doing amazingly well, so I won't quibble.
    9. Red cherry, Large fruited - Also doing fabulous. This one is the tallest of the plants, and also has 5 blossom clusters. It's 130 cm tall. 70-75 days until first fruit, again, we're well past that mark.
    10. Super Beefsteak - Super compot heap.

    Blossom montage! Bonus points if you spotted the teensy tomato on the right hand side of the final picture.

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Day 77: The Pollinator

    Halloween was nice, although our pumpkin ate too much candy and got sick.

    I counted 15 blossoms on the tomatoes - that's counting every one that I see even a hint of yellow. There are maybe twice as many where I see buds but not yellow yet. Here's another picture of the blossoms.

    To ensure pollination I have been running the fan the last few days. But we've had so many issues already I didn't want to take and chances, so I used a technique I found online of touching the stems of the flowers with an electric toothbrush. I did see some little clouds of pollen, so I suspect it worked.

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Day 73: Blossoms!

    So we've finally got blossoms. Quite a number of blossom clusters. Here are some really crummy pictures of a couple of them.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Day 68: Some flourish, some not so much

    Been a while since the last post, and things seem to be doing pretty well for some of the tomatoes. Others have stepped back from the brink of death, but still not keeping up with their neighbors.

    The tops again are flourishing. But the lower leaves are browned or wilted. I've given them plenty of water lately, and they do seem to appreciate that. Not much in the way of fertilizer, although I do use a spray bottle with a little fertilizer in it on them every day or two. Today I applied a bit more fertilizer to the buckets. Hopefully the effect will be positive!

    The individual conditions of the plants vary wildly. It's a good opportunity for an assessment of each:
    1. Mortgage Lifter - Largely dead a few weeks ago, this one now shows some light green leaves. I think in time it could recover. But certainly not thriving. Had to stake it because it was leaning dramatically in toward the light. Overall condition: D-
    2. Steak Sandwich Hybrid - Surviving, but not flourishing. this plant has some light green leaves and a few moderately happy looking branches, though the leaves look a bit wilted. But it's a long way from providing a steady stream of tomatoes. This one had to be stakes as well, it was shadowing #3 by leaning it over. Overall condition: D+ 
    3. Burpee's Summer Choice: This plant is really pretty short, like 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the best looking plants. But it looks great. It never suffered as much from the wilting/brown leaves like the other plants. It's really solid, doesn't need staking yet. I think it could hold up a few tomatoes no problem. Although if it's stuck in the shadows of the other plants for much longer things might take a turn for the worse. Overall condition: B-
    4. Big Boy Hybrid: Big Boy is doing pretty good. As with almost all of the plants, the lower leaves have browned and wilted a bit. But the upper leaves look very good. This one has been staked, and the stem looks pretty thick and sturdy. Overall condition: B
    5. Fourth of July Hybrid: Despite being at the edge, with a bit less light, this guy is doing great. It has two large clusters of buds and one small cluster. It's staked with two ties holding it up. The stem is thick and sturdy. Overall condition: B+
    6. Early Girl Hybrid: Boy, I thought this one was dead. But the last few weeks those sickly pale white leaves have turned light green. I think with tender loving care from a skilled farmer, it could turn around. But I can't imagine I could get anything from it. Overall condition: F
    7. San Marzano: This one doesn't look too terrible, but it's not flourishing. The lower leaves are dried up and brown. The uppermost leaves look ok, perhaps a little lighter green than I'd hope for. the plant is staked. Overall condition: C
    8. Super Sweet 100 Hybrid: This is truly the flagship of the fleet. It's the tallest and looks the healthiest. The only measure by which it doesn't surpass it's fellows is the thickness of it's stem - it's not as thick as I'd like. But that doesn't seem to be hampering growth at all. It has one small bud cluster and two larger ones. It's staked and held up with two ties. I think we may get some cherry tomatoes. Overall condition: A-
    9. Red Cherry, Large Fruited: This one is doing fairly well. It's got one small bud cluster and two large bud clusters. It's staked with two ties. The stem is thick and sturdy. Overall condition: B+
    10. Super Beefsteak: This one went pale and white, but it's come back a little, slightly green leaves. But not doing well. Overall condition: F

    Today I did some pretty severe pruning. Both suckers (a few on the bigger plants) and dead-ish lower leaves (lots of these). Here's the pile I had for the compost heap once I was done.

    I've done a bit of thinking, and I've decided I should cull the worst performing plants (#1, 2, 6 and 10). One of the biggest problems I'm starting to have is that the plants shading each other. If I remove two buckets in each row, that should alleviate this issue fairly well.
    What to do with the extra room? Well, maybe I'll try some basil - supposedly tomatoes love being grown near basil. Although I think that may be to keep certain types of bugs away. Bugs have not been an issue for me. Another possibility is green onions. they seem to be doing well in the gutter. That also have the advantage that I like green onions, and they certainly wouldn't go to waste. Carrots might work too. If I'm feeling advanced, maybe sugar snap peas or bush beans. I would have to buy sugar snap peas, but I love them. I could use seeds leftover from the garden for bush beans, but I don't like them quite as well. We were successful growing bush beans in the garden this year but we had to get down at ground level to see them well enough to harvest. I think the outdoor garden will have pole beans next year. The Mrs. is excited by the idea of a Three Sisters garden.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Day 60: Still Hanging On

    So the plants are doing ok. A bit better than they were a week or two ago I'd say. #5, 8, and 9 are all over 75 cm tall (29.5 inches, almost 2 and a half feet). The tallest is just shy of a meter. And the foliage at the top of the plants looks great - see below. 

    But the lower leaves are looking pretty crummy. Maybe that's not the end of the world. Plants #8 and 9 both have buds forming on them.

    Height chart:
    1. 25.4 cm
    2. 34.3 cm
    3. 35.6 cm
    4. 61.0 cm
    5. 78.7 cm
    6. 22.2 cm
    7. 45.7 cm
    8. 91.4 cm
    9. 88.9 cm
    10. 35.6 cm
    Actually not too bad. The measurement for #1 and 2 is deceptive, they haven't shrunk, they just need to be staked, they're lolling over toward the middle a bit. Even the near-dead ones have greened up a bit and put on a little height. The rest are putting on some real height, like in the neeighborhood of 50% growth in just two weeks. I suppose they're straining toward the light, which is probably insufficient.

    Here's the picture of the whole setup. I had to move the lights up a bit this evening as #8 was almost touching them.

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    Day 56: Other Experiments

    I always told myself not to plant radishes. I don't like radishes. The Mrs. doesn't like radishes. The boys don't like radishes. So today, I planted radishes.

    And green onions. And one pepper plant. Not in the basement, in a, well, I guess it's a cold frame. I'd been thinking about a greenhouse lately. Not now, we're not at a point financially where building a greenhouse is a priority. I had in mind something small, to test out some of the ideas. So we built a small plastic covered structure that'll serve as a cold frame. Here's a picture.

    So we planted radishes in it, on the theory that they only take 5 weeks to mature, so even if it doesn't work too well, it'll probably keep the frost at bay for 5 weeks. The pepper plant was the Mrs.' idea. They suffered from the same deer attacks that obliterated the tomatoes. So he's got a head start, maybe he'd have a chance to grow something before the cold gets to be too much. And green onions. They take two months, so they probably won't work out too well. But maybe. That'd be nice, we do like green onions.

    The underground garden is puttering right along. There are a few buds on a few plants. None of the plants really look like they are thriving, but we may get some tomatoes yet. Everything has sprouted in the green gutter. They seem a little leggy, like they're not getting enough light. Maybe not surprising. We'll see how they do.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Day 51: Revivification

    Well, I would never have believed it, but some of the dead plants seem to be doing a little better. Plant #6 that has been white for a long while now has a burst of green at the top. They were looking a little limp, so I hit them with a good dose of water. Also pruned some of the dead branches. I'm still a little doubtful as to how they'll do long term, but they're surviving for now.

    The first green onion poked up. The rest of the greens are all up. Hard to say if the fertilizer is having much impact on the greens, I guess we'll know closer to picking time.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Day 49: Looking kind of limp

    Still looking pretty ugly down there. I'm still not sure quite what went wrong. Not everything is going south yet, but it's not looking too great. Although there are a few hopeful signs -  I think I may start over shortly and try some different things.

    Some thoughts:

    • The plants on the ends did the worst. Maybe try two rows of four instead of five.
    • I'm not sure how much of a difference the potting mixture made. Maybe try four with the mix, four with compost. The outside tomatoes LOVED compost.
    • Should make an effort to get the Plant and Aqurium bulbs, those are the ideal bulbs for plants.
    • Need to be more careful about fertilizing. I felt like I did a reasonable job, but could it be that I'm fertilizing too much? Need to keep track of how much and try fertilizing some more and some less - see what impact that has on growth.
    • Need to try just one type of seed - can't say much about fertilizer levels or compost vs potting soil concoction if I have 8 different types of plants. The Super Sweet 100 Hybrid seems to have done pretty well, maybe try just that kind.
    • Maybe it's time to try a different kind of plant. I'm considering Sugar Snap Peas. Another benefit of sugar snap peas is the fix their own nitrogen from the air, so not only would that eliminate "insufficient nitrogen" as a concern, it would also provide nitrogen in the soil for the next crop I planted.
    In other news, the arugula is all up, none of the green onions have sprouted yet, and most of the salad greens are up. The spiky seeds came up a reddish color, they must be the Beet Bull's Blood.

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    Day 47: New Developments

    I noticed the first real sucker today. I left it be. I had just snipped off some of the lower leaves that were looking terrible, I didn't want to do too much pruning in one shot.

    I also noticed the first bud! I may get some tomatoes after all. These developments were both on the Super Sweet 100 Hybrid. The plant itself was not looking too spectacular, but it has been growing, and the top foliage looks pretty good.

    The healthiest looking plant of all is the Burpees Summer Choice. Although small, it's pretty bushy. I may be deluding myself, but I think the plants overall look a little better since I moved the shop lights up a bit.

    The salad greens, arugula and green onions are all poking their heads up a bit. The left hand side seems to be slightly more developed than the right hand side, so I decided to focus the fertilizer on the right hand side. Here's the best picture I could manage of the teeny weeny greens. Kind of looks like a four-leaved clover.




    Another height chart of the tomatoes.
    1.  40.6 cm
    2. 43.2 cm
    3. 22.2 cm
    4. 43.2 cm
    5. 57.2 cm
    6. 19.1 cm
    7. 36.2 cm
    8. 67.9 cm
    9. 54.6 cm
    10. 33.0 cm

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Day 45: Houston, We Have Arugula

    The arugula is peeking up out of the gutter, woo hoo.

    Tomatoes looking pretty sad, although some might make it.

    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    Day 42: Going Greens

    Ok, just wanted to keep the cost tally up to date. On Day 25 I mentioned I bought 3 cubic feet of peat moss but didn't mention the price - $10. Also had mentioned on Day 37 I bought a temp/humidity sensor for $15, but I figure I won't count that toward the project. I'll use it elsewhere once things get up and running properly. On Day 41  bought a 10' length of vinyl gutter for growing greens in - $5. Not cheap! I've also purchases a pair of Warm White and a pair of Cool White bulbs. Would have preferred to get Plant Bulbs, but couldn't find the ones I was looking for - $16 for four bulbs. That brings total costs to $226. Boy! Getting up there.

    To the right see the setup. I cut the gutter in half (at the store actually, couldn't fit 10' of gutter in the car). Then I cut a couple scrap piece of two by four for the end caps. They didn't quite cover the hole, so I stuffed in some leftover peat pots. then mixed up some soil - a bit light on the vermiculite, I ran out.

    Next I spaced the seeds 3" apart. Seed the map of the planting here:

    The pictures in the top row represent seeds from a packet of salad greens mix - Beet Bull's Blood, Spinach Bloomsdale Long-Standing, Lettuce Red Salad Bowl, Lettuce Black-Seeded Simpson, and Mustard Tendergreen. I don't know which is which, but I have all five types planted. The letters in the bottom row repesent Arugula (Rocket) and Onion (Evergreen Bunching). The picture above represent the left half of the gutter-planter. The right half is the mirror image of the diagram above (so basically, onions in the center, arugula at the ends). To test the affect of fertilizer on the plants, I'm going to fertilizer the left half lightly and the right half heavily. We'll see what effect that has. With any luck, we'll have plenty of salad greens in 35 days (Day 77 - Nov 1).

    I also installed the 2 Warm White and 2 Cool White tubes, lets see if that helps the tomatoes. Also raised the lights another 8". No timer yet, I'll get one today or tomorrow.

    UPDATE: Bought a swanky timer power strip, the lights are now scheduled to be on 18 hours a day, that should be fine. Also bought a spray bottle. Misted the leaves with a weak solution of the fertilizer I've been using. The fertilizer box recommends that, it's meant to be used that way.

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Day 40: Diversification

    This weekend I'm going to do a little work. First I'll raise the lights a bit and then see if I can find my timer switches. I'm going to try switching the lights off for 6 hours a night. Then going to hit the hardware store and get three warm white tubes.

    Thinking about trying some other plants. Going to give lettuce a try first, by all accounts it seems to be the easiest to grow, and grows pretty quickly. May also try carrots, peas and parsnips. The lettuce first. Saw a nice idea for growing salad greens in a piece of gutter. I suspect 4' of gutter could keep us pretty well supplied with greens.

    Today's sizes:
    1. 39.4 cm
    2. 39.4 cm
    3. 21.6 cm
    4. 33.0 cm
    5. 38.1 cm
    6. 21.0 cm
    7. 36.2 cm
    8. 50.8 cm
    9. 50.8 cm
    10. 30.5 cm

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Day 39: Continued

    Hmmm, I guess you can't edit posts once they get to be a certain age. Anyway, here are the promised pictures.

    First a close up of #7. Looking pretty good. Although the pale splotches and the browned leaf tips aren;t too nice. I think they are more lingering wounds from before rather than continuing problems. The new growth looks good.

    I like this picture because you can see how things are going. The two on the far left (#1 and #6) are in bad shape, as is #10 (front, far right). The rest seem to be doing ok, although I think nice dark green growth would be better. I wonder how they would look now if I started them in compost instead of the peat-vermiculite-perlite mix. The dangling cable is the sensor from my temp/humidity device. I wanted it right at bushy-growth level.

    I'm really thinking about adding a warm white bulb to the mix to see if they like that. Also giving some thought about what to do with the free space if the three sickly ones truly and finally die. I'm thinking this wasn't a fair test of these different types of seeds, since there were such big issues. If they die I'll probably try them again the next round. Maybe I'll plant some other veggies in their place. Peas, beans, carrots and peppers are all possibilities.

    Day 39: I just don't know!

    Temp 75 degree, humidity 82%.

    I wish I could say with confidence that the tomatoes were flourishing or were dying off. But it's hard to say. Plant #8 is tipping over - I'm guessing the root system is underdeveloped and the above-soil part of the plant is too leggy (although it looks stocky enough). On the other hand, the plants seem to be putting on growth, both outward and upward. Even the dying ones. And #1 seems to be turning from pale white to light green. In other words, even the dying ones are doing a terrible job of dying.

    I ended up staking #8 with a dowel I had on hand. It's too expensive of an option to do for all of them. At least, doing it right, the way I'd like to is.

    Photos later today.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Day 38: Micro Update

    So the temperature was 76 degrees F and the humidity was 76% today.

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Day 37: High Tech Monitoring

    I went to the local hardware store with a mind toward buying some wood to make some sort of support for the tomatoes. Ended up not buying any wood, but I have some ideas, going to work on some plans. I did buy a digital thermometer / humidity sensor. I won't count that toward the money spent on this project, because I think after monitoring it for a while I won't need it for the basement garden. I did find out that the temperature wasn't as high as I thought, just 74 degrees F with 71% humidity. But after moving the lights up the browning of the leaf tips has stopped, so I do feel like it's a positive move.

    My next thought is maybe going with one warm white bulb, one cool white in each shop light. Maybe turn the lights off for 6 hours a day. See if I can find our timers for the lights this week. I watered maybe a liter total over the 10 plants, too.

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    Day 35: Comparisons


    Ok, so we're definitely seeing some new growth. I think the changes have worked out well. It may be too late for a few of the plants (#1, #6, and #10 look pretty bad). Above we see overhead views of #5 and #7 on the 17th and the 20th. Definitely bushier, the new growth in each got substantially bigger. Click on the photo above to get the full sized picture with a bit more detail.

    And we're definitely seeing the plants put on some more height (see list below). I think I really need to get some support structure in for the plants, they're getting pretty tall. And the other day I watered one of them that's doing very well and it started to list to one side. I'm thinking by watering exclusively around the main stem I'm growing lazy plants. I think when I fertilize today I'll pour it in a circle 3 or four inches from the main stem. Make them work for it! Even so, the growing medium is very loose, so even with a massive root structure they'll undoubtedly need some support.

    Ok, so support. I was thinking about hanging a rope from the ceiling over each bucket, off to the side a little, maybe knotted every foot or so, so I could add loops of cloth at will to support the plants. Although I'd really like to give them more structure and keep them in place a bit more. Wire cage could work, but I'd worry it'd make the plants too hot. Maybe a wooden cage. Have to hit Home Depot today and see what I can get in terms of cheap wood. It doesn't have to be pretty, but it should definitely be cheap. Maybe I should take a quick look at our brush pile and see what we have for branches. Although I don't want to introduce bugs, that'd be a no-no!

    Sizes today:

    1. 29.2 cm - looks pretty bad
    2. 32.4 cm
    3. 21.0 cm
    4. 26.7 cm
    5. 38.1 cm
    6. 16.5 cm - trimmed dead branch, looks bad
    7. 27.9 cm
    8. 36.8 cm
    9. 41.9 cm - trimmed dead branch
    10. 26.7 cm - trimmed dead branch, looks pretty bad

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Day 32: Improvement? Growth? *whimper*

    On the theory that meddling is always a good thing, I decided to move the lights up a bit more (7" to about 23" total from the main part of most of the tomatoes). Hey, if moving the lights away helps, moving them farther away helps more, right? Right? I need to feel like I'm making positive changes, looking at the poor yellowing plants is a little depressing. On that note, I'm pretty sure there is some new growth on 4 or five of them. See above - the smaller leaves in the middle are new growth (#7 on the left or above - depending on how you view it, #9 on the right or bottom). And the new growth is a bit darker. I'll take some comparison photos in a few days.

    Overall, #5, #7 and #9 are doing the best so far. Let me repost the list of varieties...
    1. Mortgage Lifter
    2. Steak Sandwich Hybrid
    3. Burpee's Summer Choice
    4. Big Boy Hybrid
    5. Fourth of July Hybrid
    6. Early Girl Hybrid
    7. San Marzano
    8. Super Sweet 100 Hybrid
    9. Red Cherry, Large Fruited
    10. Super Beefsteak
    Early girl, Mortgage Lifter and Super Beefsteak appear not to be doing too well. We'll see if they improve.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Day 31: Hmmm

    I wonder if animated gifs work here... The answer is no, doh!
    Anyway, you see above comparison photos of day before yesterday (OLD) and yesterday after I made the host of changes (NEW). You can see the light is raised up a bit and the pans of water around the base of the plants. I like to pretend that I see them perking up a little since yesterday. But I suppose I'm just imagining it.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Day 30: Oh no!

    Oh, boy, we got problems. Many of the tomatoes are starting to yellow and brown at the leaf tips. Too much water, too little, too much fertilizer, too little, too much light, too little? The ones most affected seem to be the ones near the edge of the light - the ones on the end. So maybe it is light. Spoke with a plant person at work and she suggested increasing the light, maybe tinfoil. So I put tinfoil around the edge where the plants are yellowing the most. Not sure if it will help.

    As an experiment I'm also trying to water one of the yellowing ones a lot more and watering another of the yellowing ones a lot less. I still don't think it's too little water or too little. The soil isn't bone dry, it's just lightly damp, which I think should be good. I don't think fertilizer is a problem either, if it was too little, then adding a good dose as I did Sunday would have had them perk up by now, I'd think. And if it was too much, I suspect they would have gone downhill much faster after I added the fertilizer.

    So light. Probably not too much, since it's not as bright as sunlight. Maybe the photoperiod is too long, I do leave the lights on 24x7. But turning the lights off didn't seem to help either. Maybe it's too little. It does seem to impact the tomatoes on the outer edges more. I'm not sure there's much I can do beyond buying another fluorescent, but I've already put quite a lump of cash into this project already, so I'd prefer not to. It could conceivably be that the light is too close to the plants and they're getting a little scorched, but I would have thought that would impact them right away. And the temperature under the lights doesn't seem too high, although right up next to the lights there is a little heat. I suppose the next thing to do is raise the lights a little, it would cool things down a bit. but if they are getting too little light, moving the lights further away would give them even less. And since the amount of light reaching the plants drops off as the inverse square of the distance, moving the lights a little will have a big impact. Maybe the combination of the fan and the lights is drying out the leaves. Now that they've gotten a good start with the stems, maybe I can quit using the fan. I can always bring it back if they start getting leggy.

    Ok, so action points:

    • Stop using the fan. (CHECK)
    • Move the lights up a little bit. (DONE)
    • Spritz the leaves, wet leaves may make them more prone to disease, but dry is BAD. I need a proper spray bottle. (Doing)
    • Wrap some more aluminum foil around the lights to increase the light they're receiving.
    • Put out a tray of water to increase the humidity. (DONE)
    And maybe:

    • Buy another shop light, OUCH!
    • Set up a humidifier. This is probably overkill. (And the Mrs. says, "NO HUMIDIFIER" after reading this)
    Finally, I took some new measurements:

    1. 28.6 cm
    2. 20.3 cm
    3. 16.5 cm
    4. 15.2 cm
    5. 28.6 cm
    6. 18.4 cm
    7. 17.8 cm
    8. 31.8 cm
    9. 30.5 cm
    10. 20.3 cm
    UPDATE - Raised the lights 6 inches (they were about 10" away, now about 16"). Working with the setup and actually feeling the heat under the lights I think it may have been hotter than I thought down there. There's still plenty of light, so I think I'll hold off on buying another light. I guess we'll see what tomorrow brings.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Day 25: All Set

    My call for styrofoam peanuts went unanswered. Oh well. Anyway, I refuse to buy packing peanuts! So instead I bought a 3 cubic foot bag of peat moss. Used that in the bottom of the last four buckets. Not by any means an ideal medium for drainage, but good enough. Those last four plants were really begging to be transplanted. And the landlord's basement toilet collection turned out to be great workbenches.

    So I discarded the remaining tomato seedlings. We don't really have a good place to put them in the yard, and it's pretty doubtful they'd produce any fruit before the first frost. And it wouldn't even be a very good test comparison as to how well the plants do vs the basement plants since it's starting to get a little chilly outside. Today was brisk. You can see by the roots poking out everywhere that the seedlings were getting kind of cramped in the little peat pots. A lovely addition to the compost heap, at least.

    Got a bit bigger picture of the yellow spots on the leaves. A few possibilities as to what it might be from random internet "experts". A nitrogen deficiency. A magnesium deficiency. Too much water. I don't think it's that last one, since the drainage is superb. So I'm thinking it's missing some nutrients. Checked my fertilizer, and it has both nitrogen and magnesium. I did note that last Sunday I gave the plants the recommended dose for indoor potted plants (like a teaspoon of fertilizer per gallon of water). Upon reflection I'm wondering if I shouldn't have given them the recommended dose for outdoor plants (a tablespoonful per gallon of water). Given the huge "pots" and the fact that they're not going to get much from the "dirt" I used, I think a higher dose of fertilizer is warranted. So I gave them another fertilizing ahead of schedule. I'm going to try to stick to Sundays, should be easiest to remember. I'm glad we're out of town this weekend, so I won't be looking at them obsessively to see if they're improving.

    Finally, a shot of all the buckets in place. Looking good.