The Encyclopedia Hydroponica

Your Hydroponics Compendium

My Cat’s Breath Smells Like… Basil? – Part Deux 24 March, 2009

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 11:49 pm
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Some of you might remember this post.

Well I’ve got a bunch of seedlings in a windowsill that’s surrounded by some curtains in order to maintain privacy and thwart my wife’s plant-violating cat. Well as any self-respecting villain is likely to do, she found a way in despite my efforts. Two Swiss chard plants met an early and violent end at her (allegedly) carnivorous teeth. Several other plants were mutilated, harassed, or trod upon. Fur and fuzz were strewn about and other unknown nefarious deeds were undoubtedly committed.

Uncorroborated reports suggest she may have been trying to contact the Dark Forces with some sort of ritual.

I have tightened security and, against my better judgment, procured a supply of cat grass to provide this ne’er do well with an legal outlet for her vegetative vengeance. It just don’t seem right to appease a criminal like that, but until some form of learning ability is found within that furry mind there is little else to do.

What’s most interesting in all of this is that within this window area are two very healthy basil seedlings which were, strangely, the only plants that were wholly untouched. This feline felon munched marigolds of all things, in favor of a truly tasty herb. Clearly not this mastermind’s finest hour… like all cats her goal is clearly world domination, but her personality deficiencies are her greatest enemy.

In other news the outdoor tomatoes appear to be doing well, I’ve got some very nice-looking garlic coming up and my first tulip has broken ground. Inside the lettuce is nearly out of control (it’s massive) and the Micro Tom’s tomatoes are starting to ripen. So there’s home-grown salad on the near future menu.

We went fishing last weekend with no luck, but it was still nice to get out and spend some time together relaxing. And it’s always good to get the tackle out and put it through its paces to see what you need to replace and whatnot. We wanted to try again today but the wind here was fierce. I can cast in wind, I grew up where “windy” means “it can knock you down”, but it was also just chilly enough to cut through you pretty good. Add in a little wet and it’d get downright unpleasant real quick and I don’t fish because I’m hungry. If I’m not having any fun, I’ll go home.

Plus there’s the little point that there are very few things that are less pleasant than the mildest annoyance to one’s spouse.


Outdoors 18 March, 2009

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 10:51 pm
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I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I don’t work at home simply for the convenience of being able to show up for work unshaved, uncombed, and even undressed if the mood strikes. I’m not a giant fan of the whole “outside world” thing. Well let me clarify that. The world doesn’t bother me, it’s who I have to share it with.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with people, and certainly not anyone reading this since you’ve already demonstrated that you’re one of the “good ones” simply by doing that. But let’s be honest here. Not everyone was actually created equal, right? Now I’m not disparaging any of the “bad ones” out there based on color, gender, preferences, or anything like that. My beef is with the ones that are, for want of a better phrase, self-absorbed retards. I’m not the biggest fan of crowds to begin with, but this particular class of humans – using the term loosely – seems to have outbred the rest of us to an extraordinary degree in the last couple decades.

We’ve all seen them. They’re the ones making that painfully slow migration, sans turn signal, across three lanes in their GMC Juggernaut while texting, yakking on a bluetooth, and tuning in Spongebob for the rearseat bigscreen TV for the bratlings. I’m not talking about that “holy bad planning Batman, I’m about to miss my exit” three lane panic merge. No, this is more of the “what are these silly lines on the road for” drift that takes 2 miles to complete.

The “screw everyone else, I’m gonna do what I want” attitude is annoying, don’t get me wrong, but I can at least understand that. It’s the “wait, you’re telling me there’s other people in the world” attitude that bulges the you’re-heading-for-a-coronary vein on my forehead. Yes, it’s wonderful you ran into your best friend in the whole world at Wal-Mart. Who’da thunk two people who are friends might possibly bump into each other? Now, do you think you could stop blocking four aisles? It ain’t hard to figure out your little club meeting could pull over to one side so the rest of us can get some damn Cheerios and be on our way. God forbid there’s more than 2 of them talking or you’re going to need a GPS navigator to find the alternate route.

So when I say I went out to buy some garden supplies at Wally World you can imagine the sort of fun I had. If you’re reading this, small asian woman driving the giant black AssUV… no, it isn’t legal to make a left turn in front of oncoming traffic into the “middle” lane of a 2 lane road. And what is it about a Wal-Mart parking lot that makes every pedestrian think they’re carved adamantium and cars are invisible? Two people walking to their car prevents anyone from being able to drive past. Why? Because they’ve got to walk 3 feet apart right down the middle.

I don’t have to tell you this. You’ve seen the stupid yourself. The fact that you’re still reading proves you’re not one of the oblivious-to-reality, technology-induced zombies.

So as I write this I am recovering from a great expedition into the undead horde that is the local Wal-Mart. I braved the vacant eyes and shuffling feet to claim my goods and emerge with brain uneaten. I got home and I built three self-watering containers (or SWC’s for those in the “in crowd”). I put together a little windowsill herb garden thing I bought. (By “put together” I mean added water and seeds.) I dug around in what will be my garden a little bit and then I decided to call it a day because my knee started hurting. Apparently I’m getting old, which all things being equal I’d prefer not to do.

It’s only a matter of time before I turn into the guy wearing black socks and slippers yelling at all the “damn kids” to “get the hell outta my yard”.

At least I’ll have a nice garden as an excuse.


The Actual Gardening Update 12 March, 2009

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 4:07 am
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For those interested in why there are no garden pictures in this update, read the previous blog entry.

Let’s see… what all have I been up to?

Well I previously documented some tomatoes I was growing “Hempy” style, which is a type of hydroponic system developed by some people who grow “that plant”. I don’t, but I do study whatever techniques I can find that my apply to legitimate gardening. That one didn’t work for me. It probably works fine, I just did it wrong somehow. I say that because my next project was essentially the same thing, but in dirt. I had the exact same problem. There’s a few working theories as to what went wrong both times, but that’s not really important.

The new tomatoes are doing great.

I got some tomato seeds from a great guy who runs the Hydroponic Workshop blog. I read his blog a lot and noticed he mentioned in one post a few months back that the tomato plant he was growing, called a “Florida Petite”, was super-small. He said that he’d been told it was the smallest variety of tomato plant. Well it just so happened I’d bought some Micro Tom seeds from Totally Tomatoes that said the same thing – that this was the smallest variety. Thus the idea of a side-by-side grow was born and I got sent some Florida Petite seeds.

Micro Tom vs. Florida Petite – The Bitsy Battle!

I do have pictures, but not on my computer yet, so look for those to come. In the meantime I can award trophies in a few categories and you can just use your imagination. Both plants are growing in standard 5 gallon buckets DWC under a 150w HPS and a 105w CFL (6500K).

Shortest: With nothing taller than 3″, this goes hands down to the Micro Tom. At under 6″ the Florida Petite is still a very short plant.
Least “volume”: Hard to say, but the Petite looks a little smaller overall.
Earliest fruit: Micro Tom by 2 weeks.
Most fruit: Micro Tom by double, currently.
Prettiest: I’d have to go with the Petite here. It’s got a more classic tomato leaf shape and a richer color to its leaves.

Observations: The Micro Tom seem healthier, having lost fewer leaves. Its leaves are considerably darker green than the Petite’s, and curl a bit more and are otherwise less symmetrical. It also spreads out more horizontally which is a big part of the reason I prefer the overall “look” of the Petite. The Petite is just a prettier plant. On the other hand, the Micro Tom has quite literally over 2 dozen tomatoes growing on it and is smaller in diameter than the lid of the bucket, so that’s a pretty heavy-fruiting plant there. The Petite may catch up in total crop, but it’s lagging behind a few weeks so it’s hard to say. My instinct says it just won’t bear as many tomatoes as the Tom.

Of course we have to wait for a taste test for any kind of final score, and I haven’t gotten any ripe ones yet. My plan is to wait until both plants have ripe fruit for a proper side-by-side taste test.

The “salad machine” as I’ve dubbed the DWC I’ve shown here previously is nearing the end of it’s latest lettuce crop. As usual I’m getting monstrous plants out of that thing but I’ve decided I’m going to retire it, at least temporarily, after this crop. It may come back later, but probably not growing lettuce. I need a shorter, wider system that’s more modular for my salad needs. Younger plants and more of them should work better. I’m still in the planning and design phase of that, and with the donation of some lights by my uncle I should be able to actually convert a significant part of my grow closet back to storage and still multiply my lettuce harvest. More as that develops.

Beyond that I’ve started preparation for my outdoor crops by making a little window grow area. I’ve currently got 4 types of tomatoes (different than the mini versions above) started there, some swiss chard, marigolds (for companion planting with the tomatoes), basil, oregano, and this cool giant flower bushy thing I took seeds from at our old place but forgot the name of. Hopefully I got a mix of the pink and white ones of those because I couldn’t tell which were which after the flowers turned into seed pods. Oh, and I’ve got a snaggled mess of strawberry crowns all in the same peat pot in the window with some vague plan to sort them out eventually. Mainly I just want a runner I can put into hydroponics.

All that remains to mention is the garlic I planted last fall that hasn’t come up yet and the tulips I planted this winter that also haven’t come up yet despite the neighbors all having theirs up already. I’m not terribly worried just yet, but I’d prefer more than just bare dirt.


Gardening Update

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 3:32 am
Tags: , , ,

For those familiar with my posts a warning of impending rambling is unnecessary. For those unfamiliar, you’ve been warned.

There is a method to my madness, I assure you, which I’m tempted to explain but you either see it or you don’t and the explanation would be redundant or annoying, respectively. I mean if you see my writing style as random rambling it’d just be more of the same if I explained why I ramble, right?

It’s interesting sometimes how things that are merely annoying can shape events in our lives. I used to work and blog exclusively on my laptop. This was great because of the flexibility and portability it gave, but also annoying because I didn’t want to devote an entire desk “area” to a computer that was frankly a bit underpowered compared to my desktop PC. So the ergonomics of working from home were less than ideal. Then I got an even better desktop with a gorgeous wide flatscreen monitor roughly the size of… well… it’s big. The point is, this thing is built to game on but the allure of all that acreage for working was just too much. So I plugged the laptop into it for a little while.

And of course then I was hooked. Being able to lay out things side-by-side at the same resolution I was working before just made things so much simpler that I could hardly stand to work without the new monitor. But part of my work involves a certain disposability that I don’t want to introduce to my personal computer. (I have to be able to completely wipe the work PC to eradicate hostile software and/or protect sensitive data.) And I couldn’t simply keep working with the laptop plugged into the personal PC’s monitor because the analog output of the laptop meant the screen flickered whenever the charger was plugged in, and there was the extra hassle of an extra keyboard and mouse on the desk.

So I decided to go a step further and got a little external hard drive and built a Virtual Machine on it. I transfered all my work onto that and now my work PC literally fits into my back pocket. I can plug it into my desktop PC and work at home with all the power and sexiness of the big screen or plug it into the laptop and work on the go. And it can be very easily reset to a previous version if infected or deleted outright when a project is completed and ensure client confidentiality.

About now (if not earlier) people are wondering “what’s this got to do with a Gardening Update, as this entry is titled?”

Well you see my laptop has a card reader built into it and my desktop PC does not. And the USB cable for my camera has been MIA for months because I never used it since I had a card reader on the laptop. I’m sure it’s not actually lost, it’s most certainly buried at the bottom of a couple hundred pounds of “valuable computer parts” (or “computer crap” as the wife calls it) in a trunk I’m allowed to keep that stuff in. (Whatever I can’t fit in that trunk I’m not allowed to keep.)

For some annoying reason the card reader on the laptop doesn’t talk through to the Virtual Machine when it’s hooked up to that computer. Could I fix it? Most likely. But it’s one of a hundred things that only pushes the needle on the dial to “annoying” that I just can’t be bothered to fix. And yes, I know this flies in the face of the previous examples of annoying things that I was somehow compelled to correct like the monitor flickering thing. Don’t ask, I haven’t figured out the dichotomy myself yet.

See where I’m going now?

I’ve got pictures in the camera, though not as many as there would be since the concept of home hydroponics is becoming more normal in my life (the whole “you take more pictures of the first kid than the second kid” thing) and the HPS I have seems to seriously screw up any digital photography I attempt and I didn’t put an easy-to-use switch into my wiring project for that so I have to unplug it if I want it off for pictures. Thus we have pictures in the camera but no easy way to get them into the computer. I’ll do it. Eventually. No really, I will.

I’ve actually got a USB card reader thingie around here somewhere. Probably right next to the camera’s USB cable.

And this all ties into a Garden Update thusly: It’s going to be text-only. But to make sure it actually gets done, I’m doing it now. (Just as a separate post since this one is basically one of the more lengthy and wordy excuses in human history at this point.)