According to NASA, a new development in expanding in-orbit food production offers the tantalizing prospect of astronauts enjoying fresh food on the International Space Station. Called the Veg-01 experiment, the plant growth chamber will ride aboard the Dragon capsule on the SpaceX-3 resupply mission to the ISS. You can be sure they’ll use hydroponics.
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Wild pollinators are beneficial in themselves. They can also be harvested to do a farmer’s bidding. Both ideas were explored during the Guelph Organic Conference on February 1. Peter Kevan and John Sutton of the University of Guelph talked about the bee-vectored biological control of agricultural crop diseases. The technology is already being used in Essex County pepper greenhouses and now it’s being introduced for a variety of outdoor crops. Read more here: http://www.hortibiz.com/hortibiz/nieuws/bee-vectored-biological-control/
By Alex Dymon
Winter is still upon us, but this has no bearing on your ability to grow delicious hot peppers in the comfort of your own home. Whether you are growing indoors from sprout to harvest, or simply starting off your seeds for the outdoor season, both can be accomplished with great success.
In part one of this series I will discuss the best methods used for sprouting your pepper seeds. Although it is possible to sprout your seeds in soil, we will be focusing on the hydroponic methods in order to take advantage of the many benefits of hydroponic growing. These benefits include increased growth rates, faster maturity and fruit production as well as increased yields.
What you will need:
Lets get started:
The first step in sprouting pepper seeds is to give them a presoak. This means you should soak your seeds in water overnight to kick start the germination process. A shot glass or similar device works well for this practice. Remember to separate seeds based on variety in order to be able to identify which plant is which down the road.
The next step is to prepare your growing medium. Jiffy 7 propagation plugs are best suited to soil or soilless growing as they have fine particles which can become loose and clog or soil active hydroponic systems. Rockwool starter plugs can be easily transplanted to either soil, soilless or hydroponic gardens making them the most versatile. Both of these types of growing media require a presoak before they are ready to receive the seed. Using your pH tester and your pH Down, set the pH of your water to 6.5 for the Jiffy 7 method or 5.5 for the Rockwool method. Do this by first testing the pH of your water and then adding a few drops of pH down and retesting until your pH is in the correct range. Be sure to stir the solution well before taking your adjusted pH readings. Once your pH is set to the correct level, it is time to soak your media. 10 seconds is sufficient for Rockwool and the Jiffy 7’s will require more time to expand since they come in compressed form. Once your media is soaked it can be transferred to your propagation tray. The Jiffy 7’s will require some shaping and removal of excess water before they are placed in your propagation tray. Propagation media should be moist but not soggy or else your seeds may rot.
Now that your tray is full of propagation media, it’s time to insert your presoaked seeds. Best practice is to place three seeds per propagation plug. If your seeds are far more valuable than the cost of the propagation media, you may elect to plant only one seed per plug. Seeds should be planted at a depth of 1/4″ and tamped gently to ensure coverage. Sometimes it is necessary to tear off a small piece of Rockwool from the edge of the cube to cover the seed. Once seeds are planted and tamped, they are ready to be sealed in their propagation dome to establish a warm humid environment to aid in germination. A Seedling Heat Mat can help speed up the germination process, however, be sure that the media does not dry out due to the added heat (ideal seed temperature for germination is 80-85 Degrees Fahrenheit).Ensure that there is no standing water in the bottom of your tray and then the propagation tray/dome can now be placed in a sunny location or under a grow lamp to speed up the propagation process.
A general rule of thumb is that a single T5grow lamp can be sufficient to sprout seeds, however, multiple lamps will produce better growth once germination has occurred.
Suggestion: Coloured small paper clips make for excellent plant identifiers. Other low cost items can be used as well, just be sure that they do not absorb moisture such as wood or paper or they will be prone to grow mould while sealed in your propagation dome.
Note: some pepper seeds can take up to 4+ weeks to germinate.
Once your peppers sprout and begin to grow, the strongest of the three seeds should be left to live, and the weaker plants culled from each propagation plug. This can be achieved by simply clipping the weaker plants with a pair of scissors at the base. It is not recommended to grow more than one plant per plug as they will compete for resources for the rest of their lives. Also at the time of germination, the vents on the propagation dome should be progressively opened each day to slowly expose the seedlings to the less humid atmosphere. Once the first set of true leaves appear (not the first set of rounded leaves called cotyledons) it is time to apply your fertilizer at 1/4 strength. For DNF Gro this means 1.5 ml of part A and 1.5 ml of Part B to one litre of H2O. Only water once plugs become dry and light weight, however do not wait too long for your delicate sprouts to wilt or the damage may be irreversible.
Congratulations, if you made it this far then you are well on your way to producing a healthy pepper harvest!
Stay tuned for the next installment which will focus on the lighting and growth methods available to grow these sprouts to the size required for an abundant harvest!
If you require additional information on seeds and germination click the links below:
by Cindy R
In previous articles we have explored various types of sex! Now don’t rush out to find the pornographic back issues of seed catalogues. If you weren’t fortunate enough to have read the articles we were talking about plant sex! (Exciting if you’re a grower but not too sexy if you’re expecting porn!)
Sexual reproduction, the germination and propagation of a seed, and asexual reproduction or cloning are two excellent procreation methods used for plant duplication.
We have successfully created a proliferation of new plant material either from seed or cuttings. Our objective now is to keep the plants healthy and productive in a hydroponic environment. A healthy root zone and strong pest resistant vegetation will help to produce an abundance of flowers and fruit.
Plants are what they eat, therefore the nutrient solution you feed them plays a very important role in determining the success of your crop. There are twenty mineral elements that are essential to plant growth. Years of studying these elements have led researchers to hydroponics by combining these water soluble nutrients in specific amounts to meet various plant’s needs.
|Macronutrients are required in large amounts
||Component of all organic compounds
||supplied by air & water
||Basic building block of hydrocarbons
||Part of chlorophyll, amino acids, proteins
||Used in photosynthesis and almost all aspects of growth
||Activates enzymes, used in formation of sugar and starch
||Used in cell growth and division, part of cell wall
||Part of chlorophyll, activates enzymes
||Part of amino acids and proteins
Base nutrients are the most important nutrient choice with your plants.
Two part formulas work better than one part formulas. In one part, there are many agents in the formula that cause build ups and especially in hydroponics systems will lead to clogged tubing. With two part formulas, the agents are not present as they are not necessary. This also means that the nutrients are made more readily available for the plants to intake.
Also be sure to look for a nutrient with no dyes or additives. These are not beneficial for your plants and can often do more damage than good. From our testing, we have found that Dutch Nutrient Formula takes care of all the plants needs in the healthiest way…remember…they are what they eat!
© Copyright 2013 Homegrown Hydroponics, Inc. All rights reserved
A Plant Fertilizer Recipe for the Control of Algae in Planted Aquaria
This method of fertilizing the water column in planted aquaria uses phosphate as the limiting plant growth factor. In this method, larger order plants are able to out-compete algae for this limited resource and thus control the appearance of algae. Use of this method entails regular (possibly daily) dosing of small amounts of fertilizer to ensure an abundance of nutrients and a limited supply of phosphate. Simply put, if you see algae, you are using too much fertilizer. If your plants are going yellow, you are using too little fertilizer. Use common fertilizer tests for nitrogen to gain an accurate level of nutrients within the water column. There is a possibility that micronutrients can become toxic if a 25% water change is not done every second week.
There are main micronutrients. They include Boron, Calcium, Chloride, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Sulfur, Zinc. These nutrients are often found in small amounts in tap water, and in low growth conditions, it isn’t necessary to supplement them. But with improved plant growth, these nutrients will be quickly depleted from the water, and plants will suffer. For the Micronutrients, there are many commercially available fertilizers. The micronutrient mix provided by Homegrown Hydroponics Inc. contains iron, manganese, magnesium, sulfur, boron, zinc, and molybdenum. Alternatively, many people make their own.
Mix with water to make a 1500 ml solution,
(Six Pack # 2) 2 Teaspoons (14g) K2SO4 (potassium sulfate)
(Six Pack #3) 1 Teaspoon (6g) KNO3 (potassium nitrate)
(Six Pack #5) 2.5 Tablespoons (33g) MgSO4
(Six Pack #6) 1 Tablespoon (9g) Chelated Trace Element Mix (7% Fe, 1.3% B, 2% Mn, 0.06% Mo, 0.4% Zn, 0.1% Cu, EDTA, DTPA)
300 ml (1.5 cups) distilled H2O
Homegrown is proud to anounce the partnership of Oxygen Pots and Homegrown Hydroponics Inc. These two leading companies have agreed to a distribution agreement in Canada. Now Homegrown is your best place to buy the finest flood and drain bucket system on the market!
by Matt Lebbanister
When gardening outdoors, Mother Nature plays the major role of “care-giver” while the gardener lends a helping hand. In nature, most plants will go many years with little or no pruning. Yet when gardens are brought indoors, we as gardeners somehow feel compelled to prune, altering the basic growth pattern of the plant. In most cases it is better not to prune a plant than to do it incorrectly. Pruning WILL NOT improve the overall yield of a plant. This being the case, why do most gardeners feel that trimming their plants is important? There are many good reasons to trim the growth on a plant and when done properly, the desired effect will always be achieved. The main reasons to trim or prune indoor plants are as follows;
- to maximize energy distribution throughout the plant;
- to control the overall plant size;
- to improve the overall quality of flowers, fruit, foliage, and stems;
- to improve and maintain plant health and vigor.
Pruning WILL NOT lead to an increase in plant yield. Pruning improperly can cause stress, serious damage to the plant, and an open wound through which disease and infection can infiltrate. These factors alone or combined, can drastically effect the growth and fruiting/flowering production on a plant. In extreme cases, improper pruning can even cause death.
Pruning can be safe and effective in plants when done properly and with care. This article is aimed at teaching the average gardener the proper and safe ways to prune a plant, thus limiting the risk of damage to the plant. This will lead to success in the garden and the gardener achieving the desired effect with each plant every time.
There are certain concerns that come with pruning. When trimming a plant, one essentially wounds the plant at the point where the cut is made, making the plant vulnerable to infection and disease. The tools making the cuts whether scalpel, scissor, or shear, must be sterilized before each cut is made. The easiest way to do this is to submerge the blades of the cutting tools in a solution of 4 parts water to 1 part bleach before each cut is made. When the cutting tools are not properly sterilized before each cut, disease can be transferred from one plant to another. This careless behaviour can cause entire crops to become diseased, costing the gardener time, money, and unnecessary stress.
To really ensure that no unwanted viruses or diseases can gain access to your plant, pinch the flesh of the plant between one’s fingers where the cut will be made. By the end of the day the wound will have healed internally. Trimming then will not leave the plant at such a risk of infection.
Another concern with pruning is the stress that the plant will feel and the energy used to heal and rejuvenate itself. To limit these problems only trim the plant when necessary. Before making each cut, consider the risk of damage to the plant. Almost all trimming should be done before flowering sets to ensure the best possible outcome.Most indoor gardeners choose to prune their plants because of the limited grow space that comes from growing indoors. To keep plants from growing too tall, gardeners use a method called “topping” the plants. It involves simply cutting the top off the main stem of the plant. Pinching the top off the main stem diffuses floral hormones causing the plant to focus on lateral growth, rather than vertical growth. This means that plants will stay squat and become bushy. The same topping technique can be done on lateral branches to control lateral growth. This will consequently cause the plant to focus on vertical growth unless it is kept in check as well.
There is an interesting effect that topping can have on the plant once it flowers. Gardeners will find that plants that have had their main stem topped will produce more small fruit, where plants that haven’t been topped will grow fewer large fruit. Identical plants where one has been topped and one hasn’t, the mass yield will be roughly the same, just the number of fruit will change.
When trying to grow large fruit or flowers, gardeners will actually control the number of fruit or flowers allowed to grow on the plant. For example, if one is flowering watermelon plants and there are 6 flowers on each plant, the grower could choose to prune off 5 of the flowers. This act will allow the plant to focus all its energy towards growing one large watermelon instead of 6 smaller ones.
One of the main reasons that indoor gardeners would prune is to effectively distribute the plants energy. This basically means that gardeners must trim leaves damaged by insects, disease, temperature, nutrient disorders, and leaves not contributing to the plants health. This allows the plant to direct energy away healing a damaged part of itself. This energy could be better used towards new growth, root growth, and fruiting or flowering.
There is a “rule of thumb” when it comes to trimming damaged leaves. This is to only remove leaves that are 50% damaged or worse. Any leaves that are more than 5o% damaged are no longer providing adequate energy to the plant and therefore are no longer worth keeping.
There is a common misconception that yellow leaves should be removed at first sight. Yellow leaves are usually the sign of an on-going stress affecting the plant. This might be a nutrient disorder, an insect problem, a light period interruption problem, etc. Whatever the source of the problem might be, once it is corrected most gardeners find that those yellow leaves can green back up before long. Leaving yellow leaves on for a while will save the plant much stress and will allow the plant a quicker recovery once the problem is solved. If the source of the problem is not being treated, all the pruning in the world will not help.
There is another common misunderstanding among gardeners when it comes to pruning. Many gardeners are told that trimming off the bottom 1/3 of the plant’s branches and leaves prior to flowering will lead to an increased yield. They are told that this allows the plant to direct energy away from small lower branches that receive little light. This energy can then be used towards flower production throughout the rest of the plant. This may be the case but that does not mean an increase in flower yield. It simply means that the remaining flowers will be of better quality and will be larger than if the bottom 1/3 of the plant had not been pruned. When taking this approach, one must keep in mind that the lower parts of the plant including roots derive most of their energy from the lower leaves. Pruning these lower leaves on a plant that still requires root development is not recommended. If one chooses to prune the bottom 1/3 of the plant’s branches and leaves, it should be done 1-2 weeks prior to flowering.
As we have just learned, pruning is not quite as necessary as we are often led to believe. This does not mean that pruning does not have any benefits. There are many benefits that are associated with pruning such as controlling plant size, efficiently distributing energy, and allowing the gardener to improve the size and quality of the fruits and flowers being grown. Using the proper pruning techniques mentioned here will give the gardener the desired effect leading to success in the grow room every time.
© Copyright 2013 Homegrown Hydroponics, Inc. All rights reserved