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5 Common Sense Advantages To Using Hydroponics

 

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Hydroponics Infographic

If you are new to hydroponics, you will quickly realize the benefits of growing plants using this system. The folks at HydroponicMicroFarms have come up with this amazing hydroponics infographic detailing fun facts and figures. So, whether your a hydroponics newbie or an advanced grower, check out these Earth-saving facts and figures.

The simplest explanation is the best explanation!

5 Hydroponic Fun Facts and Figures

Changing the way people grow food is not an easy task. So, they developed a viable business alternative to traditional agriculture using scalable greenhouse hydroponics systems that can be set up almost anywhere. Visit their website to browse their online catalog filled with high-quality products.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

What Everyone Ought To Know About Planting Flower Bulbs

Fall has officially arrived, and as gardeners, we start to change our outdoor activities. Like the changing of the season, so do our gardening projects change. It’s time to clean up that summer vegetable patch, rack those leaves, and fertilize the lawn. But it is also time for planning for next spring, which means now is time to plant ornamental flower bulbs. Early spring flowers like tulips, daffodils, and crocuses all add to the color of your landscape. Keep reading, and we will share everything you need to know about planting your most favorite flower bulbs.

crocus-flowers
Naturalized crocuses do well in lawns and are finished blooming before the grass starts to grow. Crocuses are available in many vibrant spring colors.

Flower Bulbs Give Vibrant Springtime Color

There is nothing better than watching as your yard is filled with springtime color. We all want to be successful, especially as gardeners. So remember, springtime color begins in the fall. Planting bulbs is easy, but it requires some selection, planning, and timing. Keep reading to learn the secrets that work for us when planting flower bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and crocuses.

tulip flower in bloom

What Exactly Are Ornamental Flower Bulbs?

Tulip, daffodil, and crocus plants grow from underground bulbs. These structures are used by plants to store energy while dormant. If you were to cut open a true bulb, you would find many fleshy leaves. As the plant leaves grow, energy is transferred back into the bulb for the next season’s growth.

Other ornamental flowers may not have bulbs; instead, they may develop fleshy storage structures called corms. Still, others may have horizontal underground stems called rhizomes. The nursery industry uses the term bulbs as a general term that customers understand and recognize. You can find a huge variety of bulbs, corms, and rhizomes online and at local nurseries.

Like Buried Treasure, Plant The Best Flower Bulbs In The Right Spot

Bulb planting starts online by selecting high-quality bulbs. This year I ordered  Van Zyverden Dutch Master daffodil bulbs from Amazon. The bulbs I received were large, firm, and clear of discolorations. It is best to avoid bulbs that are soft or have some mold growth. So remember, as part of our secrets to success is to look for big bulbs; the bigger they are, the more vibrant blooms come springtime.

Bury your treasure in the right spot. When you’re planting fall bulbs, remember that they are perennials, so location counts. Most bulbs do best in full sun (6 hours or more of direct sun a day) and well-drained soil. Follow the provided instructions for planting depth, but a good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs three times deeper than their height. So a 2″ bulb gets buried about 6″ deep. Another important secret to success is to water bulbs well to establish a root system. Watering also removes airspaces for uncompacted soil, which could damage bulbs. What could be more fun than burying treasure?

planting dutch master daffodils
A) Planting Dutch Master Daffodils brings vibrant color to early spring landscapes B) Big bulbs are best C) I am using a Hori Hori knife to easily dig holes for bulbs D) Nicely packaged bulbs delivered on time by Amazon.

 

Timing Counts: When to Plant Flower Bulbs

Spring-blooming bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, and crocuses, should be planted in September through mid-November when the soil temperature has started to cool. Another way of timing is to have your bulbs in the ground about six weeks before the ground freezes.

Secrets To Success For Planting Ornamental Flower Bulbs

  • Tulips, daffodils, and crocuses are perennials, consider location and lighting before planting
  • Give them room to grow
  • Follow planting instructions, bury bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep
  • Water bulbs well to establish a root system
  • Timing is everything; plant in fall for vibrant color in spring
  • You may need to cover planted bulbs with netting to keep squirrels away

How To Provide Oxygen To Your Hydroponic Plant’s Roots

We all know that if we keep watering a plant that eventually the soil becomes saturated with water, and in a short time, the plant dies. What exactly happened to our plant? How do hydroponic plants grow with their roots submerged in water? Well, the answer is simple, and if you are interested in the health of your hydroponic plants, then you should need to read on.

hydroponic plant growth
Plants that are grown hydroponically require that their roots be in contact with a well-aerated nutrient solution. The dissolved oxygen helps to produce healthy plants.

Plants Need More Than Sunshine

For most growers, plant metabolism can be a very complicated topic. When we talk about how plants function, we usually think about photosynthesis, a biochemical process that converts carbon dioxide and water to sugar and oxygen. Most of this oxygen is released into the atmosphere, lucky for us because we need to breathe it to survive. So plant leaves produce oxygen while plant roots need oxygen. Getting oxygen to plant roots is essential; just as important, a ray of sunshine is to leaves. That’s why you need to learn how to provide oxygen to your hydroponic plant’s roots.

Why Do Hydroponic Plant Roots Need Oxygen?

Simply put, roots are not photosynthetic; instead, root cells have metabolic needs that require sugar and oxygen. That’s why sugars are transported from leaves down the stem and into the roots. For hydroponic plant roots to grow and thrive, they need to be exposed to a nutrient solution that is saturated with air. Healthy roots make for a healthy plant with higher yields, which means bigger hydroponically grown peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Providing oxygen to hydroponic plant roots is easy, but it does require additional equipment with minimal setup.

Air Stones And Air Pumps

After all, the purpose of this blog post is for you to learn how to provide oxygen to your hydroponic plant’s roots. The cells in plant roots need oxygen to support their metabolism. Airstones and air pumps are the cheapest and best solution to disperse tiny air bubbles filled with dissolved oxygen throughout your nutrient solution reservoir. Another benefit is that these bubbles also help to evenly distribute the dissolved nutrients in the solution. Just about every hydroponic system such as deep water culture, ebb and flow, or nutrient film technique uses air stones, and air pumps to get oxygen to root cells. Air stones and air pumps are popular aquarium components and can be purchased easily online or at pet stores.

air stone and air pump
A simple air stone and pump are all you will need to aerate a home-based hydroponics system. Getting oxygen to roots is essential for healthy plants and high yields.

What Is Below Is Just As Important As What Is Above!

As growers, we tend to concentrate on the health of plants by examining their foliage for color, pests, or disease. However, roots are an essential component of plants that lead to increased survivability and crop yields. Hydroponically grown plants require special considerations. Their nutrient solutions must be continuously aerated to prevent roots from dying back.

Delicious Fresh Figs

As summer ends, it’s time to enjoy the flavor and freshness of homegrown figs. Figs are perfect if you want a sweet fruit that you can pick off the tree and eat fresh. They will ripen over the span of about two weeks or so.  Delicious fresh figs are succulent, yet fragile while fresh with rich dark hues and elegant shape. To prepare, wash well, and lay on a paper towel to dry. Use ripe figs as soon as possible to experience their awesome flavor or refrigerate up to three days. Figs are rich and chewy when dried or freeze them for up to six months for later use. Most of all, enjoy your figs.

Check out our post on Brown Turkey Figs and these amazing recipes at FoodNetwork!

freshFig1

 

Hydroponic Growers Rely On Rockwool Cubes For Successful Seed Starting And So Should You.

As I said in my last post, who needs soil to grow plants? Rockwool is the perfect soil substitute for plants. In this post, I discuss the beneficial properties of Rockwool and learn how to use Rockwool cubes for seeds starting in hydroponic systems. You really should try these Rockwool cubes for seed starting. They are inexpensive and reusable too.

But What Exactly is Rockwool?

Rockwool is produced by combining basalt rock and chalk then melted at a very high temperature. At around 3000°F, the mixture forms fluid lava. The lava then enters into a spinning chamber to create the fibers as it cools down. It is kind of like a process similar to making cotton candy.

Why Is Rockwool Used by Hydroponic Growers

Rockwool has a beneficial structure for plants because it retains water and holds more oxygen when compared to other soil mediums. It is evident to most readers that plants need water, but it is just as crucial for plant roots to have access to plenty of oxygen. This increased capacity to hold water, along with the added benefit of oxygenation within the plant’s root zone, is very helpful when starting seeds and cutting propagation. These characteristics of Rockwool make it the ideal growing medium.

Additionally, Rockwool is chemically and biologically inert.  In short, that means that it does not interfere with or alter plant growth in any way or harbor bacteria or fungi, which could infect and damage young seedlings. These overall benefits contribute to its popularity amongst growers, accommodating almost any plant they like to grow.

RockWoolSeedStarting
A) Lettuce seeds, two per cube are added to presoaked cubes B) Growing conditions allow for quick germination C) a suitable root structure forms easily D) Transfer to a net cup and it is ready for a hydroponics growing system.

Seed Starting Using Rockwool

Rockwool is popular with the hydroponics growing community, and it is commercially sold (Amazon) as cubes of various shapes and sizes. There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to Rockwool, but the benefits are worth it, and at the same time, you are picking up a new gardening skill. In this post, I am using organic lettuce seeds that are easily inserted into holes in 1.5-inch presoaked cubes. Eventually, as the plants mature, they are transferred to a deepwater culture hydroponics system. If you are just starting out in hydroponics, I recommend growing lettuce because it’s easy and gives quick results. This happens to be Black Seeded Simpson, a variety purchased from Park Seed, a company known for its quality products.

Some Do’s And Don’t When Using Rockwool

  • Do wear protective gear to keep yourself safe when handling Rockwool material. These fibers can be irritating to skin, eyes, and lungs.
  • Do not squeeze the cubes when they are wet because it can damage the internal structure.
  • Do take the time to properly prepare Rockwool cubes before starting seeds. Rockwool has a naturally high pH, typically around 8.0, which is too high for many plant types. You need to follow the procedure for adjusting its pH down.

Propagation of Basil Plants Is Easy

This spring, I planted my basil in containers. I like Genovese, which is the classic Italian basil.  It has extra-large leaves with a strong aromatic flavor. Basil grows quickly in containers, its easy to water and to pick a few leaves to add to a delicious recipe. As the summer ends, basil begins to flower, pinch them off, and the energy goes into vegetative growth instead.   That means more leaves for your favorite pesto.  But eventually, basil plants get tired, so I propagate basil by using cuttings. The propagation of basil plants is easy, and now let’s see how it’s done.

First, you need to begin by selecting the upper parts of the plant for cuttings.  You must choose new shoots, the younger, the better.  Use a clean pair of scissors to make a sharp cut.  I emphasize clean because there is the potential to infect the plant cutting.

basil_Prop
A) Select cuttings B) Add rooting hormone C) Use Roolwool as support, D) Cuttings need water for a few weeks E) Wait for roots to appear

After you select your best cuttings, wet the tip and dip in rooting hormone.  The use of rooting hormone is not necessary but almost assures root growth, and that’s a good thing.  Next, I place them into a Rockwool cube, which serves as inert support while the roots develop.  All that is left to do is add them to a tray of water and wait for roots to appear.

This time of year means its time to bring your basil inside.  If you have a sunny window that should do or you may have a greenhouse for protection from the change in season.  At any rate, propagation of basil is easy, but it’s not just about making more plants.  It’s more about extending your growing season so that you will have plenty of basil brimming with an aromatic aroma to keep flavoring your most delectable dishes.

I intend to grow my basil hydroponically using a deep water culture system along with a Mars Hydro SP 150 LED grow light.  Like I have been saying, basil grows excellent in containers, and that means hydroponic containers too.  After all, who needs soil to grow plants?

Gladiolus By The Numbers

Gladiolus plants are great for mixed borders, naturalized areas, and make for a strong vertical accent. They are impressive in large groups and provides long-lasting cut flowers.  But what I find most interesting about Gladiolus is how they are named. There are so many trade names for different varieties of Gladiolus. Names that describe their colors like pastel mix, expresso, green star, or purple flora. There are names for smaller dwarf varieties like “bambino,” and larger plants are designated by “giant” in their names.  Gladiolus can be described by their flower tepal shapes as being ruffled or smooth as well as the length of the flower spikes.  All these names are descriptive and pertain to some characteristic of the plant.

20200807_173243
Measure from tepal to tepal, we have a measurement of 2 3/4 inches. Therefore, the Gladiolus three-digit identifier is 254.

Biologists like to name and classify plants too. They use a more scientific approach that uses a hierarchal system.  In fact, Gladiolus is the scientific genus name for this plant. There are approximately 300 different species of Gladiolus that have been described by biologists. That’s a lot of variation for a garden plant.  Why are there so many different species?  Well, this plant can be easily crossed by growers to create new hybridized varieties.  New genetic combinations that gardeners are interested in like size, color, and tepal ruffling. These new hybridized plants will continue to grow asexually, their corms producing cormlets with identical characteristics.  It is because of this that growers needed a simple identification system to describe Gladiolus. They chose a numbering system base on flower size and color.   So let’s take a look at Gladiolus by the numbers.

The gladiolus numbering system uses three digits, and calculating your gladiolus number is easy.  You can give it a try, here’s how. The first digit is for flower size. Real simple, you need a ruler, hold the flower as flat as possible, and measure along the fullest part of the flower, from tepal to tepal.  Get your first digit from the table below.

glad1

The second digit refers to the flower’s color and the last digit tells us something about color intensity. An odd number indicates a conspicuous mark or color contrast.

glad2

 

Video: Are Hops Cones Really Cones?

We call them hops cones, but are they really cones?  The short answer is no! In this video, I review the structure of hops cones along with the compounds they possess that give beer its pleasant taste. When I think of cones, I think of pine cones but a hops cone is more correctly called a strobilus. The papery leaflike structures on the outside are called bracts, they are modified leaves and are there for protection.  Just beneath are the even smaller leaflike structures called bracteoles.  Here is where the magic happens because on these bracteoles grow lupulin glands which synthesize the alpha and beta acids that give beer its bitterness and aroma.

As summer passes and fall begins, it is time to start thinking about harvesting your hops! You should expect to begin harvesting sometime between mid-August and September. As the cones reach maturity, the tips of the cones will begin to turn light brown.  First-year plants may produce as much as ½ pound of hops, while established plants can produce more than 2 pounds per year.

If you are interested in hops, then please watch this video.

5 Early Spring Vegetables To Plant

As days grow longer and warmer we begin to see the first signs that spring has arrived. Most gardeners can’t wait to step outside and get their hands dirty. So what can I plant in early spring? Planting early in the season can be a risky endeavor but there are hardy vegetables that can tolerate hard frosts.  See the color-coded NOAA Frost Map for the average date for frosts in your area. This will give you an idea of when to plant and how long your harvest season should last. All these veggies we reviewed taste best when they grow and mature in cooler weather. So here are five vegetables that thrive in cool weather and can be planted in your early spring garden.

Radish

  • Radishes are one of the easiest spring vegetables to grow.
  • For a spring planting, sow seeds 4–6 weeks before the average date of the last frost.
  • Prepare your garden by removing any rocks before planting. Add compost
  • Sow seeds directly ½ to 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart,  Thin if necessary, crowded plants do not do well.
  • Sow seeds outdoors, do not try to transplant a radish, it will not work!

Lettuce

  • The cool, wet weather of spring is the perfect time to get lettuce started.
  • Sow seeds directly outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked. Lettuce can be sown after the soil reaches 40°F
  • If you want an earlier crop, you can start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last spring frost date.
  • The most fragile on our list, it may require some protection from frost.

Broccoli

  • Broccoli seeds are best started indoors 7 to 9 weeks before the last spring frost. Transplants should have 4 or 5 well-developed leaves. Plant 12 inches apart.
  • Direct sow outdoors 2 weeks before the last frost. Soil temperature needs to be 40F. Plant seeds ½ of 1 deep and 3 inches apart. Thin if necessary.
  • Planting marigolds as companions with broccoli helps to deter cabbage moth and its damaging cabbageworm stage.

Peas

  • Peas are one of the first crops to plant in early spring. They are not a summer crop.
  • Sow seeds outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last spring frost date. Soil temperatures need to be 45°F. Plant seeds 1 inch deep and about 2 inches apart
  • A blanket of snow will usually not hurt young pea plants, however, several days with temperatures below 20F could. Be prepared to plant again if the first peas don’t make it.

Cabbage

  • Cabbage seeds are best started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost of spring. Transplant outdoors when they are about 4 inches tall and as early as 3 weeks before the last frost.
  • Direct sow seed outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart. Thin plants as necessary.
  • Improve soil conditions by mixing in several inches of compost. Mulch to retain moisture and help regulate soil temperature.

 

 

 

Video: Downy Mildew In Hops Plants

Downy Mildew is caused by the notorious plant pathogen, Pseudoperonospora humuli, an organism that is considered by biologists to be an oomycete protist. Pseudoperonospora results in reduced yield, poor hop quality, and, in severe cases, plant death.  With an ever-increasing number of gardeners, home, and local brewers interested in growing their own hops, it is essential that they understand the cause and symptoms associated with this severe pathogen. If you grow hops, you should read this short article, then watch the video explaining the life cycle of downy mildew in hops plants

Symptoms Of Downy Mildew In Hops Plants

Growers begin to see signs of downy mildew in early spring.  Pseudoperonospora affects hops plants grown in containers and hopyards. It is one of the most important diseases of hops that are grown in wet and humid regions. Mild temperatures (~65°F) and moisture resulting from rain, overhead irrigation, and morning dew are ideal conditions for infection. Microscopic flagellated zoospores are produced which swim on the surfaces of a leaf, entering through plant stomata and setting up an infection.

 

hops plant with downy mildew
The underside of hops leaves showing discoloration due to the formation of oomycete sporangia

Leaves that are infected have black lesions while cones that are infected become brown, harden, and sometimes do not develop correctly. Pseudoperonospora continues to grow and invades the hop tissues, eventually killing healthy plants. The infection moves throughout the entire plant, including the bines, buds, and rhizomes. More zoospores are produced on the underside of leaves, which becomes blackened with masses of sporangia.

Video: Downy Mildew In Hops Plants

Click on the video and see the life cycle of Downy Mildew and how it infects hops plants.

A Change In Classification

For many years, biologists believed that oomycetes were true fungi.  In fact, the “mycete” suffix is reserved for fungi.  The basis for its classification was based on filamentous cells and the formation of sporangia, which are common characteristics of true fungi. With more advanced techniques available to biologists, there is now evidence that oomycetes are not related to fungi and are more closely associated with a group of protists called Stramenophila. So even though their placement on the tree of life has changed, their name has not.

What Makes Oomycetes Unique?

Oomycetes are unique organisms that differ metabolically, genetically, and in their cell structures.  Pseudoperonospora is an obligate plant pathogen, meaning that it requires a living cell to complete its life cycle. Additionally, this organism produces motile zoospores with two flagella.  One flagellum is whiplike, while the other is a ‘tinsel’ flagellum.  This important characteristic is another reason why they are now classified as Stramenophila.

There are several differences between the characteristics of oomycetes and fungi. For example, the cell walls of Pseudoperonospora are composed of cellulose rather than chitin, and their cells typically do not have septations. Another difference is in the vegetative state that is composed of diploid nuclei, whereas fungi have haploid nuclei. Additionally, oomycetes and fungi have different metabolic pathways for synthesizing the amino acid, lysine, along with enzyme and mitochondrial differences.

Choosing Pseudoperonospora Resistant Varieties

Listed below are hops varieties that are moderately resistant and resistant to downy mildew.

Hops Variety Usage Downy Mildew Susceptibility
Columbia Aroma Moderately Resistant
Fuggle Aroma Moderately Resistant
Hall. Gold Aroma Resistant
Hall. Magnum Bittering Resistant
Hall. Tradition Aroma Resistant
Newport Bittering Resistant
Perle Aroma Resistant
Spalter Aroma Resistant
Sterling Aroma Moderately Resistant
Teamaker Aroma Moderately Resistant
U.S. Tettnanger Aroma Moderately Resistant
Willamette Aroma Moderately Resistant

Currently, growers manage downy mildew by removing basal foliage during spring pruning and frequent applications of fungicides.  An extensive list for Disease Management and Control for both gardeners and large scale conventional growers can be found at the North Carolina State Extension.

Citation: Judelson H. 2007. Sexual Reproduction in Plant Pathogenic Oomycetes: Biology and Impact on Disease, p 445-458. In Heitman J, Kronstad J, Taylor J, Casselton L (ed), Sex in Fungi. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815837.ch27

 

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