Since the Covid-19 crisis began, I have been lecturing remotely from my basement. No face-to-face classroom activities, just online. I have decided to post short videos that I think readers may enjoy. In this short video, I discuss one of the basic principles of genetics, the monohybrid cross, and how it can be used in plant breeding. Watch this video to learn more about how traits are passed from one generation to the next. It is only a short portion of my recorded talk and I will post more shortly. If you curious about plants then watch this video.
Every time I have a discussion with one of my friends about hydroponics, it always begins with a question like, “what kind your growing system are you using, and did you build it yourself? I always answer, yes, I built the system myself out of food-grade plastics; after all, we are what we eat. The next question always brings up lighting. What kind of lighting is the best, fluorescent, or LED? Many growers use both based on the cost to purchase and run them; secondly, it’s about the light spectrum and PAR values. Some hydroponics growers opt for a sodium halide lamp, but this type of lighting is beyond me.
Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions Help Plants To Grow
Conversations easily focus on the physical components for hydroponics well because system choice and lighting are important factors. But the next set of questions should be about plants, like which are the best plants to use in a hydroponics system? What conditions do I need for good vegetative growth and flowering? Before the conversation ends, let’s talk about general hydroponics nutrients required for plant growth. Remember, hydroponics is all about growing without soil, but plants still need nutrients. So if you are a hydroponics grower, let’s continue our conversation about general hydroponics nutrients.
What Are General Hydroponic Nutrients?
Hydroponic nutrients are divided into two main categories, which consist of macronutrients and micronutrients. Plants require macronutrients in large amounts, including carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur, along with lower potassium, magnesium, and calcium quantities. Macronutrients enable the plant to make the building blocks of life, like carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. Micronutrients are needed in much smaller amounts but are essential for the cell’s metabolism to function properly. These micronutrients include zinc, nickel, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, boron, and chlorine.
Without these macro and micronutrients, plants would have a hard time functioning, completing cell growth and metabolism. So getting back to the important question, why is understanding hydroponic nutrients so important? The answer is simple, yield! We care about vegetative growth if you’re growing something like lettuce or flowering and fruit production for tomatoes. Understanding plant nutrients is one of the first steps in becoming a successful hydroponics grower. So follow with me as we discuss these general hydroponic nutrients in more detail.
How To Buy
If you are a small home grower, it is best to buy a pre-made nutrient mixture. These general hydroponics nutrients are generally purchased as pre-mixed liquid or powder concentrates. Just add water is all it takes. Manufacturers sell twin or triple packs that separate macronutrients and micronutrients. This is a good thing because some nutrients are incompatible with each other and may result in precipitation. If this were to happen, the nutrients would not be as effective. Once diluted, they should not form unwanted precipitates.
Mixing Hydroponics Nutrients
Since I am using a small system at home, I find it easier to make 5 gallons of nutrient solution at a time. They are simple to mix and only require a few materials: a container to mix them in, a way to accurately measure, and a stirrer. I purchase a premade solid powder triple pack, so I use a digital balance to measure as accurately as possible. If we want to be the best hydroponics growing, then we need to think about the details. After mixing a hydroponics nutrient solution, I check the pH and adjust it if necessary. Starting off with a correct pH will allow for better nutrient absorption by the plant.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.