Sunday, March 29, 2009

Vegetable Seedlings - Growing Our Own

I have now transplanted all of my seedlings to larger containers. It really does make a difference to get the seedlings into larger 4" containers after about 2 weeks, especially tomatoes. I was able to compare sprouts still in 1" flats to sprouts transplanted into 4" pots or cartons. The result was almost double. This showed me that it is the soil that is important and not the fertilizer. Elliot Coleman states to feed the soil, not the plant for best results. Once in the ground, I plan to only feed with compost tea and compost.

Here you can see my set up in the basement with the hydroponic container at the bottom. I am running out of room so I plan to move the larger plants into the hoophouse in the next week or so. I have tomatoes, broccoli, green pepper, lettuce, and snapdragons growing here.

My complete list is:
(5) Broccoli - Burpee green goliath
(4) Green Pepper - Burpee California Wonder
(2) Tomato - Brandywine heirloom
(2) Cherry tomato - Peacevine heirloom Freedom Seeds
(2) Selke cherry tomato - Highlands Star seeds heirloom
(6) Cherry tomato - Burpee hybrid Sun Gold
(4) Cherry tomato - Burpee hybrid Sweet Baby Girl
(7) Beefsteak Tomato - Conway organic heirloom
(2) Tomato - Cherokee Purple heirloom Freedom Seeds
(4) Tomato - Burpee hybrid Steak Sandwich

Hydroponic Cherry Tomato

Today I transplanted a Burpee Sun Gold cherry tomato seedling (started 3/1/09) to the Hydrofarm hydroponic garden bubbler. The reservoir is filled with 2.5 gallons of water that I let sit outside for a few days to evaporate any chlorine that was in the city water. I added 7.5ml of General Hydroponics FloraGro and stirred it in well. Then I added 7.5ml of FloraMicro stirred it in and then 7.5ml of FloraBloom. You must stir in at separate times per instructions. These amounts are for a mild growth for the next week or so. I will change the amounts to a more aggressive growth next. I did not want to burn out the little seedling at first since this is my first experience with hydroponic growing. I checked the pH and it was right at 6.0 (exactly yellow color).

I am using a Burpee hybrid terminator seed, which means the seeds cannot be saved from the tomatoes for next year. In the future, I would only like to grow non-hybrid and heirloom varieties in order to be able to save seeds. I had read many good things about Burpee's Sun Gold and Sweet Baby Girl cherry tomatoes that I had to try them.

Right now I have a singe fluorescent light about 12" above the plant. I will move closer in the next few day. I will run the bubbler all the time at first, but may shut off at night once I know it is well established and the roots are into the solution.

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Style Workbench

I saw this workbench in Fine Woodworking's Tools and Shops winter 2008/09 issue no. 202. There was an article on how to build it by Joshua Finn, who is a woodworker in High Falls, NY. He freely gave all the dimensions and pictures on how to build it. I saw the magazine earlier this year and thought the workbench idea was excellent. It is easy to build, inexpensive and can be taken anywhere in the shop quickly. The two 8' benchtop beams and be put end to end for a 16' long bench. The stands can be positioned to any number of locations. The beams can be put close together or separated for clamping up parts. One side of the beam is melamine (I used birch ply) and the other side is homosote, which is not MDF board. Homosote is soft and light. It is used if you have a nice wood piece that you want to finish. It has some gripping power too.

Well, after thinking about it more and seeing the magazine each time I went to Lowes, I decided that I wanted to build it. I had a huge, heavy 12' long bench with an uneven top that I inherited from prior owners of our house in 2001. It was too big and became a collector for junk instead of a useful shop tool. I trimmed this old bench down to 3' long and made into a table for my drill press and grinder. The rest of the bench went to my recycled wood pile and some was used for this new workbench.

It took me about 1 week to build. I used recycled wood that I had from the old bench and other pieces in the garage. I spent about $70 for birch ply, homosote and screws. Although the birch ply looks nice finished with linseed oil, I would not recommend. Finn recommends and used melamine for his materials. My birch ply was not flat so it had to get screwed down with lots of persuasion and clamping to bring together. The beam now is OK for flatness, but not flat like I would have gotten with melamine. I can always make another beam though. Melamine is not expensive and would have been cheaper than birch ply. The beam is a torsion box with ribs every 12" inside. I may put up an instructible on how I made it. I love this workbench because it has so many uses.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Indoor Grow Lights and Hoophouse

Here is a picture of my grow light set up in the basement. I have two shop lights with GE Kitchen and Bath fluorescent tubes. These tubes proved to be the best for plants when compared with other fluorescent tube lighting (see this link for the comparison test) Wayne's This and That. It is getting crowded under the lights and soon I will be transplanting to 4" pots. I am experimenting with lettuce, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and peppers. The two green jugs on the right are lettuce growing into a hydroponic solution. I also have some tomatoes starting in rockwool cubes. These will be transplanted into my hydroponic grow farm and there will be more on this later.

Today I made a small, 4'x4' hoophouse. This will be used to harden off my plants prior to planting in the ground. I probably will be able to start putting some plants out in the hoophouse in April. You will see a Witten automatic black vent. I bought this from Ace Hardware outlet Ace Hardware outlet online for about $13 including shipping. This vent automatically opens at 70 degrees and closes at 40 degrees. There is a temperature sensor and no batteries or power is needed to do this. I thought this would be perfect for the hoophouse to protect the plants. I do have extra plants that I can try out to see if they survive under this protection.

I used 2x4 for the bottom hoophouse frame and 3/4" outside diameter PVC pipe. The plastic sheeting is 4 mil bought in a 10'x25' roll. Total is about $25. I will have to see how well the plastic holds up this season. I also am considering a small hobby greenhouse.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Making a Mini Soil Blocker

Here is my latest entry to Instructables on how to make a mini soil blocker Making a mini soil blocker. After 2 weeks from seed planting, this soil block should be transplanted to a larger 2" soil block or container. The nice thing about this method is that root disruption is minimized.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lightweight Canoes

Here are two more boats that I have built. The 13' cedar strip canoe is a design called "Wee Robbie" by Rob Macks of Laughing Loon. I built it in 2005 and weighs about 30 lbs. The 12' white dacron geodesic airolite is a design called Nimrod by the late Platt Monfort. I built that in 2006 and it weighs about 14 pounds. To see constructions pictures of these boats at my Flickr page, see Cedar Strip Canoe and Ultralight Monfort Boat.

Wall Desk and Bookshelves

I built this for my son's bedroom. It was inexpensive, fairly easy and does not involve bulky furniture. It is adjustable so as he gets bigger, the desk top can move up. The project cost was approximately $90 and I did on a Saturday. I put finish on the wood after installing it on a Sunday. Total time about 4 hours. The only power tool needed is a power miter saw. Borrow one if you don't have. You don't need a table saw. Just get it cut down at Home Depot or Lowes. The cut panels are easier to bring home in a small car too. You have to use the double pronged shelf supports. The single prong supports are much too flimsy.
Here is my instructable or "how to" article on how I made it:
Wall Desk and Bookshelf Unit

Monday, March 2, 2009

Yankee Stadium Memories

The following are my recollections about trips to the old Yankee Stadium. I will really miss going there. I am really grateful to have seen it pre-1973 prior to renovations.

June 24, 1970 - First game at Yankee Stadium. Bobby Murcer hits 4 home runs in the double header. Steve Hamilton strikes out a batter on a folly floater and batter crawled back to dugout. Firecracker lands in Ray Fosse's leg and he does a backwards somersault when it goes off. Vada Pinson gets into fight at home plate. Walking up the tunnel and seeing the friese and field for the first time was a great thrill.

Yankee stadium tour with my brother, Gib. We went through clubhouse, press box, dugouts and monument park with Tony Maranti.

Second yankee stadium tour in 2002 with Gib. We brought a ball and mitts and had catch on warning track in outfield. We walked on the warning track out to monument park.

Dad, Gib and I visited yankee stadium in 1973 during start of demolition. Went in visitors dugout, home plate and mound. My Dad bought two box seats for $25 each.

I went to Manny's baseball land under subway outside stadium to buy Pirate yearbook in 1972.

We went to Mickey Mantle memorial day after he died on August 1995. Number 7 was painted on field.

My wife's first game at Yankee Stadium against Oakland A's ALDS game #2. The Ticket sold to me was for game #1 by accident but i still used it and got in. I got $350 back and it was a good thing since Roger Clemens was bombed that night and they lost.

June 17, 1978, vs. California Angels. Ron Guidry strikes out 18, and Joe Rudi 4 times.

Reggie Jackson gave the finger to the crowd at a game we attended in 1977. I cannot remember the game date. My brother witnessed this too but it was never written or heard about again. Can you imagine is A-Rod did this today?

Gib met Reggie Jackson and gave him a painting. Reggie went and got a ball which he signed for Gib.

The 1978 championship season was really exciting and we rode up to many games in a 1967 red volkswagen with Gib. Baseball was still affordable for us as young fans.

Opening day against A's in 1997 where the championship banner was raised.

Soil Block Making

What are soil blocks? I first learned about soil blocks after watching The Real Dirt on Farmer John movie. He uses them and then I saw that Eliott Coleman recommends them. A block of soil is made and with the right mix will hold together during root growth. Once the roots grow into it, it will be more solid. It eliminates the need for flats, peat pots, paper pots and any other pot which can get root bound. In the soil block, roots will air prune and not go beyond outside. It is a messy operation, but for those who like to tinker with things in their workshop, I made a 2" and 3/4" blocker to try out. If I am successful this year with it, I may invest in the square soil blockers sold on-line. The cheap plastic flats are really easy though so I am not sure what I will eventually settle with.

Shown here is a 2" soil block maker that I made. I started out with a 2" V8 can and then I tried the PVC pipe. You can check out my Making a Soil Blocker instructable on how to make this.

Spring is almost here. Time to get start planting seeds, especially tomatoes and peppers. This is the first year I am attempting to start from seeds. Why go through the trouble when you can buy little plants so cheap at garden centers? Well, I thought about it and you can't always find varieties that you may want. You get generic hybrid plants that are crowded into little rootbound flats. I will be posting my experiences with this this spring and summer to see the results. I have been doing lots of experiments with shop lights, heat mats, flats, soil blocks, and other things. Another reason I want to do this is that it is important to know how to grow food.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Twist Marking Gauges

Here are a pair of twist marking gauges I made last year. The one on the left is made from mahogany and the other is made from walnut. A marking gauge is used in woodworking to make layout marks in wood, especially for cutting dovetail joints. To use this gauge, you measure from the sharp point blade to the edge of the marker block with light dot on it. Then you set the marker block by twisting it. It holds really secure. Other marking gauges use a thumbscrew. I saw the article in the December 1994, Issue #42 of American Woodworker. The article on how to make was written by Frank Klausz. I saw Frank at a woodworking show a few years back and got to see his famous European style workbench up close. He is a great teacher and a master woodworker. I really like making wooden hand tools. I will post pictures of more tools in the next few weeks as I get around to taking pictures of them.

Hydroponic Water Farm

This weekend I decided to buy a small hydroponic system from Garden Indoors. They are a distributor for Hydrofarm products. I have been wanting to try hydroponics for a while now and have been searching the internet and watching YouTube videos. It appears like an exact science and I wanted to build something from spare buckets, tubes, wood chips and a pump. I decided against that idea for now and I would rather learn from an established system. It makes more sense. Garden Indoors was really helpful and answered all my questions. It was a little expensive, but sometimes it is worth it. Trial and error sometimes can be more expensive and frustrating in the long run. I am sure that I will learn from this system and be able to build bucket systems in the future. I plan to grow a cherry tomato plant in this. I am starting seedlings right now in rockwool for transplanting into this container in about 2 weeks. I will be posting progress on how it goes.