Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Six weeks into the VeggiePro, it looks like we're getting somewhere

Here's what the plants look like this week.

As you can see, the plant to the right has grown like wildfire since the last update. In fact, the leaves are growing so that they stretch outside of the lights.

The plant to the left has grown surprisingly impressively as well, much more than I expected.
The VeggiePro manual gives instructions to prune the tomato plants after four or five weeks, specifically, to chop off everything that is growing above the first five branches. Since it's been over weeks and the plant doesn't even have five main branches yet, I'll be disregarding this initial pruning and instead skipping ahead to the section titled "ongoing pruning". The instructions here say to cut off leaves that are growing outside the Lamp Hood's lights. Indeed, I noticed that leaves which the lights weren't reaching were growing brown. No use in using up the precious nutrients on leaves that'll never produce fruit.

After pruning, the floor looked like what our kitchen floor used to look like when my dad used to give me haircuts as a kid.

And look at how well-manicured the tomato plant is. Makes me want to go into bonsai. If you click on the photo and take a close look, you'll see that there are even little flower buds starting to form. I've got a good feeling about this. For good measure, I even started hand-pollinating the plants, again from the instruction manual of the VeggiePro.

As you can see, I've been raising the lamp arm to accomodate new growth of the bigger plant, and have been dutifully refilling the water (which now needs refilling once every few days thanks to an impressive root system starting to form and take in the water and nutrients). Having been somewhat burned already by the cherry tomato experience of a few months ago, I'm not getting too excited yet, but after a shaky start, the plants are definitely doing much better.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A tale of two tomato plants

It's now a complete month since I planted my Aerogarden VeggiePro. Take a look at what's happened to the first of the two tomato plants:

After a shaky start and a little bit of the nudging as I described in the last post, it looks like the first tomato plants are finally making some progress. In total, three plants showed up, one anemic one, but two fairly strong ones. The plants still are very, very much behind what the instruction manual says I should see at this point in time--the manual says that at 4-5 weeks the plants should be extremely thick and ready for pruning. As you can see, the plants are nowhere close to that, but at least they're in the game now.

Since the two "good" plants were about 1-2 inches now, per the instruction manual I took some scissors and thinned them to all but one plant. The one weak plant was easy to get rid of, but it was hard deciding which of the two healthy plants to chop. I chose the one with the slightly thicker stalk and more leaves.

Now for the bad news. The other pod is still extremely disappointing. The very first seed that sprouted is completely dead now. Three others have sprouted. One of them is barely an eighth of an inch tall, and another is about half an inch. In both cases (the same as with the first doomed stalk that came up), the seed outer "shell" portion never came off but stayed stuck to the top of the stalk. I'm no agriculturalist, but I get the sense that this means the plant is not getting the needed light it needs to grow.

In the case of the fourth plant, the seed outer shell finally did come off, but very, very late, which I'm guessing led to the stunted growth you see below. This is after 4-5 weeks, and this, the tallest plant, has a tiny amount of malformed leaves and is not even 1 inch tall. Terribly disappointing.

I'll be contacting Aerogrow this week to explain and to see if they'll send a replacement for the second tomato pod, as this seems highly unusual. I'll let you know what they say.

In all, not a very auspicious start for the VeggiePro. The plants are not growing close to the pace that was suggested on the pod or in the manual, plants are growing under the paper shield, plants are growing stunted.