Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chili and Herbs are Growing Well

Funny, only one or two days have passed, and suddenly just about ALL the seed pods have sprouted, both in the chili Aerogarden and the herb Aerogarden.

Sprouted and doing well: Basil, Sage #1, Thyme #1, Thyme #2, Mini Jalapeno #1, Red Fire #1, Red Fire #2
Sprouted and looking a little anemic: Cilantro, Purple Super Hot #1, Mini Jalapeno #2
Not cooperating so far: Parsley, Sage #2, Purple Super Hot #2

In fact, the Red Fire is doing so well I already took the plastic dome off. As for the others, I'll keep the dome on for a little while (in a previous garden, I took the dome off too early and the fragile leaves ended up burning under the lights).

I'm a little worried about the cilantro. The seed has sprouted, but the leaves look a little yellow. Whether they will survive depends not just on whether the leaves are growing, but whether the roots are taking hold of the grow sponge. Hopefully a few more days and we'll see the plant strong and tall.

In a nutshell, I'm pleasantly surprised at how well the seeds are growing this time around. I can almost smell my chicken pot pie already! :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Aerogarden Thyme and Basil are in da house!

So, in record time, the thyme has sprouted: 

Not to be undone, the basil has sprouted as well. Isn't it just adorable? 

The thyme seed pod said 7-12 days, but this came up much before that. That goes back to the importance of getting fresh seeds directly from the Aerogarden store. If you recall, the last few times I ordered seeds from clearance sales at retail stores or Amazon, and didn't really have much luck.

Changing the hard green bubble making thing in the Aerogarden

So, after a few days I decided to check on my VeggiePro with the chili peppers. When I looked inside the tub of water, I realized that the water was completely stagnant. You know what that means. Stagnant water means that there's no oxygen going through the nutrient water, which means that plants (like you and me) can suffocate. Worse, stagnant water can promote growth of bacteria, which aside from being icky can further take oxygen away from the growing plants.

Now, I have become somewhat of an expert at replacing the Aerogarden pump in my old Aerogarden 7. But with the 6-unit Aerogarden, it didn't use a pump--it blows air through a small white plastic hole in the bottom of the unit into a plastic tube, and then out through a rock hard green bubble-making thing.

Turns out the hard green bubble-making thing is called an "Airstone". And it turns out mine was completely blocked. Not sure exactly what was blocking it--it could have been nutrients from when I grew the tomatoes, it could have been plant roots, and it could have been gunk. I took the plastic tubing out and sanitized it, and then for kicks, I tried blowing into the clean end and seeing what would happen. After blowing and blowing, I saw little bubbles come out of the airstone. Obviously the best days of this airstone were behind it, but at least I could get a few more bubbles out of this.

Airstones, 5 PackI then went to the Aerogarden store and ordered
the 5 Pack of new Airstones
. I actually wanted to get the free shipping (by spending $50) by stocking up with the multi-packs of new grow lights, a new black replacement arm, and the big bottle of liquid nutrients, but to my dismay most of them were out of stock (and have been for months). So I ended up paying $7.95 for the airstones and $5.95 for shipping (grrr). Come on Aerogarden!

Anyway, I should get my new airstones in a few days, during which time I'll flush the water out and refresh the chili with clear water and good oxygen. Hopefully this period of time when they're not as well aerated will not stunt their growth too much.

Note: since writing this post, I found that Aerogarden provides instructions on how to clean the airstone.  Wish I'd found that before forking over the $14. Oh well, the procedure looks pretty painstaking, so I guess I'm better off anyway just paying for new clean ones.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chili today, hot tamale - Planting Aerogarden Chili Peppers

Now that the herbs are planted and out of the way, it's time for the fun stuff. I took out the
Chili Pepper Seed Kit
I'd ordered from the Aerogarden Store.

On the box, they do a good job of describing not just what kind of hot chili peppers to expect, but also how spicy they are using the Scoville unit:
  • Mini Jalapeno (2500-8000, green-ripe)
  • Red Fire (40,000-50,000, red-ripe)
  • Purple Super Hot (140,000-160,000 purpose-ripe)
The Scobille unit is the unit of measure for capsaicin (the stuff that makes peppers hot). On the Scoville scale, sweep peppers are 0-100 and habaneros are 200,000-300,000.

So if all goes well, by this time a few weeks from now, I will have green, red, and purple chilis to use in my cooking.

I was a little nervous because on the outside of the box it read "New for 2007".

The last time I got a box like this, I got old seed which never sprouted. But my concerns were abated when I opened the box:

This was a good sign. The box included liquid nutrients and the newest style of seed pods, neither of which was available in 2007. My guess is that they printed way too many of these boxes in 2007, and just reused them rather than reprinting them. Hopefully in new boxes they know now to make things date-specific.

The box came with seven seed pods (two mini jalapenos, two red fires, and three purple super hots). I decided to plant them in my old VeggiePro, in hopes that I can raise super-tall chili plants. The VeggiePro is only a six-pod garden, so I had to leave off one of the purple super hots.

You know the drill--fill Aerogarden with water, plop the seed pods in, and cover them with the plastic domes. Here's what the garden looked like with all the pods planted:

And so now I have all three Aerogarden units going again. The bottom shelf contains my herb garden, I'm using the middle shelf to provide grow light for the parsley plant I planted from the last Aerogarden, and the top shelf is for my peppers.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Starting up Round...oh, who knows...

The weather was beautiful today in the New York area. After a winter of three-feet snowstorms, it's nice to see the sun and 65-degree temperatures again.

Well, since Spring is in the air, I figured it'd be a nice day to satisfy my gardening urges by planting another batch of Aerogarden herbs. I figure, let's go back to the basics...I had fun experimenting with the likes of heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and lettuce, but at the end of the day, nothing beats the Aerogarden for herbs.

I went online and ordered a custom Custom Herb Seed Kit from the Aerogarden Store.

I opened the box and saw this packed in very neatly:

The box included plastic domes, liquid nutrients, instructions, and the following seed pods I ordered online:

1 Parsley
1 Cilantro
2 Thyme
1 Sweet Basil
2 Sage

Here's what the thyme looks like

Before I go on, I'll let you choose your own bad pun:

- Two-thymer
- Double thyme
- Thyme after thyme

Now that that's out of the way, I'll say once again that my goal is to get a harvest of herbs I can use to make my own herbed rotisserie chicken, which i'll cook in my Ronco Rotisseries (still unopened in its original box months after buying it, of course).

Interestingly, they changed the way the seed pod looks.

While in the old days they had a shorter, stubbier pod for the shorter Aerogardens and a larger, longer one for the tall ones, they just have one design now they use for everything. That's smart, because I imagine aside from savings on manufacturing costs, it'll save them from throwing away a lot of old seeds in inventory.

Although admittedly it's a little weird--to fit the new longer pod in my old Aerogarden Classic 7 pod garden, the instructions tell me to bend the plastic and wedge it in until it fits, which means the pods on the side need to be pushed against the plastic walls. Not very elegant, but if it works, I have no complaints.

All pods came with seeds already in them except for the the cilantro seed pod:

Interestingly, this one came wrapped in plastic. When I unwrapped the plastic I found that a seed packet came separately.

Again, a sign that Aerogrow is learning. My sister told me that her cilantro didn't grow, so she had to ask them for a replacement, and I suspect that happened to many others as well (I noticed that while cilantro was promised on some of the boxes of herbs, they sometimes substituted it with thyme). My guess is that cilantro seeds don't have a very good shelf life when exposed to air.

Anyway, I opened the package which contained 20 seeds and poured a couple out on my hand.

"Funny", I thought. "These look a lot like coriander seeds". You know, the kind you use in cooking. After searching online, I learned something I never knew before. Coriander seeds ARE the seeds used to grow cilantro! When the word "coriander" or "coriander seed" is used, it refers to the seed (fruit) and when "cilantro" is used, it refers to the plant. Funny, I've known about both my whole life but never put two and two together. File that under the "learn something new every day" department.

Anyway, I followed instructions by unwrapping the seed pod and dropping 5-7 seeds in the empty pod. As for the other 15 or so seeds, I figured I'd drop them into the big pot where my tomato plant is still growing (but not growing flowers, so if the cilantro does manage to sprout, bye-bye unproductive tomato plant)

Anyway, I won't take you step-by-step through the process of planting the Aerogarden--like me, you should be pretty familiar with it now (and if not, look back to the gazillion older posts!) By the point in my indoor gardening career, growing herbs is pretty easy for me. Position the seed pods so the taller plants are in the back (I put the parsley, basil, sage #2 and cilantro in the back, and put sage #1, and the thymes in the front).