Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Building Trellises for the Snowpeas

So, it's always good to read the manual, right? I got these twisted wires in the package with my Aerogarden snowpeas, and I had no idea what to do with them.

Finally, I decided to give in and read the manual. It turns out that the wires are meant to provide support to the snowpea plants. And boy do they need them. I said in the last post that the plants were getting "tall", but that wasn't entirely accurate. They were spreading out all over the place, and the cool-but-just-a-little-creepy tiny little vines were starting to look for things to grab and wrap themselves around.

The instructions were pretty lo-tech. The first thing you do is wrap the pre-cut wire around your finger.

You then take your coil and put it on top of your growing plants. It turns out I was a little late--I was supposed to set these up when the plants were about 1 inch long, so I ended up gingerly wrapping the young plants inside the coil.

The plants look much happier standing up now. I needed to raise the lights a few more notches, but I think everything's back on track again now.

The mesclun is still doing well too.

While they're still young, I decided to start harvesting some of the leaves and eating them as part of a wholesome Nutrisystem meal. You can read about it in my other blog, Nutwiisystem.Com.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Welcome to the world, Snow Pea #7

Good news! While six other Snow Peas are sprouting nicely, there was one Snow Pea that refused to grow. In desperation, I decided to push the pea into the spongy material and lo and behold, a few days later a sprout appeared.

Here's what the peas look like today. They're growing so tall I had to raise the hood one notch already.

In the meantime, something odd is going on with the Aerogarden herbs. The plants are growing fine, but the thyme and the purple basil look like they're "burned" a bit. The light does seem exceedingly bright for such small plants, but I'm going to let them ride for a while and see what happens.

There was another odd situation with the Mesclun. I noticed the leaves started to get pretty thin and some even started browning. When I looked closely in the Aerogarden, I notice the pump stopped pumping! When I lifted the unit oh-so-slightly, the pump started going again. So I surmised that there was a problem with the contacts on the back of the unit (the one that had the corrosion which I tried to clean a few weeks ago). I took a piece of plastic wire and wedged it under the unit, and it seems to be working now.

Within a few hours of doing this, the leaves started to perk up a bit. Although there's still one pod that never grew.
Anyway, the light went off right on cue, so I added more nutrients and filled the water to the top.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feeding the three new Aerogardens

It's kind of nice to have the Aerogardens up again. I like coming home late at night and having my apartment lit up, instead of having to grope through the darkness.

It's officially been two weeks now, which means it's time for the Aerogardens' first feedings. Right on cue, the lights started blinking.

For some strange reason, on two of the units the lights started blinking a few days ago. But let's see if pressing the "reset" button today will synchronize all three units again.

The unit on the top of the three-shelf unit is the Mesclun. So far, it looks preetty good, although there's still one pod which hasn't sprouted yet.

With the reliable Herb kit, all the plants are now officially sprouted. The chives and basil are especially active.

Some of the snow peas are growing huge, but there are still two pods which haven't sprouted yet. I hear that AeroGrow may replace pods which never sprout, so I'll give it a few days and if there's still nothing, I'll probably shoot them an email asking about that.

I fed the Herb Aerogarden first. I think the seed kit must be an older one, because the nutrient tablets are all in the same bag, and they're all moist and stuck together.

I really like the "individually wrapped" tablets in the snow pea and lettuce kits. Makes everything a whole lot cleaner. Here's a picture of me putting the tablets into the snow peas. You can see a healthy root system is already growing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Snow Peas, Mesclun, and Herbs after 10 Days

So, I returned home from my trip yesterday after 10 days. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I wasn't worried, at least not consciously. Subconsciously, maybe I was a little--somewhere in the middle of the trip I dreamed that all the plants had grown and choked under the plastic covers :)

I'm happy to say that my dreams did not come true. The first thing I did when I got to the door was run to the Aerogardens and check. The lights were all on, and I could hear the trickling of the water.

The herb Aerogarden was perfect. All of the herbs had come up, so I removed all the plastic hoods. Not unexpected. The basils had grown the most. The chives and parsley looked the saddest, but even they were up.

I checked the snow peas next. These plants were so strong that they pushed the plastic covers out of the way themselves. Out of seven pods, four had grown and three were still seeds. I'll give them a few more days to grow, but if they don't, I'll probably write to Aerogrow.

The pea plants were amazing. They reminded me of a tiny "Jack and the Beanstalk" because of the tiny vines coming off the plants. Coming out of the seed, part of it entered the sponge as root, while the other part grew tall.

The mesclun was also a pleasant surprise. Six of seven pods had sprouted.

Looking carefully at the leaves, the distinctive variations of mesclun leaves is already apparent. I'm looking forward to salads with these.

All in all, a good start. And best of all, the yellow fly traps didn't have any whiteflies on them, meaning the environment is clear of them.

One of the older Aerogardens had stopped pumping water, so I cleaned the metal contacts on the motor. Once I did that, it hummed along perfectly. Overall, a good start.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Starting over with three new Aerogardens

And so, the day arrived. So far with my Aerogardens, I've planted the standard herb kit, and since starting this Indoor Gardening blog, have planted the International Basil, the Cherry tomatoes, the Romaine Lettuce, and the Holiday Herb Kit. If I had to give letter grades to each of the seed kits, here's what the report card would look like:

1) Standard Herb Kit - A
2) International Basil - A+
3) Cherry Tomatoes - D
4) Romaine Lettuce - C
5) Holiday Herbs - B

So, the Aerogarden shines with herbs. With veggies, I still haven't found one that's blown me away. The Cherry Tomatoes didn't really start to take off until long after the manual said they should. And of course, I was not prepared for the infestation of whiteflies that loved the veggies. But live and learn, if all goes will with the next three, I may reward the folks at AeroGrow by investing in the attachment arm to turn my humble little AeroGarden Classic into a monster Aerogarden Elite so I can plant full size tomatoes.

But first things first. Yesterday, I planted a new cast of characters. I'm leaving on a business trip for the next 10 days, so my plan is to plan the seed pods, leave for my trip, and return to a bunch of full grown plants. That's the plan anyway.

As I mentioned, I decided to go with new seed kits this go-around. I feel like I'm in a sitcom spin-off with the same sets but a new cast of characters, like "What's Happening Now" was to "What's Happening".

The new seed kits are:

  • Mesclun. This is something I learned. When you get a salad in a restaurant, and the leaves don't look like light green leaves (iceberg lettuce) nor dark green leaves (romaine lettuce), then chances are you have Mesclun. Mesclun looks a lot like leaves you'd expect to find on a maple or oak tree, but they're edible and chock full of nutrition.
  • Snow peas. Having been burned a little by the tomatoes, I'm not necessarily holding out too much hope for this. If I can harvest one stir-fry dish, I'll be happy.
  • Herb kit redux. Old reliable. I figure even if the Mesclun and Snow peas don't perform, at least I'll have my good old set of thyme, basil, purple basil, parsley, mint, chives, and dill to use.

Step 1 was replacing the burnt-out grow light on one of the units. From time to time when I see them go on sale at Amazon or Aerogarden.Com, I'll buy one, so I had a set ready. It took all of 30 seconds, just take it out of the box and plug the light in.

After a thorough washing of all the Aerogarden units, I once again put them onto the shelves and plugged them in. It felt like one of those movies where they discover an old, abandoned submarine, flip the switches on, and the lights flicker on and the engines start to rumble. We were back in business.

I decided to plant the herbs first. I'm an old pro at this by now, so after filling the tub with water, I plopped the seed pods in, put the plastic hood on, put the starter nutrients in, and my garden was planted in under 2 minutes.

Snow peas were next. There are a couple interesting things about this package. First of all, the seed pods were the standard seed pods but interestingly, the seeds were, well, dried peas. And they sat on top of the sponge material instead of inside them.
Watching these makes me sort of amazed at how the good Lord created these. They can sit there for weeks and not to anything, and then when you put them around water, they'll start growing. (In fact, within only one day of planting my pods, I could see roots forming!)

Two other interesting things. The nutrient tablets came individually wrapped. This was a great idea, as when they stick them all together in one bag (like with the herb kit), they start evaporating and sticking to each other.

Also the package came with green twisty things, which hopefully I'll discover a use for in a few weeks.

Here's what the peas looked like. Notice that I took my yellow whitefly traps and stuck them into the Aerogarden unit. This time I'm not taking chances. If the critters want to make their way over, this time I'm putting up a fight.

Finally, it was time for the mesclun. I freaked when I turned this one on, and the motor stopped running on it too :( But I scraped off some of the gunk that had accumulated on the metal contacts, placed a little spacer underneath the unit, and it started going again. Let's hope it keeps up.

The one fear I have is that my plan will backfire--the seed pods all say that the seeds will sprout in 6-10 days (the length of my trip), but even after one day, I saw plants coming up out of the mesclun, and like I said, the peas started rooting. I just hope I don't come back to find them choking under the plastic hoods. That'd end this blog very quickly.