Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Grand Rapids Lettuce

Like the bok choy, I have planted this plant in both hydropots and soil. It has almost the same growth requirements as the bok choy does. Unlike the bok choy, the lettuce does much better in the hydroponic planters than it does. Both soil and hydroponic planters are viable means of growing. It matures in ~50 days and takes up the same size. Leaves from these plants are softer than other lettuce varieties and also very tasty; use them on sandwiches, tacos, salads, or even eat raw.

Grand Rapids Lettuce growth

One strategy with this plant is to sow a bunch of seeds in close proximity (I use a 2 gallon bucket for this). Let the lettuce grow until the leaves are about 3-4 inches long, then harvest the baby leaves. With proper watering/fertilizing, you'll have a new crop of "mini-lettuce" ready to eat in 3-4 days.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Planting 2013

It's that time of the year. I finally get some warmth and sunshine. Out with the old crops and in with the new. Let's take a look at what each of the bins will be planted with.
Left side balcony March 23
Left side of balcony currently

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bicycle BBQ - How to not fry tortillas

My friends and I started a tradition called the bicycle BBQ; that is, we find some wood, strap it to a bike, ride to the beach, and cook delicious food.  We push the limits of what is acceptable to cook in a fire pit.  Some examples of things we've cooked are steamed root vegetables, bean soup, and enfrijoladas.  The last of which has video evidence:
I think seeing how the oil caught fire in the pan may have given me confidence that I could use that energy to melt metal.

Anyhow, the other day I went on a bicycle BBQ by myself which gave me the opportunity to completely document the process.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fluid mechanics in practice: Adding irrigation pipe to my planters

I've learned so much about flow in a pipe this quarter (hopefully), so its time to test out an old idea from the corn bin. I planned to install some sort of cheap below ground irrigation to make watering the plants easier. I bought some pre-cut 2 foot sections of 1/2" pipe and some fittings from the hardware store, about $5 per bin.
Irrigation materials
Simple PVC pipe
I plan to place the pipe about 3 inches below the surface of the soil, shallow enough to irrigate roots, but deep enough to not disturb the plant on the surface.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The next batch: Hard Apple Cider

Hard Cider Materials
Stocking up on juice
I asked my friends if I should brew red wine (from concord grape juice/concentrate) or hard apple cider (from apple juice). I think its obvious which one we both wanted. The grocery store had 64 oz bottles of Mott's Apple Juice on sale for $1.50 each if you were to purchase more than 4. So its time to make a 4 gallon batch (8 jugs). The recipe I will be using is:

Hard Apple Cider (from apple juice)

  • 4 Gallons Apple Juice
  • 10 cups white or brown sugar (approximately 4 lbs)
  • 1 cup of raisins, reconstituted (simmered in water for a short while)
  • Lalvin EC 1118 yeast

The Foundry: First Success

Went garage sailing over the weekend and picked up a pressure tank and an air regulator.  Looks like there may be hope for the oil burner.
Pressure tank for burner

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reviving yesterday's stirfry

Some plants are able to regenerate themselves if the base remains intact. Popular examples of this include green onions and celery, but there are others that can regrow themselves. I decided to give it a try with bok choy after reading this article of someone else who tried it. I bought 2 bok choy from the farmers market the other weekend and decided to soak the base of each plant in its own separate container of water.

Bok Choy base regrow day 1
Day 1

Burpeeana Early Pea

I started growing these peas in October of 2012. I'm surprised that several plants survived the winter. These have been suffering along due to lack of light on my balcony. However, I have seen evidence that some flowers will be appearing soon on the biggest plant (about 9" tall atm). The new trellis' should help these grow taller.

Pea flowers
The plants have formed many pods, and continue to produce more. The biggest plant has about 6 pods forming at the moment. Each pod contains 5-6 peas. The peas are very sweet, significantly better tasting than canned peas.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Audio RCA patchbay

This is a project I did a while back, but nevertheless, I did document the progress pretty well.
I wanted to make a patchbay so I could keep my tangled mess of cables organized, and so I wouldn't have to keep plugging and unplugging audio equipment when I wanted to use it.
I started with 2 panels of 8 RCA connectors and wired and soldered the corresponding terminals together.
Then I took a plastic box and cut a square shaped hole using the soldering iron exacto knife attachment... not fun.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Honey and Cream Sweetcorn

Sweet corn was the first real plant I grew. I was very impressed with the outcome. The ears were delicious, the best corn I've ever tasted. Be sure to plant the corn in the sunniest spot in your yard for best outcome. Grows really fast. I grew mine in a container. I don't recommend doing this, but it can be done with lots of fertilizer.

Bok Choy: Chinese Mustard

I started growing bok choy due to popular demand from my neighbors (and after tasting some locally grown crop). I have some in dirt containers and some in the hydroponic planters. They are currently small, but are growing quickly. The packet said that they mature in about 50 days, fast enough to be done before my spring planting. The plants are comings along nicely after a few days. The soil ones are doing better, but the hydroponic ones are not too far behind.
Fancy looking Bok Choy

A recent heat wave caused all of my plants to bolt, so I lost mostly all of my harvest. I guess the seeds aren't a bad consolation prize though. I grew more next winter, exclusively in the Kratky/DWC setup I have, and they are doing much better than last year's crop. They grew quickly and were tasty.

Buy Bok Choy Seeds

Annual or Perennial?: Annual
Germination time: 5-10 days
Days until maturity: 50
Light requirements: Full Sun (6+ hrs)
Plant size: Medium
Spacing: 8-12 inches
Temperature: Cool temperatures
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Traits: Can be regrown from base of old plant.
Companion Plants: Beans, peas; Bok Choy is a heavy feeder. Do not plant near strawberries or tomatos.
Special needs: None

When to plant: Plant as a winter crop in warmer areas. Grows well from fall to late spring.

How to grow: Plant seeds in ground about 4 inches apart. Thin seedlings to stand between 8-12 inches. If using containers, 1 plant in a 1-2 gallon bucket. Can be grown hydroponically using the Kratky, DWC, or other methods.

How to harvest: Cut leaves as needed, or cut the whole plant for a "cut and come again" harvest (the base regrows itself). You can harvest as "baby bok choy" when the plant is small.

Olympia Hybrid Spinach

With my experience so far, its a very small and compact plant. For the amount of spinach I can fit in my bins, I can get a lot of leaves. With a market price of spinach being anywhere between $3/lb and $7/lb, growing my own is an attractive option. Plus, it grows fast (~45 days) and I can sow all year long (except for maybe summer, its too hot). The only issues I've had so far is the lack of full sun, resulting in smaller, more spread leaves and the plants bolting too early. I'm growing a second crop for spring in some re-purposed desk drawers.

Harvested Spinach