Archive for June, 2010
Sorry this post is still a week late
On Wednesday I was sick and didn’t go to work. Outside mirroring my feelings an early summer thunder storm was rolling over making the sky dark even at noon. The only light came in bursts from lightning shortly followed by loud thunder.
The wind was thrashing the trees about, leaves and small branches were rattling off the side of the house. When the small amounts of rain did come down it slapped noisily against the windows.
I laid in bed slowly recovering, wondering why the wind had me so much on edge; something just didn’t seem right but it hid at the back of my brain. It was a whirlwind outside but I was safe indoors buried under a blanket. It not like the wind could knock the house over on top of me, crushing me like a small cucumber plan-
SHIT THE PLANTS!!!
I jumped out of bed, yanked on a pair of shorts and shoes without putting on socks and ran outside to check the hydroponic setup.
The A-frame was really good at keeping things from falling away from the plants so when it collapsed it did right on top of everything, yanking some of the plants out of their positions and knocking one of the planting tubes off to the side.
The pump can pump through the whole reservoir of nutrient in less than the 15 minutes that the timer runs so with the planter knocked off to the side it drained everything out onto the ground leaving the plants dry for however long it had been sitting there. Luckily there was enough humidity in the planter that it kept the roots alive except for the cucumbers on the end which were pulled completely out. Its root mat had gotten big enough that the roots stayed in the planter and ripped apart from the plant itself.
It’s amazing how little you think of being sick when you’ve got something else to worry about. But I didn’t really feel upto rebuilding everything so I pulled the wreckage of the trellis off, put the planter back together and filled the reservoir up with water. That should hold everything until to Friday when I could rebuild everything properly.
Over the next 2 days the cucumber that had been yanked out didn’t fully recover and might as well be replaced. One of the peppers had a lot of its new upper growth smashed off but should be ok. The peas had already been producing but lost a few stems that had to be trimmed.
This weekend I got a replacement cucumber and a bunch of hardware to reinforce the trellis rack to support the plants. Plus the remaining cucumber has gotten large enough it needs some support to grow up so I needed to get some twine for it to hold to and some gardening velco strips that can support the vine.
The reservoir lid was yanked part way off and one of the hoses came off. Now everything is nice and neat again.
Finally all back together and with some good reinforcements to keep it from falling over again.
Well weather doesn’t always want to play fair. We were past the final freeze of the spring when I planted the hydroponic system and temperatures were in the 60’s. Then the increasingly unstable weather decided to get cold again and for 2 weeks we had overcast late winter weather.
It never got down to freezing but it did get within a few degrees of freezing; now I know that Beans and Cucumbers hate the cold. The beans (nearly) died and I haven’t found replacements. Luckily cucumbers are plentiful so I just dumped the dead ones, rinsed out their net pots and put in new cucumbers.
The peppers grew slow but they showed new roots growing out of the pots so I knew they would pull through. The Snow peas lived up to their name and did really well in the cold weather and are now in need of support they’ve gotten so big.
I’ve been debating how to create an overhead support for the plants. I’m trying to emulate being on an apartment balcony where they is usually another overhead balcony or cover. In that case it’s a simple matter of screwing a few heavy duty hooks into the above floor and suspending a pole three inches from the top using wire or something.
The south side of the house has no overhead and I don’t want to punch holes in the siding. I need to create something that stands on the ground, is about 7.5 feet tall, will support the weight of the plants hanging off it, and won’t tip or blow over in the wind.
First the plants as they are now. As you can see the peas are looking for something to grow up. The peppers are getting bigger with a blossom here and there (I’m actually clipping them off since I want all energy to grow large plants right now). The 2 new cucumbers are about 7 days old, have gotten over the shock of transplanting out of soil and are starting to get bigger. The poor bean plant that seemed dead actually struggled out a few new leaves but its so far gone I don’t want to wait for it to come back, it will be replaced in a few days.
As it’s been about 3 or so weeks since the last nutrient solution went in. It probably doesn’t need it but since over half of the system got overhauled with new plants I decided to refresh it by dumping the old and mixing a new batch. I found that if I dissolve the solid nutrients by hand in about 4 cups of water then filling up the rest of the water it get much more of it to dissolve (I actually learned it from mixing cornstarch in to foods while cooking).
You can see all the Ph balancing stuff still out from getting the nutrient ready.
I decided an A-Frame setup holding a rod of electrical conduit above the plants is the way to go. It’s very stable front to back but from side to side a baby could knock it over. I had some ideas to stabilize it but figured they could wait till next weekend.
A very costly mistake.
Things just keep seeming to fall behind other countries. When compared to the rest of the world our speeds are pitiful and we have to pay a premium for what little we get. As of last year we ranked 28th in the world, averaging 5Mbps where South Korea is averaging 20Mbps. But what is pissing me off today is the fact that services online are restricted to specific ISPs due to business agreements.
I want to watch the US World Cup game online, BBC streams it but like all BBC stuff it’s UK only. But US isn’t exactly lacking for sports channels and websites, ESPN3 proudly advertises that they’re the home to the World Cup here.
So I goto the live streaming section of their page to watch. I’m willing to put up with all the BS commercials and advertising that I’d get on ESPN TV as well; I’m looking for an illegal download or anything. But ESPN only has deals with certain ISPs so unless you’re with a service provider that has a deal with them you don’t get the game.
When your ISP doesn’t show up or you choose one that isn’t supported they have the gall to tell you that if you want to watch the game to change to somebody that has a deal with them. However it’s not like opening the page in a different browser or going to a different access point, changing ISPs is like changing phone providers only worse. And what about when we’re on a corporate network that doesn’t go through a consumer ISP? Many businesses get their internet from AT&T or Verizon, but they get business connections so they don’t have “V-cast” logins to get to the streaming site.
It creates an environment hostile to small businesses that want to compete with the big players. If I start a small ISP and want to provide for my customers I can’t compete on the same level at AT&T, and if ESPN doesn’t work on my ISP customers will flock to the huge providers (local ISP Xmission wasn’t even listed as an ISP on ESPNs site). So users stay with the big players which consequently are the ones that charge awful rates and use deceptive business practices to bleed their customers dry.
There is a movement in the government to basically level the playing field of the internet by passing laws to guarantee Net Neutrality. The idea is that all traffic is equal for people who pay to be online. ISPs can’t restrict what or where people go online, just like if you have a car and a license you can drive to a different city; companies can’t say, “Sorry, you’re from New York. You can’t drive through Kansas, and if you go through Nebraska you have to stay under 10 MPH.”
Opponents to Net Neutrality say that by putting laws on how internet providers and businesses work will be putting restrictions on internet freedom. This is a red herring, America has freedoms but we need laws to guarantee those freedoms, it’s like saying that making a law that guarantees free speech you’re restricting freedom of speech.
But the ESPN3 issue proves that monopolistic businesses create an environment that restricts business and consumer freedoms when laws don’t exist to guarantee those freedoms. Our internet is getting more and more restricted because the big boys only play with the big boys, and then lobby congress to stop laws that would allow other companies to get a foot in the door.
Anyway I’m pissed that ESPN wouldn’t let me watch the game from their site, not only was I willing to put up with their commercials but the option to watch wasn’t even a possibility since none of the local ISPs had made a deal with them, even Qwest was cut out.
And they wonder why people go to illegal means to get stuff.
I’ve been really lagging in posting updates on the hydroponic garden so I’ll post the last few weeks this week. Just pretend you’re speeding forward through the last month in the next 3 days. However here’s the main points learned this year:
-The system NEEDS an air bubbler to airate the water.
-There is about a 1 week adjustment process from transplanting for the roots to start growing in nutrients.
-Many plants die at freezing point.
-Unstable homemade trellises need to be able to hold up to the wind or they’ll smash your plants.
Now the full story, Planting day!
Today the whole setup is going live. I actually purchased the plants about a weeks ago but between work and lazyness didn’t plant them.
First I needed the official place that I could plant everything that was out of the way, had good sunlight, didn’t interfere with the normal garden. The cool thing with hydroponics is all you need is the floor space and you’re good to go, the actual ground can be poor quality, contaminated, or solid asphalt.
South side of the house is where the garbage cans are stored and naturally becomes a storage area for garbage and mostly green trash that is waiting to be fed into the garbage and hauled off. Currently is was about 2 feet deep of bags of landscaping sand covered in 3 feet of dead branches. Once cleared and all the spiders were scared off it left a perfect longs narrow strip just under the garage window so I could feed a power line out to the system.
Next I had to get the plants ready to plant.
Ideally I would be germinating my own seeds straight into hydroponic ready growing media, but that is an experiment for next year. This year is to try to make it as easily accessible to the average person as possible so I’m taking normal potted starter plants and moving them into hydroponic media.
The process isn’t really that hard but it seems weird to people used to normal gardening. Instead of taking a plant out of a plastic tray and moving to the ground we’re going to wash all the dirt off and transfer the bare plant & roots to our own medium.
From right to left the first two buckets are full of water. The third is full of coconut coir and water giving it the consistency of wet potting soil. A few unused but rinsed off plants are on the ground.
1. Start with the plants of choice.
2. Take out of the pot or plastic tray and rinse most of the dirt out of the roots.
Just soak the root ball in the water and alternate between gently massaging the roots and swirling it in the water. All the soil will rinse without needing to be manhandled.
!!!Remember that the roots are the life of the plant, try to keep and protect them as much as possible!!!
3. In the second bucket you can rinse the last of the potting soil off with ease.
4. Then take a plastic 3” net pot and hold the plant in the center with the roots at the bottom.
5. Fill the netpot up with coconut coir, gently packing it down with your fingers till it’s full to the rim. Try to position it so the roots start at .5” to 1” below the rim.
6. Set aside and you’re done. It’s important the roots stay moist so I put them in a container with an inch of water in the bottom. Plus I found it’s good to keep the tags with the plants so you don’t forget what is what later on.
Now the setup need to be put together and filled with fresh nutrient. I found a nice little nylon filter bag at the pet store that I could put on the end of the drain tubes. I rightly figure that for the first few days a lot of coir would wash out of the netpots into the reservoir. Hopefully keeping as little from getting into the pump will limit the lines getting clogged even though the pump has it’s own filter as well.
You can see a little bit of the leftover solid nutrient at the bottom of the reservoir. No matter how hard I try to mix it in some of it never dissolves. Liquid nutrient would obviously not have that problem.
The plug for the pump is outdoors and exposed so I wrapped it with a few overlapping layers of “Stretch and Seal” Tape and a couple layers of electrical tape. Pull the electrical tape tight as you wrap, overlap each row, and make sure your last layer goes from bottom to top to shed water better.
And here is everything planted and running, kind of small and unassuming at this point. I still have on planter empty for something else in the future. Hopefully pole beans.
“A remake of 1984’s Karate Kid comes out this weekend, where the main character learns Kung Fu. We’re just as confused as you are”
We all know Hollywood can’t find an original idea to save their lives (or their bottom line for that matter) but do they really need to keep destroying our childhoods by doing crummy remakes?
What’s next, remake “Fievel Goes West: American Tail” with “Fievel Goes East: Fievel explores business outsourcing in China.”? I like my remakes like my socks, old and worn out since the 90’s.
Interesting fact: this near straight to VHS crap starred future Academy Award winner Hillary Swank as the star.