Paul Nickerson

Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

InDorm Potatoes Update: Piling

In Alternative Agriculture, Gardening on January 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Over this past weekend, my two of my potato plants shot up drastically. I think this was due to the fact that I was not there to turn their light on for a couple of days. Regardless, it gives me the opportunity to update you all on the container, and show you the next step in InDorm Potato Gardening.

To recap, the purpose of growing potatoes in an upright container, such as a pail, is that you can pile dirt higher around the growing plant. In typical farming, potatoes are planted in long furrows. As the plant grows upward, the furrow is filled in, allowing potatoes to grow along the buried section of the stem. Due to the exposed rows, piling dirt to any real height can prove difficult, allowing for only a small section of a potato plant to produce potatoes. In a container, however, you can easily add soil to the bucket as the plant grows, allowing you to bury up to a number of feet worth of plant, greatly increasing the yield of a single plant.

As you can see in the photo, two of the plants have grown about six inches high. At this point, I simply pile potting soil, with a mix of vermiculture compost, around the stems of the plants. Once the plant continues to grow another few inches, I will again add more soil. Continuing this until harvest. Unfortunately, the other two plants are lagging behind, so I piled the soil on the one half of the bucket, and am hoping the other two plants will follow quick behind.

Plants Before Piling

Plants After Piling

Basement Aquaponics System!!!

In Aquaponics on January 25, 2011 at 1:44 am

After a lot of work and trial by fire, I have completed my Basement Aquaponic System. I used two 330 gallon totes, one for the fish tank, and the other for the two grow beds. The system is currently running on Gold Fish, but I will be introducing Tilapia as soon as possible. I designed the system to work in the same way as my InDorm System. To give support to the grow beds, the cage from the tote was cut to match the trays. The pump is a standard 320gph fountain pump, set on a timer to run every fifth hour during daylight hours. I used a four bulb, T12 lighting fixture to provide the light for the system. Three of the bulbs are 40watt Daylight bulbs, the fourth is a Plant/Aquarium bulb.

Gator Aloe Rot

In Potting on January 6, 2011 at 12:56 am

Gator Aloe Rot

In the past I have discussed the effects of over-watering on succulents, as well the role that small stones can play in lessening rot. Unfortunately, I have a wonderful example of what can happen when soil does not drain properly, and facilitates rot along the base of the plant.

I noticed today that my small Gator Aloe was very loose in it’s soil. When I tried to straighten it, it broke free from its base, leaving behind all of its roots. The base    of the plant was rotten through, leaving behind a small amount of black substance.

As far as the cause of the rot is concerned, I have two theories. Firstly, although I did put down a layer of stone, I did it after i had established the plant in its pot. Therefore, the stone was actually sitting slightly above ground level, still allowing some water to pool around the base of the plant. If you are planning to add stone to a plant, it is best to raise the plant so it sits slightly higher than normal, that way the stones will fill the pot to the proper soil level.

Secondly, although I used a succulent soil mix, I planted the aloe in a plastic container. As I have stated before, it is best to plant succulents in Terra Cotta pots, as they will weep excess water and allow the soil to dry more thoroughly between waterings. A plastic container will hold more water, leading to bacterial infections and rot. To aid in the draining of potting soil, it is good to mix the soil with Perlite. Since the rot, I have repotted my succulents with a high mixture of Perlite.

InDorm Pineapple Attempt #2

In Propagation on January 4, 2011 at 12:53 am

Pineapple Attempt #2

I have previously attempted to water-root a pineapple top. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I used a pineapple that had been completely cut in half, including the top, it was very susceptible to bacterial infections. A mold quickly began to grow along the cut edges of the top. I decided to trash that plant, and try again.

This time I am using a fresh top from a pineapple I bought from a grocer. I twisted the top off of the pineapple, peeled off the bottom inch of leaves, and planted it directly into succulent growing medium, to provide good drainage for the plant to grow. I will continue to keep you all updated on how it plays out!

InDorm Potato Farm

In Alternative Agriculture, Gardening on January 4, 2011 at 12:38 am

There is currently a lot of information online regarding Container Potatoes, therefore, I will not go into great detail about the intricacies of planting potatoes in bins. Instead, I am going to outline my InDorm system.

InDorm Potato Farm

The overall theory behind my system is to stack 5 gallon pails on top of each other in order to achieve growth along the whole length of the potato plant. After drilling a number of small holes in the bottom of one pale, I planted small pieces of seed potato.

As the plant grows, I will continue to bury the plant by filling the bucket little by little with compost and soil. Once the dirt reaches the top of the base pale, I will cut the bottom out of a second pale, and stack it on top, continuing the process.

System Light Cover

The pride and joy of my InDorm Potato Farm is the grow light. I cut a large hole out of the middle of a plastic lid, then pop-riveted an eight-inch, metal flood light to the cover. I put a 65 watt flood light in the lamp, which cast light directly over the plants. It also maintains a micro-climate of 85 degrees. This seems to be an ideal situation for healthy potato growth.

Washing the Grow Stones

In Aquaponics on January 2, 2011 at 1:12 am

While a coffee can was more than effective for my InDorm system, up-scaling means everything become a bit grander, including washing the growing stones. After many attempts involving pails and trash cans, washing 2500 pounds of stone proved to be very difficult and time-consuming. After carrying a number of pales of stone from the truck to a trash can next to the river, I discovered a better way to wash that much material.

Stones in Truck Bed

I shoveled all of the stone from the grow-beds, into the bed of the truck, and backed the truck down toward the river so it would be on a slight incline. This proved difficult as the rear brakes on the truck were not functioning. Because of the snow, and lack of brakes, I was hesitant to back the truck too far down the hill, resulting in a need to carry the water a bit farther than originally planned.

Talk About Mickey Mouse...

To do this, a shop-vac hose was electrical taped to the water pump hose. Attached to that was a long piece of PVC pipe (Yay duct-tape!), and finally, an old fiber-glass handle was pushed into the end of the pipe to get it the extra distance to the back of the truck. The joint had to be stacked on the trash can to keep from becoming undone. You can see all of the dirty water that poured off of the stones.

With water being pumped into the highest part of the truck, the stones were moved around to ensure a thorough wash. the water carried all the small dirt and sediment out through the small cracks around the tail-gate, leaving behind clean stones, ready for use.

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