February 28, 2012

Comparing growth post germination

These seeds were all planted on the 13th of January, so the seedlings are now 42 days old.  I tried to pick a good representative tray from each of the treatments  to take a picture of.  A few of the observations that can be made I've written about before, including: lettuce pigmentation and the different germination rates of each species

From these pictures it seems like the plastic with holes had the most uniform lettuce growth.  Since I haven't actually been looking at growth rate, I can't demonstratively say that.  But, the plastic with holes lettuces seem to have mostly sprouted and are of similar size compared to the white or clear plastic.  The spinach seedlings seem to be the most consistant species between the six treatments.  The mizuna seems long and leggy in the plastic treatments and shorter in the others.

February 27, 2012

Happy Monday!

When I started this project I was looking forward to early spring.  The time of year when the landscape is still bleak and you feel like you might go crazy if you don't seem some green sign of spring.  Since winter seems to have skipped us this year the pre-spring season has begun.  I'm glad the greenhouse is full of cheerful baby greens.  This week I'll be looking at more temperature data, comparing plant growth and planting some herbs.

February 22, 2012

One week of growth

Although I have finished data collection for the germination trials, I have been observing the sprouted seeds as they grow.

Lettuce from white plastic, plastic with holes and clear plastic low tunnel coverings.

I've commented before on the pigmentation of lettuce grown under the different low tunnel treatments.  Those little seedlings have grown quite a bit in two weeks, but the pigmentation patterns continue.

I planted plugs in trays of soil on the 13th of February (on the left).  A week later the greens look fuller and many of the plugs have more leaves.

These pictures of arugula are also from the 13th and 20th of February, respectively.  In just a week the seedlings have gone from cotyledon stage to the true leaf stage.  

Today I am going to plant a few herbs to see how they grow in the tunnels.  I am thinking about dill, cilantro, parsley and basil.  Any other ideas?  What would you like me to try growing?

February 21, 2012

Greenhouse temperature

Today is graph day!

This week I have been thinking about temperatures.  If you remember back to when I set up the temperature probes there would be thousands of temperature readings.  All that data in a giant, overwhelming spreadsheet taunting me because I am not so sure how to use it all.  While figuring that out I've been looking at just a few days at a time.  Kind of like snapshots.

The greenhouse temperature itself is a good place to start. 

Soil temperature in control treatments.
I realized after I made the above chart that I had used soil temperature data instead of air temperature.  See what having oodles of numbers in a huge spreadsheet does to me?

Below I graphed soil and air temperatures together.  You can see the treads I highlighted in the soil temperature graph can also be seen in the air.  The major difference is air temperatures are much more volatile.  They seem to jump up or down a few degrees each hour.  This could be due to cloud cover, or air movement from the fans.

Soil and air temperatures in control treatment.

*  This data represents five days in the greenhouse I am working in.  
Other greenhouses or high tunnels may have similar temperature trends but they will not be identical.  *

February 17, 2012

One month old mizuna

After a month the mizuna grown under clear plastic is a good sized plug.  Look at all those lovely roots!  I've planted a few in bigger pots to see how they will grow.

February 16, 2012

Why your mom told you to eat your greens

I believe a good diet is balanced.  That being said, the heap of fried seafood I helped consume yesterday totally upset that balance.   It was delicious but, for the next week or so I feel like I should only eat leafy green vegetables.  The kind I ate in giant bites as a kid in order to get them over with as fast as possible.

The kale I planted a month ago is now at the super cute puppy stage.

What makes greens so good for you?  Keeping me from being anemic and getting scurvy where the vague reasons in my head.  Once again I turned to myplate.gov and their "food-a-pedia." This gave me so much information that I have to think about it in small bits.  I chose to compare the greens I am using in the germination trials, as well as my two favorite cooking greens.  (Arugula is a substitute for mizuna because myplate didn't have any information about mizuna.)

data for this graph came from myplate.gov

First nutrient up is folate.  I didn't know what this was, possibly because it isn't on most nutrion labels.  It is one of the B vitamins and awfully important because it helps make and repair your DNA!  In my greens comparison collards were the clear winner for amount of folate per serving.  Interestingly, kale contains the lowest amount.

Of course, folate isn't the only reason greens are good for you.  In the future I'll look at calcium, vitamin C & A, and potassium.

February 14, 2012

January light

Lots of light is not a requirement to sprout seeds.  But, light is one of key reasons plants grow and are just so cool.  Taking light and turning it into sugar is pretty amazing.  When I see people outside tanning I know they are just trying really hard to photosynthesize.

Since we had light meters available we set them up to give us a reading of the total moles of PAR light each day.

Moles of light measured in tunnels on a cloudy day (Jan. 27) and a sunny day (Jan. 28).
In January the days are starting to get longer, but they aren't really that long yet.  I graphed the two days above because one was cloudy and one was sunny.  The difference in amount of light that reach the sensors (and thus the plants) is pretty apparent.  There are a couple observations between the different tunnel coverings that deem pointing out:
  1. Here it shows that the clear plastic and row cover transmitted about the same amount of light.  Sometimes this is true, and sometimes the clear plastic transmits more moles of light.
  2. The white plastic transmits more light than I thought it would and isn't that far behind the other coverings.  The seedlings inside the white plastic treatments are much more etiolated and spindly than all the other seedlings though.
Do you see anything interesting?  If you grow greens in high tunnels, low tunnels or under reemay do you ever worry about light?

* This data is pretty cool, and will be useful for writing my thesis.  
I am not recommending anything besides excitement and interest in plants and photosynthesis. *

February 13, 2012

Local food for all seasons

If you haven't guessed already I like infographics. Colorful pictures that convey facts seems to be a good way to learn things and maybe even remember them.  Recently I found such a graphic that compared what types of locally grown food are available in different parts of the country.  Connecticut was chosen in their graphic to represent New England, so I created a graphic showing what is locally available in New Hampshire. 

The graphics are from a collaboration between good.is and Whole Foods.  I found what is locally available in New Hampshire through seacoasteatlocal.org.  There are a limited number of fruits and vegetables represented.  Some important produce I think should be included are: squashes, garlic, cooking greens, radishes, beans, and melons.

February 10, 2012

Observations on spinach

February 9, 2012

Total seeds sprouted by species (aka Real Data!)

Total number of seeds sprouted by species over a 20 day period

Would you look at that - a real chart from real data.  Pretty cool right?  (I think so!)  Since there is so much data it's good to start by looking at the big picture.

These are the spinach, lettuce and mizuna seeds planted in all those different low tunnels we built for the germination trials.  I noticed germination trends by species and decided to ignore the fact that the seeds were grown under different conditions to compare the three species.  This chart shows distinctive germination characteristics of each species:

  • Mizuna, the fast growing mustard green, was the first species to have any seeds germinate.  The germination rate increased quickly from days 9 to 12 and then started to decreased.  Of the 3360 mizuna seeds planted 60% of them germinated.
  • Spinach is known for being a plant that can grown in cool conditions, but like many cold tolerant crops it would prefer to germinate at warmer temperatures.  Here we see that it is slower that mizuna to start germinating but, that 14 days after planting there is a huge spike in germination.  Spinach had a 71% germination rate.
  • Lettuce is not a very tough plant.  Only 52% of the seeds germinated and it took nearly 20 days for that to happen.

That's just the beginning of looking at all the data.  Besides germination rates there is also temperature and light data to take into account.

* Because I am a grad student this chart is built with  Real Data, but in no way am I recommending anything other than being excited about plants and eating.  *

February 7, 2012

Observations on lettuce

I have been looking at germinating seeds for nearly a month and have become quite intimate with these 10000 seedlings.  It takes about two hours everyday to go through all of them.  Such devotion leads to observations.

Lettuce seeds are tiny and their seedlings are tiny too.  So small that I couldn't get a very good picture of a newly emerged seedling.  Their two cotyledons are held together when they first emerge and slowly open like butterfly wings.

Soon after sprouting these seedlings turn dark reddish because they are a red variety of romaine lettuce. It can make them a bit hard to spot when counting.

The seedlings in under the opaque white plastic and the clear plastic don't change color.  They remain a lovely green with a bit of red mottling.  

February 2, 2012

Germination trials: Correct labeling

As I've started writing it became apparent I needed to work on my terminology.  Perhaps this is not the sexiest topic, but it is important to correctly name the different components of an experiment.  That way if someone wants to replicate what you did they will know how.  Or, if they are reading the paper (you will someday publish) they will have a clue what you did without the aide of a colorful picture. 

Greenhouse:  The setting of all this experimentation.

Block:  Contains one of each treatment.  I have two blocks of six treatments.

Treatment:  You remember all the treatments right? They are the independent variable.

Sub-plot:  With in each treatment there are six sub-plots for each species.  We stuck the three species in one tray because it was convient.

Replicate:  Each individual seed.

Just how many seeds is all this?  If you could make bets with the bill Salmon P. Chase is on you would be in the right ballpark.