April 30, 2012

Growth rate of green romaine

Back when I first described the growth rate experiment I'm working on now, I described how I was hoping to see growth rate level off so you could predict how long your greens needed to grow before reaching optimum harvest-ablity.  Only half way through data collection and I am started to see that happening!

Growth rate hasn't slowed down in some species, but it seems to be slowing in the green romaine variety we're using called 'Defender.'  The graph below shows leaf length and harvest weight over a period of about two weeks.  The last time I collected data was April 26th.  Neither the leaf length of harvest weight had increased much since the last time I collected data (three days earlier).  Tomorrow I'll see if this trend continues.

April 26, 2012

What to do with all these greens!

From yesterday's picture you might have guessed that I have a lot of salad greens in my fridge right now.  A LOT.  Some nights all we eat is salad.  If you filled up a salad bowl with greens, grabbed a fork and dug in you would know how I feel.  I am certainly not complaining!  Just ready for some salad green diversity.  Yesterday I lucked out big time.  

Two days ago was harvest day for UNH study on growing cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets.  (I looked briefly online to see if there was anything written about this study - not yet it seems.)  So, for dinner I had: tomatoes, garlic, chopped mizuna and spinach all covered in olive oil on toast.  And there was cheese on top.  From the picture you can tell I'm not going to be a food blogger anytime soon.  It smelled too good to take a good picture.

What would you do with 'extra' salad greens?

April 25, 2012

Five weeks old today!

April 24, 2012

Everything that's growing (except arugula)

Scarlett frills, tokyo bekana, mizuna, red romaine, red russian kale, 
green romaine, tatsoi, spinach, ruby streaks

April 23, 2012

plant profile: kale

Without meaning to I've neglected to say anything about kale.  I am not not quite sure if I like eating kale as a salad green, which may be why I haven't written anything about it.

Don't get me wrong, I love kale, but I prefer it cooked.  As a baby green it seems rather frilly and tasteless compared to the other mustard greens I'm growing right now.  Since I've been collecting growth data for two weeks now I can say that kale has been steadily growing, so maybe I'll change my mind by next week. 

 After every harvest I photograph a few representative leaves of each species.  When I'm done with the study I'm going to put the pictures together along with graphs to really show the growth rate of each salad green.  Right now I don't have enough data points to make a worthwhile graph, but I think the photos of kale growth look pretty nice.

 I'm growing red russian kale, which is a pretty typical variety.  Maybe a different variety would be a better salad green?  My favorite is white russian because it is sweet and tender in comparison to red russian.  Siberian kale is advertised as being good raw, so I better try it next fall.

April 20, 2012

Scarlett and Ruby

Meet Scarlett and Ruby, two of the mustard greens that are being measured and weighed during the next few weeks.  During the summer I hated harvesting this kind of green because they were always frilly, bolting and never amounted to very much.  

I thought these two greens would be pretty much the same thing: dark red frilly mustard greens.  But they are definitely not!  Scarlett Frills is darker with skinny leaves.  Ruby Streaks is reddish and bright green.  It's far 'frilly-er' (and I think prettier).

April 19, 2012

four weeks of growth - it's time to eat!

All the greens are not 'full size' yet, but the kale, mizuna, tokyo bekana, tatsoi and scarlett frills are!

April 18, 2012

Measuring growth rate by weight

Last week I wrote about tracking growth rate by measuring leaf length.  This week I started tracking harvest weight as well.  Here's what I do:

First I measure leaf length of ten leaves in a quadrant (same as before - this is still useful data to collect!).  Then I harvest all the leaves from the quadrant.  I don't cut at the soil level for two reasons: when you are harvesting salad greens you don't want the stem-y bits, you just want the leafy bits.  Also, if you leave the shoot apex (where new leaves come from) more leaves will grow and you'll be able to harvest a second crop from the same plants.

Bottom right quadrant harvested. 
 Next, all the leaves from the harvested quadrant get weighed.  Can you tell what green I am harvesting in these pictures?

Everything gets recorded in my lab notebook.  On the far left I identify the replicate, tray and quadrant I am measuring.  Then come the ten leaf lengths, and on the far right is the weight of all the leaves in that quadrant.  Eventually, I'll stick all the data into the computer and analyze it, but right now measuring, weighing and watering is enough to keep me busy.

April 16, 2012

three weeks of growth!

Can you name any of the greens yet?

April 13, 2012

How to measure growth rate

 Now that the greens are big enough I've started measuring their growth.  Yesterday was the first day of data collection. (You can see the experiment overview here.)

For each variety I measure the length of ten randomly selected leaves.  There are four replicates of each variety, so there are a total of 40 leaf measurements for each type of green.  I'm going to do this twice a week for the next 6-8 weeks.  All this data should make a lovely graph showing when the plant is doing most of its growth, and when it has reached maturity.

I use very fancy equipment when collecting data.

Next week I am going to start harvesting and weighing samples of greens as another measurement of growth rate.

April 11, 2012

plant profile: cressida

I found cressida in the Johnny's catalogue and wanted to try it out because it looked so pretty.  It is also "typically grown indoors in flats or soilless culture" which is exactly my situation.  I planted it three weeks ago in a warm 60 degree greenhouse so I could see what it was like asap.

Isn't it pretty!  "Peppergrass" is another name for it.  I tasted it as soon as the first leaves emerged and can say this green lives up to it's name.  The initial flavor isn't pepper-y, to me it takes a bit like green apple.  Then, after a moment there is a spicy flavor akin to arugula (but not exactly the same).   The little greens have brighten up my salads, but a full mouthfull of cressida is a bit too much so I use it sparingly.

April 10, 2012

two weeks of growth!

What a difference just one week can make!

April 9, 2012

Only 10% to the farmers!

Todays chart from the USDA Economic Research Service relates to everyone.  Why?  Because we all eat food!  Here's what they say:
"For a typical dollar spent in 2010 by U.S. consumers on domestically-produced food, including both grocery store and eating out purchases, 34 cents went to pay for services provided by foodservice establishments, 21.7 cents to food processors, and 12.8 cents to food retailers. ERS uses input-output analysis to calculate the value added, or cost contributions, to the food dollar by 10 industry groups in the food supply chain. Food processing costs per food dollar were up 17 percent since 2008, whereas costs per food dollar for most other industry groups were flat or declined. For example, energy used throughout the food system accounted for 4.8 cents of the food dollar, down from 6.8 cents in 2008. This chart is from the Food Dollar Series data product on the ERS website, updated March 20, 2012."

April 6, 2012

Growth rate of greens (or experiment number two!)

Even though the weather right now is not very winter-like I've started a second experiment.  Describing this one is much simpler:  I am going to see how different varieties of greens grow in the 'cold.'  The same kind of work was done last spring and fall and I'll be doing a lot more of it next winter.  

A few of the greens I'm growing are in this mixed flat.

The goal is to be able to estimate how long it will take green to reach a harvestable size as light and temperature levels change drastically in the fall and spring.  By the end I'd like the be able to say "if you plant lettuce in September you'll be harvesting in late october, but if you plant in october you won't be harvesting until december."

Arugula grown spring 2011

The chart above is a snippet of the data collected last year.  The temperatures are when the greenhouse heaters turn on.  You can see that keeping the greenhouse ten degrees warmer makes a big difference in growth (leaf length).  The length of the arugula grown at 40 degrees seems to be leveling off at around 40 days of growth.  If you knew it was not going to grow anymore you would harvest it at forty days.  Leaving it in the ground won't mean it was going to grow anymore.  The same observation can't be made for the arugula grown at fifty degrees - which is why we need more data!

What's going to happen:

I am growing ten varieties of greens:
  1. spinach
  2. kale
  3. green romaine lettuce
  4. red romaine lettuce
  5. arugula
  6. mizuna
  7. tokyo bekana
  8. tat soi
  9. ruby streaks
  10. scarlet frills
I'll make eight harvests at 3 - 10 weeks after planting.

At each harvest I will measure:
  • The length of 10 leaves of each species 
  • The weight of each species harvested
Pretty simple!  Are there any greens you would like to see on the list?  Leave a comment below and I'll take it into consideration for the next round.

April 3, 2012

one week of growth

These little guys are only one week old!  They are part of  the new experiment I am working on.  I'll start posting about it in the very near future.

April 2, 2012

Monday infographic: A rainbow of possibilities

About this time of year my taste buds get antsy.  Although it is technically spring I am craving summertime fruits and vegetables.  I'm tired of potatoes, squashes and onions!  

Thankfully we don't live in the olden days and have access to nearly any kind of food you could possibly want, any time of year.  I don't promote eating fresh tomatoes during the winter (insert berries, stone fruits, melons etc as well).  There are lots of fresh, springtime tasting vegetables available right now that will get me by until it is warmer.


The above infographic  is from England, so you might have a hard time finding fresh hogget, purple sprouting broccoli or elderflowers this spring.