August 31, 2012

Lettuce, spinach and mizuna: 4 days till planting!

The school semester started this week which means there are only four more days until I start planting fall greens!  There is going to be an awful lot of lettuce, mizuna and spinach growing in the coming seasons because they are good representatives of many cool weather greens.  You might get tired of hearing about them.  Not to worry - I'll be growing plenty of other greens too and will outline all the projects I'll be working on in a post next week.  Here's a bit about each of the three major varieties:

August 22, 2012

Seed germination results

I am about half way through the seed germination experiment.  Already trends are appearing in the data.  So far, I've germinated seeds at three temperatures: 75, 65 and 55.  On really hot days I want to crawl into the growth chambers and hang out with a book until it's cooler.  Hopefully there won't be many more hot days this year.   

The maximum number of seeds at each temperature is 50.  So, for defender lettuce at 75 degrees all the seeds germinated by the third day.  As the temperature decreased it took longer for seeds to germinate, and germination was spread over a number of days.  This is useful because it tells a grower or farmer that they don't need to heat their greenhouse all the way to 75 or 65 degrees to have good germination of lettuce seeds.

The pictures on the right don't show what I'm seeing when I count germinated seeds - but they are far prettier.
Tokyo bekana shows a slightly different trend.  Days to germination is similar for seeds sown at 75 and 65 degrees.  At 55 degrees seeds take much longer to germinate, and the percentage of seeds that germinated is much lower.  (You can't tell this from the graph, but it's true.)  So, how is this useful data?  It shows that temperatures lower than 55 degrees will result in poor and lengthy germination compared to warmer temperatures for tokyo bekana.  Eventually I'll add fuel price in as a component to this study, but not until I'm done collecting data.

August 10, 2012

New seeds are here!

In the fall I'm going to try out a number of more obscure greens.  Most of them are brassicas that are cool weather hardy.  I'm pretty excited.  In less than a month I'm going to start planting.  Not these particular varieties, but more common greens like spinach, lettuce and mizuna.

August 8, 2012

What I learned this week about the drought

Last week I posted the experimental design for the project I'm working on right now.  Even though I look at all those seeds every single day it's not that exciting and I don't have much to show for it.  Sprouted seeds that have been deprived of light just aren't that cute.  Especially since it is the time of year when there are just so many good things to eat (see below, which was dinner a few nights ago).

Here in New Hampshire the nationwide drought doesn't seem too bad since it is only 'abnormally dry.'**   In the past few weeks there have been a few of the USDA's 'charts of note' about the drought and how it will affect food prices.  You might notice below that produce isn't mentioned, or perhaps it's lumped into 'other foods.'  Most of the categories on the chart are heavily dependent on the midwest corn crop, which is threatened by 'extreme drought' right now.  Why will the price of dairy and eggs increase so much in 2013?  Think about what they eat - corn based feeds.

California, where a lot of produce is grown, doesn't have any red 'extreme drought' bits in it either.  But much of the irrigation water used to grow all those crops comes from the Colorado river (it runs through the Grand Canyon so you better know where that is!).  Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico all contribute to the river and they have some pretty big 'extreme drought' spots in them.  Less water affects everyone, not just the people in the red spots.  

The NYTimes has a nice graphic mapping yearly drought for every year since 1896.

** 8/9/12 After talking to people up at the research farm I've learned that yes indeed the drought is affecting crops in NH.  For example, blueberries are drying up on the bushes, something that hasn't happened before.

August 3, 2012

Experimental design - germination in chambers