Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winter Growing: LEDs, orchids, and tomatoes

Macintosh apple trees in the orchard
The apple orchard is sleeping for the winter, though we made a new sledding hill by removing around
half of the trees!  The Red Delicious apples are not really economically viable anymore and does anyone really like them, with all the better apple options around these days?  As a result, those old red apples were forcibly removed and will be replaced with Ambrosia apples in the spring.  

My greenhouse room, with orchids on the left rack
Otherwise, growing is still happening indoors, with vegetables and my collection of perennial seedlings, pelargonium cuttings, and orchids.  I tried the first tomato today (a Red Robin) and admit its flavour wasn't stellar - not really sweet and more acidic.  However, the texture of a fresh juicy tomato in winter was nice.  These were grown in Pro-mix soil-less mix, but recently were topped up with finished worm compost.  Maybe the compost will enrich the flavour over time?
My greenhouse room is kept between temperatures of 14-20 degrees, with the higher temperatures brought by sunny days shining on the windows.  Humidity averages 55%.  It feels lovely in there.  

Dendrobium nobile orchid with flower buds
The orchids seem to love it.  I have by trial and error figured out that some orchids resent the heat of summer or cool of winter -- particularly Oncidum "Twinkle".  That plant will stay indoors at human comfort temperatures year-round.  However, Dendrobium nobile, Cymbidiums, Catteleya, Miltonia/Miltoniopsis (not sure which it is), Phaelenopsis and a Paphiopedilum are doing well in there now.  The Phals are indoors in the summer, as they don't like getting up to 30+degrees C or getting sun-burned. 
In contrast to the tomatoes, I really loved the flavour of the "Piccolino" cucumber.  I got the seeds from West Coast Seeds.  This plant bears only female flowers that don't require pollination, so it is perfect greenhouse plant.  I have a few yellow spots on the leaves, but then it did dry out occasionally, so I potted it in a bigger pot full of worm compost.  It is good to go now. 
Ripening "Red Robin" cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse

Chicken brooder fixture with plant LED light
There is sunlight in the greenhouse, of course, but I supplement with LED lights.   I've got a variety which I've been trying.  The cheapest option for small areas are these bulbs with E27 bases (standard light base) that screw into a cheap clip-on fixture that you can buy at the hardware store (or a chick brooder lamp fixture).  I buy them on ebay, mostly from overseas.  They provide the pinky light that includes the spectrum that plants need to grow and flower.  As it is dark from 3-4 pm in winter, the lights lengthen the day greatly. 
Giant's Head Mountain - Summerland BC