Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hydroponic Farming

It finally rained in SoCal.  A lot.  All at once.  This was the heaviest rain since I put in the fountain garden, and I found out that I didn't punch enough holes in the liner.
The first night, it rained about an inch in 12 hours.  The water rose enough to cover one of the two stepping stones.  There were a few higher clumps of dirt that were covered with little pill bugs trying desperately not to drown.  I held up hope that the drainage slits I cut last year would take care of it and let it go.

The following day, it rained a lot harder.  When I went to check on the pond, one of the lettuces was completely underwater, the bugs had drowned, and the higher stepping stone was about two inches under.  At this point, I realized that I was creating a mosquito breeding area and made efforts to reduce the amount of standing water.  After bailing with a one-quart yogurt container for a gallon or so, I got out the sump pump that had done the original excavation.

I spent several hours over three days attacking that puddle with the pump.  Every time I got it cleared, it rained again.  Finally, the storms passed on Oscar Sunday and I could leave it to dry on its own.

One of my favorite things at Epcot is the boat tour of the farm in the Land pavilion.  They do a lot of hydroponic farming, but part of that method is giving the roots a chance to breathe.  You don't leave them completely submerged, or they'll rot.  My prized cherry tomato plant slowly drowned over the course of a week and I had to rip it out after picking any usable fruit left on it.  The lettuces did a little better.  Except for one butter lettuce, I just trimmed the outer leaves.  They are attempting to resurrect.  Once everything started to dry out for real, Gus started chucking out more spears than I've ever seen at once.  He probably saw me ready to rip out anything dead and was begging for mercy.  They're still too thin to eat, but the plant is definitely making an effort.  The pill bugs have returned, and my cilantro from last year has self-seeded.  My laziness in not dumping out the dirt in the pot has paid off.  Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I'm going to excavate down to the liner and drill a lot of holes.  Then I'll be ready to go vegetable shopping again.

Meanwhile, halfway across the back yard, Artie was having the happiest week of his little artichoke life.  Water hog.  Kale wants to know if we can do this every weekend.  I was surprised that this didn't cause the first round of pumpkin seeds to germinate.  I talked to the guy when I went to buy another packet of seeds, and he said it's just too early.  They need a lot more consistent warmth and sunlight.  I'll keep the hills fenced and weeded until I'm ready to try again at the end of this month or beginning of next.  I'm so impatient.  Meanwhile, their neighboring bushes are truly appreciating that I'm finally watering them.  I didn't know they were flowering shrubs.  They haven't done it in a couple of years.  Oops.

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