Swiss chard is one of my favorite greens. I steam the stalks and leaves and then coat them with a dressing of olive oil, garlic and black pepper. By only harvesting the outer leaves and allowing the inner leaves to keep growing, these plants can provide numerous harvests. I have been growing El Dorado yellow Swiss chard for several months, but the plants are starting to get old, so now I am starting these Flamingo Pink plants. Hopefully I can get some decent harvests from these plants before my indoor grow room gets too hot in the summer.
Day 0. Plants started from seed (Baker Creek). Seeds sowed in 1.5-inch rockwool cubes in 2-inch net-pot. Used 2 rockwool cubes, with 2-3 seeds per cube. Moistened with Seedling Blend, a dilute blend of fertilizers. N-P-K (in ppm): 22-29-16.
Day 4. The seeds have germinated, and were placed directly under a fluorescent light (spiral bulb, 23W, 6500k) for 18 hours per day. The bulb is positioned 3-4 inches above the plants.
Day 11. Plants are now being put into a sunny window for 3 hours per day, then back under the fluorescent light for an additional 15 hours.
Day 14. Plants transferred to small plastic jars containing 3 cups of Regular-Strength Blend. N-P-K (in ppm): 103-95-202.
Day 21. Installed the plants into two 5 gallon buckets using the Masterblend-based Regular-Strength Blend. Plants will continue to grow indoors, placed in front of a sunny window where they will receive 4 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):
Day 28. Installed white PVC couplings around the base of the plants to help them stand upright.
Day 69. Began to harvest lower leaves. Added more Regular-Strength Blend to each bucket. Left bucket: 1.5 gallons. Right bucket: 0.5 gallons.
Day 81. The leaves of the plant on the left are turning brown, possibly due to a fungal infection on the roots. Before the leaf quality can deteriorate any further, the entire plant was harvested at this time.
After a long and hot summer, my indoor grow room is just about empty, so I have lots of room to start up a large batch of new plants. For a while, I have been wanting to do an experiment to determine whether aerating the fluid in the buckets would be beneficial for plant growth. My general approach with Bucket Hydroponics has been to ‘Keep It Simple’, but I am curious about whether aeration would provide a significant benefit.
In this experiment, I will be growing El Dorado Swiss Chard. Half of the plants will receive aeration, and the plants will be grown in 5 gallon buckets. I will sow enough seeds for 15 plants, and I will pick out the best plants for the experiment.
For aeration, I will be using the General Hydroponics Dual Diaphragm air pump, model GH2716. I bought this pump used from my local hydroponics store for $40, so my investment is not large. This pump is a bit noisy for using inside my house, so I will have to see some real benefits to justify its use.
Sep 25 = Day 0. 15 plants started from seed (Park Seed). Seeds sowed in 1.5 inch rockwool cube in 2 inch net-pot. Moistened with Seedling Blend, a dilute blend of fertilizers. N-P-K (in ppm): 22-29-16.
Sep 27 = Day 2. 4 of 15 plants have germinated. Placed seedlings directly under a fluorescent light (2 ft. T8 bulb, 17W, 6500k) for 16 hours per day.
Sep 28 = Day 3. 8 of 15 plants have now germinated.
Sep 30 = Day 5. 12 of 15 plants have now germinated, but 4 of the plants are growing too leggy and are falling over, or have a bit of mold on the stems. These 4 plants were discarded. The remaining plants were put into a sunny window with a small fan blowing on them for 3 hours per day, in an attempt to toughen up these plants. The rest of the day, the plants are under the fluorescent lights.
Oct 5 = Day 10. Plants are still getting too leggy, so they were moved directly under an LED grow light for 11 hours per day, with a fan blowing on them.
Oct 8 = Day 13. Installed the plants into 5 gallon buckets using the Masterblend-based Regular-Strength Blend. N-P-K (in ppm): 103-95-202. Plants continue to receive 11 hours of light per day from the LED grow light. Additionally, 3 of the buckets are getting aeration from small air stones connected to the GH2716 air pump. The other 2 buckets are non-aerated. In some of the buckets, more than one plant is growing in the rockwool cube; I am planning to thin down to 1 plant per bucket eventually.
Oct 19 = Day 24. The plants are growing, but they tend to flop over and have difficulty standing upright. The grow room is still too hot at this time of the year, fluctuating daily between 75-80 °F. Checking the quality of the solutions, the aerated fluid is crystal clear, while the non-aerated fluid seems cloudy and turbid.
Nov 6 = Day 43. Thinned down to 1 plant per bucket.
Nov 13 = Day 50. The plants are getting larger, and they were starting to flop over, so I installed rigid collars to keep the plants upright. The best collars are shown on the left, consisting of 4 inch ABS couplings. The ABS collars are heavy and stable. Other collars were made of cardboard, but these did not work quite as well as the ABS couplings. I placed the ABS collars on the 2 largest plants, the ones in the non-aerated buckets.
Nov 18 = Day 55. The plants without aeration are clearly bigger than the plants in the aerated buckets. The experiment was concluded at this time. The result of this study is surprising, I had expected that aeration would provide some benefits to the plant growth, but it did not. Perhaps the aeration resulted in turbulence to the roots in the bucket, which was inhibitory to growth. On a positive note, the fluid in the aerated buckets was very clear and clean. In contrast, the fluid in the non-aerated buckets is slightly cloudy, and the stagnant fluid has a ‘skin’ on the top with lots of precipitates at the bottom of the bucket. Movement of the fluid within the bucket is helpful for keeping the fluid fresh and clean, but is not necessary for healthy plants.
The 3 plants in the aerated buckets were harvested. The pH of the fluid in the buckets was measured: 4.5, 5.0, 6.5. I’m not sure why these buckets had different pH values.
The 2 plants in the non-aerated buckets were allowed to continue growing. These plants were placed in front of a window receiving about 3 hours of sunlight per day. The use of the LED grow light was discontinued. The pH of the fluid in the buckets was measured: both buckets read 4.5. Since this is a bit on the low side for optimal plant growth, the pH was raised up to 6.0 by the addition of 5 mL of pH Up diluted in 1 cup of tap water.
Dec 30 = Day 97. Started harvesting lower leaves.
Feb 3 = Day 132. I have had 3-4 big harvests of leaves. The plants are still going strong. Checked the pH of the fluid in the two buckets. Both were 6.0.
Mar 13 = Day 170. Both buckets were getting a bit light, so I added 1.25 gallons of Regular-Strength Blend to each bucket.
Sep 4 = Day 345. After almost a year of growing, I am finally going to harvest the remaining leaves. I find that the stalks are a bit fibrous and inedible, but the leaves are still OK for steaming. Each bucket has about 0.5 gallon of fluid remaining.
Swiss chard seems to do very well in the Bucket Hydroponics system. This variety of chard is characterized by beautiful pink stalks.
May 28, 2016 = Day 0. Plants started from seed (Baker Creek). Seeds sowed in 1.5-inch rockwool cube in 2-inch net-pot. Moistened with Seedling Blend, a dilute blend of fertilizers. N-P-K (in ppm): 22-29-16.
May 30 = Day 2. Plant germinated, placed directly under a fluorescent light (2 ft. T8 bulb, 17W, 6500k) for 16 hours per day.
Jun 15 = Day 18. Installed plant into a 2-gallon bucket using Jungle Juice Blend, a regular-strength fertilizer blend. N-P-K (in ppm): 113-79-147. Plant moved to indoor grow room, receiving 9 hours LED grow light per day.
Aug 4 = Day 68. Container was almost empty, so I added 0.75 gallon of fresh fluid, this time using the Masterblend-based Regular-Strength Blend. N-P-K (in ppm): 103-95-202.
Aug 13 = Day 77. Harvested entire plant. Total fluid used = 2.5 gallons.
May 2, 2016 = Day 0. Plant started from seed (Park Seed Co.). Seeds sowed in 1.5-inch rockwool cube in 2-inch net-pot. Moistened with dilute fertilizer solution (1.2 mL Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow, 0.8 mL pH Down per gallon of tap water). Nutrient concentrations (in ppm): N 22, P 29, K 16, Ca 6, Mg 1.6, S 0.2, Fe 0.3, Mn 0.2, B 0.1, Zn 0.2, Cu 0.2, Mo 0.003, Ni 0.0003, Co 0.005. pH = 6.0.
May 5 = Day 3. Plant germinated, placed directly under a fluorescent light (2 ft. T8 bulb, 17W, 6500k) for 16 hours per day.
May 21 = Day 19. Installed plant into 2-gallon bucket. Hydroponic solution composed of 2 gal (7.6 L) tap water, 30 mL 250x Masterblend 4-18-38, 30 mL 250x calcium nitrate, 30 mL 250x magnesium sulfate, 0.4 mL Dyna-Gro Pro-TeKt, 2 mL pH Down. (This solution is equivalent to 2 gallons water, 4 g Masterblend, 4 g calcium nitrate, 2 g magnesium sulfate). Nutrient concentrations (in ppm): N 103, P 95, K 202, Ca 100, Mg 29, S 34, Fe 2.1, Mn 1.1, B 1.1, Zn 0.3, Cu 0.3, Mo 0.05, Si 4. pH = 6.0. Plant moved to indoor grow room, receiving 8 hours LED grow light per day.
Jul 22 = Day 81. Harvested most of the leaves, just left a few in the center. Fluid was almost completely gone, so I added 0.75 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.
Aug 4 = Day 94. Added 0.5 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.
Aug 13 = Day 103. Harvested all remaining leaves. Total fluid used = 2.3 gallons.
Swiss chard is a tasty and nutritious green. Delicious when steamed and then drizzled with olive oil and garlic. I have grown this plant hydroponically, and the plants can get huge – as large as 3 feet in diameter!
Feb 3, 2016 = Day 0. Plants started from seed (Baker Creek). Seeds sowed in 1.5-inch rockwool cube in 2-inch net-pot. Moistened with dilute fertilizer solution: 1.2 mL Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow, 0.8 mL pH Down per gallon of tap water. Nutrient concentrations (in ppm): N 22, P 29, K 16, Ca 6, Mg 1.6, S 0.2, Fe 0.3, Mn 0.2, B 0.1, Zn 0.2, Cu 0.2, Mo 0.003, Ni 0.0003, Co 0.005. pH = 6.0.
Feb 9 = Day 6. Plants germinated, placed directly under a fluorescent light (2 ft. T8 bulb, 17W, 6500k) for 14-16 hours per day.
Feb 20 = Day 17. Installed plant into 1-gallon plastic container (Orgain). Hydroponic solution composed of 1 gal tap water, 6 mL Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow. Nutrient concentrations (in ppm): N 111, P 143, K 79, Ca 32, Mg 8, S 0.8, Fe 1.6, Mn 0.8, B 0.3, Zn 0.8, Cu 0.8, Mo 0.01, Ni 0.002, Co 0.024. pH = 6.0. No pH adjustment required.
Feb 24 = Day 21. Moved plant to indoor grow room. Plant receives 9 hours LED grow light plus 3 hours sunlight per day.
Mar 1 = Day 27. Based on information obtained in this post and this post, it seems that the pH of the Liquid Grow-based hydroponic solution tends to drop below 4.0 by the end of the growing period, which is not ideal for nutrient uptake. Therefore, I have switched to a Masterblend-based solution. Nutrient concentrations (in ppm): N 103, P 95, K 202, Ca 100, Mg 29, S 34, Fe 2.1, Mn 1.1, B 1.1, Zn 0.3, Cu 0.3, Mo 0.05, Si 4. pH = 6.0.
Mar 22 = Day 48. Plant is getting large and having trouble standing upright. Placed the 1-gallon container inside a 5-gallon bucket, to hold the leaves upright.
Mar 27 = Day 53. Added 4 cups (0.25 gal) fresh hydroponic fluid.
Mar 31 = Day 57. Added 4 cups (0.25 gal) fresh hydroponic fluid.
Apr 20 = Day 77. Harvested all leaves. The longest leaves were 24 inches long! Total fluid usage = 2.25 gallons.
Prepared the Swiss chard by cutting the stems into 3-inch long pieces and steaming for 5 minutes. The chopped leaves were then added to steamer for an 3 additional minutes. Cooked chard was coated with a dressing of olive oil, freshly minced garlic, and black pepper.