Thursday, March 19, 2009

Alcohol Treated Tomato Seedlings - Conclusion of 12 Week Experiment

Article #3: This experiment was started 12 weeks ago - January 7 of 2009. About a week after the Tomato Seedlings broke the soil into the light, I begin to feed 1/2 of the survivors a 2.5% solution of water and Gin.

They had been plucked as sprouting seeds from a seed cleaning water solution a week previously. The sprouting came when I had forgotten that they were in a fermenting
bottle for over a month. I think they got tired of waiting for me to dump the water, spread them out to dry, and put them away for later use in the spring.
So,there they were, sprouting like crazy (several hundred seeds)when I discovered them high up on a shelf where they had been set to ferment for a few days before rinsing and drying. A normal process for saving Tomato Seeds.

These seeds were important. Although I had already saved a few of these "Pinks", The largest and last bunch of "Pink Tomato" seeds were in this bottle. I couldn't just flush them down the stool. This was a catastrophe. What could I do?

I searched the garden groups for an answer. Finally, someone mentioned that Cornell University had run an experiment several years ago to see if feeding a certain Flower, a 5% solution of alcohol would produce stronger stems in the end. At the end of the experiment, there was some indication that alcohol did slow the flowers growth. Hmmmmm. Was this my answer? Would it enable me to save my seedlings now in the True Leaf stage? I had already transplanted a couple hundred little Tomato Seedlings to small paper pots (3oz Dixie Cups).

Since I had no idea what a 5% Alcohol Solution would do to my little babies, (I'm very Objective in my plant experiments as you can see...), I decided to use a 2.5% solution of Gin and water.Half the plants were given this solution and half plain tap water. No Fertilizer as I felt that my seedling mix already had some nourishing products in it. [See earlier article on this subject]. Now I realize that these poor plants were underage and it Was a little heartless on my part, but it had to be done! Darnit!

It wasn't enough that I had to torture these poor little plants by feeding them nothing but alcohol and water, but I then stuck them outside in an experimental greenhouse warmed with regular light bulbs and setting in an outdoor growing chamber, lit by 4- 60watt GE Blue light bulbs. This was not only an experiment about Alcohol treated seedlings, It also was the first winter test of the strange little "Greenhouse". It wasn't planned that way but I couldn't grow 200 tomato plants in my closet! Well, I could have, but my wife wouldn't stand for it. So they had to go outside in a Greenhouse shed thing that hadn't even been tested yet. In the bitter January cold!
It's not Really a greenhouse. It's more like a plant growing machine. I haven't even figured out what to call it yet! The Sun never shines on its residents inside. The plants rarely see the light of day One one occasion, sitting on the barely protected patio outback, the wind whistled at 5 to 15 miles per hour. The ambient temperature at 4:30 in the morning was minus 2 degrees and the windchill was minus 10.
A normal Kansas winter morning. Throughout the very early morning, the temperatures continued to fall outside and inside the plant chamber. At about 6:30am The chamber temperature had fallen to 38 degrees and was holding. The plants survived. The Non-treated Tomato seedlings looked droopy and sickly. The Alcohol treated Tomatoes just looked little and sparcly leafed out. Just as they always did! Not much sign of suffering from the cold. In fact after throwing away several plant that didn't make it, there was one more Alcohol Tomato than there was regular watered Tomatoes. 60 and 61.
Amazingly enough, the Alcohol treated Tomatoes clearly survived the coldest night in January with flying colors. How? This is not something I would have suspected. In a human, alcohol in the blood is supposed to make it more dangerous in severe cold. With these plants, alcohol not only didn't seem to hurt them with nearly deadly temperatures, they seemed to do at least as good as the plain watered tomatoes. Maybe better! A curious phenomena.

The Second Crisis was near the end of this test - around the First of March. I had been following a regime of watering and alcohol treating all these plants every 3 days. Then, out of absent-mindedness, I forgot a watering interval. When I discovered my mistake, A huge number of plants were suffering and a several were dead from lack of water. It was then that I introduced the humidity chamber to my "Growing Machine". To little - To late.

After doing the Triage thing on the surviving Tomato seedlings - which by now were ranging from 2 to 3 inches (Alcohol Treated) to 4 to 5 inch Tap Water Treated - It was obvious as you can see in the picture above, the surviving numbers were very lop-sided! The Tap Water Treated plants were hurt severely. The Alcohol Treated plants were hardly effected. The Plants in the picture above - with the Red Picks (Left bunch) are the Alcohol Treated Survivors. The Plants on the Right, with the Blue Picks, are the plain Tap Water Survivors. In the experiment ended with 14 Regular Watered Survivors and 31 Alcohol fed survivors.

By the way, The Red Pick Tomatoes were taken off Alcohol about 3 weeks ago. To see if they would catch up with the others. At the same time, I started feeding both plants a 50% solution of Miracle Grow fertilizer. They had been growing in the chamber for over 9 weeks with no fertilizer at all. It was time to begin ending the experiment and let them grow for planting out soon - in some kind of cold-frame.
You can see the difference in heights, the difference in foliage and the difference in number of survivors of bitter cold conditions in January and nearly dried out conditions in early March.

It's Been Fun. The Survivors of the Alcohol Treated Tomato Seedlings are ready to set out in a cold frame so I can start my regular onions, leeks, cauliflower and other cold weather plants. Now I have to design and build a Cold Frame. Fast! Right Now!!

I hope you liked this 3 part series dealing with Alcohol Fed Tomato Seedlings over the last 12 weeks. The whole experiment kept me so busy what with feeding plants,photographing them and just keeping them alive in sometimes very nasty conditions; Winter just flew by! And April is not far away.

So folks, Next winter, when its cold outside and the sky looks so glum, grab some tomato seeds and invent your own experiment. At the least, people will think your crazy! At the most, you'll have a ball as you get involved with your plants.

Happy Almost Spring!Bob

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