BASIC PRINCIPALS; Plant foliage requires light, oxygen and carbon dioxide. Plant root systems require water, nutrients and oxygen. When plants are grown normally water leeches nutrients from the soil and carries them to the roots. The water and nutrients are taken up by the roots to feed plant growth. Soil drainage then allows water to be replaced by air in the gaps between soil grains. This supplies the roots with oxygen.
In hydroponics the nutrients are dissolved in the water. Soil is replaced with a growing medium to supply the roots with water, nutrients and oxygen. Hydro juice (nutrient solution) can be drip fed to each plant, it can also be used to regularly flood the root chamber, then drain out. Both methods require a pump and timer to circulate the nutrients through the roots and are covered by these diagrams and notes. Roots can also be grown in the air by spraying roots with a fine mist of hydro juice, or grown in the hydro juice and the solution aerated under each root mass with an air pump. With both of the second two methods the plants must secured at the base of the stem or something.
The hydroponic system described does work and is suitable for any plant with stringy roots. I have not tried it with any bulb plants or plants such as orchids that require fungus or mold in the soil to grow. This method is similar to Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) the thin Rockwool slice acting as a capillary mat. This eliminates the need to have flat bottom the root chamber and to level the bottom of root chamber, making easier and cheaper to set up.
This method will get the most vigorous growth if each plant has it’s own continuos drip feed. The dripper is positioned drip on roots growing from the base of the seedling block, the roots will grow thick, hairy and compact under the dripper. 4L per hour dripper are used however their drip rate depends pressure, this is effected by height and size of the drip feed tank. The drip rate will slow as the tank empties.
Feeding can also be achieved with faster dripper at the top of each top end of each side of the root chamber. The plants grown like this had a large root mass, the roots of three plant taking up about a third of the root chamber. With the timer I had could only flood the root chamber every 4 hours, the growth rate was similar to the last. The growth rate will improve by flooding every hour or even less. After the root chamber is flooded it should drain to a trickle in a few minutes.
STARTING PLANTS; Soak seeds in damp paper or cotton wool, cover seed with damp paper or cloth, drian off excess water and don’t allow to dry out. When the seed root is 2 – 5mm. long place the seed root first in the small hole with tweezers (fig.3). Make sure the root is protected by the open jaws of the tweezers and that the seed or root isn’t squashed. Then place seedling block hole up on a plate and wet Rockwool until it won’t take any more water. Keep the plate on an angle for drainage, but the seedling blocks shouldn’t dry out too much and seedling should come up in a few days. Seedlings can stay on the plate until roots grow from the bottom or sides of the seedling block (fig.4).When this happens seedling are ready to transplanted on to the Rockwool mat in the root chamber. (Before the seedling blocks go into the root chamber the rookwool is soaked in water 24 hours then with hydro juice at half strength.) Roots will grow from seedling block, through and along the under side of the Rockwool mats. Place three to eight plants per side, evenly spaced along the slot, and it will soon grow into mass of green. When the system is operational and plants are growing, the inside of the root chamber should have a rich earthy smell. Three or four plants if your growing them big (outdoors ), eight if your growing fast and flowering early ( under lights ).
When the roots grow from the bottem or sides of the Rockwool block it’s ready to transplant into the grow tube. Once the roots have grown into the mat tou can hit them with full stength hydro juice. Light proof plastic should be used to cover the top of the root chamber white side up, this is to stop green slime growing on the rockwool. This can only be done when the plant is tall enough, take care not strain or damage the plant.
Many seeds require special conditions to germinate. For example, most garden vegetables and herb seeds need to remain damp or wet for some time.
Seeds can be germinated in a hydroponic grower, and often they germinate even better than in soil.
Most seeds are placed below the surface of the media. A suggested placement is from ½ to 1 inch below the surface. This keeps the seed very moist and will give it some feel for when the light is and where the dark is. The root of the plant will grow down towards the dark and the water, and the plant stem and leaves will go towards the light.
Many seed packets include instructions for soil and mention how deep to bury the seeds. They can be planted at the same depth in hydroponics.
Some seeds, like beans and corn, will germinate in just a few days. Some others, such as tomato, bell pepper and herbs may take as long as two weeks until they appear. Growers with seeds should be watered each day although no plants are showing. If you do not see any sign of life after two weeks, it is best to replant the grower.
Occasionally the grower root area will be so cold or so dry, the seeds will not germinate.
To germinate very small seeds like many herbs, a special form of germination may be required. One way is to start the seeds between two pieces of paper or a towel soaked with water. The towel is kept moist each day.
Germinating some types of seeds is more complicated than just soaking in water. Some seeds need to be damaged in some way to germinate, and others are specialized to respond to periods of temperature or light. If there something you would like to grow, it might help to learn what the seed requirements are to germinate.
Other Methods of Reproducing
Some plants can reproduce from cuttings. This means cutting a small part of the growing tip of a plant, pulling off the bottom leaves and sticking the cut end into the growing media. Some of the plants that can be reproduced from cuttings are basils and many of the herbs.
Garlic reproduces from individual garlic cloves. Some of the garlic in the grocery store is treated and will not sprout. An organic garlic is more likely to sprout.
Potatoes are grown from a planted potato. The potato can be cut into pieces or planted whole.
ROOT CHAMBER; The Root Chamber is made from 90mm. PVC storm water pipe. This type is used for all new building constructions so off cut are about. A selection of 90mm. PVC storm water pipe and 90mm. fittings are available at large hardware stores. Fittings include right angles, tee junctions, end caps and others. These can be used to make the root camber suit any room. The root camber show in Diagrams (fig.5,6,7) is made with two lengths about 1 miter for the sides, 2 lengths about of 600mm. for the ends and 4 right angles for the corners. PVC pipe glue is used to make all joins water tight. A slot is cut in the top of each side providing access to change growing medium and remove root mass. Holes instead of a slot may be used for each plant but another way of access must be used. A drain hole or holes are drilled in the bottom of one end of the root chamber and a flood hole is drilled in the top of the other end. The root chamber is mounted on an angle with drain end below then the flood end. This is to ensure that the roots don’t get water logged. Too much of an angle will cause the Rockwell and roots to dry out at the high end.
FLOOD AND DRAIN.
A flood and drain system requires a timer, a pump and a drain tank to catch the hydro juice. Hose is run from the bottom of the drain tank to the pump inlet. Hose is run from pump outlet to the hole in the top of the flood (high) end of the root chamber. The pump inlet is below the bottom the drain tank. As the drain tank is filling hydro juice flows through to the pump inlet through the pump and up the flood hose till level with the hydro juice in the tank. This is to prime the pump as the pump can’t suck air, it can only push out what flows in the inlet. The timer runs the pump for 1 minute and the hydro juice fills about half the root chamber. If chamber over flows increase size of drain holes. If a hose is used at the drain end, it must not cause hydro juice to stand at the drain end. A recycling type bin is ideal for the drain tank (see end of Drip Feed section to attach hose to drain tank). Putting the pump on the floor and the drain tank on bricks should raise it enough prime the pump.
EBB AND FLOW (FLOOD AND DRAIN)
The Ebb and Flow system works by temporarily flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into the reservoir. This action is normally done with a submerged pump that is connected to a timer. When the timer turns the pump on nutrient solution is pumped into the grow tray. When the timer shuts the pump off the nutrient solution flows back into the reservoir. The Timer is set to come on several times a day, depending on the size and type of plants, temperature and humidity and the type of growing medium used. The Ebb and Flow is a versatile system that can be used with a variety of growing mediums. The entire grow tray can be filled with Grow Rocks, gravel or granular Rockwool. Many people like to use individual pots filled with growing medium, this makes it easier to move plants around or even move them in or out of the system. The main disadvantage of this type of system is that with some types of growing medium (Gravel, Growrocks, Perlite), there is a vulnerability to power outages as well as pump and timer failures. The roots can dry out quickly when the watering cycles are interrupted. This problem can be relieved somewhat by using growing media that retains more water (Rockwool, Vermiculite, coconut fiber or a good soiless mix like Pro-mix or Faffard’s).
Drip Feed System.
This feed system has a dripper for each plant. Dripping the hydro juice directly on the top of the root mass should stop the plant from sending out long roots in search of food. Resulting in more growth on top or so the theory goes. The drip system uses a drip feed tank about one meter above the drippers and reticulation system.
Reticulation is via 13mm. poly tube to just above the root chamber. A hole is punched in the 13mm. tube. A 4mm. adapter is screwed into the hole. Then 4mm. poly tube is attached to the 4mm. adapter. A dripper is attached to the other end of the 4mm. tube. The 4mm poly tube should be kept as short as possible so there is enough pressure to start the drippers. Barbed right angles and tee’s are used to route the 13mm. poly tube close to each plant. The top of the 13 mm. poly tube is about 50mm. below the bottom of the drip feed tank. A 13mm. to snap-on adapter is fitted to the top of the 13mm. poly tube. If the 13 mm. poly tube is positioned at right angles to the slot and the 4mm. adapter, 4 mm. poly tube and the dripper positioned over the slot. Any leakage at the joins in the poly tube will drip into the slot preventing loss of hydro juice.
A 42 liter plastic garbage bin and lid is used for the drip feed tank. Snap-on fittings and 13mm. garden hose connect the bottom of the drip feed tank to the to 13mm. poly tube. They also connect the pump outlet hose to the top of the drip feed tank. A Stop Snap-on is used where the garden hose connects to the Snap-on adapter on the 13mm. poly tube. This prevents the hydro juice flowing from when the Snap-on is removed from the 13mm. poly tube. To convert from flood and drain to drip feed. Move the pump outlet hose from the flood inlet on top of the root chamber, to the top of the drip feed tank.
Snap-on universal sprinkler adapter are used to connect hoses to the side of the drip feed tank . These are a Snap-on to 13mm. thread adapter. There is also a 20mm. thread that screws onto a 13mm. thread. A hole no larger than the 13mm. thread is drilled in the side of the tank. The 13mm. thread is pushed through the hole from the outside of the tank. Now the 20mm. thread is screwed on to the 13mm. thread inside the tank creating a water tight seal. Make sure the hole is away from obstructions inside the tank that would prevent the 20mm. thread from attaching to the 13mm. thread. This method is used for all tanks and also for the pump outlet hose connection to the top of the flood end of the root chamber.
Drip systems are probably the most widely used type of hydroponic system in the world. Operation is simple, a timer controls a submersed pump. The timer turns the pump on and nutrient solution is dripped onto the base of each plant by a small drip line. In a Recovery Drip System the excess nutrient solution that runs off is collected back in the reservoir for re-use. The Non-Recovery System does not collect the run off.
A recovery system uses nutrient solution a bit more efficiently, as excess solution is reused, this also allows for the use of a more inexpensive timer because a recovery system doesn’t require precise control of the watering cycles. The non-recovery system needs to have a more precise timer so that watering cycles can be adjusted to insure that the plants get enough nutrient solution and the runoff is kept to a minimum.
The non-recovery system requires less maintenance due to the fact that the excess nutrient solution isn’t recycled back into the reservoir, so the nutrient strength and pH of the reservoir will not vary. This means that you can fill the reservoir with pH adjusted nutrient solution and then forget it until you need to mix more. A recovery system can have large shifts in the pH and nutrient strength levels that require periodic checking and adjusting.
12 Plant Patio Table Garden System.
Drill the 12 holes for the bottles and two in the center for the overflow pipe. Make sure you drill between the braces under the table.
The 1/2 inch PVC pipe is hidden under the table where it isn’t seen from the top.
How Growing Vegetables Can Save You Money
If you are like most people, you are looking for a way to cut corners and save some money. There are a few things that you can do to save money today. You can travel less and use less gasoline. You can cut down on utility expenses by not using so much electricity and heat. You can eliminate eating out and eat at home. Perhaps you are already doing this but need to save more money. One way that you can save a lot of money is with your food bill. And with food prices going up, this may end up being a necessity. Not only can you save money on your food bill, but you can also start eating healthier.
You have probably heard about organic foods. These are foods that are all natural and do not contain any chemicals or preservatives. Organic vegetables are in your local supermarket and usually cost a lot more than the other vegetables that are grown using chemical pesticides and other toxins. You have probably heard that organic vegetables are better for you, but do not want to spend the extra money. After all, the idea is to save money – right? So spending extra money on organic vegetables, that are usually smaller than other vegetables can seem like a bad financial deal. And if you are like most of us, you are looking to get more bang out of your buck. Especially at the supermarket.
The way to really save money and eat healthy at the same time is to grow your own vegetables. This can trim your food bill substantially, depending on the amount of vegetables that you grow. If you have a patch of ground, you can save money by growing your own vegetables in the soil and wind up with vegetables and fruits that are healthier than those that you buy in the store. You can save at least $100 a month by growing your own vegetables and this savings, if you take the tips in this book, can be used after the harvest time if you learn how to preserve the various vegetables and fruits.
Think of what you can do with $100 a month. It can pay a couple of bills for you or just ease the burden for you a bit. And this savings can continue to blossom. You will see savings in your food bills every month when you start to grow your own vegetables. Of course, you will have to wait until harvest time to start to really start saving the money, but after your first harvest, you can save money all year long using the tips in this book. There are also tips that I will give you that will enable you to start saving money relatively soon with herbs.
It takes work to plant and harvest a vegetable garden, but it is good work. Working in a garden and planting vegetables or fruits is actually therapeutic. Many people enjoy being outdoors and gardening just for the heck of it. When you are saving money because of your endeavors, it makes the experience even better. The hard work is getting your garden started and harvesting as well as preserving the foods. Breaking this down, this consists of about 4 days out of the year. The rest is just maintenance. Four days is not much to ask when it comes to saving $100 a month on your grocery bills.
And best of all, you can start right now. Spring is the perfect planting time for a vegetable garden. By harvest time, which will be in July or August, you will be well on your way to start saving money.
If you are ready to start saving $100 a month in your food bill by growing your own vegetables, take the tips in this book and put them to use. Eat healthy foods and stop wasting your money at the grocery store.
Vegetables Gardens – An Old Idea
Most of us today do not remember victory gardens. These were gardens that people planted during WWII to supplement rations during the war. During WWII, just about everything was rationed, including food. So people began to supplement that rationing with food from their own garden. Because the country was at war, the gardens that people used to supplement their war rations were dubbed Victory Gardens.
The country is currently at war with a recession. A war that requires a victory. Isn’t it about time for Victory Gardens again? Just as our grandparents and great grandparents created victory gardens during WWII, we can do the same today. We aren’t on food rations, although some of us might as well be. With an increasing number of people losing their jobs and facing home foreclosures, some of us may be rationing ourselves.
We don’t have to feel helpless in the face of recession. We can do something about it. We can declare victory against the recession by planting our own victory gardens. All you need is a plot of soil and plants. The cost to prepare a garden is minimal, especially when you consider that it can save you $100 a month or more by growing your own vegetables.
Growing Vegetables From Seeds Or Plants
If you are planning on starting a vegetable garden to save money the first thing that you need to consider is whether you are going to start from seeds or plants. Seeds are much less expensive, but take longer to grow. You need to grow plants from seeds in an indoor environment if you live in a four season climate. If you are planning on planting your garden soon for a late summer harvest, then you need to use plants. You can buy vegetable plants at any gardening center. They are much sturdier to put into the ground and have a better chance of taking root and producing vegetables. There are pros and cons to using both seeds and plants when it comes to growing your own vegetables.
Seeds – Pros and Cons
Seed come in packets and you can purchase them at most gardening and big box stores. The best aspects about using seeds is that you can grow them yourself into plants in your own home and make sure that the soil you use as well as any plant food used is organic. The seeds are also much less expensive than plants. There is also the satisfaction that you will gain when you are growing your own seeds for your plants.
The negative aspects about seeds is that you need more time to grow them so that they can take root. If you live in a four season climate, you need to grow the seeds indoors so that they can grow into sturdy plants before you can put them in the ground.
If you live in a climate that is warm, you can put down seeds and get them to grow into plants after sowing them in the ground. Seeds are also used for larger garden areas as it would be impractical to use plants.
Plants – Pros and Cons
You can find plants that can be used for your vegetable garden in any garden store. They are ready to plant and will produce fruit or vegetables. Plants are easy to use and if this is your first garden, they can be easier to space. Plant are already sturdy enough to be transferred to the ground and will bear fruit or vegetables.
The negative aspect of using plants is the cost. They tend to cost more than seeds. They are also often grown in soil that is filled with pesticides. If you decide to use plants instead of seeds, look for those that have been grown organically.
If you are a first time gardener, you may prefer to use plants over seeds. What many gardeners do, and what I did, is to use plants in your first garden so that you can get the garden seasoned and become familiar with planting and harvesting. Then the next year, you can cultivate your own plants from seeds.
Remember that if you live in a four season climate, you will want to use plants for your first garden as they have already taken root and are easier to grow. As you become more adept at gardening, you an start to easily grow vegetables from seeds.
What To Grow
After you have figured out the concept of planting with seeds or plants, you can then decide what you want to grow. Naturally, for your first project you will want to make it easy on yourself. Some of the easiest fruits and vegetables that you can grow include the following:
- Squash (including pumpkins)
- Lima beans
These are all easy fruits and vegetables to grow. As we all have been told hundreds of times since childhood, tomatoes are a fruit and not a vegetable, so we will call them what they are, although for all intent purposes, they are treated and eaten as vegetables.
Tomatoes are the easiest of all of the fruits/vegetables to grow. Not only that, but they are also easy to can. We will talk about preserving vegetables for use throughout the year in later chapters. Suffice to say, that tomatoes, because they are fruits, are easy to can using a hot water bath.
You can find a garden store close to home or one that is online. If you live in a four season climate, chances are that you will be able to grow all of the above and more These are the vegetables that you want to get started with.
Of course, if you plan to grow all of these vegetables, you will need a sizeable garden. You can choose the vegetables that your family eats most of all of the time and grow them. You should also consider storage. Growing lettuce, for example, is great for salads and relatively easy to do, but it does not freeze or preserve. Turnips, carrots, onions and potatoes will keep well in a root cellar and will store for the winter. If you do not have a root cellar, you can make one when you follow the instructions that are in this book. It’s not hard and just takes a bid of digging and keeping an area water proof. If you have your own cellar, you can save the trouble.
The worst thing that you can do when you are starting your own garden, is to get overwhelmed by planting too many vegetables. Think of those that you buy often, or would like to buy often, and go with them. As for me, I chose the root vegetables, tomatoes, peppers and broccoli. This year, I will grow squash and corn along with the vegetables I grew last year. I am also growing several vegetables from seeds.
Start out with a few vegetables that you eat often and each year, add a new vegetable to your garden. By growing the vegetables that you use often, you can save a lot of money every month on your food bill. The amount of money that you save each month will depend on how large the garden and how many vegetables you consume. Remember that you will be saving some of them, in various ways, to use for the winter months spring before the next harvest.
Space is a factor when you are planning your vegetable garden. Some vegetables or fruits, such as tomatoes and peppers, do not require a lot of room for growth. Root vegetables are also easy to grow as they grow down into the ground and do not take up a lot of room. Corn and squash take a lot more space so you may have to clear more room for them.
Another factor that you have to consider when you are growing vegetables to save money is that they may not look like those you see in the store. Many vegetables that are grown for mass production are aided with food dyes and waxed so that they look more attractive in the store. Your home grown vegetables are not likely to be as large, or as colorful, as the vegetables that you grow in the store. But they will be organic and healthier. And when it comes to taste, they will also taste just as good if not better than those that you purchase in the store.
Once you have established the vegetables that you are planning on growing, you must then learn the planting and harvesting times for these vegetables. Most vegetables are planted in the early to late spring, after the weather breaks and it is not likely to have a frost. Harvest time for most vegetables comes in early to late summer to early fall, depending on the vegetables. Tomatoes, for example, will be harvested early. As will peppers and cucumbers and some squash, as zucchini. Other vegetables are harvested a bit later such as the root vegetables. Usually, the longer you can keep them in the ground, the better. When the leaves start to get brittle, it is time to dig them up. Corn and squash are autumn harvest, such as pumpkins and butternut squash. Lettuce and eggplants are harvested in late summer and early autumn.
Much depends on the region where you live. In some areas of the country, you can get corn in August. Tomatoes are usually harvested from July to August, but can be later in some parts of the country, especially in the warmer weather. There are different rules for harvesting on the East Coast than there are in the Midwest regions of the country. Here is a list of when you can (roughly) expect to harvest the above mentioned vegetables:
- Tomatoes – Harvest in early summer to late summer (July and August).
- Peppers – Harvest in mid summer to early autumn (Late July to September)
- Cucumbers – Harvest in mid summer to early autumn (Late July to September)
- Onions – Harvest in mid to late summer (August to early September)
- Eggplant – Harvest in mid summer to late summer (Late July to August)
- Potatoes – Harvest in early autumn to late autumn (September to early October)
- Lettuce – Harvest in Late summer (August to early September)
- Squash – Harvest in early to late autumn (late September to mid October)
- Turnips – Harvest in mid autumn (September)
- Carrots – Harvest in mid autumn (September)
- Lima Beans – Harvest in mid summer (August)
- Corn – Harvest in late August (in some areas) to September
- Broccoli – Harvest in mid to late summer (August to early September)
Once you have an idea of what you want to grow and when you can expect the vegetables (or fruits) to be ready for harvest, you can then start getting your garden ready to grow.
Measuring the Garden Area
The amount of garden area that you need depends on what you plan to grow in your garden as well as the amount of space that you have in which to create a garden. While some people make do with a small patch of land, you have most likely seen others who have an entire back yard devoted to gardening. My advice to you is this – use up as much space as you can spare. The tips given in this book will not only help you save money because you are growing fresh vegetables instead of buying them, but it will also save money when it comes to storing them.
A friend of mine decide one year to have a tomato garden. This was a long time ago, before I knew anything about gardening or how to preserve certain foods. She and her husband planted 40 tomato plants in their garden. The entire garden consisted of tomatoes.
If you have never grown anything, you should know that tomatoes are the easiest of all of the garden vegetables (even though it’s a fruit) to grow. Her tomatoes came out in full bloom and then started producing fruit. Pretty soon, my friend was giving tomatoes to just about everyone she knew, including the mailman. The entire neighborhood was tomatoes out and she vowed not to do this again. A great many tomatoes went to waste and a great deal of bunnies were happy. But this didn’t have to be the case.
Had my friend known that canning tomatoes is one of the simplest of all garden fruit and vegetables preservation, she could have had tomatoes, sauce, salsa and just about anything for the entire year.
IF YOU HAVE THE GROUND – PLANT THE VEGETABLES
If you have the ground, plant the vegetables. Always consider that some plants may not do well. Despite your best efforts, some crops will be eaten by sneaky critters like rabbits (although I will give you tips on how to deal with that) and some will just not work out. Every garden has duds.
While you do not want to start out with a garden that is overwhelming and takes up your entire backyard, you do not want to have a small garden that only produces a few fruits and vegetables and does not really save you any money. Remember, your victory garden should be one that will save you money not only in the months of the harvest, but for the year afterward. So you need to have plenty of room.
Section off a piece of land in your yard where the garden will grow. Bear in mind that certain vegetables, like corn and potatoes, take more room in which to grow. Tomatoes grow up and can be confined to a smaller space. Others, especially the root vegetables, need a foot between them to grow properly and not get entangled in the ground.
Also keep in mind that you need to have space between the rows of crops in order to maintain the garden. A friend of mine had a great idea to build a tomato garden in a small patch of ground on the side of the house. She figured she could get 10 tomato plants in their easily. She planted them, watered them, made sure they climbed their cages, but had no where to walk. Once the tomatoes had grown, she couldn’t get into the garden without stepping all over the plants. Do not let this happen to you. You need to have rows between the crops where you can work so that you can properly maintain the growing crops and, when harvest time comes, harvest them as well.
After you have marked off the area where you are going to plan your garden, you need to then start to prepare the supplies you will need to get the garden going. You can get the following supplies from the garden store, or borrow them from a neighbor:
- Garden gloves. You will need these throughout your gardening, so be sure to get a good pair.
- Garden Hoe
- Garden Spade
- Garden rake
- Chicken wire or some fencing material to keep the garden contained and the animals out.
These are the materials that you will need to dig up the garden and get it ready for planting. Some people rent a rototiller to turn over the soil in the garden. This does the job quickly in a large vegetable garden, but costs money to rent. It is also a heavy piece of machinery and can be difficult to maneuver. I always preferred using the old fashioned garden tools, but if you are strong enough to use this battery operated or electrical power device, then you might want to go for it. You are going to need to turn the soil over in order to get it prepared for gardening.
Also, take a look at the dirt that you have under your lawn. Chances are it is black dirt, like clay. This is difficult soil in which to grow crops. You need to have good soil and may want to pick up some bags of potting soil for your crops. If the dirt is hard and seems like clay, then you need to mix in some good top so that your vegetables will grow. As you continue to grow the garden, the more nutrient rich the soil will become. As years go on, the garden soil takes on a life of its own so that you will not need top soil.
It is a good idea to stake off where you want to have your garden with some stakes and string. This way you know where you plan to dig and will have an even looking garden. After you have prepared the area by sectioning it off and getting the necessary supplies that you need to prepare the garden, you can then start digging.
Preparing The Soil
This is the hardest part of growing your own vegetables. It is hard labor to dig up the soil and turn it. It is even more difficult if you have grass or rocks in the place where you want to have your garden. If you have grass, for example, you will want to dig up the grass and put it in the wheelbarrow, taking it to a compost heap in your yard and getting rid of it. You are going to need a lot more soil in the area as you will have several inches dug into the ground when you are finished.
Use the wheelbarrow to transport the grass or weeds that you did up and get rid of them. The soil for your garden should be as pure as possible and devoid of any weeds, rocks or clay. If you are stuck with clay under the grass, you can turn it over with the spade and mix in some good top soil.
START BY DIGGING
Start by digging out a small section of the ground and continue going until you have dug up the entire garden. It is best to do this a day after a rain. Not just after a rain, otherwise it will be very muddy. But if you do this after it has rained within a few days, the ground will be a lot softer and easier to manage.
Once you get rid of all of the rocks, weeds and grass, you can then start to turn over the soil. You do this by using the spade to dig up the soil and then flipping it over. You should do this throughout the entire garden. You can use the end of the spade to chop up any clumps in the soil. The soil needs to be as smooth as possible before you plant.
After you have turned over all of the soil, use the garden hoe to chop up the soil even more. You can make the soil have a fine consistency if you so choose, but you have to work at it. You have to keep chopping and tilling the soil.
If you want to have the best results with your vegetable garden, you need to get the soil to the point where it falls easily between your hands when you pick it up. The two ways to do this is to dig out the garden a half a foot down and fill it with top soil, or use the soil that you have, chopping it up as much as you can before you plant. The latter is the least expensive option and, despite the fact that it sounds difficult, is just as hard as digging into the ground and pulling up clay.
USE TOP SOIL
Once you have the soil to the point where it has all been turned over and chopped up, is rid of clumps of dirt, rocks and weeds or grass, you can then add several bags of top soil to the mix. Top soil is a fine grain of soil that will enable your plants grow even better. You can also choose fertilizer soil. This will also allow your plants to grow well. You want to give your plants a boost by adding in a store bought soil as this will make it easier for them to adjust to their new home. Fertilizer may not seem like something that you want to handle, but it is organic and does work very well to allow for plants to grow to their maximum potential.
After you have added bags of top soil or fertilizer, take the garden rake and then smooth the ground over. You should use the rake to mix in all of the soil and make sure that the soil is flat and easy for planting. It should be loose but even.
CREATE ROWS FOR WALKING
Once you have done this, you can make rows between the areas where you want to plant the crops. The crops should sit up higher than these rows that will allow you to walk between the crops for maintenance, and also allow any rain to fall off into the rows. Creating mini-drainage ditches in your garden is not absolutely necessary, but can help you if you live in an area where there is a lot of rain. While water is naturally important for crops to grow, too much can end up flooding out your garden. In most areas, there is not a lot of rain in the summer months, so this is not crucial. Be sure, however, to visualize a row between the planting rows where you will be able to walk and take care of the plants as well as harvest the vegetables that grow in the garden.
PROTECT YOUR GARDEN FROM ANIMALS
Once you have properly tilled the soil and prepared it for planting, you need to use chicken wire or some sort of fencing around the garden area. This will keep the rabbits and other critters out of your garden. Rabbits will have a field day with your crops if you do not protect them. If you are growing vegetables to save money, it hardly makes sense to give away half of your crops to the rabbits.
Chicken wire will keep out any animals such as rabbits, raccoons or possum in the area. It may not look attractive, but you can always back it up with a more attractive looking picket fence if you feel the need. Just remember that the wooden fences are useless when it comes to keeping out rabbits and other creatures as they gnaw right through. Chicken wire will protect your garden from animals.
After you have quartered off the garden with your wire and the soil is ready for planting, you are ready to start planting your vegetables.
Proper planting for your garden is needed for your vegetables to take root and thrive. You must space them apart the proper distance in the soil and also take any other precautions that are needed to get them to grow. You should have a foot between each of the plants that you are planting in your garden, and a foot and half between corn and pumpkins. It may look silly at first, when you plant your garden, to see the plants so far apart. But as the plants grow from tiny plants to large plants, you will start to see the difference.
Before you start planting your vegetables in your vegetable garden, make sure that you have the following:
- Garden gloves
- Hand spade
- Potting soil
If you are borrowing a wheelbarrow from a neighbor, you are going to want to borrow it again for planting. You can transport all of your plants at once to the garden area and then plant them. A wheelbarrow is not a very expensive investment for a gardener and can help you even when it comes time for harvest. Assuming that you have a place to keep the wheelbarrow, you will have many uses for this product.
If at all possible, you should schedule your planting for before a rain. You want to make sure that the weather is on an even keel and that there should not be any more frosts. Ideally, the ground should be dewy when you get up in the morning so that the crops will get plenty of moisture. As the weather gets warmer, you will most likely not have this dew in the morning and you will have to pay close attention to hydrating the crops.
When you are planting from plants, you will need to dig a hole in the ground with a hand spade that is deep enough for the plant. You want to leave as much of the original soil around the plant in which it grew so it can get used to the new earth. Planting takes time and patience and you want to be sure that you are spacing the plants properly. Use potting soil around the plant to make it even more fine and inviting for the plant.
Depending on the size of the garden, planting the garden can take you a day, or at least the better part of the sunlight. For the most part, the preparation and planting of the garden can be done in one nice weekend. Once you have planted the plants into the ground, you will then want to water them and also feed them.
FEEDING THE PLANTS
You can buy plant feeder for vegetables at your local gardening store. You put it in a container and then squirt it onto the plants. Look for all natural, organic products that will help your plants grow even stronger. For the most part, however, the vegetables will grow as long as they get sunlight and water. These are the two main components to healthy plants. And each year, the soil will become even more enriched with vitamins and minerals and easier for plants to grow.
You can also use spikes in the ground that can add as plant feeders. Spikes can be a bit more costly, but they can add the necessary nutrients to the soil that your plants need to get the most growth. You can add spikes to the plants once a week to keep them growing strong.
Some plants, such as tomato plants, need to have sticks or cages around them so that they can grow up. While most vegetables grow close to the ground, tomatoes are a fruit that grows on a vine. You need to put special cages or sticks to get the tomato plants off of the ground and growing up. This will enable the plants to blossom and them form the fruit.
Get some cheap tomato cages at the gardening store. These are made of wire and will last for years. Place each of these cages around each tomato plant. As the tomato plants continue to grow, you can use twist ties to fasten the plant to the cages, forcing it to grow upright instead of laying on the ground. While you can use sticks for the same purpose, cages are easy to use, easy to put into the ground and work better. Sticks only offer one way up, but cages allow the plant to flourish. Put the tomato cages in the ground, surrounding the plant, after you plant them. It will then be easier to start to get the vine to creep up the cages as the plant continues to grow.
Once you have completed your planting, water your garden. You want to water it so that the water puddles a bit in the garden, but not so that it is drenched. You should also look for the weather report to see if you expect rain. If rain is expected, water the garden a little bit and then let Mother Nature take its course and water the garden for you. Once the garden has been planted, you need to make sure that it remains hydrated, fed and secure from animals.
Caring For Growing Plants
Caring for growing plants require that you look after them on a daily basis. Not only do you have to make sure that they are watered, but you also have to remove any weeds that grow in the garden that will choke the nutrients from your plants. In order to care for growing plants, you need the following equipment:
- Plant feeder
- Watering can or hose with gentle spray
- Hand hoe
- Gardening gloves
Each day, you will want to take a look at your garden to see how your plants are doing. You should pull any weeds that are in the ground as well as water the garden. While you will not need to water the garden after rain, obviously, you will still want to look at the garden after a rainfall to see if the plants are stable and to pull any weeds. Remember that weeds will grow just as much if not more in the setting you have created.
If you look at your garden every day and tend to it, you will have less of a problem with maintenance. Your routine should be to take a look at the garden each night, just as the sun goes down and it is settling into dusk. It is best to water the garden at this time, rather than in the hot sun as the plants can burn. The plants should always be hydrated, but not soaking. While there is nothing that you can do about rainstorms, you do not want to always be soaking your plants.
Feed the plants regularly with plant food that is organic. You can get a plant food spreader that looks like a plastic bottle with a hose attached to it to spray your plants. This will give them additional nutrients and provide you with better vegetables. Feed the plants once a week for best results.
GET RID OF INSECTS!
Insects can play havoc around your plants and rabbits are very ornery creatures that tend to go through great extremes to get at those vegetables. One way that you can scare off rabbits is to trick the creatures into thinking that their natural predators are around. Rabbits are afraid of cats and dogs, two animals that prey on them. You can buy a spray that smells like the scent of dog or cat urine and put it around the area surrounding the garden. This should keep rabbits and other animals at bay.
Insects can be more problematic and many people resort to using pesticides to get rid of insects that will eat the leaves and can harm the plants. Pesticides are usually a bad idea. While commercial farmers dust crops using pesticides, they contain benzene, a carcinogen, and are not something that you want to have around. You are better off to use either a natural spray to get rid of bugs such as a citronella. Some bugs, like the hornworm, a bug that attacks tomato bushes, are hard to get rid of even with pesticides. Natural sprays will help get rid of some bugs and keep others from doing too much damage. While you naturally want to grow as many crops as you can and save as much money as you can when it comes to buying vegetables for your grocery bill, you do not want to do it at the expense of your own health or that of your family. Accept the fact that some crops will get attacked, but not many if you are out there diligently using all natural products to rid the plants of bugs and remove weeds.
GET RID OF WEEDS!
Remember to pull weeds as soon as you see them. If it is too difficult for you to pull weeds every night when you get home from work, you should make it a habit to pull them once a week. Again, it is better to pull weeds after the rain as they will come up easily. The weeds must be pulled by the roots in order for it to make any difference. Use garden gloves and a garden hoe to pull up weeds and get rid of them. Put all weeds into a compost pile.
If you see earthworms while you are tending to your garden, do not kill them. They are actually a gardener’s best friend, despite the fact that they are slimy and not much to look at. They do not harm the crops. In fact, they turn the soil so that the crops aerate even better. Earthworms are often found in bags of top soil.
MAKE SURE SOIL DOES NOT ERODE
Speaking of soil, check the soil around the plants to see if some of it has eroded. In some cases, rains will erode some of the soil around your plants, making it difficult for them to grow. You should always have a bag of top soil or potting soil on hand to put around the plants, especially after the rain, so that they can continue to grow.
If you tend to your garden on a regular basis, you can expect good results. One of the problems that most people have with gardens is that they plant them and then forget about them. Or they see bugs and think that the entire garden is infested. Or they don’t want to pull weeds. Despite neglect, some vegetables will still grow, but you will not get the results that you need and certainly not be able to save substantial amounts of money on your food bill if you do not maintain your garden regularly. You will find that this not only allows you to save money for your family on the grocery bill, but it will also give you a sense of peace.
FIND PEACE IN THE GARDEN
One of the things that the bad economy has brought out in people is anxiety and stress over money. An increasing number of people are going to the doctor for anxiety and stress and are worried over money. Most people who find themselves sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office will end up walking out of that office with some sort of prescription. Instead of taking drugs because you are worried about the economy, you can actually do something about it and start gardening.
Gardening is more than just a useful hobby that can help you save money on your food bill by growing vegetables. It is actually a way to relieve stress and find peace. Most people who garden report that they lose themselves in the gardening process and find peace. This is not only a way to grow vegetables, but also a way to get outside, do something physical and get relief from stress. You cannot lose when it comes to gardening in your own vegetable garden.
Take care of your garden regularly and it will take care of you. By looking after it, watering it, making sure that the weeds are pulled and that it remains insect and bunny free, you can look forward to a nice harvest.
How To Harvest Plants
All of your hard work has paid off and you actually have a bunch of vegetables grown in your garden. You can look to the chart written earlier as to when you can expect them to come in, although you will know when they are ready simply by looking at them. Root vegetables are a bit more difficult to tell when they are ready, although you can usually tell by the maturity of the leaves and vines on the ground. Onions, for example, will have very firm stalks.
Tomatoes will continue to keep coming. They are different than other vegetables in that they tend to produce more rapidly. You can start removing tomatoes from the vines as soon as you see them grow a bit red. One way that you can allow them to get red is to pick them when they are slightly orange and then leave them in the sun. They will grow a nice shade of red.
Start looking towards your early to mid summer harvest vegetables right away and taking them out of the garden and into your home. If you are like most people, you will have an abundance of tomatoes. The early summer vegetables need to be preserved quickly as they will not sit around for months on end. You should use bushel baskets to collect your vegetable harvest and plan how you want to preserve them.
Harvest time entails a lot more work than planting time. While preparing a garden and planting can easily be accomplished in a weekend, a proper harvest takes more than just pulling vegetables off of the vines and out of the ground and cooking them. It means preserving them for the winter. Remember, the purpose of your “victory garden” is to gain a victory over the bad economy and save $100 a month on your food bill. You may even save more if you plant more.
As soon as the vegetables start coming in, start to use them in meals. In order to save as much money on your food bill as possible, you should incorporate as many vegetables as you can in every meal. You can prepare them in a number of different ways in order to provide your family with treats that are good for them, totally organic and filling. In the next chapter we will deal with how you can preserve these vegetables for later use. For now, we will talk about the harvest.
WHAT IS A HARVEST LIKE?
The harvest of the vegetables is not like you see on TV. The crops come in at different times and you will most likely always be pulling something from the garden. You will have a ball coming up with exciting summer recipes that incorporate the use of these crops. But despite the fact that you and your family are eating more vegetables and you are saving on your food bill, you are still going to have some left over.
Keep the harvested vegetables in a cool, dry place until you are ready to preserve them for future use. Many people choose to use weekend time to “put up” vegetables so that they can be used throughout the year. Until you are ready to deal with the vegetables, you should be sure to harvest them as they grow so that you can continue to reap the harvest and more vegetables will grow in their place. When you are cooking vegetables to eat, be sure to use the first picked so that you keep the freshest vegetables for canning, freezing or pickling.
Tomatoes are the fastest growing and are the most versatile when it comes to meals. You can make spaghetti sauce, salsa or salads – just to name a few things – with tomatoes. As time wears on and you continue to garden, you can even learn to make your own ketchup and tomato paste using the tomatoes from your garden.
Green tomatoes can be a tasty treat if you fry them. Wash a green tomato and cut it in round slices. Dip each slice into a beaten egg and then coat it with bread crumbs mixed with shredded Parmesan cheese. Fry in olive oil until brown on each side. This is a tasty treat and filling.
You can also do the same thing with eggplant that you grow from your garden, although you will want to peal the eggplant first. Eggplant can be used as a meat as it is so thick and filling. You can make an eggplant veggie burger for a meal.
Use the vegetables that you harvest from your garden and store those that are not in use in a cool dry place. On weekends, you can start to can or preserve vegetables so that they are ready for the upcoming months. Two of the earliest vegetables that you will be canning or preserving will be tomatoes and cucumbers. Others early vegetables that will need to be preserved early, while you are still harvesting the later summer vegetables are peppers and onions. You will most likely be working to preserve each weekend in the months of August and September. This is all part of the harvest and will allow you to make the most of your vegetable garden and save money on future food bills. Once you get used to doing this, you will be able to save even more money as you will most likely branch out and grow more vegetables and fruits.
The harvest time is a time for much work, but it is all worth it. Preserving vegetables and fruits may seem daunting at first, but is really easy once you get the hang of it. You can also just freeze vegetables as well, making it very simple to preserve them.
One of the reasons why people had parties after a harvest was to celebrate the crops they harvested that year as well as treat themselves for a job well done. Once your harvest is over, you will have plenty of vegetables to last you until next year and you and your family can not only save money each month on your food bill, but will also be eating healthier.
Preserving Vegetables And Fruits
There are many ways that you can preserve vegetables and fruits. Fruits are often cooked and then canned, such as jellies, jams and preserves. Fruits are easy to can and only need to undergo a hot water process that seals the wax on the ring of the canning jar. This is easy to do. Tomatoes can be canned in this manner.
Preserving vegetables, however, is another matter. Canning vegetables requires a pressure cooker and a lot of knowledge. You can get Botulism from not canning vegetables properly. Unless you have experience with using a pressure cooker, you are better off to preserve vegetables in different ways such as pickling or freezing. Each vegetable and fruit has different ways that are ideal for preservation. Here is a run down on all of the different ways that you can preserve vegetables that you have grown in your garden and save money:
This process works best with tomatoes. You need to use sterilized canning jars with wax rings and lids. Wash the jars in the dishwasher before adding the tomatoes. The tomatoes should be washed and peeled. To peel a tomato, put it in hot water and it will easily peel in your hands. You should put the tomatoes in the jars and fill up with sterile water. Put on the rings and lids and boil the jars in a canning pot for 20 minutes. After you remove them from the canning pot, you should hear the lids making a slight pop noise that means they are sealed.
You can also cook the tomatoes and add spices to make salsa or spaghetti sauces, or just cooked tomatoes, and also use the same process. The main concern is to make sure all instruments and jars are sterile. You can buy canning jars and pots at your grocery store. Once sealed, the jars should be stored in a cool, dark place and can be used throughout the year.
Pickling is used for cucumbers and onions and involves using sea salts and vinegar to preserve the vegetables for a period of time. Pickling can also be accomplished using alcohol, although this is rarely done with vegetables. In order to pickle any vegetables, you need to follow the same process as in canning with regard to sterilization, and then do the hot water bath. Because they are preserved in alcohol, you do not have to worry about bacteria forming. Use the hot water bath to make sure the jars are sealed and then sore in a cool, dry place.
Freezing is one of the easiest ways that you can preserve vegetables. Many people who want to save money on their grocery bills invest in a deep freezer. This can store all of the vegetables for you. You need to use containers or freezer bags that will lock out air and preserve the vegetables. Place cleaned vegetables in the freezer bags or containers and stick them in the freezer after sealing. This only takes a few minute and works well with corn, peppers, eggplant, broccoli and carrots. It does not work for lettuce or potatoes. Lettuce will turn to mush in the freezer and potatoes will get black.
Root vegetables such as onions, potatoes, turnips and carrots can be stored in a root cellar for the entire year. If you do not have a root cellar, read the next chapter and you can learn how you can create your own root cellar to store your vegetables. You can also store them in a basement, provided it is cool and unheated. Root vegetables can last a year if properly stores, but it has to be in a cool and dark place.
By preserving as many as the vegetables as you can, you will be able to continue to save money throughout the year with the vegetables that you have grown in your own garden.
Creating A Root Cellar
A root cellar was used to store vegetables as well as other food supplies long before electricity came along. Today, because so many people are looking for a way to save money and eat healthier, organic foods by growing their own vegetables, many people are creating their own root cellars. This requires a parcel of ground where you can dig down and line with rocks. Many people create roots cellars in their back yards under a shed. You would have a latch door in the floor of the shed that opens and allows you to step down a small ladder into the root cellar.
The root cellar has to be covered to avoid any type of accidents or any animal getting into the cellar. You should line the walls and floor of the root cellar with stones to prevent bugs from getting into the cellar. Products that are stored in the root cellar should be stored in brown sacks to further protect them from rain or insects. The root cellar should be covered at all times when not in use.
Before you start digging on your property, call out your local utility companies so that they can mark out where your utilities are located. You never want to dig on your property unless you know where the utilities are located so that you do not uproot a wire or cable.
A root cellar will enable you to store turnips, carrots, potatoes, onions and squash for longer periods of time. If you live in a house where you have a cellar, you can usually use this as your root cellar. You can even create your own root cellar indoors by using a wood container that you make yourself to store the vegetables. This container can be kept in a cool, dark place (preferably the basement) to store your vegetables. There are “build your own root cellar” kits online that you can use for this purpose. You will probably find this easier than digging your own root cellar on your property.
If you do not have room for a root cellar, you can cook potatoes and freeze them instead of storing them in a root cellar. Turnips and carrots can be frozen uncooked and will be fine. Be sure to peel them before freezing.
A root cellar is the ideal place to store all of your preserved foods as it is cool and dark. Whether you decide to quarter off part of the basement to build a root cellar for your vegetables or build your on, you will find that all of your root vegetables have much more staying power when you store them in a cool, dark place.
Indoor Gardens For Herbs
While you’re saving a ton of money by growing your own vegetables, you can even save more money by growing your own herbs. The beauty about growing herbs is that you can grow them indoors and all year long. Most herbs just need a little bit of sunlight and water and will grow just fine.
Herbs will flavor your foods in a totally natural way and can also be dried or frozen for later use. Fresh herbs, when mixed with the vegetables from your garden, can make for delicious and healthy meals for your family. Not only will you save money at the grocery store, but you will find that fresh herbs taste better than the freeze dried variety that you find in the store. And they are completely natural, organic and have no preservatives.
You can grow herbs from seeds in your own indoor herb garden. You just need to find a place where you will keep your garden and where it will be safe from spilling due to children and pets. You can purchase a kit to grow herbs or just grow them yourself. You just need potting containers, soil and seeds. Plant the seeds deep into the soil, or as directed on the seed packet, and water. Put the container in an area where it can get the most sunlight and water every day. As the herbs begin to mature, you can harvest the leaves from these plants and use them in different foods. They contain no pesticides and are completely natural. You do not have to preserve them as they can grow all year long. If you would like, you can always put them in a freezer bag and stick them in the freezer. Fresh herbs taste best and cost only pennies to grow.
GROW VEGETABLES FROM SEEDS
In addition to growing your fresh herbs indoors, you can also grow vegetables from seeds using the same concept. Growing vegetables from seeds can be done in the winter months so that the plants are ready to be transplanted into the garden in the spring. Every vegetable has a different growth time period, so follow the directions on the package of seeds as to when you plant. If you set aside an area in your home that gets an adequate amount of sunlight and is safe from children and pets, you can have an indoor garden for growing vegetable plants from seeds to save you even more money. Furthermore, because you grew them yourself, you know that they are free from any pesticides or toxins.
Growing vegetables from seeds is not difficult. Just make sure that you follow directions as to how much sunlight they need as well as the amount of water that they require. If you take care of the plants every day, chances are that you will have quite a few healthy, sturdy plants for your garden when it comes planting time.
GROW HERBS OUTDOORS, TOO!
While we talked earlier in this chapter about growing herbs indoors, they are not only for the indoors. You can grow herbs outdoors in the warm months as well. Many people enjoy growing herbs out of doors because they will grow larger and yield more benefits. It is always a good idea to plant a few herbs in your garden that you can harvest when you harvest the rest of the vegetables. If you are the type of person who dislikes growing any type of plant indoors, has small children and pets or just does not have adequate sunlight in your home, you can grow herbs outdoors and harvest them in the same way you would vegetables. Fresh herbs can be dried or frozen for preservation and use later on.
How Much Can You Save?
Once you get into vegetable gardening, you will find that you are not only having a good time, but saving money. Last year, I ended up saving $100 a month off of my food bill, but this year I plan to save even more.
After discussing my savings and techniques with friends who also like to garden, I found that they are saving even more money. One thing that all gardeners have told me is that the soil continues to get richer with each passing year, yielding better crops. You also get to know what your family will eat and won’t eat when you are vegetable gardening and can skip some vegetables that are not very popular with the family.
Another thing that you learn as you go on with vegetable gardening is how much each crop yields. This is something that you have to see for yourself. I was unprepared as to how many tomatoes and cucumbers I was going to get last year, but this year, I know to plant less plants and more broccoli, as those plants did not yield as many vegetables. This will enable me to save even more money.
By growing my vegetable plants from seeds, I will also save more money. I discussed my techniques with those who have been growing their own vegetables for years and they laughed when I told them of my idea for a book – as they have known these secrets to gardening their entire lives and have always saved money. It amazes many who were brought up in the country to know that there are people out there like you and me who do not know that you can save money by growing your own vegetables.
The tips that you read in this book have been practiced not only by me, but by my mentors. They are easy enough for anyone to follow, but they do take work. The work will pay off for you when you see how healthy your family is eating as well as how much money you are saving.
While I saved $100 a month growing my own vegetables, I spoke to a friend who said she saves about $300 a month growing her own vegetables. Her family tends to eat a lot of vegetables because she has been growing them for a few years and they prefer to eat home grown products.
DECLARE VICTORY WITH YOUR OWN VICTORY GARDEN!
If you are fed up with the ever rising cost of food and the constant worry about the economy and job security, it is time that you do something about it. Instead of worrying, take action and declare victory against the recession with your own victory garden. Just like your grandparents or great grandparents did during WWII, you can supplement your food budget by growing your own vegetables at home and save at least $100 a month off of your food bill!
Hydroponic gardening can be VERY complicated, with computers and sensors controlling everything from watering cycles to nutrient strength and the amount of light that the plants receive.
On the other hand, hydroponics can also be incredibly simple, a hand watered bucket of sand with a single plant is also a method of hydroponic gardening. Most hobby oriented hydroponics systems are somewhere between the two extremes mentioned above.
The “average” home hydroponic system usually consists of a few basic parts: a growing tray, a reservoir, a simple timer controlled submersible pump to water the plants and an air pump and air stone to oxygenate the nutrient solution. Of course, light (either natural or artificial) is also required.
Hydroponic gardening can be VERY complicated, with computers and sensors controlling everything from watering cycles to nutrient strength and the amount of light that the plants receive.
On the other hand, hydroponics can also be incredibly simple, a hand watered bucket of sand with a single plant is also a method of hydroponic gardening. Most hobby oriented hydroponics systems are somewhere between the two extremes mentioned above.
The “average” home hydroponic system usually consists of a few basic parts: a growing tray, a reservoir, a simple timer controlled submersible pump to water the plants and an air pump and air stone to oxygenate the nutrient solution. Of course, light (either natural or artificial) is also required.
History of Hydroponics.
Hydroponics basically means working water (“hydro” means “water” and “ponos” means “labor”). Many different civilizations have utilized hydroponic growing techniques throughout history. As noted in Hydroponic Food Production (Fifth Edition, Woodbridge Press, 1997, page 23) by Howard M. Resh: “The hanging gardens of Babylon, the floating gardens of the Aztecs of Mexico and those of the Chinese are examples of ‘Hydroponic’ culture. Egyptian hieroglyphic records dating back several hundred years B.C. describe the growing of plants in water.” Hydroponics is hardly a new method of growing plants. However, giant strides have been made over the years in this innovative area of agriculture.
Throughout the last century, scientists and horticulturists experimented with different methods of hydroponics. One of the potential applications of hydroponics that drove research was for growing fresh produce in nonarable areas of the world. It is a simple fact that some people cannot grow in the soil in their area (if there is even any soil at all). This application of hydroponics was tested during World War II. Troops stationed on nonarable islands in the Pacific were supplied with fresh produce grown in locally established hydroponic systems. Later in the century, hydroponics was integrated into the space program. As NASA considered the practicalities of locating a society on another plant or the Earth’s moon, hydroponics easily fit into their sustainability plans. This research is ongoing.
But by the 1970s, it wasn’t just scientists and analysts who were involved in hydroponics. Traditional farmers and eager hobbyists began to be attracted to the virtues of hydroponic growing. A few of the positive aspects of hydroponics include:.
● The ability to produce higher yields than traditional, soil-based agriculture
● Allowing food to be grown and consumed in areas of the world that cannot support crops in the soil
● Eliminating the need for massive pesticide use (considering most pests live in the soil), effectively making our air, water, soil, and food cleaner
Commercial growers are flocking to hydroponics like never before. The ideals surrounding these growing techniques touch on subjects that most people care about, such as helping end world hunger and making the world cleaner. In addition to the extensive research that is going on, everyday people from all over the world have been building (or purchasing) their own systems to grow great-tasting, fresh food for their family and friends. Educators are realizing the amazing applications that hydroponics can have in the classroom. And ambitious individuals are striving to make their dreams come true by making their living in their backyard greenhouse, selling their produce to local markets and restaurants.
Crops produced in today’s modern greenhouse ranges are many and varied. They can be loosely categorized as follows:
● vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, fancy lettuces, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and a host of minor ones such as radish, melon and strawberry
● cut flowers e.g. roses, mums, carnations
● potted flowers e.g. geraniums, azalea, poinsettia, tulip
● numerous bedding plants
Porous, well aerated substrate are used as anchorage for the plants root system and feeding area. Rockwool and Heydite are the most popular as they are most readily available, and easiest to use and transport. There are various other mediums which are not as widely used.
There are different ways to bring water to the plants.
● Nutrient Film Technique,
● Drip-Irrigation or Micro-Irrigation,
● Aeroponics / Deep Water Culture,
● Flood & Drain,
● Home Hobbyist Systems,
● Passive Planters / Hydroculture.
Carbon Dioxide Enrichment
In an outdoor garden the CO2 level in the air is about 300 parts per million (ppm). Plants thrive when they are able to take in a higher level of CO2. Growers today monitor their greenhouse CO2 levels with special purpose control monitors which in turn operate CO2 burners or generators to replenish CO2 consumed by the plants.
HAF (Horizontal Air Flow)
Working with CO2 enrichment and indeed an important part of the greenhouse environment is horizontal air flow. Conceived in the late seventies following research involving finer aspects of greenhouse air circulation, horizontal air flow, or HAF as it is now referred to, is widely used.
Commercial growers end up with very sizeable portions of their yearly turnover as work-in-process. The closer the crop gets to harvest, the higher the risk of catastrophic loss, should a key part of the greenhouse’s climate control system fail. Accordingly, growers go to great lengths to protect themselves. Early warning is a vital part of their security. Most now employ automatic phone dialers with electronic voice simulation to alert them of impending problems long before serious crop damage can occur.
Environmental concerns are uppermost in the minds of today’s consuming public. The horticultural industry has been working for many years to reduce its dependence on chemical pesticides, many of which have been linked to cancers. Numbers of key pesticides have been deregistered for particular crops, others have been removed from the market altogether. Promising advances have been made in the use of predator insects in greenhouse ranges as natural biological control against pest insects. While much work remains to be done to educate the grower in their use, progressive members of the industry are now well on their way to 100% biological insect control.
Until recently, pollination of greenhouse tomato crops was accomplished with a labourious method of fruit truss vibration utilizing battery operated hand-held vibrators (“electric bees”) manually touched against mature flower sets. It was a strictly artificial way of simulating natural pollination in the absence of a natural outdoor environment where wind and insects are the vectors. In today’s modern tomato ranges, hives of bumble bees are placed strategically amongst the crop and left to accomplish naturally what has been, until now a monotonous and tedious task for greenhouse staff.
In order to get the best possible results from a Controlled Environment Agriculture System, we will need to bring the spectrum and intensity of sunlight indoors. This is accomplished using High Intensity Discharge lamps. These lamps, in conjunction with specially designed luminaries, will reflect light downwards to plants, where it may be utilized to the maximum.
Modern greenhouses employ advanced environment control aids such as relays, humidistats, thermostats, CO2 injection systems and fans which are often controlled by a central computer. Smaller systems employ various individual control units.
The organic hydroponic display or Bioponics, we believe, is of significant interest to both commercial and hobby growers. This method employs an organic tea based nutrient solution with added microbial agents to facilitate their breakdown into mineral elements which plants are able to take in.
Controlled Environment Agriculture Systems
Today’s commercial greenhouses are constructed of galvanized steel, extruded aluminum, fibreglass, polycarbonate, acrylic, polyethylene and glass. The percentage of each, comprising a typical structure, varies by type of design.
Loosely categorized, the following basic shapes and styles are prevalent:
● freestanding grade to grade hoop houses (quonset) clad in polyethylene, double polyethylene, corrugated fibreglass sheet, or plastic composite structured panels
● linked or gutter-connected straight-wall hoop houses clad in polyethylene, double polyethylene and so on as above
● linked or gutter-connected straight-wall hoop houses clad in curved automotive glass
● linked or gutter-connected straight-wall peaked houses clad in flat tempered glass. This style of range breaks down into three further subcategories:
– single peak gutter-to-gutter
– double peak with floating gutter
– triple peak with two floating gutters
All of the above styles or designs of greenhouses are popular, the grower selecting which he will build based on crop to be grown, usage pattern, seasonal pattern, as well as economic considerations.
● Nutrient control insures that the plants get the minerals they need at the right pH and temperature.
● Faster growth then soil grown plants.
● No weeds. The medium is mostly inert and unless it is out doors, there is no way for weed seeds to get into the growing medium.
● No guess work about what nutrients are going to the plant.
● Easy to correct for plant deficiencies.
● No backbreaking soil conditioning.
● The water has all the nutrients that is required by the plants. The roots don’t have to grow bigger looking for food. The growth of the plant goes mostly to the upper plant.
● Plants can be spaced closer together then in soil. Spacing is dependent only on the space needed to supply adequate light to the plant.
● Garden can be at a good working height.
● Up to twenty times the amount of plants can be grown in the same space in hydroponics then in soil.
● No soil to harbor bugs.
● Healthy plants have better taste.
● Healthy plants resist insect infestations. Less insecticide is needed.
● Educational for children of all ages learning about plant growth.
● Faster growth so that more then one crop can be raised in a season.
● Can be made portable so that you can move it from classroom to classroom or take it with you when you move.
● Ground is left undisturbed on rented property.
● Condensed growing methods make better use of greenhouse space.
● Consumes 1/10 the water that field crops do.
● Conversation piece.
● Good past time for those that likes to tinker.
● It’s something the Jones’ don’t have. 🙂
Some disadvantages to growing plants in hydroponics are;
● Higher cost to get started then soil culture.
● System failure could result in a lost crop if not caught right away. Some systems can go days before damage occurs.
All the plants needs are supplied by water. The roots are placed in an inert growing medium. Water, enriched with all the nutrients the plants need, is supplied to the roots by several different methods.
1. Aeroponics; the roots are sprayed with the nutrient solution. This method ensures that the roots get plenty of oxygen to the root system. It has not been proven that this method helps to make plants grow any faster then in other methods. It has some inherent problems such as nozzles getting plugged up. One of the more expensive methods of hydroponics.
2. Ebb and flow; also called flood and drain. Periodically floods the medium. As the water drains out new air comes in. Not as hard to maintain as an aeroponics system. Roots can plug up waterways however.
3. NFT; the Nutrient Film Technique is one of the methods most often used by commercial growers. Plant roots are contained in a channel through which a thin “film” of nutrient solution passes. The nutrient solution is aerated and recycled with the addition of makeup water.
4. Run to waste; in this method the nutrient is fed to the plants at near the same rate as the plants use the water. In all the other methods, the nutrient solution returns to a tank to be recycled. This system is the cheapest to get started, however, it requires a lot of monitoring to insure the plants are getting enough nutrient but at the same time not getting too much nutrient. Plants will only take up the nutrients it needs. On sunny days they take up mostly water and leave the nutrients behind to build up. The built up salts must be purged from the system one or two times a week. This system wastes the most nutrients.
Plants most generally have to be stared in a small amount of medium before they can be placed in the growing area. Seeds are started with no nutrients in the water. Seeds have their own food and don’t require any additional nutrients until the first set of leaves appear. Nutrient is added at half strength to encourage root development until it’s transplanted. Then full strength nutrients are used for the rest of the plants growth. There are two kinds of formulas for plants. One promotes the vegetative growth and the other promotes Fruiting. A system that has both types of plants will have to have one or the other formulas depending on which crop is more important. There are two methods of growing systems, horizontal and vertical. The following are systems:
● Bag culture; used commercially in run to waste systems. The hobbyiest can also use this inexpensive method in a recirculating system. Bags are filled with a lightweight medium and nutrient is fed to each bag by inexpensive spaghetti tubes. Has the advantage of being able to space the plants as they mature.
● Tomatoes in bag culture.
● Gutter/NFT; A lot of hobbyiests have tried just about everything with this type system.
1. Manufactured channels; Square corners help to prevent damming.
2. Rain gutter; Metal gutter can oxidize and add undesirable materials to the nutrient
solution. Line with plastic sheet. Plastic gutters require total support to keep it strait.
3. PVC pipe; most hobbyiests use PVC pipes with holes drilled for plants. This system is usually more expensive then bag culture. Too often the roots clog up the waterways and dam the water causing root rot. Aeration in the root zone may become a problem.
● Beds; are extra wide channels. Beds can be filled with a growing medium or pots can be placed in the bed so that they will pick up the water from the bed through a wicking action. Pots are the most versatile. Plants can be spaced to meet the plants needs. I use this method for houseplants and for starting seeds. A 1/4 inch of water can be maintained in beds with pots. Water must be drained well in filled beds. Beds can be made from any material that will hold the weight of the plants and the medium. A plastic film can be used to line construction. Nutrient solution is usually aerated and returned to the bed.
Although there is no soil in a hydroponic garden, the plants must still be anchored. There is a wide range of inert materials which can be used to support plant roots and we call them “growing mediums”. Heydite, clay pellets, Perlite, vermiculite, and Rockwool are the most popular media. The hydroponic media that work best are pH neutral, provide ample support for plants, retain moisture, and allow space for good air exchange. The type of media you choose will depend on the size and type of plants you wish to grow, and the type of hydroponic system being used. For continuous drip systems, course media such as Heydite (a porous shale) or Hydrocorn (clay pellets) are best. The 1/4 ” to3/4 ” pebbles provide enough free drainage and air space to take advantage of continuous feeding. These media also provide good anchorage for larger plants, and are easy to clean and re-use indefinitely.
Rockwool is also another popular medium. Made from rock which has been melted and spun into fibrous cubes and growing slabs with the texture of insulation, Rockwool provides roots with a good balance of water/oxygen. Small cubes are used for starting seeds and cuttings, 3″ or 4″ cubes for small plants or intermediate growth, and slabs for larger plants. Rockwool can be used with continuous drip or flood and drain systems. Although it is possible to sterilize and re-use Rockwool, most often it is used only once.
Perlite, made from volcanic rock, is a white, light weight material often used as a soil additive. The 1/8″ to 1/4″ pellets can be used alone as growing medium, but don’t provide enough anchorage for large plants. Perlite is often used to start seed and cuttings, which can easily transplanted after rooting. Vermiculite is use the same way as Perlite, and the two are sometimes mixed together. It is made from heat expanded mica and has a flaky, shiny appearance. Soilless mix such as Pro-mix BX, and Pro-mix lite has the appearance and texture of light soil. Mainly peatmoss, mixed with Perlite, it contains very little nutrient, and is used a a soil additive, or alone as a hydroponic medium.
Some hydroponic systems do not require any growing medium at all. Various methods are used to support the plants while the roots are directly fed nutrient solution. Some examples of these are, aeroponic, N.F.T., or “Nutrient Film Technique” and deep water culture.
Nutrient Film Technique.
The purist form of today’s highly developed hydroponic growing systems is Nutrient Film Technique (N.F.T.). It is also the form of hydroponics most intriguing to the public because of its futuristic nature and appearance.
The nutrient is fed into growtubes where the roots draw it up. The excess drains by gravity back to the reservoir. A thin film of nutrient allows the roots to have constant contact with the nutrient and the air layer above at the same time.
Drip-Irrigation or Micro-Irrigation
Today’s greenhouse irrigation systems employ, to an ever-increasing extent, the concept of drip or microirrigation. It entails a principle of minimized water consumption with maximized plant benefit. There are literally hundreds of emitting/dripping/trickling/micro-spraying/etc. devices on the market today for the commercial/hobbyist grower to choose from.
A submersed pump feeds nutrients solution through header tubes to secondary feed lines connected to drip emitters.
A controlled amount of solution is continuously drip-fed over the medium and root system. Another tube is connected to the lower part of the garden system to recover the solution.
Aeroponics / Deep Water Culture
Plant roots are suspended in highly oxygenated nutrient solution allowing easy inspection and pruning of roots. Air pumps, compressors or Oz injectors provide oxygen which is crucial to healthy plant growth. The simplicity and affordability of these very active systems make them popular with home hobbyists and commercial growers alike.
In an Aeroponic system the roots are misted within a chamber. A pump pushes the water with nutrient solution through sprayers, keeping the roots wet while providing a maximum amount of oxygen.
This technique is an excellent way to propagate cuttings.
Deep Water Culture is another form of aeroponics. The root system of a plant grown in Deep Water
Culture is immersed in water with a bubbling aerator keeping the roots oxygenated.
This technique is very good to use with plants that are heavy feeders.
Flood & Drain
Flood & Drain systems are similar to N.F.T. systems. They are ideal for multiple plant per square foot growing where individual plant inspection is difficult. They are also very popular as propagation tables.
A plastic growing tray is flooded periodically by a submersed pump connected to a digital timer (or the ControlFreak!). Medium and root system are soaked, then drained (via gravity back through the pump) at specific intervals.
Various mediums can be used, Rockwool is the most popular with Flood & Drain systems.
The Ebb & Flow trays are examples of the Flood & Drain system.
Home Hobbyist Systems
There are a number of compact hydroponic systems and kits most popular with home hobbyists, researchers and teachers. These are made to be especially attractive to children in order to get their attention and interest. Hobby systems include deep water and aeroponic systems which are scaled down versions of commercial systems.
Passive Planters / Hydroculture
This is probably the most commonly know form of hydroponics. These systems do not require a water or air pump and are therefore called passive systems. Passive Planters have been used in office buildings and restaurants for many years.
Hydroculture planters utilize a clean, porous growing medium to support plant roots. A nutrient reservoir in the base of the growing container allows the plants to take as much or as little water as they require. Water level indicators show exactly when and how much to water. Clean, odourless and non-allergenic, hydroculture or passive planters are ideal for every environment.
Beginner’s Growing Tips.
This page has been designed to help answer the important questions beginning growers might have when just getting started in hydroponics. A lot of these concepts are connected to each other. Follow the links and put the pieces of this growing puzzle together.
The more you know, the easier it is to grow!
During photosynthesis, plants use carbon dioxide (CO2), light, and hydrogen (usually water) to produce carbohydrates, which is a source of food. Oxygen is given off in this process as a by-product. Light is a key variable in photosynthesis.
Measuring nutrient solution strength is a relatively simple process. However, the electronic devices manufactured to achieve this task are quite sophisticated and use the latest microprocessor technology. To understand how these devices work, you have to know that pure water doesn’t conduct electricity. But as salts are dissolved into the pure water, electricity begins to be conducted. An electrical current will begin to flow when live electrodes are placed into the solution. The more salts that are dissolved, the stronger the salt solution and, correspondingly, the more electrical current that will flow. This current flow is connected to special electronic circuitry that allows the grower to determine the resultant strength of the nutrient solution.
The scale used to measure nutrient strength is electrical conductivity (EC) or conductivity factor (CF). The CF scale is most commonly used in hydroponics. It spans from 0 to more than 100 CF units. The part of the scale generally used by home hydroponic gardeners spans 0-100 CF units. The part of the scale generally used by commercial or large-scale hydroponic growers is from 2 to 4 CF. (strength for growing watercress and some fancy lettuce) to as high as approximately 35 CF for fruits, berries, and ornamental trees. Higher CF values are used by experienced commercial growers to obtain special plant responses and for many of the modern hybrid crops, such as tomatoes and some peppers. Most other plant types fall between these two figures and the majority is grown at 13-25 CF. –Rob Smith
When a seed first begins to grow, it is germinating. Seeds are germinated in a growing medium, such as perlite. Several factors are involved in this process. First, the seed must be active–and alive–and not in dormancy. Most seeds have a specific temperature range that must be achieved. Moisture and oxygen must be present. And, for some seeds, specified levels of light or darkness must be met. Check the specifications of seeds to see their germination requirements.
The first two leaves that sprout from a seed are called the seed leaves, or cotyledons. These are not the true leaves of a plant. The seed develops these first leaves to serve as a starting food source for the young, developing plant.
Soil is never used in hydroponic growing. Some systems have the ability to support the growing plants, allowing the bare roots to have maximum exposure to the nutrient solution. In other systems, the roots are supported by a growing medium. Some types of media also aid in moisture and nutrient retention. Different media are better suited to specific plants and systems. It is best to research all of your options and to get some recommendations for systems and media before making investing in or building an operation. Popular growing media include:
● Composted bark. It is usually organic and can be used for seed germination.
● Expanded clay. Pellets are baked in a very hot oven, which causes them to expand, creating a porous end product.
● Gravel. Any type can be used. However, gravel can add minerals to nutrient. Always make sure it is clean.
● Oasis. This artificial, foam-based material is commonly known from its use as an arrangement base in the floral industry.
● Peat moss. This medium is carbonized and compressed vegetable matter that has been partially decomposed.
● Perlite. Volcanic glass is mined from lava flows and heated in furnaces to a high temperature, causing the small amount of moisture inside to expand. This converts the hard glass into small, sponge-like kernels.
● Pumice. This is a glassy material that is formed by volcanic activity. Pumice is lightweight due to its large number of cavities produced by the expulsion of water vapor at a high temperature as lava surfaces.
● Rockwool. This is created by melting rock at a high temperature and then spinning it into fibers.
● Sand. This medium varies in composition and is usually used in conjunction with another medium.
● Vermiculite. Similar to perlite except that it has a relatively high cation exchange capacity-meaning it can hold nutrients for later use.
There are a number of other materials that can (and are) used as growing media. Hydroponic gardeners tend to be an innovative and experimental group.
The apparatuses used in hydroponic growing are many and varied. There are two basic divisions between systems: media-based and water culture. Also, systems can be either active or passive. Active systems use pumps and usually timers and other electronic gadgets to run and monitor the operation. Passive systems may also incorporate any number of gadgets. However, they to not use pumps and may rely on the use of a wicking agent to draw nutrient to the roots.
Media-based systems–as their name implies–use some form of growing medium. Some popular mediabased systems include ebb-and-flow (also called flood-and-drain), run-to-waste, drip-feed (or top-feed), and bottom-feed.
Water culture systems do not use media. Some popular water culture systems are raft (also called floating and raceway), nutrient film technique (NFT), and aeroponics.
Think of a plant as a well-run factory that takes delivery of raw materials and manufactures the most wondrous products. Just as a factory requires a reliable energy source to turn the wheels of its machinery, plants need an energy source in order to grow.
Usually, natural sunlight is used for this important job. However, during the shorter and darker days of winter, many growers use artificial lights to increase the intensity of light (for photosynthesis) or to expand the daylight length. While the sun radiates the full spectrum (wavelength or color of light) suitable for plant life, different types of artificial lighting are selected for specific plant varieties and optimum plant growth characteristics. Different groups of plants respond in physically different ways to various wavelengths of radiation. Light plays an extremely important role in the production of plant material. The lack of light is the main inhibiting factor in plant growth. If you reduce the light by 10 percent, you also reduce crop performance by 10 percent.
Light transmission should be your major consideration when purchasing a growing structure for a protected crop. Glass is still the preferred material for covering greenhouses because, unlike plastic films and sheeting, its light transmission ability is indefinitely maintained.
No gardener can achieve good results without adequate light. If you intend to grow indoors, avail yourself of some of the reading material that has been published on this subject. If you are having trouble growing good plants, then light is the first factor to question. –Rob Smith
A large part of the success in growing hydroponically is planning where to place the plants. Grow plants that have similar growing requirements in the same system. Placing your system 1-2 feet away from a sunny window will give the best results for most herbs and vegetables. Even your regular house lights help the plants to grow. Make sure that all of the lights are out in your growing area during the night. Plants need to rest a minimum of 4 hours every night. If your plants start to get leggy (too tall and not very full), move the system to a spot that has more sun. Once you find a good growing area, stick to it. Plants get used to their home location. It may take some time to get used to a new place. –Charles E. Musgrove
Plants need around 16 mineral nutrients for optimal growth. However, not all these nutrients are equally important for the plant. Three major minerals–nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)–are used by plants in large amounts. These three minerals are usually displayed as hyphenated numbers, like “15-30-15,” on commercial fertilizers. These numbers correspond to the relative percentage by weight of each of the major nutrients–known as macronutrients–N, P, and K. Macronutrients are present in large concentrations in plants. All nutrients combine in numerous ways to help produce healthy plants. Usually, sulfur (S), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg) are also considered macronutrients.
These nutrients play many different roles in plants. Here are some of their dominant functions:
● Nitrogen (N)–promotes development of new leaves
● Phosphorus (P)–aids in root growth and blooming
● Potassium (K)–important for disease resistance and aids growth in extreme temperatures
● Sulfur (S)–contributes to healthy, dark green color in leaves
● Calcium (Ca)–promotes new root and shoot growth
● Magnesium (Mg)–chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green color and absorbs sunlight to make food, contains a Mg ion –Jessica Hankinson
Boron (B), copper (Cu), cobalt (Co), iron (Fe) manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), and zinc (Zn) are only present in minute quantities in plants and are known as micronutrients. Plants can usually acquire adequate amounts of these elements from the soil, so most commercial fertilizers don’t contain all of the micronutrients. Hydroponic growers, however, don’t have any soil to provide nutrients for their plants. Therefore, nutrient solution that is marketed for hydroponic gardening
contain all the micronutrients. –Jessica Hankinson
In hydroponics, nutrient solution–sometimes just referred to as “nutrient”–is used to feed plants instead of plain water. This is due to the fact that the plants aren’t grown in soil. Traditionally, plants acquire most of their nutrition from the soil. When growing hydroponically, you need to add all of the nutrients a plant needs to water. Distilled water works best for making nutrient. Hydroponic supply stores have a variety of nutrient mixes for specific crops and growth cycles. Always store solutions out of direct sunlight to prevent any algae growth. See also conductivity, macronutrients, and micronutrients.
Disposal Unlike regular water, you need to be careful where you dispose of nutrient. Even organic nutrients and fertilizers can cause serious imbalances in aquatic ecosystems. If you do not live near a stream, river, lake or other water source, it is fine to use old nutrient on outdoor plants and lawn. Another possibility is to use it on houseplants. However, if you live within 1,000 feet of a viable water source, do not use your spent nutrient in the ground.
The ends of a plant’s roots aren’t open-ended like a drinking straw and they definitely doesn’t suck up a drink of water or nutrients. Science is still seeking a complete understanding of osmosis, so to attempt a full and satisfactory description of all that’s involved in this process would be impossible. However, we can understand the basic osmotic principle as it relates to plants.
First, consider a piece of ordinary blotting paper, such as the commonly used filter for home coffee machines. The paper might appear to be solid. However, if you apply water to one side of it, you’ll soon see signs of the water appearing on the opposite side. The walls of a feeding root act in much the same way. If you pour water onto the top of the filter paper, gravity allows the water to eventually drip through to the bottom side. Add the process of osmosis and water that’s applied to the bottom side drips through to the top.
With plants, this action allows water and nutrients to pass through the root walls from the top, sides, and bottom. Osmosis is the natural energy force that moves elemental ions through what appears to be solid material. A simplistic explanation for how osmosis works, although not 100 percent accurate, is that the stronger ion attracts the weaker through a semipermeable material. So, the elements within the cells that make up plant roots attract water and nutrients through the root walls when these compounds are stronger than the water and nutrients applied to the outside of the roots.
It then follows that if you apply a strong nutrient to the plant roots–one that’s stronger than the
compounds inside of the root–that the reverse action is likely to occur! This process is called reverse osmosis. Many gardeners have at some time committed the sin of killing their plants by applying too strong a fertilizer to their plants, which causes reverse osmosis. Instead of feeding the plant, they have actually been dragging the life force out of it.
Understanding how osmosis works, the successful grower can wisely use this knowledge to promote maximum uptake of nutrients into the plants without causing plant stress–or worse, plant death–from over fertilizing. All plants have a different osmotic requirement or an optimum nutrient strength. –Rob Smith
As a result of the process of photosynthesis, oxygen (O) is given off by plants. Then, at night, when light isn’t available for photosynthesis, this process is reversed. At night, plants take in oxygen and consume the energy they have stored during the day.
Pests and Diseases
Even though hydroponic gardeners dodge a large number of plant problems by eschewing soil (which is a home to any number of plant enemies), pests and diseases still manage to wreak havoc from time to time. Botrytis, Cladosporium, Fusarium, and Verticillium cover most of the genera of bacteria that can threaten your plants. The insects that can prove annoying include aphids, caterpillars, cutworms, fungus gnats, leaf miners, nematodes, spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies.
A few good ways to prevent infestation and infection are to:
● Always maintain a sanitary growing environment
● Grow naturally selected disease- and pest-resistant plant varieties
● Keep your growing area properly ventilated and at the correct temperatures for your plants
● Keep a close eye on your plants so if a problem does occur, you can act quickly
With insects, sometimes you can pick off and crush any large ones. Or you can try to wash the infected plants with water or a mild soap solution (such as Safer Soap).
If a problem gets out of control, it may be necessary to apply a biological control in the form of a spray. Research which product will work best in your situation. Always follow the instructions on pesticides very closely.
Alternatively, there are a number of control products on the market today that feature a botanical compound or an ingredient that has been synthesized from a plant material.
On botanical compounds as controlling agents:
Over the last few years, researchers from all around the world have started to take a much closer look at any compounds present in the plant kingdom that might hold the answer to our pest and disease control problems. Many companies have even switched from producing synthetic pesticides to copying nature by synthesizing naturally occurring compounds in a laboratory setting. Extracts of willow, cinnamon, grapefruit, garlic, neem, bittersweet, lemon grass, derris, eucalyptus, and tomato have been helpful in controlling diseases and pests. –Dr. Lynette Morgan
The pH of a nutrient solution is a measurement of its relative concentration of positive hydrogen ions. Negative hydroxyl ions are produced by the way systems filter and mix air into the nutrient solution feeding plants. Plants feed by an exchange of ions. As ions are removed from the nutrient solution, pH rises. Therefore, the more ions that are taken up by the plants, the greater the growth. A solution with a pH value of 7.0 contains relatively equal concentrations of hydrogen ions and hydroxyl ions. When the pH is below 7.0, there are more hydrogen ions than hydroxyl ion. Such a solution “acidic.” When the pH is above 7.0, there are fewer hydrogen ions than hydroxyl ions. This means that the solution is “alkaline.”
Test the pH level of your nutrient with a kit consisting of vials and liquid reagents. These kits are available at local chemistry, hydroponic, nursery, garden supplier, or swimming pool supply stores. It is also a good idea to test the pH level of your water before adding any nutrients. If your solution is too alkaline add some acid. Although such conditions rarely occur, sometimes you may have to reduce the level of acidity by making the solution more alkaline. This can be achieved by adding potassium hydroxide (or potash) to the solution in small amounts until it is balanced once again. –Charles E. Musgrove
Plants need to absorb many necessary nutrients from the nutrient solution or–in the case of traditional agriculture–the soil. However, plants can create some of their own food. Plants use the process of photosynthesis to create food for energy. Carbohydrates are produced from carbon dioxide (CO2) and a source of hydrogen (H)–such as water–in chlorophyll-containing plant cells when they are exposed to light. This process results in the production of oxygen (O).
Every now and again, you are sure to run into a problem with your plants. This is just a simple fact of any type of gardening. The key is to act quickly, armed with quality knowledge.
Mineral Deficiency Symptoms
Nitrogen deficiency will cause yellowing of the leaves, especially in the older leaves. The growth of new roots and shoots is stunted. In tomatoes, the stems may take on a purple hue.
A phosphorous deficiency is usually associated with dark green foliage and stunted growth. As in nitrogen deficiency, the stems may appear purple. But since the leaves don’t yellow as they do in nitrogen deficiency, the whole plant can take on a purplish green color.
Iron deficiency results in yellowing between the leaf veins. In contrast to nitrogen deficiency, the yellowing first appears in the younger leaves. After a prolonged absence of iron, the leaves can turn completely white. –Jessica Hankinson
This condition can be caused by environmental factors or disease (usually caused by Fusarium). Nutrient and media temperature can be adjusted to remedy wilt. However, if Fusarium have taken hold, the chances that your plants will survive are slim.
If wilting is due to environmental causes:
Try to spray the plants and roots with cool, clean water to rejuvenate them. If this hasn’t helped them by the next day, try it again. If the plants respond, top-off the nutrient solution and check the pH. If the plants don’t respond to the misting, empty the tank, move it to a shadier spot, and refill with cool, fresh nutrient solution. Don’t reuse the old solution–start with fresh water and nutrients. –Charles E. Musgrove
If wilting is due to a system blockage of nutrient:
I have seen tomato plants that have been so dehydrated due to a nutrient supply blockage that they were lying flat and for all the world looked stone-cold dead. When the nutrient flow resumed and the plants were given the less stressful environment of nighttime, they rebounded so well that I wondered if I had dreamed the previous day’s “disaster.” The moral of this story is to always give plants a chance to revive, even when the situation looks hopeless. –Rob Smith
Plants can be propagated by a number of methods. Growers can let a plant go to seed, collect the seeds, and then start the cycle over again (see germination). Another method is to take stem cuttings, which is also known as cloning (because you are creating an exact copy of the parent plant).
Although this process won’t work with all plants, it is a highly effective technique. Simply cut off a side shoot or the top of the main shoot just below a growth node. Make sure that there are at least two growth nodes above the cut. Remove any of the lower leaves near the base of the new plant. This cutting can then be rooted by placing it in water or in a propagation medium (perlite works well) that is kept moist. The use of some rooting hormone can help your chances of success.
Remove any discolored, insect-eaten, or otherwise sick-looking leaves from plants. Picking off some outer leaves or cutting the top off a plant can help it grow fuller. Use sharp scissors to prune your plants. Sometimes you will want to prune a plant to focus its energy on the remaining shoots. Pruning is an art and should be performed with care. Damaged or dying roots may also need to be pruned from time to time.
Never use soil during any aspect of hydroponics. If you ever move a plant from a soil-based situation to hydroponics, remove all traces of soil or potting mix from the roots. Soil holds lots of microbes and other organisms and materials that love to grow in and contaminate your hydroponic system. Some of these will actually parasitize your plant and slow its growth. This is another advantage of hydroponic growing: The plant can get on with growing without having to support a myriad of other organisms as happens in conventional soil growing. –Rob Smith
Different plants have different germination and growing temperatures. Always make sure that you check each plant’s growing requirements–especially minimum and maximum temperature levels. Keep in mind that specific varieties of plants may have different requirements.
Because the water supply is the source of life for your plants, quality is important. All plants rely on their ability to uptake water freely. Between 80 and 98 percent of this uptake is required for transpiration (loosely compared to perspiration in animals), which allows the plant to produce and somewhat control its immediate microclimate. Plants also need clean, uncontaminated water to
produce their own healthy food supply. –Rob Smith
The water you use in your hydroponic system needs to be pure. It is always a good idea to test your water source before adding nutrients so you aren’t adding an element that is already present. In small systems, it would be wise to use distilled water.
If you are starting a larger hydroponic operation, it would be a good idea to have a water analysis completed. Factors such as sodium chloride (NaCl, or salt) content and hardness will be of great use to growers. Also, groundwater can have elements normally not present in conditioned water. A key piece of advice: Get to know your water!
Growing Tips From the Experts
Rooting a Cutting:
● have everything ready first then take your cuttings and plant them right away
● for best results, take cuttings first thing in the morning
● use only healthy actively growing stock plants with soft green stems (woody stem cuttings do not root fast!!!)
● for green stem (softwood) cuttings use a straight clean cut; for yellow or brown stem cuttings use a slanted cut
● remove any leaves or branches that would be below the soil line (snip off leaf stem, leaving a 1/4″ stub)
● dip cutting into “Roots” or other hormone products
● after planting, trickle a few drop of water down the stem to settle the soil mix around the stem
To Root in Potting Soil or Soiless Mixes:
● fill containers with potting mix
● water well with room temperature water with “Nutri-Boost” added (“Nutri-Boost” is a vitamin mix; add 7 drops per litre or quart of water)
● it is always a good idea to have “No-Damp” nearby in case you notice any signs of wilting; if this occurs, use the recommended application rate of l0m. “No-Damp” to 1 litre of water and spray generously
● now take your cuttings, dip them into a rooting hormone and plant them right away
To Root in Rockwool Cubes:
● rinse cubes in lukewarm pH balanced water
● water cubes with “Nutri-Boost” solution as described above
● plant the cutting 3/4″ of the way into the cube
More Helpful Hints:
● root cuttings under moderate light (flourescent light) at 70 – 75°F
● if you use a clear cover, remove twice a day and wipe any condensation off the cover and replace ● use only water and “Nutri-boost” solution until cuttings show signs of new growth at tips then feed with 1/2 strength fertilizer
Hydroponic Nutrient Manipulation and Modification Techniques or “Playing with your food”
Some gardeners are ignoring their mother’s advice and modifying their fertilizer mixes. The fact is, the soil-less mixes, lava rock, rockwool, etc. hold little or no food compared to garden dirt, so any change in fertilizer strength or quality is noticed by the plant almost immediately.
This is why gardeners use different fertilizers for different stages of growth, giving the plant just what it needs for today’s “Work”. Here are some other tips on changing your fertilizer mix for special circumstances.
We match food strength to growing conditions in the garden, and to the health and activity of the plant.
Weak fertilizer for:
● newly rooted cuttings
● plants in low light conditions
● plants in hot gardens (over 90°F or 33°C)
● plants under stress – disease, bugs, etc.
● plants in transition between stages of growth
● plants in poor growing conditions – crowded, root-bound, poor air movement, etc.
Regular Strength Fertilizer for:
● healthy plants in active growth
● good light levels, temperature and air movement
Strong Fertilizers for:
● natural spurts of growth in crop plants
● plants in very good growing conditions – very high light levels; precise, consistent temperatures; major air movement through plants; excellent exhaust and intake fans; huge quantities of C02 delivered efficiently to the garden; regular growth hormone treatments (to help the plant take up stronger foods)
Note: Increase food strength gradually – watch for black leaf tips!
Food Formulas – We modify fertilizers by changing the quantity of individual nutrients for special circumstances.
Low Nitrogen Fertilizers:
● to avoid “stretching” (long thin stems) of plants between stages of growth.
● a good example would be a chrysanthemum grower who has shortened the day length to make the plants start their flower cycle; he would use a full strength fertilizer with Nitrogen only (1/2 strength or less) to keep the plants compact until the flower buds form.
● return to regular Nitrogen levels once your plants have actually begun their next growth stage.
● this trick works especially well with our “B” and “C” fertilizers.
You can see that gardeners start by examining the conditions in the garden and the “job” of their plant, then decide what strength and quality to mix their fertilizers.
So What’s the Deal with Pesticides?
Well, they suck! However, sometimes they are necessary to save your valuable crop. The “new” trend is to use pesticides only as a last resort. Your object is to control your pests and you might even get lucky and wipe them out.
Start with a healthy plant! It’s much less likely to develop problems than a plant under stress. Bugs seem to sense a hurting plant, much like a pack of wolves will prey on an injured or tired animal. That’s where our Predators come In. Just wonderful little things. They are moderately priced and they do all the work for you. When the bad guys are all gone, (ie. no more food), they either pack their bags and leave, or eat each other down to the last one. Predators are carnivores (eat meat) not herbivores (vegetarians), therefore no worries about damage from them.
Predators have been used since before the “Dead Sea” was even sick. It’s only since First World War France, where pesticides and rodenticides were first used in the trenches to relieve troops of overwhelming infestations that we have changed our thinking. We’ve been poisoning our land, our water, and ourselves ever since. Some treatments are much safer than others. Pokon and Safers Soap are a good organic way to go, plus we can get you Predators within a day or two. This old/new topic is called “Integrated Pest Management”, or I.P.M. for short.
Avoiding Plant Diseases
Watching healthy plants get sick and die is a very depressing sight to a gardener. Plant diseases are always out there, waiting to attack your garden. While sonic diseases are easily treated, other more serious diseases will require repeat treatments to handle. Some diseases are so serious (tobacco mosaic virus for example), that the plant is doomed. Plant diseases can seriously lower crop production, even if the sick plants recover. Lets keep diseases out of our gardens! Here’s how:
Good Growing Conditions and Practices:
The best defence against plant disease is to keep your plants healthy and actively growing, by creating good conditions in your garden.
Attention to temperature, air movement and air change, proper spacing of plants, consistent growing conditions – all these practices ensure healthy, stress-free plants that can resist bugs and disease well. Often, bugs and disease will attack a weak plant in your garden and build up armies to invade the rest of your healthy plants!
Use Healthy Plant Stock
● a cutting from a sick plant will carry on the disease in the new plant.
● some varieties of a plant will have greater natural resistance to disease than their “weak sisters”; if possible, grow only varieties that have known disease resistance.
Keep Tools, Hands and Clothing Clean
● diseases, pests and insect eggs can travel to new host plants
● during pruning, transplanting and handling; wash your hands after handling diseased plants before you touch a healthy one
● clean tools and knives well after use
● keep garden clear of dead leaves
Sterilize Garden or other Grow Mediums (a Medium is what your roots are growing in)
● this is especially important when using garden dirt from the backyard in a container indoors or when using recycled rockwool or lava rock for new crops
● the soil-less potting mixes and new rockwool are considered clean already – no further treatment is needed
Use R/O Water or Distilled
● if you are concerned about the possibility of disease in your water, there are a couple of simple methods to treat water and kill disease before you infect your garden:
Chlorine Bleach (1/4 cup for 30 gallons)
❍ add to water and stir well
❍ add fertilizer to water after treating with bleach
❍ use air pump and air stone to drive off bleach and keep water bubbly
Hydrogen Peroxide (35%) (1 tablespoon for 10 gallons)
❍ this product is actually water with extra oxygen, and the active oxygen will kill disease in the water
❍ add to water
❍ stir well, then add fertilizer
Note: Peroxide helps plants to take up food easier and quicker, so this treatment has an extra benefit to the garden.
Watch your garden for problems and treat them promptly! You may eliminate the disease entirely, before it gains a foothold in your garden.
Treating Fungus and Bacteria in Your Garden
Seedlings and Newly Rooted Cuttings
● treat with No-Damp or other mild fungicide
● be sure roots are already wet before root-drench treatment: No-Damp contains alcohol that could damage dry roots or unrooted cuttings
● treat plants once a week until plants recover
Vigorous Plants – Green Growth (no flowers or crop on plant)
● spray top-growth well with Safers Garden Fungicide
● wet all leaves until liquid runs off leaves
” Caution ” – Do not spray plants with flowers or crop on them; you will definitely burn your crop!
● treat your plants once a week – the best time to spray is late in the day, so the plants can dry in the dark; avoid spraying in strong light.
Flowering or Crop Plants
● treat plants by hand-watering Benomyl fungicide into the roots
” Caution ” – Never spray a flowering plant with fungicide; it could damage the flower or crop!
● water enough Benomyl solution into the roots to drench the entire root system
● treat the plants when the roots are already wet from feeding or watering, and when they won’t be watered again for at least a few hours
● treat once a week
Hints on Treating Plants for Disease
● avoid high temperature and strong fertilizers until plants recover
● disease can become tolerant of a fungicide if used many times; after you have used one product three or four times in a row, switch to another suitable product and attack the disease with a new weapon.
Safers Garden Fungicide is a sulphur based product only for spraying Green Growth.
Do not use Safers Garden Fungicide for crop plants!
Lighting Tips Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use light energy to collect carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to chemical energy in the form of sugar. The products of photosynthesis serve to nourish the plant and enable it to release free oxygen. Plants use only the spectrum of light that is visible to the human eye. Although the light appears white, it is actually a mixture of all the colours of the rainbow. Pigments, which are the light harvesting units of the plants, absorb certain colours of the spectrum and reflect the rest. Chlorophyll, the main pigment used in photosynthesis, absorbs light in the violet and blue wavelengths as well as in the red, leaving green the colour it reflects, and the plant colour we see. Photosynthesis can also occur indoors, providing the artificial light source used supplies the necessary spectrum and intensity.
Wide spectrum fluorescent, metal halide, and high pressure sodium are the types of lights most widely used for indoor growing. All of these lights require a ballast to operate and come in a variety of sizes and wattage’s.
Homegrown provides a wide range of grow lights that provide the necessary spectrum and intensity to suit plants’ needs.
Sunmaster line of Metal Halide Lamps was developed specifically for plant growth by closely matching the spectrum of natural sunlight.
Light is the most growth influencing factor!
● mylar reflects with up to 95% efficiency
● flat white paint reflects with up to 80% efficiency
● never use tinfoil for reflection it creates “hot Spots”
● use air cooled reflectors when heat build-up is a problem
● 15 minute time delays for halides prevent “hot starts”
● low pressure sodium lights greatly increase intensity for pennies a day
● light movers increase growth by up to 40%
● halide “super”bulbs increase intensity but not your hydro bill
● 430 watt Son Agro sodiums supply 30 extra watts of blue light
● wear sunglasses when working close to an H.I.D. bulb
● if your light fails, don’t try to fix it yourself, contact a qualified expert
Before high intensity discharge light came along, indoor growers depended mainly on fluorescent lights for best results. They are inexpensive, reasonably energy efficient, and most emit a wide enough spectrum of light for plant growth. There is a wide range of fluorescent bulbs or “tubes” available, and are categorized by wattage, length, and colour of spectrum range. Indoor growers should look for the type specifically made for plants such as the vita-Lite* or Ultralume 5000*.
The fixtures for these lamps are usually complete with lamp holders, reflector, and built-in ballast. Since the introduction of H.I.D. lights, fluorescent now are mainly used for propagation and early vegetative growth. The 20 watt,24 INCH, and 40 watt, 48 inch, are the most common. The more intense and energy efficient H.I.D.’s are now the choice for maturing high-light plants and vegetables indoors.
High Intensity Discharge (H.I.D.) Grow Lights
Metal halide lights were created to provide a spectrum as close as possible to that of the natural sunlight. This coupled with their intensity and energy efficiency, makes them ideal for indoor gardening. The bulbs range in size from 100 watt to 1000 watt with 400 watt and 1000 watt most popular.
An abundance of blue light emitted by metal halide makes them the best light for propagation and vegetative growth, promoting short internodal length High Pressure Sodium lights do not emit as broad a spectrum as Metal Halides lights, but have many advantages, especially when used in conjunction with halide. Sodiums last longer, and burn brighter, but are still more energy efficient.
More yellow/red colour in the spectrum and less blue promotes a higher flower-to-leaf ratio in flowering plants. H.P.S. lights are widely used in commercial greenhouses, where natural sunlight provides sufficient blue. A combination of the two lights provides the best balanced for indoor growroom, especially when used with a light mover. 430 Watt Son Agro H.P.S. bulbs which supply 30 extra watts than regular ones are now available. This extra light in the blue end of the spectrum is great news for indoor growers. If you are planing a “single lamp” growroom, you can still get the benefits of both halide and sodium light. High pressure sodium “conversion bulbs”, specially made to operate with M.H. ballasts, are available in 400 watt and 1000 watt models. The bulbs can easily be interchanged as needed, using the same ballast and fixture. The size of the light you will need will depend on the size of the growing area, and the type of plants you wish to grow.
High-light plants such as herbs and vegetables will require between 20 and 60 watts of light per square foot of growing space. A 400 watt metal halide in a three foot by three foot area will provide 45 watts per square foot, compared to 25 watts per square foot in five foot by five foot growroom. A 1000 watt metal halide in a five foot by five foot area will provide 40 watts per sq.ft., compared to 20 watts per square foot in a seven by seven foot growroom.
Proper reflectors, light movers, and reflective material on walls greatly increases intensity and efficiency of these lights.
Most high intensity lights can be run with either 120 volt (standard house current), or 240 volt (e.g. used for electric dryer).
Electricity cost would be the same but the latter would draw half the amps allowing the grower to run twice as many lamps on the same electrical circuit.
Light timers are available for either voltage but always check to see that the amperage rating on the timer exceeds that of the light or lights.
Care should always be taken when installing and using H.I.D. lights. Remote ballasts should be placed safely out of the way where they can’t be knocked over or splashed with water. Never keep your ballast on the floor in case it gets wet. Installing the fixture and reflector is simple. Locate a stud in the ceiling near the centre of the grow area. Screw a metal hook capable of holding 40 to 50 pounds into the stud and test it’s strength. Attach a 4′ to 6′ length of lightweight link chain to the hook or hooks on top of the fixture and hang the fixture from the ceiling hook at the desired height. The link chain allows you to easily raise and lower the light when necessary. Hold the lamp near the base and firmly, but gently, screw the bulb into the socket. Connect the timer to the power source, plug the power cord from the ballast into the timer which should be set in the “on” position. It may take up to 30 seconds for the bulb to ignite and up to five minutes to reach full brightness. As the lamp ignite, they tend to flicker and change colour for several minutes. This is quite normal, especially with halide bulbs, which may appear to change colour slightly during normal use. If the lamp does not ignite after 30 or 40 seconds, unplug it. After the power has been disconnected, check
● that the bulb is screwed in all the way
● that the timer is set on the “on” position
● that all plugs or electrical connections are O.K.
NOTE: Do Not Open The Ballast Enclosure To Check Wiring Yourself! H.I.D. capacitors can hold a charge even after the ballast is unplugged! Once these points have been checked, try the light again.
Once a metal halide lamp is turned off it requires a 15 to 20 minute “cool down” period before it can be re-started. If ample cooling time is not allowed, a “hot start” occurs, and too many “hot starts” can seriously affect the intensity and longevity of the bulb. For best results, replace halide bulbs after one year of steady use. High pressure sodium lamps require only 2 to 3 minute “cool down” period and need only be replaced every two to three years.
The most efficient way to use high intensity lights is to have them moving within the growroom.
There are many advantages to this, and a number of different ways it can be done. Moving the lights will eliminate plants tendency to grow toward the light source and provide light to areas which otherwise may be shaded. Since the light is moving, it can pass quite close to the plants without burning the leaves. Moving lights cover more area than stationary ones, reducing electricity costs and ensuring more even growth.
More intensity also allows plants to be placed much closer together, greatly increasing yield and quality. The size and shape of your room will determine the type of light mover that will best suite your needs.
Lineal movers carry the light fixture slowly along a track and back again during the light cycle. Most are six feet long,support a single lamp, and are recommended when the growing area is long and narrow.
Circular movers are best when the length and width of the room are similar. They are designed to carry either one,two,or three lights, in a 360 degree circle,ideally lighting a ten by ten foot area. This diameter can be reduced but rarely extended.
Two arm and three arm movers are most popular,with the latter supplying much more light per square foot. More intensity means plants can be placed much closer together,greatly increasing yields.
Advantages of using light movers:
● more even growth over a larger area
● lamps may be placed closer to crop
● increase growth by 40%
● stronger plant stems
● counteract leaf shading
● circular movers can move up to 3 lamps
● 1 or 2 meter linear track support single lamps, extension kits are used for additional lamps
Benefits of Hydroponic food production.
Hydroponics and Environmental & Health issues
● Pesticide free products through biological pest control
● Nutrient solutions may be re-used in other areas such as potted plants and turf management.
● Growing mediums can be re-used and recycled.
● Hydroponic systems use little or no growing medium.
● More intense cropping technique requires less space.
● Non-arable land may easily be facilitated.
● Year round crop production in Canada reduces transportation of imports and therefore associated solution e.g. fossil fuels.
● Promotes an overall awareness of our environment.
● Closed recirculating systems allow the grower control of the nutrient solution and therefore exactly what nutrients the plants receive.
● Varying nutrient formulas to suit different plants at different stages.
● Regular nutrient testing ensures all elements are present in their desired concentrations. Unwanted build ups of undesirable nutrient concentrations, such as nitrites, can be avoided.
● Hydroponic plants are more pest resistant.
● Control over environmental factors translates to a nutritionally superior, vegetable product.
● Vine ripened, Canadian grown produce eliminates consumption of artificial ripening agents and pesticides used on imported produce.
● Vine ripened, Canadian grown produce tastes superior and is nutritionally sound.
Hydroponics and Economical and Social issues
● Canadian business stimulates Canadian economy for growers, manufacturers of their supplies, as well as distribution, wholesale and retail outlets.
● Opens up positions for job training and employment.
● Satisfies consumer demand.
click to the next article-Benefits of Hydroponic food production
organic pesticides-101 great tips to kill pest problem with natural pesticides(STEP BY STEP GUIDE)!!!Posted by denny hemlin-doctor gardening in pest control Tags: great, kill, organic, pest, pesticides-101, TIPS on Aug 22, 2016
Your Resident Detrimental Pests
Are you having problems on your organic garden regarding the pests that are continuously chewing on your precious organic herbs, vegetables and fruits? These pests will surely give you a throbbing headache. They will eat your yields nonstop eventually killing your organic plants. This is a very serious problem. If you want to get rid of these unwanted pests, you need to learn more about them. Information about these pests is very important. Knowledge about them will serve as your weapon against them. If you would like to learn more about these destructive pests, then, continue to read on….
Aphids are minute, soft and pear shaped pests. They are 1/16 or 3/8 inches long and even with this length, they can cause a huge problem. They have these antennae which are long and two tube like projection from their abdomen. There are different species of aphids and they come in various colors such as powdery gray, pinkish, greenish, yellowish and black.
Aphids are widespread in North America. They just love having their way and feeding on most of your vegetables, fruits, flowers, ornamentals and even your shady trees! How thick could these aphids get?
These aphids have a very active reproduction. They reproduce nonstop causing now their large population. Imagine, females can reproduce even without mating. Female aphids will continuously produce baby aphids called nymphs. At a span of 1 to 2 weeks, these newborn aphids will develop and grow into mature aphids. They themselves can reproduce more aphids.
During the fall, male and female aphids will mate. After mating, the female will leave the eggs on the crevices of barks of trees and plants and also to the stems. During the winter, the eggs will lie still and during the spring, those who survived the harsh winter will emerge. However, in places where it is conducive for aphids to reproduce, such as those with mild climates, aphids tend to reproduce all year.
Both the adult aphids and the baby aphids known as nymphs suck the sap of the plants. That is why they are truly hard working. Sucking the sap of the plants would cause the distorted appearance of the buds, flowers, stems and leaves of your organic plants. It also makes your organic plants yellowish, a sign that your plants are dying. This activity would leave the plant deprived from the needed nutrients. Aside from that, they produce a sticky fluid that would immediately be stuck on the leaves. This fluid will allow the growth of mold which resembles the color of soot. This will block the rays of the sun and may cause the wilting of your organic plants. Remember that the sun is essential for your plants. Aside from that, aphids are known to host microorganisms that can be transferred to your plants and may cause plant diseases.
Caterpillars are usually dark colored with some yellow or brown stripes. Some may also have bluish dots on the body. Some are even green in color. Generally, caterpillars are 2 to 2.5 inches long. They have this capsule hard head which is the hardest part in their fleshy and gooey body. They have 6 legs in front and 4 more legs on their rear parts. Caterpillars have different species.
Some caterpillars usually feed on fruits such as the codling moth and budworms. This type is a bit difficult to get rid of than the other species who feeds on leaves. The species which feeds on foliage are typically seen in your garden. Caterpillars mostly feed on your shady trees, leafy vegetables and plants as well as your ornamentals.
The spring is a mark for the eggs containing caterpillars to hatch. The nest two months will be the time where the larva will eat its way through your garden. They will continue eating to develop and mature and at night, they will go back to the tree where they live in and continue to spin their “tent.” Making a larger tent is important to have a place where it can house their emerging body size.
At late June or early July, the caterpillars will have reached their maximum growth and will leave their tents behind. They will then go to a comfortable place like your home and start spinning their cocoons. After having a safe refuge, they will undergo metamorphosis for 2 to 4 weeks. Then, they will emerge as adults; they will find a mate and reproduce. The female will find the best spot to lay her eggs. After finding the best spot, she will lay approximately 200 to 300 eggs. Adults will die on the middle of summer time. The next spring would mark again the start of the lifecycle of caterpillars.
Most caterpillars work by eating the foliage of your plants. There will be no immediate damage seen but as time passes by, you will observe that your plants are getting bare. The foliage of your plants is very important for photosynthesis and will not live and continue to grow without having leaves. Aside from that, your plants need the nutrients and strength to build new leaves, making it very vulnerable to plant diseases. It is then imperative for you to get rid of these caterpillars. Some species of caterpillars also feed from the fruits of your plants such as tomatoes and other fruit bearing plants. This will surely leave holes and make your crops inedible.
Cabbage maggots are white tapering unsightly maggots.They have bristly hairs covering them. They are approximately 1/3 inch long. Cabbage maggots are good at burrowing in the soil and eating through the roots of the affected plants.The adult cabbage maggots known as cabbage loopers are ¼ inch in size usually grayish or brownish in color and looks like your typical housefly.
Cabbage maggots live off from the roots of cabbage and mustard family such as cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish. Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, kale, turnips and broccoli. Cabbage maggots are found throughout North America, Europe and Canada.
Cabbage maggots loves cold climate. Over the winter, the pupa will remain cocooned 1 to 5 inches deep in the soil. In late March, adult cabbage maggots will lay eggs on plant stems and cracks and crevices on your garden soil line.These eggs will hatch in 3 to 7 days into tiny, whitish and legless maggots which burrows into the soil to feed on the roots of your plants. Then, after again another 3 weeks of growth and development, the maggot will form a puparium coming from its skin. It will again take another 12 to 18 days to produce another fly. The generations can be indefinite but it is said that maggots produces three to four times a year.
Cabbage maggots live off the roots of your plants. The effects of this will go on unnoticed however; your plants will surely have a stunted growth. On some occasions, your plants will wilt in the middle of a hot day. This will happen because the roots is used to absorb water and nutrients from the soil, and since cabbage maggots feed off the roots of your plants, your plants may eventually die. Aside from that, your plants will turn sickly and the leaves will turn yellow.It is rare that the plants will survive because cabbage maggots boring on roots will also cause wounds. Viruses can enter through this wounds and cause diseases to your plants. The effects of cabbage maggots are clearly devastating.
Describing Colorado potato beetle:
Colorado potato beetle is considered as the biggest cause of pest problems in potato growers in potato farms and organic gardens. The adults are generally yellow orange in color and have that signature 10 black stripes on their wings. These adult Colorado potato beetle are generally 1/3 inch in length while the larvae are usually 1/16 to ½ inch in length. The larvae are orange in color grubs with black dots on its rear parts. The eggs are yellowish to orange in color and are laid in clusters and upright position.
Host / Range Colorado potato beetles:
Colorado potato beetles generally favor potatoes, but they would also love to have a taste of your tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, tobacco, ground cherry, cabbage crops and petunias. Colorado potato beetles can be found throughout Northern America except in some parts of Nevada, Florida, Eastern Canada and California.
The Life cycle of Colorado potato beetles:
The life cycle of Colorado potato beetles depends on where these pests are located. In farther south of Maine, these pests completes up to three generations in a year. While in north Maine, these pests complete one generation in a year. The adult Colorado potato beetles will burrow and seem to hibernate 12 to 18 inches on the soil over the winter months. Then, the adults will go up to the ground and launch themselves on a plant and they will mate. Crowds of eggs will be laid by female eggs on the undersides of leaves. Females lay their eggs in batches laying up to 25 eggs in a batch. Female Colorado potato beetles can lay up to 500 eggs each, because of this, these pests are known to be extraordinarily great in reproducing.
How do Colorado potato beetles damage your garden?
Colorado potato beetles are especially fond of leaves and stems. Larvae are especially voracious. These pests will defoliate your plants leaving you with bare garden. They will also chew the yields of your tomatoes and eggplants. The younger plants rarely survive while the older plants are extremely defoliated. The yield of your plants will be severely reduced because of Colorado potato beetles.
Cutworms are generally 1 inch to 2 inches in length. Some are brownish while others are grayish in color. Some have stripes while other has dots on their bodies. They also have that shiny little head. These caterpillars are nocturnal, meaning they are rarely seen in daylight and prefers the dark during night time. When you disturb them, they will instantly curl into a spherical shape. The adult counterpart of these cutworms are the “Miller’s moth” which is generally not dangerous.
Host / Range of Cutworms:
Cutworms favor your seedlings. They are widespread all throughout Northern America. They are considered as eating machines since they can destroy a field. These cutworms will surely leave holes on the leaves of your plants as well as your vine fruits and even buds.
The Life cycle of Cutworms:
Some cutworms spend their winter as pupae. They also have the ability to overwinter in their partly developed larval stage. In this stage, they are especially destructive from being hungry over their hibernation.
Some other species of cutworms will emerge from their hibernation during the spring. They will then lay their eggs on the ground, particularly on grasses. The eggs will hatch after 7 to 8 days and will feed on the plants growing near their temporary nest. After several weeks of continuous feedings, the larvae will penetrate the soil and hibernate. This cycle will repeat again on the next spring to come.
Some other species of cutworms can survive the harsh winter months and will be able to hatch during the spring. Again, these larvae will feed on the nearby plants especially the seedlings. Then again, they will pupate and will emerge as adults. Generally, all of the species of cutworms only produce one generation of cutworms in a year.
How do cutworms damage your garden?
Cutworms are nocturnal in nature. They will hide under crop debris, clumps of dead grass and weeds. They will find a place where they will be hidden from your reach. They favor the young seedlings and literally decapitate young plants.
Mexican bean beetle is usually mistaken for the lady bug. You should know what a Mexican bean beetle looks like since you may accidentally get rid of lady bugs. Bear in mind that lady bugs are beneficial for your organic garden. The adult Mexican bean beetles are oval in shape and yellowish or brownish in color. Some have that coppery gleam on them. Generally, these beetles are 1/16 inch in length and they have those signature 16 black spots in three rows seen across their wing covers. The larvae are fleshy fat and oval shaped grubs that are yellowish to brownish in color. Larvae are generally 1/8 inch in length with no legs but they have those spiky and bristly branches covering their bodies in segments. The eggs of Mexican bean beetle are also yellowish in color and oval shaped too.
Host / Range of Mexican bean beetles:
Mexican bean beetles love to eat the foliage, pods and stems of snap beans, green beans, Cowpeas, string beans, bush beans, lima beans, soy beans, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans and pole beans. The bush varieties are more commonly attacked by these beetles compared to the pole beans variety. These beetles are one of the most common enemies of gardeners in the eastern part of US and some parts of Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Utah. It is also found all throughout North America.
The Lifecycle of Mexican bean beetles:
Mexican bean beetles have one up to four generation reproduction each year. Adults hibernate in the debris found on your garden or in any other safe place over the winter months. They will then emerge from their hibernation when the weather is warmer such as in the middle or in the late spring. These adults will feed for a few weeks. After feeding, the females will lay their oval and yellowish eggs on the undersides of leaves. They will lay their eggs in clusters of 40 to 60 eggs. These eggs will hatch after 1 to 2 weeks. The larvae will feed for the next 14 to 35 days. After the continuous eating of these larvae, they will start to pupate again in the underside of leaves. The adults will emerge from their cases after 7 days and continue the cycle again. The population of Mexican bean beetle is especially abundant in late summer.
How do Mexican bean beetles damage your garden?
Mexican bean beetles especially love the foliage of your plants. These beetles will eat at the underside parts of the leaves. After finishing one leaf, the skeletons and fibers of the leaf will be left having now a lacy like appearance. Since these beetles eat the foliage of your plants, expect that your organic bean garden will be bared with green foliage after their attack. They can also decrease the yields of your organic beans since they also feed on your pods. Aside from that, they eat the stems. The effects of Mexican bean beetles can really be disturbing!
Describing Tarnished Plant Bugs:
Knowing what the tarnished plant bugs look like is the first step you should know in getting rid of these bugs with organic pesticides. The eggs of these bugs are oval in shape and are positioned as such in the tissues of plants as well as grasses. It is 1 mm long and has that creamy color. It flourishes in fruits and can hatch in 7 days. The nymph looks a lot like its adult counterpart. The nymphs are greenish in color; it has black dots on thorax and in between its wing pads and abdomen. The only thing is that, it lacks wings. The adult are flat and oval. They are ¼ inch in length and they are greenish and brownish in color.
Host / Range of Tarnished Plant Bugs:
Tarnished plant bugs are known to be a major pest in Canada, North America, Europe and Asia. These bugs particularly love strawberries, raspberries, peaches, legumes, apples, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, snap beans, alfalfa, tobacco and cucumbers. They suck on fruits and leaves while injecting poisonous serum on these plants. They also affect many flowers such as aster, calendula, chrysanthemum, cosmos,dahlia,daisy, gladiolus, poppy, salvia, sunflower, verbena, zinnia, and many more.
The Life Cycle of Tarnished Plant Bugs:
Adult tarnished plant bugs will overwinter on garden debris such as leaf litter and plant debris. Female adults will lay their eggs on grasses, weeds with broad leaves and in strawberries too. Female lays up to 10 eggs a day in approximately 10 to 31 days. They lay their eggs in the early or middle May where their much preferred temperature is reached. The eggs are inserted into the stems, on petioles and even on the ribs of leaves. Some are also laid into buds or in the florets of flowers. The eggs will then hatch into nymphs within 7 to 10 days. The nymphs will undergo 5 stages of development. After 13 to 41 days these nymphs will turn into adults. The rate of their maturity develops depending on the temperature. They will mature rapidly on hot temperature.
How do Tarnished Plant Bugs damage my garden?
Tarnished Plant bugs has those piercing-sucking mouthparts which are used to pierce the leaves and fruits of your plants. These bugs are considered to be a “true bug.” It will inject poisonous saliva into your plants and leaves. The injected part will be distorted because this toxic serum kills the cells near the injected site.The “sting marks” cause yellowing and wilting of the sucked parts. The fruits will also be left deformed. The damage caused by these bugs is great. It can decrease the yields of your plants and can kill many of your vegetables and plants. Some of the signs that your organic garden is being infested by these terrible bugs are the abortion or dropped flower buds. These bugs can also cause the blooms to be distorted and are not able to open appropriately. The injury it inflicts to your plants includes deformity of leaves, scarring of stems, discoloration of stems and leaf petioles. The most severe effects happen during the middle or in late summer.
Knowledge about these pests is very important in eliminating your resident garden pests. By having knowledge about them, you will know when, where, what and how you can attack them. This knowledge will serve as your weapon in eliminating them. If you want to learn more on how to eliminate or get rid of these pests, continue to read on the next chapter!
After learning about the characteristics, life cycle and the damages caused by the pests on your organic garden, you are now armed with knowledge. Now that you have your weapon against your resident pests, it is high time to know about the actions that you can do to eliminate these ghastly pests. There are many ways that you can get rid of these pests without the use of chemical based commercial products. The following are the common pests found on your garden and the most effective ways of getting rid of them.
Knowing about aphids is a great advantage for you. You should attack when they are vulnerable. Aside from that, aphids also have their natural enemies.
- Beneficial bugs against aphids
There are bugs that are considered the natural enemies of aphids. These bugs are known to be one of the most effective methods of getting rid of aphids with organic pesticides. You can try to indulge and look after these beneficial bugs. Aphid midges, lacewings, and ladybugs are known to eliminate aphids. Learn to love these bugs as they can kill those pesky aphids.
- Plants against aphids
There are also certain plants that can drive away aphids namely onions and garlic. The smell of onion and garlic is irritating for aphids, that is why these pests goes their way to avoid going to places planted with these. You can also try to plant onion and garlic on parts of your garden that is infested by aphids. If you do this, these pests will surely scurry away from your garden. You can also make an organic spray made from garlic.
- Plants that aphids love
You may also want to grow plants that aphids love. These plants will lure aphids away. It is better if you grow these plants far from your organic garden to have a aphids free garden. Examples of such plants are aster, cosmos, dahlia, hollyhock, larkspur, mum, nasturtium, tuberous begonia, verbena and zinnia.
- Pressurized water
There is nothing more satisfying than seeing these aphids literally run away and leave your cherished garden behind. You can do this by washing aphids away. You can wash aphids away by applying pressurized water. A strong spray of water from a hose will surely do the trick.
- Lemon magic
You can also try a recipe where lemon is the main ingredient. Lemon is an effective way to kill aphids. You just need to peel at least five lemons and squeeze the juice in a container. Simmer the lemon peelings on a 300 ml of boiling water for at least 30 minutes. Place the lemon juice on a spray bottle and drench the stems of your affected plants with this. Water the soil of your plants from the boiled lemon peelings. The smell from this boiled water will ward off aphids.
There are many organic ways that you can maximize to get rid of caterpillars from your garden. Here are some ways that you can utilize to get rid of these gooey creatures.
- Handpicking the sticky caterpillars
This is one of the best ways you can do. Just put on a gloves and check for caterpillars around your garden. It is easy to spot places where caterpillars are reigning in. Check for places where the foliage of your plants getting bare. Surely, there will be a caterpillar lurking around the corner. Handpick the caterpillars making sure that you use gloves since their sting is highly irritating. You can crush the caterpillars by stomping over them or you can drown them on a pail of soapy water.
- Tent and egg destruction
Aside from getting rid of the caterpillar the traditional way, you can also destroy their tents. This way you can get lots of them. Again, it is easy to look for their tents. The tell-tale sign of bare plants and the white colored tents in contrast to the green and brown environment will give them away. Wear your gloves and prune the caterpillar infested parts. Crush the tents and eggs to the ground or you can again drown them on a pail of water with soap.
- Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) blast
The use of BT against caterpillars was already utilized long ago. It is still very effective nowadays. BT is a type of bacteria that when ingested by caterpillars will immediately kill them off. BT is available in two preparations: powder and liquid form. You can spray the liquid form on the foliage of your plants and you can dust the powder form over your plants. A mouthful of foliage treated with BT will take effect for at least 20 minutes. BT is available on your local garden shops and is considered as an organic pesticide. According to BT users, one application of BT is enough for a long time. However, you can still apply BT once in a while since it is not harmful to your pets, children and other beneficial creatures on your garden such as bees and earthworms.
- Predatory animals against caterpillars
As you can see, the fleshy body aside from the fact that the diet of caterpillars is leaves make them high in protein. Caterpillars are considered as one of the basic food of animals such as birds and frogs. You can lure occasional birds to your garden by simply having a bird bath. You can also have frogs on your garden by building an artificial pond. Frogs feed in caterpillar and they can be very useful in getting rid of caterpillars.
- Garlic and chili combo
You can also try to make your own organic pesticide. Just mix minced garlic and chili on a spray bottle with water and spray them on your infested plants. However, this garlic and chili combo is effective or low populations of caterpillar on your garden.
Getting rid of cabbage maggots is nearly impossible. The next best thing that you can do is to use prevent them from going to your garden.
- Alkaline prevention
Cabbage maggots absolutely hate an alkaline environment. You can prevent the proliferation of cabbage maggots by mixing wood ashes and lime and place it around your plants especially your cabbage and mustard family plants. This will help in warding off these pests. Also, you can use diatomaceous earth if you prefer. However, you must know that constant application of alkaline mixture can raise the pH of your soil and it is not good for your plants. Keep cabbage maggot at bay with the use of alkaline mixture!
- Floating row covering prevention
The adult counterpart of cabbage maggots is the adult fly. To be able to prevent cabbage maggots from proliferating you should first prevent the adult fly from laying their eggs in your garden. To be able to prevent this, you can place floating row coverings on your plants during the spring. Spring is the time where adult flies lay their egg on the stems of your plants near the soil line.
- Cleaning as prevention
One of the things that you can do is to keep the surrounding of your plants clean. Make sure that there is no dead weed around your plants. Keeping the surrounding clean will help your discourage adult fly from laying eggs to your garden thereby preventing the emergence of cabbage maggots. Aside from that, you should not leave your recently harvested plants from your garden. Put those away quickly, however, if you see cabbage maggots, immediately burn these plants and do not compost these.
- Bug prevention
Just like the aphids, cabbage maggots are predators to some beneficial bugs. Bugs that look similarly like earwigs which have pinchers on their tail called rove beetles are natural predators of cabbage maggots. You should nurture these bugs. These bugs are a great help in eliminating these annoying cabbage maggots.
- Red pepper and ginger prevention
You can also use powdered red pepper and ginger around the stems near the soil line of your plants. Red pepper and ginger is proven to be irritating for cabbage a maggot that is why it is used as an organic way in preventing the multiplication of the said pests.
Getting rid of COLORADO POTATO BEETLES with organic pesticides
Colorado potato beetles are considered to be the most important defoliator of potatoes. It also affects other plant leaves and stems as well as yields. It is best to get rid and prevent their proliferation.
- Handpicking Colorado potato beetles
If you’re organic garden’s size is not that big, handpicking these pests can be done. Just put on your gloves and pick the overwintered adults as well as the masses of eggs early in the season. Since the larvae causes most of the damage, you must take care first of getting rid of the adults and eggs. Do your handpicking for a few weeks to ensure that you can get rid of these pests.
- Deep Straw Mulching
Mulching with straw can be very beneficial for your organic garden. Mulching heavily will keep the tubers out of reach from the rays of the sun. It will also help in creating a nurturing ecosystem for the natural predators of Colorado potato beetles namely lady bugs, green lacewings and ground beetles. It will also help in confusing these pests. These beetles will have a hard time in finding your plant amidst the straws. Mulching with straw is truly beneficial!
- Plants against Colorado potato beetle
You should also consider growing plants that can inhibit the proliferation of these beetles in your organic garden. You can grow sage, catnip and tansy alongside your potatoes and other plants that are eaten by these beetles.
- Bacillus thuringiensis var. San Diego (BTSD)
BTSD is a variation of BT. It is also effective in killing your resident Colorado potato beetle. It is a type of bacteria that can kill these beetles once ingested. These bacteria will multiply in the gut of the Colorado potato beetle instantly killing these irritating beetles.
- Neem oil solution
Applying neem oil can also be beneficial against Colorado potato beetles. However, you must follow the directions on the label since neem oil can harm other insects that are considered to be natural predators of these beetles.
Getting rid of CUTWORMS with organic pesticides
Cutworms can be truly devastating. Aside from the fact that they look grisly, they can literally decapitate your innocent seedlings and young plants. To be able to get rid of these pests, prevention and some action is a must.
- Plant collar
You can protect your seedlings and young plants from cutworms by using plant collars. This is a traditional method but it is one of the most effective methods of organically getting rid of cutworms. You can use collars made up from papers, PVC’s, cardboards and even your usually useless toilet tube papers. You can also utilize paper cups and metal cans. These collars will serve as barrier from these pests. Cutworms will not be able to go through these barriers leaving your plants safe and sound.
- Crushed eggshells and diatomaceous earth
You can use your empty eggshells in eliminating cutworms. You just have to crush these eggshells and apply it on the soil around your plants. You can also use diatomaceous earth for this. This type of method is a bit grim. The crushed eggshells and the diatomaceous earth will inflict wounds to the fleshy body of cutworms. Cutworms will die from dehydration because of this.
- Toiling your organic garden
Dip toiling and digging your garden at the last weeks of fall and once again on the first weeks of spring can absolutely help. The soil laid eggs and larvae will be unearthed from their hibernation. You can simply crush them thus, eliminating a large population of cutworms. You can also have the aid of chickens. Chickens will surely help you in getting rid of these pests.
- Bug zappers
You can also use bug zappers. Bug zappers can kill the adult cutworms. If the adult cutworms are killed, there will be nothing to lay eggs thereby eliminating the cutworms from your garden.
- Pineapple weed or sage brush extracts
A student from University of British Columbia claimed that cutworms will let themselves starve than eat plants and seedlings treated with extracts from pineapple weed or sage brush. It wouldn’t be bad if you try these extracts yourself.
Mexican bean beetles have overwhelming effects on your organic garden as well as your yields. It is imperative for you to take actions. You can absolutely get rid of these annoying beetles by applying organic methods.
- Handpicking Mexican bean beetles
Once again, the power of this traditional handpicking method can be applied to your organic garden. You can start handpicking these beetles on their larval stage. Make sure that you crush these beetles and their eggs. If you are too busy or you don’t have the courage to crush these irritating beetles, you can drown them on a pail of soapy water. To be able to have fun, you can enlist the help of your children or other family members. Just make sure that you are wearing gloves to avoid irritation from the bristly bodies of larvae.
- Mexican bean beetles eliminator
There are also certain Mexican bean beetle eliminator that is available. These eliminators are the parasitic wasps. These parasitic wasps Pediobiusfoveolatus, was used successfully on organic gardens and farms. These wasps will lay their eggs on the larvae of Mexican bean beetles, when these eggs hatch and become adults, they will kill the beetles. Don’t worry; these parasitic wasps will not destroy your plants. These wasps feed off the nectar of flowers near your bean garden beds. However, there is one drawback in having these parasitic wasps as Mexican bean beetle eliminator, they have short life span and they cannot survive the harsh winter months. Thereby, you need to reintroduce these wasps.
- Foil prevention
University of California suggests that gardeners should use foil mulch in their garden to ward off insects including Mexican been beetle. The aluminum mulch will reflect the rays of the sun and repel insects. This is one innovative and chemical free way of getting rid of these beetles. It will not hurt if your try this method.
- Beetle traps
One of the best things that you can do is to trap the Mexican bean beetles. Simply plant one of their preferred bean plants such as soybean. Let the soybean be infested with the beetles and then destroy the larvae and the eggs. This is a very effective way in decreasing the population of Mexican bean beetles.
- Early planting
What better way can you do but prevent Mexican bean beetle infestation? You can definitely prevent these beetles from taking over your garden by planting early. These beetles are especially active during the mid and late spring particularly on July and August. One of the things that you can do is plant as early as possible. You can plant as early as possible so that you can harvest the beans before July and August. This way, they will not have the time to eat their way in your beans ‘leaves, stems and pods.
These tarnished plant bugs should be eliminated from your organic garden. Aside from the fact that it kills your plants, it also deforms your plants and flowers causing an unsightly appearance for your organic garden. Surely, you wouldn’t want these bugs to deform your precious organic garden right? Surely not!
- PeristenusdigoneutsiParasitic wasp
Researches are being done about Peristenusdigoneutsi. Peristenusdigoneutsiis a parasitic wasp that is said to help in eliminating these tarnished plant bugs. These wasps kill the bugs on their nymph stage. Killing the nymphs will help in decreasing the population of these bugs. It was already introduced in New Jersey and some parts of New York.
- Natural tarnished plant bugs predators
You can also enlist the use of natural predators of tarnished plant bugs. Birds and lizards prey on these bugs. You can nurture birds on your organic garden by placing a bird bath near your irrigation system. Birds are very useful in eliminating other insects too. You can also nurture the growth of big eyed bugs, damsel bugs and the tiny pirate bugs by growing diverse plants on your garden. Grow plants that will lure these beneficial bugs on your garden. These bugs will kill those bothersome tarnished plant bugs.
- Weed controlling prevention
Controlling the growth of weeds will also help in decreasing the population of the tarnished plant bugs. The clumps of weeds especially those weeds which have broad leaves is where these troublesome bugs lay their eggs and this is also the place where they hibernate during the winter months. It is important to remove these weeds so that these bugs will have no place to lay their eggs. It will also help in greatly decreasing their population. Remove chickweed, creeping Charlie, dandelion, goldenrod and wild mint from your garden as these weeds host the tarnished plant bugs. Aside from this benefit, it will also help in maintaining the cleanliness and will make your organic garden organized and neat.
- Use of sticky boards
Many organic ways are not effective in eliminating tarnished plant bugs. The use of sticky boards can be really effective in these bugs infestation. This method is effective since adult tarnished plant bugs fly. You can place your sticky boards in strategic places such as on trees and shrubs. This is to catch these bugs on their flight. Eliminating the adult bugs will decrease their population greatly as there will be no more bugs to reproduce if the adults will die.
- Organic sprays
You can use some organic sprays such as sprays made from garlic oil, kaolin clay and other plant oils that are irritating to tarnished plant bugs. You can also use this method in large area infestation of these bugs. Organic sprays are best used in congruence with other known effective methods.
Learning about these methods can be very helpful for you and your organic garden. Feel free to try some of these methods on your garden and reap the benefits of pest free and healthy garden! Bear in mind that organic gardening can be very beneficial. In order to receive all the benefits of having a healthy garden, it is a must to take care of your plants, beneficial animals and insects and everything that is connected with your organic garden! A healthy garden means healthy yield. A healthy yield would mean a strong and healthy family!
All the best