Tag Archives: gardening

  • The Aquafarm™: What is it and How does it Work?

     The Aquafarm: What is it and How does it Work?

    If you want to grow fresh veggies at home, but don’t have the space, we’ve got a cool way to do it. All you need is an Aquafarm™.

    Using the Aquafarm™ (and a Betta fish), you can create your very own countertop aquaponics garden for fresh herbs, veggies, and leafy greens. It’s especially great if you don’t have the space, time, or energy to create a traditional garden or aquaponics system of your own.

    How does the Aquafarm™ work?

    The Aquafarm™ is a small aquaponics system that essentially creates a small ecosystem in your home. Aquaponics is a method of growing fish and vegetables together where each organism helps the other to survive and thrive. It’s symbiosis at its best.

    In essence, as you raise fish in a tank, their waste is used to fertilize the plants you will eat, and in turn, the plants help to clean the water the fish live in, helping the fish stay healthy.

    Here’s how the Aquafarm™ works:

    1. The water from the fish tank is pumped up to the plants into a grow tray at the top of the tank. The plant roots become a “biofilter” that breaks down harmful ammonia in the fish waste and turns it into nitrates that the plants then absorb as food.
    1. After this conversion process, clean water is circulated back into the fish tank—ridding the tank of all the accumulated fish waste.
    1. Your plants grow in the grow trays at the top of the tank, giving you fresh veggies like leafy greens, wheatgrass, mixed greens, and a variety of herbs.
    1. You get fresh greens and herbs with minimal effort.


    What are the benefits of having an Aquafarm™?

    Besides the obvious benefit of the Aquafarm™ (fresh veggies), there are some other great reasons to have one if you’re a fish owner, gardener, or interested in emergency preparedness.

    • First if you’ve ever owned a fish, you know they’re tricky to keep alive. Toxicity, swim bladder, and algae growth are all common problems in a fish tank that affect the overall health of the fish (like I've learned all too well). The Aquafarm™ helps to reduce these problems as the plants help clean the tank.
    • Second because I’m an (unintentional) plant killer, the fact that I don’t have to constantly water the plants or give them plant food works in my favor. All I have to do is remember to feed the fish and nature will take care of the rest.
    • Third the Aquafarm™ will help me get one step closer to self-sufficiency. Use the food you grow to supplement your food storage supplies if you run out or just want fresh veggies.

    So if you’re like me and want your fish to clean up its own tank and earn its keep in your home by giving you fresh veggies, consider getting an Aquafarm™!

    And if you’re interested in building your own medium-to-full-sized Aquaponics system, check out our Aquaponic Gardening series written by our guest blogger and customer, Kevin White. He tells you how to get started and what supplies and materials you’ll need.



    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: aquaponic garden, aquaponics, homesteading, home food production, gardening

  • Microgreens: What They are and How to Grow Them

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    If you’ve never heard of microgreens before (or you’ve heard of them but don’t know much else), I have a major treat for you today.

    What are Microgreens?

    Microgreens come from the same seeds as regular greens, they’re just harvested much earlier. So, depending on the type of seed, you could actually do four things with them: sprout them, grow microgreens, grow baby greens, or let them grow to full-size heads of lettuce (or broccoli, or radishes, or whatever).

    Microgreens: What they are and how to use them


    What are the Benefits of Microgreens?

    “Cuteness” aside, microgreens have some great benefits for homesteaders, preppers, and urban gardeners:

    1)      Many microgreens may have more nutrients than their adult counterparts, according to this article from NPR.

    2)      They have a turnaround time of about 14 days from planting to harvest.

    3)      You can grow them in very little space—raise them in a windowsill, on your counter top, or in a little corner of an existing greenhouse.

    4)      They’re an easy, efficient way to get the familiar flavor, color, and texture into your food storage meals—think micro cilantro on your favorite tacos—and makes more meals possible, like a nice leafy salad (without the expense and labor of a full-grown garden).

    What Kind of Greens Can I Grow?

    If you’re worried about variety, you can put those fears to rest right now. A Google search for microgreen seeds landed me tons of sites to choose from, and from a quick glance at a few of those sites, here are some of the varieties I saw:


    Amarinth Arugula Basil
    Beet Broccoli Brussel Sprout
    Buckwheat Cabbage Cauliflower
    Celery Chard Chia
    Chives Cilantro Clover
    Collard Greens Curly Cress Endive
    Fennel Garlic Chives Kale
    Kohlrabi Leek Mizuna
    Mustard Parsley Pea
    Radish Sunflower Turnip


    How Can I Grow Microgreens at Home?

    It’s easier than you might think to grow microgreens. Follow these steps, and you’ll be in business:

    1)      Pick a fairly shallow tray (3-4 inches high). Make sure it has drainage holes. A lid is also really helpful.

    2)      Fill it with 1.5-2” of damp potting soil.

    3)      Scatter the seeds evenly across the soil. Don’t sow too many, but you can sow many more than you normally would if you were growing full-size veggies.

    4)      Use a board to gently press the seeds into the top of the soil.

    5)      The you can either:

    • Cover the seeds with a damp paper towel, which you’ll keep there until the greens need light
    • Use a fine-mesh sieve or colander to scatter a shallow layer of soil over the seeds.

    6)      Water well (but don’t overwater) to get things started, and keep the soil damp but well-drained until harvest.

    7)      Attach the lid, and put the tray in a sunny area. (If it gets too warm, these tender little greens can burn, so vent the lid if it seems like the container needs to cool down a bit).

    8)      Water regularly so the soil stays damp (but not soaked), and enjoy watching your greens grow!

    9)      Harvest at around 14 days. To harvest, simply cut the stems just above the soil line with a pair of sharp scissors.

    10)  Compost the used soil, and start again!

    How do I Use Microgreens in Recipes?

    Use your imagination to come up with great ways to use your harvest! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    1)      Make a microgreen salad—treat the greens just like you would full-size greens.

    2)      Use them in place of full-grown lettuce on sandwiches, hamburgers, tacos, tostadas, or any other recipe where you’d typically use lettuce.

    3)      Add them to soups for a fresh flavor and a slight crunch.

    4)      Top off a delicious appetizer with just the right hint of flavor.

    5)      Make your food tasty and beautiful by using microgreens as a delicious garnish.

    6)      Juice them.

    7)      Add them to a smoothie.


    Have you ever grown or used microgreens? How do you (or would you) use them?


    --Urban Girl







    Microgreens: A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens by Eric Franks & Jasmine Richardson



    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: gardening

  • How to Grow Herbs and Veggies on your Fire Escape

    Got a green thumb, but no space to build a garden?

    If you live in an urban setting, this just might be the case. With little to no yard space to build a garden plot, you may think your dreams of growing your own fresh herbs and veggies are lost. However, you may have some unconsidered real estate perfect for a garden: your fire escape.

    How to Grow Herbs and Veggies on your Fire Escape

    You can easily grow your own vegetables and herbs on your fire escape. However, you’ll want to research the fire codes and laws in your city to make sure it’s legal to make a fire escape garden before you start. But even if your fire escape is off limits (or you don’t have a fire escape at all), these tips apply to window box gardens as well, so read on!

    Here are 6 easy steps to creating your own fire escape, container, or window box garden.

    1.  Assess your sunlight and select plants accordingly. Most veggies need at least six hours in the sun to grow well, although many herbs can make do with less. As the position of the sun changes over the summer, you may need to move some of the plants around to make sure they are catching the sun.

    2. Select your plants. Pick veggies and herbs that you actually know you’ll eat. But keep in mind that some plants, like peppers and tomatoes, start small but end up really big. If you don’t have a way to stake them up or contain them a bit, consider planting something else. Herbs are great plants for beginners, as are lettuces. You may wish to buy them already started from a nursery to increase your harvest time.  Also, it can be tempting to get a little too much stuff at the nursery where everything looks so perfect and lovely. Keep your space in mind, and know that each plant will need adequate space within a container to grow well. Over-crowded plants don’t grow as well.

    3. Get your gear. Pick a container that will drain well and be big enough for the plants you want to grow. Regular pots will work, or empty two liter bottles. I also love this idea of growing things in a repurposed shoe organizer:

     How to Grow Herbs and Veggies on your Fire Escape

    You will also want to get enough potting soil for your containers. Make sure you get potting soil, not garden soil. Potting soil is specially blended to help retain the correct amount of moisture needed for plant growth in a container. If you use garden soil in a potted plant, the soil may retain more moisture than the plant needs.  You’ll also want a trowel, a water can (though a pitcher will do), and fertilizer (organic or non-organic, according to your preference).

    4. Plant once it’s warm enough in your region. Wait until after the last frost to begin your outdoor container garden. A good source to check is the farmer’s almanac, or the local cooperative extension office. And even though we are at the beginning of the summer, it’s not too late to start planting most veggies and herbs.  In fact, some plants do well later in the summer, like kale and chard, which continue to grow even when cool weather returns.

    5. Water your plants consistently. Potted plants tend to dry out more rapidly, especially on hot fire escapes. Each day, check if your plants need to be watered by putting your finger about an inch into the soil. If it’s not damp, it’s time to water. You also don’t want to overdo it. Water until soil is damp all the way through, but not soaked.

    6. Add fertilizer every few weeks to keep your soil healthy. Watering the plants can flush most of the nutrients out of the soil, especially in small containers. Fertilizing will ensure a better crop.

    So go beautify your fire escape with some edible greens and enjoy!

    To learn more about fire escape and container gardening, check out these articles:

    Veggies on the Fire Escape: Small-Space Gardening

    Thinking Outside the Planter Box


    What are your tips for starting a container or fire escape garden?






    Posted In: Gardening, Insight, Uncategorized Tagged With: growing herbs, growing vegetables, fire escape gardening, container gardening, fire escape, gardening, garden

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