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  • 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.

     

    -Angela

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

  • Microgreens: What They are and How to Grow Them

    |2 COMMENT(S)

    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

     

     

     

    Sources:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/08/29/160274163/introducing-microgreens-younger-and-maybe-more-nutritious-vegetables

    http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/growing-microgreens-indoors

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

    http://www.growingmicrogreens.com/microgreen-seeds?ps=60

    http://sproutpeople.org/seeds/microgreens/

    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?

    -Corinda

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelysanders/how-to-grow-herbs-on-your-fire-escape

    http://www.pinterest.com/naomirachel/fire-escape-garden/

    http://www.barreaucharbonnet.com/30502/382068/design/volet-vgtal

    http://stopmakingbadchoices.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/my-nyc-fire-escape-garden/

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

  • Veggies on the Fire Escape: Small-Space Gardening

    Veggies on the Fire Escape: Starting your Small-Space Garden

    As I sat down to write this post, my four-year-old expressed some interest in what I was doing. I explained that some people don’t have grandmas with lots and lots of land where they can plant gardens (like my four-year-old does). Some people don’t even have backyards. So where, I asked him, do you think those people could plant gardens?

    “They could build a planter box. And put it in their bedroom.”

    Um, sure.

    But assuming your bedroom doesn’t get a full six hours of sunlight (or that you don’t want your tomato pots draining onto your carpet) is there a solution for yard-less would-be gardeners? You bet, says BuzzFeed’s Rachel Sanders, in her aptly named article, “How to Grow Herbs and Veggies on Your Fire Escape.”

    Sanders’ article takes small-space gardening to the next level, telling us where to put and how to arrange those containers, as well as what and when to plant for maximum yield. Divided into 17 handy tips, her list includes considerations that commonly get overlooked—everything from “does my landlord allow plants on the balcony?” to keeping mint from staging a hostile takeover of your property. (Heads-up: she also talks about squirrel-proofing your garden, which accounts for the naughty word in the article.)

    Not yet convinced that there’s such thing as an urban green thumb? We’ve written here before about container gardening and ideas for re-purposing junk as garden real estate.

    And here are a few more resources that will have you fairly running to your nearest home and garden store.

    Before you start your fire escape garden, make sure that it is legal to do so in your city. Several cities have fire codes and laws prohibiting fire escape gardening.

    Whether your backyard looks more like Green Acres or Eva Gabor’s beloved penthouse view, you can grow a lovely and tasty garden this season!

    -Stacey

    Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: gardening tips, gardening

  • What's Bugging your Garden?

    Has something like this ever happened to you? It’s a lovely spring morning, dew on the grass, and wispy clouds scattering before the breeze. You step outside to breathe it all in, and just as you’re admiring the new little green buds on your strawberries, you see them. Bite marks on the leaves! (frightening minor chord!)

    This is the time of year I’m so happy to be outside with my hands dirty. But it’s also the time of year my deep loathing for all things creepy-crawly takes on a life of its own. (Interestingly, it’s the only time of year I’m brave or deranged enough to kill insects with my bare hands—something that would make me curl up into a ball and cry during any other season.) Yes, I’m on a rampage. And I have a good reason to be.

    Up in my little corner of the country, the garden pest du jour is this nasty piece of work: The western tent caterpillar.

     

    What's Bugging Your Garden?

    The western tent caterpillar, or Malacosoma californicum, breeds in staggering numbers, can reduce a tree to bare branches, and will insult your mother while doing it. Okay, maybe not, but they’re certainly making life miserable for gardeners this year, as you can tell from this headline from a local publication: “Growers at war with intense caterpillar infestation.”

    While I battle these loathsome larvae for territorial rights to my potato patch, other gardeners across the country are facing different foes. Aphids, slugs, locusts—they all go on our bad list when it comes time to try and coax tender little vegetables out of the ground. While your first impulse might be similar to mine—grab a garden hoe and show no mercy—as ever, our best weapon is good information.

    If you’re not sure which garden pests to anticipate this season, check out this super useful chart of Worst Garden Pests by Region, from Mother Earth News. Alternately, if you’ve found a culprit, but can’t put a name to the face, both the National Gardening Association’s Pest Control Library and the University of California’s online pest management program have lists with mug shots to help identify common pests.

    Fortunately, there are clear-headed people out there with your garden’s best interest in mind. For some great ideas on organic pest control (so, my garden hoe method doesn’t count as organic?) check out the very practical survey results in this article, “Organic Pest Control: What Works, What Doesn’t.”  Also, go back to our insight article from earlier this year, “Why Won’t My Garden Grow? 5 Mistakes You May Be Making,” to see what other factors, besides multi-legged monsters, might be keeping your garden from being its best self.

     

    I’m fairly serious about the garden hoe thing.

    What are your (better) ideas for keeping the bugs at bay this growing season?

    -Stacey

     

    Photo Courtesy of Texas A&M University

    https://insects.tamu.edu/extension/publications/epubs/e-218.cfm

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: gardening, garden

  • Reduce, Reuse, Retrash

     Reduce, Reuse, Re-trash

    Spring is here, and summer is just around the corner, which means garage sale season! Up in my neck of the woods, as soon as we get two sunny Saturdays in a row, the signs start popping up like daffodils at every intersection. And while I’m an acknowledged sucker for old suitcases and cheap art, my mission this year is to work on our outside space—specifically to gussy up the garden a bit.

    Which is why I was stoked to find this article from Mother Nature Network: “10 Beautifully Useful Things Made From ‘Useless’ Trash.” Okay, a few of them are a little mod, even for me, and the jury’s still out on that bracelet. But the old window as a cold frame is unequivocally genius, and I’m having visions of a softly lit garden party with those bottle lanterns

    The subject of the article is one Nathan Devine, an artist, designer, and dumpster diver from Australia. Devine runs a website called Retrash.com and will publish a book of the same name later this year, full of ideas for everything from bird houses to jewelry. And not only does this fire the imagination, when perusing retirees’ driveways for fabulous old junk—it makes me re-evaluate my approach to spring cleaning! I could haul that broken kids’ dresser down to the dump, or I could plant my herbs in it. Hmmm…

    Do you remember our post from last year, “Thinking Outside the (Planter) Box”? I’ll be checking there for some tips on the kinds of materials and containers that work best for growing food, before heading out on my secondhand-treasure-hunting expeditions this summer. Maybe I’ll post pictures of the good stuff I collect and re-use, and I’d definitely love to see yours!

     

    --Stacey

     

    Photo Courtesy of Mother Nature Network

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: garden tips, gardening, garden

  • Aquaponics Part Two: Materials

    |4 COMMENT(S)

    Media Filled Growbeds

    Aquaponics is the practice of raising fish and vegetables together in a symbiotic relationship by using the fish waste to fertilize the plants. In early April, I posted about my beginning adventures in making my own Aquaponics system. To learn more about Aquaponics and my plan for building a system, check out the article here.

    If you’re curious about Aquaponics, you may be wondering what materials you’d need to set up your own system.  As I build my own, I’ll keep you up to date on what you need to have and how to build your own.

    Materials to grow vegetables:

    • Fish Tank
    • Grow Beds
    • Growing Media
    • Water Pump(s)
    • Supply of piping, valves, & fittings
    • An Aquarium Water Test Kit
    • Proper type & number of fish

    Most of the materials I am using have been salvaged for free or close to it. I am building my system inside a greenhouse that I am constructing to allow for four-season growing and to keep predators away from the fish.

     

    Fish tank:

    The tank must be large enough to fill all of your grow beds and still have plenty of water for the fish. The water will return from the grow beds into this tank so make sure it has the capacity to not overflow. You can try using a repurposed, above ground, soft side swimming pool with a filter/pump to filter out the solid waste and supply water to the grow beds. Or, what I’m planning to do, use three Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC) holding 300 gallons of water each.

    Grow beds:

    I am using salvaged (free) plastic 55-gallon barrels that are cut in half lengthwise. Make sure you cut them so that each half will have a bung or filler hole at the bottom of the radius in the center. This will allow the water to drain out of the grow bed on the off cycle.

    DIY Aquaponics Grow BedsDIY Aquaponics Grow Bed

    Growing media:

    You can use commercial clay ball media (such as Hydrocorn or other clay pebbles), pea gravel (this is what I will use), or one of the many other types of grow media. There is a lot of information about the different types on the internet. Learn more about grow media from Backyard Aquaponics, Aquaponic Gardening, and Home Aquaponics System.

    Pump(s):

    You will need a water pump, or pumps, depending on the design of your system. There are many inexpensive types out there in either 12-volt DC or 120-volt AC house current. You want enough water flow to be able to fill your grow beds in a short amount of time but not flood them out.

    Plumbing fixtures and piping:

    You will need enough PVC pipe and fittings to connect the grow beds together, carry the water to all of them and also drain it back to the fish tank. This amount is dependent on how your system is designed. I will list what it takes for mine as the construction progresses.

    Aquarium Water Test Kit:

    You will need this to determine the amount of ammonia and PH levels in the water to make sure it is at a tolerable level for both the fish and the plants.

    Fish:

    This has to be a choice based on your climate conditions. For instance, Tilapia is a favorable choice as they are prolific breeders, but they are very intolerant of cool water temperatures. Catfish, on the other hand, tolerate almost any temperature and are able to survive in low-oxygen environments; however, they will not breed in a tank unless it is large and has some type of nesting box to use. I will be using both Bullhead Catfish and Hybrid Bluegill as stocked fish in my system. The thing to remember is that the ratio of fish to water is critical. The ratio I will be using is 1 pound of fish to 10 gallons of water. This means 1 pound of fish at MATURITY to 10 gallons of water. You may get away with 100 fingerling fish to begin with, but they will have to be thinned out as they grow or they will die of oxygen depletion.

     

    I will stop here for now, and pick up next time with design and construction of an Aquaponics system.

    See ya'll next time!

     

    Kevin, OK

    Check out the rest of our Aquaponics Series:

    "Aquaponic Gardening: What is it? (Part One)"

     

    Additional Info:

    http://aquaponics.com/page/aquaponics-information

    Photo of Media Filled Beds Courtesy of Backyard Aquaponics

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: gardening tips, gardening, food storage

  • Why Won't my Garden Grow? 5 Mistakes you May be Making

    |7 COMMENT(S)

    5 common gardening mistakes

    As blossoms poked their heads through the soil last spring, this new growth prompted my husband and me to do something we’d never done before: plant a garden. In our excitement, we went all out for our vegetable garden. We planted carrots, green onions, watermelon, two varieties of green peas, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet peppers, chili peppers, green beans, spaghetti squash, yellow squash, and zucchini. It didn’t take us long to figure out we were a little in over our heads as first time gardeners.

    As spring grew into summer, I watched parts of my very first vegetable garden grow and thrive, as the rest of it sprouted weak, miniature crops that curled in on themselves and died. What did I do wrong? Apparently the mistakes I made are common among many (if not most) first-time gardeners. Here are five mistakes every gardener should know to avoid:

    Mistake 1: Planting your Garden in the Wrong Spot

    In our excitement to grow a vegetable garden, my husband and I bought every type of vegetable we thought we’d like to have. The problem was we didn’t have enough space to give each plant the right amount of room, water, or sunlight they needed.

    When shopping for plants, make sure you understand what your plant is going to need to grow.

    • Does your plant need sunlight or shade?
    • Does it prefer dry or moist soil?
    • How much space does it need between it and other plants?

    You know what your yard is like—how much space there is, the type of soil, etc.—so make sure you buy plants that will work in those conditions. When you understand and provide the conditions your plants need, you’ll have better luck growing a full and plentiful crop.

    You can find information for specific plant conditions on plant tags at nurseries, or in seed descriptions in catalogs.

    Mistake 2: Overwatering

    Why Won't my Garden Grow? 5 Mistakes you May be Making

    We all know that if a plant doesn’t get enough water, it will die, and so as novices we can fall prey to overwatering. Well, overwatering is just as dangerous as under-watering. While under-watering can lead to dehydration, overwatering can lead to rot, which inhibits the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.

    All plants need water to metabolize nutrients and to help them grow, but every plant is unique in how much water it needs. It’s important to know what your plant’s moisture requirements are. Some plants (like tomatoes) are heavy drinkers and need more water, while others, like beans, require less.

    Real Simple shares an approach from Rebecca Sweet, a garden designer in the California Bay area and writer of the Gossip in the Garden blog. Sweet suggests that in order to stop guessing how much water your plants need, “invest in an irrigation system with a ‘smart’ controller…[that can] automatically adjust watering levels based on historical data and moisture sensors.”

    If an irrigation system is a little too expensive, just give a little extra attention to the soil in your garden. Check it regularly and if it’s dry and crumbly (or especially rock hard!), it needs watering. If you can form it into a loose ball, then it has enough moisture.

    Check out this chart from The Old Farmer’s Almanac to see how much water to give your plants and when.

    Mistake 3: Not Giving Plants Enough Sun

    Why Won't my Garden Grow? 5 Mistakes you May be Making

    When I plotted out my garden last spring, I knew certain plants (like my squashes) needed direct sunlight to grow. We didn’t have enough space in the sunlight for all the vegetables we wanted to plant and I thought, “No problem. A half day of sun will be just enough for the squash. These squash will be strong” and I planted them. Unfortunately, they weren’t strong enough and my spaghetti squash only grew to the size of a grapefruit before it died.

    Certain plants, like my squash, are sun worshippers and absolutely need full sunlight to thrive. Other plants, like green peas, can thrive and grow in shady areas. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because one plant can grow in partial sunlight, so can another. Most vegetables need at least six hours of direct sunlight.

    Hobbyfarms.com recommends that you plan your garden before you plant. Make sure you have enough space available in your garden to give enough sunlight to each plant. You can check the planting recommendations on seed packets to know which plants will need more sunlight. Give the sunniest spot in your yard to plants that require the greatest amount of sun.

    Mistake 4: Planting too Close Together

    Although your plants may start out small in your beginner garden, perennials take up more space with each additional season. However, there’s more than one reason to avoid planting your vegetables (or other plants) too close together.

    When too close together, plants will compete for the nutrients found in soil, water, and sunlight. If you follow the spatial recommendations found on seed packets, however, your plants will be able to thrive.

    Some plants, like carrots and green onions, are okay planted close together when initially buried. The reason they can be close is because not all of them will sprout. After the viable seeds have sprouted, it’s important to thin them out and give them more room as they grow.

    Don’t worry about wasting vegetables. Most the small vegetables you pull out to thin your row of carrots, green onions, or other veggies are edible, so you can start using them right away while the rest continue to grow.

    Mistake 5: Letting weeds grow too large

    Why Won't my Garden Grow? 5 Mistakes you May be Making

    During my first year of gardening, I didn’t realize how quickly weeds (aka my arch nemeses) would grow and take over my garden. By the time I realized weeds were actually a virus-like problem, my husband and I only had one option: we had to completely dig out our plants that were riddled with weeds.

    If not contained, weeds will choke out all the plants you love, leaving nothing behind but ugly grass and crunchy leaves. The best time to go out and weed your garden is when the first tiny weed pokes out of the soil. Catch them early in order to avoid more work later on. When weeds grow, their roots spread, making it more difficult for you to pull them out without damaging the roots of your plant. Also, the larger a weed gets, the more nutrients it will steal from your plants.

    Unfortunately there is no cure-all for making weeds disappear for good. All you can do is tend to your garden and pull the weeds out (or even move the top layer of soil around with a hoe to upset the weeds) when you see them growing.

     

    What mistakes did you make on your first garden? What’s your best tip for a beginning gardener?

    Check out some of our gardening Insight articles to help you grow a better garden:

    --Kim

     

    Sources:

    http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/gardening/top-gardening-mistakes-00000000034632/index.html

    http://home.howstuffworks.com/green-living/top-10-rookie-gardening-mistakes-and-how-to-avoid-them.htm#page=1

    http://www.hobbyfarms.com/crops-and-gardening/10-beginner-gardening-mistakes-to-avoid.aspx

    http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/some-vegetables-require-less-water-others

    Posted In: Gardening, Insight Tagged With: gardening

  • Aquaponic Gardening: What is it?

    |33 COMMENT(S)

    Aquaponics 

    Photo Courtesy of Backyard Aquaponics

    What is Aquaponics and why should you incorporate it into your preparedness plans?

    Aquaponics is the practice of raising fish and vegetables together in a symbiotic relationship. In other words, it is the practice of raising fish in a tank and using the fish waste to fertilize the plants. The way it works is the water from the fish tank is pumped through the grow beds, where the beneficial bacteria convert the ammonia from the fish water into nitrites and then into nitrates that the plants feed on. The plants, in turn, filter out the ammonia, which is harmful to the fish; the water is then pumped back into the tank as clean, aerated water.

    Aquaponics can be done on any scale from a small aquarium with just a few goldfish and herbs for one person, to a large commercial greenhouse producing enough fish and vegetables for an entire community. So whether you are in a small apartment or a greenhouse setting, Aquaponics can be done.

    Why would I consider Aquaponics?

    It is very simple; any additional FRESH food you can put into your diet—now or in an emergency—will help your mood, provide great nutrition, and give you a feeling of accomplishment. Don't get me wrong—having a supply of storage foods is your best bet to survive an emergency. But in an extended emergency, not having to use up all of your supplies, or accidentally running out of them, is crucial.What do you do when they are gone? Being self-sufficient in growing your own food and supplying your own meat is an excellent back up plan. Preserving food that you have grown yourself is also a great way to know exactly what is in your meals. And, I might add, it is a wonderful activity to get the whole family involved in. With Aquaponics, you can grow almost anything that you would grow in a conventional garden, too. Even some root crops such as carrots and radishes can be grown in an Aquaponics system.

    Most Aquaponics setups are very simple and fairly low-cost to make. With a simple greenhouse or indoor unit, you can grow fresh vegetables and fish for your table year round in even the harshest environments. The great thing about Aquaponics systems is that they are essentially self-sustaining. Other than an occasional topping off with water to replace what’s lost through evaporation, you don't have a lot of upkeep. Also, depending on the type of fish you use you can feed some of the vegetable waste to them. Most materials for construction can be salvaged practically free (if not completely free).

    I will be building a mid-size system in the following weeks to demonstrate how Aquaponics works. I will provide photos and construction techniques to help you along if you choose to try your hand at it. Mind you, I am just starting out myself, so what mistakes I make will be documented so you don't do the same. I will take this from construction to first harvest of a crop.

     

    --Kevin, OK (Guest Blogger and EE Customer)

     

    Sources & Additional Information:

    http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/guide-to-aquaponics/what-is-aquaponics/

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: preserving, gardening

  • Your Drought-Year Garden

    If you’re like me, a sunny afternoon in March finds you tearing through your Territorial seed catalogue and poring over cryptic drawings of garden plots. It’s like I can hear my backyard’s biological clock ticking and I can’t wait another minute to get outside!

    As part of your preparations for your 2014 garden, you’re probably checking out seed calendars and companion planting charts. Here’s one more graphic you might want to consider from the U.S. Drought Monitor:

    How will your garden do in your area during this drought?

    Experts are calling the current western dry spell one of the “worst droughts in 500 years”, severely affecting the supply of drinking water, as well as that for crop irrigation. In fact, one of the most far-reaching effects of even a localized drought in an agricultural state like California is rising produce prices across the country (read about food storage and drought here).

    In that light, gardening may seem like a smart way to beat the heat. However, if you live in any of the highlighted areas on the map above, there are some serious considerations for the home gardener. Some Californians have already been required to restrict water use. Your neighborhood may not be in quite such dire straights, but there are ways all of us can garden a little more conservatively in a dry year.

    Check out these tips and tricks for gardening in lean times:

    Water conservation is a good idea any time, but this year seems to be providing us a compelling reason to conserve. Read about California’s challenges and some solutions you can implement at home and in the garden. Then get outside and get those peas in the ground!

    Sources:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/us/severe-drought-has-us-west-fearing-worst.html
    Photo Courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: produce, drought, emergency preparedness, gardening, garden, water storage, Survival, water, Emergency, preparedness, food storage

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