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Monday, February 23, 2015

Starting Seedlings for Spring

Although I found I didn't like the intense taste of most of the microgreens I grew, beet greens transitioned nicely to baby greens and I was okay with chia seedlings. The light setup and growing trays also work well for starting seedlings for use in my aquaponics greenhouse and the garden when the weather settles. I have tomato, cucumber, green onion, parsley and marigold seedlings growing. I planted marigold both for their property of driving away harmful insects and for the healing benefits of a tincture made from the blossoms which are also known as calendula.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

First Salad

I have never been a fan of radishes. While others looked forward to enjoying the crispy little red globes each spring and crafted radish roses as a decoration for veggie trays, I found the distinct 'bite' of the root unpleasant. If Sango radish seeds had not been provided in the kit I ordered I wouldn't have planted them. Because this is essentially an experiment, I started out with radish seeds. The past few days I have been harvesting the resulting tiny plants. I made a salad with quinoa, dressed with a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon and sea salt with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions. I cut a half a tray of radish greens and added them to the salad. The Sango radish microgreen have two purple leaves about a centimeter in diameter mounted on a slender lavender stem. They made an attractive addition to the salad and while they taste like radishes, they have less bite than the mature root and I liked the taste they added. In a couple of days I will attend a class on fitness where we have been asked to provide a healthy snack to share with others. I plan to half small Roma or plum tomatoes and hollow them out leaving the outer skin and fleshy layer to make little boat shaped cups. I'll chop the tomato pulp that I remove from the cut tomato halves and add it to quinoa along with chopped onions and dress it with the olive oil lemon juice and sea salt. Then I'll stuff each little tomato boat and put a sprinkle of the radish greens on top. Alternatively, since the little purple seedlings are somewhat exotic, I'll place a small heap of several kinds of microgreens in the center of the plate on which my little salad boats are served and invite my friends to taste the greens before they use them as a garnish.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Winter Veggies - Microgreens

I have decided to grow microgreens in an available room with a southwest facing window after considering setting up an indoor aquaponics system to grow fresh vegetables during cold weather. I used available materials for most of the setup, things I had on hand from other projects. For example, a rack made of 3/4" PVC pipe that I originally intended to be a solar drying rack for an overabundance of plums. I also had four fluorescent light fixtures and ten full spectrum 4' lighting tubes I had intended for my greenhouse before discovering that there was little need for them. I had a 5 gallon water storage barrel with a spigot in which to store ph adjusted water. Although I now drink water adjusted to at least an alkalinity of 8, plants do best with slightly acid water which I produce by adding a little lemon juice or vinegar to tap water to bring it down to 6. I purchased a starter kit from GrowingMicrogreens.com and also ordered beet seeds and soil plus additional growing trays and grow mats. I intend to start a new tray every other day. The first tray, radish, was seeded on the 19th of December. On the 21st I planted beet seed which requires soil. 'Mixed salad' a blend of seeds provided in the kit was started on the 23rd. On the 25th I planted kohlrabi seeds. While the first trays planted were covered as germination took place, I set up the rack with lights for the second phase of growth. Since growing microgreens is conservative of water, I feel it dovetails nicely with aquaponics. Since no fertilizer is used because the greens are harvested before the plants begin to need more than the nutrients provided in the seed itself, and there is no water drainage, it can provide a daily supply of highly nutritious greens. So far the beets have been slow to germinate but the radish and mixed salad trays are thriving under the full spectrum lights. The low temperature in the room may account for the delay in germination of the beet seeds. I numbered the trays and keep a log of when and what was planted and the day they were exposed to light.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Better than Before

In late October 2014 my chronic lack of energy and general debilitation caused my Doctor daughter to insist that I go to an emergency room in New York where I was visiting and find the cause of my gradual decline. I was immediately served by the efficient staff and within the hour some of my immediate concerns were dissmissed as an EKG showed my heart was in good shape, however a blood test revealed that I had less than a third of the hemoglobin of normal people, in other words I was severely anemic. Tests disclosed a tumor on my large intestine that was close to blocking off my digestion. Surgery removed the tumor plus a length of the associated intestine. All visible signs of the cancer were removed and with the help of a tranfusion I feel better than I have in years. My recovery was rapid and I look forward to returning to Utah in early December and using some of my restored vitality on my aquaponics setup. I hope to have something worthy of viewing by those of you who have contacted me by mid December.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Temporary Interruption

I redesigned my rain gutters into a vertical bank along my northeast wall replacing the grow tubes which had been a problem because of water supply restrictions of the 1/4" supply. A call from York City for a family emergency in March of 2014 meant I had to leave immediately before I had adjusted the gutters well enough to ensure good flow rate through the new system or plant for the coming season. In July I returned to find that my son had kept my main system going with the mint thriving and a few gold fish still alive. A new grandson dictated my return to New York before I did any further work in the greenhouse. the diagram below depicts my new gutter arrangement

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Sweet Smell of Partial Success

I returned fro a three week visit to Florida to welcome a new grandson who was born in St. Augustine on the 22 of May to find that I could gather a handful of really tasty strawberries from my greenhouse. The tomato and pepper plants have thrived and are setting fruit. Best of all, the blend of scents from mint, strawberries and various herbs is heady. On a visit to the 'Grow House' in Denver during the Aquaponics Conference last September I noticed that they set potted plants with holes in the bottom nestled into the flood and drain grow beds. I followed that practice with my various nursery plants this year. I set the four inch peat pots into the gravel beds without any apparent negative effects.

Monday, April 29, 2013

If I were to Start from Scratch

Hmmmmmm. That's all I can say. There are so many varieties of aquaponics setups that the many enthusiasts and serious business people have developed that I doubt I could decide which would suit me best. I would likely move to Florida or Hawaii if I seriously wanted a thriving aquaponics system without the expense of a greenhouse or worrying about heat and cooling. In retrospect, I'm satisfied with what I have under the circumstances. By using mostly what I had on hand in terms of containers for water and plants and dealing with a preexisting greenhouse, I have had the opportunity to exercise my ingenuity. I have been through two winters now and begin on my third full growing season. The expanded shale from Utelite has worked well for me. I abandoned my worm factory at present, but the other day when I planted some peppers and tomatoes I noticed signs that there are still red wrigglers in the grow bins in spite of the harsh winter. Since I use the aquaculture side of the aquaponics system more as a source of natural fertilizer for the grow bins, I have decided that gold fish, super cheap and rather hardy, are my best choice for now. I have added snails to the fish pond on the advice of my son who helps me with the system now and then. I got them for free at the pet store where they are considered pests. I have resolved that as the weather grows colder with the approach of winter I will make certain that the water pipes have thawing wires running along them. Meanwhile, I plan to put some beans in my grow tubes just to see what happens. The media bins are filled with mint, tomatoes and peppers on a flush and fill system with bell syphons, the rain gutter trays run with a constant flow of water and planted with herbs and strawberries. Meanwhile I'm setting up container boxes out in the open yard to grow root vegetables such as carrots and turnips that don't develop very good roots in the media beds.