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Seasonal Gardening

Articles, Gardening, Lifestyle

The concept of seasonal gardening is an ancient practice that follows the cycles of the Sun and Moon. Awareness of the seasons and what planting tasks are best suited for which time is a tool for gardening success. The Farmer’s Almanac, Biodynamics and the Hawaiian Moon-Planting Calendar are all examples of seasonal gardening that utilize natural light cycles.  A balanced system can be created by understanding how light cycles are effected by the sun, moon, gravity and water as well as the specific ways plants react to them. Ideal planting and harvesting schedules can be developed by tracking the natural reactions and effects of water, light and growth. This schedule varies based on location and is used more as a guideline than a science.

Seasons can be categorized as winter, spring, summer and fall but the season can also be be broken down into cycles. Cycles of light, cycles of growth, cycles of planting and harvesting. Knowing what type of crop correlates with each season and their light cycles is vital for optimum plant growth and successful harvests.

The common belief that summer is warm so plants grow and winter is cold so plants are less fruitful is only partially accurate. While temperature does play a roll, a more relevant factor is sunlight. After the summer solstice on June 21st the Sun sets earlier and rises later, shortening each day throughout winter. Plants store their energy during this time and don’t grow as vigorously. Once the December 21st Winter Solstice passes the light cycle reverts; the days begin to get longer. The increasingly long hours of sunlight correlate with the plant vegetative growth cycle. Light is instrumental in plant growth and in the transition of seasons.

Types of plants can be broken into warm weather and cold weather crops. Crops like corn, cucumbers, melons, peppers, and tomatoes require higher temperature soil and air for vigorous growth and therefore are labeled warm weather crops. Cold weather crops, or crops that require cooler soil and air temperatures include many plants with edible roots and leafs like carrots, onions, beets and potatoes.

After the Summer Solstice warm weather plants begin flowering and producing seeds because there are fewer hours of light each day. The light shift is a signal to plants that they are at a half way point in their life cycle. The sunlight available for photosynthesis has decreased, this shift tells them it’s time to flower and make seed.

In temperate places like San Diego it is never too late to plant but generally best results happen when you plant according to the season. The Sun is the more obvious seasonal gardening guide but the moon is also a large factor to consider. The moon cycle reoccurs monthly and is especially important to consider if you are planting “off-season”. During the full moon there is significantly more light and just as the ocean tides are effected by the moon’s magnetism- all water reacts (even water in the ground and in plant roots). For off-season planting success, be sure to follow the moon cycles and plant during the ideal time of month (a few days before the new moon and the full moon) as to maximize the water and light effects of nature. Properly planted and moistened seed’s can’t help but germinate a few days before the moon is at it’s fullest because of the relationship between the water and moon. Rain is also more common around the full and new moon so by transplanting just before this time, your plants experience less shock..

Timing is always an important factor to keep in mind so that you are prepared and planting with the season. Every move you make should be for the following year which means it’s time to start thinking about what the upcoming season offers. It’s important to fall into the rhythm of nature’s seasons for best gardening results. For instance, from December 21-June 21 is ideal for sowing warm weather seeds and planting your garden beds so the plants can absorb the increasingly long sunlight rays going into summer. While moving through the late summer months and into the early fall is typically a time for harvesting and planting cold crops and perennials such as herbs, flowers, and leafy greens like lettuce and kale. Depending on your location the seasons may vary or seem invisible.

Seasonal growing is a natural balance that is not meant to be conquered but is an intuitive and natural tool.  Think of the process as the movement of the ocean; fighting it is an uphill battle. Fall into the pattern of the Earth’s flow and success will surely follow.

Product Spotlight: Method 7 Glasses

Articles, products

Spending a lot of time in your grow room can cause a number of problems, including eye damage from High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights. This can cause serious consequences over time, including cataracts and permanent loss of vision.

 

ALL HID bulbs emit UV light, though the amount and type vary between bulbs. If you read the warning labels, they’re very clear: do NOT attempt to look directly at the bulb or you can receive UV radiation damage.   Many grow rooms use reflectors, so you don’t need to look directly at the bulb to be exposed.

 

Furthermore, high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights are notorious for distorting the natural color rendition of your plants, making everything look yellow instead.  This makes it more difficult to monitor your plants’ health, determine the color of their leaves, and spot pests, diseases, mildews, and mineral deficiencies.   Method 7 glasses compensate for these color imbalances, allowing you to see the normal colors of the plants as if you were in natural daylight.

 

Method Seven glasses can also prevent the “strobe effect,” a phenomenon that negatively affects indoor gardeners working under HPS lights.   This is caused by the lights slightly dimming and getting brighter as the AC voltage cycles, which can be seen by the lines that appear in photographs and film.   Over extended periods of time this strobe effect can cause headaches and make people feel ill.  However if you place a Method Seven lens in front of the camera then the lines will drastically reduce this effect, causing the lines to simply disappear.

 

Made from high-grade mineral glass, Method 7 rendition lenses add specific elements that are atomically bonded into the crystalline structure.   These elements filter out the wavelength of yellow light, which allows you to see natural looking colors in an HPS lighting environment.  All Method 7 lenses were developed in partnership with Carl Zeiss, whose camera lenses are used by millions of photographers all over the world.

 

It’s important to protect yourself and your vision, and to effectively monitor the health of your plants. Method Seven glasses will transform the way you see your garden, and provide the visual clarity you need to catch problems that are difficult to see under HPS lights.    It’s simply the best choice for your eyes, your plants, and your lifestyle.

FREE Raised Bed Raffle

Articles, Gardening, Newsletter

Healthy plants require nutrient rich, well aerated soil, with plenty of drainage. That is hard to come by in San Diego. A great way to start your garden in an area with difficult soil, like clay or sand, is by investing in a raised bed garden. Raised beds are small plots of soil, 3-4 ft wide, laid on top of existing earth. These beds are popular for backyard gardeners because of their space efficiency and near effortless upkeep. Plants are easy to reach from both sides of the bed and building your garden 1-2ft off the ground you will reduce stress on your back. Deep, loose, fertile soil with plenty of room for root zone development and adequate drainage will make your plants healthy and productive.

A raised bed can be created by constructing any size rectangle from rot resistant materials, laying down hardware cloth, then filling with soil. Inexpensive alternatives to building your raised bed from scratch are the Big Bag Bed by Smart Pot or Frame-It-All prefabricated beds, which only need to be filled with a high quality soil.

For your chance to win a Frame-It-All raised bed garden with soil, seeds, propagation materials and nutrients enter here.

 

National Heirloom Seed Festival 2013

Articles, Events, Newsletter

San Diego Hydroponics & Organics is proud to have attended the third annual National Heirloom Exposition, held in Santa Rosa, CA at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.   Hosted by our favorite seed company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co, the Expo was a great opportunity to meet new vendors, find new seed companies and learn about heirloom horticulture.  The expo took place Tuesday, September 10th through Thursday, September 12th. The fairground was packed with heirloom produce and tons of like-minded individuals. The Expo included a Produce Hall, a Vendor Hall, two Speaking Halls as well as a beautiful outdoor garden area that displayed many examples of Bio Dynamic gardening. A separate livestock area included activities on Wednesday especially tailored for kids. The food court featured local Farm-to-Market food trucks and stands.

For heirloom seed collectors, the event was like nothing else we’ve ever seen!   We counted at least 25 heirloom seed vendors on site.  Our two new favorite seed companies would be Wild Boar Farms with their beautiful collection of colorful  striped tomatoes, and Kitazawa Seeds because of their expansive collection of heirloom vegetables from Asia.  On the last day of the festival there was an awesome seed trade and barter event held, with no money trading hands, just seeds traded for seeds, teaching attendees the best kind of seed ethics possible.   With the declining total number of uniquely available heirloom fruit and vegetable  seeds, it was refreshing to see a culture that’s embracing the genetic diversity of heirloom seed collecting. Attendees were actively cultivating an atmosphere where seed-saving education, professional networking, and good old-fashioned seed bartering is encouraged.  In the upcoming 2014 season, Baker Creek will introduce a Master Seed Catalog”. This publication will be the largest Heirloom seed catalog ever to be printed and will be a one-stop printed resource to every seed available.

Education was a central theme of the heirloom festival.   One hall was for independent speakers and the other hall featured speakers sponsored by the companies who supported the show.   Diverse educational topics included; “Seed Saving,”  “Compost & Mulch,” “Seaweeds for Food & Health,” “Farming for Chef’s,” “Fermentation for Farming,” “Growing Food in Small Spaces,” “Bio-Dynamic Composting,” and many more.   The second hall was reserved  for talks centered on Biodynamics (which is the combination of growing plants and animals together), it  also featured more intense and technical talks ranging from the many aspects of Biodynamics, from pollinating Bee’s to Wildflowers and Compost.

Biodynamics was the hot term and philosophy of the show, and for good reason.   At the center of a Biodynamic farm is the recycling of materials out of the life of the farm itself rather than importing fertilizers from the outside, organic or not.  Any system on a farm that utilizes the inherent organic materials on-site and creates loops of reusing, re-purposing and recycling is using the principles of Biodynamics.  Here in San Diego two of the most common animals that can join with your home garden are chickens and, thanks to recent legislation, Pygmy goats.   Besides getting fresh eggs that are higher in vitamins and beta carotene than store bought eggs, chickens also provide manure that’s rich in nitrogen.  Many chicken owners simply move their coup across lawns or garden every two weeks to spread the manure in a simple and effective manner.  Pygmy goats provide milk, till dirt labor-free, and just like chickens their manure can be used as fertilizer or compost.   Local rules and regulations for both inside the city of San Diego can be found here for Chickens, and here for Pymgy Goats.   As we know from our experience with aquaponics,  the biodiversity of the system is organized so that the waste product of one part becomes the revitalizing energy for another. This results in an increase in the capacity for self-renewal and ultimately makes the garden or farm more sustainable.

Lastly, before our time was up at the Heirloom Expo, we found several new vendors we’re excited to bring back to the shelves of San Diego Hydroponics & Organics.  This includes a new greenhouse company with products ranging from hobby greenhouses all the way up to full scale high tunnels with automated fans, louvres, and automated blackout materials which are used to create any light cycle a farmer wants for year round harvesting.  Another product we found soon to be on the shelves is HB-101 from Japan.    HB-101 is made from extremely concentrated oils derived from  Japanese Cypress, Pines  and Cedars and can be used as a seed soak, mixed into a regular nutrient recipe as a plant vitalizer, or even as a foliar spray for insect control.  Come into San Diego Hydroponics today for a look at some of the new products and catalogs we’ve found to make next year the best Season yet for your backyard and indoor gardening, whether it’s small scale, hobby or professional!

Product Spotlight: Mad Farmer Be One

Articles, Gardening, Grow Tips, products, Uncategorized

Mad Farmer BeOne

 

Although the benefits of vitamin B1 have been long known and often debated, new research is showing that B1 on its own is not very effective.  Instead, it works together with other nitrogen rich elements, specifically Auxins[i]. Through this synergy B1 becomes a useful tool to help reduce shock during cloning, transplanting, topping, skirting and other stressful situations.  Plants do synthesize B1 internally but light is required for this to occur, therefore B1 is found in the leaf tips where light is readily available, but not in the root zone where light does not penetrate. For stress prevention at the root zone we must use a supplemental form of B1.  Mad Farmer’s Be One is the most comprehensive B1 additive on the market, derived from Ascophyllum Nodosum, Humic Acids, Protein Hydrolysate & Thiamine (Vitamin B1). This complete plant tonic can be used in the garden through all stages of growth from starts, until about week four of the bloom cycle.

 

Mad Farmer’s Be One Contains:

 

ASCOPHYLLUM NODOSUM (Norwegian Sea Kelp) is one of the most widely used plant nutrients in the world and is composed of over 70 vitamins, minerals and enzymes including; Copper, Zinc, Molybdenum, Boron, Manganese and Cobalt. Ascophyllum Nodosum also contains Cytokinins, naturally occurring growth hormones that promote chloroplast development and heavier harvests. As well as stimulating bacterial growth and a strengthened immune system, the Cytokinins work in conjunction with the Auxins to assist in rapid root development and amplified cellular division.  When used in the reservoir it also reduces osmotic shock and aids in micro nutrient uptake.

 

HUMIC ACID is a powerful organic electrolyte that dissolves minerals and trace elements, such as Silica, increasing the bioavailability of nutrients while simultaneously detoxifying soil of heavy metals. When used as a foliar spray, Humic Acids increase oxygen intake, enhance photosynthesis and aid in the development of essential oils.

 

PROTEIN HYDROLYSATE- The most basic component of all living organisms is protein which is made when chains of amino acids bond together. Protein Hydrolysate supplies your plants with these building blocks, allowing Protein synthesis to occur by providing short chain Peptides and L-Aminos in a readily available, water soluble form.  When used as a foliar spray, Protein Hydrolysate stimulates the opening of stomata, resulting in increased photosynthesis. Used as a top feed, it stimulates micro flora development, stimulating biodiversity in your growing medium.

 

As you can see, Mad Farmer’s Be One is not simply a B1 supplement to be used in stressful situations. Its formula is designed to increase your gardens productivity throughout the entire lifecycle of the plant. With the use of some of nature’s most powerful minerals you can help your boost your plants natural defenses, increase the ability to use available light and. uptake nutrients more efficiently. Simultaneously, you will be ridding your grow medium of pollutants and increasing its biodiversity.  San Diego Hydroponics & Organics is San Diego’s EXCLUSIVE source for Mad Farmer products.  So stop by any one of their 5 locations today and take your garden to the next level with Mad Farmer.

 

 



[i] Auxins area class of plant hormones that are vital to plant growth, their development processes and are found in things like sea kelp.

 

The Eggplant Demystified – Health Benefits, Grow Tips & Recipe

Articles, Gardening, Grow Tips, Lifestyle, recipe

     The eggplant (aka aubergine) is perhaps one of the most misunderstood foods of all time. The staff at SD Hydro harvested these four gorgeous eggplants at our Bay Park location a few weeks ago. No one really knew what to do with them so I decided to take them home and turn them into a delicious dish.

Eggplants belong to the nightshade family of vegetables along with tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.  They are extremely high in fiber, magnesium and potassium; making them an excellent choice for a heart healthy diet and for aiding digestion. The skin of the eggplant is especially rich in nasunin, an antioxidant that helps to protect brain cells from becoming damaged.

Eggplants are quite easy to grow; they thrive in conditions similar to those favored by tomatoes. This means they grow top heavy (so a tomato cage may be necessary), need lots of sunlight and a soil that drains water well. In San Diego, eggplants will grow mid spring all the way though until early fall.

Eggplant is a highly versatile cooking ingredient; it can be stuffed, fried, rolled, mashed, baked and who knows what else. The recipe I decided to try is a traditional Georgian dish called Badrijani. Badrijani is usually served as a side dish or appetizer (though from personal experience it is also a tasty late night snack).

Eggplant Rollups

Walnut, Garlic & Pomegranate Eggplant Rolls (Badrijani)

Ingredients:

  • 2 small – medium sized Eggplants
  • Olive oil
  • 1.5 cups Walnuts
  • 1 cup Cilantro
  • 4 Cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. Pomegranate seeds
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Serves 4 -6

Directions:

1. Cut the tops and the bottoms off the eggplants and cut lengthwise into 1/2″ slices.

2. Fill a bowl with water and add a generous amount of salt. Place the eggplant slices into the salt water mixture and let sit for 30 minutes. This step will draw out bitter flavor from the vegetable.

3. Meanwhile, combine the walnuts, cilantro, garlic and 1 tbs of water into a food processor. The end result should be a paste-like consistency. Add more water if necessary.When the mixture is the proper consistency, fold in the pomegranate seeds. Set aside.

4. Next, remove eggplant slices from water and pat dry with a paper towel. Add 2-3 tbs of olive oil to a frying pan and turn stove to medium heat.

5. After the oil has heated, place the eggplant slices into the frying pan and fry both sides until golden brown. NOTE – the eggplant will absorb the oil very quickly. You will need to continually add oil throughout the frying process. After each slice in done, set aside on a paper towel to cool.

6. When the eggplants pieces have cooled to room temperature, take one and evenly spread the walnut mix onto one side; roll  into a spiral.Repeat this step with each piece of eggplant.

7. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

Grafting in the Garden

Articles, Gardening, Newsletter

Vegetable grafting is the big craze in home gardens this year! Though the process is centuries old it is only recently that this method has become popular among home gardeners. By bonding the rootstock of one plant to the top portion of another you can create a “Frankenplant” resistant to stress, resilient to disease, and eminently more productive.

What is grafting?

Grafting in its simplest terms is the bonding together of two plants’ vascular tissue. The rootstock of one plant is bonded to the top portion, or scion, of another with the intention of retaining the desirable characteristics of both. For hundreds of years this process has been used to grow woody plants and during the last century farmers in Southeast Asia have begun using it in the cultivation of food crops. It is only within the last few years that home gardeners have started to use this method to grow durable and bountiful vegetable plants.

What kinds of plant can be grafted together?

While it is possible for inter-species grafting to take successfully, plants of the same species will readily bond. Grafting is however very common between genera, allowing us to graft things like a tomato and eggplant together. It should be noted that grafting does not produce hybrids, rather two distinct plants bonded together at one point.

What are the benefits of grafting?

Plants are grafted especially to have increased resilience against stress and soil borne disease, like bacterial wilt and nematodes. It will produce the delicious fruit variety of the scion but with a carefully selected rootstock can produce 50% more yield.

How is grafting done?

There are various methods of grafting but the simplest for novice gardeners is tube grafting. A rootstock is chosen for qualities like fruitfulness, the ability to grow in certain types of soil and genetic fitness. A scion is chosen for the qualities of its fruit, like taste, color or size.

The seed of the rootstock is planted a day or two before the scion so that the root stock is stronger and bigger than the scion. When they are roughly 4” tall and the rootstock is topped and a small slice is made down the center. The scion is cut from its roots, inserted into the slit of the rootstock and a grafting tube is then used to secure the two together. The new plant must then be kept in humidity and temperature controlled environment until it is able to fully heal. Keeping the incision free of bacteria is imperative to the success of a graft.

The portion of the plant below the point of grafting will continue to display characteristics of the rootstock while the portion above will receive nutrients from the stock. Typically the rootstock’s limbs are trimmed back and what’s left for harvesting is the delicious fruit of the scion.

 


Product Spotlight: Mad Farmer Root Pouch

Articles, products

 

What is a Root Pouch?

Root Pouch is a fabric planting container made from recycled plastic water bottles. They have several different fabric densities, colors, and patterns depending on what the need and decor is. They are safe to use in growing edibles as well as decorative plants. Perfect for drip systems, overheads and hydroponic flood trays, as well as the use for the home grower.


Why fabric pots?

Root Pouch fabric is a mixture of PETE (recycled plastic water bottles) and natural fibers that creates a mesh like surface. Once roots reach the fabric it signals the plant to send out new roots, instead of circling and strangling the plant like other containers. Thus creating super dense, fibrous healthy root systems for plants. Root Pouch containers achieve a superior root system over the traditional plastic pot. These natural fibers mixed into the netting of the fabric will retain moisture much more evenly around the pot.


Why Root Pouch over other fabric pots?

Root Pouch is the only fabric pot on the market made from recycled plastic water bottles and mixed with natural fibers, such as jute and cotton. It has always been a frustrating feat to want to purchase and use earth friendly items, but when they are usually far more expensive then their less earth friendly counterpart it is sometimes difficult to do. Root Pouch decided to keep their prices low and affordable. Growing in Root Pouch not only takes the water bottles out of the landfill, but it also diminishes the use of the traditional black plastic pots (that also end up in the landfills), lessening the carbon footprint. 


Root Pouches are not only earth friendly and affordable but they also create an ideal environment for the plant to grow in. Their handles and stitching are industrial strength and make planting and growing in them that much easier.


Does the recycled material leech contaminants into my plants?

No. Root Pouch uses recycled plastic water bottles (known as PETE) in the making of their fabric. PETE is a plastic resin made from water bottles that have the recycled symbol surrounding the number 1, which is FDA-approved as safe to drink and eat out of. PETE is used along with natural fibers because of its strength, thermal-stability and its resistance to UV rays.

DIY Vinyl Record Hanging Planter

Articles, Lifestyle, Newsletter

 

There are endless ways of re-purposing items around our homes to create unique gardens. For this DIY I used scratched vinyl records to create retro-inspired hanging planters. These planters are easy to make because of the low temperature malleability of vinyl but for the same reason should not be hung in direct sunlight or in places of extreme heat.

The materials you will need are:

  • Oven
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Oven Safe Bowl
  • Oven Mitt
  • Drill
  • Quick Link
  • (4) 2ft lengths of Chain (I used Black Everbilt Jack Chain from HomeDepot)
  • Vinyl Record (Some records have high sentimental or monetary value- Be certain that you want to destroy the record you use.)

 

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Place oven-safe bowl upside down on top of cookie tray in the oven.

3. Center your record on top of the upside-down bowl.

4. Let the record heat up for 2-3 minutes. The vinyl should start to droop.

5. Remove tray from oven, be sure to wear oven mitts.

6. Flip record upside down and mold into the desired shape and let the record cool completely.

7. Drill four holes as evenly as possible apart 1” from rim of record.

8. Hook jack-chain through holes. I was able to pry the chain open by hand but for heavier chain this may require pliers.

9. Connect chains at top with quick link.

10. Hang and add plant.

RECIPE: Chunky Vegan Chili Stew (Gluten Free, Oil Free)

Articles, Lifestyle, Newsletter

Warm summer weather is synonymous with gearing up for backyard barbeques which means loads of hot dogs and ketchup. In fact, Americans eat nearly 20 billions hot dogs a year – mostly during July 4th festivities. This year, think about adding a healthy side dish to your summer spread to offset all those dogs! This chili recipe is vegan, gluten free and contains no oil. Its loaded with protein and fresh veggies you can grow in your own backyard.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 celery stalk
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup frozen edamame, thawed
  • 2 1/2 tbs. chili powder
  • 1/2 tbs. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper

 

*Tip: If you do not have all of these chili spices on hand it can get pretty expensive buying them individually from the grocery store. Some markets, such as Sprouts and food Co-operatives, sell spices in bulk. Buying spices in bulk allows you to get just the right amount of spices needed for a recipe. Additionally, other larger super market chains, such as Ralph’s and Vons, will have most of these spices for $0.99 in the ethnic food section. This tip has saved me tons of money on spices and has allowed me to experiment with a lot more recipes (especially Indian dishes).

 

Directions:

1. Roughly chop the celery, carrots and onion.

2. Drain the liquid from one can of black beans into a soup pot and add 1/2 cup of water. Turn heat to medium high. Add the celery, carrots, onion and bay leaves.

3. Saute’ the vegetables for about 15-20 minutes, or just until soft. While sauteing, sprinkle vegetables with salt and pepper.

4. After the vegetables are soft remove the bay leaves and add the 4 cans of diced tomatoes, garlic and spices (chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder) to the pot. Stir well and let simmer for 5 minutes.

5. At this point, add in both cans of black beans (one full and one strained). If liquid levels are looking low, add another 1/2 cup of water to the pot. Continue cooking at a simmer for 20 minutes.

6. After 20 minutes add the corn and edamame to the chili. Cook for another 5-10 minutes at a simmer.

7. When chili is done, take off the heat and serve. The chili can be served with toppings such as sour cream, cheese, green onion and red onion.

Serves: 8-10