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.


  • 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).



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

Aquaponics 101

Articles, Gardening, Newsletter

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a form of hydroponic gardening that uses fish waste as a source of natural fertilizer to grow plants. In this symbiotic relationship, the waste produced by the fish provides a food source for growing plants, and the plants naturally filter the water for the fish. This means that there is less maintenance required for the aquaponics grower, since the system is self-cleaning and does not require outside nutrients. Aquaponics is a great way to grow your own organic, pesticide-free kitchen herbs and leafy greens, which in turn will save you money on your grocery bill!

Here are some useful tips you will need to know in order to get started…

  • How Many Fish and What Kind?: You will generally need about 1lb of fish per 10 gallons of water, but this ratio can be changed by the amount of plants compared to fish in your aquarium. Any type of fish are suitable for aquaponic systems, but the most popular fish used are talapia, koi, perch, trout, and salmon.
  • Introduction to Cycling: Cycling a tank involves preparing the bacteria living in your aquarium to work in a symbiotic relationship with the fish and the plants. Here at SD Hydro, we like to get our system up and running, fill it with water, make any pH adjustments prior to adding fish and then we add the plants when the tank is stable. We let the system run like this, with no fish, for two weeks. During this time, the plants are starting to grow and they are creating the necessary bacteria your fish will need to survive. When the plants begin to yellow from lack of nutrition, you can apply a seaweed extract, such as Neptune’s Seaweed Plant Food, straight into the fish tank or as a foliar spray directly on the plant. After two weeks time your plants will be starving for nutrition and this is the ideal time to introduce your fish to the aquarium.
  • What do I Feed My Fish?: Feed fish high quality fish food pellets. The frequency in which you should feed your fish is dependent on the water temperature and is discussed more below. If you want a more sustainable feeding option, you can grow duckweed in your aquarium for the fish to eat.
  • What is the optimal pH Level?: The ideal pH for your system is between 6.2 – 7.2. Be sure to check the pH regularly and to adjust as is necessary. Try to only adjust your pH by .2 each day so you don’ t shock your fish. You can adjust the pH up with up with calcium or potassium carbonate. It is rare you will need to adjust the down as the nitrification process naturally lowers the pH.
  • What are the Ideal Water Conditions?: All fish have an ideal temperature range in which they can thrive. If the water temperature is too hot, or too cold, you fish will experience stress and could die. Most fish can live in a temperature between 50-85 Degrees Fahrenheit. During colder months, feeding should be cut down substantially and your fish should not be expected to breed. Large fish tanks may require the use of a tank heater, such as Sunlight Supply’s Aqua Heat, to maintain an ideal temperature. It is crucial to change out 20% of your aquarium’s water every week in order to maintain ideal bacteria levels.
  • Stress Factors: Cycling a system can sometimes take 8 months to a year to create ideal conditions. Don’t be discouraged if plants and fish are stressed at the beginning. There are many ways to stress your fish. Common stress factors include handling your fish, pH fluctuations and less than ideal temperatures.
  • What Plants Grow Best: The waste produced by the fish is high in Nitrogen, which is the most important nutrient plants need during their vegetative state of growth. Because of this, leafy greens, such as lettuce and kale, are the easiest plants to grow in an aquaponics system, since they are always in a state of vegetative growth. Most fruit bearing vegetables will also grow well (we grew bell peppers!). Root vegetables, such as onions and carrots, are extremely difficult to grow aquaponically, and we do not recommend trying to grow them.


For more in depth information on Aquaponics (such as the importance of the Nitrogen cycle and the role of beneficial bacterias) check out SD Hydro’s new book, The Indoor Gardening Guide, available at all five store locations for the low price of $12.99!

DIY Hydroponic Vertical Garden

Articles, Gardening


Have you ever wanted to have a hydroponic garden, but you just don’t have the space or the funds? Well, here is your solution! We made a space effective vertical hydro set-up that requires minimal purchases; the whole thing only cost us less than $70 to make!

Our friends over at Aztec brewery donated these beer bottle for us to use in this system. One of our hydro experts owns a glass cutter, which is how we were able to cut the bottoms off of these bottles. Check out this YouTube video on How to Cut Glass Bottles with String yourself at home.

Materials Needed:

3  Glass Bottles (or 3 similar plant holding vesicles)

Wire Cutters

From Home Depot

  • 10 Foot Double Loop Chain ($5)
  • 1 – 1/8″ Quick Link ($2.24)
  • 2 – 1/8″ ‘S’ Hooks ($1.18 4 pack)
  • 18 Gage Wire ($3)
  • 5 Gallon Pot, with no holes in bottom ($10)

From SD Hydro

  • Eco 132 Submersible Pump ($11.79)
  • 5 Foot- 3/8″ Poly Tubing ($1.30)
  • 3″ – 1/4″ Poly Tubing ($0.13)
  • 1 – 1/4″ Vari Flow Valve ($.50)
  • 3 – 3″ Net Cups ($1.26)
  • Growstones ($28, or since you only need about 3 cups of stones, ask your local hydro store for samples. Most of the time they will be more than willing to give you some from their store-use supply).


Attaching the Bottles to the Chain
Attaching the Bottles to the Chain

1. For the first step you will need your 10 foot chain, wire, wire cutters, and the bottles.

2.  Fold the chain in the middle, so that there are two 5 foot lengths.

3. Cut a 2 1/2 foot piece of wire. Take one your bottles and have someone hold it at the desired height. Remember that you will have three bottles. Wrap the cut piece of wire around the neck of the bottle and through the chains (See picture to the right).   I wrapped the wire around about 4 times to make sure the bottle would be secure.

4. Next, cut a 3 foot piece of wire. Wrap the wire around the top of the bottle in the same fashion as you did with the bottom (See picture below).

5. Repeat with the other two bottles, working down the chain. I left about 1/2″ inches of space in between the bottles.


6. Now that all the bottles are attached to the chain, its time to start working on the pump. Gather the reservoir, the tubing, the pump and the valve for the next steps.


Drip System with Vari Flow Valve

7. Attach the 1/4″ piece of tubing to the vari flow valve. This is going to be your drip system.  Attach the drip system to one end of the 3/8″ tubing. Then, attach the open end of the 3/8″ tubing to the submersible pump.


8. Fill up your reservoir with water. Attach the submersible pump to the side of the reservoir at the highest possible point. The tubing that is attached to the pump should go up the back of the bottles. The end of the tubing should stop about two inches above the top bottle. You may need to work with the tubing a bit to make the drip system stay in place.


9. At this point, you can plug in your pump. Make sure the bottles are all lined up so water is dripping from the top bottle, through the bottom two, and into the reservoir. If this is all working well, it is time to add your plants!


Submersible Pump
Adding Growstones
Mad Roots


10. Place a net cup in each of the bottles. Take your plants (we took cuttings of plants we had in the store and rooted them in our EZ Clone) and place inside the net cups. Fill in the excess space with Growstones.


11. At this point, your system should be up and running. Let it run for a couple days before adding any nutrients or intense lighting, as the plants need time to recover from the transplanting process. After a couple of days, add the recommended amount of  hydroponic nutrients to your system to ensure your plants survive and thrive.



Product Spotlight: Growstones

Articles, products


What are Growstones?

Growstones are both a growing medium and a soil aerator made from 100% recycled glass.  They can be used in the propagation process, in hydroponics and aquaponics systems, and as an alternative to perlite in soil.


Are Growstones safe to use in my aquaponics system?

Yes! Growstones are safe to use in aquaponic systems. We verified this fact with Growstones. Be sure to give the stones a thorough rinse down beforehand in order to remove fine dust particles.


The Growstones on the left are for hydroponic and aquaponic systems. The stones on the right are for soil.

Why do we recommend them?

  • Sustainable: Growstones can be reused over and over again until they loose their physical integrity. Sterilization of used media between crops is recommended. This can be accomplished  by flushing the used Growstones with a diluted bleach solution or with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Made in the USA: Growstones are made in New Mexico and are never shipped long distances.
  • Eco-friendly: Growstones are made from 100% recycled glass. Other comparable growing mediums and soil aerators, such as perlite and hydroton, are stripped minded from finite resources that will eventually become depleted. Growstones are also 100% non-toxic and chemical free.
  • Superior Water Retention and High Air-Filled Porosity: Because of their porous surface, Growstones are able to retain water and aerate roots better than similar growing products. Ideal substrates have small and large pore spaces. When the substrate is irrigated, water is held in the small pores but quickly drains through the large pores, allowing fresh air to flow through the soil. Thus, Growstones allow for more oxygen flow to your roots, which enables the plants to break down sugars for energy when there is no sunlight available. Roots that have optimal access to oxygen are able to continue growing even during dark cycles.
  • Silica: Growstones release Silica in a form plants can uptake. Silica is important to plant growth because it helps to strengthen the cells walls, which in turn protects plants from pests, drought, heat and cold and will allow the plant’s structure to bear more fruit.  Growstones are made from 98% vitreous soda lime glass, which contains high levels of plant-soluble silica. This silica is released from Growstones and made available to your plants throughout your entire grow cycle.

You can purchase Growstones at all 5 SD Hydro locations, or at our online store!

Bell Pepper and Winter Greens Salad Recipe

Articles, Gardening, Lifestyle

The recipe of the month is a Bell Pepper and Winter Greens Salad. Our goal was to use all locally grown ingredients. Everything in the salad was either grown in our shop or came from a local farm!

We wanted to showcase our winter crop harvest.  Leafy green vegetables, such as chard, kale, and lettuce, are perfect crops to grow during the San Diego Winter season. This salad has all of these tasty greens that we grew right here in the Bay Park shop. We also hit the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market to get the rest of our ingredients and were able to support six local farms!

As a challenge, we gave ourselves a budget of $10 to feed our team of eight using this recipe. Below is a breakdown of our food expenses and the recipe:

Grocery Bill: Hillcrest Farmers Market (Sundays)

  • Suzie’s Farm $2.75
    • Spring Mix
    • Kale
    • Sprouts

  • Archie’s Acres $1.50
    • Jim Bacon Avocado

  • Valdivia Farms $2
    • 2 Heirloom Tomatoes

  • Proios Family Farms $1.50
    • Red Onion
  • Sweet Tree Farms $0.10 Cents
    • Pink Lady Apple
  • TOTAL: $7.85!!!!!!!!


We were able to buy all the food we needed at the farmers market. Everything else was home grown! We were able to feed 8 people for only $1 a person while at the same time supporting organic, sustainable, and local food systems!


Bell Pepper and Winter Greens Veggie Salad (RAW, VEGAN)

  • 4-5 small Bell Peppers (Hydroponic Window Farm)
  • 5-6 leaves of Swiss Chard (Aquaponics)
  • 4-5 leaves of Nevada Lettuce (Outdoor Soil Garden)
  • Handful of Basil (Outdoor Soil Garden)
  • 4-5 leaves of Kale (Suzie’s Farm)
  • Handful of Spring Mix (Suzie’s Farm)
  • Handful of Sprouts (Suzie’s Farm)
  • 1/2 Red Onion – to taste (Proios Family Farm)
  • Jim Bacon Avocado (Archie’s Acres)
  • 2 Large heirloom tomatoes (Valdivia Farm)
  • 1 Pink Lady Apple (Sweet Tree Farm)
  • 2 Oranges (From Jen’s Front Yard)


  • Chop all ingredients for the salad to desired size. Mix all together.
  • Squeeze fresh OJ on top.
  • Enjoy!

Product Spotlight: Hang Time Drying Racks

Articles, Newsletter

For centuries it has been common for cooks to harvest fresh herbs from the garden and hang them to dry, preserving them to season dishes during the colder months.  With these Hang Time Drying Rack from Sunlight Supply you can continue this tradition, with six levels of space to carefully cure your garden’s bounty of fresh herbs, flowers, or plant materials.

The Hang Time Drying Rack is made from durable polyester netting with wire frames to reinforce the shelving, allowing them to provide an excellent pop-up, sturdy surface to put inside a closet, grow room, or grow tent. To use, simply take it out of the bag, hang it up and let it drop down.  No assembly is required.  For best results, keep your ventilation system turned on to quicken the drying period without dispersing odors into the outside environment.

Drying racks also allow you to avoid the two biggest threats to damp produce, fungus and rot, as these dry racks are made of a breathable mesh material that allows for quick drying and maximum ventilation.   The carabineer clips also allow you to hang it from almost much anywhere you’d like, which enables you can take this drying system with you quickly and easily if you ever need to travel or change harvesting locations.  Once you are done, simply shake off the drying rack and place it back into its storage container.

Benefits of the Hang Time Drying Rack:

·      Medium is 24″ diameter and large is 32″ diameter.
·      Use to easily dry flowers and herbs.
·      Carabineer clip to make hanging simple.
·      Durable polyester netting.
·      Wire frames to make shelves rigid and sturdy.
·      Easy to use, snap together buckles to quickly add or remove shelves.

How to Dry & Preserve Herbs For Later Use

Articles, Lifestyle

Drying and storing garden herbs is one of the best ways to enjoy their flavor throughout the year, and it allows you to save money instead of buying prepackaged herbs at the supermarket.  Just about every herb can be dried and preserved for later use, however some leafy herbs store better than others.  This process works best with herbs that don’t have high moisture content, such as bay, dill, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.  Herbs with broad, flat leaves and high moisture content, such as cilantro, parsley, chervil, and basil do not dry as well and are often best when used fresh.

Harvesting Herbs

The best time to harvest herbs is when the oils responsible for their flavor and aroma are at their peak. The longer after their peak you wait to harvest most herbs, the less flavor they will have.  Proper timing will vary depending on the specific herb you are harvesting and its intended use. Herbs grown for their foliage, such as chives, should be harvested before they flower, as flowering can cause the herbs to develop an off-flavor.

Some general guidelines to follow include:

·      Harvest herbs just before the plant flowers to ensure flavors are at their strongest.

·      Harvest plants early in the morning, after the dew dries from the leaves, but before the heat of the afternoon sun.

·      Herb flowers have their most intense oil concentration and flavor when harvested after flower buds appear but before they open.

·      Harvest tarragon or lavender flowers in early summer and then shear the plants to half their height to encourage a second flowering period in the fall.

Preserving Herbs

The most commonly used method for curing herbs is by allowing the leaves or entire stems to air-dry at room temperature.  If the herbs are dirty, first rinse away any debris, shake off the excess water, then spread the herbs out to dry on paper towels or dishcloths and pat them gently until dry.  Remove any dead or damaged foliage, then tie each bunch together into small bundles with string and hang them upside down in a dark, well ventilated room where temperatures typically range between 70-90°F. Be sure to make small, loose bundles and allow for good air circulation around each bunch.  Herb leaves should dry in three to four days under proper conditions.

With herbs that have large leaves and high moisture content, such as basil, mint, lemon balm, and lemon verbena, strip away the leaves from the stems before drying them. Spread these leaves in single layers for quickest drying. Herbs with smaller leaves, such as thyme, oregano and marjoram can be dried with the leaves still on the stems, then strip away the leaves after the drying process is complete.

In humid weather, it may be necessary to place the herbs on a cookie sheet and dry them in an oven at 125°F for several minutes before storing them in an airtight container. Food dehydrators can also be very useful for drying herbs. Follow the directions provided with the dehydrator.

Storing Herbs

After the herbs are completely dried, store them in airtight jars in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. If entire stems were dried, remove the leaves and crush or crumble them before placing them in jars.  Be sure to label and date your containers.  It is very important to have the herbs completely dry, otherwise, they may mold. It is best to use dried herbs within a year. As your herbs lose their color, they are also losing their flavor.

Drying and storing garden herbs is one of the best ways to enjoy their flavor throughout the year, and it allows you to save money over buying prepackaged herbs at the supermarket.  Just about every herb can be dried and preserved for later use, however some leafy herbs store better than others.  This process works best with herbs that don’t have high moisture content, such as bay, dill, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.  Herbs with broad, flat leaves and high moisture content, such as cilantro, parsley, chervil, and basil do not dry as well and are often best when used fresh.