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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!

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.

 


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

RECIPE: Munchie Bites (gf, raw, vegan)

Lifestyle, Newsletter, recipe

This recipe introduced me to dates and I am in love. They are nature’s candy. So amazing! (And inexpensive-but full of sugar so be careful.) I was overwhelmed by how many different varieties of dates were offered at the store but at  $1.99-3.99 a pack (each container has enough for two batches) I was happy to try a few. I’m certain that any of the dates would work for this recipe-but I noticed the softer and larger dates were easier to de-pit and sweeter so that’s what we used for the recipe. These bars are a sweet treat that are packed with fiber (click here for detailed information about the health benefits of the ingredients we used).

Munchie Bites Recipe
(gf, raw, vegan, energy bars)
*makes 12 bites or 6 snack size bars

1 cup raw cashews (try hazelnut or walnuts!)
½ cup pitted dates (try substituting other dried fruit: cherries, figs or prunes)
1/3 cup almond butter (or other nut butter)
2 T chia seeds (bulk spice section of People’s Organic Food Cooperative)
1 T honey (or agave)
1 T hemp seeds (buy in bulk from the coolers at People’s Organic Food Cooperative)
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (bulk section of People’s Organic Food Cooperative)
¼ cup raw pepitas (bulk section of People’s Organic Food Cooperative)

Food Processor or Blender
Parchment paper and hemp twine
9” x 5 “ loaf pan

We bought all the ingredients from People’s Organic Food Cooperative in Ocean Beach but you can get everything from any natural/health food store.

 

1. Blend 1 cup raw cashews (or other nut) in the blender or food processor for 20-30 seconds.

2. Add ½ cup dates (after removing the pits) , 1/3 cup almond butter, 2 T chia seeds, 1 T honey and 1 T hemp seed into the food processor and blend with the cashews until everything is well combined.

3. Line a 8” x 4” or 9” x 5” loaf pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides.

4. Transfer the blended mixture into the loaf pan, using a spoon to press, flatten and smooth it out.

5. Sprinkle and gently press pepitas and coconut into the surface of the bars.

6. Fold the sides of hanging parchment into the loaf pan, use your hands to press down and even out the surface of the bars one last time.

7. Refrigerate 1 hour (or freeze for 20 minutes) before pulling the wax paper lining out of the loaf pan to slice the bars.

8. Wrap each bar in parchment paper (we just re-purposed the sheet we lined the loaf pan with) and secure with a piece of hemp string.

9. Refrigerate the remaining bars.

DIY Succulent Terrarium

Lifestyle, Newsletter

For this DIY project we have decided to highlight succulents. Not only do most varieties of succulents thrive in San Diego’s warm climate, but they are nearly indestructible. When it comes to my outdoor garden, I seek out plants that are low maintenance but still aesthetically pleasing. Succulents satisfy both these criteria. There is an almost endless variety of succulents to fit any decor scheme or outdoor space. As a bonus, they are especially easy to clone yourself.

Succulents have adapted to dry dessert regions with thick leaves to retain water during droughts. For this reason, succulents do not need to be watered as often as other plant varieties. This attribute makes them perfect for the novice or busy gardener; skipping a water every now and then won’t kill your succulents.

 

Most succulents need direct sunlight and grow well in a wide range of temperatures, even in temps as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summer water succulents about once a week. Make sure the soil is completely dry between waterings. In the winter reduce waterings down to about once every other month.

Materials Needed:

– Jar or container

-Soil Mixture – We used Sanctuary Soil’s Victory Mix then added in Growstones for better drainage.

-Activated Carbon -Can be found at a pet supply store.

-Drainage material – We used Growstones and seashells

– Succulents in 2 inch pots – Armstrong Garden Center had a great selection.

 

Directions:

1. Place a layer of drainage material in the bottom of your container. We used a mixture of Growstones and seashells. Rocks and pebbles also work well.

2. Next, add a layer of activated carbon over the drainage materials. We purchased our activated carbon from Pet Kingom for $9.99. The carbon removes impurities from your terrarium.

3. Make sure the soil you choose is well aerated. We mixed in smaller Growstones to the soil for better aeration. Succulents require a lot of aeration near their roots, so this step is extremely important.

4. Finally, add a layer of your soil and then plant the succulents in the container. Fill in any gaps with soil. I found that the succulents were delicate, and I used a paint brush to remove any excess dirt that had accumulated on the leaves.

5. Lightly water the soil so that is damp all the way through. Do not over water, you don’t want an excess of water at the bottom of your container.

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!

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.

BeThe Chronicle-Issue 010-Harvest Issue

Articles, Newsletter

In this issue from 128.199.117.192: Benefits of Silica  -  Amino Treatment  -  Free Chart  -  Holiday Deals -  Visit Amsterdam How would you like to increase your plants’ resistance against common fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and gray mold? Are you looking for an environmentally friendly way to protect your plants against stress, heat, […]