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National Heirloom Seed Festival 2013

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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.

 


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

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).

Directions:

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.