Gardening

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.

 


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.

 

 

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)

Directions:

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

What size AC unit do I need for my garden?

Gardening, Uncategorized

Air conditioning is one of the most important tools when growing indoors, particularly during the hot summer months. Using an air conditioner provides your garden with an accurate way to offer temperature control, and can also substantially lower humidity levels as an added bonus. The investment into an air conditioning system will remove many of the hassles that afflict indoor gardens.

Plant Success’ Great White And Orca-Premium Biological Inoculants

Articles, Gardening, products

By Helene Isbell Plant Success has established itself as a trusted brand in the hydroponic and gardening industry as a leading supplier of beneficial inoculants. Great White and Orca by Plant Success are names that have become synonymous with premium quality mycorrhizae and are increasing in popularity as growers experience their benefits with first hand […]

Frequently Asked Questions About Organic Food & Farming

Articles, Gardening

Organic certification is a process of certifying that a certain product has passed performance and/or qualification requirements stipulated in regulations for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. Achieving certification generally involves complying with a set of production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping that include

PAR Watts

Articles, Gardening

By Sunny Datko Plants see light differently than human beings do. As a result, lumens, lux and foot-candles are not exact measures for plant growth because they are used for human visibility.  Since plants use energy between 400 and 700 nanometers and light in this region is called Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR), we could measure […]