Keep the Green Outside

While we typically like to focus on the landscaping side of things, we have had a number of readers talking about mud rooms and other ways they keep from tracking pesky mud off their floors. It gave us an idea. We frequently work with remodelers and so we asked them about flooring for all conditions. Here’s what we learned.

Mostly hot, dry weather means sand and dirt gets indoors easily. That’s among the important reasons why houses even in modern times, opt for tile flooring, even when they will have numerous alternatives available to them such as carpeting. Additionally, carpeting makes the room feel warmer and consumes heat. It’s extremely difficult to remove dust and sand put in your carpeting when it’s time to vacuum. But occasionally, people use a mix of both. For example, they may use carpet flooring in the rooms which don’t have other sources through which dust or sun could come in and use tiles or windows.

Though many consumers around the world use carpeting, tiles are favored in hot, arid climates over another type of flooring. Aside from the weather, you’ll find many other reasons for that.

It is quite an economical choice to make. Carpeting, laminate flooring or wooden flooring are more expensive when compared to tile flooring. Also, tile is very durable and needs fewer repairs as compared to others. Considering the time, effort and money needed for changing the flooring within your house sometimes, carpeting and wood flooring is a costly hassle. Many agree it is better to stick with the most long-lasting option. In case a tile breaks, it is quite easy replace that particular block of tile with a fresh one.

Tiles also offer a lot of alternatives, looks and design possibilities. So if you need wooden flooring but can’t install it because external variables do not support it, you can go for wooden tiles. These tiles give an ideal wooden look to your house. Along with that, it will cost you nearly half of what it would have cost to install wooden flooring.

Along with wooden designs, tiles come in a lot colours, varieties and other patterns. You’ve got the maximum amount of options to pick from and can easily pick flooring you will love for years to come when choosing tile flooring. In Austin, ental property managers can also locate style and the durability that will endure through many tenants. Tile’s lasting value represents among the biggest advantages of tile flooring over the others kinds of flooring.

Tiles are also rather easy to maintain. Merely wipe it with a wet cloth and you happen to be done. For regular cleaning, damp mopping does the trick.

 

Automate Your Soil Garden’s Irrigation

One of the great benefits of most hydroponics growing operations is that most of the processes from lighting, water flow, monitoring, and dosing can all potentially be automated rather easily. We love to cultivate plants with water and sometimes that includes growing plants the traditional manner, with soil.

We have a raised bed garden that we are just getting started with this season and because this outdoor garden often needs daily manual watering we decided to automate the watering process as easily and simply as possible. One option is to go with a drip irrigation system with buried lines which can take a while to install and may require special treatment.

For this raised bed garden we chose the simplest manner of automated irrigation. We opted to go with an Orbit automatic faucet timer connected to a hose and ultimately to a 75′ soaker hose that covers the sections of the raised bed garden. While some irrigation systems can take a lengthy amount of time to install, we had this automatic irrigation system connected and operational in under an hour.

The Orbit automatic faucet timer comes with several different configurations. Our timer was a single outlet model however depending on your needs they have multiple outlet models. The Orbit automatic irrigation timer runs on two AA batteries and they are very easy to remove and change if necessary. The timer is quite simple to operate with a very easy to read settings dial. If the user just wants to use the hose like normal, there is a “manual” button and after selecting how long you want the hose to run, it will turn on and flow as needed.

The raised bed garden we were working with needed to be monitored a little bit initially to determine exactly how long we should run the soaker hose in order to properly irrigate the plants. After we had it dialed in to the right amount of moisture the only thing left to do is add plants and look out for garden pests.

Home Hydroponics : Why Growing Your Own Makes Sense

Home Hydroponics Protects Your Food

We live in a time of increasing population, climate change, GMO crops, and economic uncertainty. People on tv are preparing for the end of the world and scarce food supplies. When we depend entirely on nature to supply us with our food needs we risk nature’s unpredictable wrath, be it in the form of drought, animal or insect pests decimating crops, or some other terrible act of nature like severe hail, or worse. These factors are certainly a case for utilizing hydroponic growing techniques inside of a protected environment such as a greenhouse. The average homeowner can benefit from hydroponics as well, it is not necessarily limited to a huge greenhouse operation.

Indoor Gardening Benefits

In today’s world of increased scrutiny on the food we and our family eat, we may find some of the things about our food disturbing. There are very passionate voices crying out about the negative effects of genetically modified crops that are finding their way into our food supply. The popular herbicide glyphosate for example is said to be impossible to even wash off of contaminated food.1 A home hydroponic system can help us through these situations. Using a modest sized hydroponics system in front of a window in our house we are able to grow a nearly uninterrupted supply of fresh and nutritious salad greens for our dinners.

Know What You Grow

When you grow your own food you know exactly what has gone into it. You know exactly what has (or has not) been sprayed on it. For our family needs it is rare that we have to ever put any pesticides on our salad greens and if we ever need to it is usually just a mild soap solution. There is also the matter of what you feed your plants. We typically use a premade water soluble powder hydroponic fertilizer. that is quite affordable, usually the General Hydroponics MaxiGro. To be sure we are getting the best nutrition we also add a trace and rare mineral supplement to the hydroponic growing solution. There is a certain peace of mind knowing so much about where your salad comes from and what made it grow.

Hydroponic Gardening – Efficient!

When you grow an outdoor soil garden you are often required to spray or treat pests in some way. Treating pests is much more rare in an indoor hydroponic operation. There is also the water that is needed for the soil garden that must be considered. In a typical hydroponic garden your water solution will constantly recirculate and feed your plant’s roots. In a typical soil garden some of the water will evaporate, some will flow past the roots, and some will runoff taking away fertilizer with it and often ending up in streams or rivers causing algal blooms. The water use savings for a hydroponic garden is significant. There have been studies that suggest in some crops such as roses the hydroponics grow used only 65% of the water that the soil crop of the same variety used2.

Hydroponic Home Garden of The Future

For many of the reasons mentioned above hydroponics has a strong potential future. Hydroponics at home may become more popular as well. Many of the new technological innovations such as home automation and internet connected devices may help play a role in making home hydroponics even more of a great choice. Most hydroponics systems can easily be automated to almost run themselves. They can dose themselves with nutrients, add water, and can potentially be checked by the owner on their smartphone while they are away. Hydroponics is the fusion of technology with the science of agriculture and it makes food production more predictable and reliable which is why we believe it has a great future both in business and in the home.

Hydroponic Cat Toy – Aerogarden 3

Make a Hydroponic Cat Toy with your Aerogarden 3

We love hydroponics and we love cats, so it is only natural that we would try and combine the two into a hydroponic cat toy. We decided to do a very simple project using the Aerogarden model 3 hydroponic system. Aerogardens are available in several different models and the model 3 is the least expensive and most simple of their products. There is a catnip seed pod kit officially available for Aerogarden but we made use of the “grow anything” Aerogarden kit which allows one to plant any seed they want in an Aerogarden. The last key ingredient was catnip seeds. Combine all of this and we end up with a super awesome hydroponic cat toy!

Why a Hydroponic Cat Toy?

A cat toy made using an Aerogarden 3 makes a lot of sense for several reasons. The unit is lightweight and self-contained meaning that you can place this hydroponic feline toy anywhere you like, even away from windows and in dark locations. Plants that are grown hydroponically do require occasional water and nutrients to be added but other than that the Aerogarden is automated and will turn the lights on and off all on its own. Hydroponically grown plants tend to grow much faster than soil grown plants which is perfect if your cat is constantly chewing on the catnip. If your cat lives entirely indoors they definitely may enjoy having a nice catnip plant on their level. The only thing you may want to consider is whether the cat is a “cord chewer” so the cord may need to be covered but this would apply to any electronics you may have in the home.

Growing the Catnip Hydroponically

The catnip that you start from seed in the unit should sprout in under a week. By two weeks of growing the catnip should be several inches tall. Until the catnip has several branches and is more than several inches tall it may need to be protected from the cats. Once the catnip reaches a good size, usually after 3 weeks the plant will probably be big enough that having cats eat it won’t stop it from continuing to grow. This all depends on how much your cat loves catnip. Once the catnip is about a month old it will probably need the cats to eat it or it will need to be trimmed in order to keep it from getting too large for the Aerogarden model 3 container (it will bump the light). This is perfect because now you can trim the tops and start drying the catnip leaves that can later be sprinkled on cat toys or simply given to the cat.

Other Hydroponic Cat Toy Ideas

The Aerogarden 3 is a great choice for a hydroponic indoor cat garden because of it’s simple configuration and low cost. The other larger Aerogarden models would work even better for growing catnip because they can adjust to accommodate taller plants. If the catnip is allowed to grow taller it will be possible to harvest more seed from the catnip and the catnip flower buds are also popular with the cats. Aerogarden does offer a seed pod kit for the larger Aerogardens but you could also purchase that kit and use it in an Aerogarden 3 , it is just not recommended because catnip can grow quite large. Hopefully this idea can breathe new life into what you are able to do with your Aerogarden and keep the cat happy at the same time.

Home Hydroponics Costs & Power Consumption

Costs of Home Indoor Gardening

Making the decision to practice home hydroponics or indoor gardening will most likely involve some sort of expectation of costs. While it is true that indoor home hydroponic gardening will typically use less water than the same crop grown outdoors, there are still some additional costs to consider. If you are fortunate you will be able to receive some light from the sun via a window, however in many indoor gardening scenarios you may rely entirely on artificial light. Running fans or air pumps is also an additional electrical cost. The water in the hydroponics system will also probably need to be cycled through the system with some sort of electric pump. Finally you will need to feed your plants more than plain water and will therefore need to add some type of hydroponic fertilizer.

What are Typical Costs of an Indoor Home Garden?

There are many factors that will go into determining the costs of a home hydroponics system. Electricity rates can vary widely depending on where a person lives. Fresh water costs also can vary widely depending on location. We will examine a scenario where the gardening is done indoors in the same general area that people are living, hence the term home hydroponics. The home hydro system that we use is a decent size system for home use and can simultaneously grow 33 heads of lettuce while replacements are being grown in the starter unit. This is a family sized configuration for regular salads with dinner for the family. This setup is gone into greater detail in previous posts as the SFT / DFT Build #1 and an eBook with plans, drawings, and parts list is also available Here. In our location with our size indoor home hydroponics system the costs are less than a dollar a day which includes everything from electricity to nutrients and water.

The Costs of Our Fully Indoors All-Season Garden.

Fully indoors in this scenario really means fully indoors and not in a greenhouse for example. If you are fortunate enough to have a sun room or home greenhouse you may use less electricity on supplemental lighting which is great because electricity will most likely be the largest expense. In our home hydro setup we take advantage of the most efficient indoor lighting available. We use induction lighting over the main unit and LED grow lighting over the seedling unit. We have also minimized costs by using General Hydroponics MaxiGro powder nutrient that is perfect for lettuce or salad greens.  So here is a rundown of the power consumption of this setup at a low 8.7 p/kwh:

  • iGrow induction light – 200w , $7.30 a month +
  • Water pump – 16w , $0.93 a month
  • Nutrients – $10.40 a month (nutrient change every 2 weeks)
  • Air pump – 18w , $1.13 a month
  • GH Rainforest Vortex – 12w , $0.75 a month
  • LED UFO Grow Light – 90w , $3.29 a month +

What is Food Security Worth to You?

Clearly growing your own salad greens in your own home is not going to happen for free but the price you pay may be worth it when you consider the benefits. There is the benefit of knowing exactly what went into the plants ( we often add additional trace minerals ) as well as what was or rather what was Not sprayed on the plants. If you keep your grow area and plants clean and in good health you should never have to spray anything on your plants and if you do ever have to apply anything you get to decide what gets used. In the end with a little work you have a perpetual garden growing anywhere in your home providing you with healthy salads and leafy greens which is even more enjoyable in the off-season.

Hydroponic Tulsi, Indoor Holy Basil

Tulsi the Holy Basil

This is an herb with a long history of use from the area of India. Tulsi is considered to be an adaptogen and to have many health benefits. An adaptogen is a plant that has shown to have the ability to allow the body to better cope with stressors, in other words to better adapt to life’s changes. Holy Basil is said to have many positive effects such as antidepressant, antioxidant, as well as neuroprotective properties just to name a few. For more information as referenced on Tulsi and other adaptogens I recommend the excellent book, Adaptogens by David Winston and Steven Maimes.

Growing Holy Basil Hydroponically

Holy Basil is a fun herb to grow. It grows fairly quickly (Please watch the time lapse grow video below to see about a month of growth). Tulsi, like other types of basil can be cloned so you can improve yields somewhat by taking cuttings and rooting them. The plant itself seems to do well in a standard PH range of about 6.0 +- a few points. The temperature was kept at around 76º F +- 5º and the nutrient solution was left fairly strong at around 3.0 EC. The nutrients used were very basic. The Tulsi shown in this post was grown entirely with General Hydroponics MaxiGro dry powder nutrient and a small amount of added trace minerals which may not have even been necessary. Technically this plant was not difficult to grow and should be suitable for anyone who is able to grow regular basil and is just slightly more difficult to grow than regular basil. The light requirements are moderate and as can be seen from the video the basil received some light from a window. The grow light was actually several feet above the basil and if a grow light is positioned more closely you should expect faster yields than what the time lapse shows.

Learn more about Tulsi

I highly suggest learning more about adaptogens of which Tulsi is just one. Tulsi for example has many of the health benefits listed previously but is much less difficult to cultivate than many other adaptogens the reader may be familiar with such as Ginseng, Eleuthero, or Rhodiola to name a few, as many require years of growth. Holy Basil can be used in tea or consumed fresh and makes a unique addition to smoothies or salads. The history of use goes back thousands of years but the benefits can be enjoyed shortly after planting. It has been suggested in the Adaptogen book referenced earlier that Tulsi has many positive spiritual effects as well, such as harmonizing the body’s spiritual chakra system, relieving mental fog, having some protective effects against radiation, and even helping to lower blood sugar and that is just naming a few of the potential benefits often attributed to this fascinating herb. These topics are too vast to explore here and are not specifically related to hydroponics so I suggest researching them separately if you are interested in these subjects.

Complete Overview of DFT Hydroponics Build #1

The DFT hydroponics build #1 that has been discussed previously has been fully operational for a while now and it seems like a good time to go over the system as a whole. It is tagged as a DFT or Deep Flow Technique due to the standing water within the tubes that is more than a mere film as would be found in traditional NFT or Nutrient Film Technique grows. It could just as easily be called SFT or Shallow Flow Technique but I have seen similar examples labeled DFT.

The build itself has seen several crops of lettuce and basil already and currently hosts rapidly maturing pepper plants as well as herbs and salad greens. After using this unit for multiple crops I can say it is best suited for salad greens and herbs. Larger plants such as pepper plants eventually grow a root mass that leads to leaking in the future.

The video below gives a good complete overview of the system without too many minute details. If you want the specific details as well as plans, drawings, additional photographs, and parts lists then I suggest visiting the download link found at the end of this article or click on the eBooks / Plans link.

The video mentions the power consumption of the magnetic induction lighting which is 200 watts. The entire setup uses about 250 watts and that includes a shared air pump that also powers the tiny aquaponics build nearby. The pumps run continuously but the lights run about 16 hours so power consumption is even less. The magnetic induction lighting is nice because it is quite efficient and is supposed to last 10 years.

The polyethylene plastic shelf of this unit was added later to make use of left over materials from the reservoir lid (be sure not to use plexiglass to cover a water reservoir as it will warp). The current use of the shelf is going to be for sprouting micro greens as there seems to be enough extra light getting through and if there is not then it will be easy to mount a small fluorescent above as needed.

The build is still expandable as needed. I intend to some day mount a Blue Lab Guardian PH / TDS monitor on the wood support to better manage the nutrient solution but for now I will make due with a handheld meter. If tubes with a different hole spacing were ever needed it would be rather easy to make new swappable tubes I could thread into place. When it comes time to do a complete system clean I can run a bleach solution through the unit and  the tubes could be detached and better cleaned as needed.

I found that the outflow tube going back into the reservoir should be submerged into the water in order to avoid creating more of an odor in the room. When running a shallower nutrient solution I simply added a PVC elbow to keep it under the water and the odor subsided. Moisture alarms were placed on the ground around the DFT hydro system to alert us in the event of a leak but have so far never been needed.

My overall impression of this Deep Flow Technique DIY hydroponics project is overwhelmingly positive. It makes great use of the light from the window, uses a reasonable amount of electricity, and has grown a wide variety of different plants successfully. After having tested its capabilities it will most likely grow salad greens and perhaps a few herbs. It is about the right size to have a fairly steady supply of pesticide-free nutrient dense salad on a regular basis. It is a very rewarding feeling to take two steps from your kitchen to harvest clean produce that you know exactly what was put in and put on it.

Miniature Lettuce – Just the right size

Choose the right plant variety for your system

We are currently growing a small heirloom variety of lettuce in our DFT or Shallow Flow Technique system (SFT). The variety of lettuce is called Tennis Ball Lettuce and the size makes it perfect for our PVC based hydroponic system. We often grow romaine lettuce in the SFT system but you have to skip net pot holes in the PVC tube or it gets too tightly packed together. The tennis ball lettuce is a miniature lettuce variety and seems to get around 9″ wide. Depending on what kind of system you are using to grow your plants size and spacing is an important consideration.

 

Timeline for tennis ball lettuce

We started the tennis ball lettuce as seed in covered clay hydroton pebbles under LED lighting in a light nutrient solution with a PH of around 6.0 and 22 days later the seedlings had adequate root growth for transplanting into the SFT system. After approximated 20 days in the SFT hydro system the lettuce was getting large enough to think about harvesting. The nutrient requirements for this lettuce during the grow were fairly light. We kept the later growth nutrient solution strength at about 2.2-2.5 electrical conductivity (EC) and continued with PH kept at about 6.0 during later growth as well. We did as usual by adding a small amount of SEA-90 for trace minerals and for the main nutrient we stayed with our usual General Hydroponics MaxiGro dry powder hydroponic nutrient. These nutrients seem to perform quite well for our needs and the plants usually look great.

Serving up your harvest

The great thing about this variety of small sized lettuce is that each head of lettuce is about the right size for a typical person’s salad. We pruned the roots off at the base of the head and then the lettuce fits almost perfectly into a salad bowl ready for consumption. Add additional toppings such as nuts, berries, and salad dressing and lunch is served.

Insights going forward

We are typically focused on home-based DIY hydroponics and our SFT/DFT hydro system is located right off from the kitchen. There is a very satisfying feeling of walking a few feet from the kitchen and picking a fresh head of lettuce any time of the year. We know exactly what went into the plants in terms of nutrients and we are well aware of what did not get put on the plants as we did not need to use any sort of pesticide. We have learned from experience with this system that leafy green crops such as lettuce and kale often perform the best and are fairly fast to mature and therefore are perfect for a home based indoor food system. The small size of the Tennis Ball lettuce was perfect for packing out the grow sites on the PVC tube and we will most likely continue to experiment with miniature sized lettuce varieties as we continue to discover what works best and what tastes best to us. We hope this information is helpful to anyone interested in doing the same. Have fun and stay healthy!

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