Discussion in 'General Chat' started by IrishLass, Sep 5, 2016.
Hey, it's time to take some of that kale and make you a smoothie!! JS! lol
First of all, mmmmmmmmmmmmmm KALE!!!! OK, I feel better now.
IL, that is one amazing set up!! I've seen tower planting before (and toyed with the idea of it) including one that has vermicomposting in the center. However, I have never seen this thing. When I first saw it, I wondered if it had the vermicomposting center, then I read more posts and watched the video. Holy guacamole! That is some amazing growth you've got going on there. You will have fresh veggies and greens coming out of your ears with that thing. Earlene is right; I love the fact that you are all techie and sciency with your gardening as with your soaping. Although it makes perfect sense to label the individual slots so you know what plant is where, you totally went above and beyond with measuring the course of the sun to give your plants the best light for their needs. The growth rate is phenomenal, I've never seen anything like that. I'm looking forward to the photos of the whole process. It looks like you can build a plastic greenhouse around it for when it gets cold in your area and supplement the heat with an outdoor safe heater or heating pad to continue growing all year round. You might look into the electric blankets for buckets to see if anything fits your need and temperature range.
Enjoy your bounty. I'll be gardening vicariously through you.
You betcha! That's one of the reasons why I've wanted my own veggie garden for so long. I'm forever buying kale and/or Swiss chard or other types of greens, as well as fruit and other kinds of veggies like carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, etc.. to toss in my smoothies. I'll even toss basil and cilantro in as well.... and fresh ginger. Yes- I am known as the queen of weird smoothies in my household because I toss in whatever veggies or herbs or fruit I happen to have on hand at the moment...except for garlic, onions and peppers, that is. My weirdness does have its limits. :lol:
After observing the wonderful progress the plants in our tower have been making, my hubby has recently taken upon himself the task of building a flood and drain-type hydroponic system in which to grow root veggies such as carrots, onions and potatoes (things for which the tower is not suited). That's what he's doing right now as I write this post, actually. I can't tell you how long I've dreamed of having a garden where I could grow such things. This is so awesome to me.
I know, right? When I compared this morning's pics to yesterday's pics, they all seemed to have grown an inch over night!
I really don't do much for the plants except to make sure the reservoir is topped off each morning, take the pH twice a week and adjust if necessary, add the prescribed amount of nutrients every other day, and spray the aphids off my cucumber leaves with a stream of water. Thankfully, the ants don't come near as long as I maintain the dusting of diatomaceous earth around the tower, and the yellow sticky traps are working great at keeping gnats and other flying insects away. I just have to remember to tie my hair back when I'm working near the traps because if I don't, my hair gets stuck to them. lol
Ooooh! And don't forget avocados! They are the best in smoothies! I eat them straight, though. Just take out that pit and eat them out of the skin. Do you have room for an avocado tree?
Avocado trees can be grown in pots until they are large. And they are dead easy to start. Just take the pit out, poke 4 round toothpicks into it in a "north, south, east, west" configuration around the center, put it into a glass or jar of water, then change the water twice a week. Once it has a root and a stem, transplant into a pot at least 6 inches, but no more than 8, as you DO want to transplant it yearly to give the roots more room to grow, and get fresh soil around the outside.
Oh, and I am dreaming of a fill and drain aquaponics/hydroponics set up using an IBC! How is Mr. IrishLass making his?
Oh, but there is a delicious drink with watermelon and cayenne pepper that helps abate hunger (temporarily, not really for very long) that I just love. If you like spicy, it's great. But watermelons need to be in season. :think:
One of my favorite juices (I don't do smoothies) is kale, cucumber, red peppers, carrots, and tomatoes. If I have any grapes or apples, I toss some in there with it. Red peppers are incredibly high in vitamin C. I usually buy the bag of colorful baby peppers and toss two or three into the juicer, depending on how much of the other stuff I have. Add a dash of pepper sauce and I'm all over it. Yum!
ETA: IL, you can grow potatoes in a bale of straw. My neighbor did it a few years ago and was pretty successful. Either get planting potatoes or let your spuds grow shoots. Stick them in the bale, water. Then reap the harvest. (http://strawbalegardens.com/blog/2013/02/youll-never-grow-potatoes-any-other-way-again/)
Today is Day 20 and my tower experienced it's very first windy rainstorm just about 10 minutes ago. The clouds that have been threatening us for about 2 to 3 fays finally let go and dumped some of the biggest, fattest raindrops I've seen in a while. Thankfully, I had just enough time to run outside and cover over the tower with a protective plant cloth before the brunt of it hit:
I wish I had room for an avocado tree because I love avocados! I eat them straight or make ice cream out of them or make guacamole, etc... It's all good! Yum! Between our pool and our 2 orange trees, there's just not enough room for another tree.
Nope- nothing as sophisticated as an aquaponic aspect to what the Mr. is making- it's just a fill and drain hydroponic system using a bell siphon....... and two large Coleman coolers he bought on sale (we're going the low-budget route). He's pretty much done making it- he just needs to test it out first, which he'll be doing this weekend. I'll see about taking some pics and posting them. Hopefully it'll be successful because my carrot seeds spouted last week and I'd like to get them in there as soon as possible!
Oooo- that sounds really good! One of my favorite refreshing drinks to make is watermelon agua fresca, but I never thought to spike it with cayenne. I'll have to try that!
Oh my gosh- you gals are making me thirsty! That sounds really good! Thanks for the potato link! I'll have a look at it later on tonight.
The harvesting has begun! I've been eating off my tower for the past 4 days now and it doesn't look like I've picked anything off it (it keeps growing back seemingly overnight). I've been pinching off leaves of the kale, chard, basil, mint, lettuce and cilantro every day since Sunday and putting them in my smoothies, and you'd never know it.
You know- it's been a revelation to me how amazingly flavorful fresh-picked veggies and herbs are. The flavor of everything I've tried so far totally blasts the best store-bought stuff right out of the water. My son made some guacamole today with some of the cilantro and the spring onions from the tower and he couldn't believe how pronounced the flavors were and how little he needed to use in order to get the level of flavor he wanted.
Man- we couldn't be more happy with this thing. I would have to say it's one of the best purchases we've ever made!
It's Day 31 today, and here is what things look like.....mind you, we harvest from our 'veggie tree' every day for smoothies and other things, but it looks like we never harvest anything at all! It's kinda like how things are when eating a bowl of spaghetti- no matter how much you eat, it looks like you've barely even touched your plate. :lol: Besides dubbing it our 'veggie tree', I also sometimes call it our 'giving tree'.
Wow, that's amazing for sure. Looks wonderful!
Garden update (day 40). I planted/inserted two 3" tomato seedlings in the Tower two weeks ago (Brandywine OTV, and an heirloom tomato called Green Grape) and they are now over a foot long! And as of this morning, the Brandywine OTV has blossoming buds on it.
My cuke plant has several cucumbers growing on it, some of which are now 4" long! And the leaves seem to be growing as big as my head! They're beginning to look like something out of Jurassic Park or something! :lol:
My mints and basils are forever growing like weeds. I cut a bunch of sprigs off my mints and made a lovely mint simple syrup out of them the other day, and I'll soon be doing the same to my basils (maybe today if I get around to it).
Hubby got the flood and drain system up and running this past weekend, and our carrot seedlings that we started weeks ago are quite happy in it (I'm going to start some more seedlings to fill the other half of the cooler, hopefully sometime today):
The bottom cooler is the reservoir, which has 8 gallons of RO water in it, plus the Tower Tonic 'food' solution. There's a pump in it that pumps the water up to the top cooler through the rear black hose on the bottom cooler's right side (which is threaded up through the white PVC on the top cooler's right side) to fill/flood the top cooler up to the roots of the carrots before slowly draining back down through white the pipe on the left side to the bottom cooler.
The black hose that you can see on the rear left of the bottom cooler T's off from the main black filling hose and is a 'fail safe' that my hubby added in case the water pumped up too quickly.
The white pipe thing that you see in the middle of the top cooler was supposed to be a 'Bell Siphon' which regulates the water level and drainage flow. Hubby could not get it to work right, so in frustration, he abandoned that plan and instead transformed it into a 'gravel guard' for now to keep the growing medium from getting sucked down the drain tube.
The pump in the bottom cooler runs on a 15 minute cycle 24/7, just like my Tower (it's actually attached to my Tower's timer so that they run at the same time).
Hubby cut the lid of the bottom cooler's cover into 3rds, so that we can uncover it to add water/check pH, etc... without disturbing the piping (I open the cooler by pulling up on the middle third).
The top cooler is filled with pearlite and also a hydroponic growing medium called Hydroton, which are clay balls. The folks down at the hydroponic store recommended a mixture of both for growing carrots. I'll keep you all updated on its progress.
We had a bit of a problem with the flood and drain over the weekend in the form of an algae attack. Yeah- can you tell we are newbies at this! :lol: The pearlite was wicking up the nutrient solution so high up the cooler that the top of the grow bed was getting damp, which exposed the nutrient solution to the sun, which then turned about 1/2" to 1" of the entire top of the bed a lovely shade of green. Although I love the color green, this was not a good green to see. The reservoir started smelling like a dirty fish tank and the water was getting murky....and little flying insects started multiplying around the top cooler above the bed.
We learned 6 lessons this weekend (in regards to our flood & drain system):
1) Sunlight + nutrient solution= almost instant algae.
2) A little bit of algae is fine, but a lot of algae can be a very problematic thing to hydroponic systems and the plants growing in them if left un-checked.
3) Dry/Wet Shop Vacuums are awesome at sucking up algea-coved grow media out off the top of flood & drain grow beds.
4) Pearlite has pretty good wicking/ absorption properties and does not make a good substrate to lay on top of drain & flood grow beds.
5) Hydroton clay balls are an awesome substrate to lay on top of hydroponic flood & drain grow beds. Lay them on 2" to 3" above the top level of where flood-water reaches in order to keep things dry on top, and to block out the sunlight.
6) A little bit of 34% hydrogen peroxide goes a long way in helping to kill off algae and bring reservoir water back into balance without hurting carrots.
As for my Tower- it's still doing awesome, although I did have to trim back the roots of both my mints and also my purple basil- they were getting a little invasive. My Green Grape tomato plant now has flower buds on it, and my cukes are almost 5" long! Oh- and the aphids still seem to love my cuke leaves. I hose the buggers off every morning, but I'm thinking of making a garlic and habanero pepper spray and see how that fixes their wagons. No ants, though, which is good.
Today is Day 51 and I'm so excited because I harvested my very first cucumbers off the Tower! :
There are more of them growing on the vine, but these 3 beauties looked quite ready. I cut open one of them for hubby, son and I to conduct a taste test and we were all agreed- it's definitely a cucumber! :lol: And a very lovely one at that. Although you can't tell from the pic, they each measured at least 5", and weighed between 10.45oz/296g, and 10.55oz/300g (each).
I thought I'd also include a pic of our typical haul that we harvest off the Tower daily (except for the cucumber, that is). Although you can't see them, there are also sprigs of mint, cilantro and thyme in there, but they somehow got buried underneath everything else. This is all going into our smoothies today:
The carrots in the flood & drain cooler set-up are doing great. No more algae attacks. Yay! Their tops are growing quite tall. I wish I had a way of seeing how big they are growing underneath, but we'll just have to wait until harvest to see.
I made a garlic/hot pepper/soap concentrate to spray on my cucumber plant to repel the aphids that are carrying on an ongoing, one-sided love affair with my cuke leaves. I diluted it and sprayed some last night after the sun had gone down on an inconspicuous cuke leaf which had a few aphids on it.
I sprayed only one leaf instead of the whole plant so I could test things out and make sure it wouldn't adversely affect the one before deciding to spray it on the rest of the leaves, and so far, so good. This morning there were no aphids on the leaf, and the leaf looked quite happy, healthy and green. I'm going to wait one more day, though, to see if the leaf is still doing well before using it on the rest of the plant. I decided to be so cautious because I've read horror stories of some concentrations/dilutions of homemade concoctions being too strong and destroying all the leaves as well as the bugs.
Here are the ingredients I used in my spray concentrate:
-2 whole heads of garlic. I separated the cloves from the knobby stem (which I threw out), but left the peels intact. The unpeeled cloves weighed in at 144g total.
-1 jalepeno pepper (weighed 25g)*
-1 habanero pepper (weighed 7g)*
-2 cups distilled water (weighed 471g)
-1 teaspoon of my diluted 65% OO GLS soap (unscented, and unembellished of course)
*The recipe I used called for 4 to 6 jalapenos, but all I had on hand was 1 jalapeno and 6 habaneros......and since habaneros are something like 40 times hotter than a jalepeno according to the Scoville Heat Chart for peppers, I figured my 1 jalepeno and 1 of my habaneros would be plenty good enough.
I tossed the whole garlic cloves, peppers and water into my Vitamix and blended on high until smooth (took about 15 to 30 seconds), then I poured it into a 16 oz santitized jar, covered, and let steep in the fridge for 36 hours before straining.
At straining time, I strained it twice: once through a fine mesh stainless steel strainer to get out most of the sludge quickly and without too much fuss, then a final straining through 3 layers of muslin which got all the rest of the finer sludge out quite easily.
By the way, I should mention that when I blended, and also when I strained, I wore one of those loop facial masks, my goggles, and gloves - because of the pepper juices/fumes, which were pretty strong.
My strained concentrate measured out just shy of 2 cups volume-wise, so I topped it off with just enough distilled water to equal 2 cups, and then I stirred the 1 tsp of my handmade GLS soap into it and poured into a pint-sized sanitized jar, covered and placed into my fridge.
To dilute, I used 1 part concentrate to 2 parts distilled water (by volume) and only diluted enough to fill up a small 4oz spray bottle. I'll let you know what the test leaf looks like tomorrow.
Day FiftyTwo since I started our Tower, and lookie here what I found growing this morning!:
Our very first Brandywine OTV tomato! It's only about as large as a pea at the moment, but I just can't help being very excited about it! Although we started the tower 52 days ago, the tomato plant itself is only 36 days old today.
Garlic spray update- no plant damage from the spray. Yay!
A little tower update:
I lost count of exactly what day this is in Tower time, but here are our first Brandywine pickings (bigger than my hubby's fist) that I picked off my tower today, along with some Green Grape tomatoes (as big as plum tomatoes), some stalks of celery, some mint, some thyme and cilantro.
Also included in the pic are some of our carrots grown in our flood and drain system that hubby built out of 2 coolers. Two are red, one is white and one is orange. As you can see in the pic, we should not have planted so many carrot seeds so close together. Several of them grew together to form a giant mass of carrot! :lol: They taste absolutely delicious, though!
After I took the above pic, I set my tomatoes on my counter near some bananas to help them fully ripen. I'll let you know how they taste when the time comes.
New Years Tower Update:
I tore down my tower over New Years weekend, cleaned it out and got it all spic and span in preparation to add the new extension to it that I got for Christmas (I can now grow 28 plants instead of 20!).
I also completely removed a few plants off the tower because I was a naughty lass and let them grow way too ginormous for the good of the tower. I then reinterred the more reasonably-sized plants back into the tower.
It looks kind of sparse right now, and My Green Grape tomato vine looks kinda droopy and sad because I trimmed its invasive roots back some before placing it back into the tower, but it should perk back up. If not, that's okay because I have 2 new (different variety) tomato seedlings growing in my seedling tray, one of which will eventually take its place.
Here's what things look like today:
At the very top I have 2 heirloom strawberry plants of the Alpine variety (one red and one yellow). It's hard to see from the pic, but the one furthest left has blossoms on it. I grew them from seeds that I planted in September.
On the 2nd rung down, you can see a new stevia seedling on the left, and a viola seedling with a yellow blossom on it.
Below that, the plants that are visible are my celery, cilantro, chocolate mint, a new Brandywine OTV vine on the left that I took from a cutting off my previous vine, a Diva cucumber seedling on the bottom center, and my none-too-happy-at-the-moment Green Grape tomato vine (that thing is prolifically fruitful, by the way!).
On the other side I have thyme, rosemary, a Granny Blank mint seedling and a purple basil seedling.
I'll soon be filling in the empty slots with collard greens, spinach, romaine lettuce Nufar basil, lemon cucumber, a melon vine, and a couple of short season tomato vines (they're all just baby seedlings right now).
The white wire thingy that you see on the very top of the tower is actually 2 wire hangers that I fashioned and attached to the lid in order to keep my insect barrier netting (not shown) from laying directly on my strawberry plants on top. I normally keep the netting on all the time (started using it 24/7 in November), but I took if off for the pic so y'all could see my plants better.
I really like using the netting. It lets the sun in, but keeps the bugs out, thereby eliminating the need for any insecticides. My biggest problem was the moths that would lay eggs on my kale and chard, which produced an epidemic of leaf-chewing caterpillars that treated my tower as their personal salad bar. I tried to keep the population down by hand-picking them off, but it was turning into a losing battle. I was either going to have to resort to spraying down my leaves with BT or else surrender my kale and chard to them, but then I found these which solved my dilemma. It just slips right over my tower and I can fasten it closed it with the drawstring on the bottom.
I also have the thermal blanket sold by the JuicePlus company that I drape over the tower on nights that get down to near freezing temps. It's not often that temps get that low here, but it's happened twice this season so far and the blanket has kept all my plants cozy and happy.
I can't believe how white and pristine it still is. And your yard is so bright with the blue sky and all. My back yard has snow and looks dreary compared to yours!
Wow, Irish Lass! I'm just seeing this thread after a long absence. How awesome, and I'm super impressed with how much you got from your garden!
(Also, jealous of that blue sky.)
Wow, that looks great!! Oh, the possibilities of a new growing season!!
The tower is so white! Are those the numbers you originally wrote? Sharpie remained despite rain and weather?
I can't imagine snow ever looking dreary...at least not until it gets mucked up with dirt and car exhaust, that is. lol I used to live where snow storms were the order of most winter days, but in the area of the country where I live now, snow is as rare as hen's teeth. Instead, the majority of our days throughout the year are filled with sunny blue skies. In fact, they are so commonplace that cloudy/rainy spells are almost cause for celebration (they kinda break up the monotony). :lol:
I must confess that my tower is so pristine-looking in the pic because I had just cleaned it :mrgreen:, but I'm really impressed with how easy it is to keep the tower so gleaming white. Just a wipe-down with damp cloth is all it takes to keep it looking spiffy. Hopefully, that won't change as it gets older.
For the most part, yes, they are. There were two that I had to go over again in certain spots due to some wicked rain and dust storms we had on a few occasions, but all the rest of the numbers have remained intact.
Here is a pic I took today with my anti-insect netting draped over it:
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