Monday, May 19, 2014

Gardening - My basic small footprint of a garden

We've fenced in a small portion of our yard to dedicate to what hopefully will be a very productive garden in the next few summers.  Initially the garden was all in ground planting and worked fairly well.  Now we are hoping to increase our yield many times over while not extending the footprint at all.

This area is about a 10' x 10' plot.  Lot of experimenting going on right now but by the end of the summer I hope to have it much more efficient and organized with a whole lot more actual square footage of plants.

Gardening - First Drip Hydroponic setup

I figured using a drip system is nothing new to anyone.  The only difference here is that all my plants are sitting in a mix of Perlite and Vermiculite just so the roots have something to grow on and through, No Soil.
All my buckets have a drip tube feeding from a reservoir that I buired in the ground (to help maintain water temp).  Each bucket as it fills up over about 1" it self drains back to the main reservoir.

Inside my reservoir I'm using a standard small aquarium or pond pump that feeds all the overflow back up into the drippers to each bucket.  The reservoir is a mix of the water soluble nutrients (which can vary depending on what you are growing).

Here's a few pics with the buckets and a comparison of how the growing is going over about three weeks.

This of all the different things I'm trying has so far been the best results.  I filled the reservoir once and the only thing I'm maintaining is the pruning of the plants growing.  Clearly their is still a whole lot to learn and improve on, but for not spending a lot or building some complex system this is already showing to have potential.  The other major benefit of not using soil are the lack of bugs.  I've had many problems with bugs in most my other gardening attempts.

To the left is a buried 25Gal bin feeding the 1/2" drip tube above.  It's on the backside of these buckets but the overflow pipe feeds back to the reservoir.  These plantings were put in at the same time and are same variety of plants in the self watering (grow box) container.  These ones are kicking butt!

After about three weeks of getting a liquid nutrient, very visual growth... Imagine if I knew what I was doing how much better this would be.
3 Weeks Later

I used leftover catlitter and paint buckets for my system

On the far right is my first Kratkey method, we'll see how it goes.

3 Weeks Later
Overall this setup has been really great and I will absolutely be adding to it and cleaning things up a little bit.  Something else I forgot to mention is that cost was a concern for me, but the nutrient powders I bought are really cheap.  They come in 1lb and 5lb sizes but you are only mixing about 5 grams of solution for 5gallon increments.  The 5lbs I have will last me the entire summer and comes out to literally pennies per gallon... sure beats paying $1.50 for a single pepper in the store.

Gardening - First attempt into DWC (Deep Water Culture) Hydroponic

This method DWC, is best for plants that love water and to stay wet.  Most plants I've seen tend to get root rot or "drown" if they get too much water.  However, Lettuce plants are different and a "It's a little known fact Lettuce is made up mostly of water"
.  As such I suppose it would make sense that these roots love to quite literally be suspended in water all the time as they grow.
Again using what I could find in the garage of wood scraps, paint and a piece of house foam insulation I built a trellis type structure to hold my Lettuce Rafts.  What I did purchase was a $10 air pump and a Macro\Micro nutrient powder that I'll self mix and that's it.  I could do without the air pump and then this system would have just been a Kratkey method which I've also done but will save for another post.  For now this is my time comparison of the DWC.
Each of these rafts is about 3'W x 1 1/2" D 12"H and holds about 12 Gallons of water.  I using store bough Epsom salts to make up the Magnesium Sulfate percentage, I then mixed that with Calcium Nitrate and a Tomato blend of the Micro Nutrients.  All this was dissolved and mixed into my lettuce pool.  The foam has 3" Net cups sitting in each hole with some lava rock or rock wool to hold the seedling in netcup.
The air pump sits below with 1/4" surgical type tubing running into each pool; the ends of the air tubing is covered with a small pile of Lava Rock which helps create more and smaller bubbles.  Even though roots are sitting in water they still need to breath Oxygen.  The air bubbles (smaller is better... but that's NOT what she said) introduce O into the water.

2" foam raft (house insulation) to float on reservoir of water

Two lettuce pools sitting on new trellis.  Upper trellis will later hold an NFT setup
No Soil, No how, No where.  I tried growing lettuce in the ground a few years ago and it was miserable.  Nothing grew and snails took it all like a bad poker game.  Here are my comparison picks of the DWC with a few different types of Black Leaf lettuce.
This was first week.  You can barely notice seedling sitting in each cup

About three weeks later and a huge difference.  Others doing this have gotten faster results but I had to change out the water due to algae buildup, but the important thing is that it's still growing... and this is my first ever attempt at Hydro and making a nutrient mix
3 Weeks Later - Yummy!

Gardening - Our first growing box to compare with Hydroponic methods

Not much of a writing on this one but more just a quick couple of picks to show some time lapse and comparison of my first attempt into Hydroponics.  I've learned so much about this topic in a short term of time I'm crossing my fingers that all goes well enough at the end of this summer I can come back and do three times as much next summer.

In my research I found some amazing resources and information from a host of sources, but those most positive and informative by a long shot was MHPGARDENER on Youtube.  We may not see his level of success in gardening but just a little knowledge is all you need to get started in any type of Gardening, but his first attempts and discussion in Hydroponics is terrific!

I wanted to do a fair comparisong amongst a few samplings of methods and tried to stick with just a few basic vegetables that are easy to grow.  Once I know what method is best I will hone my setup and branch out to much more variety of plants.

Method #1- Earth Box or I've also seen it called a Grow Box.  
This is basically a container of soil with a water reservoir underneath the soil, roots are fed via a wicking method.  Using scrap wood, irrigation pipe, and paint found in my garage I made an oversized container (not sure yet if that was a good idea.. we'll find out) about 4'L x 2'W x 2'H.  It holds approximately 30 Gallons of water and has a planting depth of about 20", so in that respect I'm slightly limited to things which do not need a really deep root growth.  In this I've planted two types of tomatoes, Strawberry, two types of bellpepper, sweet onion, beets, basil and cilantro.

I'd say this method is working for sure.  It's pretty cool to not have to monitor anything.  The water reservoir is large enough so I suppose I'll just add 3-5 gallons every few weeks or so.  It's been just over a month with plants in here and in full sun.  Everything but the herbs are growing ok but slow, I'm not adding any nutrients or fertilizer because I'm doing a direct comparison to the growth in my Hydroponic methods.  The herbs completely wilted and died in about two weeks.

Fill tube at top which has an elbow on inside and dumps water below soil level. Overflow elbow on bottom leaves about a 1" air gap between soil and water.

Mesh Screen to hold soil.  Cute drain pipe in background will be supports and wicks to hold weight of screen with soil

Lined with 6Mil black plastic

Soil Wicks and support being prepped before dumping 5Cubic feet of planting soil. My little helper Riley in the background keeping close supervision

Finished and populated with some new seedlings I prepped
1 Month later. No additional water has been added and soil remains to be moist about a 1/4" below surface.  All plants are green and growing, their is some progress in plant growth.  Definitely low maintenace but I did still notice some bugs as typical for soil gardening (at least for me).

3 Weeks Later

Many great new things and updates.. not enough time!

Quick summation in my own ramblings:

The running continues - I've now attempted and buckled in all three 100 Mile races started (these are actual trail 100 mile events), and won a free entry via my electric costume.  Of which I ran about 40 miles in during my most recent 100 Mile event at Javelina Jundred.  Good Times!
The running has been great and I've taken several months off but getting back to it in June as Ultra season ramps up.  For cost reasons I've dramatically reduced number of Marathons but as of this writing I have 78 Marathons behind me, and each one of them has been finished and a medal proudly adorns the "I Love me Wall" at home.  Also are nine Half Ironman and two Full Ironman finishes which I don't count as part of my Marathons.  Included in the 78 number are three 100M races, about eight 50M, at least 15 50K's, three 24 Hr races, and three Relay races (where my legs added up to a minimum of 26Miles in each event).

Promoted to head dog for the Dog Pound SD100 Aid Station.  Changes were aloof due to the terrible Cuyamaca fires which burned down Al Bahr and wreaked havoc.  A new aid station was designed amidst a new course for the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run.  The new AS is being Captained now by Jennifer Henderson (previous Dog Pound Captain).  I will replace that role starting this year 2014.  We're really excited for what this could mean to the race as a whole and we expect now each of our AS's to be 110% AWESOME... so if you're an AS Captain, tell us what makes your stop "Awesome" and let's get in the spirit.

Huckleberry 2000 - This is one of those living projects that may or may never be.  It's many pages of some ramblings and stories.  A hybrid of fiction and non-fiction to mainly preserve and protect myself.  Been in the works off and on, and occasionally I'll throw some pages in.  For now it's just a side one trick pony that someday may turn into something real that will be decorated with a real to life UPC, course by then it could "Huckleberry 2020".  Though that does not really matter because someday whether or not it's finished those pages will be hovering in netspace and on a few choicely picked pieces of tree pulp.

Electronic Project #1 - Been working on some prototype light electronics which have received some very neat reviews and progress is moving just slowly, as I'm out of time.  Details hopefully soon this summer as I'll be looking at a KickStarter campaign to complete my funding.. so get your wallets and checkbooks out my friends.

Electronic Project #2 - This one has an amazing monetary upside, with a technical downside.  Been tinkering with this one for a few months now in conjunction with some internal folks of  "cannot name source" service agency.  They have a great idea and tapped me for assistance.  Challenge is that it involves some lengthy Python scripting which I'm kind of a newbie at.  Additionally it's working with some new open source DEV boards that I need to customize some hardware for.  My first set of experimenting caused me to break my garage door electronics as I attempted to use it for receiving my prelim tests.. oops. 
Not that any reads my rambles but in the event you are reading this and have knowledge and interest in becoming a part of these experiments please let me know.

*for possible reasons of commercialism I'm keeping my notes on the above projects vague, just making a note on them as they have been a time consumption, but also a lot of fun.

Tired Dog Saloon - Actually the final name has become "Waggin Tales Saloon", Merchandise to follow soon.  The implementation and redesign of our Living room into a classic Wild West type Saloon has been super fun and an absolute blast of a location to wet your whistle for just a few bits.  The bar that we built is still extremely strong and has withstood some real life usage, yet still looks beautiful.  Bring on the dancing bloomers. and if you are ever in need during a happy hour come on by!  We have some new great indoor wood builds for our Saloon and will be upgrading it's theme over the next couple of years.

the Bark Box 1.0 also continues - The Bark Box has also made some terrific improvements and is now on version 3.0.  It has received some very nice hardware upgrades, and all still DIY.  It now boasts the integration of a PA system and magical (yet somewhat delicate\dangerous) voltage up converter and transformer.  It worked so well that we've just about completely destroyed the speakers currently in use and it has also played center stage to two live performances of the National Anthem at public events.  Designs are in process on paper for "the Bark Box 3.2" and 4.0, which will upgrade some of the battery supply, new speakers (possible DIY) and addition of Solar while yet still being transportable that it's roughly the size and weight of one slightly heavy hand carry tool box.  With the building of 4.0 the case will also be redesigned and I may be Auctioning\Donating Bark Box 3.0 to a good cause.

Running Man - The light exhibit built exclusively for the Dog Pound AS at Sunrise for SD100.  Previous rendition of Burning Man was appropriately destroyed (as it should be in Burning Man fashion).  That made way for Running Man last year.  He went over so well that popular demand and request begged it not be destroyed, thus he will be receiving a complete re-wiring and major software upgrade seeing as my ATTINY now longer can hold the code I'm writing for him.

Electric Generator 1.0 - This was a slightly new beta project for me.  It has yet to receive any real use to test it's functionality and durability but may have potential.  It's pretty straight forward and will provide a carry-able box which can provide 110V +12V outputs and a storage of about 50Ah.  Not bad for something that you can carry or stow under your bed for those California power outs.. or dry camping where you can't use a generator.

Hydroponics - I'm finally fed up with the cost and growing location of my favorite fruits and vegetables.  You never realize it until you try to start eating and shopping smarter.  This year Leslie and I are working to have better balanced nutrition and exercise.  Eating better involves some expensive food when you are trying to get non-frozen or local produce.  Well I've had it with paying $1.50 and up for a single pepper!

Our beautiful garden has been a weed haven dirt pile for the last four years.  I finally got off my ass (and some exercise), dusted off the cobwebs.  It was a laboring couple of weeks for Leslie and I to just clear and level everything in the garden but must say that it looks great.  We did some research and decided to give Hydroponics a try... and NO, we are not growing pot, don't be such a Cannabis head.  Anyhoo, Hydroponics appears to be the best solution for our needs as we have really crappy soil and apparently lack a single green thumb between us.  I'm determined to change that with a little research, which transitioned into some actual working setups.  We built a large modified EarthBox from scratch with junk sitting in the garage, a nine bucket system for Hydro drips, a few Kratkey type buckets, and a custom set of floating rafts for some DWC (Deep Water Culture).  I just finished building a new structure which will also soon house an NFT Hydro setup. 
The big catalyst was to not spend too much money so these initial setups were made with scraps and recycling from the garage.  No new money was my motto.  With exception of some Macro and Micro nutrient powders that had to be purchased, we've kept cost low so far.

It's only been about four weeks since everything has been planted and even though I still have a big learning curve when it comes to non-soil gardening I'm impressed with results.  We will have a great yield this year but next years will sure to be spectacular and guaranteed ROI in the positive.


So in closing this post to me myself and I, I'm feeling pretty darn good.   One reason I wanted to put some thoughts to "paper" was to really see if I'm as lazy, thoughtless and un-creative as I was perceiving myself.  The great news is that writing and reading this shows I at least have a couple of tangible things to prove indeed "I was here!!!!"

Well, until my next long overdo posts, Happy Trails for now and don't let life get in your way of doing what you want to do.