GROWING YOUR OWN FOOD WITH A TOWERGARDEN

GROWING YOUR OWN FOOD WITH A TOWERGARDEN

Growing your own food is an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone. Watching a little baby seedling grow from seed and to a full mature plant is so satisfying. I swear the produce is prettier and even taste better when they come from my own garden. Plus gardening gets you outside to enjoy the fresh air, and is an awesome stress reliever. 
Along with it being rewarding, growing your own food also comes along with tons of health, and environmental benefits. Growing your own produce means that YOU are the only one to touch it, therefore you know exactly what goes into it. You can throw away your worries about nasty chemicals and pesticides! The process of growing it from seed to maturity will bring you closer to your food, and break down the disconnect many people have with their food. Often when we think of where food comes from, we just picture our local grocery store where perfect looking food magically appears every night. We obviously know that this is not the case, but we still put little thought into the source of our produce. If we are active in the growing process we can appreciate the food, enjoy it more and know that we are not consuming chemicals. I know for a fact that I am also more likely to eat my daily dose of fruits and veggies when they are growing right outside my window. When they are at the grocery store they can easily become “out of site, out of mind” as we are summoned to the processed foods section (I can literally hear the cheddar ruffles calling my name). If that is not enough reason for you grow your own produce, there have also been many studies showing that kids who are active in the growing process are more likely to eat and enjoy their fruits and veggies! The benefits of growing your own produce for the environment is endless. You are saving energy, preventing the release of more fossil fuels, protecting water quality, promoting biodiversity, and not contributing to big business farming. 
 

For those of you that would like to get started on a garden but might be a little intimidated (I was) it is okay! Just start small, and experiment until you find your groove. I began with Tower Gardens and completely love everything about them. They are extremely user friendly, basically just require that you plant the seeds, fill it with water and nutrients, plug it in and watch it grow! 
The bottom tank or reservoir is filled with water and nutrient solution. The nutrient solution is made up of 14 different types of minerals that are found in the ground, and needed by plants to grow. The water is pumped to the top of the tower using a small pump. This will happen on a cycle, 15 minutes on a 15 minutes off. The water will trickle down the tower over the roots of the plants and back into the tank to be reused! There are a ton of benefits that come along with using the Tower Garden, some of these include:
⦁    Use 10% of the water and space that traditional gardening or farming would
⦁    Only use about $0.60 of electricity a month
⦁    Yields are increased by about 30%
⦁    The plants grow up to three times faster in the Tower Garden
⦁    No dirt means no mess and less bugs to worry about

The water used to grow the plants is limited because the Tower Gardens are a closed system. This means that there is not much room for evaporation. Therefore, the water is left for the plants and only the plants to absorb! As for the space, the smallest tower will allow you to grow 20 plants in a space about 3 ft by 3 ft. The taller towers will allow for about 32 plants in the same amount of space!
The pumps that are used within the Tower Gardens are extremely small, and therefore low powered. Because of this they do not use up a lot of electricity!
The yields of produce that are produced in the Tower Gardens have been shown to be about 30% higher. The plants will also grow about 3 times faster than traditional gardening or farming. The reason for this is because the water and nutrients is brought directly to the root of the plant. Therefore, the plant does not have to exert any extra energy to retrieve its water or nutrients. This means it will have more energy to grow big and strong at a faster rate! Below is a photo of the difference one week makes using a Tower Garden.
 

My favorite part of the Tower Garden is that there is no dirt. I know that some people really enjoy digging their hands into the dirt, but unfortunately I am not one of them. No dirt means no mess, and to me that is great! It also deters some of the pesky bug problems you may have to deal with if you grow your produce in the dirt. This is because a lot our bugs actually come from the dirt itself!
    Tower Gardens are an excellent way for the garden newbie or even the experienced gardener to grow a great deal of produce in a very small space! I would recommend them to anyone who is interested in increasing their health, decreasing their environmental impact or just looking for the rewarding aspect of growing your own food. 

-Taylor Ciulei

 

HOLY SHIITAKES

Mushrooms seem to be just ‘there’ in a way for the most part.  They’re on pizza, in lots of wraps and sandwiches, can be made into burgers, and of course most people think most mushrooms are deadly.

Mushrooms are in the ‘fungi’ family which is a family unto itself and no relation to plants but many can be symbiotic with plants sharing and receiving nutrients.

In my experience the average person knows very little about the life cycle of the mushroom.  Usually common myths are that we use spores, or that we all are growing funny mushrooms, and when people picture a mushroom it’s your typical white button or portobello.  Fun fact for you – those are same species just different strain of mushroom like a tomato but it’s a Roma and not Cherry.

Actual facts – mushrooms breathe in Oxygen like us and breathe out CO2 like us.  Shiitakes, which I grow, actually do need light to initiate mushrooms to form.  We call this pinning.

 

Mushroom Pin

 

 

We don’t use spores for reproduction.  We use mycelium(mi-see-lee-um) which is the vegetative root system of mushrooms.  Mycelium is the genetic copy whereas spores are the offspring and just like you and I we are not genetic copies of our parents.  We get that mycelium from the cap/stalk once a mushroom forms.

 

Mycelium growing on Agar.

We do however grow mushrooms in relatively high humidity anywhere from 85-95% Rh(relative humidity).  That one you probably knew.

Depending on the grower and their choice strain of mushrooms they wish to grow the techniques and practices are different for how to get to harvesting mushrooms.   Certain strains of mushrooms like Oyster are vigorous fast growing and relatively tolerant whereas other strains like Shiitakes are slow moving, has multiples growing stages, and requires sterile and careful handling.

 

White Oyster Mushroom

 

Blue Dove Oyster Mushroom

oyster mushrooms.jpg

Oyster mushrooms are typically grown on pasteurized straw.  Aptly named for their ‘oyster’ like appearance and come in a wide variety of colors.  Pasteurization is can be done in few ways with  mushrooms and it’s’ function is to clean the medium of other competitive fungi like molds for a short period of time.  

Shiitakes are what I study – Lentinula Edodes is the official name of the mushroom.  There are fewer methods to cultivate shiitakes than there are Oysters but due to small farms and difference situations of availability the medium being used for cultivation is always expanding.  For the most part they are grown in hardwood logs outdoors in a shade tent but indoor cultivation(my practice) is starting to be favored due to efficiency and timing while still maintaining quality.  Outdoor growing mushrooms while produces better more natural shiitakes is inefficienct, extremely long, and you have to have your own wood/land to use and start.  I am hoping I can do a small outdoor operation for wild strains and I’ve built some friendships with loggers who I hope to get some good logs from to start that because I have no land/trees to cut of my own.

 

Shiitakes ‘fruiting’

Indoors I grow mine on hardwood chips(oak is favored)and a variety of other food sources to increase quality, flavor, and efficiency.  The name of the game is quality and efficiency and to delicately achieve both.  You want 100% efficiency and if you aren’t operating at that level you are wasting your time and a lot of money.  Efficiency is determined by harvested wet weight over dry starting weight.  So if I have a 5lb(dry weight no water added) block and then I harvest 4 lbs I am at 80% efficiency which isn’t bad but it could use some work.

Adding differing levels of carbon, nitrogen, and sugar bases you can increase efficiency and I’ve read all the studies on those bases and done some experimenting myself.  All of my added ‘ingredients’ if you will are certified organic – I want to ensure no residue of any kind from pesticides and fungicides exist in my mix.

The biggest hill to overcome with shiitakes is they need sterilization.  Unlike pasteurization, sterilization, is the removal of all competitive fungi/bacteria to ensure proper growth for allowed growing time.  Sterilization requires autoclaves, pressure cookers, and most of all a flow hood.

 

Flow box without fan.

You’ve seen a flow hood you just probably forgot and or it looked different.  Every high school chemistry class had one but you reached into it and it usually had a top vent for exhaust rather than an open environment like the one below.  This piece of equipment is crucial for shiitakes because once you sterilize you have to keep it sterile and these deliver sterile(.3 micron) pressurized air to ensure what is called ‘laminar’ or flat air flow.  It’s not a giant wind tunnel like you’d think it is designed to deliver controlled air and not be a wind tunnel.  The only factor missing here is the fan now on the top with runs at over 570 cfm.  We custom built mine due to cost involved and it works great!   You can hack build these or buy them it all depends on the effort and or money you want to put into your process.

 

Mushrooms that require sterilization are a lot harder due to the increased asset/equipment requirements and also basic mushroom handling knowledge.  I’ve messed up countless times and have learned a lot of contamination but from my mistakes comes lessons and now I am running a small time operation with very little if at all contamination which is nice.  So you kind of just have to invest, learn, do, learn again, and see how it works for you.

Biggest lesson – don’t try to rewrite the book about mushrooms – so much information is available to you between backed research educational extensions offices like Pennsylvania Extension on bag/log cultivation, and there are countless books available which you can buy online or likely buy at your local big book store.  I’ve got the online publications and I’ve got the books and then some.  But it does come down to doing it and re-doing it if you mess it up.  This book is great for beginners and it puts things in simpler much more updated terms.

The beautiful thing about mushroom cultivation is that it can be achieved year round with relatively low operating costs once everything is in place.  Mushrooms have about a 5 day shelf life if just commonly stored in the fridge so local growers are needed everywhere because shipping overnight would spike the price too high and so those mushrooms you get at the store are likely dried to seem fresh.  But for reference this is a fresh shiitake.

Please share this post and spread the word.

 

How to Plant A Tree

Let’s be honest, do you follow the recommended guidelines when planting? In reality,the  majority just  dig a hole in a hurry, then plop in the tree and fill it with dirt/soil No wonder so many trees don't thrive.  

 

We encourage you  to take the time and  plant  the right way and follow all the steps as outlined by experts.  You need to inspect how that tree has been packaged; in a container with a bare or burlapped with soil and root-ball. The condition of roots and how it is packaged is very important since it will determine how the planting should be done.

Keep bare-root plant moist

 

Ensure the bare-root plant has moisture before purchasing it from the supplier. Once you purchase it, don’t allow its roots to dry out. The roots may look dead but they are just dormant,  They are still living and need water for survival. Also don’t expose them directly to the sunlight. Ensure you transport in a pot or a plastic bag which is packed with moist straw or even shredded newspaper.  Be sure to inspect the packing material carefully, if its dry then so are the roots but if it’s moist the roots are also moist. In the case the roots are dry; you must soak them in a bucket of water for several hours  to rehydrate them before planting. Adding a little bit of vitamin B1 might also be a good idea to help with transplant stress.

Prune the roots prior planting

 

You must inspect the roots carefully and prune all in-turned or damaged roots prior planting. Ensure you make clean cuts by using cleansharp pruning shears.  Torn roots increase the likelihood of disease, . Prune all roots that grow towards the center of the plant since they  restrict growth over time.

 

Dig a proper hole

 

Dig a wide hole so that every root can take its natural position. The hole should be deep enough so that the crown and root flare can occur at the soil line.  Planting too deep or too high normally stresses the plant as well as threaten its long-term health.  Don’t forget to break any soil clod to remove large air pockets that normally hinders the natural root growth.  Additionally, backfill the hole (halfway) then, water it gently  to settle the soil inside the hole. Note: You should not tamp down the soil using your foot since you may break some roots.  Then, finish backfilling the hole, now is a good time to amend the soil with any organic fertallizers or compost and make a soil berm several inches high around the tree  to keep the soil around roots saturated when watering.

As a farmer or gardener it is important to take the time and apply proper practises to ensure long term plant viability, health and good future yields.

Live Organic, Live Pure

Live Organic, Live Pure

To start off, let me ask you a question. What is eating up our great country? Drugs? Yeah, sure. Economic instability? May be. Crimes? Definitely. Not one of these has a long term negative effect on our lives and none of these is incurable. But what is that one thing that’s slowly effecting our everyday lives? HYBRID FOODS! Every single one of our foods which we are consuming is grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The chemicals used in fertilizers and pesticides are entering into our bodies at least 3 times a day. The harm these chemicals are doing to our body is immeasurable. Should we continue to do so? Or should we turn to organic agriculture? To find the answers to these questions is whats on my agenda today.

Impacts of artificial foods

Generally we don’t see the negative effects of consuming to much contaminated  food. Because the effects are slow and degenerative , They will eventually reveal them selfs in the form of chronic illnes, when they do, they do some pretty decent damage to our system. The chemicals and other harmful ingredients used in today’s food are responsible for making people prone to different diseases. High blood pressure, high blood sugar level, cardiovascular disease, asthma, sleep apnea, insulin and antibiotic resistance just to name a few..

What’s the solution?

To avert these situations and to remain healthy and hearty, you should change your dietary habbits to include organic foods. Foods that are grown in an organic way have many advantages. It is totally healthy. It is tastier than the mainstream foods that we buy from the stores. And most of all, it won’t leave a negative footprint on our bodies  or so to say, on our next generation’s bodies. Gardening can be the source for you to have the organic foods you want. Just imagine, you have a terrace full of fresh and healthy tomatoes, beans, carrots, and thymes! Not too impossible as agricultural science has made a considerable progression now. It is said that if you can control your food, you can control your health. So the best solution to this situation is the growing of your own food.

The real dilemma

It is absolutely true what they say, “it’s easier said than done”. Having a small garden of your own sounds so lovely. And for those who love gardening, it’s like a paradise a place of contemplation and relaxation. It is easily possible if you live in a house where there’s a backyard. But problems arise when you are living in an apartment. In those cases finding the proper space to make a garden sometimes seems a long gone conclusion. If that is the case, we suggest that if you don’t find space just make it. Sounds creepy? No. Believe me, this idea is neither creepy nor impossible. At VGS Organic we make it possible to turn any of your space into a garden.

Wondering how?

We use some advanced agriculture strategies so that you can make a garden on your rooftop, balcony, restaurant, or office building. No matter if you are single or live in a multi family residence, we can help you grow more than enough. For this we use some next level agriculture system like hydroponics. We also provide organic seeds and seedlings. If you are conscious of what you are eating and planning to do some indoor gardening by yourself, we can deliver you practically everything that you would need to do so. So make a wise decision and turn your home into a garden today.

SOIL EROSION REDUCTION

What Is Soil Erosion?

When things erode, they wear away due to some force acting on them. Just look at any coastline, and you will notice how the constant pounding force from wind and waves causes erosion of the rocky structures, leaving behind all kinds of interesting cliffs, caves and structures. Soil is not immune to erosion, and like rocks along a coastline, soil can erode due to the effects of forces, such as water, wind and farming practices. In this blog, we will learn about soil erosion and the factors that cause it.

Soil is naturally created when small pieces of weathered rocks and minerals mix with organic materials from decaying plants and animals. Soil creation is a slow process, taking many years. However, the soil that is created is constantly subjected to natural and manmade forces that disrupt it.

Soil erosion is defined as the wearing away of topsoil. Topsoil is the top layer of soil and is the most fertile because it contains the most organic, nutrient-rich materials. Therefore, this is the layer that farmers want to protect for growing their crops and ranchers want to protect for growing grasses for their cattle to graze on. Here are a few types of erosion can occur.

Water Erosion and Surface Water Runoff

One of the main causes of soil erosion is water erosion, which is the loss of topsoil due to water. Raindrops fall directly on topsoil. The impact of the raindrops loosens the material bonding it together, allowing small fragments to detach. If the rainfall continues, water gathers on the ground, causing water flow on the land surface, known as surface water runoff. This runoff carries the detached soil materials away and deposits them elsewhere.

There are some conditions that can accentuate surface water runoff and therefore soil erosion. For example, if the land is sloped, there is a greater potential for soil erosion due to the simple fact that gravity pulls the water and soil materials down the slope. Also, water will have an easier time running across the surface, carrying topsoil with it, if the ground is already saturated due to heavy rains or the soil lacks vegetation to keep the soil in place.

Sheet Erosion

There are different types of soil erosion caused by water. Sheet erosion is erosion that occurs fairly evenly over an area. As raindrops loosen soil, the surface water runoff can transport topsoil in a uniform fashion, almost like a bed sheet sliding off of a bed. This can be so subtle that it might not even be noticed until much of the valuable, nutrient-rich topsoil has already been washed away. If a farmer heads out to his field and sees an accumulation of soil and crop residue at one end of his field, he should be worried about sheet erosion.

Rill Erosion

Rill erosion is erosion that results in small, short-lived and well-defined streams. When rainfall does not soak into the soil, it can gather on the surface and run downhill, forming small channels of water called rills. You can use this fact as a memory jogger if you remember that 'a little rill will run downhill.' A rill will dry up after the rainfall, but you may still see the stream bed that was created by the temporary stream.

Gully Erosion

Gully erosion can be thought of as advanced rill erosion. In fact, if rills are not addressed, they will grow into larger gullies. Gully erosion can spell big problems for farmers because the affected land is not able to be used for growing crops, and the big ditches create a hazard for the farmer driving his farm machinery over the fields.

Bank Erosion

Bank erosion is another type of water erosion and is defined as erosion of the bank of a stream or waterway. As you learned, surface water runoff always moves toward the lowest level due to gravity. Therefore, low-lying streams, rivers and even constructed drainage channels collect water runoff. However, over time, this water activity and other forces naturally wear down the banks lining the waterways.

Like other types of erosion, bank erosion needs to be managed. Otherwise, it can reduce productive farmland and pose a threat to the structural integrity of roads or bridges located near the waterway. This can end up causing the loss of money for farmers and big repair bills for communities. In other words, bank erosion leads to the loss of money or, in slang terms, with bank erosion, you are 'losing bank. 

Now that we have a better understanding of what soil erosion is lets look at some simple steps we can take to reduce the natural effects of top soil erosion.

  1  Plant grass and shrubs. Bare soil is easily swept away by wind and water, the two main causes of erosion. Plant roots hold the soil together, while their leaves block rain and stop it breaking the soil apart Turf, ornamental grass, and low, spreading shrubs work best, since they cover the soil completely.

  • If you have any bare ground, try to establish plant cover as soon as possible to limit erosion.

  • If the ground is mostly flat (slope of 3:1 or less), this might be enough to solve the problem.Steep slopes erode faster, so they need more protection.

  • 2

    Add mulch or rocks. This will weigh down the soil and protect the seeds and young plants underneath from getting washed away. It also slows the absorption of water to reduce runoff. Grass clippings or bark chips work especially well.

  • If you plant something in the soil, the plant’s roots can hold the soil together. If you don’t plant anything, then keep the soil covered with mulch. You can also add mulch around plants to add another layer of prote

     

    3 Use mulch matting to hold vegetation on slopes. Fiber mulch mats or erosion control mats are a layer of mulch held together in a fiber mesh. This structure holds the mulch together in areas where normal mulch would be washed or blown away.Lay the mat over seeds or young plants.

  • On steep slopes, dig a small trench at the top of the hill. Lay the top of the mat in the trench, fill it up with soil, then fold the mat back over the top. This helps water run over the top of the mat, where the mat will slow it down, instead of traveling underneath it

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    4 Put down fiber logs. Another option for erosion control on steep slopes is a series of rolled up logs or "wattles" made from fibrous material (like straw). Water running down the slope will slow down when it hits the logs, soaking into the soil instead of carrying mud downhill. Put the logs down across the slope, 10 to 25 feet (3–8m) apart. Hold them in place with wooden stakes or sturdy, living plants.

  • You can plant seeds directly in the logs to protect them while they grow.

  • ction or to keep the soil warm.

  • 5

    Build retaining walls stabilized. A retaining wall at the base of the slope will block the soil and slow down the collapse. This gives grass or other plants time to grow and help the soil hold together.

  • Give the wall a 2% slope on the side (perpendicular to the incline) so that water flows off to the side instead of pooling.

  • You may build the wall from concrete blocks, rock, or wood. Only use wood treated with a preservative to prevent rot.

  • Use retaining walls around flowerbeds and other raised soil areas as well.

  • You

    6

    Improve drainage. All buildings should have gutters or pipes that can drain water effectively out of your garden and into water collection systems. Without adequate drainage, heavy rain could wash away a whole layer of topsoil.

  • Areas with heavy water runoff may require you to install underground drainage.

  • may need local government approval to build these structures.

  • 7

    Reduce watering if possible. Over-watering your garden can speed up erosion by washing away soil. Use less water if you can, or install drip watering system. Since a drip system only delivers small amounts of water at a time, there is no water flooding across the surface to carry topsoil.

  • You can also install drip lines underground to deliver water directly to the roots.

  • 8

    Avoid soil compaction. When people, animals, or machines travel over soil, they press it down, compacting the soil into a dense layer. Since there is less space between dirt particles in compacted soil, water has a hard time draining through, and carries soil on the surface downhill instead. Walk on paving stones or cleared paths instead of trampling the soil, especially when it is wet. Adding compost or manure can also help by attracting earthworms, which break the soil into looser clumps.

  • Compacted soil also makes it harder for plants to become established, since the roots have trouble breaking through.

  • Compaction always lead to net erosion. The water may run off of compacted soil, but as it runs off it generates more force, which can increase the erosion in other area.

these are a few things we can do in our gardens and farms to reduce top soil erosion and improve the over quality of our crops and secure fertile growing mediums,

VPD

 Lets discuss The importance of VPD – Vapor Pressure Deficit. But first let’s start with the basics and come back to VPD later. So, humidity.

During the course of learning to grow, almost every gardener will discover that the temperatures and humidity of the environment have quite an effect on your plants. A good understanding of how temperatures and humidity affect the plant’s growth will give the gardener a real advantage in optimizing their growing environment, and their plants will be happier and more productive for it. 

Humidity and temperature have a direct effect on two very important aspects of gardening. The first of these is something called plant transpiration; the second of these is dew point, the resulting elevated risk of fungal attacks, rot and mould. So, to get a better idea about these effects, let’s take a look at how a plant works. 

First of all, let’s take a look at plant’s transpiration. Most growers already know that plants obtain and draw their water by drawing it through the roots. This water is distributed through the plant via stems, eventually ending up in their leaves and flowers. On the underside of the plant’s leaves are microscopic breathing pores called stomata. The plant uses stomata to absorb CO2 as required for photosynthesis. they're also used to release oxygen, which is created as a waste product. However, because the lining of the stomata needs to be wet in order to be able to absorb CO2 from the air, it means that, through these stomata, the larger proportion— of up to 90%—of plant water loss occurs. Because there is a cost of photosynthesizing to the plant in terms of water, the stomata of the plants have the ability to close when the cost would be too high. To keep the plants as productive as possible, ideally, the stomata would only close during the dark periods, or at night for outdoor plants, which is when the plant has no need for light to photosynthesize  and has no need to absorb CO2. 

However, the stomata will also begin to close if the plant begins to sense that payoff for having the stomata open, which enables photosynthesis, is not worth it in relation to expenditure of water loss. This may be due to one or more environmental factors, such as air temperature, humidity, light levels, CO2 concentration, or the roots can’t find any water, ultimately affecting yield. So, there’s a great need to get the temperature and humidity combination right. 

Relative humidity is not the only factor that affects water loss through the stomata. It’s the combination of relative humidity and temperature that actually determines this. A combination of dry, environmental, air, low humidity, and warm temperatures would cause waters to be lost at a faster rate than would be in human conditions. The plant recognizes this as a problem and again will close the stomata to conserve water. The close in the stomata is a gradual process, and they also can be partially closed, too. The amount the stomata will close is somewhat relative to the level of risk of running out of water.

As I mentioned a moment ago, plants need CO2 to photosynthesize. If a plant has to shut its stomata in order to conserve water, then it’s unable to absorb CO2 and photosynthesis stops. If photosynthesis stops, the plant cannot create the sugars that it needs in order to grow. Obviously, we need our plants to keep their stomata open during the lights on period. This is where knowing about vapor pressure deficit comes into its own as a far more accurate way of predicting water loss than considering just relative humidity. So, that leads us nicely into the start of the next part of this article.  let’s now talk about ways in how to monitor your humidity and how to increase it.

So, there are number of simple ways to monitor humidity, like digital thermometers and hygrometers that have maximum and minimum settings on them, they give you a current reading of relative humidity , as well as low and high temperatures  that can be cataloged and tracked. There is also more sophisticated ways, to track these variables, whole room meters and software can be used to automatically  track temperature ,humidity , VPD, lux and co2 ppm (parts per million) 

Okay. So, where does your humidity need to be? On a basic level, your relative humidity in veg and early flowering needs to be in the area of about 70 to 80 percent, give or take, then lowering it in the late flower in the region of 50 to 60 percent. But these are guidelines for those who have limited ability to control and monitor their humidity. Later on, we’ll go into more depth about the best ways to calculate where this needs to be and how to adjust it. If you need to increase your humidity, look at buying some humidifiers. Ideally, use them with a hydrostat where you can set your humidity to the level you need it to be. This might need a little bit of manual calibrating to get it just right. And if you need to lower your humidity, try to avoid dehumidifiers, as these take water from the easy source, which is usually your plants, and will cause them to dry out. 

I hope this has been interesting and informative, and we will carry on where this left off next time, getting deeper into vpd and its effect on your growing environment.

                           VPD PART 2 

Hello to all you growers out there, and welcome back  to the second installment of Vapor Pressure Defecit

One thing an experienced grower knows only too well is that the environment in your room or tent plays the most important role in deciding your success. In part one, we touched on plant transpiration, essentially the way temperature and humidity conditions in your grow room affect your plant’s growth rates, the quality of any fruits produced, and ultimately, your ability to maximize your yields. But you want to know about vapor pressure deficit. Many indoor gardeners grow successfully with only a simple hygrometer, which measures temperature and relative humidity. However, measuring VPD gives much better information on the drying ability of the air around your plants, which provides a clearer insight into how much water is required by the plants to maintain its stomata moisture levels.

VPD, as a measurement, talks about the differences between the moisture content in the air and the moisture content the air can hold when saturated. In terms of plant growth, it relates to the differences between the pressure inside the leaves and the surrounding atmosphere. It’s kind of like rolling the temperature and humidity into one measurement to get a clear picture of what’s going on directly around the stomata, as opposed to just knowing what the conditions are like in the room itself.

Putting it more simply, the higher the VPD, the greater the drying effect the air has on the plant’s ability to transpire. The key is making sure that everything is sitting in the right ranges. In most cases, a certain amount of pressure deficit between the leaves and the outside air has a positive effect, because some level of transpiration from the stomata is needed to promote the water flow from the roots to the rest of the plant, and it is this flow that brings along with it the nutrients that are required in countless roles around the plants. If the VPD is too high, plants will lose too much water through the transpiration and the stomata will close. A low VPD indicates that the air is holding a lot of water, which slows down the plant’s transpiration rates. Transpiration rates that are too low will slow down the movement of water and nutrients from the roots, inevitably causing problems leading to nutrient deficiency issues. 

As VPD is a pressure reading, it’s usually written in mb, or millibars, but you may also see VPD expressed in kilopascals, or kPa. Converting between the two is easy enough. Just divide the figures in millibars by ten to get an appropriate number in kPa. That’s it.

Here are some typical ranges. For low transpiration, 4 to 8 mb, or 0.4 to 0.8 kPa, usually, if you cut into veg. Healthy transpiration, 8 to 12 mb, or 0.8 to 1.2 kPa, flower. The high transpiration, 12 to 16 mb, or 1.2 to 1.6 kPa, usually during peak flowering times. 

So, now we know what VPD readings relate to, we need a way of calculating them. By far, the easiest way of getting accurate readings is to use a piece of equipment that does the job for you. there are many brain type monitoring systems out there  that can take these readings and do the calculations for you  . There isn’t much in a typical grow room that can’t be connected to these systems . Lights, CO2 generators, CO2 sensors, humidifiers, heaters, can call be controlled and regulated digitally from a central point. 

To calculate VPD, you’ll need a temperature probe, the humidity probe, and the  plant camera, which takes a reading from the leaf temperatures at the top of the canopy. The system of your choice will take  all these readings to calculate your VPD. Once you’ve got the readings, you can then make the relative changes to your setup to keep the VPD in the sweet spot. This usually means adjusting your humidity with the use of humidifiers or dehumidifiers, adjusting your atmospheric temperatures, ensuring the room is being cooled correctly, or increasing the temperature if needed, or adjusting your plant canopy temperature. This can be done by simply lifting or moving the lights closer or further away from your plants. Assuming that you set this up, the controller will dim the lights if the plants go above your required settings. But use this as a last resort, as typically  we always want our  lights  on maximum power. 

If you don’t have a smart controller  set up, you can still monitor VPD, and here’s how. You will need an infrared pocket thermometer, which measures leaf temperature, and a hygrometer to take temperature and relative humidity readings from the room. Point the infrared thermometer at the canopy and  Measure to get the leaf temperature. Keep the distance relative to the size of the area you want to measure. If the leaf area to measure is 30 centimeters by 30 centimeters, keep the infrared pocket thermometer 30 centimeters away. You’ve now got your leaf vapor pressure. Then take the air temperature and relative humidity readings from your room with your hygrometer. Again, just check out where they intersect  and make a note of that number, there are conversion tables available online  which give you your air vapor pressure. So, subtract your leaf vapor pressure from your air vapor pressure and you’ve got your vapor pressure deficit. Then make changes as you see fit.

VPD allows you to keep your grow room in its sweet spot for your plants, ultimately maximizing your yields. I hope this helps you out, guys. Happy growing.

Veganic Gardening

Veganism is not only a diet: it is a lifestyle. Vegans reject animal-based products, and base their lives around the avoidance of these products. Because human society is dependent on the utility and consumption of animals, maintaining a vegan lifestyle is challenging: the abundance of animal-based products severely restricts the options of vegans, and requires them to be conscious of their decisions so that they can remain true to their lifestyles.

 

Because vegans depend primarily on vegetation to sustain themselves, it would be natural for them to turn to garden to meet their dietary needs. However, gardening – like all parts of society – is rife with the trappings of non-vegan production. There are numerous factors to consider when cultivating a garden through vegan means.

 

What veganic fertilizers can be used?

 

Because plants receive their nutrients from decaying matter, most fertilizers are derived from animal blood, bones, byproducts, and feces (Corn, 2016). For slaughter houses and non-vegan gardeners, this is a convenient means of utilizing more parts of an animal and preventing them from going to waste; for vegan gardeners, however, this not only further capitalizes on the suffering of animals, but also contaminates their plants with animal byproducts and deprives them of essential nutrients (Corn, 2016). A major factor in veganic gardening is finding an alternative to these animal-based fertilizers, so that their plants can grow to their fullest potential.

 

There are various factors to consider when choosing a fertilizer: how it can be obtained, how much investment it needs, how it should be used, and how much it can be used (Rutherford-Fortunati, 2012). Not all fertilizers work the same, so they must be obtained and applied accordingly. Many fertilizer companies also sell vegan variants of their products, made up of nutrients and mineral mixtures to nourish plants based on specific needs; however, because many of these companies aren't exclusively vegan, so it is imperative to look for a veganic organic guarantee before proceeding with a purchase (Rutherford-Fortunati, 2012). Another source of fertilizer is compost: with the appropriate amount of space, gardeners can break down their green refuse to put back in their garden, providing a free source of minerals at the expense of consistency (Rutherford-Fortunati, 2012).

 

Some veganic fertilizers are crops in themselves, and need to be grown before being tilled into gardens. This so-called “green manure” includes fast growing crops such as wheat, rye, oats, vector, and clover (Rutherford-Fortunati, 2012). These crops are terrific sources of nitrogen, which can be passed on to future crops, and also prevent erosion and weed growth (Rutherford-Fortunati, 2012).

 

Other fertilizers are to be used sparingly, either because they have a specific purpose or are extracted in a way that is destructive to the environment (Rutherford-Fortunati, 2012). For instance, lime is to be used for lowering the pH levels of soil, and wood ash has an alkalizing effect which makes it incompatible with certain crops (Rutherford-Fortunati, 2012). Likewise, gypsum, dolomite, and green sand are rich in minerals but have to be mined (Rutherford-Fortunati, 2012).

 

How can pests be controlled through veganic means?

 

Chemical pesticides are used as a direct means of eradicating pests; however, their toxicity can threaten the health of plants and other life. Therefore, veganic gardeners must look to organic alternatives to ensure not only the health of their crops, but also the ecosystem surrounding their garden. One means of veganic pest control is using botanically-derived agents to kill pests: diseases can be cultivated and spread amongst pest populations, and minerals such as sulfur and pyrethrum can be used to kill their respective organisms (Small-Farm-Permaculture-and-Sustainable-Living.com). Likewise, gardeners can attract predators to feed on pests: bird feeders, frog ponds, nectar-producing plants for wasps and hover flies, and hiding places for spiders (Small-Farm-Permaculture-and-Sustainable-Living.com). They may also purchase carnivorous insects such as ladybugs or preying mantises, but because this actively uses animals for human benefit, it is up to the gardener to decide whether this falls within their ethics.

 

However, killing any animal, even ones that hinder their capability to harvest crops, is often against the ethics of veganic gardeners (Koschel, 2012). Therefore, non-violent means may also be considered: crop rotation, diversification (Vegan Agriculture Network, 2011), garden hygiene (Small-Farm-Permaculture-and-Sustainable-Living.com), cultivating secured garden beds away from the reach of pests, distractions such as compost piles and “sacrificial” crops (Koschel, 2012), and ultrasound devices to scare off rodents and lagomorphs. These methods require more flexibility from gardeners, but their ability to negate the livability of pests as a factor in gardening make them an important consideration with potential long-term benefits.

 

A seemingly counter-intuitive means of pest control is to let the pests go undisturbed. As destructive as they may seem to gardeners, they are an important part of local ecosystems, as they remove diseases from plant populations and provide food for carnivorous animals (Small-Farm-Permaculture-and-Sustainable-Living.com). They most frequently go after unhealthy crops, or those unsuited for the environment, which allows the survivors to sew their seeds for a more fruitful, pest-resistant yield (Small-Farm-Permaculture-and-Sustainable-Living.com). This natural selection also applies to the pests themselves: to kill them in mass quantities will not only deprive their predators of food, but it will allow the strongest pests to breed, leading to a more destructive pest population the following year (Small-Farm-Permaculture-and-Sustainable-Living.com). Therefore, pest populations should only be actively controlled if they exist in disproportionate sizes (Small-Farm-Permaculture-and-Sustainable-Living.com).

 

What other factors should be considered with veganic gardening?

 

Even when a product itself is veganic, the means which it was made available for distribution may not be so. Many gardening companies serve conventions products alongside their vegan counterparts (Rutherford-Fortunati, Alisia, 2012), and to purchase the latter would be indirectly benefiting the former. The products themselves may have been genetically modified, sprayed with chemicals, (Rutherford-Fortunati, Alisia, 2012), or fed with animal byproducts. Animals might be used somewhere in the company's line of production, either for their vegan products or elsewhere.

 

Veganic gardeners must put extra care into researching the companies they purchase from, to ensure that the products they use truly fall within their ethics. The most credible products come with a certification or guarantee, but gardeners must still look at to which extent the certification or guarantee lies.

 

Conclusion

 

Veganic gardening presents a wide array of options to work with, many of which deviate from conventional cultivation practices. Gardeners from all wakes of life will benefit from knowing these additional options, so that they can take adapt their techniques in ways that better suit their crops.

 

Works Cited

 

“Vegan Pest Control and Home Made Organic Pest Control Methods” Small-Farm-Permaculture-and-Sustainable-Living.com.

            http://www.small-farm-permaculture-and-sustainable-living.com/vegan_pest_control.html

“Certified Organic – US” .Vegan Agriculture Network. October 3, 2011.

            http://www.goveganic.net/article106.html

Corn, Nathaniel. “Veganic Gardening”. Vegetarian Journal. Vol. 3, 2016.

            http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2016issue3/2016_issue3_veganic_gardening.php

Koschel, Karen. “Non-Violent Pest Control in Your Vegan Organic Garden.” The Vegan Woman. January 11, 2012.

            http://www.theveganwoman.com/non-violent-pest-control-in-your-organic-garden/

Rutherford-Fortunati, Alisia. “Easy Guide to Vegan Organic Fertilizers”. Gentle World. February 26,       2012.

INSTRUMENTATION & SOIL ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY

DATA COLLECTION STRATEGIES FOR BIGGER AND HEALTHIER PLANTS


I believe most gardeners or farmers start their journey of food production through trial and error: observing which conditions work, noting which ones don't, and experimenting with how they can be improved. They begin with one or two potted tomatoes or pepper plants, then a couple of raised beds, then eventually every square inch of usable space on the property.


As we experience success and failure, we eventually start to find ourselves feeling a little more in tune with our environment: gradual climate changes, incoming storms, early signs of season change, insect mating rituals, and possibly even a sensitivity to ambient temperature and relative humidity akin to what our plants would feel. At the very least, we can predict the effects these environmental changes might have on our crops.


This process of learning for me has been an incredible evolution and journey that can't be put into words: this newfound connection to plants have changed my life. However, with all this wonderment and child-like discovery, I quickly caught on to the fact that hard data driven facts and scientific analyses would minimize my failures and bolster my success. After all, agriculture is a physical sport, and I want to conserve my energy and resources so that they can be utilized to their maximum potential.


This blog covers a subject I believe to be a very overlooked, yet incredibly important data collection and analyses process that could help all gardeners, farmers or greenhouse managers: EC, or “electrical conductivity”. Affordable technology, now available through HANNA Instruments, will allow farmers and gardeners to collect and catalog this data with their direct soil conductivity and temperature meter.


WHAT IS ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ME AND MY PLANTS?


Electrical conductivity is a quick, simple and inexpensive method that farmers and gardeners can use to check the health of their soils. Whereas pH is a good indicator of the balance of available nutrients in your soil, electrical conductivity can be viewed as the quantity of available nutrients in your soil (NOTE: only nutrients that are dissolved in the soil water are “available” for crops to take in).


In the soil, the electrical conductivity (EC) reading shows the level of ability the soil water has to carry an electrical current. The EC levels of the soil water is a good indication of the amount of nutrients available for your crops to absorb. The major and minor nutrients important for plant growth take the form of either cations (positively charged ions) or anions (negatively charged ions). These ions that are dissolved in the soil water carry electrical charge, and thus determine the EC level of your soil, as well as how many nutrients are available for your crops to take in. Knowing your soil's EC allows you to make more educated farming decisions on adding fertilizers to particular crop locations, or rotating of your plots.

 

This instrument will also let you know if your soil conductivity is too high, which will also cause some issues with normal soil and plant functions such as respiration, decomposition, nitrification and de-nitrification. Conversely, a lack of nutrients in the soil can create plant nutrient deficiency, which could lead to plant disease and susceptibility to certain pests and pathogens.

 

WHAT FACTORS NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERED WITH ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY

 

In working with EC, farmers and gardeners will realize that each plant has unique needs in order to be as healthy as possible: the correct ratio of nutrients, the correct temperature of the soil, and the right amount of watering and fertilizer. While it's important that each plant receive the nutrients they need in order to be healthy, having too much of any one nutrient will lead to slower growth, lower yields, and even toxicity problems. To avoid nutrient buildup, plants require their soil to be flushed at every scheduled opportunity. Even this requires proper timing, as flushing too often will leave plants nutrient deficient. Using a direct soil EC meter helps farmers tailor their feeding and flushing schedules to individual plant needs.

 

Meanwhile, the temperature of soil needs to be regulated so that plants will be incubated, but not overheated. As with nutrients, the temperature requirements vary with each plant: some plants like peppers enjoy a hotter soil, while plants like cucumbers and cannabis enjoy a much lower soil temperature. The soil temperature not only depends on climate, but also watering frequency and the size of the container the plants grow in: more watering leads to lower temperatures, whereas smaller, shallower containers build up heat more quickly.

 

Finally, plants need certain amounts of watering and fertilizer in order to remain healthy. While it may appear to be common sense to keep plants hydrated, too much watering can lead to mold problems and can weaken plant defense systems. Likewise, an overabundance of fertilizer can also lead to lower yields from unhealthy plants. The amount each plant needs will vary, as crops such as tomatoes will need more water to sustain themselves. This in turn affects how frequently plants need to be watered: tomatoes will need to be tended to more often than plants adapted to drier climates.

 

CONCLUSION

 

All of the aforementioned factors can be observed with tools such as the HI98331: with their ease of use, they can be tested quickly, and thus frequently. The amount of testing done is vital to the health of your plants, as changes that need to be made are best realized sooner than later. Remember, your EC meter will only be able to read conductivity in medium/soil; it cannot distinguish between available and non-available conductiveness. It's up to the farmer or gardener to know what type of plants they are growing, what nutrients are available in the soil, and what type of nutrient concentration they will best thrive in.

THE PERSONAL AND THE PRACTICAL

THE PERSONAL AND THE PRACTICAL

How did your business get its start? I was diagnosed with graves disease, an auto-immune disorder that impacted my physical and emotional well-being. In an attempt to resolve this, I modified my diet so that I would eat healthier; however, with the lack of options visible to the average American, I had to look beyond the restaurants and grocery stores for the foods I needed. I came to the conclusion that the best way to control the quality of my food was to grow it myself, thus I utilized the space on my property for zero-distribution food production. It was a rewarding process: I was amazed at the quality and quantity of vegetables I was growing in such a small space, and my condition withered out over time. I realized that others would benefit from this as I had, but lacked the knowledge, resources, and motivation to begin the process. This inspired me to create a business that would educate others on the benefits of growing their own crops, and help them reap those benefits.

"August 2016 // Maximum Yield's Industry News"

"August 2016 // Maximum Yield's Industry News"

 How has it evolved over the years? My business began as a service which installed custom gardens for businesses and families, for both traditional soil gardens and vertical aeroponic gardens. As the business grew in clientele, we developed an infrastructure that would sustain and service these clients' gardens on a weekly basis. After my first year in business, I realized the power of social media, and how it could reach to people across the globe. I expressed my love for urban gardening in my blog posts, and helped consumers by doing product reviews. My blog allowed the business to reach out to people in ways that otherwise wouldn't have been possible, and educated readers on a grand scale.

 What is your company’s philosophy? There are many philosophies that my business subscribes to, many of which stem from popular aphorisms. My primary philosophy, however, is that one's health comes from knowing what they consume.


 Who are the people behind your gardens? I have a very exclusive clientele base, ranging from Fortune 500 company owners to celebrities and their families.

 Briefly summarize the services you provide. We provide materials and educational resources to people that want to grow their own food, for private consumption or their business.

 How are you filling a much-needed niche in the market? While backyard gardening was once considered a necessity, it's now a luxury with the loss of space and soil quality. The centralization of agriculture and the accessibility to massproduced vegetables further reduces the economic viability of maintaining one's own crops. As we can see with the division of labor theory, it's not practical for a person making $500 an hour at her law firm to spend two hours a day in her garden; however, this doesn't mean they don't want to be left out of the experience of harvesting and consuming one's own produce. This is where my service comes into play: I sustain backyard gardens for those who neither have the time nor the interest to grow their own produce. This allows the consumer to reap the benefits of home gardening without shifting focus away from their lives, while I get the satisfaction of knowing that they will benefit from their healthier selections.

 What kind of requests are you getting the most of? Installation and maintenance service of outdoor hydroponic systems, and organic soil gardens. More recently, we're also receiving requests to do product placement and endorsement.

 Why do you think the world is seeing such a rising interest in urban gardening? - Over the past few centuries, circumstances have accelerated population growth and migration to metropolitan areas. In spire of this, humans still possess the innate desire to be involved in food production, and with advancing technology in botany, this is now more viable an option than ever. Statistically, more people in an urban environment means more urban gardeners on a per capita basis. - The rise of the internet has educated an increasing amount of people on the truth about modern agriculture, and its perceived impact on food quality and the environment. This leaves them with a desire to become more closely involved with the food-growing process. - The recent states of the economy have inflated food prices extraordinarily, thus increasing the economic incentive to grow one's own food. While commercial equivalents to homegrown products are available (i.e. at high-end grocery chains), they are too expensive for the ordinary individual, thus urban gardening offers an alternative solution to fulfilling the desire to consume high-quality produce. - The rise in diet-related illnesses has skyrocketed since the 1950s. It has become prevalent to the point where even hospitals are planting rooftop gardens, and general practitioners  are taking the nutrition more seriously. Considering my own auto-immune disease was the motivation for this business, I would have to assume that others face these same problems, and would recover as I had from home gardening.

Where do you see the company in 10 years?
My goal is to become a figurehead in the horticulture community. I want VGS Organic to become an educational and motivational resource to people, organizations, and possibly even governments. 10.Do you have anything new and exciting at the research and development stage you can tell us about? We're looking into starting our own line of medicinal teas and nutraceutical supplements

What is HEALTH?

What is HEALTH?

What do you think of when you hear the word health?

Sometimes we use words so often that after a while it loses its meaning. In other cases a word is abused to a point that it's interpretation is the complete opposite of what it used to stand for. So think about it... what does "health" mean to you?

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