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Hydroponic gardening is on the rise in popularity.  Understanding exactly how to successfully grow fresh vegetables and herbs starts with the basics.  In Hydroponics 101, the main heart and soul to a successful hydroponic garden is the reservoir!

Understanding that the reservoir is the single most important part of the hydroponic growing system is a must.  Maintaining your nutrient solution reservoir will dictate how successful your gardening efforts be.

Your Tap Water:

You need to test your water quality before putting it in your reservoir.  Tap water registers around 300 ppm or higher.  Your water's ppm should stay between 0 to 50 ppm before the addition of nutrients.  Start off by checking a small amount of your water quality with your TDS/PPM EC Meter. 100 ppm or higher is acceptable but there is a chance that micro nutrients will show up in your test.

All vegetables are not created equal.  There are so many varieties of vegetables and so are their nutrient and pH level demands.

Your Nutrient Solution:

Your nutrient solution should be checked every day, around the same time of day, to measure the strength of your nutrient and its pH.  Using a digital probe, measure the strength and pH and right this down in a log or notebook.  Keeping track of changes will help you develop healthy plants.

You should run tests on your solution after it has run through your system at least once, twice is best.  Purchase good test equipment because paper strips and test tube kits will not do the trick.

Adjusting the pH Levels:

The best level for pH is between 5.5 to 6.2, do not go over 6.5 and do not go below 5.5.  Although various vegetables need various levels, they all need to be between these levels.  Also note that adjusting your solution's pH will affect its strength. When adjusting the pH use propriety solutions as: pH Up or pH Down.

Check Your Solution's Strength:

Grab your TDS/PPM meter and check the strength of your nutrient solution.  If it's too strong, add water -- if it's too weak, add some fertilizer.  Always re-check your pH after making changes.

A top-up nutrient should only be used 3 to 4 times between full nutrient changes.  Never use full nutrients for top-ups.

It's advisable to have a nutrient reservoir as large or larger than the empty volume of the containers or tubes.  If you have a 20L container, at least 20L of nutrients should be used, though twice that amount is better.  It is a good idea to use the largest nutrient reservoir you possibly can.

Your Nutrients:

Depending on the volume and your plants requirements can vary greatly.  It is a really good idea to nutrient the water every day when you are first starting off.

When your nutrients come to the end of their usefulness, you can simply pour the solution into your plants grown in dirt.

Outdoor Hydroponic Gardens:

Although many enjoy their hydroponic gardens outdoors, keep in mind that any runoff water, including rain will affect your solution.  Rain, for instance, will dilute your solution rather quickly.

Indoor Hydroponic Gardens:

If your garden is indoors, you will have better control over the nutrient solution and other aspects of growth.  You will need plant or growth lights, your grow box or grow room can vary enormously and you will be able to grow herbs, vegetables, greens and even flowers year round.

Conclusion:

Hydroponic gardening is catching on like wildfire.  Whether you live in an apartment or in a cold climate that restricts your outdoor growing.  Hydroponics can offer you fresh produce and herbs whenever you want them.  There is a fountain of information online for you to study up on before starting your own garden.  Visit your local nursery to talk with someone knowledgeable in hydroponics.  Hydroponic gardening is not difficult and the rewards can be awesome!

While a vertical hydroponic system can look impressive, its real value is turning a normally underutilized space in your home into a productive and space-saving garden. Instead of just having photos or a bookshelf on your wall you can have a beautiful garden growing flowers, herbs, and vegetables for you to enjoy. With a tower system you can grow a larger number of plants in a smaller area, and still have room to move around freely.

What is the difference in growing plants vertically? Normally, in a standard garden with soil or in a hydro grow box the plants are grown on a horizontal surface. This layout requires space for the grow area as well as extra space for you to move between or around the plants to care for them or to harvest. If you don’t have much space available this limits how many plants you can grow, and it can make it difficult to have access to the plants to care for them and make sure they are healthy.

A vertical layout allows you to have a larger area that can hold more plant sites, and with more sites you can grow a wider selection of plants and have larger yields. For instance, let’s say you like to eat fresh salads. You can grow a variety of lettuce to make a spring salad mix, and then have fresh herbs growing alongside to add more flavor, like basil, dill, mint, oregano or thyme. Think how much you can save by growing your own instead of purchasing each of these items at the grocery store, and how much better your food will taste with the herbs being fresh picked right before dinner.

There are several benefits of a vertical hydroponic system that are especially good for older gardeners who may have issues with their knees and back, or for people with disabilities that limit their movement. First, as the plants are growing in a nutrient solution you will not need to lift heavy bags of potting soil into your home. Also, with the plants arranged neatly in rows on a wall or in a tower this allows much easier access to the plants for tending and harvesting.

A vertical hydro system also makes maintenance simple. An electric pump in the reservoir below the system pumps the nutrient solution up through connecting hoses that run along the plant sites. These systems often use drip emitters at the base of each plant to deliver the solution to the roots, which then drains back down into the reservoir. Sometimes these emitters get clogged or need to be adjusted so they are flowing correctly. With a vertical hydroponic system each of the emitters is easy to reach and adjust. It is also easy to manage your plants, and if you need to remove a plant it is simple to lift it out of its site and move it to another site.

If you want to start growing fresh vegetables and herbs indoors but you are limited for space, or if you have mobility issues that make it difficult to reach around a conventional growing table, then a vertical hydroponics system could be for you.

0 Comments | Posted in Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Florence B. Harrell

Garden Delights In Every Season: Growing Vegetables Indoors With Hydroponics

Imagine plucking a juicy red tomato right off the vine to top off your burger or put in your salad. See yourself picking a freshly grown spicy hot pepper that you can use to flavor your dishes. Picture yourself harvesting your own cucumbers or squash for your recipes. Now, imagine that you're picking these veggies in your pajamas inside with a foot of snow covering your backyard!

This delicious vision isn't just a dream; it can be a reality with a hydroponics vegetable garden. Hydroponics is a way of organic gardening indoors in any season without having to deal with messy potting soil. You can grow a wide variety of vegetables indoors in a hydroponics system, and this step-by-step guide will tell you how.

1. Take a plastic seedling tray and fill it up with peat moss, which you can purchase online and at home and garden stores. Spritz the peat moss with a water bottle until it is wet to the touch. You want it to feel like a sponge that is damp but not dripping wet.

2. Plant your vegetable seeds according to the depth instructions on the packaging. For best results when you're starting your first garden, pick vegetables that grow low to the ground and that grow quickly, such as leafy greens like kale or lettuce, broccoli or cauliflower.

3. Put plastic on the tray and place the entire setup on a windowsill that receives light but not direct sunlight.

4. Check your plants every day. If the peat moss is dry, spritz it the way that you did in Step 1. When the seeds sprout, remove the plastic.

5. Continue checking the seeds daily. Continue until the plants are beginning to outgrow the tray.

6. When the plants are too big, take each one gently out of the tray. Use water on low pressure to clean the peat moss away from the roots.

7. Take an aquarium fish tank and encase it with aluminum foil to block out the light and help the plants grow.

8. Purchase a hydroponics nutrient solution and mix it with water as directed on the packaging.

9. Pour the nutrient and water solution into the fish tank.

10. Connect a fish tank bubbler to a tank air pump with plastic tubing and gently put the bubbler down on the bottom of the tank.

11. Use scissors to trim a piece of Styrofoam sheeting to slightly smaller than the length and width of the fish tank.

12. Make holes inside of the sheet that are slightly smaller than the mouth of the Styrofoam coffee cups that you purchased.

13. Use an exacto knife to make slits in the sides of the cups.

14. Fill each cup up completely with vermiculite.

15. Make a depression enough to accommodate your plants inside of the vermiculite-filled cups.

16. Carefully set one plant in each cup.

17. Put the Styrofoam cups into the holes of the Styrofoam sheet.

18. Put the Styrofoam sheet with the cups inside of the fish tank.

19. Turn on the bubble.

20. Put the fish tank underneath hydroponics growing lights.

21. Monitor your plants and wait for your vegetables to grow!

These simple steps will have you enjoying your own fresh-from-the-garden vegetables all year round in no time!

0 Comments | Posted in News Fruits & Vegetable Gardening Indoor Gardening By Charles R. Sword

Each day, more and more people are finding out just how fun and how profitable it can be growing herbs in hydroponics. The fun part is being able to grow plants in your home grow room any time of the year, and the profitable part is the growing demand for produce picked fresh from a home herb garden.

It is easy now to grow plants in hydro, and gardeners who were used to growing in soil are now finding they can enjoy gardening growing the plants in a nutrient solution under grow lights. There are some differences in the techniques, but the fundamentals of growing plants, flowers, or vegetables, from seeds or from cuttings, are the same. The major differences are providing a light source with plant lights rather than the sun, and controlling the pH and the levels of nutrients with routine water treatment.

There are two drivers of the demand for hydroponically produced food; the quality of the vegetables and herbs in your local grocery store, and the ‘foodie’ movement. With many vegetables now being imported from Mexico and South America, even though they may look good, they may not be of the quality people want for themselves or their families. There may be unhealthy pesticides used when growing the plants, and since they are shipped such long distances the food is picked before it is ripe, causing it to lack flavor and nutrition.

The foodie movement is leading a push to high quality foods with the maximum flavor and nutrients. This has led restaurants and groceries to seek suppliers of fresh vegetables and herbs that are locally produced, without the worry of harmful pesticides or a lack of flavor. Another example of this growing trend is how farmers’ markets are popping up in most cities and towns, and how the prices are higher than you see in your local grocery.

These premium quality products bring a premium price, and a gardener who can grow the best herbs and vegetables will have no problem selling them to this eager market. If you can supply a product that is different from what you can normally find, grown with care, free of pesticides, and picked at the peak of freshness, you will find that customers will begin to contact you to make sure they are the first in line at harvest time.

The best plants to start out with when you are beginning to sell to restaurants and markets are heirloom tomatoes, specialty lettuces, and uncommon herbs. Restaurants, in particular, are always looking for ways to set themselves apart, and a wide selection of produce allows them to update their menus and keep the customers coming in.

In a grow room with a hydro system and grow lights you can offer a selection of products, and grow them fast. A plant grown in a hydroponic grow box will grow between 30% and 50% faster than a plant in soil, and you won’t have to worry about pests or weather affecting your crop.

As the gardener who has the best produce, the quickest delivery times, and the ability to provide a variety of herbs and vegetables, you will find that being a hydroponic gardener can be both fun and profitable.

0 Comments | Posted in Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Charles R. Sword

Since 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs, everything from crack cocaine to marijuana has been illegal in the United States. Forty years later the war on drugs has been anything but successful. These facts make it pretty clear that ridding of drugs in the U.S. is pretty much impossible.

Most law enforcement agencies still focus on the illegal trafficking using of hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, but bringing in pot smokers or those possessing pot has not been on the top of the list where crimes are concerned.

Over the past 10 years, the overall attitude toward the use of marijuana has changed drastically. When studies first showed that marijuana could be a medicinal solution to numerous health issues, many states dropped pot off the illegal list and onto a legal list for medicinal purposes.

Many Americans believe that pot is a great deal less dangerous than alcohol and various studies have backed that claim. During the elections in November, 2012 voters chose to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington as a recreational drug. Whether pot is more or less dangerous than alcohol will probably take a great deal more research.

Is Marijuana Safer Than Alcohol?

Recent studies have shown that pot is just as likely to impair judgment and motor skills behind the wheel of a car as alcohol. A study performed at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health has shown an increase in fatal accidents, nationwide, involving the use of marijuana.

Studying auto fatality statistics in California, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Illinois from 1999 to 2010 showed an increase in accidents involving marijuana. These 6 states were chosen for the study due to their constant toxicology tests given to all drivers involved in fatality accidents. This study examined more than 23,500 deaths that happened within one hour of a collision.

Their research showed that alcohol was a contributor in 40% of fatal accidents and remained the same throughout this time period. With constant ads and education showing the results of drunk driving, there has been little to no effect on those that choose to drink and drive.

Unfortunately, in 1999 16% of fatalities were blamed on drugs and grew to 28% by 2010. Co-author Dr. Guohua Li, "If This Trend Continues" believed in another 5 to 6 years, drugs will overtake alcohol as the leading contributor of death related car accidents.

This particular test does not differentiate between illegal drugs and marijuana or even legal drugs such as painkillers. The tests did show that the most common drug found in the blood streams of drivers was marijuana. In 1999 that number was only 4% and in 2010 reached 12%.

Further Research Is Inevitable:

Alcohol only remains in the blood-stream for a certain number of hours where marijuana can remain for weeks after smoking. Some studies state that 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood weren’t enough to impact drivers. These studies do not indicate that a driver is impaired from pot at the time of the accident; only that pot has been used in the recent past.

THC is the abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. This is the active ingredient in marijuana or "cannabis" which gives narcotic and psychoactive effects to the drug.

On the other hand, advocacy groups such as MADD (Mothers against Drunk Driving) back other studies that believe there is a connection between fatal accidents and the use of marijuana.

Now that more states are considering legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, more studies will be inevitable. Only time will tell at this point whether the states that have legalized marijuana's, if it is a good or bad choice.

0 Comments | Posted in News Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Charles R. Sword

Tasty Fresh Vegetable Recipes from Your Hydroponic Garden

Everyone loves the taste of fresh vegetables straight from the garden, but unfortunately the summer and fall harvest seasons are much too short. The good news is that you can enjoy the same wonderful flavor year round from a hydroponic garden in your home. With a simple grow box, nutrients, and plant lights you can enjoy vegetables that taste as good as anything you can grow in the soil.

One of the most popular vegetables to grow hydroponically is tomatoes. In North America in the wintertime the tomatoes you can buy at the grocery store are usually imported from Mexico, or are grown in giant commercial greenhouses and shipped. The tomatoes are picked before they are ripe, the texture is tough and the flavor is bland. But if you have a tomato garden in your grow room you can wait to pick them until they are so ripe they are about to burst with flavor.

Basil is an herb that also grows well in hydro. It doesn’t take up much space and grows a pretty little plant that is easy to maintain. It is also a very versatile herb that goes well in Italian dishes such as tomato-basil pasta sauce or on a Caprese salad with mozzarella cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes, and sprinkled with basil.

Another plant that grows really well in your indoor garden is pepper. It is happy to grow in a media like clay pellets where its roots can dig in firmly and hold the plant up straight under the weight of the heavy peppers. Just put the grow light about 8 to 10 inches above the top of the plant so the heat from the lamp doesn’t burn the leaves and raise the light as the plant grows. Give it 10 or 12 hours of light and it is happy.

You can make a wonderful roast pepper dish that is easy to make and tastes delicious. From your garden select 3 fresh peppers, a pint of cherry tomatoes, and a half a cup of basil. Cut the peppers in half and clean out the seeds, then fill the pepper halves with tomatoes and place them in a baking dish. If you have any mozzarella left over from your Caprese salad add a little bit to each pepper. Chop up the basil in a bowl and add 8 chopped garlic cloves, cover the tomatoes with the garlic and basil, then salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the peppers with aluminum foil and put the dish in the oven. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and put the dish in to bake for another 15 minutes. Take the peppers from the oven and sprinkle them with about a tablespoon of herb vinegar, then enjoy. This dish is very healthy, with low carbohydrates and full of nutrients.

When you have a hydro grow room you are able to create gourmet meals like this every night. Just grow a selection of your favorite vegetables and herbs, pick up a recipe book, and enjoy fresh-picked veggies on your table all year long.

0 Comments | Posted in News Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Florence B. Harrell

Hydroponics growing gives you the ability to enjoy fresh from the garden produce all year round. When you grow plants in a hydroponics grow room or grow box, you won't have all the hassle of using soil, keeping pests away from the garden, weeding or fertilizing. Everything is done through a system of grow lights and feeding tubes. It's simple, eco-friendly and organic.

Once you've decided to set up your a grow box and plant lights and get down to some hydro growing, you'll have another thing to decide: what to grow! To determine which plants would be best, follow these tips.

Consider your likes

Decide what vegetables you're likely to eat the most of. Planting vegetables that your family does not really enjoy won't give you very many benefits. Pick things that you eat often and that everyone likes.

2. Maximize your space

Instead of planting lots of one type of vegetable in a small grow room, try just one or two plants of all of your favorite veggies. This will help you determine just how much your family can eat in a timely manner. You can always add more later.

3. Think seasonally

If you pay attention to prices in your local grocery store, you'll quickly see that some vegetables are more expensive during the winter months. By growing these in your indoor grow box, you'll save money. For example, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are often very pricey in December, January and February, making them better choices than beets or broccoli, which are in season even during the winter.

4. Know what not to plant

Corn, zucchini, summer squash and melons all take up a lot of space in a growing environment, so steer clear of these unless you plan to invest in a very large grow room.

5. Plant the Dirty Dozen

Every year, the Environmental Working Group identifies vegetables and fruits that are likely to be contaminated with pesticides. By planting these in your hydro grow box, you can help to protect your family from toxins. Items on the 2013 list that you can grow indoors include celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, hot peppers, potatoes, spinach, sweet bell peppers, kale and collard greens.

6. Try herbs

If you love to cook, devote at least some of your growing environment to an herb garden. Herbs that you pick fresh right before you cook are far more flavorful than dried and even the fresh ones available at the grocery store.

7. Consider availability

If you often cook ethnic foods that require special chilies or other vegetables that are difficult to find in local grocery stores, planting these in your grow room is a wise idea.

Now that you have an idea of what you can grow with your hydroponics system, you're ready to get started. If you still need supplies like grow lights, a grow box or an exhaust fan, you can get those essentials here in our grow shop.

0 Comments | Posted in News Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Charles R. Sword

There is something so wonderful about watching little seeds turn into sprouts from an indoor container. Many gardeners are skeptical when talking about growing seedlings or just about any outdoor plant indoors. Little do they know, this is a great way to start plants off in a strong and healthy way while having a great deal of fun. Starting seeds from indoors is actually quite easy and fills those winter month voids with sprouts appearing before your very eyes.

Why Start Seeds Indoors?

One, it'll give you a jump on spring planting and it's a great way to get through the doldrums of winter. Seeds are a great way to start plants that can be quite difficult to find as a full plant at your local nursery. Starting from seeds vs a grown plant will save you a great deal of cash as well because you will get great deal more for your money. A packet of seeds will have at least a dozen seeds and only cost a few bucks. One full plant will cost more than that packet of seeds. Again, buying a packet of seeds and starting them indoors will be a rewarding experience during the cold winter months.

Can I Choose Any Seeds I Wish and Get Great Results?

If you are a seasoned gardener who has worked with seeds, yes. If you are new to seed starting, it's a good idea to start with those that are easier to grow. Tomatoes, Basil, Peppers, Marigold, Zinnias and Cosmos are really easy to grow and germinate very quickly. Once you have mastered some of these easier varieties, go ahead and try some of your favorites that are little more on the fussy side.

What Type of Soil Works Best for Seeds?

A light weight mix formula created for seeds is your best bet. Garden soil and other soils are too heavy and will not drain as well. Garden soils also carry organisms that can kill or damage your seedlings.

Are There Specific Pots I Should Use?

Containers with excellent drainage holes and designed for seeds such as trays and/or pots are the best choices. Some people like using biodegradable pots such as Paper Pots, Cowpots or Reusable Trays. You may also purchase self watering systems that are literally foolproof.

How Deep Should The Seeds Be Placed?

Your seed packet will give you needed information including the depth of the seeds. You must be careful not to plant seeds too deep. Plants have a very limited amount of food stored for nourishing the seeds. If the seeds are planted too deeply, they will run out of food before they ever reach the surface. Each packet has very concise and clear planting instructions that should be followed.

A Windowsill vs a Grow Light:

Although you are welcome to place your seedlings on a sunny windowsill, it's advisable to use a grow light. First, seedlings will develop more quickly with a light vs your sunny window. Secondly, the light coming through the window is not as intense as the summer sun, so they might not receive the desired light for good growth. Plants grown under a grow light will be larger and stockier and therefore adapted better once transplanted outdoors. If you use a grow light, make sure the light is a few inches above the seedlings' tops. As the sprouts start getting higher, adjust the light's height.

Should Grow Lights Remain On All Day and Night?

Seedlings will grow better if they have the grow light kept on for 14 to 16 hours a day. They do need some hours of darkness in order to rest, so you might want to purchase a timer for the lights.

Should They Be Watered From the Bottom or the Top?

As a general rule, you should water from the bottom so the surface soil remains dryer. If surface soil becomes really wet you could run into disease issues. If you have small seeds or those requiring surface sown, use a mist to keep the surface moist for germination.

When Should I Remove a Greenhouse Cover?

Greenhouse covers are great for holding in moisture and humidity for a faster germination. At the first sign of sprout growth, remove the cover. This gives the sprouts air circulation and keeps them away from various diseases.

Should Seedlings Be Thinned Out?

Once they start growing, they might start crowding each other out. That's the time to start thinning the seeds. You need to choose the strongest ones to stay and remove the weaker ones. Some gardeners choose to remove the weaker ones and replant them. Roots can become damaged but if you want to give it a try go ahead. If you choose to just thin out the plants, snip off the seedlings, that are being removed, at the soil line.

When To Fertilize:

When the seeds' food storage structure starts appearing, they look like leaves but aren't. When the second sets of real leaves start developing. These are the times to start your fertilization.

When Should Plants Be Placed In Larger Pots:

Some of your larger, fast growing seedlings will need to be moved to larger pots before it's time for them to go outdoors. Tomatoes are a good example, so when they get around four inches tall, gently remove them from their smaller pots.

When Should Plants Be Moved Outdoors?

Depending on the climate you live in and when the last frost arrives in the spring will dictate when you should move your plants outdoors. Seed packets should offer planting suggestions regarding their sowing requirements.

You should also consider whether your plants like cool or warm growing conditions. If the packet doesn't give you enough information, there are reference books that address all plants and their ideal environment.

I Don't Know The Last Frost Date, What Should I Do?

If you have moved from a different part of the country or are new to gardening, others will help you out. Ask a friend, a neighbor or contact the local gardening center, these people will be glad to help you out.

How Will My Plants Inoculate To Outdoor An Environment?

The process is called "hardening off", it simply helps the plants to become used to outdoor conditions. Outdoor conditions are harsher than the soft life they have experience indoors. Approximately one week before planting your seedlings into the garden, place them in a protected area outdoors for a few hours a day and bring them in a night. The protected area should be partial shade and out of the wind. Gradually expose them to more sunshine and wind, leaving them outside but moving them around, for approximately one week to ten days.

Problems Along The Way:

Poor germination can be a problem with some plants. Usually this is caused by seedlings that take a little longer to germinate. The packets should have the germination period and growth rate for that specific plant. Some seeds will take two or more weeks to start sprouting.

Poor germination may also occur from too wet or too cold soil which will cause them to rot. Sometimes the soil is too dry and the seeds are not capable of absorbing the moisture needed to sprout. Their roots are very fragile and this will cause them to die before any shoots can emerge. Seeds that are not properly stored or are too old will also not germinate.

Soil borne fungi will attack stems, causing the plants to fall over.You will have to start over by cleaning the containers and sterilizing the mixture. The soil should dry out or be mostly dried out before applying water. Make sure their is good air circulation such as a fan if needed. In order to clean and disinfect used containers, use a solution of 10% bleach and 90% water.

If you notice white fuzzy growth or green slimy parts on the surface of your mix or the outside of your biodegradable pots, it's more than likely mold or algae. This is a sign that the mix is way too wet. Although the seedling will probably be fine, you need to get that mix partially dried out. Again, use a fan or other options to bring about good air circulation.

Leggy plants are not getting enough light. Place them under a grow light with the light only a few inches above the plants. Keep the lights on for 14 to 16 hrs a day. If your room temperatures are too warm, this cause leggy problems as well. Over crowding and poor fertilization will cause weak and pale plants.

Pale leaves that are green, yellow or purple are probably a sign of poor nutrients. Once the seedlings are approximately one to two inches in height, start feeding them fertilizer. Use a water-soluble fertilizer that is diluted to half strength for a few weeks. Then start applying full strength each week. Always follow the directions on the labels.

0 Comments | Posted in News Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Charles R. Sword

Sage (Salvia Officinalis) is an attractive plant that grows between 2 and 3 feet and is a member of the mint family. Used as an herb to enhance many dishes as well as an beautiful ornamental plant for gardens. It is a hardy perennial commonly used to season poultry.

Sage is an ancient herb used for medicinal purposes from wounds to broken bones. It was also believed to help relieve stomach disorders and helped one's memory. The Greeks used sage to treat ulcers, snake bites and consumption. To the Romans, sage was considered sacred including a ceremony in honor of it. They would gather sage dressed in clean robes and make a food sacrifice. It is also believed they used sage as a form of toothpaste.

Unlike other herbs, Sage seeds do not germinate well and can take as long as two years to reach maturity when grown traditionally. Sage cuttings are a more popular alternative for growing.

Planting:

Sow approximately six to eight weeks before the last frost.Planted in soil, seeds will take about 3 weeks to germinate. Using a hydroponic system, proper light, and in a controlled environment germination, time can possibly be cut in half.

Planting sprouts in a hydroponic system with a nutrient solution will give you a better growth rate and healthier stock. As sage loves high sun, a fluorescent light should be placed approximately 2 inches above the sprout growth. As the plants grow, raise the light. You may also use a windowsill if it offers bright sunlight. Keep your water level high enough for the roots to reach at all times. Hydroponic systems water your herb garden with a rich nutrient solution that will promote a healthier and faster growth than outdoor gardening can possibly do. You will experience less diseases and a lack of outdoor insect infestations.

Hydroponic Solutions:

There are many wonderful ways to grow your herb garden with hydroponics. Visit your local gardening shop that offers hydro growing. Many gardeners like to use either a partially enclosed grow box or a completely enclosed grow box system. These boxes are ideal for those winter months when outdoors is a complete impossibility. Growers are thrilled with having fresh herbs and vegetables in the dead of winter.

With a partially enclosed or completely enclosed grow box, the world is open to a huge selection of plants and herbs to enjoy year round. Your only limitation for a grow box is your available space, as they range from small to large containers. Some of the tremendous features include a large variety of lighting options such as grow lights to ventilation systems.

Grow Boxes:

Partially enclosed boxes will require grow lights that are placed appropriately above in order to grow plants. Grow lights come in a variety of bulbs from fluorescent to more energy efficient lighting such as LEDs (light emitting diodes).

Many completely enclosed grow boxes come with added features including built-in grow lights and fan ventilation systems for air circulation to prevent the onslaught of various molds and fungi.

Grow Rooms:

Grow rooms offer a controlled environment for your plants. In order to grow plants in one of these rooms depends on your available space as they come in a good array of sizes. You should acquire a good ventilation system, such as a fan, because these rooms can become extremely hot and air circulation will be extremely important to keep temperatures down.

With the growing popularity in hydroponic systems, there has never been a better time for indoor gardeners. The sky truly is the limit from herbs to fresh vegetables and even exotic flowers. New systems, products and techniques are constantly on the horizon and gardeners are ready to jump on it.

Harvesting:

Cut the leaves sparingly in the first year of growth and prepare to dry. Tie the cuttings into small bunches and hang upside down in a dark, well ventilated room. Once dried, remove the leaves from the stems and store whole.

Disease & Insects:

In an outdoor environment various diseases are carried by insects or are often found within the soil. Spider mites and slugs are the two biggest problems for sage. Use a natural insect controller to combat these pests. Hydro growing will help prevent this from taking place because of the nutrient solution vs soil.

In an indoor hydroponic system, regulate the nutrients and watch the temperature. Keep air circulated with a fan to keep the possibility of insects and diseases developing. Using a sandy soil will promote good drainage which will keep diseases down as well. A good insecticide soap or natural insect controller are in order should you find problems developing.

Collecting Seeds:

Once the blooms start turning brown and the heads are totally dry, gently crush them between your hands and carefully fan away the bracts.

Conclusion:

Growing sage indoors allows you to enjoy these wonderful herbs year round and especially during the winter months when all else is barren. Sage has a wonderful aroma and delightful flavor. Pull out those dusty old recipes that call for sage and prepare delightful dishes!

0 Comments | Posted in News Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Florence B. Harrell

Pickling foods for abundance during the fall and winter months is nothing new. Your great-grandmother, your grandmother and possibly your mother were doing this long before you were around.

Some very popular pickled foods are: cucumbers, carrots, beets and peppers. Canning these foods is actually a lot easier than you might think, it just takes a little simple instruction.

The History of The Pickle:

Pickles go back as far as 2400 BC during the time of the Mesopotamians. Pickling is a preserving process and therefore were necessary throughout the centuries before refrigeration came into existence. The British were big believers in pickles since the Middle Ages and still are today.

Did you know Julius Caesar gave pickles to his troops because he believed these little pickles offered physical and spiritual strength.

Aristotle believed pickles offered great healing properties.

The benefits of pickling your vegetables is the fermenting process. This process increases good bacteria that promotes a healthy immune systems and bodily functions.

Let's Pickle:

Peel, slice (1" thick) 3 pounds of cucumbers

Place your cucumbers into canning jars.

Each jar should consist of:

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 to 3 dried chili peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Place In A Sauce Pan:

3 cups of white vinegar + 3 cups of water + 2 tablespoons of Sea Salt + 2 tablespoons of organic coconut sap or sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil for approximately two minutes or until the sea salt has totally dissolved.

The Jar:

Fill the jars with this mixture short of 1/4 inch at the top.

Put the lids on the jars and then seal and secure the them. Refrigerate for 48 hours or longer and enjoy!

About The Mighty Pickle:

Although pickles only have 16 calories, the sodium is 1,181 mg or 49% of your daily intake. That's a great deal of sodium!

Americans consume over 8.5 million pounds of pickles each year and twice that amount for dill and sweet pickles.

In 1500's NYC hosted the largest group of Dutch commercial picklers!

It is believed pickles will last 2 years which is past the expiration date on the jar.

A Crunchy Moment:

People love pickles! We enjoy them with hamburgers, at any form of barbecue, as a snack at any given time and are forever popular in homes across the country. NY Delis believe they created and perfected the giant pickle, which is always sitting on the counter top in a huge jar! With their own special herbs and spices, Deli customers would never dream of leaving the establishment without at least one huge pickle in tow!

Whether you would enjoy pickling cucumbers for the almighty pickle or enjoy other vegetables, pickling is a history old culinary delight! Try various pickling techniques and what vegetables appeal to you the most. Pickled foods are lasting and a great way to enjoy your summer vegetables in the dead of winter.

0 Comments | Posted in News Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Charles R. Sword

Hydrogen peroxide (H202) has been used for years in treating minor cuts and burns within households. It gets rid of infections and various bacteria without any discomfort. Hydrogen peroxide also prevents future infections in your hydroponic system, protecting your ability to grow plants in many positive ways.

Using hydrogen peroxide in your Hydroponics System offers many good outcomes. If your nutrient reservoir solution maintains 72 degrees, hydrogen peroxide is a necessary ingredient. Warm water decreases the oxygen level in the water causing many bacteria, viruses and fungi. Hydrogen peroxide adds oxygen and cleans the water of these pathogens. Your herb garden and other hydro gardens will love you for it!

Grow lights can cause a temperature increase in your grow rooms or grow boxes. Hydrogen peroxide will help bring the water temperature down and protect your plants. Plant lights are commonly used in partially enclosed grow boxes and completely enclosed grow boxes. Watching your temperatures is extremely important to insure you grow plants with great success.

Hydrogen peroxide counteracts the chlorine that many water providers use to sterilize your drinking water. Well water is high in methane and organic sulfates which hydrogen peroxide will also remove. As you draw your water from one of these sources, the purity of water in your will have a strong effect on your herb garden, vegetable garden or flower garden.

Bacterial, fusarium fungi, pythium fungi and many other organisms are destroyed by free oxygen released by hydrogen peroxide. Many herbs are effected by various fungi and mildew, using a little precaution and providing hydrogen peroxide to eliminate the potential of these diseases is important.

Plants must have oxygen as it is a major part of a plant's structure, allowing nutrients for the plants to feed on and assists in critical functions for all metabolic processes.

When using a grow room, keep in mind these rooms can become extremely hot. Good ventilation and oxygen are critical to proper growth. When applying hydrogen peroxide, follow label instructions carefully and other instructions included with your hydroponic system.

Extra oxygen provided by hydrogen peroxide benefits many functions including:

  • Breaks down carbohydrates brought on by photosynthesis
  • Gets more nutrients to your plant by increasing root zone movement
  • Creates thicker stems
  • Aids oxidization of metallic elements
  • Provides plant energy
  • It enhances photosynthesis by stimulating the level of protein production
  • Boosts the survival rate of plant cuttings
  • Escalates seed germination
  • Disinfects and cleanses your hydroponic system providing less disease
  • Excelling seed germination will greatly help seeds in sprouting while protecting them from molds and mildews.

Wet Sprouting:

Once a day, place a wet paper towel or cloth onto a flat surface and spray the outer surface of the material encasing the seeds. Supplement watering with a 3% solution once the sprouts start growing. Should you notice any form of bacterial growth, spray a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide onto the foliage, blooms and barks.

Regular strengths of hydroponic peroxide (3%, 5%, 8%) are safe and very easy to use. Look for "hydrogen peroxide (stabilized) 3% on the label.

Three percent hydrogen peroxide should be in a solution of 2-1/2 teaspoons of peroxide per gallon. You should start off at a lower concentration and then increase after a few weeks.

Changing Out The Reservoir:

When changing the reservoir, every two or three weeks, start off with 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide per gallon and slowly increase to the full 2-1/2 teaspoons per gallon.

Allow your hydroponic system to fully circulate the peroxide and water solution for approximately 30 minutes. This allows the peroxide to rid of pathogens and allows the solution to stabilized before you add the nutrients.

Take The Advise of a Professional:

Your standard peroxide can be purchased in most drugstores and many times at your local supermarket. You may also purchase a hydrogen peroxide solution from your hydroponics retailer. You should also consult with them for any professional advise regarding the solution strengths and when it should be applied. Take their advise and follow the instructions that are clearly listed on the bottle. Your hydro grow shop professionals are just a phone call away should you have any questions or concerns.

We have used hydrogen peroxide for healing minor wounds and killing off diseases. Now you know it will serve the same purpose for your hydroponic herb and vegetable gardens!

0 Comments | Posted in News Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Florence B. Harrell

If you want to grow plants indoors simply and easy, there are two methods of growing that do not require the hassle and mess of dealing with soil. The first is hydroponics, which involves the use of a growing medium. The second is a specialized form of hydroponics called aeroponics. With aeroponics, plants are grown under grow lights in a groom room or box like hydroponics, but there is no growing medium used at all.

So which type is right for you if you want to plant an herb garden or grow vegetables indoors? Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of indoor growing.

Growing Medium Differences

In a grow box or room for a hydroponics system, you won't need any dirt. Instead, you'll use a medium like the fibers from coconut shells, perlite or pebbles made of clay. Plants are fed nutrients through a system of tubes to help them grow. In an aeroponics growing environment, you will not use the medium. Instead, you'll need to turn off the plant lights periodically and spray the roots of your plants with a nutrient solution.

Advantages of Hydro Growing

Some of the advantages of hydroponics growing include:

- Large degree of control over the nutrients your plants receive

- Less water wasted as systems recycle the water. A high quality system can use 90 percent less water than traditional methods used to grow plants indoors

- No pesticides or herbicides are required

- Plants can be grown in every season since grow lights are used in place of natural sunlight.

- Less expensive to maintain than a traditional garden

Disadvantages of Hydro Growing

Although there are many distinct advantages of using a hydroponics system in your grow room or box, there are some disadvantage as well:

- Water based diseases can be easily transmitted through hydroponic systems due to the recycling of water

- The plant lights consume energy, and there is a need to have back-up generators in place in case of power failure

- There is a high initial expense for setting up a grow box or room

Advantages of Aeroponics

Aeroponics growing offers many of the same advantages as hydroponics; however, it does have one distinct advantage over hydro growing methods. Since there is no growing medium, plants are able to absorb more nutrients, which can lead to lusher growth and bigger harvests.

Disadvantages of Aeroponics

Like hydroponic growing, aeroponics is expensive to set up and requires electricity. In addition, an aero system requires more maintenance, as you will need to consistently monitor the pH of the plants and the amount of nutrients your plants are receiving. Generally, aeroponics systems are more difficult to use than a hydro growing environment, so the growing method is less ideal for beginners.

Whether you're interested in hydroponics or aeroponics, the iHidro grow shop has all of the supplies that you need to grow plants indoors. Check out our selection of products and get on your way to that indoor herb garden or vegetable garden.

0 Comments | Posted in Hydroponics Details Indoor Gardening By Florence B. Harrell

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Over the past few years, people with sensitivities toward gluten have also developed certain diseases such as celiac disease. Consuming a great deal of gluten can have a pretty negative impact on your overall health.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a "sticky" protein found in many grain products such as wheat, rye, barley and many other grains. It's called "sticky" because it literally hold nutrients together within the plant. This sticky ability is why it is used in processed foods as a filler and a binder. It is a two part protein that consists of peptides gliadin and glutenin.

Why Are People Turning Away From Gluten?

One of the biggest reasons we are turning away from gluten is that we are not eating the wheat that our parents grew up on. In order to produce a bug-resistant, fast growing and drought resistant product, we have to hybridized the grain. ( Hybridized = to breed or cause the production of a hybrid.) Approximately 5% of the protein found in hybridized wheat is considered a "new form of protein" and this is where the problem lies. This new form of protein leads to increased inflammation within your system, causes an intolerance to gluten and can bring about systematic problems.

How Is Wheat Now, Different Then It Was Years Ago?

Wheat has been de-amidated or in other words, amino groups have been removed from the product. This is done in order to allow the wheat to become water soluble and therefore able to be mixed into just about every single packaged food. Unfortunately, this process has shown to create a large immune response in many people. In this fast-paced world that we live in, we are surrounded with fast foods available at a snap and we are eating a great deal more wheat then our ancestors ever did.

So, What Goes On In Our Bodies When We Eat Gluten?

While you are consuming that "whole-grain" pasta that every health nut under sun claims is good for you, or that 12-grain sandwich, it's eventually is going to enter your intestines. (TTG) tissue transglutaminase is an enzyme that breaks down the gluten into building blocks, gliadin and glutenin.

So, what does all of that mean? Let's break it down so it's more clearly understood. Everything you intake must make its way through your digestive system, your lymphoid tissue or GALT which is the term used for the immune system within your gut! Your system literally reviews everything to make sure there are no harmful substances trying to make their way through.

Now, if you do not have any issues with gluten, the entire process moves along very smoothly and there are no problems. Unfortunately, if you have a sensitivity to gluten , your system identifies "gliadin" as a dangerous substance and starts producing antibodies to attack it. Gliadin is a prolamin derived from the gluten of grain. Prolamin is a simple class of proteins. Those with Celiac’s Disease, these antibodies don't just attack the gliadin, they also go after the TTG which originally broke down the gluten.

Symptoms Within the Digestive System Can Cause Serious Conflicts:

The enzyme, TTG, has numerous jobs and one of the most important duties is pulling together the microvilli, or little finger-like projections on the surface of the epithelial cell within our gut.

Your body collects nutrients by absorbing them through the walls of your intestines. The more surface space there is, the more they can absorb. These Microvilli exist in your intestines to increase the surface area and absorb nutrients. When these fingers become blunt, this is an indication of celiac disease.

When the production of antibodies are cut back within your body to defend against gliadin, these microvilli will erode and decrease your ability to absorb needed nutrients and can cause the walls of your intestines to become leaky.

When this leakage takes place, you can develop digestive symptoms such as bloating, constipation, weight loss, diarrhea, malnutrition and fat malabsorption. Malnutrition can be in the form of lack of iron, anemia, low vitamin D or even osteoporosis.

How Does Gluten Cause a Leaky Gut?

In order to absorb nutrients, our system must be accessible to small molecules. Regulating our intestinal attainability is one of the leading functions of the cells that line the intestinal walls.

That said, people who are sensitive to gluten can have their gut cells release "zonulin". Zonulin is a protein that will break the tight junctions of your gut apart. Once this happens, you will experience a "leaky gut". When this occurs toxins, microbes and undigested foods particles escape your intestines and travel throughout your body via your blood stream. Adding to that, this also allows antibodies to escape as well and these antibodies were formed to originally fight off gliadin.

The Link Between Gluten, Inflammation and Auto-immune Disease:

Antibodies often confuse more than TTG for gliadin and attack other organs and systems. From your skin to your thyroid or your brain can be at high risk. This is precisely why gluten sensitivity is often associated with auto-immune conditions and the onslaught of Celiac Disease. Once this has manifested, this can cause a second auto-immune disease as well.

What To Do If You Are or Suspect You Are Gluten Intolerant?

One of the best tests you can run is to remove any form of gluten from your diet for approximately 3 to 4 weeks before reintroducing it back into your diet. You need to run this test for a good amount of time because gluten is a very large protein and takes a long time to get it out of your system. If you can keep out of your diet for a longer time frame, all the better.

Once you introduce gluten back into your diet, should you feel significantly worse then you were before chances are you have a low tolerance to gluten. You may also request that your doctor run a series of tests:

  • IgA anti-gliadin antibodies
  • IgA anti-endomysial antibodies
  • IgA anti-gliadin antibodies
  • Total IgA antibodies
  • Tissue Transglutaminase antibodies
  • Genetic Testing
  • Intestinal Biopsy

Tests are not always accurate because gluten is made up of hundreds of peptides and gliadin that are broken down into 12 different sub fractions. Quite honestly, your body knows more than any test can possibly show. If you rid of gluten from your body and you feel great and then reintroduce it back into your system and you feel terrible, it's time to unload gluten permanently!

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How To Treat Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity:

You should eliminate gluten by 100% from your diet. Even low amounts of gluten from supplements, medications, cross-contamination can cause serious immune reactions. The mentality that gluten is only eaten when out at restaurants is a poor excuse. An article published in 2001 stated that those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, eating gluten just once a month increases the risk of death by 600%.

For some people, just removing gluten from their diets 100% isn't enough. The damage that has been caused must mend. Even those who only show signs of bloating or headaches, these effects can last up to six months and in some cases longer.

Because the damage has already been done, the gut lining must totally heal. Because of years of ignoring gluten sensitivity, other infections could arise such as parasites, bacterial overgrowth and bacterial imbalances, to name a few. In some cases some folks might need to go completely "grain-free" due to damages that have incurred.

Keep in mind, you are not losing any needed nutrients by cutting out gluten. You could very well be saving your own life or the life of someone you love. The wheat products we consume in this day and age are not what our ancestors consumed, nor did they consume as much as we have in recent years.

0 Comments | Posted in News By Florence B. Harrell

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