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in your growroom

‘It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man’ - Henry David Thoreau



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i grow lettuce


IN THIS ISSUE OF GARDEN CULTURE: 9 Foreword 10 Product Spotlight 17 Stay out 18 GMO Controversy increases 20 Making your own soil mix 25 Fresh Food 26 Freaky Tomatoes 29 Five Cool Finds 31 Organic music 33 Dirt: good for what ails you 34 Hunger – a growing need 37 Grodan is going to Mars 39 The Windows farm experiment 42 Sage – Wisdom of the Ages




49 52 56 60 62 64 66 70 76 83 85 90 98 103

Who’s Growing What Where Teach ‘em young Organic vs. Synthetic nutrients The problem with Food Patents LED specifications What’s the best tomato? Seed Diversity I grow Lettuce The Govenment, farming food and you Four amazing plant facts Reusing your potting soil Supplemental Lighting Ballast – pros & cons Starting on a Budget









If you are planning to start your first indoor garden, or are expanding/upgrading your current one, chances are you will need to make some

Garden Culture™ is a publication of 325 Media Inc. ED I TO RS Executive Editor: Eric Coulombe Email - Senior Editor: Tammy Clayton Email - V P O PER AT I O NS: Celia Sayers Email - t. 1-514-754-1539


DESIGN Job Hugenholtz Email -

So you take a trip to your local hydroponics store. If you are new to this, being a bit overwhelmed by the selection is common, especially if you visit several stores. My advice is - do your homework, and question everything. Over the past 10 years this industry has exploded, and so has the number of products offered.

Special thanks to: Tammy, Evan Folds, Theo Tekstra, Judd Stone, Stephen Brookes, Wendy Denney, Kyle L. Ladenburger, Amber Fields, Darryl Cotton, Brian Burk, Stephanie Whitley, Marisa Kay Richter, Greg Richter, Grubbycup, My beautiful wife and partner Celia, Maya and Kees, Job, Callie Coe, Agent Green and Monsanto for motivating me to fight back.

Beware of cheap imitations! Trying to save too much money will often cost you more in the end, especially when it comes to hardware like ballasts and bulbs. Unfortunately, anyone can go to China and buy whatever they want, dress it up pretty, and sell it as a premium product at a huge discount. You think you are getting a great deal, when all you are getting are problems. Indoor gardening is an art. You are Mother Nature, and control everything. Like in so many systems the whole is as strong as its weakest link. Take time to learn what a plant needs, read books written by experts, and buy good equipment - then you will be better prepared to have a bountiful garden with few problems. Parting with your hard-earned money can be painful, but the lowest price is rarely the best deal. As a wise man once told me, “ I am too poor to buy cheap.” 3


PUBLISHER 325 Media 44 Hyde Rd., Milles Isles Québec, Canada t. +1-855-427-8254 w. Email - ADVERTISING Eric Coulombe Email - t. 1-514-233-1539 D I ST R I B U T I O N PA R T N ER S • Sunlight Supply • Hydrofarm • Rambridge • Biofloral Website : © 325 Media

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without prior permission in writing from 325 Media inc.



product spotlight

s ’ c i r EGarden Gadgets 10 years experimenting with indoor gardening, In this edition we will feature the products in my garden. I have spent over t, I would like to give a nod to Can Fans and these are some of my favorites. Although not included in the product spotligh Opticfoliar Greener Cleaner (‘cause for the (I have had the same fan for 10 years), HM Digitals new HydroMaster meter, Organic Rescue Mist, and Pure Gold from first time with a huge garden I have no bugs), and Fulvic acid in general (I use Nutri Plus 29% Fulvic content and is certified organic).



Established for over 15 years, AutoPot provide growers of all abilities with a watering system that will far exceed their expectations. From commercial glasshouses to domestic greenhouses; growers worldwide choose AutoPot Watering Systems to automatically irrigate their plants without the need for pumps timers or electricity. Thanks to the patented AQUAvalve technology; AutoPot is the only watering system in the world where each individual plant controls their own irrigation, and receives fresh nutrient enriched water exactly when they need it - with zero water loss


Current Culture


ology utilizes C®) Deep Water techn Current Culture’s (SC nated nutrient re to recirculate oxyge ssu pre ter wa ive gat ne is continuous plant’s root zone. Th solution through the th dissolved rges the nutrients wi ha erc sup n tio mo id flu perfect for r-aerobic conditions oxygen, creating hype t circulation Constant 24/7 nutrien explosive plant growth. oughout the levels are uniform thr ensures pH and EC entire system.

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same people Manufactured by the osystem, the who made the Ec dular vertical Ecogrowwall is a mo k the panels garden. Simply clic configuration together in whatever support. All you like and snap to included, easy plumbing hardware is ings make compression-pop fitt ing system a setting up the water is designed to breeze. Each chamber th 5 channels. wool slab. Set comes wi ck ro 6” ”X 48 e on rt suppo o a garden. ern, turn your walls int When space is a conc .com www.ecogrowwall

Nutriculture Gro-Tanks NFT Our NFT Gro-Tanks give roots virtually unrestricted access to oxygen. Yields are typically much bigger than if growing in pots of dirt. The depth of the recirculating stream is very shallow, little more than a film of water, hence the name ‘nutrient film’. This ensures that the thick root mat, which develops in the bottom of the channel has

Sun S yste m

L E C 315

Sunlight Supply is pleased to announce the arrival of the LEC 315 light fixture. The LEC 315 utilizes cutting edge Light Emitting Ceramic™ technology, along with a specially engineered 98% reflective optical cavity. This fixture includes a highly efficient, agriculturally engineered Philips CDM-T Elite Agro Lamp. This lamp offers a greatly improved full color light spectrum, 3100K color temperature, 92 CRI, 33,000 initial lumens (105Lm/W)! Higher amounts of beneficial UV and far red spectrums increase the lamps growth power to the plants. The LEC drive incorporates built-in thermal protection, and the open rated lamp construction reduces radiant heat from the arc tube, and is suitable for open fixture use.

constant access to nutrients and air. Nutrient solution is constantly pumped to the roots, there’s no timer to program. Because virtually no growing medium is used there’s nothing to transport or throw away at the end of the season. Very clean, very easy, and very impressive results. Perfect for beginners or experts.



product spotlight Th e

Minimax 150 Following three-years of research and testing The MINIMAX 150 with microprocessor has finally arrived. We now have CE registration and are ready to impress UK growers. Running at less than 0.7amp we feel that this little unit will revolutionize indoor grow lighting. No longer do growers have to compromise with low wattage alternatives that just don’t do a great job. The MINIMAX 150 operates with either Metal Halide or High Pressure Sodium bulbs. • High lumen output (Sunmaster 150W Dual Spectrum Lamp -17200 Lumens) • Low bulb temperature • Full RF filtration

• No need for costly contact/relay controllers • Comes with full three year guarantee • Operates with either Metal Halide or High Pressure Sodium bulbs.

s g n i W A t s u j d A

The Adjust-A-Wings Enforcer reflector range have the same essential features as Hygro International’s worldfamous Avenger models, save for the Super reflective “glass coated” finish, and the high end price tag. The finish on the Enforcer Wings is 85% reflective, and guaranteed for 3 years. Made by skilled workers, using carefully selected high quality materials and fittings. These reflectors throw a huge light footprint, run nice and cool, produce killer yields, and have gained the respect and admiration of all who use them!



Plasma Growing in indoor conditions without sunlight not only requires a good climate, but also a good quality light. Though one can grow successful under HPS alone, or a combination of HPS and MH, it is still not the full spectrum our sun delivers. The Gavita light Plasma fixtures produce light with a spectrum similar to that of the sun, making it the ideal supplement to HPS for serious growers. Plasma lights alone are perfect for vegetative periods, or green plants.





Monsanto at Max Y ield

Anyone who knows me knows I despise Monsanto. As it turns out so does most of the indoor gardening industry, and they let them know it. Max Yield has been throwing the Indoor Garden Expos for over a decade. They have been an integral building block for this industry’s development. These shows are an important part of any company’s marketing plan when trying to enter this market. At least they used to be, until Monsanto showed up.

How did this happen? Who is this group of people who are so against this company that they could force the world’s biggest ag/chemical company to flee with his proverbial tail between his legs. It was you, and the companies you support. If you own a small indoor garden shop, and are afraid

Ira Bostic /

I’m not sure what kind of what will happen when, or if, w did this happen? Who is Ho reception they thought they the big players like Wal-Mart, this group of people who are would get, but it was nasty. I Costco, and the like gets t tha against this company so went over myself to talk to the involved... I think we just saw they could force the world’s 30-something guy in the booth. the answer. Indoor gardeners y an gest ag/chemical comp big “So, is everyone blasting you for seem to have a general dislike to flee with his proverbial tail being here?” I asked. He told me of companies like Monsanto between his legs. he felt like a cat in a dog show. and Wal-Mart. It wasn’t I also told him that I despised financial motivation that made the company he worked for and if he had a soul he would all those people turn on that sales guy at the Max Yield quit ASAP, then I left. I walked about 20 feet and watched, show, it was an ethical action. a steady stream of people doing just what I did. It was a reception that new surfers get when they are in the wrong I found this event inspiring, and was very proud of the people spot. I was polite, others were not, at least 10 people told who stood up for their beliefs. him to get the f**k out. It still begs the question, why were they there, and how are It was amazing to watch, a never-ending bombardment of they going to weasel their way back in? I hope they got the negative energy focused on this poor unsuspecting employee. message, but if they didn’t I’m confident we will collectively It took about 3 hours or so, and he packed up his stuff, called make them feel very unwelcome. Sorry Monsanto…wait, no his suit-wearing boss, and told him he was going home. I I’m not. 3 didn’t give him a kick on the way out or anything, but it did feel good. We all felt good. Somehow we just kicked Monsanto out of a gardening trade show.




d e r e h s u y l l a i c i f f o “Europe in a future favoring biotech giants” Flashback... Summer 2014, Washington D.C. In a July fact-finding session on GMO food labeling, US Congressman Schrader asked the EU expert, “Why does the EU still have their labeling if they’ve come to the same conclusions? Why have they not frankly informed their consumers that there is no difference?” The world renown, Dr. Calestous Juma responded,“The EU is not a homogenous body.You have the commission with its scientific advice that conducted these studies.You have the legislative body that is influenced very much by the consumer organizations that has not changed its position.”

Present... January 2015, Strassbourg It appears that those consumer organizations have now lost control of the legislative body. As of 20 January, Europe officially ushered in a future favoring biotech giants in passing a new controversial food law that transfers the rights involved in allowing, or banning GMO crops to individual countries. The argument on whether a nation’s farmers can, or cannot grow Monsanto’s MON 810 maize has shifted, and they’ve succeeded in getting 7 new GM crops approved for further discretionary approval per country. It’s unlikely coincidental that this happened during the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks for securing multilateral growth through commerce between the US and the EU. No doubt heavy lobbying has quietly taken place in the months leading up to both this particular European Parliament session and the TIFF convention - on both sides of the Atlantic.


Baby Steps Biotech behemoths like Monsanto rose to their current status in the US and other countries the same way - one small measure at a time. Bypassing continental government turns the tables to their favor, for now they can work on each small entity individually. No doubt GMO proponents were doing the happy dance within moments of the highly criticized measure’s approval. It’s two steps forward for GMO crops, a whole new continent of possibilities and acquisitions. Not that GMO crops have done anything to slow world hunger. The third world still lacks the finances to buy said food or seed, because that’s the real crux of the problem money. But GMOs do however, feed the hunger for wealth, benefiting profit margins, and shareholders a great deal. See, there’s that money thing again, but on the opposite end of the ruler.


“It’s two steps forward for GMO crops”

O M G o gm Controversy Increases

Divide & Conquer If you suspect some déjà vu looms on the horizon, you might very well be right. Turning the protected farmland of a continent into a scattered patchwork of GMO producing regions raises the odds of spreading pollen to traditional and organic crops like we’ve already seen happen in Canada, the US, Mexico, Paraguay, and Brazil. The breeze, and insects don’t stop at lines drawn by man. Groups like Greenpeace are wellfounded in their concerns over the possible environmental damages this could cause. Roundup use will increase phenomenally on every hectare planted with GM seed, which does not disappear, but lingers in the soil, filters into waterways, and clouds collect it with other agrichemicals to release it elsewhere in a phenomenon known as acid rain.

agri-giant’s team travel in and out of various positions within the EFSA, and the appropriate legislative offices in each EU member state. Better tally the same at Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, and DuPont offices too, so you know who’s who as the players begin moving around. That’s how they’ve played the GMO/ pesticide approval game to date in the US. It would be nice if this is not what happens, but here’s that déjà vu stuff. Grease a little palm, fund a study, train the perfect expert for desirable governmental positions... buy your way in. Like any trip, if you can pay the fare, you will get where you want to go. Both science and political assignations are for sale. The first group calls it funding, and the latter, campaign or lobbying monies.

GMOs feed wealth, not the hungry

But It’s Safe to Eat At least, these 8 crops are in the eyes of the EFSA. The new ruling allows individual EU countries to opt out of growing approved GMOs deemed safe to consume by the European Food Safety Authority. Feel like this is just the beginning, that more will follow? That is how it has played out elsewhere with this GMO thing. Who are the current major EFSA players? Make a list. Then make a list of all the top people at Monsanto’s UK and European offices. Don’t overlook legal counsel. Going forward, you will no doubt see movers and shakers from the

Damage Control Underway With the ink barely dry on the new food law, the PR aimed at unseating current consumer opinion and belief hit UK mainstream media. On 22 January BBC published news that ‘safer GMOs’ are being created by scientists in the US. Synthetic biology aimed at controlling these crops from spreading into the wild by adding synthetic food for it to live on. The goal is that these alien bacteria will starve to death if they leave the host plant, removing possible contamination. Should we feel relieved, or see reason for heightened concern? Firstly, there is no way they can remove all risk, and secondly what will this stuff do to us and the Earth? More details on this new development: 3




making your own

soilmix Soil is like water. Both sustain life as we know it, yet they are so omnipresent that we take them for granted. And due to both their importance and complexity, the limitations of language cannot do them justice. The soil is under our feet at all times, and can also be purchased in a bag at the hardware store. Soil is the primary basis by which we grow food, and the same field can also be subjected to the littering of our poisons. But beyond it all, soil may very well be the most important substance on Earth.




THE FIRST THING TO THINK OF WHEN MAKING A SOIL MIX IS MICROBES Soil creates and sustains all of life. Soil allows farming, the act of rebellion that catalyzed human specialization from hunting and gathering to society at large, and that started the human experiment more than 10,000 years ago. We’ve come a long way since then, and with good reason, as there are many more mouths to feed with human population growing exponentially in modern times. But we are using more topsoil than we are creating, and we are collectively utilizing soil for all the wrong reasons. We must respect the soil, not use it as a sponge; even certified organic practices can result in tremendous damage, and pollution to the land. Modern farming has become more a creature of synthetic profit, than a source of nourishment for people. USDA data shows food losing nutrient density, and we are experiencing a global degenerative and autoimmune epidemic. But the good news is that we can do something about it. The growing Food Movement is about creating personal agriculture. This means eating with our ideals, and growing at least one thing that we eat. Modern property development obliterates the landscape leaving very poor soil behind, so many home gardeners turn to containers or raised beds. Estimates say that it takes 1000 years to create an inch of topsoil, but fortunately for modern gardeners we don’t have to wait nearly that long. The easy route is to buy potting soil. There is merit to letting the experts do it for you, but it can get expensive when your gardening habit gets serious. Just a little under thirteen gallons of good organic potting soil can cost $25. Many who are looking to invest in serious quantities of soil are making their own soil mixes. Not only

is it possible to calibrate a custom soil mix to the crop that you are growing, but given sufficient scale buying the raw ingredients, and formulating the soil yourself costs much less than buying the readymade version. It’s actually not as hard as you think, with some intention and practice you can create, and even reuse, your own soil capable of sustainably supporting thriving gardens, and producing increasingly substantial yields. The first thing to think of when making a soil mix is microbes. Microbes manufacture soil, no different from construction workers on a job site. It is the grower’s responsibility to bring the correct building materials to the garden. Any attempt at making or reusing soil without prioritizing biological inoculation and diversity is like trying to brew beer without adding the yeast, or making kombucha or vinegar without a mother. The microbes define the process. So it is in the soil. Source a farm-based biological inoculant, and consider brewing compost tea to concentrate the process. Microbes from a natural environment will always be stronger, and have more life experience than lab-based, and you will automatically get a greater diversity of microbes in your mix. Any biological product that can name the microbes in the product is a limitation, because we are only aware of a small percentage of microbes found in natural living systems. In the end, diversity is king. Use compost from your friend’s back yard, worm castings, scrape topsoil from the forest, and buy some premium compost from the garden store. Remember, microbes selforganize, so you cannot mess it up. Once you have your microbes lined up, it is time to consider the soil mix itself. Popular base materials



SOIL MAY VERY WELL BE THE MOST IMPORTANT SUBSTANCE ON EARTH are peat moss and coir fiber, but it is often possible to source local bulk mixes out of varying materials. The popular bulk soil base in our area is pine bark and turkey manure. Not the best, but it provides cheap volume for the base of the mix that we are going to value-add. It’s not that making a soil mix is inherently difficult, but that if you don’t do it right it simply may not work the first time. Meaning, it is possible to put together a soil mix that lacks total fertility, like trying to use a budget Big Box fertilizer in hydroponics, the plant cannot grow without at least minimum essential nutrition. This is generally accomplished through ensuring the ingredients used are as diverse as possible. This means don’t make a soil mix composed of peat moss, rice hulls, and fish meal - and expect your garden to produce. Instead, make a soil mix of peat moss, rice hulls, worm castings, bat guano, rock dust, farm-based compost, fish meal, alfalfa meal, whey, yucca, kelp meal, and as many other meals as you can muster given the crop that you are cultivating. Use a little bit of a lot of things, the more the merrier. There is strength in diversity. By providing diverse food sources for the microbes you will inoculate into your mix will create a highly fertile environment for roots to form and feed, but take some time to consider the nutrient balance of the ingredients you are using. For example, you wouldn’t want to have a phosphorous-heavy mix (bone meal, CalPhos, guano) for a crop of basil that you are growing vegetatively, or use too much high NPK ingredient (guano, fish) for light feeders like lettuce. It will take some practice to calibrate your fertility properly in your soil mix, but plants don’t lie, they will give you constant feedback. You will also want to investigate the relative concentration of the mix you are creating. For instance, if you evaluate the differing nutritional requirements of lettuce versus tomatoes, you will see that lettuce wants a fertilizer concentration of around 600-800 ppm, while tomatoes desire anywhere between 1700-3500 ppm. This is quite a substantial difference.


A “ppm”, or “parts of ions per million of water”, is the measurement for fertilizer concentration. Imagine a granule of table salt being dissolved in water into a Na+ and a Cl- ion. Each ion would be a “part” in a ppm, and plants eat these ions created either through solubility, or through biological decomposition. Osmosis is the phenomenon that sees water travel from the lower concentration to the higher concentration through a water permeable membrane in order to equalize concentrations. The root is an osmotic gradient, so this force is at play in roots when it comes to fertilizer concentrations. If a plant has more ions inside than it does outside of its roots then healthy transpiration can occur. But if there are too many ions outside relative to inside the root water is then sucked out of the plant resulting in the plant prioritizing, and the edges “burning” and becoming necrotic. Considering this, it becomes clear that all purchased potting soils have to be calibrated to the lower end of this fertilizer spectrum. In other words, if a potting soil formulator created a recipe that resulted in a fertilizer concentration of 2000 ppm tomatoes would love it, but the lettuce would be severely over fertilized resulting in dead plants if not amended. When taking this into account for your soil mix you may want to keep the higher NPK items out of the mix, and feed with them over time in the soil as a fertilizer. Think of the organic fertilizers as the building materials for your microbial construction workers, and as a crutch for results and plant nourishment until your soil food web is ready, and can take over the fertilization responsibility. The lack of focus on microbes is one of the major problems with gardening techniques like square foot gardening or lasagna gardening. They are great templates for beginning gardeners, but they do not focus on microbes, and people end up with beautifully spaced gardens that cannot sustain themselves over time, or immature soil where they can read the copy on the front page of the newspaper when they turn their soil over. Organic matter does not just melt, it is biologically digested by a team


THE L ACK OF FOCUS ON MICROBES IS ONE OF THE MA JOR PROBLEMS WITH GARDENING TECHNIQUES of micro-organisms that move micrometers in their lifetime. If we don’t bring them to the party they simply are not there! In the forest, consider that microbes don’t eat the leaves, they eat what the microbes make of them. And trees grow to enormous size and strength in the forest with zero fertilizer. The power of microbes cannot be understated. You will find that by focusing on biological strength and diversity, the more the natural processes take over, and the more mature your soil becomes, the less responsible you will feel to feed the garden with fertilizer. This is particularly intriguing when it comes to reusing soil. Next issue we will discuss the merits and techniques of re-using your potting soil, so you can take your personal agriculture to an entirely new level. 3




An amazing new discovery reveals that fruits and vegetables continue functioning after the harvest. Fresh foods are still alive. They know what time it is and perform certain behaviors, like increasing beneficial compounds according to hours of light received. Your food still follows day and night cycles. It could be at its healthiest best right before dusk in their current daylength cycle.

“Fresh foods are still alive”

your salad tracks time! Biology research at Rice University uncovered this fact while studying how the circadian clock affects natural pest fighting compounds to come to a plant’s assistance. It started with cabbage leaves, and investigating the plant’s ability to resist attack by caterpillars that feed on its leaves in the field - the very same enzymes believed to have cancer fighting benefits.


This crossover benefit thing isn’t unique to cabbage. A lot of the different antioxidants and disease fighting elements in fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are part of their built-in pest, disease and stress resistance mechanisms. They tested average store produce that’s been picked, shipped, and stored. The researchers discovered that

cabbage, lettuce, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and more... all respond to light. Too many light or dark hours reduces resistance production, as does constant light, or constant dark. They found that late in the day on a 12 hour light/12 hour dark schedule, resistance was twice as strong. You might want to stop shopping for fresh food at 24hour stores - there is no night cycle there. Maybe we should add a light cycle to the produce drawer in the refrigerator. The light is only on when you open the door. 3




© Chris & Christina Currie”

“That ain’t natural. It’s defective.”

Freaky Tomatoes What’s up with the fruit here? A tomato is not supposed to sprout plants. Totally abnormal, and not some isolated oddity. The earliest report found of buying tomatoes filled with germinating seeds is 2003. More and more people are talking about this, and sharing bizarre tomato images. Suspicions of genetically modified organisms loom large. Some say this micro tomato forest thing is due to cold storage. Others say it isn’t uncommon. Huh? Where did the natural germination inhibitors go? Stranger still, tomatoes picked before perfect ripeness don’t have viable seeds. Mature tomato seeds do not germinate without fermenting. Most of these hyperactive tomato owners state that the fruit wasn’t rotten. Some were freshly purchased, and furthermore, store-bought tomatoes are picked unripe.

“Are they Frankenmatoes?”


In almost every case, the tomatoes were store-bought. One woman found the seeds inside a cherry tomato all germinated. She planted one in a pot out of curiosity. The thing grew 10 individual main stems! I had this happen with homegrown tomatoes a couple of years ago. There was no cold storage. The fresh picked tomatoes got tossed within days. Others gardeners have had this happen too, but not with heirloom varieties to my knowledge. Are they Frankenmatoes with fish or frog genes in them? Nope. Sources report transgenic GE tomato varieties are history. In fact, no new GE tomatoes have been released since 2000 due to regulation difficulties, among other complexities. It does have to do with genetics... and mutants. A number of hybridized crops suffer from this precocious


“Mature tomato seeds do not germinate without fermenting.”

germination, or ‘viviparous’ tendency. An occasional oddball seed that defies the status quo sounds reasonable. But a whole fruit full, or several tomatoes on a stem cluster, or most of your harvest? That ain’t natural. It’s defective. The cause is hormonal imbalance. Low levels of ABA or abscisic acid, a phytohormone that regulates seed development. Some tomato varieties are more prone to this viviparous activity. Which ones are they? The pretty ones that stay edible in your fridge for weeks after purchase. Bred to stay ripe without aging - a.k.a. Long Shelf Life. Vivipary was very common with early processing tomatoes bred for one-time destructive machine harvesting. Truss, or cluster types, and cherry tomatoes you buy at the grocery store out of season will all be long shelf life varieties. Long shelf life tomatoes, if picked at the right stage and gassed, can remain ‘fresh’ 3-4 months after harvest. Ripened on the plant, they have one month of shelf life max. While the skin and meat don’t age, the seed continues to

“Where did the natural germination inhibitors go?”

mature using the sugars available inside the fruit. The most extreme viviparous tendencies are seen in rin mutant tomatoes that mature, but don’t ripen or rot. What’s a rin mutant? A salad ornament. It’s bright red and looks good, but has crunch and no flavor. Sound familiar? It has to do with a mutant gene. One that inhibits ripening. Rin mutant hybrids ship better. The store has less loss. The rin gene controls the ripening process. In 2002 Cornell University located the gene in tomato DNA. Scientists are working on building a juicy GE tomato. Garden fresh tomato flavor that will ship thousands of miles, and store for months. Fat chance. Juiciness, soft garden fresh texture, and flavor is what makes a real tomato unshippable. 3 GARDENCULTURE.NET




cool finds 1



Tired of the sky-high prices on specialty flours at the store? Leery of just what went into growing the grains in flour? Bypass the system, and make your own flour. Designed to process all grains and beans, this impact mill is affordable, and highly rated. More info:

Air plants are a cinch to grow. The perfect houseplant for space challenged people on the go. Check out these awesome handmade planters we found designed just for air plants. A stylish way to add some greenery to just about any spot in your home.This is just a peek at what Cor Pottery has to offer. More info:



The finest chefs in the world use sous vide cooking. It cooks any food to perfection, and holds it there. Dinner is ready when you are with all the nutrition and flavor preserved. The Sansaire is an immersion circulator for home sous vide cooking. Compact, beautiful, and phone app control! More info:




E A SY S A LT WAT E R R E E F The cost of equipment, and high maintenance of a saltwater aquarium got you doing without? This miniature reef system is both affordable, and easy to take care of. Chose a fully stocked system shipped live, or the basic aquarium, and buy your coral locally. Learn more @ pjreefs.com3


Possibly the most beautiful portable grill ever. Perfect for a picnic, the beach, or small space grilling. Everything you need but the charcoal and utensils, all neatly stacked up and held in place by a rugged strap. More Info:




Organic Music Credit: Maker City LA

Credit: Magda Olszanowski


“IT’S A TALE OF PL ANT AND MACHINE IN A SYMBIOTIC REL ATIONSHIP Mileece Petre is 35, British, and makes beautiful music with plants. That sounds strange, but most brilliant ideas sound a bit

The setup looks pretty simple from the outside. She places pads on a few different types of plants, connects those pads to wires, and the wires to a computer. The pads read bio-electric energy put off by the plants when something touches them. These signals get sent to an amplifier, which converts these analog signals into digital code. This code is then sent to her computer where a program, which she wrote, reads the signals, and turns them into electronic music. It’s a tale of plant and machine in a symbiotic relationship, where they collide into a sonic landscape. Naturally, this garnered some attention. Mileece recently had a residency at Maker City LA. She performed, in 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art. Mileece also created a first of its kind interactive classroom at the Lycee International Francais in Los Angeles where she converted a school bus into an interactive forest, and made a zero-emission TreWe-vrTM Pod for environmental education. During her performances, she combines live music with the sounds of her Tre-Wevr interface. She couples these with sounds from her field recordings, like icebergs and sounds from the Costa Rican jungle, to paint a beautiful sonic picture. There is something real, and elegant to the whole thing. The colorful plant leaves, the graceful

Credit: Tahitia Hicks

crazy at first.

movements from the artist, and the sounds and visuals coming together to showcase how nature is a living, breathing, all-encompassing thing. You can tell she is doing this for the plants, and for the people. Mileece says the landscapes and designs that she makes are there because she wants habitats to exist; for herself and others. Also, she does not feel like a composer of the music, more like a facilitator of the plants natural harmonies. That is a true love for nature. Nature is a beautiful thing, and so is music. Can we live in a world without both? Plants are alive, they live and die, and they do communicate. Mileece, has found a way to connect the world to the actual voice of nature in a unique and harmonious way. With a bit of time, and a respect for music and nature, she has found a way to make the forest into a symphony. Maybe we should try to listen to the plants in our garden, and in the woods, meadows, and parks around us a bit more closely. There’s a lot more going on there than green space. 3 GARDENCULTURE.NET



• Good for • What Ails You I always thought it was the lack of green space, and a relationship with nature that made anger and crime so common in cities. All that noise, congestion, and asphalt can’t be good for a person, especially when it’s your total environment. Science has discovered that it goes deeper than that. Human psyche and health requires a relationship with dirt. Society’s current dissociation with Smart Pots or GeoPots. with soil negatively affects us Feed your soil, because the mentally and physically. The microbial life in organic THE MICROBIAL microbial life in good soil is soil has healing properties LIFE IN GOOD actually healing. At least the for humans on contact. It SOIL IS ACTUALLY microorganisms not voided will also give you better HEALING… by farm and garden chemicals vegetables, fruits, or flowers. MENTALLY AND or synthetic fertilizers are. It’s You came from the soil. You PHYSICALLY not just the flowers, greens, or are also sustained by the soil. fruit we need from plants, but also Human beings are microbial assistance from things in the soil too. Over 90% of the human food web around plants’ roots. body is made of microbes, such As I read about this, it reminded me of as ‘gut flora’. Each of us is our own my son as a toddler constantly eating dirt. ecosystem that gets out of balance from Perhaps it wasn’t just that kids at this stage a lack of soil contact.Your microbes need soil put everything in their mouth, maybe it was instinct telling microbes for mental and physical health benefits. him he needed something from the soil. He does have Got no dirt because you’re an urbanite? At the very least, buy mild allergies, and these scientists have connected rising a bag of organic topsoil, and indulge in a little mud pie fun. 3 allergy problems and recurring illnesses to daily life that disconnects most people from the soil. They are proving that people who live in sterile environments have more Bee & Bug Bite Eraser such health problems than those that spend their lives Mud, or the wet soil we call mud, has the natural power covered with dirt and pollen. to cure bee stings. It’s amazing, like never being stung at Is it really just the beauty that bring so many to become all. The mud actually draws out the toxins and absorbs so addicted to flower gardening, or does getting dirty have them. Just apply a thin layer, and let it dry. In just 10-15 some sway? Sure, the lovely colors and bloom shapes are minutes, wash it off, and you’re cured.They say it works attractive, and do have an effect on a person’s mental health on insect bites as well. Gotta remember to try this and mood, but a backyard gardener for any outcome will instead of scratching mosquito and fly bites for days, also get dirty. By the same token, people who live beyond because it’s like magic on a bee sting. No special kind of urban areas will likely have a flower garden, or a vegetable soil needed, but sand might not work as well. garden, or both. Studies have shown that this portion of the population also has a lot less mental health issues. All Natural Mood Elevator Depressed? Dealing with mood swings? Having a bad day? Spend more time outdoors in the garden. Dance barefoot in the dirt. Pull some weeds. Grow in real soil on the balcony

• More Info: • • •




Social programs are struggling to feed people in need

There is a compelling difference

a growing need

between hunger and appetite. By definition, hunger is the painful sensation or compelling weakness caused by the overpowering need for food. Appetite has a much more palatable and polite definition, as a desire for food and drink. Many of us who live in more developed countries are less likely to encounter true hunger in our own lives, but not all of us, and the problem may be getting worse right under our noses.



Demand at food banks in most communities in the United States is at staggering levels. Since the decline of the economy, there has been a sharp rise in people and families that can no longer afford to feed themselves, not even the basics, or keep a roof over their heads. Social programs that supposedly are in place to help people in their down times have had their resources taxed by increased enrollment, and decreased political support, reducing their ability to have a noticeable effect, causing further system decline. The need for you, the reader, to get involved as an individual has never been more important statistically in our lives. Many of you already take part in food-raiser type events where you bring a non-perishable item into a public event for a discounted admission. This is a great way for the entire community to get involved, because food banks are at a disadvantage today. They lack funds to create a diverse offering as they always have, and lets face it, people can’t live off of spaghetti-o’s and corn flakes. Food banks need helping hands. I’ve never been to a food bank that doesn’t need help with, well, everything. They need people to sort goods, and help get them on the shelf. They need people to help hand out the food when they are open, and extras during limited very busy hours. They need you to donate baby food. They never have enough. For those of you with children, I hope that speaks to you. But most of all, and why I wanted to write this article, they need you, yes you, the conscious, food savvy gardener, and maybe some of your wares. Many food banks throughout the country are now growing food. In years past, food banks didn’t have sustained customers like they do today, people got back on their feet quicker. Offering fresh produce didn’t make sense… now it does. I grew 60 heads of lettuce for a food bank, and I asked them if they wanted me to offset the harvest, my heart sank when they told me they could easily get rid of all 60 to families that needed it same day. My efforts could

You need to get involved never keep up alone. Again, this is my call to you. Your local food bank may not have a garden; quite possibly you could help them build one in your spare time. If they already have one, I’m sure they would love for you to take a day in the watering rotation. A little goes a long way when it comes to a helping hand. You will find a lot of warm hearts at the food bank. But, at the very least, if you’re left with no additional time to do this, I ask you to plant a row in your own garden for your local food bank, or rescue mission. For many years, most food banks could not, and would not accept fresh produce for the simple potential of getting people sick from pesticide contamination, or even if it was store-bought, the very idea of it being perishable. The lawmakers knew something had to be done to allow food banks to work with perishable food items. It was the only way to get the best, most healthy selection of food out to the people who desperately need it. In 1996 Bill Clinton signed into law the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. The law protects donors, whether they be individual or corporate, and also protects the food bank from any civil or criminal liability stemming from any donation made in good faith. The law does not protect from gross negligence. But if you grow some healthy food, or help grow some food with your food bank, I’m pretty confident that’s an effort in good faith. The passage of the act unified the nation in legalities when it came to donating. Now corporations readily participate in nationwide donation and volunteer programs that many individual and community food banks benefit from. 3

plant a row in your own garden for your local food bank





Is Going to


How do you grow food during space missions to places like Mars? That is the key question in an exciting study into biological life support systems for space missions conducted in a research center at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. The GRODAN Group, a specialized solution lies in growing their own THE FIRST member of the Rockwool Group, food. What that requires is a light, MANNED played a significant role in this highand compact growth medium which MISSION TO tech research project. The company MARS WILL TAKE produces maximum results with the develops sustainable stone wool use of minimal resources. GRODAN PL ACE IN 2035 based substrate solutions for the stone wool substrates meet these horticultural industry. The plants being studied in requirements, and are perfectly suitable for use in closed Canada are grown on these highly advanced GRODAN cultivation systems where water is recirculated and reused. substrates. These characteristics make the substrates ideal for use on Mars and during the journey there. If everything goes according to plan, the first manned mission to Mars will take place in 2035. The journey will They have used GRODAN stone wool in multiple space take the ‘martianauts’ about two and a half years. Taking research related projects since 1985, and this brand of along food supplies for the entire journey is impossible substrates has already ventured into outer space! For more – that would amount to over 3300 lbs. per person. The information about Grodan, visit 3






RM experiment

M i c r o s o f t S u c c e e d s A t G r o w Yo u r O w n A company this large has a site that could hold a small city, and it’s techy employees have an on-campus café not far from their office. So many cafés in fact, that they have a Dining and Beverage Services department, who recently set up experimental indoor farms inside two on-campus eateries, the largest being at Café 38.

Inspired by some growing towers he saw at a restaurant trade show, Mark Freeman, senior program manager of Dining at Microsoft, saw the value in bringing fresh hydroponically grown vegetables to the Redmond, Washington headquarters campus. So, they researched their options intent on high productivity in little space with a goal of sustainably meeting people’s concern about knowing what’s in their food, and where it comes from. While garden towers come in both aeroponic and hydroponic systems, they went with Foody Garden Towers for a number of reasons. The biggest deciding factor says Joshua Scott, a Microsoft executive chef, was system capacity. Café 38 has 756 plants growing in 14 towers - almost twice as much crop capacity than any other tower systems, without increasing the height. Like in any already completed building, the cafés have limitations on unit dimensions, and needing a ladder to harvest removes fast and easy from the operation. Other important selling points with the Foody 12 Tower was its automated rotation option to maximize the light economically to all plants in each unit. Scott lists other key pluses that guided

, LLC ed O ur Pl an et C ou rt es y of Fe

Courtesy of Microsoft

WINDOWS FA 756 plants growing in 14 towers plus microgreens

their equipment purchasing decision as the towers’ aesthetic appeal, lower price, and the ease of adding and removing individual plants. It was also hydroponic, instead of aeroponic, guarding against instant plant loss in a power outage. They have 4 more towers at another café on the Redmond campus, and all 18 units are pumping out leafy salad greens and herbs at a delicious rate. Initially, they installed halogens and LEDs as grow lighting, but as the experiment evolved Dining looked at increasing productivity and realized that the garden needed a different fixture. Switching to iUNU plasma lights upped their sustainability margin, because plasma is up to 30% more efficient than LEDs in terms of plant energy results. Growing staff member, Jessica Shilke notes that the change in grow lights brought out plant qualities she’s GARDENCULTURE.NET


never seen before. The lettuce and herbs now develop natural coloration, which never happens under HIDs or LEDs. The flavor is also much improved, proving just how important the full spectrum of natural sunlight is to indoor gardening. The idea to swap lighting technology came not from a progressive gardening consultation, but from a surprising source. Some techs in the Xbox division suggested it would be an improvement, and they’re grateful for the tip. The visual difference from the grow light improvement is highly noticeable. Photos taken last fall when the iUNU lights were newly installed had only spotty growth and pale plants residing in the towers. Here we are a few months later, and Café 38’s grow space is luxuriously leafy, and rich green. Definitely a big boost in nutrient value. This isn’t all that the Microsoft farm is producing. They’ve also got some large commercial Urban Cultivator units raising microgreens. There is one unit in the prep area behind the counter on full display in Café 38. This one is more of a fresh grocer holding unit though. They start and grow the microgreens elsewhere on campus, and move them here when they reach the harvest stage. This makes perfect sense to keep kitchen space at its productive and attractive best. While they can’t grow all the fresh foods onsite needed to provide the campus cafés in ingredients, the greens and herbs are a great start. The rest of the produce comes in from area organic farms, because offering healthy foods, and being sustainable are both hugely important to Dining manager, Michael Freeman. With technological innovation being such an organic part of Microsoft, pairing it with sustainability to

natural color and better flavor under full spectrum plasma lights

, LLC ed O ur Pl an et C ou rt es y of Fe

Courtesy of Microsoft


produce food is an exciting opportunity for Jessica Schilke. She notes that developing a locally based food system for a city is usually a thought exercise, but on the sprawling Microsoft campus they can actually make these changes, and experiment. People love having the plants where they can enjoy them, and they’re excited to see where this can go. The farming inside the café has inspired further ideas from the tech heavy customer population. Schilke get’s approached by people who want to develop apps around the project, which is soon to expand. They’re gearing up to grow 100% of the company’s microgreens by July 2015. That’s 270 trays each week, and before fall arrives they’re installing new hydroponic towers in Building 83’s café too. One café at a time, they hope to offer farmed here freshness campus-wide. One app idea is a map of where to find what variety of campus-grown produce every day. Whenever you’re in Redmond, feel free to locate one of these campus cafés. The food is always fresh, gets rave reviews, and the prices are lower than anywhere else in town. 3 GARDENCULTURE.NET



e g a S

s e g A e h t f o m o d s i W M A N H AS J UST A LWAY S K N OW N T H AT SAG E WAS SAV V Y



Grow Your Own Series H I STO RY & F O L K LO R E A word with two meanings, sage the noun refers to a herb with culinary and medicinal uses, and sage the adjective describes a wise and experienced person. Since one benefit of the Salvia plant has long been said to sharpen one’s mental prowess, sage being a synonym of wisdom cannot be a coincidence. The word salvia comes from ancient Greek that literally means ‘to save’, or the Latin counterpart for ‘well being’. Compared to other herbs, sage is a bit bland, not in flavor or benefits, but it lacks wild myth, and folklore. Man has just always known that sage was savvy. All cultures believed it safe, beneficial, a source of improved intelligence, and the key to a long life. Don’t confuse it with the wide variety of ornamental Salvia cultivars, herbal sage has been used for healing since the days of ancient China. In Rome of old, it was also used to infuse food and drink with flavor, and assisting meal digestion. The Arabs believed that one could not die if sage was prospering under your care. Charlemagne wanted it grown everywhere. In Middle Age England, it was said to only grow well where the wife was in charge, but was as must-have as salt and pepper in Colonial America.

H E A LT H B EN EF I T S While of Mediterranean origin, traditional Chinese medicine has used sage tea to soothe sore throats and indigestion since 835 A.D. It is still used for digestive and cough home remedies worldwide. Sage tincture can be used to soothe gum pain and treat gingivitis. The many powerful active constituents in sage give us essential oils, minerals, along with disease preventing, and health promoting vitamins. A natural antioxidant, disinfectant, and deodorizer that is anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-fungal, and anti-hemorrhagic. It’s also been used for hundreds of years to lighten menstrual flow, slow wound bleeding, treat menopausal hot flashes, increase fertility, and dry up breast milk. This isn’t folklore, they’ve discovered that sage contains natural estrogens. Pregnant women should avoid sage tea and essential oils, though it’s perfectly safe to eat as a seasoning. Two recent UK studies found that a 1.7 oz. dosage of essential oil significantly increased short-term memory in young adults, proving its value for increasing mental acuity is factual. Aside from preventing ‘senior moments’, sage is also part of natural anti-aging beauty regimens. The Gypsies swore by it for darkening graying hair - just one more cosmetic benefit.


with good drainage, sage is very easy to grow N O M EN CL AT U R E There are over 900 Salvia species on Earth, but only 80 are in cultivation, and very few have culinary or healing uses. Store-bought dried or rubbed sage is stronger than garden sage, both because it’s dehydrated, and because of the cultivar, which is Greek Sage or Dalmatian Sage (S. triloba syn. S. fruticosa). Retailed dried sage’s intensity, and the common overseasoning of holiday stuffing gives a lot of people the idea that this isn’t a herb for regular cooking. Learn how to use it, and discover what you’ve been missing. The colorful flowers are edible too. Common Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) - Much milder, and more palatable than other culinary sages. Note that all variants of S. officinalis are hardy to zone 5, and similar tasting, though variegated selections are a bit milder. This is the form most commonly used for healing throughout Europe and Asia. Golden Garden Sage (S. o. icterina) - Low growing with green and gold variegated leaves. Purple Garden Sage (S. o. purpurea) - Deep purple new growth matures to soft green. Tricolor Garden Sage (S. o. tricolor) - Marbled pink, cream, and green variegation. Berggarten Sage (S. o. Berggarten) - Large leaves perfect for garnishing. It rarely blooms. Dwarf Garden Sage (S. o. minum) - The best one for container growing. Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) - Sweeter than the rest. Best used in desserts, meat glazes and marinades, with fruit, and in drinks. Larger red flowers that are GARDENCULTURE.NET



Tra di t ion al C h ine s e me dic ine h as us e d s age t e a sinc e 8 35 A . D. also edible. Native of Mexico. Hardy to zone 8. (syn. S. rutilans) Chia (Salvia hispanica) - Yes, of Chia Pet fame. Native Americans, both Aztec and Apache, ate this while hunting and traveling. Seed from this plant retails for $9 - $59 a pound, because it’s very high in Omega-3 fatty acids, and the richest vegetable source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Native of Mexico and Guatemala. Hardy to zone 9. Grape-Scented Sage (Salvia melissodora) - The leaves and seeds have been used for healing for thousands of years. Native to Mexico, hardy to zone 9.

GROW NOTES With good drainage, it’s very easy to grow this herb outdoors, providing you have a spot in full sun. It’s also easy to grow indoors, making winter fresh sage possible, given ample light. While these types of salvia can reach 24-70 inches tall, depending on the species grown, you can keep plants at 12-18 inches high with regular harvesting. Most sage plants produce well for three years, and are evergreen in the right climate. Growing indoors will allow you to enjoy not just fresh winter herbs, but also the more tender sages from South America. Common insect problems are mites and whitefly, and like many plants that prefer sharp drainage, sage can be prone to fungal infections. While the infection can harm and dwarf the plant, most of the time it does not kill sage. Give it the conditions it thrives in for a more efficient harvest, and trouble-free crop.

G ER M I N AT I O N It’s easily grown from seed, but stored seed offers only 50% germination at best. Cuttings root reliably, and starting new plants from cuttings is extremely common. Make sure the mother plant is pest and disease-free. Quarantine cuttings before moving into a grow room. Start seeds with both the room and propagation mat at 70ºF. Expect seed germination in 7-10 days. You can use rockwool cubes, or coarse seed starting mix. Transplant seedlings at 2” tall to your finishing system or containers after 4-5 weeks in winter, and 1-2 weeks in summer. Humidity isn’t critical for this plant, though excellent drainage is. Space them 15 cm apart in your hydro system.

INDOOR ENVIRONMENT For rooting and vegetative growth you want day temps of 68-80ºF, and nights ranging from 60-78°F. You can grow it in all types of hydro systems, in aquaponics, with drip irrigation, and traditional hand-watered container culture. When grown in potting mix, let the top inch of soil dry out before watering.

GROW TH MEDIA The plants are natives of light, sandy soils, so wherever you grow it be sure to give its roots a similar home. Use a coarse potting soil with extra perlite. It does well in just about any hydroponic medium.

LIGHTING In the outdoor garden, this plant needs about 8 hours of full sun. A sunny window is not enough light on its own. You need supplemental lighting. Use a compact fluorescent grow light. Keep in mind that an hour of direct outdoor sun requires 2 hours of grow light exposure as an equivalent. Inside a grow room, or in situations where there is little to no sun at all, you need a minimum of 12 hours under lights. Less light than that, and you’ll wonder if it’s growing at all. For optimum growth and harvesting times provide 700 footcandles with 14 hour days. Less light equals slower growth, and a less efficient crop. Don’t count on sage flowers when growing indoors, unless you’re running intense HIDs.





Lemon - Sage Butter Chicken Scallopine

Standard vegetative nutrients or organic fertilizer is fine. There are no special nutritional needs.

The trick to getting the coating to stick to your meat for these kinds of dishes is not messing with the breading steps.


Ingredients • 4 chicken breast halves, pounded thin • 1/4 cup flour • 2 eggs, beaten • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs • Salt and pepper • 1/4 cup canola oil • 1 stick butter • 20 fresh sage leaves • 1 lemon, juiced

Given the conditions described above, expect the first summer harvest after transplanting in 4-5 weeks, and 5-7 weeks in winter. You get multiple harvests if your plants are robust, since sages are perennials and subshrubs. Greenhouse yields in an NFT system are: 4 lbs. per 10 feet of trough in summer, and 1 lb. per 15 feet of trough in winter. Under good grow lighting indoors you’ll get a little heavier harvest in winter, and less in summer than the full sun conditions in a greenhouse would produce. By the way, this is a rather uncommon fresh-cut herb in retail selections, at least in the United States, and may present small growers with a great market crop, especially during the winter holiday season.

CULINARY USES There are a surprising number of ways to use fresh sage, so if you thought this was all about poultry stuffing and sausages, it’s time to expand your cuisine horizons. While the flavor of just-cut sage leaves are milder than dried or frozen, the blue flowers are subtler still. They make a lovely edible garnish and salad ingredient, seasoned butter, simple syrup, and are great with dried beans, corn, and mushrooms. How much milder? A lot - substitute 5 ml of fresh for every 1 ml of dry sage any recipe calls for. It combines well with bay, caraway, cutting celery, dried ginger, lovage, marjoram, paprika, parsley, savory, and thyme. Use your sage harvest for flavoring winter squash and meats: veal, turkey, chicken, pork, and fish. It is good in stews, stuffings, chowders and soups, marinades, casseroles, sauces, and gravies. It can at times be a star ingredient, like in Saltimbocca, where the fried leaves are both garnish and seasoning. Once you’ve tried fried sage leaves, you might find that they have uses that include snacking. It pairs well with dairy, as in England’s traditional Sage Derby cheese, where it’s also enjoyed with sautéed onions. Germans use it to flavor beer, as well as sausages. Italy uses it in lots of things besides Saltimbocca. Do some culinary research online where you’ll find it combined with a wide array of foods. You’ll soon be awash in new ways to work sage into meals. 3

Directions 1 Put a large skillet on medium-high heat, and heat the oil. 2 Dip your chicken into the flour, then the egg. Now dip into bread crumbs - pressing them slightly so they stick. 3 Gently lay the breaded meat into the hot oil. Cook until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Remove and set aside. 4 Melt the butter to the skillet. Now add the sage and lemon juice. Cook for about 1 minute until the sage leaves are slightly crispy. 5 Pour the butter sauce into a heatproof measuring cup. Set the fried leaves aside. 6 Put one chicken scallopini on each plate, drizzle with the butter sauce, scatter some of the crispy sage leaves on top. Serve with potatoes or creamy pasta, and a crisp salad. A lovely dinner in a jiffy using garden-fresh sage. Serves 4. Recipe adopted from


s ’ o h W g n i w GrhoatWhere W WHAT’S GROWING ON I GARDEN CULTURE

1) St. Louis, Missouri

After 2 years of planning, fund gathering, and location scouting, Urban Harvest STL has finally started construction for their Downtown garden, the Food Roof Farm. No strangers to urban farming, they have good food projects elsewhere in the city, but the Downtown neighborhood is sorely lacking in plots of ground - for anything, let alone growing fruits and vegetables. Hitting the roof gives them 10,000 sq. ft. of space, and the parking garage owner is totally thrilled with the project, which will include a CSA and a school, and above St. Louis’ hub. Entirely run by volunteers, neighborhood residents can join and harvest their own at Food Roof Farm. The newly installed grow beds and tower gardens will begin blooming this spring. High five to Urban Harvest STL!

Courtesy of Caroline Yoo/ River Front Times

Downtown Greens Up

2) Montreal, Quebec

“Nothing about urban agriculture is really revolutionary. It’s simply a recreation of something that is very, very old.” That’s how Mohamed Hage opened his TEDx talk at the Universite de Montreal a couple of years ago. But what his company, Lufa Farms, is doing is newsworthy. They’re accomplishing great things in reviving fresh, local food with their rooftop farms, and making food a sustainable thing. Lufa’s Ahuntsic Farm was the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse, and their Laval Farm is revolutionizing urban agriculture. To some, massive hydroponic greenhouses perched atop buildings in a cold climate scream energy waste, but half their heat comes from the building below. Cities have

Courtesy of Argus Controls

Ain’t Nothin’ New

high levels of CO2, and Hage is recycling that waste too. An idea that became a dream several years ago now produces hundreds of tons of fresh food each year sustainably, employs 50 people, and began construction on a new farm in Boston in Summer 2014. That’s one to grow on.




3) Cleveland, Ohio

Agricultural Programs. They educate refugees with farming backgrounds, guiding them into a brighter future in America through their roots. The largest US contiguous urban farm wasn’t born overnight. Learn more @ &

4) Kelowna, British Columbia

Laying Down the Pick Courtesy of Green City Acres

The place that grows local food, new jobs, and fresh Americans organically and sustainably in a multi-faceted program. Ohio City Farm on almost 7-acres of working soil sits just a mile away from downtown Cleveland. From breaking ground by horse-power in 2010, to ushering in a neighborhood revival, and giving new hope to refugees there’s a lot of model urban farm to learn about here. Across the river from bustling commerce downtown is usually not the up and coming neighborhood in most cities, but that urban decay is the only reason that Ohio City Farm exists. It began small and spread, as did its focus. Growing fresh food in a food desert gave birth to a ripe artisanal area, and home to one of only 11 Refugee Empowerment

Courtesy of REAP

This Is It

Once a serious musician, the fresh lure of the soil inspired Curtis Stone to trade his rock star aspirations in for a shovel and a hoe. That was a few years ago, but thanks to a technique known as SPIN farming, and a cycling trip through California where off-grid and sustainable living grabbed his attention - Stone’s urban farm, Green City Acres came to life. His evolution is a story in itself, but his small plot intensive agriculture business has grown from a personal passion to a sustainable business. Like many urban farmers, large tracts of land are unfeasible. He’s got greener things going on. Green City crops are grown on portions of properties... the odd front yard or backyard available for working through a rental agreement. Homeowners get relieved of yard maintenance, and the added perks of enjoying a share of their soil’s produce too. His harvests arrive at several Kelowna restaurants, and the farmer’s market by pedal. In the off-season, Stone spends his time as a SPIN farming consultant, and keeps a busy speaking engagement calendar. Curtis’ advice to other farmers? “If you’re not making money, you’re doing it wrong.” He’s producing $50,000 on one-quarter acre. Learn his secret @ 3




it is our job to le youths toward h ad ealth and preservation






I was born in the summer of 1985, and the generation that I so emphatically belong to is one that in many respects was the guinea pig test generation for modern food science. As children we had a first hand, participatory role in the rise of the processed food market. For many of us, real nutritious foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, represented a small portion of our overall diet. The other part? Filled with fast food, low-grade microwave dinners, and countless other products designed in a lab by scientists blending food-like substances with chemicals to create a “safe” to eat packaged meal that has a ridiculously long shelf life.


fact that in 2012, 29.1 million Americans or 9.3% of the population had full on diabetes (a disease that is becoming prevalent in developed countries), and that this number consistently rises on average 1% every two years, and that nearly 25,000 children are newly diagnosed each year, not including those who go undiagnosed (Source: National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014). These numbers help keep diabetes comfortably within the top 10 causes of death in our country each year. After learning that, we may stumble upon another website such as the one for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) who reports that “childhood obesity has more than doubled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years.” In 1980, 7% of children 6-11 years of age were obese, and that number jumped to 18% in 2012, and a similar increase in adolescents (12-19 years old) where the number jumped from 5% in 1980 to 21% in 2012. Now they consider more than one-third of children and adolescents as overweight or obese. There is also much published data on childhood obesity being a leading cause of a whole list of health problems as these children grow older. It’s clearly evident that something needs to change. So, as a generation, we read these numbers, and many of us get an unsettled, almost sickening feeling as we think to ourselves how could anyone let this happen? Not only that, but what can we do to change this trend? The bottom line is that children who are obese are likely to still be obese as adults, and will be more at risk to develop littleny /

These days it would seem that the easiest thing for us to do would be to blame our parents for providing such innutritious products to their children. But I’m not sure if that is actually the best, and most noble course of action. When my generation was young there was little to no evidence that processed food was a hazard to our health. Mix that with fast food and processed foods being so cheap and easy to prepare - that hasn’t changed much. And then compound that with the fast food dollar menu being born, which completely solidified fast, cheap, and easy meals. This all begs the inevitable question: what was a busy, overworked parent to do? However, that was a long time ago, and things have changed indeed. We are now truly seeing the effects such a poor diet can have on one’s health, especially when it comes to children. By now most of us likely understand the fact that processed foods are unnatural, and that our bodies need real whole food nutrition to stay strong and healthy. So, I think it is time to realize that we have reached an age where ignorance for the sake of saving time and money should no longer be considered acceptable, especially when it comes to the health and development of a growing child. Now, as my generation enters into our 30’s, and many of us begin to have children of our own, the negative health consequences of a diet high in processed foods are becoming even more evident. We live in a world fueled by information, and every day we see new statistics that help drive us try to make healthier choices for our own bodies. We can read the




every day we see statistics that hnew drive us try to m elp a healthier choiceke s health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer. A contributing factor to childhood obesity, along with lack of physical exercise, is the heavy consumption of processed foods. If ignorance is the villain that got us into this mess, then information and knowledge shall be our first weapons to fight against it. It’s of utmost importance to teach children that making health conscious nutritional and dietary choices will help to keep them healthy and fit their entire lives. And I believe that my generation will be the one that can truly make an impact towards positive change. With my generation we have seen a strong push towards locally sourced foods, organics, farmers markets, less chemical additives, and the slow food movement in general. If we stay true to these movements, and as we begin to have our own children, we can have a positive influence on the next generation, so they will hopefully grow up emulating the same types of food choices that we make. Naturally, as we begin to create more healthy diets for ourselves, this in turn will impact the types of foods marketed to us and sold in stores. Being consumers, our dollars help shape the products we see in the market place. If we start moving our money away from the processed foods over to the more nutritious healthy foods the suppliers will notice and they, in turn, will provide more products of a similar fashion to satisfy demand. One of the most encouraging aspects that I see when looking at my generation is that we have created such an awesome popularity surge in home gardening. If a certain food is not available locally, or if we don’t completely trust the provider, we know we have the best solution: to grow our own.

Gardening is a foolproof way for us to supply ourselves and our families with healthy, nutritious food for the rest of our lives, or at least until we can garden no more. With a big enough garden, and a plentiful reserve of jars, we can even preserve much of our harvest, and enjoy the bounty year round. A word that instantly comes to mind is self-sustainability. Our love of gardening is also a perfect way to show children, even at an early age, what real healthy foods are, and how they grow. This, in turn, can help them to develop a passion for not only eating fruits and vegetable, but growing them as well. When gardening with a child it is important to remember to keep it simple, but also to have fun. Children easily lose focus if an activity is too challenging, or just not any fun. Some garden activities that are suitable for participation by children include: planting seeds, watering plants, harvesting fruits/veggies, and even some minor garden maintenance like light weeding, and pruning of dead or unwanted foliage. Letting them help in different aspects in the garden will not only teach them how plants grow, and the healthy hard work involved in growing them, it will also make them feel a rightfully deserved sense of pride in what they have done. As adults (parents or otherwise) it is important that we show excitement and pride with these gardening activities to encourage the child to continue down the this path as both a gardener, and as an individual that makes healthy food decisions more often than not. I will be honest. I don’t always make the wisest decision with every meal I eat, and I have those cravings for junk food just like anyone else. But the important thing is that I am more conscious of these choices, and I try to make better ones in the future. If we continue to try and not just give up, we can really get the momentum going in a positive direction for the future. We may even help shift the tides just a bit - away from the fast and easy processed world, back to the natural, locally grown, real food side. Back to how people ate for thousands of years, straight from the earth. This all starts with people supporting local farmers, local farmers markets, and encouraging the growth of more small farms in their area. We need to create an environment in which eating and living healthy is not only promoted, but where it is the norm. And as adults, especially parents of young children, it is our job to work at leading the youth in the direction toward health and preservation so that, when they grow up, the choice to eat healthy will be one of little thought, only action. 3 GARDENCULTURE.NET





TRIENTS TO U N C I N A G R O E R COMPA EAKFAST R B R O F L A E M T A E AT I N G O Plants need nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and other nutrients for healthy growth. These are elements, and as such, there is no difference between the nitrogen (N) from an organic nutrient, or a synthetic nutrient. Elemental nitrogen is the same exact thing, regardless of the source.

The most important (and most interesting) of these is nitrogen (N). Unfortunately, plants can’t absorb pure elemental nitrogen (N) directly. There isn’t a way to feed plants a pile of single nitrogen (N) atoms. There is plenty of nitrogen gas (N 2) in air, but plants can’t split the two nitrogen atoms apart, they are bound too tightly together, and so nitrogen gas (N 2) isn’t a good nitrogen source for plants. What garden plants most often use to allow them to take up nitrogen (N) is a form known as nitrate (NO3), which is a nitrogen (N) atom connected with three oxygen (O) atoms. Nitrate (NO3) is easy for the plants to separate the nitrogen (N) from the oxygen (O), and therefore makes for a good source of nitrogen (N) (woody plants like trees can also use ammonium (NH4)). Plant material that has fallen to the ground, and animals leaving waste material behind are two sources of nitrogen (N) that are naturally occurring in untended wilderness. To emulate this, we get organic nutrients from naturally occurring materials with minimal processing. One advantage to this is that the materials can often be collected cheaply (i.e. leaves, lawn clippings, livestock manure, etc.), and require little processing before use, often just maturing or composting. Compost (3-1-2) is 56

very similar to what happens in nature when leaves, and other plant material fall to the ground, and nobody is around to rake it up. Blood meal (12-0-0) and alfalfa meal (2-1-2) are two other organic fertilizers that are based on things found to supply plants in a natural setting with nutrition. It is as these things decompose (or compost) that bacteria and fungi convert them into ammonia (NH 3), and ammonium (NH 4), which break down further into nitrites, and finally nitrates. Another organic source of ammonia is the waste products of animals, which contain nitrogen in the form of urea (NH 2)2(CO). The urea is converted to ammonia (NH3) by bacteria using the enzyme ureasec. This process takes time with spread out availability, because the bacteria generate the ammonia as they get to it. I like to compare organic nutrients to eating oatmeal for breakfast, they’re bulky, and release their nutrients over time. Some forms of organic fertilizers can continue to release nutrients for more than one season, improving the general long-term health of the soil. Because the percentage of nutrient to total mass is usually lower, the NPK values for organic nutrients are also generally lower than with chemical-based solutions. Because they


S Y N T H E T IC S T N E I R T U N CHEMICAL NUTRIENTS ARE MORE LIKE HAVING AN ENERGY DRINK FOR BREAKFAST are closer to a natural state, the NPK values for organic products will also be less exact than chemical based fertilizers, which allow you to make to exact recipes. This is why organic nutrients are less prone to overfeeding, the exception being high ammonia ‘hot’ manures. You can use compost, worm casting, and fish excrement in almost unlimited quantities without causing ‘nute burn’. Since organic nutrients are less processed, they are also more prone to clogging hydroponic systems that rely on sprayers and pumps. However, there is more than one way to make ammonia (NH 3) it can also be a manufactured chemical made from nitrogen gas (N2) by applying heat, pressure, and an iron catalyst. Ammonium sulfate ((NH 4)2 SO 4), and ammonium nitrate (NH 4)(NO3) are other manufactured forms of nitrogen that allow for later parts of the process to be skipped over. Any of these allow for a short cut in the process, and makes the nitrogen available a lot faster, but does not last as long before giving up the nitrogen it contains. Chemical nutrients are more like having an energy drink for breakfast, they release their nutrients quickly, and then you need more to avoid a ‘crash’. Since chemical nutrients are shortcuts to the natural process, they can allow for a greater level of control of how much, and when the nitrogen becomes available to the plants. This can allow for a higher nutrient level, and resulting increase in performance than is possible with organic nutrients. With this level of control comes responsibility however,

as introducing an overabundance becomes a much more likely temptation, which can result in ‘nute burn’, or overloading and damaging natural systems with the runoff. Adding a chemical nitrate (NO3) for example, allows for skipping the entire nitrate (NO3) creation process, and immediately supplies nitrogen (N) to the plants, but it is also very water-soluble, and what isn’t taken up by the plant will quickly wash downstream (unless recirculated). Overdosing plants with chemicals can imbalance a natural system to the point that it becomes inhospitable to the beneficial bacteria and fungi normally responsible for the process. The ability to better fine tune the available nutrients also allows for ease in imbalance creation, and smaller margin for error. Because chemical fertilizers are shortcuts to the process, using them to treat nutrient deficiencies will tend to give faster results than an organic solution, which is better suited for longterm release. Depending on the exact chemical used, there may also be “leftover” residue after plants take up the ammonia or nitrate they need, which can build up in the system over time. This is where the practice of watering heavily without nutrients for a time (flushing) comes from, to help wash away any leftover chemical residue buildup. Regardless of the source, in acidic conditions (pH less than 7) the ammonia (NH 3) picks up another hydrogen (H) atom, and converts to ammonium (NH 4). This is part of why pH can have an effect on plant growth, if GARDENCULTURE.NET






IENTS R T U N IC N A G R O TO ARE LESS PRONE OVERFEEDING the pH is too high, this inhibits conversion. Beneficial bacteria then convert the ammonium (NH 4) to nitrate (NO3) which can then be used by the garden plants. Nitrogen from organic sources follows a path of several steps to become the nitrate (NO3) that plants need. Chemical nutrients allow skipping some (or all) of these conversion steps, which starts the nitrogen (N) further along the path, and closer to the finished nitrate (NO3). Phosphorus is available naturally from organic composts, rock phosphate, or bone meal - or it can come from chemicals such as ammoniated superphosphate (550-0), or ammonium phosphate (18-46-0). Overuse of phosphorus is one of the sources of environmental pollution. Potassium is also obtainable from organic sources like compost (3-1-2), kelp (1-0-4), or greensand (0-0-3), or from a chemical such as potassium nitrate (13-044).

ORGANIC PRODUCTS WILL ALSO BE LESS EX ACT L THAN CHEMICAS BASED FERTILIZER The differences between chemical and organic nutrition are not as absolute as they are often portrayed. They both use the same process to supply the same elements to the plants. The primary differences are in how many shortcuts they offer, and what remains afterwards. They are both tools you can use successfully when done correctly. Although purists on both sides may strongly disagree, I believe there is little reason not to make use of the benefits of both in moderation. Plants awaiting organic nutrients to become available may benefit from a little chemical boost to tide them over, and long-lasting organic materials can help create a buffer for fast acting chemical nutrient gardens. Sometimes a big hearty high fiber breakfast is what a person needs to start the day, and sometimes you just need a good strong cup of coffee to get your eyes to open. As always, understanding why you are adding something to your garden, and how it works, goes a long way toward picking the one that’s right for you. 3 GARDENCULTURE.NET






Patents When a chemical company announces: “We’re going to solve the global food problem by patenting the food supply,

and force farmers to pay higher prices for seed that cannot be saved. Sure, we realize humans have saved seed to grow next year’s food since the beginning of agriculture. However, you aren’t allowed to save seed according to your contract

their plan does not support sustainability, it detracts from it You should have the wherewithal to see that their plan does not support sustainability, it detracts from it. Even if you’re not a farmer, surely you can understand the implications behind owning the global food supply, of having control over who can plant what crops.

with The Chemical Company. Instead, farmers must now spend more money per seed, must buy new seed each year, and use only our brands of inputs.”

Before the GMO

Using the tomato example, being an heirloom instead of a hybrid, local communities could take one tomato, and propagate it into hundreds, even thousands of plants. All without a monopolistic controlling coalition of biotech companies profiting as they violate the age-old laws of nature, Some Perspective farming, and food. A single small tomato easily contains enough seed to That’s what genetically modified crop supporters and create 30-100 tomato plants. Those 30-100 plants will proponents just don’t understand. By design, GMOs with the each produce at least 30 tomatoes each. Those 30 new associated synthetic and chemical inputs are the complete plants each bearing 30 tomatoes apiece gives a harvest opposite of sustainability, the reverse of a solution to world of 900 tomatoes. Everyone of it goes against hunger. This actively funnels control of our global food those 900 tomatoes contains a supply into the hands of a few, leaving the population history lessons, at their mercy. It goes against history lessons, science, minimum of 30 seeds that will science, and successfully germinate, leading to and morals to actually support GM crops, and say it’s 2,700 new tomato plants which advanced agriculture, and increases sustainability. morals equals 81,000 tomatoes with just 30 fruits apiece. Pretty incredible, and we’re using super Imagine the massive cash flow realized when every mammal conservative numbers. and fowl in captivity or domestication, along with every man, All that food grown at no added cost from the “scraps” of woman, and child alive on Earth gets their daily bread from a just one tomato, which most people casually throw away! They handful of big companies. Food isn’t a luxury. You need it just don’t understand that they’re tossing so much into the garbage. to survive, along with water, and shelter. Now add the seed BUT this only works with open-pollinated, and heirloom you sell that goes into biofuels. seeds, NOT with hybrid and GM seeds - which are possibly sterile. Besides, it’s illegal to sow saved patented seeds Seed patents made possible by genetic modifications is all anyways, because it violates biotech patent rights. You must about the profits, it’s about ensuring continual coffer wealth always buy new seed, always pay for their permission. through domination. 3 60


Y ou k no w w h at



There is sometimes so much legend, and so little science in this industry. It is time for some myth busting, to allow a fresh breeze to move through the growing realm. Did you see this Family Guy episode, “You Know What Grinds My Gears?” It’s one of my favorites, where Peter goes medieval on television over issues bothering him. I’ll use a bit more science, and a little less gut feeling, but these are issues that really get to me. I sometimes feel like I am on a crusade against ignorance. It’s not that I’m the brightest scientist (or a scientist at all for that matter), but the claims that some manufacturers bombard us with are really ridiculous, and sometimes even harm their own industry. Let’s take a look at LED fixture manufacturers.


Before we do though, here is my personal opinion about LEDs. I love LED lighting. Really! Yes, I work for a horticultural lighting company and yes, we do research in LED systems. The reason why we don’t sell LED systems for HPS replacement in horticulture yet is that we think they are still too expensive. Another reason is that many of our customers actually require the heat from HPS systems. So back to the LED fixture manufacturers. There are two major things that grind my gears: The output specification, and hollow phrases, such as “replaces a 1000W HID lamp,” and “reduce 60% of the power used.” Both are actually connected.


PPF versus PPFD Let’s look at the output specifications first, forgetting lumens, because we’re using grow light. Lumens are for humans - not plants. So, what defines the total output of a fixture is the total output of photons in the PAR region (400-700 nm), measured in micromoles per second (photons per second). This is also called the photosynthetic photon flux, or PPF.

Light intensity on a surface in PAR spectrum is called PPFD. Now there is only one “D” difference from PPF, but that makes a big difference. PPFD is intensity, measured in micromoles per second, per square meter (μmol s-1 m-2)! So, remember: PPF is total output. PPFD is intensity at a certain spot, and depends where you measure it under the fixture. If you have a lamp with a PPF of 1000 μmol s-1, and you spread this light over two square meters, you would get an average of 500 μmol s-1 m-2 intensity on that surface (total light divided by surface). It’s like Lumen and lux, but for PAR spectrum and measured in photons. Lumen


SPECIFICATIONS is the total output of a lamp, lux is the intensity at a certain distance from that lamp, with the light spread over a certain surface (lux is lumens per square meter).

Measuring total output of a lamp To measure the total output of a lamp or fixture, we use an integrating sphere or a photogoniometer. These (calibrated!) instruments integrate all the light, and give you an accurate measurement of the total output of a lamp or fixture. Measuring light under the fixture on a grid, and integrating the values is very inaccurate, specifically with a low number of measurements on a small surface.

PPFD at 30 cm Now look at the (Chinese) LED specifications. Some actually say PPFD of x at y cm from the fixture (which you know now is absolutely rubbish information), but some even go as far as to call this PPF (in a footnote they say @ 30 cm from fixture). So, with my 270W plasma light I measure 3000 μmol s-1 m-2 close to the glass, so it replaces 1,5 1000W HPS fixture, right? Wrong. You fell for the hype again.


Now let’s take a HPS lamp as an example. The double ended HPS lamp does let’s say 2000 μmol out of the reflector in total. So spread over a 2 square meter surface I would get about 1000 μmol per second, per square meter intensity. Easy, right? But now I hold a light meter about 40 cm from the lamp, and I measure more than 4000 μmol s-1 m-2. How is that possible? That’s twice the PPF of the lamp? No, it isn’t. 2000 μmol s-1 concentrated over just half a square meter gives you that intensity (ppf/surface). So a measurement under a lamp at a certain distance, specifically if it is a deep lamp with a concentrated beam (as in lensed LEDs) says nothing (at all!) about that light or fixture.


How do I compare?

You need about as much LED light as you need HPS light to get the same yields. As LED is not twice as efficient as HPS (equal to, or at most a little better in a limited spectrum) these fixtures do not replace a 1000W HPS lamp at just 40% of the power. When you want to replace 1000W HPS for LED fixtures, you need 1000W LED. Then look at the difference in price. LED fixture manufacturers that specify the output by PPFD at a distance don’t know anything about lighting, or do know, but want to fool you. Either way, you shouldn’t trust them. A 400W LED fixture uses 60% less energy than a 1000W HID lamp. So does a 400W CFL or a 400W incandescent lamp. 60% less energy? Yes. 400W is only 40% of 1000W, but I also promise you 60% less yield in a high intensity lighting production room. Don’t just go for the hype, keep thinking! 3




what’s the That depends. What do you want from this plant? Tomatoes that have great flavor, you say? But there is more to it than that. What is the plan for these delicious fruits? There are three ways we use tomatoes. Slicing fruits, salad enhancers, and canners. Naturally, slicers work just as nicely in salads as cherry and grape types, once you cut them up. Slicing tomatoes also can really well, if you’re putting up tomato juice and soups. Should you want salsa and “There are three of flavors in the salsas you’ll put up spaghetti sauce for the pantry that is ways we use less watery, this calls for adding some with the different tasting fruits... you paste tomatoes with few seeds and a might find that you’re not getting tomatoes” meatier interior, like Romas, though enough tomatoes at one time for you will find some slicers listed in seed canning. Yes, you can acquire quite a catalogs as excellent for sauces too. The latter being pile picking a few every day and storing them in the less juicy, and having thicker sidewall meat than slicers, refrigerator until you have enough to brew up a batch. but juicier than a paste type. But the longer you store fresh tomatoes, the flavors begin disintegrating, and the odds are that the older So here you are with your selection of tomatoes growing fruits will begin to develop bad spots. Especially piled in nicely, but you seem to have a problem. The plants gave a home refrigerator. The sheer weight of this mountain you an excellent pile of tomatoes and suddenly stopped will begin to bruise the fruit on the bottom, and cause bearing fruit. What’s up with that? There are no more stems to poke through skins. fresh tomatoes for sandwiches and salads! You picked a ‘determinate’ cultivar. You can’t can with anything but perfect, unblemished Some people like the idea of compact, bush-shaped tomatoes. Bad spots, pressure cracks, and stem pokes plants. These will sound best suited to the small indoor are a prime location for bacteria to move in. There are garden too, where space is at a premium for a variety other ways to preserve these less than perfect fruits, of crops. Determinate tomatoes also don’t require such as chopping and freezing, or slow roasting and the trouble of pruning or trellising. The shorter ones freezing, but this likely is not what you wanted in the might not even need a cage. Nifty, yes, but they also are first place. best suited to canning, because they produce the bulk of their fruits all at once. Then it’s over. So much for There are those who have the idea that determinate summer-long fresh eating. tomatoes are something created for the food system. By the same token, if you’ve selected a variety of They weren’t. There are a good number of determinate indeterminate plants with dreams of a wide assortment tomato cultivars found within the heirloom category. 64

They will have smaller fruits. Some will be on the paste to sauce tomato end of the scale, and others are simply slicers that top out at about 3 inches wide and 8 ounces in weight that ripen early providing cold climate gardens with a harvest. Big food did not invent the canning tomato. People have been home canning tomatoes in jars since canning jar invention in 1858.

“Sweet tomatoes are not candidates for canning�

By the way, if you’re growing tomatoes for canning, you do not want the low-acid types. These will not have good shelf life, and may present you with spoiled sauces and salsas, no matter how careful you are at putting up only perfect fruits. Any recipe that incorporates high and low acid foods strikes a delicate balance, and if your tomatoes are low-acid, it does away with part of what preserves the stuff in the jar. Sweet tomatoes are not candidates for canning, even if they do come from a determinate plant, so beware of catalog descriptions about super sweet flavor for this use. So, what is the best tomato? It fits your needs. For most people, a mix of plants is just right to give them the best tomato for everything. 3


& Food Sovereignty



Concerned about pesticides, chemicals, and GMOs on your plate? Time to broaden your awareness of what’s happening in the world of seed that produces food. While everyone focuses on genetically modified crops and ingredients - food sovereignty and seed diversity is disappearing. What does that mean? You’re being relieved of greater food freedoms. Your right to grow food without purchasing or seeking permission, to save seeds from your garden, is in jeopardy. A dilemma that stems from the patenting of ornamental plants and steady profits. “Few gardeners comprehend the true scope of their garden heritage, or how much is in immediate danger of being lost forever.” ~-- Kent Whealey, Seed Savers Exchange Now it is one thing for the breeder of bushes and posies to license his years of labor in arriving at new coloration or growing trait that cannot be reproduced from the seed said plant generates. But it’s totally different when the patent office hands legal ownership of food propagation over to a global corporation. But said ornamental plant breeder wouldn’t likely hunt down, and sue, the average gardener for dividing up a clump that’s lost vigor, or outgrown its space. If you propagate patented ornamental plants, and start selling them though, the plant police just might arrive. However, most plant patents, whether edible or ornamental, are owned by the Big 6 - you know, that handful of transnational corporations: Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, DuPont, Mitsui, and Aventis. These companies control 98% of the seeds worldwide, not just farm seeds, but home garden seeds too - fruits, vegetables, flowers, shrubs, etc. These entities go out of their way to find anyone infringing on their rights and their profits.

are only 500, because that old stuff won’t turn big annual profits. After being acquired by Monsanto, Seminis actually removed some 2,000 heirloom plants from the market, all quietly stored away in corporate seed banks where they will turn to dust. That’s a huge loss of seed diversity. They can’t patent and control them. Your ability to save seed, and enjoy the same crop year after year isn’t good for business. There’s no money in that - not from the seed itself, or the special plant pesticides the Big 6 makes to help you bring in a harvest successfully.

Big Ag wants to monopolize home garden plants? Do the math - it’s an ever-growing market of some $36 billion dollars today, and expected to surpass $50 billion by 2018. Since life itself depends on seeds, this foolproof market spells big profit every year perpetually. Every living thing on Earth needs to eat, and food starts with a seed, or is sustained by things that come from seed. They’re after everything on your plate that you grew too. These corporations can destroy you financially for ignoring their patent rights. They hire people to track down anyone growing their plants without permission. Propagating patented plants from seeds or cuttings is theft. You have to pay for the right to grow them.


Non-patentable plants evicted. In the early 1980s there were 5,000 different cultivars of fruits and vegetable listed in seed catalogs. Today there

This is a global problem. Monsanto and Syngenta already own more than 50% of seed varieties of tomato, paprika, and cauliflower registered in the EU. In this arena Enza Zaden, and Bayerowned Nunhems are active on the scene of patenting food plants, which abruptly quadrupled in recent years. While many believe that patenting plants requires genetic




modification, late 2013 - early 2014 saw the EPO granting patents on conventional hybrids, which is possible in the US and Canada too. Monsanto tried to get an EU patent on a regular garden cultivar in 2014 too, but they tossed out the application for presenting fraudulent evidence.

It’s not just mega companies either. Burpee Seeds’ owner, George Ball, is upset over his centuryold company being labeled as unsafe to purchase from, yet he refuses to sign the Safe Seed Pledge. Not because he has lost control to Monsanto’s subsidiary Seminis (the world’s largest developer of all fruit and vegetable plants), but because he doesn’t ‘know’ the people behind the pledge. A typical Ball point of view, the Center for Responsible Genetics didn’t spring from his plantsmen realm. But you really have to take the Safe Seed List with a grain of salt, because it includes Seeds of Change - a company owned by candy giant, Mars, Inc. Surprised? Don’t be, it’s a subsidiary acquired for mapping the cacao tree genome. They say it’s to make the crop sustainable, but some entity will modify that genome, patent their improved version, and control the cacao bean industry. It’s the obvious outcome in today’s world.


harder to track. The Safe Seed list includes companies who do sell seed from Seminis, but as J.W. Jung states on their website, the named varieties procured through Seminis they offer are not GMOs, but well-known old varieties in big demand. Seminis has been around a long time, and is responsible for many beloved garden fruits and vegetables, some since the 1950s when it was known as Petoseeds.

Sticking strictly to heirlooms? This isn’t the answer to preserving seed diversity. Thanks to trademarks, we have plants known by several names. One seed company with a trademark on a certain heirloom plant name can market the plant as such, while the rest of the garden catalogs must list it under a different name. Talk about confusion. How would anyone know the real identity of the plants we’re growing? You think they’ve preserved several similar things, when they are really all the same, so we actually have less diversity than it seems.


Smaller whales join the club.

It isn’t totally hopeless.

Buying seed from Gurneys, Henry Fields, or Thompson Morgan US? Ordering organic inputs from Gardens Alive? These are all owned by catalog monopoly king, Niles Kinek under the Scarlet Tanager and IGP Acquisitions umbrellas. Amassing a dozen well-established plant businesses gives you incredible knowledge and breeding talent, so it’s no surprise that this conglomerate dove into the patented food plant pool with a 2014 application to the U.S. Patent Office for a new variety of grapes crossed with muscadines. Seed industry consolidation has many layers and purposes. You cannot be overly selective when choosing where to buy seeds. Monsanto’s purchase of Seminis in 2005 made ensuring your seed order doesn’t support their interests

Some concerned plant breeders recognize the dangers. They’re working to preserve your food sovereignty and seed diversity. Their plan launched in April 2014 with the Save The Seed campaign held at the Wisconsin College of Agriculture introducing the Open Source Seed Initiative. Getting seed here requires signing a pledge that you will only grow food with it, and that no portion of said plants, or their seed, will • be modified - genetically, • or otherwise. You also have • the right to save the seeds • from your garden. 3 •

Learn more:



Give a man a salad, and he will be hungry in an hour. Teach him to garden, and he can feed the world.

I have always loved plants. Some of my earliest memories are of my grandmother’s small urban Montreal apartment on Clark Blvd. Where a plant could grow, she would have one there, and they always looked great. She told us her secret was foliar spraying whole unpasteurized milk. A trick I have never tried myself. It was definitely her who passed on to me the love of plants.

It wasn’t until I was about 13 or 14 that I actually started gardening. I asked my mother if I could tend her garden, and dig another plot in our lawn where I could grow more stuff, in a sunnier spot. I tended that garden for almost a decade, throughout all my high school and my college years. When I finally moved out with my girlfriend, now wife and partner, we lived in the city, and never had room for a real garden. It wasn’t long before I discovered that you couldn’t grow food in windows. Well, not in Montreal anyway. I was really stuck - no space, no sun, and no more garden. In 1994 indoor gardening was completely unknown to me, as it is to most people today. So, I played around with a bunch of inexpensive grow lights to aid my plants through the bleak winter months. It was about that time I visited my first hydroponics store too. My initial results were poor, but the potential was obvious. In 2002 I was self-employed, my wife was pregnant, and a customer and friend of mine Dave H. from Brite-Lite (Canada’s oldest hydroponics company) in Quebec made me an offer to join the team. He wanted me as their sales guy. I loved it, and spent four years working all over Canada and the US selling indoor gardening fertilizers 70

and equipment. My old love for growing was evident as I blossomed in this industry. I didn’t want to sell things I have never used so I built a grow room, or grow tent in every apartment and house we rented. I grew, using every hydroponic method I could think of, I even invented a few. I spent the next 10 years as a hydro rep, working for 3 companies, selling countless different products in countries all around the world. In the process I learned everything I could about hydroponics, and organic gardening techniques. I was totally hooked, and knew that indoor gardening was going to become a big part of my future.



Eight years ago when I decided to build my own home, an indoor garden was optional. Because we designed the home ourselves I could get creative. So I built a small garden in the back corner of the basement over a protruding cap rock, basically the only space my wife would let me use.

Recently I decided to give my room a makeover. This time I was going to do it right. First, I needed to clean the place up. Bugs had always been a problem, I knew that the cleaner the room, the less chance bugs could survive. So, I redid my floor in white high gloss ceramic tiles. I also tiled the entrance room.

It has been a work in progress ever since. I used it more to test products when I was sales rep, constantly changing systems or products. But since starting with the magazine it has become something I spend more thought, time, and effort on. I reflected on all the ways I have grown things over the years, the projects I have consulted on, and tried to come up with not only the best garden for me, but a great garden, and easy for anyone.

I also had to choose how I was going to garden, what systems I would use. I choose my favorites, but with the family in mind. We are very busy people with 2 kids (aged 5 and 11), a dog, two cats, and we both work 40+ hour weeks. I also travel a lot, and this garden had to run itself when I was gone. With this is mind I designed our indoor family micro farm.

During the past 3 years I’ve had some amazing gardens. My homemade aquaponics, the wall mounted NFT, and the Ecogrow Wall (vertical garden) have been my favorites. They have been the easiest to manage, and gave me the largest harvests.



I discovered that you couldn’t grow food in windows The Systems I Chose NFT, 39 x 73 inches, made by Nutriculture in the UK. There was never a question about NFT, but what configuration remained undetermined. I have built several homemade NFT gardens, and installed a commercial system in the Korn garden. Nutriculture designed this one for the hobby gardener, they come in several sizes, and literally take 5 minutes to set up. Vertical Wall, made by EcoGrowWall in Quebec with 48 x 120 inches rock wool slabs. I have grown with this system for the past 8 years. I love vertical gardening. It is an amazing use of space, allowing my not-so-big room almost 40 square feet of extra space. My largest basil plant ever was grown in this system. Deep Water Culture (DWC), 6-bucket system from Current Culture. DWC is great for growing BIG plants; I have tomato, cucumber, sweet pepper, sweet pea, coriander, lettuce, basil and a strawberry. The new lids allow me to have 1, 2 or 4 plants per container. Most things are doing amazing, but not the sweet pea and coriander. Not sure why, maybe they don’t enjoy the constant supply of water. I trimmed the roots above the waterline, they are starting to look better. The sweet pea didn’t make it, my first casualty. I don’t blame myself, peas don’t like DWC apparently, neither do the cucumbers. Autopots My first experience with this type of water system was about 8 years ago. I loved it then, and I think I can appreciate it more now. For simplicity of use and set-up the Autopot system is hard to beat. It is a perfect system for a new gardener.

Lights I like all lights really, or my plants do. Some seem a little better or brighter, but this is not a commercial crop, and everything seems to do great regardless of what lights I have. With that said, there are a couple of notable products: Gavita Plasma I have used this light for a little over a year. It has visited a couple of gardens, both as primary and supplemental lighting. My tester had a very positive report, when used as supplemental. I recently moved it into my garden, and the Kale in the NFT are going crazy. Crazy good, I have never seen Kale grow so fast. Love it. Sunlight Supply’s LEC 315 Sent to me less than a year ago, this product hangs over the DWC system, and the plants are doing great. Maybe too good - the tomato is huge! I’m afraid it might takeover if I don’t give it a haircut. 1000 HPS (Adjust-a-Wing) Because I have 40 square feet of vertical growing space I need light on the walls. This type of reflector is great for the vertical garden. My bulb and ballast is not worth mentioning, but I am planning to change it soon. It is a digital ballast, I like the dimming feature when it gets hot. MiniMax 150 My newest edition is the Minimax 150W, this small but powerful light packs a huge punch. I was looking for a low wattage system to install over my vertical walls. Down to Earth Kent kindly sent two across the pond for me to try. I absolutely love them. You wouldn’t believe it was only 150W. GARDENCULTURE.NET



Plants NFT 6 Kale, 1 Basil, 1 Cucumber, 1 Tomato, 2 Lettuce Vertical Garden 3 Kale, 1 Basil, 1 Rosemary, 2 Parsley, 1 Sweet Pepper DWC 1 Kale, 1 Basil, 1 Cilantro, 1 Strawberry, 4 Lettuce, 1 Sweet Pepper, 1 Tomato Autopots 2 Cucumber, 8 Carrots, 3 Sweet Pea, and lots more Strawberries. I am writing this in a plane on my way to Santa Rosa, knowing that everything is growing and happy. My kids will sneak in to eat my lettuce and basil when I’m gone, and that gives me the biggest smile. I honestly love my garden, and can’t imagine life without it. If you think this is weird, it’s because you have never had a farm in your spare room, or harvested supper in your basement when it is -4ºF outside. Gardening is the best therapy, and eating fresh food that I grew is priceless. The word is spreading about food issues and our collective health, be part of the growing revolution, and grow your own too. 3

I honestly love my garden, and can’t imagine life without it




everyday, three times a day, you need a farmer

, t n e m n r e v o G The

I recently ran across this quote, and I found it very thought-provoking. “My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a politician, and a preacher, but everyday, three times a day, you need a farmer.” -- Brenda Schoepp

Now I’ve certainly needed a doctor and a lawyer on more than one occasion in my life, but true enough, only once did I ever require assistance from a preacher after vacationing in the darker parts of New Orleans, where upon curiosity had gotten the better of me, and I consequently required an exorcism. Hey, it could happen to anybody right?



It was that farmer that really got me thinking. When did we have the paradigm shift from relying on small local farms and ourselves to feed the community to depending upon brands like Kellogg’s and Chef Boyardee to fulfill our nutritional needs? When did we stop caring where our food comes from, or what’s in it, and start trusting organizations like the FDA, CFIA, and the HPFB implicitly with our health and safety? The long-standing North American tradition of family farms is rapidly disappearing. Food prices have sharply risen, but sadly farmers’ salaries have only shrunk in recent years, and this is partly because the government sometimes sets what price the farmers fetch for their products. Taxes and cost to produce are now so high that small-scale farmers say they just aren’t able to turn a reasonable profit anymore. Most urge their children to do something else with their lives in the pursuit of a brighter future. As these small family farms sink beneath the waves of new legislation, the government stands to take advantage of the newly created investment opportunity in distressed farm real estate. Similar scenarios are playing out in South Africa with some referring to it all as an epic land grab.

When did we stop caring where our food comes from? Congress. More international law than domestic, the agenda’s status is rapidly changing. ICLET, an agency that few have even heard of, handled implementation of Agenda 21. Some of these current soft-laws-gone-hard are making it very difficult for small farms. New child labor laws proposed by the Department Of Labor make it harder for families to compete with factory farms backed by the biotech industry. Many farming communities claim that this is intentional. In the past, family farming was well, a family affair from young to old. Now children growing up on the farm are greatly restricted on how many hours they can work, as well as what jobs they can perform, including driving a tractor or running equipment - all of which farm kids have used for generations. The DOT has also recently made a move to turn all farming equipment into commercial motor vehicles, which require a $124 commercial operator’s license equivalent to the driver of a Mack truck. Additionally, they will need to invest thousands of dollars in safety courses - just to drive a tractor on your own land! Naturally, stricter regulations equal more limitations on earning power, and adds new taxation. The barrier to entry continues to grow. Shortly after the arrival of Agenda 21, new bills surfaced threatening the old ways of family farming, while solidifying the new policies and ways of factory farming. Most of them introduced under the guise of safety, because it’s hard to argue that safety is not a good thing.

small family farms sink beneath the waves of new legislation

The U.N.’s Agenda 21 policies signed by George H.W. Bush in the 1970s became official in 1992 at the Earth Summit conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. ‘Sustainable Development’ only sounds like a positive thing, until you start looking at the companies pushing it, and actually take the time to READ it. The major backers and contributors credits is a Who’s Who list of international mega corporations; Deutsche Bank, DuPont, Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Shell, Dow Chemical, PepsiCo, and a host of other companies. Agenda 21 outlines the control of all land, water, minerals, construction, plants, animals, energy, information, and production delivering it into the hands of an elite group of people who have a far better understanding of how to manage such projects than you, me, or the current owners of those things. What could go wrong? Bush later retracted his signature, relieving the US of the obligations, but the bill was continued by Clinton, and it’s referred to as “soft law” - meaning it wasn’t voted on by

Acronym Identification FDA: US Food & Drug Administration CFIA: Canadian Food Inspection Agency HPFB: Canada Health Products & Food Branch ICLET: International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives DOT: US Department of Transportation FSMA: US FDA Food Safety Modernization Act HFCS: High Fructose Corn Syrup




grow as much of your own food as you can More overtly sinister is the Farmer Assurance Provision, section 375, of the U.S. HR 933 Bill passed in 2013 (a.k.a. The Monsanto Protection Act). It was controversial and widely unpopular running for only a short 6 months against strong opposition from numerous food activist groups. But it provided some much-needed coverage to companies like Monsanto that were getting pounded with lawsuits for releasing GMOs without proper research of long-term effects on the environment and human health, allowing them to continue developing, selling, and planting their creations. Next, Senate Bill S510 was so controversial that despite it passing unanimously, was rapidly dismantled after the fact for various reasons. Eventually it was re-written as the Food Safety Modernization Act, and passed into law by President Obama in 2012. It will be the final piece needed to complete the goals of Agenda 21, and it’s already starting to go into effect. It gives more power to the FDA, Department of Homeland Security, and factory farms - while it buries small non-corporate farms in new taxes, penalties, and regulations. Some of the more scary bits included in S510, which have transferred over to the FSMA , is the slaughter of livestock without proof of disease. As in senseless herd destruction. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet much of the current civil unrest revolves around rice in Thailand. In the past, the Thais set the standard for high quality rice as the leading exporters in the world. Thai Jasmine rice, once coveted as the best one could buy for its aromatic flavor, has now been downgraded to buyer beware status. So what happened?

enough. Farmers haven’t been paid, and the situation may yet lead to open revolution. Whenever the government gets involved in picking winners and losers in the marketplace, the market collapses, time and time again. With so much government intervention and new safety rules, shouldn’t our food be getting better, be healthier, and the jobs of farmers easier, and more productive? It certainly seems like we would see this result, but unfortunately things are quite the opposite. So how do we fight back? First and foremost, grow as much of your own food as you can. Secondly, change your buying habits. Your money and buying patterns are powerful, never forget that. You can starve the beast. Whenever possible support local farms and farmers markets, but more importantly, stop supporting the mega corporations known for synthetic food pedaling. Forget about fat, calories, and sugar. Focus on eliminating GMOs, HFCS, synthetic sweeteners, synthetic hormones, and pesticides from your diet. These possibly pose a far larger threat to human health than just being overweight. Stop counting calories, and start counting chemicals. Don’t be fooled by food labeled “All Natural” - you still need to inspect the ingredients. GMO’s can still be in there. The FDA considers them as being all natural. Remember that mega corporations like McDonald’s and Monsanto use prison labor, and receive government subsidies and bailouts. So no matter how big a hurry you are in, no matter how hungry you are, don’t buy it! Learn which companies donated millions to fight against your right to know what’s in your food through new labeling laws in America. Some seem to think that organic is a new concept, it’s not. Everyone ate organic before the end of World War II. Organic isn’t about getting something more, it’s about getting something less. Less synthetics and chemicals. Less newfangled farming technologies that the multinational biotech industry has to offer you. Stop helping them succeed. Help yourself to real food instead. 3

Stop helping them succeed

The government came up with the strategy to buy all rice from the farmers, keeping them out of the merchant end of the business, thus allowing farmers to focus on growing the worlds finest rice. Sound good? It always does, or they wouldn’t get away with it, but it’s known as “The Rice Buying Scheme” now. They stockpiled the rice in warehouses where most of it still sits rotting today. Why? The price wasn’t high



Brain Food

Your brain requires about 20% of the oxygen you take in, and the calories you consume to function, yet it makes up only 2% of your entire body. Best foods to boost brain power like function and memory? Blueberries, pomegranate, avocados, freshly brewed tea, wild fish, nuts and seeds, beans, whole grains, and dark chocolate.

2 T hing s Mone y Ca n’ t Bu y 1) True Love 2) Homegrown Tomatoes

Green Sauce Not just for enchiladas! A variety of cuisines around the world have a traditional Green Sauce, but only Mexico’s Salsa Verde doesn’t contain parsley, and is based on a fruit. Everywhere else the condiment focuses on herbs with parsley playing a starring role. In Italy green sauce is also called Salsa Verde, in France they call it Sauce Verde, in Germany it’s Grube Soße or Grie Soß, and in Argentina they refer to it as Chimicurri.


Best Fresh Cooking Method?

The worst thing to do to fresh fruits and vegetables is boiling them in water. You might as well eat the canned version from the store, because you’ve lost all the good stuff - including flavor. They say that stir-frying preserves phytochemicals and nutrients, but unless you’re using peanut oil you are still destroying most of the important vitamins and phytos. Steaming is the only way to cook fresh produce, and preserve as much of these vital healthy aspects as possible.


What about the microwave? That depends. Are you boiling the food or steaming it? The same thing happens here as on the stove. The studies that report that microwave cooking destroys all the phytonutrients and vitamins are actually boiling the food in a lot of water. This isn’t necessary. Anything that contains moisture and covered tightly in the microwave steams. Don’t use plastic wrap. Don’t use anything vented as a ‘lid’. Cover the bowl with wax paper held in place with a rubber band, or buy a glass or hard plastic dome. Add a little butter or 1-2 teaspoons of water to keep moisture levels good during cooking. You could also invest in a microwave steamer. ( Naturally, sous vide cooking beats all of the above in preserving phytos and all other water-soluble nutrients. If you don’t have one, use the best options from above.



4 1

Plants Are Math Experts

Amazing Plant Facts Duh! 2 E=MC

Not simple stuff like addition and subtraction. We’re talking complicated equations - tricky formulas they can adjust at a moment’s notice. Plants use stored starches from daylight hours throughout the night to grow. However, they never run short and until very recently it was unknown how they made this happen. Plants can measure the amount of stored food in their cells and actually ration it out over the hours between sunset and dawn. They figure out the rate of consuming the rations by complex division. Every morning at dawn only about 5% of stored starches remain unconsumed. Researchers have studied this. They made nights longer and shorter trying to trip them up. The plants still made sure they didn’t run out. Lights were even turned on in the middle of the night. Plants just adjust their rate of processing stored food instantly to match the new situation.


Plants Are Social

This isn’t some far out fringe idea. Plants have a secret social life. Research not only shows that plants communicate with each other, but they have a high vocabulary of various signals. They respond to the messages and meet the situHey, ation by changing their behavior you loot!k sweeee to fit whatever is going on. What are they telling each other? They send out alerts about bad bugs or disease moving in, changes in the environment, and more. They report discomfort and pain, communicate conditions both above and below ground, and combat competing neighbors in a unified effort. How do they talk among themselves? Chemicals, physical contact, and light emissions, or altered wavelength reflection. Makes you wonder if there are concerns about the noise level in a meadow, and if plants have a sense of humor.


No Plant Is An Island


The War on Weeds

They prefer company. Plants perform better in groups than alone. They also recognize family. Some, like strawberries, maintain really close ties being connected to each Wanna hang other with shared roots or runners. out? They have found that this family thing extends to more distant relations like cousins. It’s all about survival. Plants share food and water resources. They help each other deal with enemies,and other dangers.

Why do weeds work overtime to choke out your garden? Your imported interlopers are hogging the natural resources. Plant families don’t mind sharing Grrr... gimme some space!!! with siblings and cousins, but your tomatoes and begonias? They’re illegal immigrants. The natives are in hostile mode. It’s war alright, and you started it. 3

sources: plants-talk






POTTING SOIL If you are a serious grower, you have easily invested thousands of dollars in potting soils over the years. Even worse, you have probably thrown thousands of dollars of potting soil in the garbage. On its face, throwing soil away after one use doesn’t make much sense. But to a grower focused on expediency, and not wanting to put determined effort into a garden only to end up with hidden issues, or potential contamination from a previous grow, using new soil is a powerful convenience.

While there are good arguments for using fresh soil, the human influence, not bad luck. I would argue that much of the purpose of this article is to communicate some ideas and art of gardening is discovering how to employ humanity as an methods for reusing your potting soil. Growers do it all the integral part of the growing process, and at the same time get time, and with great success. us out-of-the-way. This is the art of making soil. Look at it this way…Mother Nature doesn’t start over, why The soil has physical, mineral, biological, and energetic should you? capacities that need balance. Physical balance tends to come What it takes to properly reuse potting soil is good physical with attention to the other three, but is generally addressed in structure, proper biological diversity, mineral balance through potting soils by using amendments like perlite or rice hulls for soil testing, and consistent methods. drainage, and peat moss or coir fiber THERE ARE GOOD We have been helping people reuse for water retention. You may need ARGUMENTS FOR their potting soil for years, and while to add these materials back to soil USING FRESH SOIL it is not as simple as removing the mixes over time due to loss. roots and replanting, it is well worth The merits of inoculating as much the time, and money saved. You also get the satisfaction gained microbial diversity as you can muster accounts for biological from using your resources more sustainably. balance. In other words, as long as you are introducing proper There is a sweet spot in the soil where life thrives. The diversity, microbes self-organize. Seek out a mother of as many forest grows trees with no fertilizer, because the soil in the natural or farm-based sources as possible for your mix and forest is naturally balanced, mature, and organized. I’m not deliver them consistently to your soil over time. Like workers suggesting that we expect to grow trees in our gardens, but on a construction site, they need fresh materials to continue I am suggesting we consider how to perceive the metrics, and building. The consistency is much more important than the harness the abilities of the life forms that allow this to happen. concentration. Much of what we experience as failure in the garden is due to Energy defines life. May sound hokey, but it is 100% true. The




THROWING SOIL AWAY A F T E R O N E USE DOESN’T MAKE MUCH SENSE SATISFACTION GAINED FROM USING YOUR RESOURCES MORE SUSTAINABLY more intention we pay towards this reality, the greater the possible to measure all Earth-bound elements, any more than result. The living system’s capacity to produce and thrive off it is feasible to measure all soil microbes, so soil testing as a labof subtle energies is innate in the life force itself, but can also based process is typically limited to essential elements. be encouraged through concepts My company performs custom M OTH E R N ATU R E such as potentization and resonance soil testing for growers, farmers, using techniques like vortexing, and landscapers all over the US. D O ES N ’ T STA R T paramagnetism, frequency farming, O V E R , W H Y S H O U L D We have developed a system of implosion, and others. soil testing that not only generates YO U? ” We can expand upon energetic complete raw data for all essential balance in future articles, but mineral balance takes center agricultural elements, but that provides custom instructions on stage when a grower is considering reusing their potting soil. what materials and products to add in order to account for First, I use the term mineral loosely, as a way of capturing all deficiencies. the possible forms of elemental nutrition. Materials such as We’ve done testing on many premium bagged organic potting seawater, clay, rock dust, etc. have value beyond recognition soils, and most stack up nicely in regards to proper mineral of essential nutrition, because they contain broad spectrum balance. What we also know is that if we try to grow in this soil minerals, and they are also balanced. over and over without using diverse microbes and refortifying Life can simply receive the elements it needs in order to thrive mineral balance things fall apart. when all elements are present in the first place, and when No matter who you end up working with for your soil testing, they are in balance. Even when elements are not identified as it is essential that you seek out a private lab, or some outlet essential for plants to grow, they could be vital for microbial other than what you find at most State Extension services. process, or in order to make the elements required by plants Here’s why. more available. The pioneer of mineral balance and the sweet spot of soil Why would Mother Nature create an element not needed in was Dr. William Albrecht. He believed that animals, including the garden? humans, provide biochemical photographs of the soils in which So the strength of the system, and your success in re-using their foods are grown. your potting soil, is reliant on the diversity and balance of Dr. Albrecht geared his research towards documenting the microbes and minerals. For the sake of agriculture it is not connection between empty soils and empty people, and he




There is a sweet spot in ves the soil where life thri investigated and defined a specific range of positively • Other Bases = Variable charged elements, or cations, that soil can hold that has become known as the cation exchange capacity, or CEC. This data is presented in ranges, because it is never a Overall, soil is negatively charged, the more complex and matter of hitting a mark when testing soil. Soil is a dynamic biologically active the soil, the greater number of negative substance that will never be the same. All we can do is use binding sites are available to hold positively the data while observing local conditions, and the results of charged elements. And opposites plants to establish where within this acceptable attract. range is better. Growing plants can always The CEC number represents get better. the potential reservoir of The State Extension service is going to the soil to retain cation look for some of this data, but not all of it. They’re approach is very pH driven, as nutrition for growing plants. A low CEC is the conventional agriculture is not motivated basis for fertilizing and by mineral balance. They put too much irrigating, because if it was focus on the amount of lime needed to high enough the soil would raise the pH on paper, for instance, as be able to hold everything opposed to investigating the deficiencies of elements, and accounting for them that it needs to eat and through observing crop growth. drink within natural THE CEC NUMBER conditions. Positively charged hydrogen ions (H+) REPRESENTS THE Most soil tests we take in being present defines the pH of a P OT EN T I A L R ESER VO I R residential landscapes will substance. The reason soil becomes O F T H E S O I L T O acidic is because it is demineralized and have 1-2% organic matter R E TA I N C AT I O N all the other positive elements are no with a CEC of 5-15. This is N U T R I T I O N longer present, not because someone a sign of extremely immature poured acid on it. We tend to think of soil. Bagged organic potting pH in terms of some concrete thing, instead of a metric of soil typically shows an organic matter content of 15-20% with a CEC of 15-20. The CEC is lower even in bagged the energetic representation of available elements. For example, lime is calcium. Calcium is a cation, so when potting soils due to a lack of biological activity and diversity, used in the soil it replaces hydrogen in the CEC, which which you can increase using compost and compost makes the pH go up. What happens if you have a potassium tea, along with humic material such as worm castings or deficiency? concentrated humic acids. As Dr. Albrecht identified, “plants are not sensitive to, or The following data comes from Dr. Albrecht’s work, and limited by, a particular pH value of the soil.” In other words, our observations over the last decade of testing soil and documenting results. This is not a complete list of essential it is possible to have a perfect pH, and have your minerals elements, it represents the cations that are held within the entirely out of balance and, therefore, not be addressing your deficiencies. soil’s CEC. The information presented here is what we The pH should really be an afterthought to the soil health consider as ideal: conversation, a value that communicates the success of balancing the minerals in your soil, not the other way • Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) = 25-30 around. The takeaway is that if you have all of your minerals • pH = 6.1 – 6.5 balanced properly the pH is always within range. • Organic Matter = < 4% The name of the game when reusing your potting soil is • Calcium (Ca+) = 60-70% to trust in the microbes’ ability to construct a dynamic • Magnesium (Mg+) = 10-20% neighborhood for growing plants, but verify that you are • Potassium (K+) = 2-5% bringing the right building materials to the job site through • Sodium (Na+) = 0.5-3% soil testing. Then listening to your plants to get it right. 3 • Hydrogen (H+) = 10-15% 88




WHAT EVERY GROWER SHOULD KNOW Urban legends don’t grow a good crop. It is the skills of the cultivator, using the best possible technology. Now, I cannot teach you growing skills in a short article, but I can surely bring you up to speed about the latest in lighting technology.



YOU CANNOT GROW EVERY PL ANT SUCCESSFULLY JUST UNDER HPS Photosynthesis For the sake of a short article I will keep this very simple: Plants need light for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is what makes plants grow. Plants have developed under sunlight for millions of years, and are optimally equipped to use every aspect of that light to their advantage. That is part of the natural evolution process. So, obviously plants do well under sunlight. Photosynthesis is driven by photons, and specifically all the photons that are in the spectrum between deep blue and far red. This is what we call PAR light (Photosynthetic Active Radiation). It is all the colors between 400 and 700 nm in the light spectrum (and a bit beyond that even). But there are many more processes in a plant that require different colors of light: Many also influence the shape of the plant and the efficiency of the plant so all colors are in some way important to grow a healthy plant.

The solar spectrum. PAR light between 400 and 700 nm

A greenhouse with supplemental lighting In a greenhouse the primary source of light is the sun. It provides the right light quality for a healthy crop. When the light levels drop, we supplement the light. This takes a lot of energy, so greenhouse growers use the most efficient lighting available to add this. As the sun provides already more than enough quality light, the question is: what light spectrum should we add? This is where High Pressure Sodium lamps come in. It is the most efficient high output source of photons available. It is not the same spectrum as sunlight though, but there is more than enough of that in a greenhouse to not negatively influence the plant quality. In the near future we will see other technologies, such as LED, become more popular in the greenhouses, but for now this technology is mostly used on vegetative greens like lettuce or microgreens, or by combining them with HPS. LED is still 6-8 times more expensive for the same light levels as HPS.

Quality and Quantity Nature is often really hard on plants: storms, rain, insects, fungi, and diseases are always threats for plants. So bringing plants into a safe environment, such as a greenhouse, can optimize the growing circumstances for a plant as in climate, light, and external influences. Even when the sun is blocked by the clouds, or when the temperature is low and the sun is weak in the winter, we can make sure that plants get everything they need for healthy development. This is how we can produce all year round.

HPS spectrum



FOR A QUALITY PLANT THOUGH YOU WILL NEED TO ADD A BETTER SPECTRUM So for quality, greenhouse growers use the sun. For extra quantity (yield) they use HPS light (and in some cases LED light but that is worthy of an entire new article). This is to produce more photons to maintain photosynthesis.

In a climate room things are different: we have no sunlight, and have to produce all the light ourselves. HPS is in many ways a great solution: • • •

Horticultural HPS lamps are the most efficient light source for their spectrum. They are available in very high wattage, so you need few of them. They are a very concentrated light source, so you can spread it evenly using reflectors and bring it deep into the crop. HPS is at the peak of its development cycle, so extremely efficient and relatively cheap.

But there are also disadvantages to HPS: •

The spectrum is limited. There are very high levels of yellow, orange and red, but it lacks specifically the blue and the green. Yes, green is also an important color! They produce a lot of infrared radiation

As for the spectrum... You cannot grow every plant successfully just under HPS, but some plants actually do very well under HPS. It is not ideal, but over the last decade you have seen that growers are very successful using HPS in production rooms. Now, heat is a different discussion. The sun also produces about 50% of infrared, and in plants it causes transpiration, and keeps the “juices” flowing from the roots to the leaves, which enables a healthy sap stream in the plant. Plants do need that heat as well, so in some way it is a blessing. Even the UVA and UVB in sunlight have a great effect on plants. It promotes flavonoids, terpenes, and trichomes in many crops.

the HPS. For a quality plant though you will need to add a better spectrum. This is where supplemental light sources come in. Adding more blue (and other colors) to the HPS can really enhance the shape and quality of your plants. Even adding 5-10% of blue to the reddish spectrum of HPS makes your plant much more efficient, and enhances its health and quality.

Supplemental Light Sources There are many sources of blue light, for example blue LED, Metal Halide lamps, and Plasma lights. Now we have seen that there is more than just blue and red light needed for a healthy plant, so we also need to look at the spectrum added by different light sources. These are the pros and cons of the different supplemental light sources:

Metal Halide Pros: • Lots of blue light in many types. • Better spectrum for plant growth than HPS, a far broader spectrum. Cons: • Not as efficient producing photons as HPS (40-60% less efficient). • Very fast depreciation, so you will need to change them very often (more than 25-30% depreciation per year, against only 4% for HPS). • Bad color stability (the spectrum changes over time). • 99% is only suitable for closed, protected reflectors with a glass shield (MH lamps that break emit very high, and very dangerous amounts of UVC).

Now let’s look at an indoor facility. You lack the quality light of the sun completely, having only the limited spectrum of Metal Halide spectrum (source: Philips)




LED Pros: • Blue LEDs are relatively efficient compared to MH and have a good light maintenance • LEDs do not emit a lot of heat to the plant (but in total they do add the same amount of heat to a room). • Very long life. Cons: • LEDS only emit light in a very narrow bandwidth. To create a good spectrum you need many different colors, or white LEDs which are not as efficient. Green LEDs are the worst in efficiency, but you do need green light too. • LEDs are expensive compared to HPS and MH (up to 10 times the price). • LEDs are not good in generating UV. UV LEDs exist, but are very expensive, and/or have a short life. Many manufacturers refer to 380 nm LEDs as UV, specifically in aquatics applications, but that is just limited long wave UVA and visible light.

Typical LED red/blue spectrum for supplemental greenhouse lighting (Source: Illumitex)

Plasma spectrum (full spectrum version) The ideal supplemental light should add all the colors that HPS lacks in sufficient quantity, including UVA and UVB. I should note though that adding quality light at lower intensities than HPS creates dramatic quality improvement. It should not add any more heat to the crop, HPS already takes care of that. It should have a long life, and need no, or very few expensive lamp changes.

Plasma lamp with supplemental spectrum for HPS (all the colors that HPS lacks)

Plasma Light Pros: • Very high quality spectrum, including UVA and UVB • Good color stability over time. • Available as a full supplemental spectrum to HPS (so mostly all the colors that HPS lacks). • Very long life (30,000 – 50,000 hours, depending on used spectrum 6-10 years flowering!) • Very low infrared heat emitted to the plants, though the electronics and emitter add heat to the room. Cons: • Relatively inefficient (about the same as Metal Halide). • Higher investment cost (though relatively cheap over time compared to MH as you never have to change the lamp). • More expensive than LED.

So if you look at all the pros and cons, and if you want to add quality light to HPS in indoor facilities, you automatically come to LED and plasma lights as the best choices. The only question you now need to answer is: which one will give you the best quality, and the best return on investment? LED is cheaper than plasma, and has a better efficiency. However, LED lacks UVA and UVB in its spectrum, and it is hard to create an efficient, full continuous supplemental spectrum. Producing green light with LED is not efficient.




Fertilizers For The Future. Commercial Plasma light fixture (Gavita Pro 270e LEP) Plasma light is more expensive than LED and is less efficient in producing light. However, the spectrum is far superior over LED, it is much more intense than LED, providing extremely good penetration into the crop. It is also much easier to spread over the crop. Many growers have reported that the action spectrum of medical plants grown with supplemental plasma light is far better than when only grown under HPS. The plant quality and health is a lot better, which makes it less prone to diseases and fungi, such as powdery mildew. The full spectrum of the light in a vegetative stage influences the shape of the plant, creating more branches, bringing it into a much better shape for faster, improved flowering, as well as reducing the vegetative period. Even the rooting under plasma light is much faster. Now when you grow tomatoes at 50 cents per kilo it will take a long time to get return on investment for less efficient light that improves the crop quality. But when you grow a high value medical crop the lamp pays for itself in less than two 9 week crop cycles - even only based on the yield of the less efficient light, not taking quality enhancements into account. So there you have it in a nutshell. Using the most efficient horticultural HPS technology combined with the best supplemental lighting will give you the best quality, and a lot fewer headaches over diseases and fungal infestations. LED and Plasma lights are not cheap, but they are an investment in quality. Combining of the relatively inexpensive HPS technology for quantity, combined with a more expensive supplemental light, will give you the best of both worlds. 3

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Highest Population On The Planet Where is this, you might wonder. What over-crowded urban location? Not even. It’s about population, not space per capita. There are more chickens on Earth than there are people, and most of them live in quarters far more cramped than the most spatially challenged home. Living in the tiniest mud hut would be considered plenty of elbow room to the average 21st century chick.

l a n i g i r o e h T

Hot Off The Press

FARMAGGEDON: The True Cost of Cheap Meat If you eat, this matters. It’s not about going vegetarian, or even organic. It’s not just the US mega farm issues. It’s not just about the horse meat scandal in the UK. This is about global farming, and a shocking look at just what a mess the world’s food supply system has become. “IT’S TIME TO UNSCREW OUR FOOD... If we don’t, we face Farmaggedon. “ Written by Philip Lymbery, who having become steadily horrified at modern factory farming as it evolved, has traveled the world looking into just what goes on in commercial farming everywhere. What he has found is a real eye opener, and while it’s destroying the environment, factory farming is causing suffering for both humans and animals, and increasing poverty and disease. A good read that’s getting great reviews everywhere. Available from Amazon.

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BALLAST PROS&CONS MAGNETIC VS. ELECTRONIC Almost every grow room has a pile of ballasts driving a bunch of lights. There’s a lot of confusion among growers about ballasts. How do they work? What are they for? What kind is best? Let’s take a look... 




What IS a Ballast? Grow lights are usually High Intensity Discharge (HID) bulbs which take a little work to get running. Whether the bulb is a metal halide used for vegetative growth or an HPS (High Pressure Sodium) bulb used for flowering, they all require a very high voltage to ionize the material in the bulb to get it glowing and conducting electricity. This Strike Voltage can run as high as 4000 volts, and is only on for a few seconds or tens of seconds, just enough to get the gasses in the bulb glowing and conductive enough for the bulb to light. 

Magnetic ballasts use a capacitor to move the current and voltage closer to being in-phase, but the net result is that with the power factor being quite a bit less than 1. The resistance of all that wire and the magnetic losses in the core, a magnetic ballast’s efficiency is going to be around 85% or so. That means it’ll take 1170 Watts of power to light a 1000W bulb, with the extra 170 Watts just heating up the room. Not exactly what we want, but easy to build and inexpensive to buy.

The good news is the only thing that ever really goes Once the arc strikes, the bulb needs to be current-limited bad on a magnetic ballast is the capacitor, which can as it warms up, and finally held at a stable operating point usually be fixed at the store where you bought it.  when it’s good and hot. It’s the ballast’s job to strike the arc, limit current during warm-up, and maintain a stable Electronic Ballasts operating point once we’re up and running. Kind of like a Electronic ballasts have four big advantages over core and tightrope walker with a balance pole – it’s coil ballasts: the ballast’s job to maintain a stable oper1. Variable operating point – Elecating point for a naturally unstable arc light.  “A MAGNETIC tronic ballasts can compensate for aging bulbs so that you get the same light output BALL AST’S Core & Coil even as the lamps age. EFFICIENCY Iron core inductors are a simple and cheap 2. Efficiency  – Core and coil IS GOING TO way to make some of these things happen. If ballasts gobble up 1100-1200 Watts to run BE AROUND you wire an inductor in series with your HID a 1000 Watt bulb where a good quality 85%...” bulb two things happen: First, the inductor electronic ballast will only need 1050-1100 charges up when current flows through it, and dumps all Watts. that energy when the current stops. You can get a pretty 3. Bulbs live longer – Electronic ballasts can adaptivegood-sized spark this way, and it’s the same technique we ly maintain output power levels to keep bulbs brighter use to fire spark plugs in a car. Since the AC power line cyfor a longer period of time. You change bulbs less often. cles 50-60 times per second, the inductor can provide us the 4. Dimming – Electronic ballasts can be dimmed, and needed high voltage for starting the arc. some advanced designs can also drive multiple bulb types and power ratings (400 / 600 / 1000). Since an inductor resists changes in current, it can also act as a current limiter Electronic ballasts are also: and, if you choose your parts wisely, it • Smaller and lighter can set the final operating point of the • Able to restrike a hot bulb sooner bulb. Not bad for a steel core wound with a mile of wire! • Lower in perceived lamp flicker • Can be quieter and produce less acoustic noise The bad news is that current and voltage move close to As prices on power semiconductors came down in the 1990s, 90 degrees out of phase with each other across an inducengineers started pushing forward with Switched Mode Powtor. Power is voltage multiplied by current, and if they are er Supplies (SMPS) since a switching supply running at high out of phase you don’t get the use of all that power you’re frequency requires smaller transformers and inductors (the paying for at the meter. Electrical engineers report this outexpensive parts) than an SMPS running at a lower frequency.  of-phase condition as Power Factor, with 1.0 being perfect. You can think of Power Factor as the percentage of power Designs for HID ballasts have steadily improved and elecyou pay for that doesn’t get used by the light – a PF of 0.85 tronic ballasts are now a practical and accepted solution for means 15% of the power you buy doesn’t do any work. running HID lights. A good electronic ballast has a Power Factor > 0.98, almost perfect, and runs at better than 90% GARDENCULTURE.NET




B A L L A ST H A S A POWER S T S F A A L L C A T B O R L I > O 0.98...” “CORE AND C ” S T T A W . . . GOBBLE


TO KEEP N A F A S D GOOD.” LAST NEE “IF A BAL ING, THAT’S NOT SO FROM MELT efficiency. Some advanced designs are now pushing 97% efficiency, at power factors approaching 0.995! There’s a world of difference between magnetic and electronic ballasts, and quite a difference between brands of electronic ballasts as well.

Fans One question I see a lot on the forums and hear in hydro stores is about fans. Is it better to have a fan on the ballast or not? Heat is the ending of all electronic devices and you can count on halving the life of a given device for every 18°F rise in temperature. So, a fan is good, right? Well, sometimes... Fans on electronics are like turbochargers on cars – if you can run without it, the machine will live longer. If the ballast runs cool without the fan, a little forced-air cooling will make it live longer. If a ballast NEEDS a fan to keep from melting, that’s not so good. Fans suck in dirt as well as air, and dirt makes things break. Put your hand on the ballast at full power. If it is warm to the touch and has a small fan, that’s fine. If it’s hot to the touch, or has big fans and is still hot, that’s not what we want. If it needs a fan to stay alive, it’ll die when the fan does. Cooler is always better for the life of the equipment, and for your power bill. Remember, you’re paying TWICE for all that heat: once to heat up the ballast, and again to have your air conditioning remove the heat from the room. 

Electrical Noise Acoustic noise is easy to check just by listening, but electrical noise is the kind that makes pH and TDS meters read wrong. It also alerts anyone with a radio that there’s a room full of lights and ballasts next door. When the local WiFi has problems precisely 12 hours on and 12 hours off, it doesn’t take an electronic engineer to sniff out the cause!

A simple and easy test is to take a hand-held AM radio and tune it between stations so you just hear static. Turn the lights on and tune up and down the band – do you hear your ballasts blasting away? Most of them do, and it’s an easy check to make before purchasing a ballast. Quieter is better because if your ballast doesn’t interfere with your neighbor’s radio, cellphone or computer he’s less likely to give you a hard time about your garden. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) can come from ballast itself as radiation, from the lamp cord or from the power wiring. Every wire is an antenna at some frequency, and the longer your lamp wiring is, the more likely you’re going to hit the antenna jackpot. For lamp wiring, shorter is better. Conducted EMI coming down the power line is more likely to cause problems with computers than radios, but there’s not much a grower can do about it without redesigning the ballast. In our own EMI testing we found that all the electronic ballasts were noisy on the lamp wiring but the worst offenders were the ones that had conducted EMI (power line) issues.

Notes Magnetic ballasts are heavy, inexpensive and less efficient than electronic ballasts. Electronic ballasts beat magnetics in all areas of performance, but poorly designed units can make enough electrical (RF) noise to cause instrumentation issues for the grower and radio interference issues for his neighbors. A quick radio check can save a lot of trouble in telling a good one from a bad one, as can simply putting your hand on the ballast to see how cool it runs. You don’t need expensive instruments to check your ballast – just a cheap radio and your five senses. 3






As long as you have the right tools and supplies...

g tarAtinBudget SOn

As gardeners, we grow our own food at home for multiple reasons. It gives us a certain piece of mind knowing exactly what inputs go into cultivating your food crops, and the bottom line is that the food we grow for ourselves is fresher, and likely more delicious than the grocery store equivalent. But, there are often other reasons that one decides to venture into the realm of at home cultivation. A large source of encouragement for the modern gardener is the increasingly high price of fresh foods, and the strain it can have on the normal family budget. drainage, or individual plastic seed When executed properly, the act of gardening lets us take personal FOOD WE GROW FOR starting cells that fit comfortably nutrition into our own hands in a OURSELVES IS FRESHER into the propagation tray. These allow the grower to have one plant budget-friendly way, and one of the in each cell, and to grow it until they things we can do to save even more money is to start our reach the desired size. The tray, individual planting cells, own garden plants from seed before the season begins. and the humidity dome can usually all be purchased for This is a relatively easy thing to accomplish, as long as you about $10. have the right tools and supplies. The trick, however, is doing so in a budget-friendly way.

Let’s start with the seed starting containers. The first thing you will need is a starter or propagation tray with a plastic dome lid. The standard tray is 2’ long by 1’ wide, and is capable of housing over 100 seedlings. You can start seeds by simply filling the tray with growing medium and planting the seeds but this may require transplanting some of the seedlings into individual containers in order for the seedlings to grow big enough to eventually be planted in an outdoor garden. You can use plastic cups with holes punched in the bottom to allow for adequate water

Adequate lighting is a must for raising healthy seedling indoors. A two foot, four bulb T5 fluorescent light fixture is easy to mount, low in energy usage, and provides excellent light coverage for one standard propagation tray. It will also help supply the heat that seeds need to germinate. Proper lighting is important for seedlings as they begin the process of photosynthesis, and developing both vegetative and root growth. Raising seedlings in a sunny window will result in plants that are “leggy” from stretching to receive light, and have only modest root growth. The light fixture and bulbs will be the most cost intensive part of this project, but




Adequate lighting is a must for raising healthy seedling indoors

it is an invaluable asset when starting seeds indoors. Depending of the brand, a decent light will cost around $100 - $150. Remember to look in the clearance section at your local indoor grow shop first for the best deals. Next you need a seed starting medium. There are many mediums to choose from for germinating seeds, but the most cost-effective and reliable is likely an organic soil-less growing mix. There are many kinds of mixes intended for seed starting on the market today, and the prices will vary, but generally a 2 cu. ft. bag will cost less than $20.

GARDENING LETS US TAKE PERSONAL NUTRITION INTO OUR OWN HANDS perspective. Buying enough plants from a nursery or greenhouse to fill a large garden can easily cost a grower upwards of a hundred dollars, and the quality of plant seedlings is not assured to be the highest, and the larger the garden, WILL OFTEN the higher the price.


Of course, you will also need some seeds. Most growers receive several seed catalogs every year, and most of us have a favorite. When ordering seeds itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a good idea to purchase them all from the same company with the hopes of receiving free shipping on the order. Seeds are also widely available at garden centers or grow shops, and you can purchase them in bulk or in smaller packages. Depending on the variety, seeds are usually very reasonably priced, and the amount per packet will often last more than one season when properly stored.

On average, purchasing these much-needed tools for success will typically set you back about $200 - but that is an initial investment, and you should look at the cost with some

Another important point to keep in mind is that this really is an initial investment. Most of these things are reusable in the following years. The planting tray, any leftover growing medium, and properly stored seeds will still be good to use. This is especially true of the light, which should last several years before it even needs to have any bulbs replaced. So the initial investment of around $200 can actually become an avenue for a grower to save even more money in consecutive years. It can also give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly where your food came from, all the way back to the seed. 3




Did You Know? A seed must absorb 50% of its weight in water in order to germinate.

Food Politics Is Ancient Purple carrots aren’t an oddity - that’s the original color. Until the 17th century, all carrots were purple, though an occasional mutant root came out white or yellow. In the late 1500s the Dutch bred a carrot that produced orange roots, which was such a novelty that the familiar purple carrot was soon left in the dust. Given the universal human trait of resisting change, one might wonder why they would try to create a weird vegetable, and what caused so much excitement over it in the first place. Orange carrots were a political thing. Eating them was showed your support of the House of Orange, and from there they spread all over Europe, and the rest of the world.

Life Without Onions?

Certain to be a diet so boring it would make you cry. It’s been that way forever too. Tired of foraging for them in the wild, serious cultivation of onions dates back more than 5,000 years.


Immunity at a We think that touch screen technology is quite an accomplishment. It’s really pretty small potatoes the natural world is far more savvy. Plants increase their disease resistance when they sense being touched. More Info: touch-wellness

Garden Culture Magazine: US 5