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Resistance is Fertile

Fishy Ferts Trichoderma Worm Castings Compost Tea A Brewer's Guide

Bio Fungicides Peak Phosphorus Grow Gadget Reviews

MAR/APR 10 FEB / MAR 11 US $5.95 CAN $6.95

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www.sunlightsupply.com

Ultra radiant. Ultra reliable. Ultra Sun. Available at fine indoor garden centers

Digital / HPS / MH / Dual Arc Tube HPS-MH / MH Conversion 150/250/400/600/1000 Watt and New 1500 Watt Master Blaster

Excellent quality horticultural lamps at an economical price

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CO² Devices

ATLAS 1 CO2 Monitor/Controller Controls any 120 volt CO2 dispensing system including Selene 1 & 2 Generators or Titan CO2 Regulators.

MERCURY 4

APOLLO 8

Day/Night Multi-Function Fan Speed Controller

Dual Outlet - 24 Hour Timer with 15 Minute Intervals

Plug ventilation equipment in, set the high and low fan speeds, adjust the day and night mode and the controller will activate inline fans within the preset parameters.

This 2 outlet timer features a 15 amp capacity to easily run lights, pumps, fans and light movers. 96 – 15 minute segments that can be configured to meet the most demanding requirements.

NYX 1 Day/Night Photo Controller

CO2 REGULATOR

Used to release CO2 from tanks. Compatible with Atlas 1 CO2 Controller or Apollo 1 Short Cycle Timer.

SELENE 1 & 2 CO2 Generator – 4 & 8 Burner The Selene 1 is for rooms less than 300 sq. ft. and Selene 2 for rooms 300 sq. ft. or larger. These fully adjustable generators feature electronic spark ignition and a tip-over switch for safety.

CO2 INLINE HEATER Install between CO2 tank and regulator to warm gas stream to prevent regulator freeze up.

Ventilation

Set the daytime or nighttime switch to control devices either while lights are on or off. This includes products like light movers, light ventilation fans or pumps.

Timing

APOLLO 1 Repeat Cycle Timer with Photocell Provides precision timing control of CO2 devices, fans or pumps. 3 seconds to 30 minutes “ON” time and 3 minutes to 8 hours “OFF” time.

APOLLO 2 Day/Night Cycle Timer Controls accurate timing sequences of CO2 devices, fans or pumps. 10 seconds to 20 minutes “ON” time and 1 minute to 12 hours “OFF” time.

APOLLO 3 Fixed Cycle Timer

MERCURY 1

Specifically designed to control aeroponic, ebb & flow, NFT (nutrient film technique) and fogging systems. 1 minute “ON” time and 4 minutes “OFF” time.

Adjustable Fan Speed Controller

APOLLO 6

Fully adjustable to tune your ventilation system.

MERCURY 3 Day/Night Fan Speed Controller This unit will activate your fan to maintain the daytime and nighttime temperatures within your preset parameters.

24 Hour Timer with 15 Minute Intervals Features a 15 amp capacity to easily run lights, pumps, fans and light movers. 96 – 15 minute segments that can be configured to meet the most demanding requirements.

APOLLO 7 24 Hour Digital Timer This precision timer can be set to as low as 1 minute intervals with 8 separate timing schedules per day. Features a 15 amp capacity to easily run lights, pumps, fans and light movers.

APOLLO 9 Dual Outlet - 24 Hour Digital Timer This 2 outlet precision timer can be set to as low as 1 minute intervals with 8 separate timing schedules per day. Features a 15 amp capacity to easily run lights, pumps, fans and light movers.

APOLLO 10 240 Volt – 24 Hour Timer with 15 Minute Intervals With a 10 amp capacity, this accurate timer can operate your lights or any other 240 volt equipment. 96 – 15 minute segments can be set to meet any timing schedule you require.

APOLLO 12 Short Cycle Timer with Photocell Controls timed equipment during the daytime only, nighttime only or both. Tight timing settings for the precision control of your CO2 system, fan or pump. 5 seconds to 30 minutes “ON” time and 5 seconds to 60 minutes “OFF” time.

Lighting

HELIOS 1 4 Light Controller with Built-in Timer – 120 Volt Controls up to 4 – 1000 watt light systems. Features a German made timer and heavy-duty Seimens brand relay. Timed 120 volt accessory outlet to activate light movers or cooling fans.


Environmental control products for all your indoor gardening needs Built with the finest quality components. • Digital and analog controlled devices. • Easy to operate. • Great warranty program. • First rate technical support at 1-888-80-Titan. • RoHS compliant. • Heavy-duty construction. • Instructions in both English & Spanish. • Easy to understand diagrams on most boxes illustrating typical applications.

HELIOS 2 4 Light Controller with Relay Trigger Cord – 120 Volt Controls up to 4 – 1000 watt light systems. Features 120 volt relay trigger cord and heavy-duty Seimens brand relay. Timed 120 volt accessory outlet to activate light movers or cooling fans.

APOLLO 4 & 5

KRONUS 3

Inline Timers for Ballasts – 120 & 240 Volt

Day/Night Temperature Controller + CO2 Integration

These heavy-duty timers provide 24 hour lighting control for up to 1000 watt ballasts.

Features independent day and night temperature settings to maintain the ideal climate in your growing environment. Activates exhaust fans or heaters based on set points. Integrated CO2 outlet can activate/deactivate CO2 Controller (Atlas 1) during daytime hours based on temperature settings. Proprietary 10 minute delay keeps CO2 contained before activating exhaust fan.

HADES 1 Hot Start 15 Minute Delay Timer

HELIOS 3 4 Light Controller with Built-in Timer – 240 Volt Controls up to 4 – 1000 watt light systems. Features a German made timer and heavy-duty Seimens brand relay. Universal outlets allow the use of different types of power cords. Timed 120 volt accessory outlet to activate light movers or cooling fans.

HELIOS 4 4 Light Controller with Relay Trigger Cord – 240 Volt Controls up to 4 – 1000 watt light systems. Features 120 volt relay trigger cord and heavy-duty Seimens brand relay. Universal outlets allow the use of different types of power cords. Timed 120 volt accessory outlet to activate light movers or cooling fans.

HELIOS 7 8 Light Controller with Built-in Timer – 240 Volt Controls up to 8 – 1000 watt light systems. Features a German made timer and heavy-duty Seimens brand relays. Universal outlets allow the use of different types of power cords.

HELIOS 8

Protects lights during power outage by activating a 15 minute delay before “restriking”. Prevents “hot start”.

Temperature & Humidity

KRONUS 1 Temperature and Humidity Controller Maintains optimum temperature and humidity in your growing space. 24 hour control of your air conditioner or exhaust equipment and dehumidifier.

Digital accuracy with the simplicity of analog controls

KRONUS 2 Temperature and Humidity Controller + CO2 Integration Controls exhaust equipment to maintain temperature & humidity set points. Integrated CO2 outlet activates/ deactivates CO2 Controller (Atlas 1) during daytime hours based on temperature & humidity settings. Proprietary 10 minute delay keeps CO2 contained before activating exhaust fan.

8 Light Controller with Relay Trigger Cords – 240 Volt Controls up to 8 – 1000 watt light systems. Features 120 volt relay trigger cords and heavy-duty Seimens brand relays. Universal outlets allow the use of different types of power cords.

DISTRIBUTED BY

KRONUS 4 Temperature and Humidity + CO2 Integration Independent temperature and humidity outlets to control two different devices (i.e fan and dehumidifier). Integrated CO2 outlet can activate/deactivate CO2 Controller (Atlas 1) during daytime hours based on temperature settings. Proprietary 10 minute delay keeps CO2 contained before activating exhaust fan. Fourth outlet is connected to a photocell for night only activation.

ZEPHYR 1 Day and Night Temperature Controller Controls a fan, air conditioner or heater to maintain independent day and night temperatures in your growing area.

ZEPHYR 2 High Temperature Shutwith Adjustable Delay

off

Controller turns off your lights if the high temperature exceeds the set point. Innovative adjustable hot start delay with “hold” feature allows a manual restart if desired.

EOS 1 Humidify/Dehumidify Controller

VANCOUVER, W ASHINGTON U.S.A.

Controls either a humidifier or dehumidifier to maintain the humidity level in your growing space at the desired set point.

www.titancontrols.net Titan Controls® are available exclusively through our nationwide network of retail dealer partners.


Issue 014 February / March 2011

CONTENTS The Organics Issue

“The Nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

12

Is the Clock Ticking for Hydroponics? If you rely on minerals to fertilize your crops, brace yourself for some bad news!

16

The Global GMO Agenda Corporatist imperialism exposed by Wikileaks, ignored by mainstream media.

20

Organic and Mineral Nutrients Don’t know the difference? We explain!

24

Grow Store 105

60

Worm expert, Larry Martin, explains how you can make worms work for you.

68

98 100

Make way for the pots that get more from your plants!

110

A Fish Called Fertilizer

112

Organic Growing Indoors Q&A Simon Hart answers some interesting questions on organics.

56

In Deep: Expert Q&A on microbes, nutrients and compost.

74

004

Product Test: Bluelab pH Meter

Incoming: Nutriculture’s NFT Tank Europe’s #1 super high-yielding hydro system finally lands in North America!

Master gardener, Jeff Lowenfels, explores fish-based fertilizer products.

50

Vide-oh-no!

Our Technical Editor, Gareth Hopcroft, puts Bluelab’s premium pH meter through its paces.

Save money, save resources, save shipping! Oh, and bigger yields!

44

Las Vegas’ Hangover

Check out the world’s most controvesial music videos!

Clever Containers Reusing Coco Coir

Eye Candy: Root Aphids Graham Foster compares the Vegas from the movie The Hangover with the real thing.

105

40

Stop the Rot! Emily Walter helps you avoid the dreaded mildew and flower rot with natural foliar sprays.

The final installment of Hydroguy’s tour of the Grow Store.

30

The World of Worms

117

Grow Gear The latest kit that’s begging to be in your garden!

122

Rant: Your Letters Unload your brain spunk on us.

128

Starving Artist: Rocket01

86

Trichoderma in Hydroponic Systems

Breeding Microbes with Compost Tea

Does the soil fungus also work in hydro?

Unveiling the microscopic secrets of connoisseur organic growers.


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C COCO COC 4-0-1 0 1 AND COCO MAX A NPK 4 COC C 143 COCO COCO MAX B 1-4-3 1. High 1 H Hi h levels l l off phosphorus h h and d potassium. i 2 P i blooms. bl 2. Promotes massive 3 P fluctuation fl i ffriendly. i dl 3. PH 4 M f d using i g hi i als. 4. Manufactured high gh quality q li y raw materials. materia 5 F b h grow and d fl 5. For both flower stage AW A WA A LEAVES A & B NPK 5-0-3 5 0 3 0-4-4 0 4 4 AND AWA A A MAX A & B 4-0-6 4 0 6 1-5-3 153 AWA 1 . For FFo ih R k l Hydroton, H yd P li Etc. E 1. Rockwool, Perlite, or use with: Etcc. 2 Contains C i multi-purpose li EDDHA iron i h l 2. chelates. Co ontains . 3 Water W 3. soluble and immediately available. 4 Eliminates Elliminates nutrient waste because of 4. re-circulating re e-circulating capacity. 5 Trace TTrrace elements that promote massive flowering. 5. floweri flowerin ng. T ER RA TERRA TER R (soil/soilless) (soil/ l soilless) MAX AX NPK 2-2-4 1 1.. Highly concentrated. l Suitable for f r all soil/soilless fo soil/ l soilless mediums. 2 2.. Immediately l available ava v ilable trace elements. 3 3.. Stimulates plant pla l nt vigor. 4 4.. Promotes larger,r heavier blooms. 5 5.. pH Balanced TERRA (soil/soilless) LEAVES NPK 3-1-4 T 1.. Highly Concentrated. 1 2. Suitable for all soil/soilless mediums. 2 3. Ideal composition for the mother plant. 3 4. Ensures a good plant mass. 4 5. Stimulates the fruit and flower setting. 5

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Urban Garden Magazine has been brought to you by… Editor Everest Fernandez everest@urbangardenmagazine.com

All editorial is copyright. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or be stored in any retrieval system in any form without the prior permission of the

Technical Editor Gareth Hopcroft gareth@urbangardenmagazine.com

Publisher. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy no

responsibility

will

be

accepted

for

Lifestyle Editor Graham Foster g.foster@urbangardenmagazine.com

inaccuracies however caused. Contributed

Associate Editor Boris Bell boris@urbangardenmagazine.com

The Publisher cannot accept responsibility

material does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Publisher.

for any unsolicited materials. It is assumed that any images taken from sources that are widely distributed such as the Internet, are

Resistance is Fertile...

T

he greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter. ~Bill Mollison, founder of modern permaculture. Everyone’s talking about a revolution. Some even say it’s being broadcast on Al Jazeera. But didn’t you listen to a word Mr. Warhol said? The real revolution occurs in a place where cameras cannot film. Can you think where? There really is no need to bother signing a petition on Facebook or writing to your congressman. We have been trained for millennia to defer our responsibility to others. And look where that’s got us! Nobody is in control—not the government, the Federal Reserve, the Catholic church, the Freemasons, the Jews, the Nazis or the Neocons—not even the shape-shifting grays and their international banking cartel. These are merely “epistemological cartoons” as my friend Terence once said. In other words, it’s all in your head! Protesting, blogging, arguing back and forth or even hurling bricks through Starbucks’ window just affirms your ardent belief in these fictions. Get back to your gardens. It’s not going to be easy. Humans have been bred, just like modern vegetables, to such an extent that life outside the gates of the industrial food system seems impractical, even backward. It’s easier for us to play the disempowered fool and ignore the atrocious wars that feed our parasitism than to break through our conditioning and start taking responsibility for ourselves. So, if you’re ready to get your hands soiled, read on. You’d better be! Let us know what you think of the new layout and super geeky articles within! Here’s hoping that this incredibly dirty issue of Urban Garden provides some inspiration for a true revolution!

“We must cultivate our own garden. When man was put in the Garden of Eden he was put there so that he should work, which proves that man was not born to rest.” ~ Voltaire

008

Marketing & Events Manager Vicky Fox vicky@urbangardenmagazine.com

in the public domain. However, since such images are passed between sources such as websites, the original source is not always possible to trace.

Advertising Manager (North America) Vicki Stanton v.stanton@urbangardenmagazine.com

The editorial policy and general layout of the publication is at the sole discretion of the Publisher and no debate will be entered

Advertising Manager (Europe) Emma Brute emma@urbangardenmagazine.com

into. No responsibility will be accepted for illustrations, artwork or photographs while in transmission with the Publisher or their agents unless such commitment is made in

Account Manager Dave Vincent dave@urbangardenmagazine.com Production Director Russ Sealey russ@urbangardenmagazine.com Art Director Pete Turner pete@urbangardenmagazine.com Photography and Illustration Emma Godley emma.g@urbangardenmagazine.com

writing prior to receipt of such items.

Urban Garden Magazine is published by Massive Publishing Ltd in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. T. +1 604 558 0420 E. info@urbangardenmagazine.com W. www.urbangardenmagazine.com PO Box 88097 Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6A 4A4

PRINTED IN THE USA

NORTH AMERICA ISSUE 014 Contributors Boris Bell, Gaby Bronstein, Chris Butcher, Everest Fernandez, Evan Folds, Graham Foster, Dan Gulliver, Simon Hart, Chris Hidden, Gareth Hopcroft, Dr. Elaine Ingham, Rob Hunt, Hydroguy, Larry Martin, Lynette Morgan, Zac Ricciardi, Dr. Carole Rollins, Jeffrey M. Smith, Emily Walter, Andrew Clegg.

Urban Garden Magazine is designed in partnership with PARA www.paraltd.com


Is the clock ticking for hydroponics? If you think your plant fertilizers already cost too much then you may wish to avert your eyes! A report just out by the British Soil Association has revealed that mined phosphorus, a key component in your hydroponic nutrients and other mineralbased fertilizer products, is set to run out after 2033. Finito! Growers and farmers alike are going to have to look elsewhere in order to feed their plants. Some growers are already embracing composting and compost-based products in order to give their plants the nourishment they need. The report, entitled ‘A rock and a hard place: peak phosphorus and the threat to our food security’, found that “the supply of phosphorus from mined phosphate rock could ‘peak’ as soon as 2033, after which this non-renewable resource will become increasingly scarce and expensive.” Composting experts have pointed out that compost, particularly that produced using green and food waste, is an excellent source of phosphorus and is already used by many farmers across the world. Brian Chambers, of environmental consultancy ADAS, said that the loss of mined phosphorus was likely to lead

012

to an increase in prices for compost. He commented: “As fertilizer prices get higher composters will no doubt be able to charge more for their product.” Currently a lot of compost that goes to agriculture is given away for free, or purchased at a very low cost by farmers. Mr Chambers explained that, although prices to agriculture were likely to increase, they would never reach the levels commanded by mined fertilizers. This is due to the fact that compost is “bulky” and the associated transport and spreading costs will always be higher than those for artificial fertilizers, he explained. Jeremy Jacobs, Managing Director of the Association for Organics Recycling, commented: “It is known that both phosphorus and potash are significant elements in compost which is why it is a useful soil amendment. Compost is an extremely valuable replacement and it should be promoted more.” The report says that a lack of phosphorus to return to the soil could lead to food insecurity. It recommends that human waste should be used as a fertilizer instead of being wasted

- a process that is currently banned under EU law. It also praises the way organic farmers use compost to nourish the soil. The report states: “Organic farming systems already make use of many practices to reduce the need for mineral phosphate, including managing nutrient loss; using farmyard manure, crop residues and green waste composts as fertilizers; increasing the availability of phosphorus to plants by encouraging microorganisms and mycorrhizal fungi; and using crops with high uptake efficiency.” Compost is already widely acknowledged in the farming community as a way of nourishing the soil. Two years ago, when prices for nitrogen-based fertilizers rocketed, many farmers turned to compost to reduce their costs. Mr. Chambers said: “Farmers like using compost if it is of a good quality and low in plastic. It is a good replacement for expensive fertilizer and it is also the right thing to do.” Source: www.letsrecycle.com


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The Global GMO agenda to control the World’s food has been exposed. So now what? “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.” Henry Kissinger

Nearly thirteen years ago, a 150-second TV broadcast changed our world; everyone everywhere owes a debt of gratitude to the man whose life it turned upside down—in his effort to protect ours. On August 10, 1998, eminent scientist Dr. Arpad Pusztai dared to speak the truth. He had been an enthusiastic supporter of genetic engineering working on cutting edge safety research with genetically modified (GM) foods. But to his surprise, his experiments showed that GM foods were inherently dangerous. When he relayed his concerns during a short television interview in the UK, things got ugly. With support from the highest levels of government, biotech defenders quickly mobilized a coordinated attack campaign trying to distort and cover up the evidence. It worked for a while, but when an order of Parliament lifted Dr. Pusztai’s gag order, the revelations touched off a

media firestorm that ultimately kicked GM foods out of European supermarkets, and derailed the industry’s timetable to quickly replace virtually all food with genetically engineered alternatives. However there was barely a whisper of the story in the US or Canadian media. It’s the same story today. The latest batch of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveals a US-led conspiracy to force genetically modified foods (GMOs) on to European countries by making those countries pay a steep price if they resist. But will you find any mention of this huge story on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC? No. Maybe it would raise too many questions? The cable details the words of Craig Stapleton, then the US ambassador to France, who had been pushing the commercial interests of the biotech industry by attempting to force GMOs into France. In his own words (below), he expressed his frustration with the idea

that France might pass environmental laws that would hinder the expansion of GMOs:

“Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the [European] Commission... Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices.”

How To Fight GMOs 1. Avoid eating processed foods! If you must, choose products that are certified organic. The use of genetically engineered organisms is prohibited under organic foods standards. Download a shopping guide: http://nongmoshoppingguide.com/ http://gmoguide.greenpeace.ca/shoppers_ guide.pdf

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2. Grow your own! There’s no better way of knowing what’s in your produce than to grow it yourself. Choose heirloom, organic seeds. Learn how to save seeds from one crop to the next. Share with your friends and family.

3. Demand better labeling Unlike in Europe, New Zealand, China or Japan, food products containing genetically modified ingredients do not have to be labeled as such in North America. This was a key victory for the biotech industry— keeping you in the dark!

4. Spread the word Educate yourself on the dangers of genetically modified food and tell your friends about it. Visit urbangardenmagazine.com, responsibletechnology.org, naturalnews.com and seedsofdeception.com Watch the movie “The World According to Monsanto” on YouTube. Read Jeffrey M. Smith’s bestselling book “Seeds of Deception.”


Stapleton goes on to say something rather incredible. Remember, you were never supposed to read this!

“Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory...” The global GMO conspiracy is no longer a theory. This cable proves, once and for all, that there is a global GMO conspiracy where government operatives work in collusion with corporations to push the biotech industry’s GMO agenda while punishing opponents of GMOs and adding them to a “target retaliation list.” Google “Definition of Fascism” if you need to.

“Stopping GMOs is simply a numbers game. When enough shoppers stop buying GMO brands, the food industry will kick out all genetically modified (GM) ingredients. This happened in Europe, and it’s happening in the US with GM bovine growth hormone (rbGH). We need about 5% of US shoppers-15 million people or 5.6 million householdsto choose healthier non-GMO brands in order to generate a non-GMO tipping point. It’s just a matter of reaching enough people. That’s what our educational tools and talking points are designed to do.” Jeffrey M. Smith, bestselling author of “Seeds of Deception” and “Genetic Roulette.” COMPILED BY: Boris Bell

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created by taking genes from organisms such as bacteria, viruses, or animals and inserting them into other, often unrelated, species. Unlike traditional breeding, genetic engineering creates new organisms that would never occur in nature, creating new and unpredictable environmental risks. The term ‘genetically engineered (GE) food’ refers to any product containing or derived from GMOs. In North America, up to 70 percent of the processed foods found in grocery stores contain GE ingredients. The most common GE ingredients come from crops like corn, soy, canola and cotton. Biotechnology companies like Monsanto genetically engineer these crops to produce a pesticide or to withstand the application of herbicides. They also OWN these crops via patents which means they can control who grows the seed and prohibit farmers from saving seed.


Hydroponics & Organics What’s The Difference? Many newcomers to the world of gardening mistakenly believe that the difference between hydroponics and organics simply lies in the bottles they choose to buy. The organic grower buys the bottle with the word “organic” on it and the hydro grower buys the “hydro” stuff. It’s a tempting over-simplification but, in reality, the difference in both practical approach and growing philosophy goes a lot deeper. WORDS: Everest Fernandez

Nutrients: Hydroponics

Nutrients: Organics

Hydroponic nutrients contain a precise balance of elements needed by your plants to grow and bloom. I like to use the analogy of an astronaut’s healthshake—one of those mega-nourishing drinks that contains everything they need to go on space walks, play cards, and whatever else astronauts do all day. Liquid hydroponic nutrients are derived from mineral salts that have been mined from the earth and then chemically synthesized using fossil fuels to create inorganic fertilizers. These fertilizers are in a ionic form that plant roots can access and assimilate immediately.

Organic nutrients … well, we should stop right there. It’s more accurate to speak of organic inputs, rather than nutrients. That’s because organic growers rely on bacteria and microbes to mineralize or ‘break down’ these complex organic substances into ionic (plant accessible) nutrients. They can also be brewed at home in compost tea. These bacteria and microbes are present in healthy soil. They can also be brewed at home in compost tea. Organic inputs are largely naturallyoccurring, unrefined materials that will fertilize plants through the action of microbial mineralization. These organic fertilizers include sugar beet extracts, worm castings, guano, animal manures, compost, blood meal, bone meal, fish products (meal/emulsion/ hydrolysate), alfalfa meal, feather meal, seaweed, unrefined naturally occurring minerals (glacial rock dust, soft rock phosphate, Epsom salts) and many, many more. Manufacturing liquid organic nutrients is a complex process that involves the selection of key ingredients that will stay stable and soluble.

If you’re new to the concept of ‘microbial mineralization’ try thinking of the earth as one giant compost heap. This amazing hidden world of microbiology does the work of cycling this organic matter back into a form that plants can use. It’s the reason why the Amazon rainforest thrives without any additional fertilizer!

020


Cultivation Hydroponics is a preferred method of cultivation, especially commercially, because it affords the grower increased control over the nutrition available to the plant. When factors such as nutrient pH, strength and temperature are well managed the results can be astonishing—huge production is possible from the smallest of spaces. Organic growers, on the other hand, will counter that their chosen method is more sustainable as it does not rely on large quantities of fossil fuel energy required to purify this finite mineral resource. Exponents of hydroponics often counter this with the fact that recirculating hydroponic growing systems use up to 90% less fresh water than conventional growing methods!

Can we use both?

Language often holds in itself more wisdom than the wisest of those that use it. The word “hydroponics” literally means “water working” – the water does the work of carrying the nutrients to the roots and the job is done. In organic, soilbased growing, or “terraponics” growers focus on “feeding the soil” rather than feeding the plant. The soil, or rather, the microbiology within it, does the “work” of getting water and nutrients to the roots, usually in some mutualistic exchange that benefits all concerned.

Exponents of bioponics and aquaponics claim they have successfully merged organics with hydroponics and combined the benefits of both. When you consider the very different approaches in terms of plant nutrition, this is no mean feet! Simply adding organically derived liquid inputs to a hydroponics system is not going to cut it. (We’ve seen many growers try and fail!) There are many reasons for this but the primary cause is the absence of the microbiology needed to breakdown the organic inputs into plant-accessible form. Other problems include organic nutrient solutions going ‘bad’ and clogged drippers. Most organic nutrient solutions are unable to stay stable in a hydroponic reservoir for more than 24-48 hours, which often leads to a smelly sludgy soup, the growth of bio-films and clogged pipe work. There are a number of exciting new technologies that may help us to combine hydro with organics. William Texier from General Hydroponics Europe has developed a concept he calls ‘BioPonics’. Four years of research and development resulted in the BioSevia Grow and Bloom nutrients, the ingredients of which are soluble, derived from approved organic sources and proven to remain stable in a hydroponic reservoir. It is a complex combination of already dissolved ions from organic origin, and larger

organic molecules that will decompose rapidly (in a couple of days), to allow continuous nutrition availability from start to finish. This fast decomposition process is activated and sustained by the introduction of beneficial microorganisms contained within a ‘biofilter’, in which bacteria and fungi (particularly Trichoderma harzianum) feed on the carbon part of organic molecules and release the ions attached to them, which is exactly what plants are looking for.

For more information on the development of this ‘Bioponic’ Nutrient – see the article in Urban Garden Magazine Issue 6 (08/09 – 2009) My Quest for “Bioponics”, or visit our website: www.urbangardenmagazine.com This year we will also see new lines of nutrients coming onto the market that claim to deliver the power of hydroponics in an organic boxing glove! Here at Urban Garden HQ, we look forward to testing the claims of the emerging ‘organic hydroponic nutrients’ and sharing our findings with you in 2011!


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Grow Store 105

The Other Stuff and Then Some by Hydroguy Making sense of some of the less obvious products a person can purchase at a grow store can be a rabbit hole of confusion. Such is the case with the product types chosen for Grow Store 105, aptly subtitled “The Other Stuff,” a term I have previously used to describe the numerous compounds contained in organic nutrients. In this instance I’m using the term to catch some of the more confusing product types that we haven’t already discussed and, specifically those which I believe hold most promise of being beneficial.

Wetting Agents Wetting agents are primarily used to increase the effectiveness of foliar applications. The term is a common name given to a class of compounds called surfactants, or surface acting agents, based on their observed property of reducing the surface tension of liquids. We all know water is wet, so “making water wetter” seems obtuse at first, but the term exists because of the notion that water acts as it does simply because of the force of cohesion of water molecules to other water molecules, and this results in surface tension at the boundary of water and whatever it has contacted. When an aqueous solution, such as a diluted pesticide, is sprayed onto a waxy leaf surface, tension is formed where the water contacts the leaf, and the solution will tend to bead and run off the leaf because it is repelled. A surfactant, when included with the solution, will reduce the tension between the water and the leaf, allowing

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it to bond to the leaf surface; it will reduce the tension between the air and the water as well, allowing the solution to spread. The wetting agent is a unique particle, illustrated quite similar to a sperm, with a water-attracted head and a waterrepelled (or organic-attracted) tail. The head nestles comfortably bonded to water molecules while the tail is free to bond to leaf surfaces or a waxy or oil based (organic) particle. In cases of oil-based products designed to be sprayed on leaf surfaces (such as neem oil), the surfactant acts within the solution reducing the surface tension between the oil and the water, which is more appropriately termed interfacial tension—the tension where the oil and water interface. To produce an emulsification of oil and water, where the oil appears to be mixed in solution with the water, a surfactant is usually used since it can effectively unite the two otherwise opposing compounds.

Spraying the leaves of foliage is the most common, but not the only use of wetting agents in hydroponics.


Spraying the leaves of foliage is the most common, but not the only use of wetting agents in hydroponics. There is another possible benefit from wetting agents, and that is the enhancement they can give to the uptake of root-fed nutrients, based on the interactions between the wetting agent, the nutrients, and the target plant species. Wetting agents used in this fashion have been found to allow a reduction of fertilizer usage with each application, since more of the nutrients that are irrigated to plants find their way into a plant than without the use of a wetting agent. There are several wetting agents available on the market that have been formulated for agricultural use, but not all of these will necessarily work to improve uptake.

Catalyst Altered Water [CAW] CAW increases the uptake of fertilizer so well that using full-strength nutrients with CAW can cause plant roots to burn.

You may have heard of “Lourdes healing waters,” “living water,” or some other dubious “magical water” claim, which you probably ignored—understandably. Catalyst Altered Water is no doubt perceived in the same light by a lot of people, yet in truth it is a unique, and possibly beneficial, adjuvant (helper) in both foliage feeding and nutrient irrigation. Catalyst Altered Water could be a catchall for any water that has been catalyzed, but in most instances (as in this article) it refers more specifically to a solution invented by the Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Dr. John Willard. The story of Dr. Willard and how he came to invent the CAW is pretty interesting, but let’s just focus on what it is and does. The active ingredient in CAW is a tiny micelle, which is a silicate colloidal particle illustrated somewhat like a pompom. Surfactants can form micelles in high concentrations and pressures, but most micelles in chemistry are notably toxic. Dr. Willard created a micelle that would cleave the bonds of carbon chains (intended for train engine spark plugs) out of very common substances including road salt and castor oil. His micelle is 10 to 100 times larger than most water

molecules and has a powerful negative magnetic field. The negative surface of the micelle attracts and unites water molecules, generating chains of water that permit nutrients to be carried more effectively. Dr. Willard and his colleagues claim they have witnessed a reduction of one-half to one-third of fertilizers with the inclusion of Willard’s Water at the rate of 2 oz (60 ml) to 15 gallons (57 L) of water, and this has been supported by third-party commercial greenhouse tests in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, Dr. Willard states quite cautiously that CAW increases the uptake of fertilizer so well that using full-strength nutrients with CAW can cause plant roots to burn. CAW can be used to improve the health and germination rate of seeds, as a substrate soak for clones, and can be sprayed on the root system of rooted cuttings or seedlings during transplant. As a spray for foliage, Dr. Willard recommends reducing the pesticide or nutrient by one-half, and notes a list of additional benefits, which include nitrogen acquisition from the air, as well as delivering a host of plantavailable nutrients from lignite if the CAW XXX product (containing dissolved lignite) is used.


Vitamins In Grow Store 101 we discussed the “short list” of vitamins and minerals that humans need to survive, and I compared this to the “short list” of micro- and macronutrients that plants need. So what about vitamins for plants? You might already be aware that vitamin products exist, but without knowing what they have been found to do, you will not necessarily be able to maximize their potential benefits. It is not necessarily as easy as picking a “vitamin product” off the grow store shelf and calling it a do-all vitamin supplement. Various vitamin compounds have been shown to induce different plant responses, and we will soon see that “plant vitamin science” is still, more or less, a work in progress.

Vitamin B (Thiamine) The most common vitamin type found in hydroponics products, vitamin B is an ingredient within various supplements designed to increase root growth, as well as to reduce plant stress and transplant shock. Vitamin B is one of the most confidently used vitamins in the hydroponics industry, so a grower may be amazed to learn that a University of Colorado State publication has effectively attempted to debunk what it calls a “gardening myth.” As it goes, back in the 1930s there was a study done by James Bonner on isolated pea roots cut from their growing medium. The roots were placed in culture with thiamine present and such a dramatic response was observed that Bonner concluded that thiamine was “essential to the growth of pea root.” What Robert Cox points out in his brief debunk sheet was that thiamine is normally produced in the leaves of the plant and transported to the root. In the absence of a plant system, where the roots have been removed, they will respond and continue to grow with exogenous applications of thiamine. In normal circumstances, he concludes, where vitamin B has been tested on intact production crops such as corn, tomatoes, beans, pepper, and watermelon, among others; there is no evidence it provides any type of growth response. Researchers at the University of California concluded the same, noting there was “no discernible differences in color or vigor among treatments.”

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Vitamin C Lets look at a vitamin that most people have never even imagined giving to a plant. If you do not recall ever reading vitamin C as an ingredient on any bottle of plant food or supplements, you are not alone. Yet, lo and behold, not only have researchers found that plants respond to vitamin C, they even go so far as claiming it is essential for plant growth! Now, before you get too excited, let’s first note that the scientists at Britain’s University of Exeter are not endorsing pipe dreams—they are not saying feed your plants vitamin C, but they are stating that plants contain gene coding for the production of an enzyme called ‘GDP-L-galactose phosphorylase’ that endogenously produces vitamin C at particular stages of a plant’s growth. So is there any reason to seek a plant vitamin supplement that contains vitamin C? Some researchers at the University of California may think so, since they have reported an increase of photosynthetic response as well as production of various bio-chemicals when a plant’s enzymes, called dehydroascorbate reductase, were manipulated to create higher concentrations of vitamin C in leaves. If manipulating plant enzymes is not your thing, Synnöve v. Hausen published a study in Nature showing that 40 mg of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) added to a sterile liquid growing medium increased the dry weight of the treated plants over that of the control plants by 35–75%.

Vitamin D Another vitamin that is synthesized naturally within plants, vitamin D has been shown to produce growth responses in plants, promote adventitious root growth, and is a critical player in the absorption of Calcium to plant stems. Compared in function to the rooting hormones IBA and NAA, Buchala and Shmid published a paper in July 1979 suggesting vitamin D and its analogs should be a new class of growth simulators affecting root development.

Not only have researchers found that plants respond to vitamin C, they even go so far as claiming it is essential for plant growth!


Humics Humus: I often refer to peat and coco as “nearly ground-up clothing” in an exaggerated illustration of the non-composted fiber quality it has in comparison to soil. This is not to be taken literally, but there is still a very distinct contrast between good rich dark earth and the common peat-lite or coco substrates used. And the primary difference, as I see it, is humus. Because a lot of modern growing substrate is marginally composted it lacks the qualities and benefits that humus provides. Humus increases nutrient exchange capacity and water retention, chelates heavy metals, promotes microbial life, and is considered by some the life force of soil primarily responsible for fertility and soil quality. Humus that is not entirely decomposed can provide more readily available nutrients to plants and microbes and contains a high percentage of fulvic acids, but it is not as effective for soil conditioning. The best way to get the benefits of humus is to mix well composted material into your substrate that is high in organic matter

Humic Acid There are varying qualities of humic acid depending on the source of lignite or leonardite used. Some humic acids will contain heavy metals as contaminants, and these contaminants are referred to as ballast and ash. Humic acid is used largely for soil conditioning, improving texture and water retention, and giving soilless media a more biologically active component. “Humic acid” here refers specifically to the less active and high molecular-weight humic acid products.

Fulvic Acid The distinction between humic and fulvic acids is not always made in literature, as fulvic acid can be considered a low molecular-weight humic acid. Fulvic acid, which is derived from the more active partially composted humus, is used to improve the uptake of nutrients, promote the conversion of nutrient elements into plant-available forms, and to improve nutrient transport through plant cell walls. As a natural and organic electrolyte, fulvic acid is capable of conducting an

electrical current that allows minerals to interact with each other much more easily. Interfacing with plants, fulvic acid has been found to stimulate plant enzymes, promote microbial activity around the root zone, enhance a plant’s natural resistance to disease, increase root respiration and formation, increase the germination and viability of seeds, as well as many other perceived benefits to gardeners.

Paramagnetic Earth Now we’re going to look at something cut straight from the bizarre—or cut from a basalt mine, to be more specific. Paramagnetic earth is a sort of groupall name for volcanic rock that exhibits varying degrees of paramagnetism, which means “attracted to magnetic fields.” To be straight from the hop, the idea of paramagnetic earth being any benefit to plants, as a direct result of the paramagnetic qualities of the substance, is not something necessarily believed even by researchers who work ardently to prove the hypothesis. Unfortunately for them, the notion has held firm against all forms of tests that isolate the paramagnetic material from the growing substrate, including researchers placing

paramagnetic materials in various containers, placed adjacent to the roots of plants within a growing media. One researcher who was a part of extensive tests on basaltic paramagnetic earth and plant development in Australia notes, “stones have a secret life that involves two equal and opposing magnetic forces, the plus and the minus of nature, the yin and yang of the Chinese.” As silly as that may sound to a lot of readers, myself included, his point is well taken regarding the secrecy of such forces when we are relating to the interface between plants and magnetic materials. Studies are not entirely conclusive, but it is looking to date like the notion that paramagnetic earth affects plant growth

in ways perceived positively by growers, is probably true until proven otherwise. One last thing to note is: where paramagnetic material has been found to increase stem and leaf length, ferromagnetic material was shown in one test to decrease stem length. Will iron filings then promote tighter internodes? Who nodes?

Was that crazy enough for you? Or have we only just scratched the surface? Let us know what you think by emailing us at rant@urbangardenmagazine.com 028


Clever Containers in Action This illustration shows how air pruning works in a breathable fabric pot.

CLEVER CONTAINERS Plant pots. What a beautifully simple growing system. Fill it with potting soil and voilà - you’re good to go. No wonder that this technique dates back to ancient times. In fact, fragments of Egyptian horticultural pottery have been dated as far back as 10,000 years. These pots are thought to have been used simply for portability between settlements. The Romans, however, are presumed to have been the first to have grown perennial plants in pots with the intention of bringing the plants inside during periods of cold weather. Until the 1950s, most plant pots you could buy at your local gardening store were made of terracotta clay—then along came plastic, a substantially cheaper more durable and lightweight product. However, not all gardeners were convinced plastic was a good idea, and for good reason. Unglazed terracotta pots insulate the root zone from hot and cold temperatures and, because clay is porous, the pots are able to “breathe”—albeit with only the small amount of air that’s able to pass through the clay pot. Many oldschool gardeners claim this as the main reason they can produce better plant growth using clay pots rather than plastic.

1. Shortly after the cutting/seedling is planted into the pot, primary roots grow towards the sides and bottom edges. 2. The fabric sides of the pot allow it to breathe, letting air get to the growing media. This air is drier than the root zone environment within the pot, so as the roots start to grow out of the growing media the relatively dry air prevents further growth, and stimulates secondary roots to branch out within the pot. 3. The root branching and pruning cycle keeps repeating, creating a plant with an abundance of healthy, wellbranched roots within the growing media.

“Plastic pots are far from perfect! Which means of course, that there’s room for improvement.” It’s pretty obvious why plastic pots with solid sides are now the norm; they’re cheap, more practical and durable than clay and, of course, featherweight in comparison. Also, although they restrict air, there’s no arguing that they work, and in most cases they work pretty well.

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However, plastic pots are far from perfect, which means of course, that there’s room for improvement. It turns out that with a few design modifications many of the fundamental problems associated with standard plastic pots can be reduced, if not eliminated.

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH STANDARD CONTAINERS? Remember, Mother Nature didn’t create plant pots. Humans did! In normal plastic plant pots, roots grow until they hit the inner edge and then invariably the roots start circling around the inside wall of the


Air Pruning Essentially, air pruning is a physical technique that inhibits root growth from extending beyond its growing media

Key Benefits of Clever Containers Stronger, healthier starts. Elimination of root circling in pots. Less growing media needed. Decreased risk of transplant shock. Improved overall root structure (more root tips). Better use of water and nutrients. Promotes the activity of beneficial biology. Quicker growing times. Fewer transplants required.

Root Trapping Root Trapping may be a new concept to some growers. With root trapping the root tips become physically trapped in the pot material, which is made from coarse felt or some other fabric.

pot. Now in this case, being on the fringe isn’t such a good thing because roots like cool and moist conditions, and plastic pots can get fairly warm, especially under grow lights or when exposed to direct sunlight. Roots that are circling around the inside edge are more susceptible to the negative effects of excess heat (no media to provide insulation), drought (edges of growing media tend to dry out first) and disease (unhealthy roots suffering in these conditions are more prone to disease). One

are air pruning and root trapping. Understand how these techniques work, and you’ll understand how plant pot design can be vastly improved!

AIR PRUNING Essentially, air pruning is a physical technique that inhibits root growth from extending beyond its growing media, or circling around its container, by exposing the root tips to relatively dry air and stopping their growth. As these roots now have nowhere else to grow, it stimulates further growth of secondary roots that branch out from them within the growing media. These secondary roots will spread throughout the pot until they reach the sides and bottom and get air pruned again, stimulating more root growth and more root hairs. More root hairs = more root tips. More root tips = more water and nutrient uptake. The overall effect of this growth and pruning cycle is the establishment of a well-developed root system in a relatively short space of time throughout the growing media.

ROOT TRAPPING

thing is for sure - these outer roots are certainly not taking advantage of all the water, nutrients and beneficial biology that may be present within the growing media. So how do you get the roots to concentrate their growth within the growing media? The answer actually lies in providing a consistent restrictive environment for root growth at a pot’s edges. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the most common techniques

Root trapping may be a new concept to some growers; it involves a more mechanical approach to the problem than air pruning. With root trapping the root tips become physically trapped in the pot material, which is made from coarse felt or some other fabric. When a root tip grows into the material at the edge of the pot it becomes trapped, preventing horizontal and vertical growth around the edge of the pot. I know, I know, words like “trapped” and “preventing” don’t sound good. But, because the root tip is unable to grow any further at the pot’s edge, it’s forced to branch and grow secondary roots within the growing media. This all adds up to a more effective root zone. Parallels with the above techniques can be made with the plant growth we observe above the ground. Most gardeners know that pruning a lateral branch or terminal (uppermost growth tip) can create a more productive plant. You cut and remove the tip to encourage lateral branching and in this way create a fuller, bushier plant with more branches. The same can be done for the root structure; air pruning and root trapping is all about encouraging lateral root branching.


There are many containers in grow stores and garden centers that have adopted air pruning or root trapping capabilities, or a combination of both, into their designs.

These can be classified into two general categories: fabric and plastic containers. Here’s a list of clever containers with brief descriptions of how they work.

FABRIC CONTAINERS Generally, fabric containers are relatively inexpensive, can be used with a variety of growing media, and are suitable for hydroponics systems (ebb & flow and drip irrigation), as well as the basic handwatered application.

High Caliper Smart Pot

RootMaker – RootTrapper II

Aurora innovations Root Pots

Square Root Aeration Containers

Made from black, custom, non-woven, polypropylene material, Smart Pots use a combination of root trapping and air pruning. The root tips grow into the fuzzy fabric of the pot and become trapped; the breathable fabric causes the root tips to become air pruned. The black fabric helps to warm the growing media (outdoors in the early season) and also allows heat to escape via the breathable material (evaporative cooling action in summer). Smart Pots are highly durable. The smaller sizes now come with handles too!

Made from 100% recycled materials, the Root Pots certainly have an authentic, recycled look to them. The breathable fabric allows air pruning of the roots to occur, which prevents root circling. This fabric pot helps with thermal insulation during cold temperatures, and also allows evaporative cooling during hot conditions. Root Pots are reuseable for three to five years, and are also biodegradable.

Utilizing a slightly different approach, these containers have a space saving square design. The soft, breathable fabric provides adequate drainage at the base and aeration through the sides, allowing air pruning to occur. The black fabric helps to keep the substrate warmer during cold temperatures and cooler during high temperatures.

“Smart Pots are highly durable...”

These containers are made using thick felt, and as the name suggests, utilize root trapping to encourage root branching. The felt is lined with an outer white plastic layer that is designed to keep the internal temperature of the container cool as well as prevent evaporative moisture loss. The white outer coating also reduces the risk of roots dying on the sides that are exposed to direct sunshine. This can happen with black containers. Water use can be reduced because there are no large drain holes at the bottom or evaporative sides. The base is made from a slightly different material that allows for adequate drainage. These felt pots are reusable, but trapped root tips will remain in the fabric.

“Made from 100% recycled materials, the Root Pots certainly have an authentic recycled look to them.”

“The soft breathable fabric provides adequate drainage at the base and aeration through the sides, allowing air pruning to occur.”

Sizes Available: 1-2-3-5-710-15-20-25-30-45-65100-200-300-400 (Gallon) 5 Gallon MSRP: $5.95

Sizes Available: 1-2-3-5-710-15-30-45-60-100-150400-500 (Gallon) 5 Gallon MSRP: $7.25

Sizes Available: 1-2-3-5-7-1015-20-30-45-65-100-150-200 250-300-400-500-600 (Gallon) 5 Gallon MSRP: $4.00

Sizes Available: ½-1-3-5-710-20-30-100 (Gallon) 5 Gallon MSRP: $5.95

Root Pouch -“Diamonds and plants should last forever, not nursery pots!” New to the industry, the Root Pouch is a patented, degradable fabric container. Available in 1-600 gallon sizes, the Root Pouch boasts all the features you come to expect from breathable, fabric pots. The pouches are made from recycled plastic water bottles and natural fibers and are one of the few degradable fabric containers currently on the market. Sizes Available: 1-600 (Gallon)

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PLASTIC CONTAINERS These high-tech plastic containers are more expensive than fabric pots, but are more durable and can be reused time and time again. Like the fabric pots, they are suitable for use with many types of growing media, and for indoor and outdoor gardening applications.

“Clever containers” have some historical roots; clay pots with many holes in the base and lower sides have been made in Greece for over 3000 years! These perforated pots allowed growers to bury them partially in the soil to allow the roots to grow out in an effort to minimize transplant shock.

Air-Pots

RootMaker II Propagation Tray

RootMaker II - Injection Molded Containers

RootBuilder II

Air-Pots have a somewhat unusual design, the sides of the pot are made up of inward- and outward-pointing cones, much like an egg box, and the bottom is plastic mesh. The inward pointing cones are solid whereas the outward pointing cones are open ended. The purpose of these inward-pointing cones is to deflect the roots and stop them from circling within the pot and, more importantly, to direct the roots towards the outward-pointing cones. This exposes the root tips to air, which causes air pruning.

These plastic propagation cell trays have either 32 or 60 cells. Within each cell there are three tiers and in the corner and sides of these tiers are small holes. These holes allow air pruning to occur during the initial propagation stages, which prevents root circling.

Larger versions of the propagation cells, these plastic pots have a tiered design with multiple small holes on each tier to allow air pruning to occur and stop roots circling around the pot’s sides. These are available in square and round variations in the 1-gallon size, but are available only in the round design for the 3- and 5-gallon containers. The Root Makers are made largely from recycled plastic.

“the sides of the pot are made up of inward- and outwardpointing cones...” Sizes Available: 0.3-0.8-1.21.5-2-2.4-3.4-4.3- 5.2-6.58-10-12-45 (Gallon) 5 Gallon MSRP: $10

“These plastic propagation cell trays have either 32 or 60 cells. Within each cell there are three tiers and in the corner and sides of these tiers are small holes.”

“...these plastic pots have a tiered design with multiple small holes on each tier to allow air pruning to occur and stop roots circling around the pot’s sides.”

These pots have a similar design to the Air-Pots. The walls are assembled around a bottom disk to create either a 3- or 5-gallon container. These walls have outwardly projecting funnels with holes at the tips. Root growth is directed toward the holes at the end of these funnels, where the roots get air pruned. The shape of the container is designed to direct the roots to the air holes, but it also creates shade to keep the container and the root zone cooler, which also helps to improve plant growth. The RootBuilder II containers have solid root-directing bottoms, which direct the roots towards the edges of the pots.

Sizes Available: 32-Cell Tray & 60-Cell Tray

Sizes Available: 1-3-5 (Gallon)

Sizes Available: 1-2-3-5-7 (Gallon)

MSRP: $8.95 for 32-Cell Tray

5 Gallon MSRP: £8.95

5 Gallon MSRP: : £12.95

“These high-tech plastic containers are more expensive than fabric pots, but are more durable and can be reused time and time again. ”

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CLEVER CONTAINERS Grower Feedback and Tips QUICK ESTABLISHMENT The quickest way to see the benefits of the various root-pruning containers described above is to use them in the early stages of propagation and vegetative growth, when plants are establishing their root systems. Growers using root-pruning containers observe quicker establishment into new pots (whether these are larger root-pruning containers or larger normal pots), improved root growth and overall plant vigor.

SMALLER VOLUME Plants grown in root-pruning containers demonstrate an ability to cope with being containerized for longer, when compared to plants of a similar age in the same sized

standard pots. This means you could potentially decrease the size of your containers without the risk of a plant becoming root bound; you would also save floor space and reduce the amount of growing media. However, if you do reduce the volume of your pot, an increase in water requirements should be expected.

MOVING POTS One of the advantages of growing in a pot—any pot—is the ability to move it around the garden to suit your needs. Obviously this is still possible with all rootpruning containers, but the fabric pots need some extra care. Lifting any fabric pot using the rim will cause the sides to stretch, even more so when they are wet and heavy. This often causes the root tips

WATER CONSUMPTION Of the majority of growers we spoke to, all found the growing media to dry slightly quicker than usual. Most said this was not as significant as they thought it would be; the average report being a 10-20% faster

Tip: Consider installing a drip irrigation system to water your plants. These are an excellent way to deliver water slowly in order to achieve an even and steady re-saturation.

drying time. When growing in standard pots, if the growing media has been allowed to dry out more than usual, the water can run straight down the sides making it difficult to re-saturate. The same goes for Air-Pots and RootBuilders, but instead of water running down the sides, it runs out the outward-pointing cones. To avoid this instant run-off you need to re-saturate with small amounts, and water slowly.

“Of the majority of growers we spoke to, all found the growing media to dry slightly quicker than usual.” REDUCING THE CHORE OF TRANSPLANTING While it’s important to match pot size to plant size, transplanting can be a chore! One of the great benefits most growers can achieve with root-pruning containers is the reduced amount of necessary transplants—particularly when growing with potting soil. For years, commercial nurseries have experienced time- and labor-saving benefits, and now many indoor growers are taking advantage of some of these same benefits. When growing in standard pots and potting soil, most growers would go through three to five (and in many cases more) potting stages - for example: Propagation cube > 0.3 gal > 1 gal > 3 gal > 5 gal.

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With root pruning containers this can be significantly reduced, with most growers only having to use two potting stages - for example: Propagation cube > 0.3 gal > 5 gal.

that have grown into the fabric to rip, which can often be felt as the pot is lifted. So, when lifting or moving fabric pots it is a good idea to support the bottoms.

FILLING TECHNIQUE A few growers we spoke to who use AirPots and RootBuilders reported that they had to spend more time during the pottingup stages when adding the growing media to the pot. The growing media in these pots needs to be slightly more compacted than in normal pots; frequent tapping down during the filling is absolutely crucial to ensure all the growing media settles in all of the outward-pointing cones/funnels. Some growers tip the pot on its side while filling it with growth media to ensure that it fills every nook and cranny - very important!


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GROWING MEDIA Most growers using root-pruning containers are growing with potting soil and hand watering. However, other growers are choosing to use clever containers for automated growing applications—particularly drip irrigation systems. Growing media that are more prone to drying out faster, like rockwool and clay pebbles, are much more suited to automated irrigations. Nearly all types of growing media are suitable for use in root-pruning containers, but we did hear of one minor issue from growers using clay pebbles in Air-Pots in automated drip systems. These growers are happy with the improved growth of their plants, but found that some of the outward-pointing cones became blocked with pebbles when filling. They solved this by tapping the sides of the pot and poking the obviously blocked holes.

GENERAL AIR-PRUNING TIPS

EVEREST’s TOP TIPS

FILLING POTS: Top Tip

whenever filling pots with growing media, be sure to tap the sides and bang the bottom of the pot on the floor. This will help to settle the growing media, preventing large gaps or air pockets forming. Avoid pushing and firming down the growing media with your hands as this will compact it.

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Air pruning can be applied to any stage of plant growth; however, most growers avoid air-pruning roots of newly rooted cuttings or seedlings grown in small propagation cubes or plugs. Cuttings and seedlings are quite tender stages of a plant’s life, so a sensible approach would be to wait until the next propagation stage to begin air pruning: when plants are growing in larger rock wool blocks or low volume root-pruning containers. To help deal with over- and under-watering issues, seasonal variations in climate should be taken into consideration when choosing the growing media or potting soil mix for short cycle plants in air-pruning pots. During the winter when average temperatures are lower, the growing media can be lightened up with less absorbent media like perlite, clay pebbles or coarse coco chips. During summer when water requirements increase, the mix can be made heavier by reducing the previously mentioned additives. These seasonal variations will help you achieve the maximum potential when using airpruning techniques.

The relative humidity of the air in the growing environment will determine the severity of the air pruning. In humid conditions, roots may stop growing at the surface of the media and produce secondary roots within the media, but the tips may not completely dehydrate. Although we want the roots to stop growing in response to contact with drier air, we don’t want to stress the plants by trying to grow them in an environment with low humidity (below 50%). Experimenting with different relative humidities for your species and variety of plants and growing media is highly recommended. Try varying the humidity between 55-80% to see it affects your air pruning.


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Grow. Bloom. Harvest. Dump all that media. Buy a load more. And start all over again. It’s a cycle that many of us, as indoor gardeners, are all too familiar with. Whether you choose to grow in soil, coco coir, rockwool, clay balls or soilless mix, chances are, when the crop’s been chopped, invariably it’s back to your local grow store to reload with fresh media. However, it turns out that lots of indoor growers (especially those growing short-cycle annuals) choose a different route. They reuse their growing media! And before you think this is just the preserve of pennypinching hippies, it turns out that it’s not all about saving a few dollars – it could increase your yields too! Aha, there we go … increased yields … that’s all we needed to say, wasn’t it? It’s worth pointing out that not all growing media is suitable for re-use. So first, here’s what you should factor into your evaluation: Structure stability

Nutrient retention

Practicality

Now let’s look at coco coir in these three terms. Coco coir, as a soilless growing media, is usually a mix dust and fiber, but some mixes can also contain larger coir chips. 1 Structure Stability Good quality, buffered coco coir, will keep most of its attributes throughout its useable life. However, the structure of steam sterilized coco coir will degrade faster than its un-cooked counterpart. For the purpose of this discussion we will assume that the coco coir is soft water washed, unpasteurized and chemically buffered; this represents the majority of coir available to hydroponic growers. Coco coir’s miniature “sponges” will become misshaped and smaller towards the end of their life, resulting in less air space between particles and an overall higher water holding capacity. Even though this is a slow process, some adaptation in watering may be required. After using coir for short cycle crops, amendments with 10-20% fresh coir or perlite may be required when being reused for the 3rd and 4th cycle. Care must be taken with the irrigation regime and nutrient program to insure the coir has an adequate life span. Principally, good watering practices and monitoring run-off EC (keeping it within optimal range) will permit seamless re-use.

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REUSING MEDIA: COCO COIR About the authors: Robert Hunt is the owner of Rocky Mountain Hydroponics in Golden and Edwards, CO and of Evergreen Garden Center in Portland, ME. Zac Ricciardi is the products trainer for Rocky Mountain Hydroponics in CO.

2 Nutrient Retention Buffered coir remains relatively chemically stable throughout its life, particularly when used with a coco coir specific nutrient; formulated to complement the unique cation exchange properties of the media. Coco coir can be easily EC controlled by monitoring the EC of the run-off. Watering with a low EC nutrient solution will reduce its EC without rinsing off the famous buffer. If plain water is used in excess, the coir may be rendered chemically imbalanced and may create problems in subsequent culture. On the other hand, coir reacts quickly to low EC rinse and thus it requires much less run-off than peat mixes. Unpasteurized coco coir is also a very hospitable substrate for its natural beneficial fungal inhabitant trichoderma, making it a very disease resistant and root protective growing medium.

In the early days when coir was first introduced into the hydroponic market, the pre-treatment process was overlooked. Young non-composted and nonbuffered coir products were sold without instruction and many growers suffered major nutrient issues and lost crops. Although these days are behind us, this initial introduction to coir tarnished its reputation as a quality growing media for many years.


What is Coco Coir? Fine Coco Dust

Coarse Coco Coir with high fibre content

Grab some coco coir out of the bag and, at first glance, it looks like soil. But it isn’t. It’s actually a bi-product comprised of the fibrous husk of … you guessed it … coconuts. From this husk three main horticultural coir products can be acquired; coir chips, coir fiber and coir pith/dust. The dust retains water well while the fibers and chips help with air space and drainage. Many mixes and grades of coco coir are on sale in grow stores, variations of coir media exist to suit the irrigation strategy or hydroponic system of the grower. Coco coir dust is the major constituent of most coir products and is composed of millions of capillary micro-sponges that absorb and hold up to nine times its own weight in water. It has a natural pH of around 5.7 to 6.5, plus good a cation exchange capacity or ‘CEC’ (how easily it gives up nutrients to the plant’s roots), making it ideal for hydroponic cultivation. Plants grown in coir can develop large roots, stems and blooms. Unlike regular potting soil, which can easily become compacted, coco coir has plenty of air spaces for plant roots, giving rise to a healthy aerobic rhizosphere—essential for favorable nutrient and water uptake. Coco coir has a naturally high lignin content which encourages favorable micro-organisms around the roots and discourages decomposition, making it an ideal growing media for reuse.

Buffered and Non-Buffered Coco Coir Coarse Coco Coir with high chip content

3 Practicality The widely held belief in the gardening industry is that coir may be used for up to one year, or three to four crops for short cycle plants, without any compromise on crop quality. Others growers claim that they have successfully re-used coir for years. The amount of times that coir cam be utilized ultimate depends on the initial quality of the coir and the steps taken to prepare the media between each use. The first thing that must be done is the removal of dead cellulose e.g. root matter left over from previous crop. To remove the large roots the coco coir can be broken up, passed through a ¼ inch soil sieve and larger roots can be discarded. Enzyme products (e.g. CANNAZym, Hygrozyme / Grozyme, or Multi Zen) when applied in the latter stages of the crops cycle will do a sufficient job of cleaning up the residual decaying material. It is not advisable to have lots of dead roots remaining in the media because they can contribute to an anaerobic (low oxygen) environment. Once the root material has been disposed of, coco coir should be flushed with water or a low EC nutrient solution to bring the nutrient levels back down to an acceptable range.

Coir coir in its natural state contains a lot of sodium ions, which cling to the coco coir like a magnet on the cation exchange sites, and is also rich in potassium. In order to make coco coir suitable for use as a growing media it must be pre-treated or ‘buffered’ before use. The buffering process involves pre-soaking the coir for 12-24 hours with a buffering solution high in calcium; this displaces the sodium and balances the naturally occurring potassium. After the soaking period the media is washed with water, this removes the displaced sodium, leaving the calcium in the coir. This buffering process prevents unwanted draw down or ‘lockout’ of calcium and magnesium, and avoids sodium toxicity issues. Luckily for us home growers, most pre-packaged coir products in grow stores are buffered at the point of manufacture and will be ready to use, however; it doesn’t hurt to check the packaging before use!

Preparations and Considerations Once the media is ‘clean’, the addition of beneficial microbes is highly recommended. Coco is an ideal environment for beneficial bacteria and fungi, in particular, the introduction of trichoderma and mycorrhizal fungi will help maintain good growth and disease resistance. Inoculating coco coir with beneficial fungi also has great benefits when re-using the media, as fungal colonies improve with time. The deciding factor as to how long coco may be reused is how far it has decomposed naturally. Coir does decompose when wet over a period of time. Unfortunately, fungus gnats thrive in the presence of decaying organic matter, and coir is a perfect environment for them. Making sure that all the dead roots are removed, the coir isn’t over-watered and a using dry mulch of coir chips or clay pebbles on the surface of the media will all help to prevent fungus gnats. Utilizing certain “drench” products definitely controls gnat populations, along with sticky traps and the natural predator Hypoaspis miles. IMPORTANT: You should not reuse coco coir if you encountered any pathogenic or root insect issues during a cycle.

Conclusion Coco coir can often produce better results on the second or third use; this can be due to a number of factors. Coir can get better after the first successful crop because there will be a stable balance of ions on the cation exchange sites, leading to subsequent crops starting life with an improved root environment. Another reason growers often see improved results is due to the beneficial microbes present in media, these take time to develop and flourish; particularly mycorrhizae and Trichoderma, which can reach much higher potentials for growth improvement over longer time frames. However, an alternate explanation might be that the original coir coco was too young in decomposition first time round and may have degraded in a favorable way after reuse. Crops that went through a flush period at the end of a crop cycle fair better because salt levels are reduced during the leaching process. Salts are constantly given off by coco coir as it decomposes, mainly potassium and sodium. Since the medium decomposes throughout its life, this process is continuous. Washing the media out well before planting should mitigate any negative effects. Reusing coir that has not been flushed often results in nutrient imbalance and over-fertilization issues. However, it should be noted that the presence of some of these ions is what buffers the coco. If you lose this buffer you return to calcium and magnesium lockout and pH issues of untreated coco. In summary, coco has great potential as a reusable media, but to what extent is dependent on the motivation of the gardener. Should a gardener decide that the preceding is too much trouble, coco may always be reused as a soil improver for outdoor plants as well as a ‘brown’ high carbon addition to compost piles.


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A Fish Called Fertilizer Mention the words “fish fertilizer” and all too often growers are holding their noses. Sure, some fish-based products stink, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! An aside—some growers mistakenly believe that root feeding fish-based products to their plants results in their produce tasting fishy! WRONG! But hey, these are probably the same folks that buy those exotically flavored flushing products expecting their tomatoes to taste like mangos! Go figure… Seriously, there has to be a good reason why fish fertilizer has been used for thousands of years. So we called in organic expert and gardener extraordinaire Jeff Lowenfels to give us the lowdown on the various products available that are derived from our aquatic friends. American kindergarteners are taught the story of Squanto, a Native American who showed the Plymouth Rock pilgrims how to use fish to fertilize their corn plants. Egyptian children learn about their ancestors using fish to feed plants along the Nile, and Peruvian youths are taught that their pre-Columbian ancestors put a kernel of corn into the mouth of a fish and planted the whole thing. My Grandfather, an avid gardener and fisherman, was my Squanto. He taught me to bury fish guts and too-bony-to-eat-fish in the rose garden and beneath the tomato plants. The results were outstanding. I’ve been hooked, if you will pardon the pun, on fish as great fertilizer ever since.

What is Fish Fertilizer? Obviously, fish fertilizer is fertilizer made from fish or fish parts. However, not all fish fertilizers have the same characteristics. In fact, there are actually three different categories of fish fertilizer, so don’t just walk into a store and pick up whatever is on the shelves without doing a bit of homework first.

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Each category of fish fertilizer is made using a different process and the products that result contain varying amounts of nutrients. There are also best uses and special problems, so it is important to know a bit about fish fertilizers before you wade into the water (sorry, I can’t help myself!) and start using them. In sum, the three categories of fish fertilizers are: fish meals, fish emulsions and fish hydrolysates. Fish meals are made by grinding fish carcasses after a heating process has removed much of the oils. Wastewater left over from making fish meal can be concentrated to produce fish emulsions. Finally, fish digested in vats using enzymes instead of heat produces fish fertilizers called hydrolysates.

What types of fish are processed into Fish Fertilizer? Virtually any kind of fish can be made into a fertilizer. However, fish are usually divided into two groups. The first are fish harvested for human consumption. These include tuna, salmon, catfish, halibut, bass, anchovies and sardines. Fish processed specifically to make products for plants and animals make up the second group. These include pollack, menhaden and herring.

What are the advantages of Fish Fertilizer? Fish fertilizers have several advantages over their chemical counterparts. First, they can be totally organic with all the benefits associated with improved soil structure, increased microbial life and better plant health. Second, fish fertilizers don’t burn plants as readily as chemical fertilizers. Fish fertilizers generally have slower release rates and they don’t need to be applied as often. Moreover, fish fertilizers are not readily leached from the soil, rather they are held in the bodies of the microbes that turn then into plant food. Finally, they often contain trace nutrients not found in chemical formulas.

“...not fish fertilizers have same characteristics. fact, there “...not allall fish fertilizers have thethe same characteristics. In In fact, there areare actually three different categories fish fertilizer, don’t just walk into actually three different categories of of fish fertilizer, soso don’t just walk into a store and pick whatever is on shelves without doing a bit a store and pick upup whatever is on thethe shelves without doing a bit of of homework first.” homework first.”


The word “fish” can refer to both a single fish or plural when referring to fish in general or to a quantity of fish of the same kind; the word “fishes” is a special kind of plural used to refer to a quantity of various types of fish.

Fish meal is a good soil conditioner for use early in the outdoor growing season—it’s ideal in new vegetable or flower beds because it will help root development. Although most fish-meal fertilizers will last for 6-8 months, most of the benefits are realized in the first few months. Hydrolysates contain all of the fish oils (Top Circle).

The nitrogen contained in fish emulsion is released more gradually than in many other non-fish-based fertilizers.

American kindergarteners are taught the story of Squanto, a Native American who showed the Plymouth Rock pilgrims how to use fish to fertilize their corn plants (Bottom Circle).

“Fish fertilizers generally have slower release rates and they don’t need to be applied as often.” Characteristics of Fish Fertilizer The characteristics of a fish fertilizer are based on the way it is processed as well as what is in the fish used. Processing methods are either listed on the label or implied by the name of the kind of fertilizer.

Fish Hydrolysates These fish fertilizers are made from whole fresh fish, or fresh fish scraps, which are digested using special enzymes that break down the large proteins in fish meat and bones. Enzymatic digestion is known as hydrolysis, hence the name hydrolysates for the liquid mixtures that result. These

liquids are like thick fishy milkshakes. Phosphoric acid is added to the mixtures to halt the digestion process. As a result, the pH of hydrolysates is usually lower than other kinds of fish fertilizers. Also they don’t smell nearly as bad. Generally, fish hydrolysates have an NPK analysis around 2:3:0, 2:4:1 or 2:5:0. Because no heat is involved in making the fertilizer, and nothing is removed from the fish, hydrolysates contain more of a fish’s proteins, hormones, trace elements and vitamins than do other kinds of fish fertilizers. Application requires dilution to about five or six teaspoons per gallon of water. Fish hydrolysates can be used in all stages of growing. Finally, unlike the other two kinds of fertilizers, hydrolysates contain all of the fish oils. These oils are excellent beneficial fungal foods, which make fish hydrolysates a good nutrient source for maintaining and increasing soil fungal populations.

Hydrolyzed fish is widely considered to be the “highend” fish fertilizer product. It doesn’t have a highly objectionable odor like fish emulsion and it’s also highly water-soluble, so it’s great for drippers and foliar applications. It also contains higher levels of phosphorus than fish emulsion products.

Fish themselves naturally contain about 2.3% nitrogen. However, some fish emulsion products contain synthetic sources of nitrogen, such as urea, to boost the nitrogen percentage. Be sure to check with the manufacturer to find out if their fish emulsion product is comprised only of organic inputs.


Fish Meals

Common objections to, and prejudices against, fish fertilizers.

Fish is often heated to remove fats and oils to use in various products. The lean carcasses that remain are ground up into a meal and sprayed with phosphoric or sulfuric acid for stabilization and deodorization. Unlike hydrolysates and emulsions, fish meals are not liquid. They have more protein than emulsions, but less than hydrolysates. Fish meals usually have an NPK analysis around 10:6:2 or 12:6:2. The high nitrogen obviously makes them good for vegetative growth and the relatively high phosphorus content makes fish meals good for root development, too. The down side is that fish meals have a strong odor. Fish meals are granular or powder in form, and are usually applied at a rate of 5 to 10 pounds per 100 square feet. They continue to smell for a few days and are therefore usually buried into the root zone. They are not recommended for indoor use because of their odor, but if you can stand the smell, they can be mixed into soils where they act as a slow release fertilizer.

There are some basic objections to using fish fertilizers, which may help you decide to use one versus another.

Fish Emulsions After oils, fats and proteins are removed from fish, a liquid slurry is all that remains. This slurry can be concentrated by evaporating up to half of its liquid, resulting in a syrupy emulsion suitable for use as a fertilizer. Some phosphoric acid is added to stabilize and deodorize things. This lowers the pH of the emulsions, which is still not as low as that of hydrolysates. The cooking segment of the fish emulsion manufacturing process destroys a lot of the fish “goodies” such as the vitamins and hormones so useful to plants and microbes. There is much less protein in emulsions, and fewer solids, but the upside is that fish emulsion is more soluble than other fish fertilizers and cheaper, too. Fish emulsions have an NPK analysis of 5:2:2 or 5:1:1, even though they are known for their micronutrient content. As the most soluble fish fertilizers, they are good for foliar feeding. The fish used to make emulsions are usually “trash” fish, which are harvested only for this purpose and not for

046

It Stinks! One of the biggest concerns about using some fish fertilizers is their smell. Fish meals, for example, smell horrendously. The odor goes away after a few days but using the stuff inside might be problematic, even for those growers with the largest carbon filters! Fish emulsions can also have a strong, offensive odor even when deodorizing agents are added to them. Generally, hydrolysates have much less, if any, offensive odor. While humans may take offense to the smells of fish meals and emulsions, many pets and pests find the odor attractive. Cats, dogs and raccoons love to eat fishmeal and some dogs like to roll in it. If you are concerned about animals disturbing your plants, take protective action.

Toxins Adding to the problems caused by high concentrations of chlorine in the steam water used to cook some fish fertilizers are the existence of other toxins. Some fish fertilizers contain heavy metals like mercury, which are found in fish living at the top of food chains. Concentrating solutions when making emulsions also concentrates these toxins. However, these fertilizers may still be fine for inedible plants.

Sustainability No one should ever buy fish fertilizer made from endangered or depleted fish stocks and some argue that there are good reasons not to buy any fish fertilizer made from “trash” fish. For the most conscientious growers, only waste fish and fish wastes from human consumed fish are acceptable. Again, a little snooping around on the Internet can provide you with the valuable information needed to make a rational purchasing decision.

Unfortunately, the amount of toxins in a fish fertilizer is not going to be listed on the label. However, you can look up individual fertilizers—to determine any heavy metal content—on a great website maintained by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, http://agr.wa.gov/ PestFert/Fertilizers/ FertDB/Product1.aspx.

In this day and age, there are other sustainability considerations. Packaging, energy resources spent on processing and transportation, as well as additives used are all inputs to making a choice as to which category or brand of fish fertilizer to purchase. Again, a little research is worth it in terms of environmental, plant and human health.

consumption by humans. They often contain toxics. Menhaden, for example, spend part of their lives in waters that are heavily polluted with metals. Some freshwater fish that can’t be eaten because they are polluted are also often processed into fish emulsions. Moreover, if the steam employed to strip oils from the fish is from a municipal source, it usually contains chlorine. When the final liquid is concentrated, so is the chlorine—reportedly up to as much as 50%. Chlorine can be harmful to plants and beneficial soil microbes, so you might want to review product material safety data sheet reports to make sure what you buy isn’t too loaded with chlorine.

Application rates of fish emulsions generally run about five or six tablespoons per gallon of water. Fish emulsions are often used in mixtures made up of kelps, other seaweeds and crab shells. They sometimes contain additional materials to raise the NPK. These may not be bad, but you need to take into account what they provide before using these fish fertilizers on your plants.

“Application rates of fish emulsions generally run about five or six tablespoons per gallon of water.”


“The cooking segment of the fish emulsion manufacturing process destroys a lot of the fish “goodies” such as the vitamins and hormones so useful to plants and microbes.” Suitability for hydroponics and foliar applications Fish emulsions and fish hydrolysates can be used in hydroponics systems because they are liquid in form. Emulsions are more soluble and some of their nutrients are plant useable without beneficial microbiology, but both work best in organic systems with microbes. Odor is a concern, especially with emulsions, and toxins may be as well. If you use a filter in your system, fish hydrolysates may need straining to prevent clogging the filter’s fine mesh screen. All of the major hydroponics companies sell fish based hydroponics fertilizers. They also supply lots of information to promote them, but read labels carefully and fish (ouch!) for the necessary information to make an informed decision. You can also request MSDS (material safety data sheets) from these companies.

Fish fertilizers as a catalyst for beneficial biology Organic fish fertilizers excel at supporting the microbe herd that is at the base of the soil food web. They all provide some NPK and most, at least those made from sea fish, also provide trace elements, micronutrients and other good stuff. Fish hydrolysates, in particular, come about as close to duplicating the practice of burying a whole fish. Only the hydrolysis process makes the fish more available to microbes, breaking down large molecules into tiny ones. Microbes can and do happily feed off the organic matter and proteins from the meat and guts. Calcium from the fish bones is also retained in hydrolysates. And, as noted, the oils in hydrosylates make great fungal food for those plants that prefer fungal dominated soils: perennials, trees and shrubs. For this reason, hydrolysates make great fungal food for compost teas.

Fish meals, too, support loads of microbial activity. They contain tremendous amounts of protein and are great foods for bacteria, and annuals and vegetables that prefer a bacterial dominance in their soil. Covered with bacteria, fishmeal added to a compost pile gets the pile cooking due to its high microbial metabolism. In addition, flies (and their larvae) love it, which in turn attracts other members of the soil food web.

Fish Fertilizers: Be an educated consumer Not all products sold as fish fertilizers are made just from fish. Some contain nonfish additives as previously mentioned— primarily seaweed and crab shell. The seaweeds are full of micronutrients, auxins and cytokinins; crab shells provide chitin found in the cell walls of fungi. Sometimes, however, non-organic materials are added to boost NPK, so always read the labels on fish fertilizers.

“No one should ever buy fish fertilizer made from endangered or depleted fish stocks... a little research is worth it in terms of environmental, plant and human health.” The right fish fertilizers, or combinations thereof, can be great for your plants. Fish hydrolysates provide more nutrients and vitamins, hormones and micronutrients. Fish meals are slower acting, more suitable for outdoor use and larger areas. Fish emulsions are ideal for quick-acting foliar sprays. However, while fish fertilizers can be extremely useful, do your homework before buying. Research the web, read labels and know what to ask for and you won’t go wrong. Words: Jeff Lowenfels - author of the best selling gardening book “Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web” from Timber Press. Got a fishy fertilizer tale you wish to share? Email us at rant@urbangardenmagazine.com or post it for all to see on our website, or Facebook thingamajig.

Credit: Diagram courtesy of Dramm Corporation www.dramm.com


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ORGANIC GROWING INDOORS Q&A WORDS: Simon Hart

Prior to Urban Garden’s Grow Expo, in Los Angeles last year, I was given the opportunity to talk about organics on the presenters’ stage. As an organic enthusiast I accepted the opportunity, and decided to solicit composite questions from readers about organics. The following questions are simple, yet their answers can be complex as most relate to microbiology. That, in itself, demonstrates the first rule of organics, especially as it relates to micro flora and fauna. We are only scratching the surface of understanding. Even the most complex and cutting-edge technologies our industry promotes appear unsophisticated and heavy-handed when compared to the nearly incomprehensible biological synergy that exists within functioning ecosystems. The last slide of my presentation simply stated: Experiment and observe. If you are considering organics and microbiology, your garden is cutting-edge. You could be doing a combination of things that have not been used together before. When you make a change in your garden, enjoy the experiment but always observe. A solution is not an answer if you can’t replicate it.

Can you use organics and mineral based nutients together? Do hydro-style nutrients damage microbiology? It is possible to use organics with mineral-based products. In fact, there are many “hybrid” products within the marketplace already. Organic acids such as humates can provide substantial benefits to synthetic forms of nutrients. Stimulants such as kelp and yucca—among others—have also found their way into many products. Clearly organic enhancements to mineral-based programs can provide benefits, though it is up to the gardeners to test what works in their own situations. When it comes to biology in your indoor garden, mineral-based nutrients can cause issues. Soluble phosphorus can inhibit many strains of mycorrhizae, while abundant nitrogen will cause nitrogen-fixing bacteria to become dormant. There are many instances where mineral-based nutrients can damage biology; in this case your indoor garden is no different than conventional agriculture. Remember that in an indoor garden, biological stimulants are a temporary adjustment, whereas in nature they’re in an omnipresent relationship, which builds and diversifies over time. You’ll never duplicate that relationship, so use biological stimulants as temporary and specific beneficial substances instead.

You can cultivate microbes in a soilless medium but it is difficult to find balance and ensure long-term survival. Use biology as you would any other supplement— as a short-term beneficial substance. 050

Can I use organic nutrients in a soilless mix? Can I cultivate beneficial microorganisms in this medium? Organic nutrients can work well in soilless media. If you are using a powder or granular option try and premix it with your medium. Also, consider charging it with some useful beneficial organisms and some enzymes to begin the decomposition process. If you can’t mix with your medium because your plants are already rooted, consider using an organic liquid, which would include digested nutrients and would have a higher initial availability. Using the premix and then adding in liquids is a great way to get the best results out of organics indoors. You can cultivate microbes in a soilless medium but it is difficult to find balance and ensure long-term survival. Use biology as you would any other supplement—as a short-term beneficial substance. Pick a biological option for a specific need and give your medium as heavy an application as necessary.


Can one type of beneficial be too aggressive and will it crowd out other species? Isn’t it all about variety?

Should I use carbohydrates to feed my beneficial? How can carbs help plants?

What is the difference between fungi and bacteria? They are both exceptionally important in the ecosystem, being part of the trophic layer related to decomposition, however they are quite different. Bacteria are unicellular organisms that can rapidly colonize localized areas in soils. Fungi are multi-cellular and slower growing so apply them as soon as possible. What’s more, bacteria can thrive in disturbed soils, but generally fungi can’t as soil disturbances interfere with their mycelia networks. In many cases bacteria and fungi compete, but they can both exist together in a balanced system. Both types of organisms secrete various byproducts such as organic acids that can be exceptionally beneficial to your plants. As with any microbial option, be sure to understand why you are choosing and applying the organism you have selected for use.

Feeding beneficials with simple sugars sounds good in theory but in practice it can cause headaches. When bacteria are exposed to high levels of sugar they begin to frenzy (a desired effect within a high oxygen aerobic compost tea system). The unfortunate problem with this activity is that most beneficial bacteria are aerobic. Aerobic organisms use oxygen during activity. In the root zone where oxygen levels are at a premium, does this type of stimulation make sense or could it lead to anaerobic conditions? Not to suggest the abandonment of a carbohydrate supplement, simply be aware that this reaction can have a negative effect on plant roots and cause a proliferation of pathenogenic microbes stimulated by the lack of oxygen. Sometimes a little is better than a lot. To benefit microbes, consider insoluble humates or substances like Biochar as more persistent sources of carbon. Carbohydrates can help plants but “carbs” come in many forms. Once again, testing is the easiest way to determine if there is a desirable benefit—such as an increase in yield.

In a natural system, biodiversity is the essence of life. The soil food web is sometimes presented in a simple chart— an effective learning tool but an over simplification. The reality is we understand a fraction of the activity that occurs in soil and have identified only a small portion of the organisms that thrive there. In an indoor garden, no matter how talented the grower, it would be sheer arrogance to suggest he has the definitive answer to balancing a complex system of beneficial microbes. Our approach is more hit and miss. Many microbes will not have the required soil conditions to thrive and will die out quickly, whereas some might like the conditions and dominate the root zone. You can only hope that the ones that dominate are beneficial. Be sure to understand the effect of your chosen microbes and apply them frequently to ensure some viable colony exists in your medium. Remember that bacteria can colonize more quickly than most types of beneficial fungi so it’s easier to find benefits from bacteria in short-cycled annual crops. In nature most established ecosystems are usually fungal dominated, however these systems have evolved and been left to mature for exceptionally long periods of time.

When it comes to biology in your indoor garden, mineral-based nutrients can cause issues.


Can mycorrhizae thrive in a water system? Do I need endo- and ecto- varieties? We are only just beginning to understand this 350 million year-old relationship. What we do understand does question the benefit of adding a product like this in the absence of soil or media to colonize. The main functions that we understand about mycorrhizae at this point are the absorption of hygroscopic water which would be unavailable to plants in the absence of their fungal partners, and the exceptional ability of these fungi to acid-mine various minerals that are hard for the plants to access, which includes phosphorus and several micronutrients. Look at a water system in regards to these two main benefits. The constant supply of water over the roots seems to contradict the necessity of these fungi accessing water that plant roots just can’t find. Most gardeners are supplying soluble mineral salts and chelated micronutrients to their water systems so the fungi are rendered ineffective for this purpose as well. In fact if soluble phosphorus is applied at more than 25 ppm in solution, the colonization of the mycelium network is inhibited. If you were to be gardening in a soilless media with organic nutrients, then the mycorrhizae would surely be more beneficial with the introduction of hard-to-access water within the medium and also organic nutrients that needed to be broken down—rock phosphate, for example. It is possible mycorrhizae could create a biofilm around the rhizosphere in a waterbased system and that they could provide benefits outside of the two major points we understand. Remember we have a very limited knowledge of the scope of this relationship. More research is required to get a better understanding and you can always experiment in your own garden. Now, that is cutting-edge!

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A quality compost tea blend is an excellent biological inoculant and, in some cases, could be effective as a foliar spray for disease prevention. Endo- and ecto-mycorrhizae varieties as they relate to the indoor garden has always been a difficult concept for me. I enjoy learning and for all of the science I have reviewed I still can’t understand why someone would add ecto-mycorrhizal fungi into a water system growing annual plants. I pursued the issue with several experts who reaffirmed my thinking on the subject. Unless you are growing conifers or some deciduous trees you really have absolutely no use for ectofungi varieties in your indoor garden. You get way more colony forming units per gram with ecto than you do endo, but at least the lower number of endo are actually doing something for your plants. Most blends that have both are designed for nursery growers so they can just use one product for all of the plants that respond to endo- and ecto-mycorrhizae. This is an important feature for a time and cost sensitive diverse nursery operation; however, remember the concept of biofilms and the limited understanding we have of these organisms. Perhaps there is a positive relationship to adding ectovarieties unrelated to the observed and validated associations. I can never stress enough that if you observe a difference in your garden from the addition of a component try and find a reason, and keep using that product!

What are the benchmarks for a good quality compost tea and what are the scope and limits of its use? There are several professional organizations that provide standards and testing for microbial diversity in compost tea. If you are serious about this beneficial organic option be sure to get your solution tested so you can be sure it truly is beneficial. There is clearly no way to visually assess a compost tea and if it is untested you will have no idea what is going into your soil. A quality compost tea blend is an excellent biological inoculant and in some cases could be effective as a foliar spray for disease prevention. Note: it is far easier to amplify bacterial populations in a short-cycled compost tea brewer, but you can still charge your medium with many other soil dwelling organisms when applying your brew.


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In Deep: Expert Q&A on Microbes, Compost & Organic Nutrients Dr. Carole Ann Rollins quizzes Dr. Elaine Ingham on harnessing the power of microbes, compost and organic nutrients.

If you really want to learn about organic growing, why not pick the brains of world-renowned experts — if you get the chance! Turns out, you’re in luck! Recently we were fortunate enough to be able to eavesdrop on some highly enlightening Q&A sessions between two PhD wielding friends of ours, Drs. Carole Ann Rollins and Elaine Ingham. The insights revealed will blow your mind and can be put to good use in your garden today! Make sure you check this out!

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CAROLE: Can you explain in simple terms how a plant goes about obtaining the different nutrients it requires from the soil in a regular outdoor setting? ELAINE: In different parts of a growing cycle a plant needs different nutrients, so the plant sends out food to certain microbes that it “knows” (a process of selection that has happened over the course of millennia) will result in the nutrients it needs being made available at that particular time of its growing cycle. A plant feeds the organisms it needs, changing pH by altering fungal or bacterial foods to grow bacteria or fungi, thus producing the pH it needs to have more or less of this or that nutrient solubilized by bacteria or fungi. The increased bacteria and fungal populations then attract protozoa, nematodes, microarthropods and/or earthworms to eat those bacteria and fungi. So, the right nutrients, in the right amounts are released in the right place, i.e., right around the roots. A plant is in control of its own nutrient requirements, and it knows, way better than people do, what it needs.

Plant - Microbe Interaction It’s all about teamwork! Plant roots exude carbohydrates for microbes to feed on. In return, microbes break down organic materials into plant accessible nutrients.

CAROLE: Okay, let’s say a plant needs more nitrate, which requires alkaline conditions to be made. What will the plant do in order to get more nitrate around its roots? ELAINE: The plant puts out the exudates (sugars) that will encourage the bacteria that produce alkaline byproducts in order to make sure the pH shifts to alkaline. The plant then feeds the particular foods to stimulate the nitrifying bacteria, which make the enzymes take the hydrogen ions from the ammonium molecule, so nitrate is made in a two-step process. CAROLE: So you’re saying that the microbiology around roots actually relies on food from the plant? ELAINE: Pretty much all organisms around roots rely on the plant for food in one way or another. Additional foods that help supplement what a plant directly provides is contained in general organic matter. CAROLE: Why do we apply compost or compost tea then? ELAINE: To supply the organisms that are missing from your soil or plant surfaces,

Compost Process In nature, nothing is wasted! Organic matter (leaves, flowers, fruits, stems) decays back into the soil and enriches it with nutrients for the next generation. Life goes on...


and to add additional foods so those organisms have something to eat when a plant isn’t specifically feeding them CAROLE: So is it a good idea to feed the organisms in a compost before you spread the compost or make it into compost tea? ELAINE: You would want to feed a compost so the balance you need between the organisms is right. Part of the trick is to look at what is currently in your soil, and then make sure that the compost and/ or tea contains the missing organisms. The compost doesn’t need to supply all the organisms. It just needs to supply the missing ones. Diversity in compost is probably more important than getting the balance in the compost adjusted perfectly for your plants. The fine adjustments of balance will happen in your soil. Just make sure the plants you are growing are the ones you want, and not plants that grow because the nutrient concentrations are all out of whack, and set for weed growth, and not crop growth. A plant will fine-tune balance of species, or function, if it has the organisms that do the various things it needs. Thus, diversity is a really important thing for growers to focus on and maintain, along with keeping a soil habitat aerobic. It is easier to increase the organisms missing in your soil by adding compost than to try to add the specific foods or mineral nutrients to the soil and hope they get to where you need them to be to help your plant. REMEMBER: Organic matter is plant material that has partly decomposed. All nutrients except carbon are therefore concentrated as compared to the original plant material, as long as the process remained aerobic. Properly made compost should therefore contain all the nutrients a plant needs, in higher concentrations than the plant actually needs. The limitation in most soils is the lack of organisms to do the work of cycling nutrients from plant not-available forms to plant available forms.

“Part of the trick is to look at what is currently in your soil, and then make sure that the compost and/or tea contains the missing organisms.”


CAROLE: Is it the case that soils growing plants that are diseased, or that show signs of lack of nutrition, just need a boost with the balance of organisms? Would it be safe to say that organic fertilizer is not needed in soils if you’re applying good quality compost before planting? ELAINE: You should add any organism group to the soil that is lacking in diversity or balance, or is below the minimum thresholds to produce adequate yields. How many bacterial or fungal species, or foods, or protozoa, or beneficial nematodes are needed? First, assess these groups in your soil to determine what is lacking. (For more information on identifying beneficial microbiology see Urban Garden Magazine Issue 6, pp. 62–65.) Check the balance of bacteria and fungi in the soil, and then in the compost. Enhance your compost by adding the microbe groups that are currently too low in biomass, activity or diversity. Then apply that compost, and check, about two weeks after application, that the life in the soil is changing in a beneficial direction. Compost is classified by some people as an organic fertilizer. But possibly we need to use that term fertilizer with a degree of care. To many people, the term fertilizer implies inorganic, salt forms of nutrients. To others, fertilizer means anything that benefits plant growth. The question being asked might actually be whether any other form of amendment is needed if the compost being used is good compost and provides the nutrients and biology the soil needs. The answer would be, no other amendment would be needed, other than the plant residues that will grow. But, if a compost is lacking something, then other amendments would be needed. Those other materials, like microbial inoculants, humic acids, kelp, green sand, etc. might be needed if the compost isn’t really up to par. CAROLE: So if we add food to a compost to get more organisms growing, what exactly is compost? ELAINE: Compost is a mix of plant materials, the more kinds the better because then more of the foods needed to grow a huge diversity of microbes will be present, and the organisms that decompose that plant material. Where

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do the organisms come from in compost? They were on the surfaces of the plant material the pile was made from, so again, the more types of plant materials added, the greater the diversity of organisms in the pile. CAROLE: Would you class kelp as an organic fertilizer? ELAINE: Kelp is plant material from the sea, that has been dried and ground up. Kelp has not been through the composting process so it cannot be labeled compost in any way, but it contains many plant nutrients—whatever was in the kelp as it was growing. Thus it is an organic fertilizer as long as we do not limit the definition of fertilizer to inorganic salt forms. CAROLE: How do we make the nutrients in kelp available to the plant? ELAINE: Bacteria and fungi would need to grow on the plant material (i.e., decomposition must occur), the bacteria and fungi have to be eaten by protozoa, nematodes and microarthropods in order to release the nutrients in a plant usable form. That’s what is going on in a composting process. Kelp is plant material used because it contains high levels of certain nutrients. CAROLE: Do bacteria or fungi convert or release any nutrients directly without being eaten by protozoa or nematodes? ELAINE: Care must be taken with the word, “release.” What is really meant? Release would require that the organism take up the nutrients into the biomass of the organism, and then process to release those nutrients in a different form. When enzymes alter substances outside the body of the microbe, real uptake is not performed, and thus release is not involved. Consider Carbon to Nitrogen ratios (C:N). Bacteria (C:N around 5:1) have to concentrate N because they consume, or eat things that have a wider C:N, say on average around 30:1. Bacteria therefore cannot release any N, they have to hold onto all of it, or they would die from too low N levels. Presumably, to the best of our knowledge, the same is true for P, K, S, Ca, etc. Bacteria have to hold all other nutrients except of C, because all their food resources are too high in C, or

too low in other nutrients. Given that bacterial enzymes are much, much better than fungal enzymes for competing for the simple, easy-to-use substrates or foods, fungi get stuck having to make do with the wider C:N ratio foods, like wood, sawdust, corn cobs, standing dead grass material. That means they too do not release any nutrient on their own, they must concentrate it. Fungal foods generally have a C:N of 100:1 or higher, while a fungal biomass has 20:1. there’s no release from fungi or bacteria on their own. They are retainers, holders and “sequesterers” of nutrients. CAROLE: Do fungi release any Nitrogen? ELAINE: No, fungi are retainers of nutrients, even carbon, because they leave carbon behind in their hyphae, rather like railroad tracks, which the fungi can re-use if they need. This is unlike bacteria, which release copious amounts of carbon as CO2. Bacteria are the real problem when we look at elevated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Humans have enhanced so many bacterial decomposition processes, to the detriment of fungal decomposition, that the imbalances are even being seen in the atmosphere of the planet. CAROLE: Humic acid is a good fungal food, does it therefore have a C:N of 100:1? ELAINE: Some humic acid products have a C:N around 30:1, mainly because of the perception that the only way to grow plants is to add the inorganic forms of N the plant needs. As soon as people realize this is only necessary if the nutrientcycling life in the soil has been destroyed— by tillage, toxic chemicals, a lack of adding foods for the microbes back into the soil— then people will get off the kick of adding inorganic salts to everything. Humic acid should have C:N ratios more in the 60:1, or 150:1 to 200:1 ratio, because humics are made of long, long, long chains of carbon, with long side chains of mostly carbon, many ring structures, and unusual bonds. Humics are highly condensed, with many, many branches and complex binding within the molecule. CAROLE: What about sea kelp? ELAINE: The first flush of kelp growth after a dormant period has a high concentration of N, around a C:N of 10:1.


As that first flush is diluted by photosynthesis which proceeds rapidly, the GREEN plant material has a C:N of 30:1. Kelp, if harvested green has a C:N around 30:1 like any other plant. If harvested after it becomes dormant, then the “standing dead” material, which easily breaks off and washes up on shore, will have a C:N upwards of 150 to 200. CAROLE: What happens if the kelps dries? Will the plant material lose any nutrient content? ELAINE: If the drying process is rapid, within a few hours to days, and stays aerobic through that whole process (no loss of nutrients by volatilization), it should not lose any nutrients except water... Distinguish drying from burning to make charcoal, for example, which is a totally different process.

About the Authors Dr. Elaine Ingham Dr. Elaine Ingham is President of Soil Foodweb Inc, an international laboratory system that assesses the balance of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, and mycorrhizal fungi in all materials. The major emphasis of her work is to return health to soil, so that natural nutrient cycling and disease suppression mechanisms are present, allowing desired plants to grow without requiring use of pesticides or inorganic fertilizers. Contact Info: Sustainable Studies Institute, 1750 S.W. 3rd St., Suite C, Corvallis, OR 97330, 541-752-5066 Website Address: www.sustainablestudies.org Email Address: info@sustainablestudies.org

Dr. Carole Ann Rollins Dr. Carole Ann Rollins is co-owner with her husband of Nature Technologies International LLC located in Novato, California, which produces organic alternatives to toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers: Nature’s Solution brand of compost tea, ancient humate, sea kelp, mycorrhizae, worm castings, compost tea brewers, solution ingredients, and books. She has co-authored and compiled several books, manuals, posters and articles with Dr. Elaine Ingham. Contact Info: Nature’s Solution, P.O. Box 1519. Novato, CA 94948, 415898-5895 Website Address: www.nature-technologies.com Email Address: naturetech@earthlink.net


Redworm Habitats The redworm’s native habitat is on open grassland, especially where there is plenty of animal manure for them to feed on. You will find these worms in great numbers on farmlands, particularly around animal pens and manure piles. The anaerobic bacteria in their manure is what gives it that distinctively unpleasant smell! The worms consume and aerate the manure, thus reducing the odor. They are top feeders that are found in the top 6-8 inches of the soil. Farmers that use pesticides will have very few worms and a very smelly farm.

Euro Habitats

THE WORLD OF WORMS Let’s hear it for worms! They not only help to increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil, but they also play a key part in breaking down organic matter into forms that plants can use as food. And even if that weren’t enough, they also leave behind castings (worm poop) that rank as one of the most highly prized fertilizers on the planet. Ask any seasoned organic grower (indoors or outdoors) and they’ll tell you that worm castings are where it’s all at. But why are they so special and what are the metrics of quality? We decided it was about time we learnt more about worms and the rich, wholesome, soil enriching castings they produce so we brought in seasoned vermiculture expert, Larry Martin, to bring us up to speed on Mother Nature’s soil workers. There are over 7,000 species of worms, but only two species, the Redworms (Eisenia fetida) and the European Nightcrawler (Eisenia hortensis) are widely used in vermiculture—farming worms and harvesting their castings and vermicomposting - using worms to create

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compost out of organic waste. If you want to breed your own worms and create your own worm castings the first thing you need to do is look at your chosen species of worm’s native habitat to get a good idea how they might function in a worm growing operation. Redworms and Euros are from the same genus and share a lot of the same traits, but they are actually different species.

The Euros native habitat is the forested areas of Hungary, but they are now found in other areas of Europe and the USA. In Europe, due to their forest dwelling attributes, they are also known as the ‘leaf worm’, consuming the leaf litter and animal waste on the floor of the forests. They burrow much deeper than redworms and can be found up to three feet beneath the soil surface. These two earthworms have a lot in common and can be raised together for home use in vermicomposting bins (more on that later). It’s preferable to raise them separately if the excess worms will be sold. The Euros are a larger and tougher worm, which makes them a great worm for fishing as well as for vermicomposting and gardening. The redworms breed quickly and produce more offspring than Euros but, pound for pound, Euros consume more organic matter than redworms.

“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.” - William Shakespeare Worm Species Reds: Common names for the Eisenia fetida are redworms, red wigglers, manure worm and composting worm. Euros: Common names for Eisenia hortensis include Euros, European Nightcrawler, ENC, Dendros and Big Reds.


How Worms Work Earthworms have no teeth, but daily they consume their own weight in decomposing organic matter and microorganisms, from which they derive their nutrients. The crop and gizzards help breakdown their food, and astonishingly, worms have five hearts to pump blood throughout their body. Worms breathe through their skin and must live in a moist environment. As organic matter passes through a worm’s intestines, it becomes inoculated with many more micro-organisms. A worm ‘cast’ is produced after a worm feeds. This worm poop is rich in nutrients and beneficial soil bacteria. On the way through the worm’s body, the calciferous gland coats each tiny casting with different thicknesses of calcium that are readily available for the plants to uptake. It is the multiple layers of calcium that make worm castings a sustainable slow release fertilizer. This encapsulates all the plant nutrients and microorganisms with the correct amount of moisture that will keep the nutrients and microorganisms viable for up to three years when stored properly. Both species are true hermaphrodites. The smooth band or “Clitellum” near the head end of the worm is formed at maturity. On the underside of the Clitellum there are two pores that release the sperm on one side and two pores that release ovum. They mate head to head so both can share the sperm and ovum. They also secrete albumin (a water soluble protein) to feed the developing baby worms within the cocoon, and mucous to make the protective cover around the cocoon. The cocoons can stay dormant and remain viable for a year or more and will not hatch until the right moisture, temperature and the proper microorganisms are present. Given optimal conditions, a cocoon will hatch in a couple of weeks and produce one to four small pinkish baby worms about ¼ inch long. Given the right conditions, it takes them three to four months to reach

Right Diagram: ‘How Worms Work’ General Earthworm Anatomy

Vermicompost and Worm Castings - Know The Difference! maturity. The vermicomposting process greatly reduces the volume of material in the finished product. For example, 20 cubic yards of compost or compostable organic matter processed through the worm would reduce the volume to between 10 and two cubic yards of a much denser finished product – Vermicompost, not pure worm castings. So what actually is the difference between vermicompost and worm castings? Vermicompost is the end product of adding worms to decaying plant debris to speed up the process of breaking down the organic matter (compost). After removing the worms from the process, what remains is the vermicompost. Vermicompost will have typically not been screened and not all of the organic material will have passed

through the worm. Worm Castings (aka ‘worm humus,’ ‘worm manure’ and ‘vermicasts’) are literally worm poop that has been separated from vermicompost by passing it through a 1/8th inch screen. All of the organic matter that has not passed through the worm is removed, leaving just worm castings. A really good Vermicompost will contain 40 to 60% pure worm castings, but many products out there contain significantly less. Much like thermal compost, vermicompost is a highly variable product. Some manufacturers add pure worm castings to cured compost, this is slightly different and is called a blend. The advantage of a blend is that you know the percentage of both the castings and the compost that is being purchased. As with any product, it’s always advisable to do some research before buying vermicompost to ensure you are purchasing a good quality, effective product.

“Both species are true hermaphrodites. The smooth band or “Clitellum” near the head end of the worm is formed at maturity. On the underside of the Clitellum there are two pores that release the sperm on one side and two pores that release ovum.”


Stacked Worm Bin Doing it Yourself with Vermicomposters Also known as a ‘worm bin’ or ‘wormery’, a vermicomposter is a vessel in which vermicompost and worm castings are produced. There are many types of contraptions in which worms can live and produce valuable plant amendments; they range from huge worm bins used in commercial production, to small plastic boxes you can use at home.

Worm Bin Tips A simple worm bin can be purchased online or you can easily use your DIY skills, purchase a similar bin or tote from a DIY store and make your own. If there is a strong chemical smell coming out of the bin you will need to let it air out for several days or fill it with water and place in the sun for a couple of days. The pliable plastic bins contain chemicals that leach out and may slowly kill the worms! Any of the food grade plastics will not cause any harm. It’s a good idea to drill 12-15 ¼ inch holes in the bottom to allow air flow. The multiple stacked vermicompost bins look quite glitzy, but they can have a high failure rate if Redworms are used because they often drown in the reservoir at the bottom of the unit. Also, worms have minds of their own and it is usually hard to ‘train’ the worms to migrate to the

Simple Worm Bin “If there is a strong chemical smell coming out of the bin you will need to let it air out for several days or fill it with water and place in the sun for a couple of days. The pliable plastic bins contain chemicals that leach out and may slowly kill the worms!”

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upper tray. A larger ground vermicomposting bin can be made from 2x12 lumber or cinder blocks. For a bin that would deal with a family of four, simply make a raised bed that is 2 feet wide by 3 feet long with weed block placed on the bottom—this will help to keep the moles from dining on your worms. In-ground worm bins should be located in partial shade to avoid temperature extremes. In any worm bin, a combination of the Redworms and Euros work very well together. The Redworms are surface feeders and the Euros feed both surface and subsurface. The main difference between the two species is that the Redworm still has an aquatic gene that attracts them to the water. If the mix of materials becomes too wet in the vermicomposter, they will preferentially stay in the water and die in less than 24 hours. Other than checking the moisture content, you can tell if the mix is too wet dead worm odor is really, really nasty. Some worm bins have a reservoir and tap in the bottom to catch and pour the “worm tea”. A lot of this liquid is from the fresh fruits and veggies that are 90% water. Some of the directions sold with the bin encourage the use of excess water to make ‘worm tea.’ which at that point is actually ‘garbage tea!’ Tea is best made from the finished vermicompost or worm castings, which when applied will not burn the plants.

Ground Worm Bin


Right: Introducing 20LB composting worms.

Bedding The first step is filling your worm bin half way with ‘bedding’ - brown (carbon) coarse organic matter to trap oxygen below the surface. The best bedding is made with stuff taken from your own compost heap. Bedding materials such as shredded paper and/or cardboard that is commonly used will pack too tight and cut off the oxygen needed to sustain healthy worm populations. However both may be used in moderation in combination with the following materials: Pine shavings from rabbit cages or horse stalls, chopped woody plant stems from the garden and shredded dead small branches. After adding your bedding to the worm bin, water well to make sure that there are no dry spots. Tip: Do not use any cedar shavings or pine straw in bedding mixes as they are high in harmful resins.

So What do Worms Like to Eat? Use a mix of green veggie waste from the kitchen or garden, plus fruits, grass, etc. for your nitrogen source. Do not overload it with any one item. It is ok to use citrus

“Remember, what is grown in our earth can be recycled through our earthworms and returned to Mother Nature. Be aware that feedstock used from municipal composting operations may contain heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides and sometime sewer sludge.“

waste, but don’t go to a juicer and put a ton of it in at a time. Do not use meat, cheese or other milk products, these take too long to break down and will encourage animals to dig up your worm beds. The wastes should be chopped up so it will break down quicker. The quality of the vermicompost can be improved with the addition of a tablespoonful of a quality rock dust once a month. Microbial inoculants are also a great additive to increase the microbial population and rapidly break down the organic matter, as well as to help convert the rock dust to usable minerals for plant uptake. Remember, what is grown in our earth can be recycled through our earthworms and returned to Mother Nature. Be aware that feedstock used from municipal composting operations may contain heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides and sometime sewer sludge. Leaves and twigs picked up by the city curbside programs often have traces of antifreeze, oil and other contaminates from the roads. The worms do a great job reducing contaminates, but do not complete eliminate them. If you put garbage into your vermicomposting you will get garbage out of the back end of those worms!

Buying worms – Buyers Beware! Try to find someone locally that is vermicomposting and purchase worms from them. If that doesn’t work try the Internet but do some checks to make sure that this person has been in business for more than a week. Worms are usually purchased by the pound. Sounds simple enough, but there are some different opinions in what constitutes a pound of worms. Some will include the weight of the bedding in the pound of worms. But a pound of worms should be just that – one pound of worms. This should exclude the ¾ to 1 pound of bedding that is mixed with the 1 pound worms to keep them alive while in transit. The rule of thumb is to purchase ½ to 1 pound of worms per sq. ft. of your vermicomposting bin. Next, put the worms to work. A mixture of the worms and their bedding is a great way of inoculating the garden, planter box or other growing containers. The partially vermicomposted bedding will give the plants a shot in the arm. The worms will start to work aerating the soil and converting the organic matter to the nutrients NPK, Calcium, Iron, etc., plus microorganisms need for a healthy soil food web.

A Quick and Easy Worm Tea – Place two cups of vermicompost in a recycled milk jug(s), fill with water and shake well several times during the day.

The next day it is ready to use. When using this tea for recovering stressed plants, shake the tea well before watering.

When applying to healthy plants simply watered with the clearer tea leaving the debris in the jug.

Alternatively you can pour the clear liquid through cotton or cheese cloth filter into a spray bottle, this solution can then be used as foliar spray which will give the plants a boost of nutrients, and populate the foliage with beneficial bacteria to help protect against pests and disease.

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Tips & General info: Beneficial Biology: A good quality vermicompost will have a minimum of the following microbes; Aerobic & Facultative Bacteria, Yeast, Actinomycetes, Pseudomonads & Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria. Do not dry out the vermicompost. 30 to 40% moisture content is necessary to maintain the micro-life of the product. Do not freeze as it will kill most all of the microbes and storing above 100 degrees will also have a deleterious effect. Nutrients: Calcium, Magnesium, Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potassium, Manganese, Boron, Iron & Zinc. Hopefully it will be very low in the heavy metals and free of E. coli and Salmonella. Some really great quality vermicompost contain less heavy metals than in some municipal drinking water systems! Application Rates: For good quality Vermicompost, use 15-25% as a soil amendment for growing veggies and up to 30-40% for plants with a higher nutrients demand such as fast growing annuals, trees and shrubs. For large outdoor plots use two tons per acre or 80LB per 1000 ft2. If using high quality worm castings, use 50% of the above recommendations. Teas: Generally speaking aerobic teas made using a quality vermicompost are often superior to that of aerobic tea made with only thermal compost. However, teas made with only vermicompost will more often than not be dominated by bacteria and low on fungi. The best approach for a diverse range of soil food web organisms is to use both types of compost as a microbe source.

Consumer Quality Control Test: 1. Use empty 20oz. drink bottles. 2. Place 3oz. worm castings in each labeled test bottle. 3. Fill each bottle about ¾ full with water. 4. Shake vigorously for two to three minutes. 5. Let it set for 25 or 30 minutes.

First, check to see what, if anything, is floating on the surface. This is a good way to check if there are any weed seeds and how much unconsumed junk is floating. Next, check out the sediment layers. If the manufacturer has used sand as filler, it will be the first to settle out at the bottom. What is the color of the layers? The darker the color the more pure castings will be in the product.

“Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.” - David Gerrold

When purchasing vermicompost, make sure that the bag is not air tight. Invariably the vermicompost will have some worms and egg cocoons, that will hatch. They require a lot of oxygen as do the micro-organisms. Without some air flow they will die and really smell bad. Pure worm castings have a shelf life or around two years, after this the micro-life will begin to diminish. When buying worm castings for the first time, ask the retailer if you can open up the bag. There should be a pleasant earthy odor and a nice uniform texture, much like coffee grounds. The color of the castings should be should be light to dark black. Words: Larry Martin

Purchasing Tips:

EVEREST’s TOP TIPS

WATERING: Top Tip

Always ensure you get some runoff when watering your plants. No runoff means water may not be reaching all parts of the pot. This picture shows a poor cucumber plant that’S not been watered enough on each watering. Note the roots have not grown at the bottom of the pot. 066 UGM_Fundamentals-Worms.indd 8

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Stop the Rot!

How to fight Mildew + Botrytis with Natural Foliar Sprays It’s enough to bring a grown man to tears. Spotting powdery mildew on your leaves during veg, or finding botrytis (flower rot) while you’re harvesting can be a real heart stopper. But once you’ve had a battle with botrytis or a mêlée with mildew (and hopefully come out on top) you invariably develop into a better, more confident, grower. Savvy growers, instead of reaching for the chemicals, look to a cue from Mother Nature in their search for effective biological products that can prevent and treat certain fungal diseases. The most notable are a specific group of naturally occurring bacteria that can be used to prevent and control fungal infections. These bacteria are called Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus pumilis. So what are these strange Latin names and, most importantly, how can we use these bacteria to help us grow healthier, happier, and more productive plants? We asked Emily Walter from Agraquest, a provider of biological and low-chemical pest management solutions, to give us the lowdown on our friendly neighborhood fungal disease controllers.

Fungal diseases are a common issue among gardeners. And some of the more common diseases that gardeners struggle to control are powdery mildew and botrytis. Mildew can cause significant damage on some plants. It’s a common, but rarely fatal disease which affects many different types of plants. Most gardeners resort to removing infected plants, but often, the best strategy combines control and treatment.

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POWDERY MILDEW ON SQUASH LEAF Squash leaves are particularly susceptible to powdery mildew fungal infections. With severe infections leaf discoloration and necrosis occurs.

So What Exactly Is Powdery Mildew? Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that causes patches of white to gray powder on leaves, stems, fruits or flowers of infected plants. These patches can grow to cover the entire surface on both sides of leaves. Different strains of fungi cause the disease on different plants, but they are all similar in appearance. On some types of plants, the mildew will cause leaves to yellow and prematurely drop, or can cause stunted or deformed plant growth, and eventual plant decline. Mildew thrives in cool, damp conditions with poor air circulation. Indoor and greenhouse growers listen up!

What about Botrytis? The dreaded botrytis or ‘gray mold’ is a fungal disease that infects many annual and perennial plants. There are several species of the fungus botrytis which can cause significant plant damage; the most common is Botrytis cinerea. Botrytis infections are favored by cool and humid conditions, and are most common during rainy spring and summer weather when temperatures hover around 60°F (15°C). Gray mold can take hold and spread rapidly if your indoor garden sustains long periods of high relative humidity, or outdoors when rainy, drizzly weather


ICON Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM) showing a healthy fungal spore on the surface of a leaf.

Growers should be extra vigilant as crops approach maturity and post-harvest.

Image credit - AgraQuestInc

BEFORE

AFTER SEM showing a destroyed fungal spore after foliar application of the beneficial bacteria Bacillus subtilis strain QST713. The Bacillus bacteria are the small rod shaped organisms around the top of the picture. Image credit - AgraQuest Incmagna aliqua.

BOTRYTIS LEAVES Overlapping leaves and no air movement can create wet patches on leaves – the perfect environment for botrytis spore to germinate on this hydroponically grown sage plant.

Plant breeders often select specimens that show resistance to common fungal diseases. This has lead to many different varieties of fruits, flowers and vegetables that have an ever increasing resistance to fungal diseases.

continues over several days. Botrytis can affect leaves, stems, crowns, flowers, flower buds, seeds, seedlings, bulbs and just about any other part of a plant with the exception of the roots.

Steps Towards Prevention Good cultural practices can help prevent and control the spread of fungal issues. The first and most important step toward prevention is to select healthy plants in the first place; these will be more likely to resist fungal attacks.

If you have no choice but to use susceptible types of plants outdoors, make sure they are in full sun and will receive a minimum of six hours of sun each day. Isn’t UV radiation great? Indoors, however tempting as it may be, never overcrowd your plants! Allow plenty of fresh air to circulate around your plants, this will discourage disease. When growing indoors, it’s absolutely crucial to focus on maintaining adequate ventilation. Carefully remove infected fruits, flowers or mildew covered leaves. It is best not to do any removal of diseased plants


If you encounter a heavily infected leaf, fruit, or flower and are worried about spreading spores around your garden, carefully cover the moldy item with a plastic bag before attempting removal. This way, spores end up in the bag rather than all over your garden!

when they are wet with dew or rain since this could spread fungal spores during conditions which favor infections. Likewise, avoid overhead watering or misting plants especially if fungal disease has been troublesome in the past. Always throw away infected plant debris instead of placing it on the compost pile. Spores can overwinter on diseased plant material. New spores can be carried by the wind, so destroying the infected plant parts are essential to help stop the spread of plant disease pathogens. In an effort to keep fungal diseases at bay, it’s good general practice to keep your indoor garden as clean and tidy as possible. Avoid leaving yellowing or dead leaves hanging from plants, and never keep piles old leaves and trash bags in or near you indoor garden.

Fungal Control Options There are many chemical controls on the market but they do have some drawbacks. Some controls have temperature and timing restrictions impacting applications or harvest of your crops. Some diseases become resistant to certain chemicals over time as well. If you are using IPM (Integrated Pest Management) in the garden, you will want to preserve beneficial insects, which can be impacted by some chemical controls. Additionally, not all chemical fungicide treatments are acceptable for consumable plants. Some chemicals can only be used when the plant is dormant or cannot be used when the plant is close to harvest time. Carefully read fungicide labels to discover which is right for your particular need.

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Beneficial Bacteria Bacillus as a Fungicide Another way to control plant diseases is to use products based on beneficial bacterial, specifically Bacillis subtilis or Bacillis pumilis. Both of these bacteria are common found in soil and have been used in horticulture and agriculture for many years. Bacillus subtilis are naturally-occurring soil borne bacteria, first characterized in 1835. Over the years varying strains of B. subtilis have been widely used for industrial processes (like detergents or waste water treatments). Bacillus subtilis strains produce extremely photo – and temperature – stable bacterial spores, making them ideal for gardening applications. B. subtilis is also Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) by the EPA. Some strains of Bacillus subtilis are active ingredients in highly effective, broad-spectrum contact fungicides and bactericides. The Bacillus subtilis in these products produce lipopeptides, which are anti-fungal metabolites and antibacterial compounds. These lipopeptide compounds that Bacillus subtilis produce kill fungal spores and they are highly stable, resistant to elevated temperature and pH extremes. Lipopeptides are small peptide rings with a lipid (fat) attached. One end of the lipopeptide is negatively charged, the other is “greasy”. A fungal cell membrane can be compared to a sandwich - with hydrophilic (water-loving) surface and a lipophilic (fat-loving) core. The lipopeptides insert into those fungal cell membranes and create small holes in a

PRACTICAL TIPS:

1. When Do I Use It? Most Bacillus subtilis or pumilus products can be sprayed as a preventative measure or be used as a curative control. They can be applied early on in the plant’s lifecycle on established cuttings or seedlings, and as late as the day of harvest on mature plants. Most growers freak out at the mere idea of spraying mature flowers or ripe fruit, but these natural Bacillus products are safe for human consumption and actively kill fungal growth.

2. Spray timing When using outdoors, it’s best to spray in early morning or late afternoon when light intensity is not too strong. Sunlight contains a natural broad spectrum microbe inhibitor, Ultra Violet light. If applied during strong sunlight, the UV may prevent some Bacillus products from working effectively. When spraying indoors, it’s also good practice to spray in low light. This may mean raising your grow lights up high before spraying, or spray just before the lights come on or go off.


Practical Tips:

3. Spraying the plants The best fungal control is achieved when the plants are thoroughly wet, and run-off spray is dripping from the leaves. It’s a good idea to use a wetting agent for increased coverage. Avoid adding other foliar additives or nutrients as this may interact negatively with the beneficial bacteria. Spray the underside and top side of the leaves as well as any exposed stems. Sprays can be repeated every 3-4 days if plants are heavily infected, or every 7-10 days as a preventative.

4.What products contain Bacillus subtilis or pumilus for foliar fungal disease control? Most good quality compost teas will contain some Bacillus subtilis and pumilus strains, so regular spraying can help with disease prevention. For a more targeted fungal control, the patented Bacillus subtilis strain QST 713 can be found in the commercial product ‘Serenade.’ Other Bacillus subtilis strains are used for root disease control, these include strains GB 03 found in the microbial inoculant ‘Companion’ and strain MBI 600 found pre-mixed into the substrate ‘Pro Mix MX with BioFungicide’.

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preventative disease control program or at the very first sign of disease. Beneficial bacteria can be used in conjunction with other gardening products. Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus pumilis can be applied every seven days up to the day of harvest if needed. Beneficial bacteria can be applied more often if needed such as every four days during heavy disease pressure. When applying either type of bacteria as a foliar spray one should spay the leaves, shoots and new growth until the plant is dripping wet. Run-off spray will not affect beneficial soil fungi like mycorrhiza. When a gardener is planning to use beneficial bacteria or an organic gardening product to prevent or control fungal and bacterial diseases they should scout the garden often to look for any signs of disease. Strains of these beneficial bacterial can also be found in some compost teas since it can promote plant health and growth promotion.

fungal spore. As, they puncture the membrane, cell contents leak out and the fungus is killed. Some B. subtilis products rely on prolonged wet periods on the leaf surface for the bacteria to become active, produce lipopeptides and then out-compete the fungal spores for leaf surface area. This is not the case with all products – the specific Bacillus subtilis strain QST 713 is unique in that it does not require time to activate, since the bacteria have already done their job producing the lipopeptide metabolites during production. Information about the active ingredient and how it works should be found on the container label of the product you decide to use.

Some Bacillus subtilis strains also illicit plant health and growth promotion in treated plants. When applied, these strains can trigger the plant’s internal defenses and physiological responses. The effect is systemic responses are triggered throughout the plant even when a small area is treated. Problem-Solver-Icons_pete_2.pdf

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Products based on Bacillus pumilis strains are useful for gardeners for similar reasons. While products based on B. subtilis destroy fungal cell membranes, products based on B. pumilis instead focus on fungal cell walls. The compounds produced by B. pumilis compete with fungal diseases for amino sugars needed to build cell walls, effectively making it impossible for fungal cells to build and grow. B. pumilis does not control bacterial diseases. Instead, it is strongest against rust and mildews. B. pumilis is typically used by a gardener when targeting a specific type of fungal infection that is better controlled by this specific bacteria over the more broad spectrum approach of B. subtilis. Also, B. pumilis strains, like those of B. subtilis, have been shown to trigger plants’ natural defenses. Both of these beneficial bacteria are best used when applied to plants in a

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Got a story about botrytis or mildew that you’d like to share? Email us at rant@ urbangardenmagazine.com or go on our website and post it there for all to see.

Indoor growers should keep their oscillating fans on 24/7


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The Vermi T™ Bio-Cartridge is available in both 5 and 10 gallon sizes. These cartridges contain a culture of biology and through the extraction process it is multiplied over 9 billion times. The end result is a highly concentrated liquid form of beneficial biology that makes your plants thrive. Vermi T™ Solution - Go Get it!

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A Plant’s Best Friend? Trichoderma In Hydroponic Systems By Dr Lynette Morgan 074


What is Trichoderma? Trichoderma is a naturally occurring genus of soil fungi that has been known to possess bio-control qualities against a number of plant pathogens since the 1920s. While there are a number of plantassociated microbes, both fungi and bacteria, which are strongly beneficial to plants, none has been more intensively studied than Trichoderma. Stable and effective preparations of Trichoderma have also been formulated into a range of bio-control or “effective microorganism� products readily available on the market for both large-scale commercial producers and smaller home gardeners. Although Trichoderma is naturally endemic to soil and decomposing organic matter, it is well proven to have significant beneficial effects in soilless systems and formulations have been developed specifically for hydroponic use. While Trichoderma can be highly effective as both a pathogen control agent and growth promotant, it is a living organism and, as such, requires specific conditions for establishment and long term use within a hydroponic system.

Wondering what the numbers in brackets are all about? Check out this article’s references online at www.urbangardenmagazine.com

How does Trichoderma operate? Many species of Trichoderma, if given optimal conditions, establish stable and longlasting colonizations of root surfaces and even penetrate into the epidermis (outer layer of root tissue) and a few cells below this level (1). This intimate relationship between Trichoderma and the host root cells is what induces localized and systemic resistance responses to pathogen attack. Along with root penetration, Trichoderma produces a range of antibiotic substances, can strongly compete with other micro-organisms for food, and produce enzymes that can degrade cellulose and chitin. Trichoderma also has the ability to dissolve the cell wall membranes of pathogenic fungi. Initially Trichoderma species were only thought to have suppressive effects on a small number of plant root pathogens, however as research into the methods of this suppressive effect were studied, it was found that Trichoderma had other beneficial properties on plant growth and development. These growth enhancement effects went further than just suppression of pathogen in the root zone allowing a return to normal healthy growth. It has been found that the species Trichoderma spp. increase the uptake and concentration of a variety of nutrients (copper, phosphorus, iron, manganese and sodium) in the roots in hydroponic culture (3). This increased uptake suggests Trichoderma creates an improvement in plant active-uptake mechanisms as well as having been shown to increase root development in numerous plant species. The beneficial effects of Trichoderma on plant growth overall has been indicated to be from a combination of reducing damage, even non-visible damage, from plant pathogens, deactivation of toxic compounds in the root zone, increases in nutrient uptake, efficiency of nitrogen use and solubilization of nutrients in soil and organic matter. It is possible Trichoderma species release certain molecular elicitors of plant growth promotion in a similar way that growth promotion by certain bacteria is known to occur, however this is still an area of ongoing research and such compounds are as yet unidentified (1).


Trichoderma & Disease Control Trichoderma is not just one species of fungi – the genus Trichoderma contains many species and strains, of which some are spe“Of all the Trichoderma species, T. harzianum, of which there cific to certain pathogenic fungi such as are several strains, is the most widely commercialised and has Pythium and Rhizoctonia. For example, T. virens has been found to be specific to cerbeen found in scientific studies to be effective against a range tain fungal diseases of field grown cotton, of fungal plant pathogens...” while T. asperellum has been found to protect cucumber leaves from Pseudomonas disease control. The exact nature of resistance system triggering molecules from the syringae when only applied to the root Trichoderma response are unknown. However it has been proven that applying certain system demonstrating that some TrichoTrichoderma strains to the root zone of hydroponically grown plants has given control derma strains have systemic abilities. Of of certain leaf pathogens (i.e. systemic control) and it is this inducement of the plant’s all the Trichoderma species, T. harzianum, natural defense system by Trichoderma that is likely to be responsible for this effect. of which there are several strains, is the Therefore Trichoderma has two important modes to action – direct suppression of the most widely commercialised and has been pathogen with production of antibiotic substances and enzymes and strongly stimufound in scientific studies to be effective lating the plant’s own natural defense mechanism. against a range of fungal plant pathogens, including Botrytis, Colletotrichum, Greenmottle mosaic virus, Alternaria solani, Why Do Growers Love Trichoderma So Much? Pythium sp., Phytophthora capsici, Apart from pathogen suppression and growth promotant activiRhizoctonia, Fusarties, Trichoderma has been selected for widespread use in hortiium, and Sclerotinia culture for a number of other reasons. The spores of Trichoderma (4) can be easily formulated into long shelf life products that, upon One of the most reactivation, rapidly colonize the growing media under suitable effective methods conditions. Trichoderma is a strong competitor in the root zone of pathogenic funand generally has a good chance of establishment even when gal control exhibitthere are pre-existing healthy populations of other microbial speed by Trichoderma cies. Trichoderma has also proven to be compatible with a number is `mycoparasitof other bio control agents, including beneficial fungi in a number ism’. In this process of different studies, so that mixtures of effective microbes can be the Trichoderma safely applied. Trichoderma spp. In general have also been found first detect other to be highly resistant to a variety of toxins including chemical funtarget fungi species gicides, heavy metals and antibiotics produced by other microbes and grow towards (1) . While Trichoderma is commonly applied to the root zone or them, once contact nutrient solution, certain strains have also been applied to fruit, is made, the Trichoflowers and foliage to control certain plant pathogens and even derma attach and used to prevent post harvest rot disease. One study found that apPicure Caption here... coil around the funplication of Trichoderma spp. on greenhouse strawberries could Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur gus, then produce control post harvest rotting, while several Trichoderma spp. have adipiscing elit. Fusce varius consectetur mauris several fungitoxic been used to protect fruit such as banana, apple, mango and tout eleifend. cell-wall degrading mato during post harvest storage (4). There is evidence to suggest enzymes and probTrichoderma assists plant growth and development under stressably also certain antibiotic compounds. ful conditions and the growth promotant potential of Trichoderma appears to be stronThese two activities results in dissolution ger in crops growing under less than ideal conditions. of the fungal cell walls and parasitism of the target fungus. (1) How To Get Trichoderma Established In Hydroponics Another highly effective mechanism of control by Trichoderma is the ability of Trichoderma is best used as a preventative and since it may take time for complete certain strains to induce phytoalexin decolonization of growing substrates, inoculation should be carried out as early in the crop’s fence compounds in plants and seedlings. life as possible. A warm, moist growing media, thoroughly inoculated with Trichoderma Phytoalexins are the plant’s own natural will rapidly be colonized, and some additional inoculate can then be added directly defense system for fighting off attack by under the root system of the young transplant. Soaking the root system of transplants pathogens and although induced resisor cuttings with Trichoderma inoculate can also be helpful to ensure high levels of the tance systems in plants are complex, they microbial product are applied in the right position. While Trichoderma should take hold are often highly effective strategies for rapidly and colonise the entire growing media, over time the population may decline

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Trichoderma Q&A Q. What do Trichoderma use as a food source? A. Trichoderma release two main types of enzymes in their quest for sustenance – these are different types of cellulases and chitinases. Cellulase enzymes break down cellulose which is a component of plant cells, organic matter and crop residues. Chitinase breaks down Chitin which is a structural component of fungal cell walls (and insect exoskeletons). It is thought that Trichoderma switches the production of these two main enzymes on and off depending on what its main sourceof food is at the current time. In composts, bark,

coconut fiber and other `organic’ type substrates there is initially plenty of cellulose to feed on, later on in the crop cycle, plant residues, exudates, dead roots and other organic material are also available for the Trichoderma to digest. Other fungi (certain species of Trichoderma are specific for certain fungi, while others have a wider range of prey) are a easily digested food source through activation of chitinase enzymes and the Trichoderma will actually coil around the host fungi and penetrate the cell walls fairly rapidly.

Q. Will Trichoderma survive in the absence of other fungi to feed from and if so what do they feed on particularly in a hydroponic environment? A. Trichoderma not only feed on other fungi, but also on cellulose from various sources of organic matter. We sometimes assume that hydroponic systems are completely `clean’, and non-organic and not capable of supporting a diversity of microbial life, but this is rarely the case. Even systems such as rockwool which start out as completely sterile, rapidly develop some forms of microbial life as the warmth, moisture, nutrients and organic matter produced by the plant’s root system provide a good environment for microbes. In fact, in hydroponics where there is typically year around heat, plentiful moisture, oxygen and rapid plant growth,

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microbial growth can be quite plentiful provided the grower is not doing something incompatible such as applying harsh chemical sterilants such as chlorine or hydrogen peroxide to the plants root zone or nutrient solution. Even in solution culture microbial life in the nutrient develops – hopefully the `good’ microbes out compete any pathogens and a well oxygenation solution helps with that process. In these cases the food source, if not other fungi, will be organic matter provided by either the substrate or the plant’s root system which produce exudates, old root cells which are sloughed off as the root system expands and other debris.

and fresh inoculation throughout the growing cycle are recommended. Since many pathogens such as Pythium which causes `damping off’ in seedlings are more prevalent during the sensitive propagation phase, inoculation of seed germination media with Trichoderma is particularly important. Trichoderma has also been shown to increase the germination percentage of tomato seeds sown in soilless growing media when Pythium pathogens were present (5) . Cuttings or clones also benefit from Trichoderma application as a preventive for stem rot pathogens and to ensure the new root system is fully colonized and protected by Trichoderma before potting on or introducing to a new hydroponic system. Since Trichoderma is a living organism, commercially available inoculant products tend to have a limited shelf life, so it is advisable to always check the expiry date and follow usage and storage instructions provided with the product.

Which Substrates Are Best For Trichoderma Establishment? Hydroponic systems are generally not sterile environments, however they do tend to contain lower levels and less diversity of micro-organisms compared to soil. Before planting out, sterile growing media, clean and disinfected equipment and a treated water supply provides a clean slate for microbial establishment. For this reason it is considered easier to establish beneficial microbes in hydroponic systems with a new substrate as little competition exists from micro-organism already present, unlike the situation in soil (6). If the system is using synthetic growing media such as rockwool, rather than composted bark, coco fiber or similar substrates, then initially the system is a relatively poor environment for microbial life to take hold and microbe numbers and population diversity have been found to be very low. However once the plants are growing, exudates from the roots and sloughed off root material begin to provide organic substances for micro-organisms to grow and population numbers build over time. A substantial part of the food source used by micro-flora is derived from plant roots, resulting in high numbers of micro-organisms on the surface of plant roots consuming organic compounds such as carbohydrates, mucilage and dead cell material which accumulates over time. While Trichoderma has been shown to establish and proliferate on a range of soilless substrates, there is some evidence that colonization may be greater on certain growing mediums. When coconut fiber (Coir) and rockwool were compared after inoculation with T. harzianum it was found that colonization was greater in the coco fiber, with spread through the rockwool substrate being less dense. It was also found that colonization of Trichoderma was highest at the site of inoculation suggesting that the initial introduction of Trichoderma into a growing medium should be at multiple sites or well mixed through the substrate before planting (7) .

“While Trichoderma has been shown to establish and proliferate on a range of soilless substrates, there is some evidence that colonization may be greater on certain growing mediums.”


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Trichoderma Q&A Q. What do Trichoderma get from root invasion? A. Trichoderma penetrate into the cells of the root system – once this occurs, it triggers a response in the plant host which effectively `walls off’ the Trichoderma and prevents it getting any further into the living root tissue. In triggering this response, the plant’s natural system of defence is activated and a systemic resistance is induced. This relationship between Trichoderma and plant roots is termed an `opportunistic avirulent

symbiotic relationship’ meaning even though the Trichoderma has gained entry to the plant tissue, it does not cause any disease or damage. Symbiotic means both parties benefit, the plant gets protection and the Trichoderma gets a good place to live and also some plant derived sucrose which is an important resource provided to the Trichoderma cells in this association (22).

Q. How do Trichoderma attack and control pathogens? A. Many Trichoderma species are specific for certain pathogens and will predate these if they are present in the same location – this is through a number of different processes. The main method of attack is for the Trichoderma to coil around the pathogenic fungi, release enzymes to break down the cells and consume its prey. It is thought Trichoderma also release a number of antibiotic compounds for

direct control. Another method of pathogen control is through inducing systemic resistance in the host plant, Trichoderma does this by invading the plant’s root system to the depth of a few cells, which triggers the plant to launch its natural defence mechanism to wall off the Trichoderma, in doing so the systemic resistance spreads through the entire plant so that foliar and fruit diseases may be controlled as well.

Q. Why does Trichoderma give greater growth potential to plants growing under stressful conditions? A. Largely because there is more potential for growth improvement under less than ideal growing conditions than with plants already at maximum biomass production – the effect is thought to be a combination of both

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suppression of pathogens, many of which are opportunistic and will attack stressed plants, and by possible production of certain elicitors of plant growth which are as yet unidentified.

Pythium infected roots (right) compared to healthy roots (left) from an NFT hydroponic system. Trichoderma has proven effective against Pythium in numerous studies.

Oxygen & Temperature Trichoderma, like many microbial species has temperature optimums for rapid colonization and activity, for most of the commonly applied species this is 77-86 F (2530o C) (8). If conditions are too cold, the rate of multiplication of the Trichoderma will slow and even cease, if too warm, then die back may occur or the Trichoderma may become out competed, leaving the way open for other forms of microbial species to take hold. Another important consideration is oxygen in the root zone – Trichoderma and other microbial species require oxygen for healthy functioning and unfortunately oxygen starvation is a common cause of root disease outbreaks in many hydroponic systems. Over watering with either too frequent application of nutrient solution, stagnation and deep ponding in NFT systems, heavy water logged growing media with poor drainage all lead to a lack of oxygen in the root zone which suffocates both

“If conditions are too cold, the rate of multiplication of the Trichoderma will slow and even cease, if too warm, then die back may occur or the Trichoderma may become out competed, leaving the way open for other forms of microbial species to take hold.” root systems and Trichoderma. If the root system then becomes damaged due to over watering and a lack of oxygen, this combined with the die back of Trichoderma and other beneficial microbes create the ideal situation for opportunist root pathogens such as Pythium to take hold. High levels of oxygenation in the hydroponic root system are relatively easy to maintain with selection of the correct type of growing media for the conditions (coarser and freer draining when it’s cooler


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6 weeks of growth: Jalapeno on Left is control, jalapeno on Right got 1 cup per gallon of compost tea from the Vortex Brewer

GARDEN TONic

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nhanced sea water e land and sea. use of subtle forces found BD500-508) to increase situation. Inspired by the tor Schauberger, and tool kit for any garden eaning it reinforces the NIC is formulated with natural systems and d. Use in every growing be healed. S: ents: ..................70% ..................30% d promote plant growth microorganisms. ral purposes.

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The root system on the right was fed with the Vortex Brewer!

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media: Use as an amendment @ Ÿ LifeSoil/Soilless force 1 tspn (1-5ml) perfor gallon every plant Hydroponics: Use as an amendment @ Ÿ Give plants everything they need and want 1 tspn (1-5ml)/gallon Compost Tea: Use tspn (5-15ml) per 5 gallons of water. A total sea1-3mineral solution Best if used with Vortex Brewer system, see www.VortexBrewer.com Contains ALL earth bound elements (90+) Foliar: Use 1-4 tspn (5-20ml) per gallon 1-2x’s per week plusSprouts: biodynamic preparations BD500-508 Use as a seed soak and for watering at 4 tspn (20ml)/gallon • UseFarmers: in EVERY growing situation Call for consultation‌910.794.7887

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Cheap “compost� (Right) can actually hinder plants. BD THUNDER plant on Left.

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BD THUNDER is a uniquely formulated humus offering born on a certified organic farm using only the finest ingredients. BD THUNDER is a genuine biodynamic creation. Developed by Rudolph Steiner in the 1920’s as the first reaction to artificial farming, biodynamics is rooted in the use of subtle forces found in specific plants & herbs called biodynamic ‘preps’, numbered BD500-508. Many have used the word biodynamic, but few have actually experienced it‌until now. You’ve never used anything like this in your garden before, guaranteed!

Real food for your soil or growing media Microsoil – Get the benefits of soil in hydro! Contains ALL microbes and micronutrients Produces the healthiest roots, leaves, flowers, and fruit you’ve ever seen! INGREDIENTS

Biodynamically prepared humus. Total Nitrogen (N)................0.38% <0.01% Water Soluble Nitrogen 0.38% water insoluble Nitrogen

Available Phosphate (P2)5).........0.19% Soluble Potash (K2O)......................0.05%

Derived from: cow manure, kelp, rock dusts, biodynamic preparations BD500-508 (fermentations of: cow manure, silica, yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, valerian, horsetail). Ingredients are sprayed with various living solutions from the Vortex Brewer. BD THUNDER is screened by hand and crafted in small batches. It is not sterilized, meaning it comes from nature and may potentially contain small rocks or seeds that germinate in the bag or after planting. This is no cause for alarm, it is the life force at work. Simply pluck, or turn under into the living soil.

DIRECTIONS FOR USE

Be creative! Uses limited only to the imaginationâ&#x20AC;Ś Top Dressing / Root Drench: Use 1 tbsp/gallon, stir vigorously clockwise & counterclockwise, water into roots, repeat weekly. Soil (Soilless - Hydroponic) mix: Use @ 1-20% by volume when preparing soil or growing media, add more as needed in all stages of growth. Compost Inoculant: Use 1 cup once per month in compost pile for higher quality compost. Compost Tea: Use with TONIC and the VORTEX BREWER for maximum results. Use 1-2 tbsp per 5 gallons of water as a biological inoculant; see www.VortexBrewer.com. Transplanting: Sprinkle compost over the entire surface of hole before planting. Grass Application: Use 1 gallon per 1000-5000sqft in Spring and Fall. Pond Treatment: Use 1 gallon for every 1000sq ft of surface area 2-4xâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s per year. Tree & Shrub Food: Use liberally around roots 2-4xâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s per year. Propagation: Sprinkle and water into plugs or starts ASAP

Left picture shows side-by-side against â&#x20AC;&#x153;compostâ&#x20AC;? competitor. Right picture shows a zinnia flowering in Pro-mix, a soilless growing media. BD THUNDER used at 1 tbsp per gallon in both. Information on the contents and levels of metals in this product is available on the internet at http://www.aapfco.org/metals.htm

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GENESiS cOMPOUND GENESIS COMPOUND

BACKGROUND Genesis Compound is born on a certified organic farm using only the finest ingredients and is a genuine representation of biodynamic (BD) compost. Developed by Rudolph Steiner in the 1920â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s as the first reaction to artificial farming, biodynamics is rooted in the utilization of subtle forces found in specific plants & herbs. The BD â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;prepsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, numbered BD500-508, help regulate and enhance the life and process within soil & compost, and in the interrelationship of plant life to its near and distant environmentâ&#x20AC;Śso the earth may be healed. INGREDIENTS

Biodynamically prepared humus Total Nitrogen (N).............0.41% 0.03% Water Soluble Nitrogen 0.38% water insoluble Nitrogen

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Derived from: cow manure, kelp, rock dusts, biodynamic preparations BD500-508 (fermentations of: cow manure, silica, yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, valerian, horsetail). Ingredients are incubated in whiskey barrels planted in the earth for up to a year, thus utilizing the digestive factors of the earths telluric forces as it breathes IN & OUT throughout the seasons.

The finest compost tea inoculant on the planet Genuine Biodynamic compost Handcrafted using only the finest ingredients Use for compost tea, stand alone in hydroponics and soil, or field spray DIRECTIONS FOR USE Genesis Compound can be used by itself in hydroponics or soil, as a field spray, or with any custom or commercial brewing system on the market. When utilizing Genesis Compound as a compost tea inoculant we recommend the mineral catalyst TONIC and the Vortex Brewer system to maximize energetic and biological potentization & productivity. Compost tea: Use 1 tbsp per 5 gallons of good water; for larger systems use 1 cup per 100 gallons. Propagation: Sprinkle or water into plugs or starts ASAP. Pre-mix: Utilize at least 1 cup per 2 cuft (1 tsp per gal), mix evenly or water into growing media. Soil / Hydroponics: Use 1-3 tspn for every 5 gallons of solution, stir clockwise & counterclockwise for up to 20 minutes and apply as a soil/media drench. Field / Garden Spray: Find a proper bucket and use 1/3rd cup in 3-5 gallons of water, find a comfortable stick and stirring from the periphery create a vortex stirring clockwise & counterclockwise. Repeat for one hour. This concoction is energetically sufficient for an entire acre of land! Information on the contents and levels of metals in this product is available on the internet at http://www.aapfco.org/metals.htm

Use the Force! 1 cup = 0.24 liter 3 cups = 0.71 liter 1 gallon = 4.4 liter

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Side-by-side: pepper on Left is control, pepper on Right was watered with compost tea created with Genesis Compound, TONIC, and KELP+ from the Vortex Brewer Use t he Force!

Note fruit forming and stem size on the Vortex Brewer plant! (Right)

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Trichoderma Q&A Q. How can Trichoderma products be reactivated and are there any compounds that can be used to help feed or promote Trichoderma. A. Generally the manufacturer’s instructions should always be carefully followed when reactivating the spores contained in a commercial Trichoderma product as there are a number of different preparations and additives or `carrier agents’ used. Some are granules or powers designed to be incorporated directly into growing media, some as a liquid drench. Trichoderma prefers warmth, moisture and oxygen for reactivation, once that occurs a readily available food source is also helpful for rapid development. There has been some evidence that using a growing medium such as

composted bark fines, coconut fiber or small volumes of compost/ vermicast additions gives faster establishment as it provides a cellulose food source for the Trichoderma in the early stages when the plant root system is still small. However, with hydroponics it’s essential to not overload the nutrient solution and system with large volumes of organic matter or additives – in doing so the rapid explosion in many forms of microbial life can rob all oxygen from the root zone creating a situation where roots are suffocated and pathogens flourish under anaerobic conditions.

Q. Are there upper limits of nutrient solution concentration that Trichoderma can tolerate? Will they survive in high EC solutions and/or do better in low EC solutions? A. The range of EC typically used in hydroponics, is actually quite narrow compared to the salinity levels in some soils and the rise in osmotic potential that occurs as soil dries out, so Trichoderma is unlikely to be affected by hydroponic EC levels. Trichoderma `eat’ organic matter cellulose and chitin from fungi cells, so unless for some reason the EC is affecting these sources of food, it should

082

have no real influence on the Trichoderma itself. Trichoderma is known to survive and thrive in a diverse range of environments in the presence of toxins, heavy metals and certain chemicals, so EC is unlikely to have any significant effects. Even EC levels high enough to stunt and damage plant growth should have no influence on Trichoderma.

and growth slower is always advisable to help prevent over watering). Careful control over nutrient application to allow thorough drainage between irrigations which helps draw fresh air through the substrate and replenish oxygen and a nutrient which as some opportunity to reoxygenate in recirculating systems.

“While Trichoderma has proven to be effective for pathogen control in a wide range of applications, results can sometimes be variable when dealing with biological control systems.” Studies have found application of Trichoderma to greenhouse strawberries controlled post harvest rotting.

Trichoderma Variability & Limitations While Trichoderma has proven to be effective for pathogen control in a wide range of applications, results can sometimes be variable when dealing with biological control systems. Control is dependant on the Trichoderma being applied at the correct time (i.e. before levels of pathogens have built to high levels), under the correct conditions of moisture and temperature and of an effective species and strain. Poor control by bio control agents is also attributed inadequate distribution in the root zone, growing media and location – Trichoderma introduced at a different location to where the pathogen is residing. Initial introductions of Trichoderma can be beneficial if applied directly to or under the root system of new transplants as it is likely that any pathogens, such as Pythium, will be introduced to a clean system via infected seedlings. Another limitation is that Trichoderma is more specific to fungal pathogen control and may have limited applications for bio control of pathogenic bacteria (4) , some of which can cause serious disease outbreaks. While Trichoderma is a popular fungal bio control agent, there are also a number of bacterial `effective microbe (EM)’ species (bacteria in the genera Pseudomonas, Bacillus and Streptomyces) which can also be introduced to the root zone of plants. Often, for unknown reasons, Trichoderma may not persist in the root zone long term, thus protection can decline as the crop develops. Re-application of Trichoderma products on a regular basis is always recommended to ensure population levels don’t die out resulting in a lack of pathogen protection in the root zone.


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Trichoderma Q&A Q. Does coir naturally contain Trichoderma, even after the coir treatment process? A. This depends largely on the processes used in the different brands of coir. Some coir is heat treated to kill seeds, insects and pathogen spores, and in this case any naturally occurring Trichoderma will also have been destroyed. Some coir products and other growing mixes on the market are deliberately inoculated with Trichoderma before sale. Coir is typically retted and then composted during its manufacture as a plant growth medium, so during this process itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s likely that Trichoderma colonise the fibres and

break down some of the cellulose, however that would depend on a number of factors such as the location, if the coir piles are covered or in contact with the soil, the populations of other microbes in the surrounding environment and other factors. Many studies have found naturally occurring Trichoderma (and other beneficial fungi species as well) in a range of coir substrates and it has also been found in some studies that these microbes had disease suppressive qualities (21).

Trichoderma Compatibility With Other Beneficial Fungi Species Trichoderma are not the only fungi with beneficial effects on plant growth and disease suppression. While there are a vast number of fungal species which may have benefits for crop production, only a small number have been identified and studied. Of these the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, Gliocladium virens, non pathogenic F. oxysporum, Paecilomyces lilacinus, Penicillium chrysogenum, and a number of others have been identified in studies as having an antagonistic effect on pathogenic fungi. In many of these studies it has been discovered that combinations of synergistic fungi species often have a greater effect on disease control than when used singly (9).

Trichoderma Compatibility With Mycorrhizal Fungi Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AMF) fungi are another wide spread, naturally occurring soil micro-organism which forms a beneficial relationship with the roots of many plant species. Just as with Trichoderma species, enhanced growth and disease suppression has been well documented with the use of mycorrhizal fungi inoculated in the root zone of cropping plants (15) . Given that Trichoderma is such a strong predator and competitor with other species of fungi in the root zone, there has been concern in the past that negative interactions between Trichoderma and


mycorrhizal inoculants could occur, thus making one or both fungi inactive and therefore incompatible. While numerous scientific studies have been carried out to determine if Trichoderma verses mycorrhizal antagonism does exist when both are introduced to the root zone of certain plant species, conflicting results have been reported. The problem identifying if this sort of interaction does occur is that in biological systems there are multiple factors affecting the result. Not only are there many species of Trichoderma with different characteristics and abilities to predate other fungi, but mycorrhizal fungi also contain a number of species including Glomus claroideum, Glomus mosseae, Glomus intraradices and Glomus geosporum. Furthermore the conditions in which the fungi are introduced, the crop species tested, growing media, presence of other microbial life and a host of other factors affect the result of fungal interactions. While one study (Green et al, 1999) found that the Mycorrhizal fungi G. intraradices had an adverse effect on Trichoderma harzianum, yet another study (Martinez-Medina et al, 2009) reported that combined inoculation with these two species provided better disease control results and a general synergistic effect than other Mycorrhizal species tested. Many other studies have found a synergist effect when Trichoderma was used in combination with certain species of Mycorrhizal fungi. It has been reported that dual inoculation of peat substrate with a mixture of four species of Mycorrhizal fungi and Trichoderma harzianum showed a significant effect on the growth and flowering of cyclamen plants (12), while another study found that more plant biomass was produced in a peat-perlite mixture when the mycorrhizal fungus Glomus mosseae was combined with Trichoderma aureoviridae (13) . Other researchers have also reported that various microbial inoculants such as Trichoderma and others showed no negative effects on Mycorrhizal establishment (14), while others have reported that combinations of Mycorrhizal fungi species with Trichoderma harzianum and other beneficial fungi have a synergistic effect and give greater increases in growth and disease resistance when combined (15, 16, 17) . It has been suggested that the differing results reporting the influence of Mycorrhizal fungi on other micro organisms is probably not only due to the combination and species of Mycorrhizal fungi evaluated but also the conditions such as nutrient availability when the studies were carried out (20) . The bulk of the scientific evidence suggests however that the species of Trichoderma and Mycorrhiza commonly used as inoculants in soil and hydroponics are compatible and potentially synergistic when used in combination. Trichoderma and Mycorrhiza carry out different but potentially very beneficial roles in the root zone of plants, involving not only protection from many pathogens, but also nutritional and growth benefits.


Breeding Microbes with Compost Tea: Unveiling the Microscopic Secrets of Connoisseur Organic Growers

C

ommercial grape growers in Sonoma and Napa pay big bucks for beneficial biology consultants to come to their vineyards. And for good reason—the right blend of microbiology in their soils can significantly increase the market value of their wine by promoting more sophisticated flavors and bouquets in their grapes. When it comes to actually selling the end product, it can be the difference between producing a bottle that sells for, say, ten bucks and one that sets you back fifty or more. Just think what an understanding of beneficial biology could do for the fruit and veggies in your garden? So what exactly is this beneficial biology? How do we ‘capture it’ and put it to work in our gardens? It turns out that the answer’s been right beneath our noses all this time. Literally! Microbes form an integral component of all living systems. In fact, if microbes didn’t exist then you wouldn’t be worrying

Organic waste decomposing at a composting facility in Sacramento, California

about them, because you wouldn’t be around either! While you ponder that fact, consider one more. There are more microbial cells in and on a human (or at least one not taking antibiotics) than there are human cells in your body! We’re going to find out how to breed microbes (it’s easy!) and deploy them in our gardens. To this end we’ve pulled in beneficial biology expert, Evan Folds from Progress Earth, to give us a practical introduction to brewing your own compost tea–and using it to grow the most delicious, chi-filled produce imaginable! Salivating? Then you’d best read on!

“We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than we do about the soil underfoot.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Give it up for microorganisms! They perform relatively Herculean acts for their size. Microbes are responsible for aiding limitless plant processes, including helping plants feed and protecting them from disease. They even help to create the very soil that serves to support the entirety of life on Earth. Meanwhile, many of us have become conditioned by modern marketing to foster a disdain and disrespect for microbial creatures (think hand sanitizers and antibiotics). Healthy soil is alive with microbes. They form incredibly important mutualistic relationships with the plants we depend on for food. They break down organic matter (which is inaccessible to plants) into a form that plants can use. Think of them as little ‘compost conversion’ factories. Now start to imagine the potential for increasing the life force in your garden by learning how to breed these microbes at home! We’re talking about something called ‘actively aerated compost tea’ or AACT for short. It’s ‘life juice’ for your plants—a brown soup that’s full of beneficial microbiology, the essential components of any organic growing situation.


Our current understanding of how to best take advantage of compost tea when growing plants can be called ‘rule of thumb,’ at best. We know a lot about microbes, but relatively little about what they do or how to use them while growing plants.

Microbes can react and adapt…by design. Did you hear about the ‘new’ proteobacteria discovered by scientists in the wake of the recent oil spill? Look it up. BP must have been stoked!

Bubbling air through compost tea is essential in creating a healthy, earthy-smelling brew

Compost Tea and Soil Food Web Brewing compost tea is easy and can be done in many different ways. You take some compost and other humus sources as an input for microorganisms and grow them to extremely high concentrations in an aerated water solution comprised of food sources and catalysts. The result? The soil food web unleashed in all its glory! Microbes and plants are natural teammates, so compost tea is simply the best way to replenish and enhance this wonderful relationship. However, our current understanding of how to best take advantage of compost tea when growing plants can be called ‘rule of thumb,’ at best. We know a lot about microbes, but relatively little about what they do or how to use them while growing plants. There are potentially billions of microorganisms and thousands of feet of fungal hyphae in a mere teaspoon of quality compost. The fact is, microbes are so abundant, so pervasive in everything we do, that it’s no issue to promote astronomical numbers when discussing and marketing them in compost, or compost tea products.

Adding compost tea to rain water

The number of microbes present in a biological sample is nowhere near as important as the diversity and strength of those organisms.

Watering compost into a raised bed

It’s easy to get bamboozled with all the hype surrounding compost and compost tea. Consider this: microbes are so small that up to 500,000 bacteria can fit in the period at the end of this sentence. When it comes to brewing your own microbes, high numbers are the easy part, but the number of microbes present in a biological sample is nowhere near as important as the diversity and strength of those organisms. Total numbers can be relevant when evaluating the balance of biological products or whether a humus product is stable, but it does not address the most important aspect of all—how well the product works in a real-life growing scenario.


Making & Using Actively Aerated Compost Tea

Biological Diversity and Microbe Strength Many biological products available at your local grow store are created by microbes raised by humans in a laboratory. This biosynthetic approach is necessary for the cost effective distribution of certain microbes and has its merits, especially with mycorrhizae fungi, which cannot express their abilities without a plant and are not benefitted by brewing in compost teas. However, many believe that a biosynthetic approach cannot represent the full potential of an intact biological network. There’s no synergy amongst the different microbes as they didn’t grow up together. Remember, microbes aren’t robots, they’re unique, dynamic, living, breathing life forms with varying abilities, even within a given species. A key concept to grasp is that no living organism operates autonomously. In other words, there is a symbiosis, or “give and take,” found in the natural world that we humans take for granted, and therefore restrict. Think you grow your plants? Sorry but it’s far more likely that you merely get in the way and mess with the magic! All microbes operate by way of teammates. They play off of each other, with one teammate unlocking the ability of the next. The big

man cannot dunk without the assistance from the point guard. When 52 different organisms (ones that were individually grown by a human in a Petri dish) are brought together as an end product intended for use in a gardening situation, the optimal result is surely compromised.Remaining with our basketball analogy for a moment longer, the team’s overall ability is hindered if all the players are not on the court and, even if they’re all present, what happens if the coach puts the players in the wrong positions? Sure, microbes don’t play basketball (as far as we know) so you may be forgiven for thinking that it’s not feasible to identify ability in microbes. But first, check out some Bt products. Bt is a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. It’s commonly used in gardening because it’s gentle with plants, but very capable of parasitizing the larval stage of common pest insects. The Bt organisms geared towards fighting larvae such as caterpillars are called the kurstaki strain and the Bt aimed at fighting mosquito larvae in water is named the israelensis strain. These organisms are of the same species and illustrate differing abilities depending on the application.

So, you want to brew your own compost tea. Where do you start? The answer is humus! Microorganisms are found dormant in quality humus sources like compost or worm castings, but can be awakened and stimulated to grow under the right conditions. There are several different methods for creating compost tea (AACT). It’s simply a matter of adding your humus source to water and using air pumps to increase the amount of air in the water solution in order to grow microbes. The final part of the jigsaw is to add some sort of food and catalysts for the microbes to grow, such as molasses, kelp, rock dust, fish, humate, sea minerals, etc. Brewing your own AACT is similar to running an aquarium. You aerate water for fish the same way you do for microbes, or for roots in a deep-water-culture hydroponics system.

1. Bucket 2. High Output Air-pump 3. Tubing 4. Porous Bag 5. Compost 6. Gang Valve (Adjustable T-Piece)

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The porous bag allows microbes to escape and enter the solution while keeping the tea free from debris.

DIY Compost Tea Shopping List You can purchase ready-to-go brewers if you want to make your life nice and easy. Alternatively you can make one yourself. To brew compost tea, you’ll need a pump, some air tubing, a gang valve, and bubblers. One high powered air pump Several feet of air line tubing One or two tee-pieces or gang valves Two or four air stones

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Porous bag for the compost, like a nylon stocking OR Something to strain the final tea, like an old pillowcase or tea towel.


Some foods sources such as bat guano The food source utilized when brewcreate more of it, but a good fish oil (or ing compost tea can determine the the active ingredient in comfrey called microbe grown. This idea follows the allantoin) will keep things in motion and concept of succession. An acre of land keep the foam down if need be. Foam is left fallow will begin to regenerate generally not a concern, using annual plants especially when using (weeds), and then suggested recipes from progress into more reputable compost tea perennial species A sugar source companies. (grass, vegetables) When brewing AACT until it culminates like molasses keep in mind that the into a forest (perenfed to a balanced higher the water temnial hardwoods). perature the greater the Over the course of stable compost biological growth, but this natural process, inoculant will the lower the dissolved fungi become graduencourage more oxygen. It’s a matter of ally more dominant physics that the warmthan bacteria. This is bacterial growth, er the water temperanot black and white, whereas kelp or ture, the less oxygen but is evident in the can be dissolved. It is fungal dominance of fish fed to the also true that the colder old growth forests. same inoculant will the water temperature So what does this the slower the biologiknowledge mean? encourage more cal growth. Dissolved Well, you can use fungal growth. oxygen levels above 6 it to brew compost parts per million (ppm) teas that make more will provide sufficient sense to what you biological growth, and are growing. For levels around 8 ppm are instance, a sugar attainable at room temsource like molasses perature. An accepted approach among fed to a balanced stable compost incompost tea enthusiasts is to brew AACT oculant will encourage more bacterial at a similar temperature to where it’s begrowth, whereas kelp or fish fed to the ing used, for example; if your root zone same inoculant will encourage more temperature is 68°F (20°C), brew the AACT fungal growth. The same is true for around this temperature. other inputs, like Equisetum (horse-

Deliberate overuse of bat guano

tail), which encourages the growth of beneficial nematodes. To be clear, molasses does not discourage fungi from growing, it simply encourages bacteria more. Similarly, using a fungal dominant tea on an annual plant will not harm it in any way; it’s a better/ best scenario. There is so much more to be discovered as da Vinci reminds us—we know more about the stars.

F:B = Fungal : Bacteria ratio Source: Biologic Systems

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No compost tea added to reservoir

Compost tea added weekly to mineral-based solution

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Using AACT Microbes given a proper environment based hydroponic situation growing can grow to extraordinarily high jalapenos. concentrations. The book Secrets of Again, it’s a better/best scenario; the Soil states that a single microbe you’re better off using compost tea and reaching maturity and dividing mitigating the potential harshness of within less than half an hour can, in your mineral-based nutrients than the course of a single day, grow into worrying about the microbes dying. 300 million more, and in another day It is always advisable to check nutrient to more than the number of human concentrations with a meter before beings that have ever using a tea on sensitive lived. Further, according or special plants, but by to the book Microcosmos, keeping inputs at or near Compost bacteria, in four days recommended amounts tea of unlimited growth, there should be no fear could outnumber all the of burning. “Burning” can be used protons and even all the a plant is actually a quarks estimated to exist water stress based on in unlimited within the universe. This total ion concentration. ways and reality allows growers Having too many ions to use as little as five around a root system really cannot gallons on an entire sucks water out of be used acre of land, roughly the plant via osmosis, equivalent to about a one causing the plant to incorrectly cup per gallon dilution. respond by sending its unless you are Compost tea can be available water into the used in unlimited ways middle of the leaf and overwatering and really cannot be leaving the edge to burn. your plants. used incorrectly unless Because compost tea you are overwatering is created at relatively your plants. Some low concentrations (600growers choose to use 800 ppm) burning is a compost tea on every non-issue when used at watering, but weekly applications recommended levels. or on reservoir changes would be As if to underline the previous point, sufficient. It is even possible to compost tea can be used with seedlings experience benefits from compost and cuttings with great success. tea with just one application. The sooner and more microbes used After all, you’re dealing with living the better, even in hydroponics. organisms that can populate and Use a gallon of compost tea to 20-50 reproduce by themselves if given gallons of water in hydro reservoirs; proper conditions. some growers even use compost tea It is a common supposition that concentrate as their primary reservoir synthetic products (i.e. mineral based solutions. Consider using organic nutrients) kill microbes. While this is and organic-based nutrients as food certainly true on some level, using sources for biological inoculants. It is compost tea with synthetic nutrient not necessary to feed microbes after regiments can produce good results. you have implemented them into a The image inset illustrates the use garden, but it can certainly have a of a leading compost tea brew used positive influence. After all, natural at one cup per gallon on weekly farming is about feeding microbes, not reservoir changes in a mineralthe plant.


Compost Tea as a Foliar Application It is possible to use compost tea as a foliar spray. Some growers spray their plants every day, but once a week will do the trick for measureable results. When using compost tea you are harnessing a synergy of living microbes for general benefit, however, this is one of the occasions when a targeted biological product can be effective. Many times the microbes used in human designed microbial products are found naturally in compost, but not in high enough concentrations to make them applicable once pests or disease have struck. In the end, a pest or disease is simply a biological imbalance of some sort, so when one trophic level gets out of whack a higher concentration of a certain microbe can work effectively. The active ingredient in many biological fungicides is the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which is found naturally in compost. This concentrated organism will work better on a disease outbreak, but if used consistently, compost tea can work preventatively to allow the disease to express itself in the first place. The more consistent you are in delivering microbes to the leaves and root zone of your plants, the more benefits you will receive. Compost tea can even help control pests if used consistently, many bacteria found in compost seek protein, which is what comprises the exoskeleton of many target pest species. As with any new endeavor in the garden, isolate a test plot and experiment before implementing it into the entire growing situation. There is no real precedent for using Actively Aerated Microbial Extracts (AAME) in compost tea brews, but it’s certainly a good idea for experimentation. Some grow stores set up multiple compost tea units for grow/bloom or bacterial/fungal purposes. It’s widely anticipated that we will start seeing them for pest and disease control too in the near future.

AACT Brewers There are varied compost tea units available on the market, everything from a five gallon bucket to large commercial units. For the most part, the unit you choose will be based on volume size and convenience, not biological performance. There is a healthy debate regarding the importance of the size of the air bubble produced by air diffusers and another on whether they need to be used at all. It is certainly true that the smaller the bubble the more surface area exposed to the solution. However, it is unclear whether this really makes a difference based on maximum dissolved oxygen levels considering water holds a finite amount of oxygen relative to its temperature. Filter bags to hold compost are also a point of difference between respective models. They are used strictly for convenience so that the compost tea brew does not clog up sprayers after creation. This can save time, but must be balanced with what is not extracted from the physical compost when brewing. As mentioned above, microbes hold on really tight. A quality humus is colloidal and most inputs used are soluble, so a filter bag is not absolutely necessary. You can always filter it after you are done brewing. It is vital to use quality water when brewing compost tea, and in your garden in general. If you are unsure of your water source, use a filter. There are quality reverse osmosis (RO) filters and dechlorinators on the market for reasonable prices. Most nutrient solutions are not designed to account for what comes through the tap, so if possible start from zero ppm. Remember, chlorine kills microbes and it’s added to just about every public water supply in some form for this very reason. Bubbling your water will remove chlorine in a couple of hours, but not chloramines, its more persistent cousins—also used in many municipal water supplies. At the very least, let your water sit out for 24 hours before using it to brew tea. Ideally, invest in a reverse osmosis water purification system.

Composts, Inoculants and Food Sources for Compost Tea When brewing compost tea, starting with a quality microbial product is essential. This is a major problem with people who compost in their back yards. Organic matter doesn’t melt; it’s biologically digested. It’s not advisable to use manure to make compost tea because manure is not yet plant food. This is why black cow “compost” at the hardware store costs $1 a bag. It’s aged manure. It’s mulch, not plant food. Remember, trees in a forest don’t eat leaves; they eat what the microbes make of them. Some growers use worm casings as the sole basis for their compost teas. While this is certainly a viable option to brew tea, worms are predominately a bacterial organism, and do not contain some of the trophic levels of beneficial organisms, such as fungi, nematodes, protozoa, ciliates, etc. that provide vital benefits to plants and gardens. Worms sequester bacteria in their gut in order to work their magic, like termites use fungi to digest the wood they eat. To brew a better tea, consider using worm castings along with a balanced humus product.

The more consistent you are in delivering microbes to the leaves and root zone of your plants, the more benefits you will receive


Food sources for compost tea include molasses, kelp, fish, bat guano, and generally anything that was once alive that is soluble enough to be put into solution, even fruit pulp. It is important to note that recipes and preferences vary widely, for instance, some may recommend up to 16 tablespoons of molasses per 5 gallons of water, others only 1 tablespoon. Be sure to experiment based on these general recommendations, but below are a couple of simple recipes. Use the formulating company’s recommendations for humus and catalyst per gallon, then for a bacterial dominant tea, use 4-6 tablespoons of molasses and 2-4 tablespoons of kelp to five gallons of aerated water. Reverse the ratio for a more fungal dominant tea.

Three Simple AACT Recipes All for 5 gallon (19L) brewers

Bacterial Dominant Tea 1.5 pounds (700g) bacterial compost or vermicompost 3-4 tablespoons (45-60ml) liquid black strap molasses 4 teaspoons (23g) dry soluble kelp or 2 tablespoons of liquid kelp 3-4 teaspoons (15-20ml) fish emulsion

Equal Ratio - Fungi : Bacteria Tea 1.5 pounds (700g) 1:1 fungi to bacteria compost 3-4 tablespoons (45-60ml) humic acids 4 teaspoons (23g) dry soluble kelp or 2 tablespoons of liquid kelp 3-4 teaspoons (15-20ml) fish hydrolysate

Fungal Dominant Tea 2 pounds (900g) fungal compost 3-4 tablespoons (50ml) humic acids 2 teaspoons (10ml) yucca extract 4 teaspoons (23g) dry soluble kelp or 2 tablespoons of liquid kelp 4-5 teaspoons (20-25ml) fish hydrolysate Recipes from ‘The Compost Tea Brewing Manual’, 5th Edition by Dr Elaine Ingham.

Fish-based natural fertilizers are generally obtained in one of two forms, condensed fish solubles known as emulsions, or enzymatic digested fish known as hydrolysates. Fish hydrolysate is cold processed (minced, enzymatically digested and liquefied) to preserve proteins for quick turnover by microbes into nutrients for plants. Emulsions are created using extreme heat, and while they may be easier to work with because they are further refined, the processing removes valuable ingredients and denaturing nutrients. While both fertilizer forms can benefit a compost tea, hydrolysates retain the natural oils from the fish that are a very potent fungal food.


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Make sure to ask your retailer about the components of the compost tea being brewed, including the biological source and whether mineral catalysts are being used.

Brew Times

Mineral Catalysts One thing that is not discussed enough in the compost tea community is the use of mineral catalysts. Catalysts, as we know, change the speed of a reaction. It’s important to understand that microbes work indirectly via chemical decomposition. In other words, bacteria don’t chew on a banana peel in a compost pile, they offer up an enzyme (biological catalyst) that works to chemically break it down. Enzymes are specialty proteins that work like keys to a lock for important biochemical reactions within living organisms, plants and people included. All enzymes incorporate a single molecule of a trace mineral—such as manganese, copper, iron or zinc—without which an enzyme cannot function. We all know the benefits of adding enzymes to our gardening systems, but not many growers know that you get free enzymes from microbes. Microbes help plants eat and, in return, plants feed microbes. In fact, over half of the energy derived through photosynthesis by plants is fed to the soil as exudates. Think of an exudate as a meal for microbes. Plants actually know what they need, they just can’t tell us. This means that plants have the ability to attract spe-

cific trophic levels (imagine the balance of the big fish and the little fish in the ocean) of microbes by preparing food from its surrounding environment that attracts those capable of generating what is deficient in the plant. This biological/plant network, or intelligence, if you will, cannot be established overnight, but it can be tapped into if we are aware of it. This is especially true when growing indoors in artificial environments. It’s important to provide everything for plants so they can be allowed to eat what they desire, but it’s even more important to allow microbes a complete tool kit. Not doing so is like hiring someone to build a house and only providing them half the tools. The pictures inset illustrates a side-by-side test conducted with a broadspectrum mineral product. The tea sample on the left was brewed in the presence of many more elements than the tea sample on the right. Note the enhanced foaming and darker color after only four hours. Other catalysts to consider are rock dusts, yucca extract, or any broad-spectrum natural mineral. Remember, these materials are not “food” for microbes; they help microbes eat their food.

Buying AACT

Sample on left brewed with greater level of elements than sample on right

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The most commonly heard figure for brew times is 12-24 hours. If pressed for why, a common answer is because bacteria are most active in these stages. While bacteria are beneficial to plants, so are many other microorganisms. Take protozoa for example. It is well known that compost tea brewed for over 24 hours begins to develop protozoa and ciliate dominance. (The brew “matures.”) Protozoa are extremely efficient nitrogen (N) cyclers, so why would a grower looking for more nitrogen not brew their tea longer to populate more protozoa dominance? Further, they are also the shredders in the soil; they eat bacteria and fungi like a shark eats fish in the ocean. Humus is actually the guts of microbes. They have digested available organic matter to create stable dormant humus (plant food). The guts of microbes are actually fertilizer bags. Why wouldn’t we want protozoa in there creating nature’s plant food shredding up bacteria? There is no “right” way to brew compost tea, only better and best. Before long we will have developed biological feeding schedules that direct growers on how long to brew their compost teas given humus, foods, and catalysts to accomplish the microbe spectrum that makes sense for the plant and stage of growth, like we do mineral products. If one wants bacteria to use as a foliar, use molasses and brew for 12 hours. For a higher fungal : bacteria ratio for hardwoods, brew 24 hours using fish hydrolosate and humates. Feed hay has shown promise in increasing protozoa counts, so brewers can use it and brew for 48 hours to sequester more for their gardens. The possibilities are endless.

Your grow store might be one of the many who offer up their own in-store brew from units operated inside the store. If you choose to purchase compost tea from a gardening store, be sure to use it as soon as possible. We have seen evidence of beneficial life for up to three days under a microscope with some systems, but it is always advisable to use it the day you get it from the shop. Make sure to ask your retailer about the components of the compost tea being brewed, including the biological source and whether mineral catalysts are being used. If they have a microscope set up, even better. Make a habit of reconciling the microbes you see under the scope before you take it home with the results you are getting in your garden. Some models found in stores involve refrigerating brews and coordinating pickups on certain days, while others encourage running the units perpetually by adding food source, catalysts, and microbes each day based on the amount of water added to the unit.


Nutrition as it is today does not supply the strength necessary for manifesting the spirit in physical life. A bridge can no longer be built from thinking to will and action. Food plants no longer contain the forces people need for this. So long as one feeds on food from unhealthy soil, the spirit will lack the stamina to free itself from the prison of the body. Rudolf Steiner Creator of Biodynamics (1861-1925)

Some growers are experimenting with aerating their microbes for a period of time before adding food sources. The idea is that some microbes wake up faster than others, so brewing without food lets all of them get their feet on the ground, so to speak. Makes sense, but much more research needs to be conducted. The new frontier in natural gardening will develop around these ideas. One thing is for sure, we’ve got a lot of work to do. But, hey, it could be worse, we could be sitting in a cubicle. If we approach the biological situation of our soils and hydro systems humbly, we will be in a far greater position to benefit. We can get more out of our plants than we have come to expect. Growing plants is about much more than feeding a plant directly, it’s about taking stock of their total environment, including the biological (microbial) and energetic (biodynamic) aspects of the growing situation. Rather than listen to ourselves, let’s listen to our plants for a change. If you’ve never used compost tea with your plants, you’re not maximizing the genetic potential of your garden. Consider this your clarion call. Stop by your local garden store and get started today.

WORDS: Evan Folds


“The root aphid feeding process can make the roots more vulnerable to fungal and viral diseases.”

Root Aphid Root Aphid factoids: Aphids and root aphids are related to the commercial grape vine pest Phylloxera. During the late 19th century a ‘Phylloxera plague’ destroyed an estimated two thirds of European vineyards! Root aphids in the genus Pemphigus (pictured) secrete a white waxy material as a protective measure against predator attack and desiccation. When colonies are spotted in a root zone, this white substance is often mistaken for saprophytic or mycorrhizal fungal growth.

Root aphids can vary in color depending on species and life stage. They can be pale yellow, green, red or black. Some adult root aphids can develop wings and fly. At this stage they are often black in color and can easily be mistaken for Sciarid flies aka fungus gnats.

Root aphids feed by sucking the sap from roots, which in extreme cases can cause the plant to wilt. Problems often start with unhealthy colored foliage and strange nutrient deficiency symptoms, the most common symptom being interveinal chlorosis of the mid to lower leaves.

Affected roots frequently split and start to decay as a result of root aphid feeding. Decaying roots can often attract fungus gnats to the party, which also feed on roots. The root aphid feeding process can also make the roots more vulnerable to fungal and viral diseases.

Chemical control can be achieved with products containing Imidacloprid – a neonicotinoid systemic insecticide manufactured by Bayer. Due to its systemic characteristics and ‘moderately toxic’ classification, Imidacloprid should be limited for use on ornamental plants or on consumable plants during late propagation or the early vegetative growth stages. Microbiological control is a more natural approach and can be achieved with the entomopathogenic fungi Beauveria bassianan, found in the commercial product ‘BotaniGuard.’ This fungus parasitizes and kills the root aphids.

‘ A lettuce root aphid Pemphigus bursarius feeding on Salix roots.’

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Other moderately successful control measures include submerging the root zone or pot in a solution containing insecticidal soap for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Anecdotal reports suggest growers have had some success using neem products containing azadirachtin when applied as a root drench, and with commercially available predatory nematodes - but less is known about which species of nematode are most effective against root aphids.


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Las Vegas’ Hangover Graham Foster compares the Las Vegas from The Hangover with his first visit to Sin City. Walking through the lobby of my centralStrip hotel, The Imperial Palace (a mock pagoda with a lazy Far-East theme), I’m surrounded by paraphernalia from the film The Hangover: t-shirts with the lifesized image of a baby in a baby-carrier (including sunglasses); the bearded Zach Galifianakis plastered on posters and t-shirts that declare the practice of cardcounting to be “frowned upon;” Bradley Cooper dolls with over-sized plastic heads that juggle violently when flicked; various key rings, playing cards and other giftshop-junk. In short, Vegas has adopted a film that mocks its own excesses to help its self-created myth soar even higher. The gamblers, of course, love it. Armies of men wearing the baby-in-carrier t-shirt roam the streets; snatches of overheard conversations contain film quotes and let’s-pretend role-playing (honestly, you’ll hear the term “wolfpack” every second minute). So why has Vegas jumped on The Hangover, using it as a kind of freelance piece of marketing for the town’s wild side? Well, people being wild and reveling in excess spend money, and money is the real reason why there’s a city in the middle of the Nevada desert. People influenced by The Hangover (the surprise hit of 2009, grossing $201,642,000 worldwide— according to IMDb), will be drawn to Vegas to experience what the characters of the film quite clearly suffered, and they’ll bring their wallets with them. Another reason Vegas may have jumped on this film and its commercial appeal is

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that it shows “average” guys who clearly have no problem affording the excesses that Vegas offers: drinking, gambling and eating (hotel rooms are really cheap for a reason!). On The Strip, it can cost up to $8 for a regular brand of domestic beer (one bottle, not counting the tip); the gaming tables are designed to be as seductive as possible, and food is very expensive (even recognized fast food brands, which seem to incorporate some kind of Vegas surcharge in their standard prices). Phil, Alan et al., far from being average, must be extremely well off to survive their night of a booze-filled, all-out, spending spree on The Strip. The glitz and glamour are laid on so thick in Vegas for a very good reason: to hide the very evident squalor that the town subsists on. A quick walk around

a casino floor will reveal grey and unhealthy people basically undergoing the gradual transition from existence to deceased while pumping dollar coins into machines (it’s not quarters anymore), or tossing dice at the craps table. An after-dinner stroll down The Strip will be constantly interrupted by men and women, fluorescent-clad in t-shirts declaring “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS: Straight to your hotel room,” shoving leaflets advertising these services into your hands. An interesting side note: far from being embarrassed about these low-level street pimps, Vegas has adopted them as a cultural feature. Replicas of this twisted fluorescent mural in the form of “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS” shirts are on sale in myriad hotel gift shops, although the specific target market remains vague.

“Vegas has adopted a film that mocks its own excesses to help its self-created myth soar even higher.”


“Another reason Vegas may have jumped on this film and its commercial appeal is that it shows “average” guys who clearly have no problem affording the excesses that Vegas offers: drinking, gambling and eating.” My point in detailing this horror is that The Hangover largely ignores it, preferring to focus on the glossiness of Caesar’s Palace and other Strip locations (which, of course, is probably a wise directorial decision as the film is an enjoyable, light comedy). It’s another reason why Vegas loves the film, and has taken it to it to its rhinestone-studded breasts—the fictional Vegas of the film is much more attractive than the real town, a town that has based its internal economy on human weakness. In The Hangover, the hotel room is a tremendous suite with flat-screen televisions, white sofas and the space to swing a tiger (rather than the cheap boxlike offering you’ll probably get); the hotel pool and terrace are glamorous—actually somewhere you would want to eat breakfast (rather than the morning refuge for extremely large people revealing yards of dimpled and sun-greased flesh), and the gaming tables are surrounded by young

and good-looking people (rather than old ladies with hair set by gallons of spray, and old men dwarfed by their Stetsons). In short, the film constructs a myth that shrouds real-world Vegas in exactly the same way as Vegas casinos shadow their neighbors, each having been constructed higher and brighter than the last. The casinos are hyper-real monuments to the myth of Vegas: a scale model of the Eiffel Tower, a Manhattan skyline (complete with yellow cab rollercoaster), an indoor Venetian canal with simulated sky and opera-singing gondoliers, and a glass pyramid stocked to the gills with Egyptian reproductions. The aweinspiring construction of these casinos almost distracts you from the “nearlydead” spending hours literally tied to the machines (gambling cards on a string used instead of cash), and the shit-splattered public toilets in the bowels of even the most upscale casinos (don’t ask).

Favorite Vegas Casino Tricks:

NO WINDOWS OR CLOCKS Everyone knows about this one, and it’s perhaps the most obvious. I even asked a waiter in a casino what time it was and he informed me that he was not allowed to tell. Being isolated from the temporal signifiers of the day’s passage is very effectively disarming and it makes Vegas a timeless bubble, especially when your attention is diverted by the various games.

DRINKS If you are sitting at a gaming table with a stack of chips in front of you, the casinos are more likely to wave the astronomical cost of the beer/wine/spirits. There are no bouncers to throw you out when you’ve had enough …

TOILETS The toilets are usually located at the very deepest part of the casino so you have to walk through all of the temptations on offer in order to answer nature’s call. This fact combined with the discombobulating architecture means it’s very easy to get trapped in a casino.

AIR The casinos are known to pump pure oxygen into the air supply in order to keep the gamblers awake and playing.

AMBIENCE The designs and colors of the carpets are used both to confuse the eye (so it’s easier to forget where the exit is) and to mesmerize.

Apparently this also helps with speedy inebriation when used in combination with the free drinks.

The colors are used to make the gamesters feel they are in a safe environment. The lights are also mellow instead of harsh neon, and there is Muzak playing at a low level in order to lull the gamblers.


Most importantly, The Hangover paints Las Vegas as the ultimate place to party, the place where sins are rewarded (drunken excesses free you from a failing personal life; gambling results in massive winnings, etc.). The problem with Vegas’ self-promoted reputation as the party capital of the world is that fun can never go hand-in-hand with naked and cynical commercialism. Scantilyclad waitresses wander the casino floors offering gamblers the chance to order a drink, not because they want to help someone have a happy and fun time, but because they want to keep that person’s natural willpower and self-awareness at an all-time low. It’s tantamount to a sleazy guy feeding a girl alcohol to increase his chances of receiving a clumsy, back-seat blowjob before the night is through. It’s a widely reported fact that the casinos have no clocks, or overt exit signs on the gaming floor. Yet it���s not until you walk around inside that it becomes startlingly clear that the buildings are designed to disorientate: curved walls, no landmarks, uniform decoration, lots of noise and mellow lighting are about as far from natural as you can get. The Hangover doesn’t so much as mention any of these dirty tricks, which makes it easy for the casinos to market the film (although, one suspects that they would have used The Hangover as a marketing tool even if it had said that Vegas slot machines were constructed out of the bones of small children). All of this hype increases the chances of Las Vegas being a huge disappointment— the equivalent of a Christmas morning with an empty stocking. Throughout its relatively short history, films like The Hangover have been ignoring the seedier side of Sin City and concentrating on the neon, the extravagant pleasures and Vegas’ self-propagated myth. Films such as Swingers (1996), Ocean’s Eleven (1960/2001), Viva Las Vegas (1964), What Happens in Vegas (2008) and even Showgirls (1995) all help Vegas perpetuate the myth of glamour and the fiction of “The Party” and this is how the majority of the world’s population is conditioned to view the city. But then what can you expect from Hollywood, another entity that has created its own myth in order to better sell itself to the public.

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Walking around Vegas and experiencing it without cinematic rose-colored glasses makes disappointment the only rational reaction. In my own let-down state, this is what I have learned about Las Vegas: That “Europe” is used as a general signifier of “classy,” but the intended target is missed by a mile. That everybody who works in Las Vegas makes money, either legally or otherwise. That all casinos have the cigarettes-andcarpet-cleaner scent of old institutional waiting rooms. That even the shows that seem skewed towards a younger crowd are desperately inappropriate, especially the pirate one that recasts the pirates as shirtless dancers who have to fight a ship full of strippers ... Okay, “sirens” (sample dialogue line: “All the salty seamen who sail into my cove will drown in inhospitable waters”).

That away from The Strip, on Fremont Street, Las Vegas gets really weird: terrible magic shows (obvious plants in the audience as volunteers, fake arms very visible etc.); a terrible Alice Cooper impersonator who also does a terrible Ozzy Ozbourne; dancing girls everywhere (on podiums in the street for example); a small person dressed as Mr. T. and grinding against a clearly inebriated regular-size girl; dogs wearing leather chaps, and the list goes on . . . That the Venetian Casino (with indoor canal and Italian shopping street) will reduce a group of Italian tourists to wild hysterics in the central piazza. That Las Vegas seems to be the refuge of the extremely large, unhealthy and greasy-looking person, who sits at slot, and barmounted poker machines for more straight hours than a workaholic would sit at his office desk. That the Bellagio fountain is genuinely (and surprisingly) breathtaking.

That “genuine” French cuisine (steak-frites) in the Paris-themed casino is far from genuine, right down to the overly cheerful waiter. The Las Vegans really don’t do “studied ennui” even to enhance a simulation. That the depths of Western civilization have been reached, not in the rampant greed of the casinos, but with the creation of M&M World—a four-storey shop that only stocks M&Minspired products. That The Strip looks small on a map, but will dissolve shoe leather like nothing else. That most nations/ ethnicities have been given the L.V. treatment. Germany, however, seems to have been ignored. Oh, for a plastic Neuschwanstein Castle! And that Las Vegas’ downand-out population suggests that the city has an efficient way of breaking people. The constructed glamour cannot disguise the desperate people panhandling on the raised walkways, scrubbing for cigarette butts and generally roaming around in a daze.

“Try not to build up your hopes before you arrive, and for heaven’s sake don’t construct your itinerary by copying the events depicted in myriad Hollywood films...” So the advice of your weary correspondent after an assignment to compare the real Vegas and the Hangover Vegas is: Try not to build up your hopes before you arrive, and for heaven’s sake don’t construct your itinerary by copying the events depicted in myriad Hollywood films (especially all the card-counting stuff. It’s not just ‘frowned upon’; you will get your thumbs broken by rent-a-thugs and be left to bleed among the other broken people on the sidewalk). Words: Graham Foster


Vide-oh-no! The most controversial music videos of all time!

Ever since the 1981 launch of MTV heralded the age of 24hour music television, bands and artists have recognized what a potent marketing tool the music video is. With the medium firmly in the mainstream, musicians and directors use promo clips to make themselves more appealing to fans by seizing the opportunity to present themselves in their own chosen artistic light. However, for some, the music video has been an invitation to explore the boundaries of taste and decency— whether for artistic statement, political intent, shock value or for a good old-fashioned cynical attempt to get column inches. Sex, debauchery, violence and religious imagery are the most common ways directors have created controversy, which has led to many videos being banned from TV, cut, or in the most extreme cases, campaigned against. Like movies, there’s nothing quite like music videos to get the more puritanical among us up in arms. Chris Hidden investigates some of the most controversial clips out there.

Grammy Award-winner Kanye West holds the record for the longest music video at a whopping 40 minutes for his single, ‘Runaway’. It beats Michael Jackson’s Ghosts, the former title-holder by just 29 seconds. 104

M.I.A. Born Free This short film from the London-born, Sri Lankan-raised, politically active electrodance artist features the rounding up of a gaggle of ginger-haired youth by a platoon of particularly shady—and identifiably American—armed forces. The carrottopped kids are shipped out to a desert in the back of a bus, before being forced to disembark. The youngest of their number is shot through the head before several others are forced to run through a live minefield. As various severed limbs and appendages fly through the air, several more kids are beaten to death by the psychopathic troopers. The video caused outrage on its release and was initially pulled from YouTube. A graphic and shocking video, no doubt, but the political allegory at work here is clearly highlighting the obscenity of genocide.

Erykah Badu Window Seat Essentially a striptease set to the soulful sounds of the song; the video features singer Badu walking the streets of her hometown Dallas, shedding items of clothing as she goes. Filmed completely guerrilla style and in just one take, the bystanders she passes, clearly shocked at what they are seeing, are all real. As the final layer of clothing is whipped off just as she is walking past Dealey Plaza, the infamous spot of JFK’s assassination, Badu’s head whips back violently as she too takes a shot to the back of the head. She collapses apparently dead in the street. A spoken word passage closes out the video urging the viewer to be individual and to not be afraid to be liberated. Badu escaped police attention regarding the video shoot, but was subsequently warned the combination of indecent exposure and the presence of children could have landed her a maximum fine of $4,000 and up to one year in prison. As it was, it just generated a great deal of free PR. Bonus!

t.A.T.u All the Things She Said This 2002 clip from Russian ‘lesbian’ pop duo t.A.T.u featured its two members, Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova, dressed as Catholic schoolgirls in short skirts and revealing tops. The pair dance suggestively together in the rain and snow behind a chain fence before sharing a steamy kiss. The suggestive nature of the video, the overt lesbian connotations and the seemingly young ages of the girls caused widespread outrage. Wellknown bastions of the UK’s morals, Richard and Judy, campaigned to have the video banned claiming it pandered to paedophiles. They failed and t.A.T.u’s response was to incorporate the uniforms and steamy clinch into their live performances of the song. In your face Richard and Judy!


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GREAT WHITE 6”

The industry’s biggest reflectors have just been discovered. they are so ahead of their time – it’s a scientific mystery.

BIGGER IS BETTER


The Prodigy Smack My Bitch Up Recently voted the most controversial song of all time in a survey conducted by PRS for Music, the Jonas Akerlunddirected video to this seminal Prodigy track—taken from their ‘97 album The Fat of the Land—wasn’t short of a shock or two either. A veritable feast of controversial imagery, the video follows a chaotic night on the tiles filmed from the first-person perspective of the main protagonist. Its 4 mins, 33 secs are full to brim with sex, violence, alcohol abuse and other nocturnal debauchery. The classic twist comes at the end of the clip when the main character is revealed to be a woman. The video received major criticism particularly from feminist groups who believed it to be misogynistic. The video was widely banned from daytime TV and went on to be named as MTV’s most controversial video ever. The Prodigy went on to become one of the UK’s most successful dance acts; never strangers to a controversial moment or two.

Justice Stress The second video on this list directed by Romain Gavras—the other being M.I.A.’s “Born Free”— is the clip for “Stress” by acclaimed French dance act, Justice, which received widespread criticism both for its extreme violence and for what some perceived as racist undertones. In the clip a marauding gang of youths of African descent run riot on the streets of Paris. The gang, all dressed in jackets adorned with Justice’s cross logo, commit numerous acts of vandalism and mount a series of unprovoked attacks on innocent

members of the public and the police. In the climax to the video, the gang steal a car, which they set on fire and then, in a final clever twist that breaks the fourth wall, turn their violent attention on the camera filming their rampage, and by extension on us, the audience. The band strongly denied any accusations of racism— actually, the video was felt by many as being a critique of the French media’s portrayal of socially deprived youths from Paris’ outskirts.

Nine Inch Nails Closer No strangers to courting controversy, Nine Inch Nails knocked it out of the park with this ‘94 clip for the song “Closer” from their seminal album The Downward Spiral. Taking place in a hellish laboratory, the video features imagery pertaining to religion, sexuality and politics and also contains images of animal cruelty. Classic scenes involve a naked woman wearing a crucifix mask, a monkey tied to a cross, a pig’s head spinning on a machine and singer Trent Reznor wearing an S & M mask whilst swinging in shackles. The imagery, inspired by the macabre art of JoelPeter Witkin and the 1986 short film Street of Crocodiles, shocked and appalled viewers on the video’s debut but has since been widely recognized as being one of the greatest music videos ever; in fact it has been added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Madonna Like a Prayer Probably the most famous video on this list, the heavy use of religious iconography in “Like a Prayer” —including Madonna showing signs of stigmata and dancing by several burning crosses—created a great deal of controversy when it was released in 1989. In the clip, Madonna witnesses the murder of a woman by three white men but sees a black man wrongly arrested for the crime. She flees to a church to pray

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to a statue of Saint Martin de Porres, he comes to life, crying, and shares a tender kiss with the singer. This mixture of the sacred with the profane outraged the Vatican and had many other people assuming director Mary Lambert was depicting a black version of Christ, which only added fuel to the fire of religious outrage. Even more publicity was created after Pepsi, seeking to distance themselves from the controversy, pulled a TV commercial featuring Madonna singing the same song for which they had paid her $5m. Throughout her career the singer has utilized music videos to further cement her popularity but has often been criticized for their transgressive nature. 300m record sales later and officially recognized as the world’s top-selling female recording artist of all time, you could say she probably knows what she’s doing!


Britney Spears Baby One More Time On the surface of it and when compared to some of the other videos on this list, the 1998 video for Britney Spears’ debut single is not amongst the most shocking, nor did it create the greatest of controversies when released. What it did do was help thrust the then unknown teenager into superstardom by the sheer power of its iconic and highly sexualized imagery. Portrayed as a Catholic schoolgirl,

resplendent in pigtails and the most revealing of school uniforms, Spears is seen, midriff on full display, dancing through the corridors and hallways of her high school. That the video found its way onto extreme rotation on daytime TV is either a sign of more liberal times or that the video out is actually a subversive work of genius. We know which we’d prefer to believe.

Nas Hate Me Now No surprize to see a hip hop video make this list given the genre’s propensity for courting controversy. This 1999 clip featured New York gangster rapper, Nas, wearing a crown of thorns and dragging a cross on which he is subsequently crucified. The controversy created as a result of a black man portraying Jesus was oddly enough matched by the most unlikely of sources: the song’s guest vocalist Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs. Featured in an earlier version of the video being crucified alongside Nas, Puff Daddy had requested the scenes be pulled after suffering an attack of guilt as a result of his religious beliefs. The request was granted but somehow the original cut made its way to several TV stations that subsequently broadcast it. Outraged, Puff Daddy allegedly retaliated by attacking Nas’ manager, presumably after misplacing those religious values of his. A disclaimer was added to the start of the video saying it in no way depicted or portrayed the life or death of Jesus Christ. We think that much is pretty obvious.

Aphex Twin Come To Daddy / Windowlicker Okay, technically two different music videos for two separate songs but stick a pin in the video output of seminal electronica musician Aphex Twin, aka Richard D James, and you’re going to come up with something shocking. Both directed by acclaimed video maker, Chris Cunningham, these videos blend disturbing imagery with macabre and nightmarish elements. A classic scene in “Come To Daddy” finds a grotesque demon screaming in the face of an old woman, and in “Windowlicker”—a ten minute parody of contemporary hip hop videos—beautiful bikini clad women appear with twisted versions of the real face of Richard D James. That particular video also features 127 uses of profanity including 44 uses of the ‘F’ word. Rarely seen on TV, and thankfully largely unknown by those who would most likely be outraged, Aphex Twin’s videos consistently shock, yet always retain major artistic merit.

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Pearl Jam Jeremy Pretty much the reason Seattle grungers, Pearl Jam, stopped making music videos for well over ten years was the controversy surrounding this clip of arguably the band’s most recognisable song. The uproar rumbled on for several years after its release. Inspired by 16 year-old Texan, Jeremy Wade Delle, who committed suicide by shooting himself in front of his class at school, the song and video tell the story of a young man bullied at school, ignored by his parents and generally disillusioned with life. At the end of the video he is seen putting a gun to his mouth before pulling the trigger— his blood-spattered classmates are shown next, frozen in horror. To get the clip played on TV, the gun scene was cut; a move, which led to many people wrongly assuming that the video’s climax depicted the boy killing his classmates. After the video was blamed for a school shooting in 1996 and, after the Columbine shootings in 1999, the video was rarely seen again on TV; a fact that continues to this day.


Limited Edition 15 Year Anniversary Poster “Spring” by Local Phoenix Artist Jason Hill In Celebration of Botanicare’s® 15 year anniversary, look for the chance to receive seasonal limited edition prints by local Phoenix artist, Jason Hill. We commissioned Jason to create a series of four poster designs, one for each season- Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. At right, you’ll see a sneak preview of his creation “Spring”. Only 2500 of each poster will be given away. Want one? Use your smartphone to download a QR Code reader and scan the code below to get yours.

Spring botanicare.com growanywherewithbotanicare.com


INTRODUCING THE TESTER Our Technical Editor, Gareth Hopcroft, puts this premium pH meter through its paces over a three-month test period, using it regularly, several times a day, in a real-world growing situation. Here are his results and feedback.

PRODUCT TEST:

The Bluelab pH Meter At 200 bucks a pop Bluelab’s pH meter is two to three times the cost of many handheld models. So is it worth the extra investment? UNIT Although the display component is not waterproof, I can’t see why it needs to be. After all, the idea is that you don’t put it near any water or nutrient solution. Instead you position it for convenience—i.e. where it’s easy for you to read. The long probe cable—6.5ft (2m)—spares your back the stress and strain of reaching into reservoirs with handheld units and trying to take a reading at the same time. The measurement resolution is 0.1 pH, which is fine for my uses. However, I have used other pH meters which provide readings of 0.01 pH – I know this isn’t necessary, but it appeals to the geek in me. The unit only has three buttons, so it’s suitable for all levels of grower.

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PROBE The product comes complete with a pH probe. It attaches easily to the unit via a screw down BNC fitting. It has proven to be extremely robust and very reliable. The connection between the probe and the cable is waterproof, so I don’t worry about plunging the probe deep into my res. The probe has a six-month guarantee, which is quite generous; most of the other pH meters I know of only offer three months. The unit itself has a five year guarantee. Another nice touch is the laminated probe maintenance card that details cleaning and storage instructions.

WETTING CAP A small cap attaches to the probe to keep it moist between readings. In my experience, allowing a pH probe to dry out when not in use is one of the main causes of inaccurate readings and premature probe failure. The cap design is good. Instead of the usual slide-off soft cap, Bluelab have opted for rigid plastic with a screw top. The probe slides through a rubber grommet on the cap and into the tube that contains the storage solution. When the cap is screwed down it’s firmly attached to the probe, if you try to pull it off when screwed down it does allow some movement but the vacuum created inside the cap pulls the probe back in.


ABOUT BLUELAB Bluelab manufacture some of the industry’s best hand-held meters and control equipment for measuring & controlling parameters such as nutrient pH, conductivity and temperature. More info: www.getbluelab.com

TEST RESULTS COMPLETE UNIT COST

$200

REPLACEMENT PROBE COST

$75

Ease of use

9/10

Reliability

9/10

Accuracy

9/10

Maintenance

9/10

Information provided

OPERATING TEMPERATURE RANGE

32-113°F (0-45°C)

10/10

Value for money

8/10

Overall

90%

TECH SPECS RESOLUTION: 0.1 pH ACCURACY: +- 0.1 pH

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 pH RANGE

RANGE: 0 –14 pH

AAA BATTERIES Few things suck more when mixing up your nutrients than discovering your pH meter’s batteries have died. Most of my previous meters have used watch batteries. Sure, they are fairly easy to find in many stores but they are very rarely found when hunting around the house in an emergency. Bluelab’s meter uses two AAA batteries so I can easily plunder a temporary replacement from the TV remote control or the computer mouse. The unit also indicates when battery levels are low.

“Bluelab’s meter uses two AAA batteries so I can easily plunder a temporary replacement...”

CALIBRATION The unit features auto-calibration, so you just put the probe in the buffer solution and hit the calibrate button! It’s that easy! For accuracy and peace of mind the meter has three points of calibration at pH 4, 7 and 10. Because I’m only taking readings between 5 and 7 I’ve only been using pH 4 and 7 buffer solution for calibration. If I wanted accuracy between 7 and 10 I would use the respective buffers. Bluelab recommends calibrating after every 30 readings. I have used it many more times between checks and the probe has only ever been out by 0.1 over the past three months. Only time will tell if more regular calibration will be necessary but so far so good. I’ll keep you posted online at www.urbangardenmagazine.com

SUCKER PAD The sucker pad is a great feature. The ability to stick the probe to the reservoir makes it much easier to stir in pH correction solutions than when using handheld meters as I have both my hands free!

AUTO OFF After 4 minutes the unit automatically switches off. I have found this slightly annoying sometimes when measuring many different solutions but perhaps I will appreciate this feature in the long run as it does save battery life.

“The meter’s probe has proven to be extremely robust and very reliable.”

CONCLUSION Bluelab’s pH meter may not win any sexy design awards but it’s all about functionality over form. I don’t mind that this unit costs more either. In fact, using this pH meter had been somewhat of a revelation for me. In my many years as a grower I have gone through so many handheld pH meters, I dread to think about the total cost of all those cheap meters that ended up giving up the ghost after three months. You certainly get what you pay for, and I’m left in no doubt that it’s worth the extra dollars.


INCOMING:

NUTRICULTURE’S GRO-TANK FINALLY AN NFT SYSTEM FOR HEAVY FRUITING PLANTS

EUROPE’S #1 HOBBY HYDROPONICS SYSTEM AVAILABLE IN FIVE SIZES TO SUIT ALL GROWERS

WHAT IS IT?

USES NO GROWTH MEDIA OTHER THAN PROPAGATION BLOCKS

The NFT Gro-Tank brings home the benefits and techniques of commercial hydroponics to hobby growers. A long-standing favorite among European indoor gardeners, it’s super simple to use and massively productive. Designed by Nutriculture, a pioneer of the European hydroponics industry since 1976, these systems are now finally available in North America!

HOW DOES A NUTRICULTURE NFT GRO-TANK WORK? A Nutriculture NFT Gro-Tank is comprised of a low level tank, a top tray, a top plate, and a pump with delivery system attached. The nutrient solution is contained in the tank. The plants sit on the tray, which is set at a very slight incline, above the tank. Nutrient solution is pumped onto the tray to create a shallow, slow moving film that constantly flows through the roots of the plants. Whatever the plants don’t use is drained back into the tank, ready to be passed over the roots again. Plants are started in a small amount of growing medium, usually a 3 or 4 inch rockwool cube and are placed onto the tray when fully root bound. The only growing medium used is the medium that the plants are started in: NFT is a “bare rooted” technique.

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Post-harvest inspection: A dense network of roots forms on the spreader mat.

CONSTANT IRRIGATION SIMPLIFIES WATERING


Grow Store Testimonial A consistently popular choice for both novice and expert growers. Justin Henry, Chief Hydroponicist, Growell, UK

Cucumber plant in rockwool block ready to be transplanted into an NFT Gro-Tank. Note that the block is literally bursting with roots! Transplants need to be at this stage before being inserted into an NFT system.

KEY BENEFITS OF A NUTRICULTURE NFT GRO-TANK

A thin layer of capillary matting called â&#x20AC;&#x153;spreader matâ&#x20AC;? is first placed over the tray. This helps to spread the flow of the nutrient solution evenly over the entire surface of the tray when plants are young. The tray is covered with the top plate to prevent light from entering the root zone and the roots develop, very rapidly, into a large mat that completely fills the tray. The larger the root mass, the greater the uptake of water and nutrient and, ultimately, the greater the yield. More roots = more fruits! The pump is left on 24/7, so there are no tricky irrigation cycles to work out. The roots always have access to water, nutrients, and a huge dose of oxygen. Whatever the plants do not use simply flows away; they are never over-fed or under-fed.

GRO-TANK RANGE

Faster growth rate and bigger yields Up to four times the yield of conventional soil growing. Simple No complicated delivery systems; no feeding schedules to calculate; very little maintenance involved. Quicker harvests Get more crops per year. Water efficient No waste run-off in re-circulating hydroponics systems.

The Gro-Tank range is comprised of five different size units suitable for 1 to 16 plants.

No chance of over- or under-watering Plants take as much or as little as they need.

System GT205 / GT424 / GT604 GT901 / GT100

Clean and minimum waste produced No heavy bags of medium to carry around: a major benefit for indoor cultivation.

WANNA PLAY?

No soil-borne pests Reduced chance of disease and reduced use of pesticides.

To see grow diary images, a full run down of sizes and some very entertaining system assembly videos, visit: www.nutriculture.com

Developed by real growers Realistic plant spacings, easy-access tanks, irrigation tubing suitable for high mineral content solution and sizes based on common grow room dimensions.

Interested in stocking Nutriculture hydroponic systems?

Manufactured in the UK Complete control over quality components.

Contact Agrarian Distribution Group: Tel: 1-888-213-8016 info@agrariandistributiongroup.com


INCOMING:

NATURE’S SOLUTION COMPOST TEA LIVE BENEFICIAL BIOLOGY IN A BAG!

WHAT IS IT? Compost tea helps plants uptake nutrients by introducing a diverse range of beneficial biology into the root zone. Nature’s Solution Compost Tea comes in a breathable (patented) bag so there’s no need to brew your own and rush it to your reservoir. Amazingly, it will last for one year as an active and live compost tea.

HOW’S IT MADE? Nature’s Solution Compost Tea contains worm castings and compost with several nutrients. Several large bins are prepared months ahead of time with the perfect blend of raw materials for culturing and increasing the amount of diversity in the base material.

HOW DOES IT STAY ALIVE FOR SO LONG? Compost tea needs oxygen in order to stay alive. The breathable bag technology was discovered in 2004 and tested for over a year. But it took a further five years to find a manufacturer who could produce a durable breathable bag that did not break in transit.

HOW TO USE? Apply once a week for best results. You can use it as a soil drench or in reservoirs throughout the growth cycle. In addition you can also apply tea as a foliar spray up until early flowering.

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UP TO ONE YEAR SHELF LIFE

NO BREWING. COMES READY TO USE! GOOD FOR ORGANICS AND HYDROPONICS

The Breathable Bag The breathable bag has two layers. The first layer has tiny holes that are smaller than a water molecule, so air can come in, but the water cannot come out. The second layer has larger holes in it and is made of stronger material to give the bag stability and enable a fitment and cap to be attached.


KEY BENEFITS FOR GROWERS Use only what you need, when you need it Stays active and alive for a year pH is Not Lowered No refrigeration required No chemicals added No brewing Ready-to-use with soil or hydroponics 2 Quarts Makes 2-1/2 Gallons 1 Gallon Makes 5 Gallons 2 Quarts for every 25 Gallons in Reservoirs Dilute 4:1 for Foliar Spray or Soil Drench

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? 2 quarts - $17.95 - $24.95 1 gallon - $34.95 - $39.95

Tech support: 415-898-5895 More info: http://www.nature-technologies.com and http://www.gardeningwithnature.net Contact: Dr. Carole Ann Rollins t. 415-8985895 Interested retailers call: 707-225-5762 Or email: info@nature-technologies.com Fax: 707-940-0444 Wholesalers: Hydrofarm R & M Supply Excel Garden Products L & L Nursery Supply Arett Sales Sparetime Distributors

Without Biology

With Biology


tuned for growing

F E AT U R I N G

1:1

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WASTE RATIO

OVER 2000 GALLONS PER DAY

W W W. G R O W O N I X . C O M built in the U.S.A

GrowoniX, Los Angeles, CA


GROW GEAR

Are you looking to give your garden the edge? Then check out our definitive guide to new and interesting products compiled from retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers across the USA and Canada.

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1 GROWONIX GrowoniX is proud to announce their new 200+ GPD High Flow Cold Water Membranes. Increasing your flow rate by over 30%, these membranes work with as little as 20 PSI of incoming water pressure. Specially developed to help growers combat the flow-inhibiting effects of cold water during the wintery season, these membranes allow the GX150 to flow an unprecedented 200+ gallons per day and the GX300 over 400+ gallons per day. Finally, an RO that flows all year round. Visit www.growonix.com for more information.

2 ZERO TOLERANCE NOW AVAILABLE IN PINT-SIZE CONCENTRATE Zero Tolerance Pesticide is now available as a concentrate in a convenient pint-size bottle. This eco-friendly choice means that controlling infestation just became more economical. Plus fewer plastic containers head towards landfills. The herbal pesticide safely eliminates spider mites and other pests. Gardeners like it because it fully evaporates, leaving no sticky residue so it is safe to use up to 5 days before harvest. Made of essential plant oils, it even smells good! Look for Ed Rosenthal’s Zero Tolerance products. They are: Safe to use up to 5 days before harvest

Environmentally safe, biodegradable, 100% vegan

Approved for edible plants Family and pet friendly Made with pure food grade ingredients and essential oils Visit www.z-tolerance.com for more information about how to develop your Zero Tolerance policy for pests. Now available through Tradewinds Wholesale Garden Supplies, Sacramento, CA. Tradewinds offer a complete range of indoor and outdoor gardening products and accessories. For more about Tradewinds Wholesale Garden Supplies, visit tradewindsgarden.com or call (888) 557-8896.

3 MICROCLONE RACK TRAY FROM PURE FOOD GARDENING The Microclone Rack Tray fits into the standard chrome and steel racks chosen by clone growers for its efficient use of space and light. Many retail stores, plant shops, web postings, and magazine articles reveal how popular racks are for cloning. The prop trays line up neatly in rows of as many as four per shelf and such rack systems have five or six shelves for prop trays and low profile lighting. Fluorescent fixtures , especially T-5s, fit naturally in the plant shelves. Clone growers put their propagation trays under the lights like a baker cooling trays of cookies. Until now, growers watered and drained trays by hand. The Microclone Rack Tray is 45” by 25 ½” to fit all common rack units and is no taller than the prop trays it is designed to hold. The Rack Tray has a flat bottom and thin raised ridges for plenty of drainage and easy cleaning, important for healthy clones. Distributors wanted in all countries. Microclone Rack Trays are available from your favorite retailer. Pure Food Gardening has a new location at 830-H Bransten Rd., San Carlos, CA 94070-3339. 650-596-9700 www.planttc.com


GROW GEAR

We’d love to hear from any of you who care to share your experiences with any products we mention – whether positive or negative. Get in touch by emailing us at: rant@urbangardenmagazine.com

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NEW

FROM SUNLIGHT SUPPLY

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NEW

FROM SUNLIGHT SUPPLY

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4 TITAN CONTROLS® FLO-N-GRO™

5 “THAT STUFF” PLANT WASHES

Sunlight Supply,® Inc. is proud to announce the release of the Flo-N-Gro™ growing system from Titan Controls®. This innovative hydroponic system includes a 55 gallon reservoir, twelve x 4 gallon grow sites and twelve x 3 gallon 360° mesh aeration inserts that promote lateral root growth and oxygen exchange for your plants.

Sunlight Supply,® Inc. is pleased to announce the arrival of “That Stuff” Mighty Wash, PM Wash and Power Wash! Many years of research have lead to the creation of these amazing plant cleaning products. These ready to use washes may be used throughout your plants’ entire growing and flowering cycle, up to and including the day of harvest. “That Stuff” is truly “the cleanest solution to your problems.” Use Power Wash as your final spray to remove residue left behind from other plant sprays.

This complete system also includes the Titan Controls® Oceanus 1 Flo-N-Gro Controller, two x Maxi-Jet 1000 pumps and all the necessary ¾” tubing and fittings to build your system. Simply add your favorite growing media and start growing. Visit www.titancontrols.net for more information.

6 QUANTUM HORTICULTURE RELEASES NEW 400W MODEL Built on the same platform as their bulletproof 1000w and 600w, Quantum is proud to introduce the NEW 400w model. Runs both HPS and MH bulbs, 120/240v (includes both cords), and comes equipped with a twoposition dimmer capable of 100% and 75% operation. Big things do come in small packages!

Available NOW at Sunlight Supply,® Inc. Visit www.sunlightsupply.com now for more information.

7 SUN BLAZE® T5 VERY HIGH OUTPUT (VHO) FLUORESCENT LIGHTING FIXTURES Sunlight Supply®, Inc. announces the release of the new Sun Blaze T5 Very High Output (VHO) Fluorescent Lighting Fixtures. These 4 foot fixtures come in 4 lamp and 8 lamp configurations. Each fixture includes wire hangers, twelve foot power cords, on/off switches and can be installed for vertical or horizontal operation. The 8 lamp model can run 4 or 8 lamps at one time. FREE pre-installed Spectralux 6500° K VHO Lamps are included. VHO lamps offer 7,200 lumens - 95 watts each. Visit www.sunlightsupply.com for more information.

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GROW GEAR SAFE TO USE

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Up to 5 Days Before Harvest

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8 FLORADUO BY GENERAL HYDROPONICS Flora Duo is an easy to use two-part fertilizer. With only two bottles, it is possible to obtain a large range of different nutrient blends to meet the needs of all plants through every phase, from seedling through harvest. The ratios of primary, secondary and micronutrients adjust as you blend in different amounts of A and B, thus tailoring your nutrient mixes to meet your plants needs. FloraDuo can be used for all plants in prepared soil mixes, coco blends and garden soils. Flora Duo A can be used alone as a growth booster for garden plants, foliar feeding and hydroponic reservoir top-up for the Grow phase by adding 1 - 3 tsp of A per gallon of water. Flora Duo B can be used alone as a bloom booster for garden plants, foliar feeding and hydroponic reservoir top-up for the Bloom phase by adding 1 - 3 tsp of B per gallon of water. www.genhydro.com

9 RAPIDSTART速 ROOTING ENHANCER BY GENERAL HYDROPONICS Rapidstart enhances your growing experience by delivering a powerful blend of premium plant extracts, amino acids, and nutrients generating explosive root growth. Rapidstart stimulates prolific root branching and development of fine root hairs that increase nutrient uptake and grow healthier, whiter roots. Use during the entire growing cycle in all types of growing media, including coco. Rapidstart, strong finish; bigger is always better! www.genhydro.com

Non-toxic. Safe for family and pets.

HERBAL PESTICIDE HERBAL FUNGICIDE

kill/repel spider mites kill/repel powdery mildew

THE POWER OF CONCENTRATE! Economic Green Convenient Herbal Pesticide Concentrate New! Pint Size ( = 2.5 gallons) Quart Size ( = 5 gallons)

www.Z-TOLERANCE.com


GROW GEAR

We’d love to hear from any of you who care to share your experiences with any products we mention – whether positive or negative. Get in touch by emailing us at: rant@urbangardenmagazine.com

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FROM HYDROFARM

10 GRODAN® GRO-SMART TRAY

11 MEASURING CUPS

12 30ML NUTRIENT HAND PUMP

Your Grodan Starter plugs, Mini-Blocks™ and Gro-Blocks™ have finally found a home. This durable Dutch tray has double-sided features. Use the 78-cell side to perfectly fit 1.5” A-OK Starter plugs or round Macroplugs. Use the mesh side for sheets of A-OKs, Mini-Blocks, or Gro-Blocks. The tray fits in a standard 10x20 flat and keeps the Grodan elevated from the bottom of the flat. Easily sanitized as any hard-plastic product; even dishwasher safe!

Hydrofarm’s measuring cups have reinforced handles that allow you to easily measure powder, dust, liquid, seed or pellets for your home, lawn or garden. They are sturdy, food grade plastic and virtually non-breakable. These measuring cups are perfect for grasping to dig deep into bags of fertilizer or other growing media and have an angled spout for mess-free pouring.

Tired of spillages when trying to measure out small amounts of liquid nutrient with cumbersome spoons?

www.grodan.com

Hydrofarm’s measuring cups feature US and metric markings and are available in 250, 500, 1000, 2000 and 3000 milliliters.

With Hydrofarm’s new 30ml nutrient hand pump, dosing nutrients is easy and spill-free! Hydrofarm’s nutrient hand pump screws on to the lid of 1 gallon and 2.5 gallon nutrient containers and one full pump delivers 30 ml of nutrients.


GROW GEAR

We’d love to hear from any of you who care to share your experiences with any products we mention – whether positive or negative. Get in touch by emailing us at: rant@urbangardenmagazine.com

ORGANIC LABORATORIES Organic Laboratories is one of the country’s leading producers and marketers of earth friendly pesticides and fertilizers. Visit www.organiclabs.com for more information.

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13 TOMATO MAKER

14 EXEL LG

Tomato Maker is a revolutionary fertilizer and soil conditioner that produces a robust crop of firm, tasty tomatoes. A natural-based product, it provides comprehensive (major and micro) nutrition including Calcium, Magnesium and Iron. Tomato Maker has shown to correct plant nutritional deficiencies and prevent Blossom End Rot, a common tomato problem. Can be used on most other fruits and vegetables too!

Exel LG (Lawn & Garden) is a broad spectrum systemic fungicide for turf, fruit trees, ornamentals and flowers. An earth-friendly product, Exel LG is an environmentally responsible alternative to traditional chemical fungicides. A systemic product, it has a foliar or root application that will work its way throughout the entire plant to prevent disease and attack existing disease above and below ground.

15 ORGANOCIDE

16 MYCOSTIM

Organocide is an OMRI listed, nature-safe insecticide and fungicide for organic production. Derived from a unique blend of soybean extract and sesame and fish oils, Organocide is heavier and more effective than other oils, but safer to the plant. It will not cause plant burn even when used on hot sunny days!

MycoStim is a natural-based biological soil and root inoculant with beneficial root colonizing fungi adaptable to a wide range of soils and environmental conditions. These fungi increase the root’s ability to take up nutrients and water resulting in a more vigorous and stress resistant plant - especially when establishing a new plant to the landscape.

17 XTRASUN II REFLECTOR NOW WITH BUILT-IN SOCKET The new and improved Xtrasun II Aluminum Wing Reflector now comes pre-wired with a socket, so it’s ready to plug in and go! This reflector is solidly built, compatible with all Hydrofarm or Xtrasun ballasts, and priced to fit any budget. This series has a low profile design but is bright and offers a broad spread of light. The Xtrasun units are made with European highperformance specular aluminum for maximum light reflection, and carry a 5-year warranty on reflective materials. To find a Hydrofarm Authorized Retailer near you visit www.hydrofarm.com


Via Facebook I love your magazine and the thought provoking political rants add to it! Disregard those who stay with their head in a hole and keep up the good work to educate on sustainability and the future of our livelihood! Janet Jacobs

Rant! Your Letters Via urbangardenmagazine.com

Letters, Emails, Web, Facebook, Twitter and Twatter. What a lot of thought there is to think about these days! Here’s a selection of the cerebral offal you flung in our general direction…

JB on Expert Eye: Carbohydrates and Amino Acid Products

BigD on Super Feeding: Do Mycorrhizae Have a Role in Hydroponics?

This is a great article and lends some insight to HOW things work in the real world. My opinion is that a simple Actively Aerated Compost Tea can replace all of the OTC amino acid/carb products in any given line of nutrients.

I have to say, research aside…and personal experience behind me. Fungal inoculation definitely has a place in hydroponics! I have seen huge increases in root mass, as well as overall health of root development post inoculation.

Frank Feiller on Aquaponics Explained – Part 2

Bryson on How to Spot the Early Signs of Over-Fertilization

Your articles cover the basics concisely and are easy to follow. Would like to see a continuation of this series to include possible nutrient deficiencies to supplement the nitrates and aquatic poop nutrients. Thanks for the articles.

I read this article right in time. It allowed me to spot the damage before it got too bad! Thank you Urban Garden. You have been the most resourceful gardening magazine I have found to this day. Thank you!

Everest – We are now working with Sylvia Bernstein, aquapoinc expert, on a series of aquaponic articles published monthly on our website! Visit www. urbangardenmagazine.com for your regular dose of all things aquaponic!

This Issue’s Gold Prize Winner Ex-Marine Goes Nuts For Hydro!

David Epstein on My Quest for Bioponics We’re also doing bioponics. This is really the way to farm sustainably. Our method at Bioponica is to convert all waste into a leachate fertilizer through anaerobic biodigestion, including human urine, hair grasses, paper, worm teas and all plant matter. It’s really astounding how easy it is to create food from trash, even so much as to isolate and specifically enhance nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. There’s really no reason to buy petro chemical fertilizers when waste does it all.

Tim Shableys on We The Sheeple Persuasion in the form of insulting people and calling them “sheeple” is pretty unconvincing.

Josh on Human Farming: The Story of Our Enslavement Great article! Keep em coming I love that you guys are taking on some really great concepts especially something as thought provoking as a truly free society.

Brian on Human Farming: The Story of Our Enslavement I really wish that that space in the magazine had been used for an article that had been relevant to growing. While entertaining, the article is bull$4JT. What cave does this guy live in? He doesn’t have a job or any need for money? I happen to think life is pretty damn awesome. But maybe I am a slave master?

I did 30 months in the sandbox (Iraq). And I learned that Presidents lie. Upon my return to state side I hooked up with a friend of mine that was into hydro. I checked out his set up, a deep water culture using 5 gal. buckets. I wanted to start growing too. I had so many questions for the dudes at my local hydro store. Eventually they pointed to your magazine. They even hooked me up with some spare back issues. I read each 2-3 times! I decided to build my own flood and drain system. I went down to the dollar store, due to hardly no money in my wallet from government pay scale, purchased 12 x 4gal. buckets, got some lids fabricated to fit a 6” mesh pot, and some fittings and black flexi hose from my hydro store plus a large bag of hydroton. Water pumps, air pumps, and hey presto I have a 12 bucket ebb and flow system. I even ended up rigging my pump that fills the service bucket to the over limit switch using a relay to shut off the water level with a timer. All in all I spent 250 bucks! Now I am growing tomatoes like you would never believe. This system works all by itself, I just have to monitor the pH and nutrient concentration as always. I could use one of those meters that monitor temp. pH and TDS. When’s your next show because I would like to meet your staff, and just share my heart with you guys! David Everest: Thanks so much for your heart warming letter David. Your DIY hydro system sounds the business! Would love to see some pics of it in action. Especially now you’re the lucky winner of a Bluelab Guardian Meter and pH Cleaning and Calibration kit! Good luck with your new hobby – so glad we were able to help!

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Via Facebook I have caught the “revolution” bug...thanks for putting together such a thoughtful magazine...truly an inspiration!...and a motivator. Sanda Nead

This Issue’s Silver Prize Winner Via Email

(rant@urbangardenmagazine.com) Hello Everest, Well as I sit here contemplating a new year I realized how much I am looking forward to GROW 2011. I was also personally touched by the article WE THE SHEEPLE by Bruce-Ray Riggs. Add 2009 and 2010 onto the levy from the state, I also owe the federal people for the same years and after reading the article it made me feel somewhat free. I love my life, I love my dogs, and I love your magazine so I just take it easy and live one day at a time because I only have one life to be truly free. Thanks Everest. Lifelong subscriber, David M. Roberts Everest: You rock David! Thanks so much for sharing the love. We have plenty coming your way! In the form of a Bluelab truncheon, pH meter and conductivity cleaning kit – all yours! Woohoo!

This Issue’s Bronze Prize Winner Battle of the Mites I read your magazine faithfully and thought I would share the tale of my initial grows with you. With high hopes, I set up my first indoor grow area, and obtained cuttings from a friend. Then, disaster struck in the form of spider mites. I tried everything I could imagine to destroy them, to no avail. I finally harvested my toms, sterilized the room, and started again. Problem was - my clones for the second grow came from the first, infested plants! After reading everything I could find, I decided to try Neem Oil. As soon as the clones were transplanted into small pots, I began to spray faithfully, a teaspoon of Neem Oil and a quarter teaspoon of Dawn dish soap to a liter of water. After a couple of weeks, I moved them into the sterilized room. Incredible results! No sign of mites, and the plants are healthy and shiny! I took clones from these once they were of suitable size, and this third grow, which was never infested, has caught up to the second in size and maturity. The information from your magazine proved a lifesaver for these little plants. Keep up the good work! Phil Everest: Thanks for your letter Phil. Relieved to hear you got on top of your mite problem! A Bluelab Combo Meter, Soil pH Probe and pH Cleaning and Calibration Kit now have your name on them!


Win Stuff! Okay you highly molestable, syrupy globules of joyspunk, it’s over to you! On the offerings table this time are a pair of 1000W Quantum Dimmable E-Ballasts! These orange cuboids of joy are perfect for powering your garden!

Check out all these highly arousing features! Runs at 100%, 75% or 50% power Strikes both Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium Bulbs Accepts 120v or 240v (both cords included) Allows 50 Hertz to 60 Hertz Runs super cool Lightweight, shiny and ORANGE! GENSET & FLIPBOX READY

winner will +alsoThereceive an extremely covetable Quantum Media Station!

That’s right – it looks just like a ballast but you can plug your iPod or iPhone in and it will rock out tunes in your garden! These babies are so limited edition it���s untrue – your buddies will be oh-so green with envy!

Winning Is So Easy!

When you post a comment on our website or Facebook page, or if you write us a letter or send an email, you stand a chance of winning an amazing prize! If we judge your communication to be the best we have received (perhaps a really useful grow tip, a funny joke, photo or story) then you will win free grow stuff! Competition open to readers living in the U.S. and Canada only.

Entry via: Posting a comment on Urban Garden’s Facebook Group. Posting a comment on Urban Garden’s website: www.urbangardenmagazine.com Emailing us at: rant@urbangardenmagazine.com Or sending us a letter to: Urban Garden, PO Box 88097, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6A 4A4


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UGM Support Starving Artist:

Rocket01 English artist, Rocket01, started painting graffiti in 1994. “I was no vandal,” he insists, “I used to find old places to paint, places of decay and neglect...” “ These places provided shelter from the British weather and often provided smooth walls on which to paint as well as peace and quiet. Working like this allowed me to take my time and work over a few days, giving me more freedom to paint what I liked. My work didn’t need to be pretty to please the public, nor did it have to be rushed.” After leaving school Rocket01 studied a degree in fine art. His tutors didn’t care for his graffiti art and tried to push him in other direction. “It was good in some ways but not in others. Either way I never forgot my graffiti roots and it continued to influence me throughout my time at college. After my degree I worked freelance, mainly teaching graffiti art to young people in schools and youth clubs. This work really helped to keep me going and afforded me the time to develop as an artist without having to worry about how I was going to pay the bills.”

Today Rocket01 continues to paint, but he is now more focused on travelling and getting his work exhibited further afield. He spends a lot of time in his studio painting canvas work and selling it through his website. Rocket01 also enjoys commission work on canvas and interior murals. “I mostly enjoy painting things from nature. I like to portray an organic feel to the things i paint. Science technology and plants also feature strongly in my work. I try to help people imagine a world where we are one organism, where technology and nature are combined sustainably to benefit everybody.”

WIN! We have one signed print to give away! Send us a photo of where you want to hang it and, if we deem it a good fit, you’ll be the winner!

www.rocket01.co.uk

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