Update On Hydroponic Tiny Garden

About 2 weeks ago, I posted a photo of my Hydroponic Tiny Garden. I’d just “planted it” by putting the rock wool cubes into the net cups (after starting them less than a week prior). So we’re about 3 weeks total into this. I’d also put in place one “transplant’ from the experiment with a Bag-O-Dirt in a tub as a lettuce grow. At that time it was about 2 inches across, all told.

Well, here’s an updated image. I’m very happy with the results so far.

In the front row we have (left to right) 2 lettuces doing nicely, 2 failed cups, a nice kale / cabbage cross using paper as medium, one of them that has failed. The failures were, IMHO, from my setting the cubes in the tub with zero “hardening off” time just before a sudden hot day and doing so with too little growth. These things were barely sprouted. This whole row is in 2 inch “net cups”. It gets the most sun latest into the afternoon as the shadow line starts on the other side.

Second row starts with the lettuce transplant, then several of what I think are the Senposaai oriental greens that are quite happy. (note to self, make more notes to self about what was sprouted ;-) These, and the back row, are in 3 inch net cups with the depth adjusted using canning jar rings.

In the back row is one pea plant (testing the viability of short bush sweet peas), then 3 more lettuces, and a senposai.

Hydroponic Tiny Garden at 2 weeks

Hydroponic Tiny Garden at 2 weeks

The image is a bit high contrast as it was a very sunny afternoon so lots of direct sun off of white styrofoam. Still, I think you can see that the lettuce in particular is doing great. The older transplant is nearly to the point where it can be harvested for a salad. It is being grown as “cut and come again’ so I’ll not be killing it in the process of a harvest, just trimming off some leaves. Note that, for scale, the rings around the back two rows of pots are 3 inch “wide mouth” canning jar rings.

The other “from seed in rock wool” lettuces are a bit bigger than the transplanted one was at the time of transplant, so that’s saying to me that I can get a LOT of lettuce in about 4 to 5 weeks total this way. Good normal harvest size in about 6 weeks. As an “Aw Shit Happens” need for emergency food supply, that’s just crazy fast compared to “dirt gardening” here. Admittedly, you will NOT be happy on just lettuce; OTOH, you will be a lot happier with a lettuce side salad with your dry beans and rice dinner ;-)

For comparison, here’s the prior image:

Hydroponics in a construction tub

Hydroponics in a construction tub

As you can see, the growth in 2 weeks has been quite impressive.

The Bag-O-Dirt lettuce has been doing very well also. We’ve had about 4 total salads from it. I’m talking full plate of “it is your dinner” Chef’s Salads, not dinner side salads. It is almost ready for another cutting. The last cutting did have some tiny bugs in the lettuce. Aphids I think. Little dots that fell off in the wash water soak. So growing in tubs has eliminated the very big bugs and snail issues, but not the tiny ones. I’ll likely need to set up an indoor lettuce grow on a “bread rack” to avoid all bugs.

For now, it’s easy enough to just toss the lettuce in a tub of water and let the little buggers swim for it ;-) They are not making holes in the lettuce (like the big bugs) and they wash off pretty darned easy. Better that than eating pesticide sprays (IMHO) as there isn’t a lot of time for any spray to degrade between harvests. We’ll see if my attitude changes as the complexity of the population evolves…

I’m running the Bag-O-Dirt as a quasiponics system. It IS a small bag of potting soil, just laying there; but I water it once a week or two with Miracle Grow and added some MgSO4 (Epsom Salts) to it. Most days I just sprinkle with fresh water and put about 1/2 inch in the bottom of the tub to soak in over time (through holes punched in the bottom of the bag). It is working quite well, but water consumption is much higher than the hydroponic system that has less exposed wet area.

In the future, I’m more likely to start seeds separately and only transplant about one every 6 inches into the bag, and that via one or two inch holes in the top side, not removing the whole plastic surface. that ought to significantly reduce evaporative water losses. Float a styrofoam cover over the area not covered by the bag to save even more water.

For easy set up (especially in a hurry in an Aw-Shit) the Bag-O-Dirt is very much easiest and fastest. IF you have time to prepare the hydroponic system in advance (so the styrofoam boards are drilled and ready, net cups in hand, etc.) the hydroponic system is just super fast to assemble and get running. Either one ought to work well indoors with LED Grow lights.

I’d GUESS that with some care and a bit of intensive operations you could keep a couple of people fed with a “grow room” of about 10 x 12 feet or about a “bedroom size”. Or, if your garage doesn’t over heat in summer or freeze in winter, in one car space in the garage. It would take a fair amount of capital investment for all the “bread racks”, LED lights, tubs, cups, etc. But I think it would be well worth it. Plus you can start with one tub and only add more as each one returns a “profit” in food.

That “grow room” would be dependent on continued supply of power and water, so not really useful in a complete collapse of the society. Then again, it can take a while to reach that point… when it might well be that “suddenly” a lot of dirt becomes available and empty… Look at Venezuela. Despite all the news about power failures, it was only a few days in a row. Mostly power has remained even while people had very low “rations” of food. Indoors, water use would be very limited as evaporation would be quite low too. When not in operation, it’s just a nested stack of tubs, a bag of hydroponic fertilizer, and a stack of cups and a “storage room” of racks. Nothing to see here, move along…

In Conclusion

This is really the first time I’ve been successful at growing salad fixings. Mostly due to dryness issues of the soil and bugs / snails. I have grown some lettuce before, but only a few and often with leaves with holes in them. Yeah, I know, use a lot of sprays… but I don’t want to eat a lot of sprays…

So this has me very happy. Yes I CAN grow a salad after all. As we have been buying Bag-O-Salad at about $2 / week, this is a $100 / yr “win” for me. I’e got about 8 months of “outdoor grow” time all told before I’ll need to have some LED lights and a place inside for winter salad. Just the notion I can have DIY Fresh Salad year round it “worth it” for me.

Also, the spouse was ecstatic over the lettuce quality from the potting soil bag grown lettuce. No more soggy, wilty, sad salad from a few days old bag in the fridge. This had that wonderful fresh full flavor in butter soft leaves that you can only get on a fresh pick. I’m expecting the hydroponic salad to be the same. Even if every other plant I try fails, just the lettuce alone is worth it for me.

What’s next?

I’m not sure. I’ll be slowly improving my lettuce technique. I’d like to add some other kinds (Romaine in particular. The spouse likes butter lettuce soft, I like Romaine crunch ;-) Then there’s choy and other stir fry greens to add. It looks like the one pea plant is doing very well, so some “Little Marvel” peas at about 1 foot tall might be fun (lots of 2 inch net cups on close centers needed though…) It would be nice to demonstrate something with more protein and starch content for a more complete meal base.

Having also documented the failed cups, I’ll be replacing them with something else. Most likely some herbs. Oregano, Basil, etc. There’s one complication here that will arise eventually. Many plants put chemicals / hormones into the soil round them to “claim” the dirt. I need to review my “companion planting” rules to find out “who kills whom” and only put compatible things in the same tub. So, for example, I want to try some green onions with ‘a few’ in a 2 inch cup; but I know that “peas and onions” don’t get along so well in the dirt. That means different tubs.

Having shown that the basic system works really well, and fairly easily, I now need to move on from the “don’t waste a lot of time just throw some stuff at it and see what you think” rapid prototyping stage to the “plan carefully what you want and run this as a professional operation” stage. I can likely get 2 x the lettuce growth by putting a ‘bubbler’ in the tub, for example. In the short run, just a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide can keep the roots oxygenated, but in the longer run an air supply and bubble stone is cheaper.

I’ve still got enough styrofoam boards to set up two more tubs, so I’ll be doing that as I think of things I want to grow. There’s a small gap between the styrofoam boards and the tub walls on the long axis, I ought to make a cover for that so that algae doesn’t get light in the tub. Details to polish here and there. Algaecide to buy?

Eventually (in about a month? maybe two?) I’ll reach the point of needing to deal with “spent” solutions and how best to do that. I intend to just dump it on the dirt garden so no nutrient is wasted. Then wash the tub and set it up again. At that time I can also go to “just one size cup” in any given tub. I’m leaning toward 2 inch cups as my general standard. So far I’m not really growing anything that looks like it needs a 3 inch diameter base. So future tubs will likely be all 2 inch holes / cups. The 3 inch reserved for use in Kratky Method jars. ( I have two on my windowsill for experimental things at the moment). I’m not seeing any issues with that stage.

I’ll need to try some different nutrient mixes too. Find the most growth for the least cost and fuss. Even using the boutique liquid mix, this is a big win. The less costly dry mix will be essentially irrelevant as a cost basis.

I’m not quite ready to make the leap to pumped systems with PVC pipes in a “grow wall”, but I can see it in my future. Less total water and nutrient mix needed. Less weight. Better yield. Looks way cool too ;-) Between there and here I need to settle on what I want in my salad, which plants “play well with others” in the same solution, and just what my interests are in this. Daily salad? Peas and other ‘real food’ in an Aw Shit situation? Play Time for Me? Low cost year round garden? Maybe all of the above?

Frankly, THE biggest surprise for me has been how much labor savings are involved in this. No digging. No soil prep. No weeding. No constant daily water check and watering (especially on hot days, the squash in pots needs a lot of daily water). It has just been “set it up and walk away” so far. I did need to put about 1/2 inch of water in a few days ago. Compared to an inch a day for the other stuff in pots, 1/2 inch in 2 weeks is nothing for makeup water. (The Kratky Method tub doesn’t even need that…)

So there you have it. I’m happy. I’m sold on the method. I’ll be doing more and working on an inside (even if smaller) grow area for winter salad in the longer term.

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Posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Food, Plants - Seeds - Gardening | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Crop Failure Year Looms

There has been a shift in the weather toward the Little Ice Age pattern, with big storms, late heavy rains, flooding, and even snow into the start of Summer / late Spring at higher elevations. Not just in the USA, but all over. Europe, China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, South America.

This has resulted in lots of crop losses, very late planting (or even not planting), and price rises.

Some long time ago I did a story about hay. Most city folks don’t think much about hay, but it is what gets your grazing farm animals through the winter and onto fresh spring pasture. Horses and cows are called “hay burners” for a reason. Whilie lately we have gone to a more exotic collection of feeds, including DDG Distillers Dried Grains from making all that ethanol for diluting gasoline, hay is still an essential. We entered this year with low hay inventory due to low rainfall in the northern hay producing regions in prior years. Then this year has been so wet that transporting and harvesting hay have been problematic. Finally, a very late start to spring pasture growth means feeding hay longer… when none can be had… That’s a problem.

So hay prices have shot way up. Folks who feed hay to cattle are selling the animals to meat packers early (so buy and freeze some beef now…) while folks who have horses are paying any price to keep them fed and bedded (much hay is needed to keep barns functioning even if not eaten).

It is highly likely there will be a big spike in meat prices after the effects work through the system. Now add in that China is having a terrible time with swine flu and are trying to buy up replacement pork / pigs from all over the world (so pork prices will not be low any time soon) and chickens need “chicken feed” that is largely corn and soybeans (both late to plant so likely a low yield) and you can see where this is going.

Here’s where we were 3 months ago. It has not gotten better.


(All CAPS theirs)

By Mike McGinnis

DES MOINES, Iowa — As winter storms continue to pound the upper Midwest, cow/calf and feedlot operators are running out of hay to feed their animals.

With snow stunting the growth of spring pastures, the depth of the hay shortage that started in the drought-stricken fall of 2017 has been exacerbated.

Usually cattle farmers can kick animals out to pasture May 1, but that will not be the case this year.

So, the need for hay is extending further into spring than normal.

Paul McGill, owner of Rock Valley, Iowa, Hay Auction Co., sells hay to buyers in Iowa and Minnesota. “We need winter to get over soon,” McGill says.

Well the rains and flooding have continued across the Midwest. Some parts have dried enough they can likely start to pasture the animals, but a lot of the land is still flooded or so soggy a cow will get stuck. In others, it may be dry but a couple of months of growth has been lost. It isn’t over even when the water dries off.

Of course, this a supply/demand story right now for the hay market.

Large round bales of hay are selling for $75 to $90 per ton higher than a year ago, McGill says.

Specifically, alfalfa-grade hay bales are priced between $140 and $165 per ton, while grass, midquality hay bales are selling for $125 to $150 per ton.

This week’s blizzard cut McGill’s northwest Iowa auction company’s sales of hay that it does have to offer.

“On Monday, we moved only 14 semi-loads of large bales vs. 92 semi-loads a week ago. Since the first of the year, we have seen sales below average,” McGill says.

There is some hay around, it is just hard to get to it, he says.

What’s the government got to say?


Randomely taking the first report from South Dakota (that ought not to be flooded by the Mississippi…) It looks like they have started getting hay loads with 30, double 2 weeks ago and much more than last year. Alfalfa is now $165 / ton for new crop when it was $140 – $165 just a couple of months ago. The mid-grade “good” quality “grass” is at $145 when it had been $125-$150. That alfalfa in “fair” condition is available at $115 +/- so somebody will be eating crummy hay…

I’ve bolded a couple of places where they say some kinds of cheaper hay are now “scarce”. One of them says “scare” and I’ve got to wonder if that’s a typo or a slip of the emotional state… Also note these prices are FOB SD so trucking it to Iowa is going to cost… (Iowa gets a lot of hay from South Dakota)

Sioux Falls, SD Tues June 11, 2019 USDA-SD Dept of Ag Market News

Corsica, SD Hay and Straw Auction for Monday, June 10, 2019

Receipts: 30 Loads Two Weeks Ago: 15 Loads Last Year: 13 Loads

All prices dollars per ton FOB Corsica, SD.

One load Small Squares equals approximately 5 tons; Large Squares and
Large Rounds range from 10-25 tons per load.

Alfalfa: Premium: Large Rounds, 1 load 162.50 (New Crop). Good:
Small Squares, 1 load $5.10/bale (New Crop); Large Rounds, 3 loads
122.50-127.50 (1 load 127.50 New Crop 10-15% Moisture). Fair: Large
Rounds, 8 loads 112.50-117.50. Utility: Large Rounds, 1 load 102.50.

Grass: Good: Large Rounds, 1 load 145.00. Fair: Large Rounds, 8
loads 110.00-127.50. Utility: Large Rounds, 3 loads 97.50-102.50.

Straw: Scare.

Millet Hay: Large Rounds, 1 load 87.50-90.00.

Corn Stalks: Scarce.

      Alfalfa guidelines (domestic livestock use and not more than 10 pct 
Quality       ADF      NDF       RFV       TDN-100 pct   TDN-90 pct   CP
Supreme       <27      185         >62          >55.9       >22
Premium      27-29    34-36    170-185    60.5-62        54.5-55.9  20-22
Good         29-32    36-40    150-170      58-60        52.5-54.5  18-20
Fair         32-35    40-44    130-150      56-58        50.5-52.5  16-18
Utility       >35      >44      <130         <56          <50.5       <16

RFV calculated using the WI/MN formula. TDN calculated using the
western formula. Quantitative factors are approximate and many factors
can affect feeding value. Values based on 100 pct dry matter.

Quantitative factors are approximate, and many factors can affect
feeding value. Values based on 100 pct dry matter. End usage may
influence hay price or value more than testing results.

   Grass Hay guidelines
Quality       Crude Protein Percent 
Premium            Over 13
Good                  9-13
Fair                   5-9
Utility            Under 5

Source: USDA-SD Dept of Ag Market News Service, Sioux Falls, SD

0837c rmk

Then Ice Age Farmer has a couple of videos on corn, soybean, fruit and more. He can be a bit prone to “talking things up” but has a good collection of sources. And yes, I do think you ought to have some kind of food storage system (covered in depth in prior articles here: https://chiefio.wordpress.com/category/emergency-preparation-and-risks/ on “Dry Canning” and Food Storage in jars).

I do not think we’ll see much more than a meat price hike and some expensive farm feed. Since about 1/3 of corn goes into making gasoline that’s not as effective (hey, I’ve measured my mpg loss…) we can make up for a 1/3 loss of the corn crop by just putting the ‘ethanol mandate’ on hold for a while. Premium gas will likely take a price hike as a lot of ethanol is used to blend it for higher octane (with cheaper gasoline base). Still, if folks are stupid, and our law givers are, they will do nothing but talk and the Dimocrats will moan about “Global Warming”… so better to take care of it yourself.

I do believe in growing some percentage of your own food, if at all possible. I’ll have an update on my first hydroponic bed later. In just 2 weeks I have one lettuce transplant about ready for the first harvest! Others about 2 weeks behind it.

Here’s a couple of his videos:

Flooding in the USA and grain:

Fruit in China (& more):

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Why I Love YouTube Even If It Is Fxxx up On Conservatives

If the Roku had a BitChute ap this might have a different title…

So I watch YouTube videos to unwind and get news because current “news” outlets are now Political Advocacy sites and no longer do journalism while the “traditional networks” have become a wasteland of recycled themes and ex-stars.

So for a “novelty seeking personality” like me, YouTube is basically the only choice.

Tonight I was “playing with its algorithm” and had gotten it to think I was a Gypsy from Spain who mostly liked Spanish but also did some French and a bit of Italian… and a large number of very fun and slightly strange videos followed. Then I took a break to get another (yes, another….) bottle of wine… and it gave me this interesting video (6 minutes):

Now what I want to know is how a guy with a voice like gargling too much whisky for a couple of decades gets a staring role with a couple of backup babe singer? Sign me up!

I find a certain empathy with Che! despite despising the economic doctrine he supported (5 minutes) Hey, Babes with guns, what’s not to like?! :

Then, it looks like Via Con Dios

has a new video to go with their old song (that I love…) with a quasi-feminist theme (that I’m OK with as I have a wife and a daughter and love them both so…)

Then I’m off in Kazakhstan with a couple of quasi-Asian dude playing 2 sting sort of Mandolin things. while a girl sings “Et si tu ne existe pas” that I realize is “est-ce que vous n’existez pas” in French but they can’t spell it right, maybe:

then I’m off in a Romani theme video in some language I can sort of follow (Romansh?) that I also can’t find again…

It is just the amazing mix of cultures and differences and all that’s a pleasure to find yourself swimming in…

Then I’m off in this Euro-whatzit dance thing….

and suddenly I’m off in a B&W video with a CILF (clarinetist…)

It took me a while to realize the refrain I could not “get” was English “Whisky & Soda Rock & Roll”…

Then I’m reminded that I loved to Tango when I took dance in College…

And then…

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Tinyhouse Prepper Does A Nice Summary Of Global Warming BS

I occasionally look at stuff about the Tiny House ‘movement’ and about folks who live in RVs. I’ve lived ‘on the road’ a fair amount while working and that’s a kind of ‘tiny house’ issue (be it a hotel room, or 4 days in a car on the road…)

Similarly, living in Quake Country and having gone through a 7 quake and been without electricity a few days, being “prepared” is just part of the landscape requirements.

So I’ve watched a couple of Tinyhouse Prepper videos from time to time. That means YouTube feeds me more ;-) So this morning, this one popped up. In it, ‘Tinyhouse Prepper’ looks at Climate Change / Global Warming.

Now part of what I find interesting is just how effectively the ‘Prepper’ mind set deals with the Global Warming fraud. We look at potential threats and we assess them objectively looking for demonstrated risks and then plan what mitigations are needed. It can be lethal to get that wrong, so we tend to be rather careful and thorough about it. Do I need 32 gallons, or 64 gallons of water to get through a post-quake water system outage? How many weeks (or months) of food? What bracing on the house? Will a tent be needed and what is the right one for this weather and climate? Where to store it so it isn’t destroyed if the house collapses or burns?

That was partly why I started looking at “Global Warming” a decade+ back. Thinking: “This looks bad. I need to look into it and see how bad, where, and what will happen.” What I found was a lot of fuzzy thinking, errors, and flat out lies from the Warmistas, and well reasoned well supported logically consistent analysis from the Skeptics. Then I did a LOT of my own, which largely showed it was a ‘Politically Driven Process’ for economic change / domination / money suckage.

So here’s another Prepper who essentially follows the same path. What is it? How bad will it be? What mitigations are needed? And arrives at the same end point: Warming is BS, we need to prep for cold and snow and crop losses from cold wet windy fields.

While I come at things with a very strong computer sciences, data analysis, and math background; it is nice to see the same conclusions from a regular guy (not a “Geek”).

His video has some interesting details I’d missed. In particular the record snow in Hawaii (and ends with a startling photo of an iced over frozen truck on a mountain there – looking more like Wyoming in winter than Hawaii). So he’s got graphs, and photos, and news stories from a variety of sites. All presented in an orderly way by a Regular Guy. It gives me hope that more Regular Guys “get it” too. One need not be a math and computer wiz / geek. 29 minutes.

Anyone interested in “being prepared” ought to look at some of his other videos too. A “Tiny House” does not have a lot of room for things like a year supply of food or a few hundred gallons of water & extra fuel. It takes special care to make that work on a smaller scale.

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Posted in AGW Climate Perspective, Emergency Preparation and Risks, Global Cooling, Global Warming General | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments