Hydroponic Fire Risks in Organic Farming

Organic Hydroponics

Hydroponic Fire Risks in Organic Gardening

Hydroponics may seem like a god send to the organic grower, but one thing about having tons of really powerful lights inside a building is the risk of fire! If your electricity was not setup by a professional like 110220v you will always be at risk for starting a fire.

So lets take an example of a typical setup and assess the fire risk(s).  A good tomato indoor grow electrical setup was like this:

  • Delux Aerogarden
  • Lightscreen
  • One 1,000 watt metal halide
  • Wall outlet with a 15-amp, 120 volt circuit
  • Circuit breaker

Here is a good example of a setup of the electrical power requirements: growing under a single 23W CFL lightbulb using 25 Watts of power:

Calculates as: 12 hours/day x 7 days/week X 25watts ÷ 1000 W/kWh =  2.1 kWh per week

This is a relatively light setup, but it still has fire hazards if not setup correctly.

Also be aware of WHERE you setup your garden. If it is in closet other small enclosed space, you are heightening the risk of fire in close quarters. Also you may be plugging all your equipment like fans, lights, air conditioners and more into one sub standard wall outlet. This is not a good plan.

Now most of the time a typical wall outlet will not be able to handle the electrical load from a typical hydroponic organic vegetable grow. You’ll need a circuit breaker that actually works to spec and it is advisable that you have wiring that is not old or damaged in any way.

When your wiring is not good or the circuit breaker does not shut down correctly then you are the greatest risk for starting a fire.

Here are some further risks involved with hydroponic electricity and their fire risks:

Hydroponic systems can pose a serious fire hazard, especially when grow lights are used improperly, electrical connections are frayed,

  • Poor ventilation
  • Flammable materials are nearby
  • Faulty metal halide lights
  • Exposed wiring that could be exposed to water
  • High-intensity discharge (HID) lights can explode if exposed to water
  • Flammable chemicals that are used as fertilizer

Mitigating Risks

One thing you might consider is having an automatic fire extinguisher.  (Example of Flame Defender is a good one).  These will go on automatically whether you are there or not. It dispenses dry chemical fire retardant onto a fire automatically when it senses temperatures above 155F.

Put Flame Defender above the places where fires are most likely to start, like lights, breakers, wall outlets, exposed wiring etc..


Another good safety device is a hydroponics electrical interface device. Powerbox makes a good one. These devices have GFCI circuit breaker that automatically shuts down electrical flow when it detects that risks for fire or electrocution are unsafe or overly high.  Such a device will smoothly transition from safe to unsafe power loads which will also help preserve the life of your hydroponic equipment such as lights and ballasts.


Now that you have a good overview of the fire and electrical risks of a hydroponic garden, make sure you use a licensed electrician if you have any doubt about the safety of your grow.

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Garden pests, weeds, and disease solutions

Using pesticides and herbicides need not be synonymous with toxic chemicals that harm our health and our gardens. There are many natural techniques, home-made recipes and commercial organic sprays that are effective without harming the surrounding environment.

The problem with pesticide sprays, besides introducing yet more chemicals into our system, is they often kill the “good” insects that would otherwise help us combat problem pests. The spray that kills aphids could also kill dragonflies, butterflies and honeybees. In fact, 95% of all insects in your garden are either harmless or actually help your plants. With that in mind, spot-treating is much better than going over your entire garden with a spray.

If your home needs serious pest treatment and you would like to stay away from pesticides, you can learn how to control termites along with other general tips on keeping insect populations low.

As organic gardeners, we need to find natural and safe products to keep the bugs away and control weeds from messing up our gardens. Fortunately, they are available, and they are often already stocked in your kitchen! (See a list of home-made recipes.) Commercial products are also becoming increasingly available, all made of organic ingredients that are safe for your health and your garden.

Broad-spectrum insecticide soap mixed with pyrethrin, an extract of the pyrethrum flower, or chrysanthemum. Completely safe to all mammals, though it can harm fish. Spot-treat directly against aphids, whitefly, mites, and many other pests.

Great for indoor use, and even around food! (That doesn’t mean you should try it … it is an insecticide, after all.) Orange Guard’s active ingredient is d-Limonine, which is steam-distilled orange peel oil. Insects absolutely hate it, such as cockroaches, ants, fleas, locusts and weevils.

Garlic wards off vampires, and it also repels insects like aphids, and even prevents the spread of certain diseases! In fact, it is a great all-purpose pesticide for your garden. Plant edible garlic between rows of vegetables or roses to repel aphids and other insects. Use garlic powder mixed with water to use as a spray on plants – careful though, too much will harm them. Keep it to one spray. Commercial versions are often safer and more effective, as they have been extensively tested.

Many people can’t stand hot peppers, but insects absolutely loathe them! Keep some bugs out of your garden with a small amount of pepper juice or pepper seeds and water, then lightly coat your plants.

If the insect problem isn’t too bad or out of control, you could just wait for the cavalry. If your garden has been broad-spectrum pesticide-free for a few months, predatory insects will find the infestation and lay their eggs next to this valuable food source. Yum yum, aphid stew!

Made of natural citrus oil (d-Limonine) and Castor oil, this non-selective herbicide eliminates broadleaf, crab grass and other unwanted weeds naturally and quickly. It works by stripping away the plant’s waxy cuticle, dehydrating it. Annuals are killed, perennials may need a few applications. Completely safe for children, animals, and the water supply.

Rose RX is made from neem oil, a vegetable oil of an evergreen tree in the Indian subcontinent. In India it has been traditionally used in cosmetics, and is a herbal medicine against skin ailments. Recently is has been proven effective against aphids and mealy bugs, does not harm beneficial insects like ladybugs and honeybees, and controls fungus and black-spot, and eliminates powdery mildew. Because of this, it is great for roses, and can be used on all other plants, fruits and vegetables, right up to the day of harvest.

This organic fungicide is specially prepared for use with apples, beans, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, citrus, grapes and more. Use against such pests and diseases as rust, thrips, scale, two spotted mite, powdery mildew, leaf spot, and scab. Apply with a sprayer, using 1 – 3 tablespoons per gallon of water. Repeat every 7 to 10 days.

Organic gardening weed control involves the long-term planning of encouraging your plants to crowd them out, and keeping your grass healthy and thick so weed seeds can’t develop. Just like the plants in your garden, weeds (that is, “any plant that shouldn’t be there“) need air and sunlight to flourish, so preventing them from growing by covering the soil with newspaper, mulch, bark, stone and, of course, your big, healthy, bushy plants will block them from growing and spreading.

For weed seeds, such as dandelions, spread corn gluten meal over your lawn to prevent seeds from germinating. Corn gluten meal is a natural byproduct of corn starch, and is used in animal feed, taco shells and chips, and pet foods. As a bonus, it is a great source of nitrogen fertilizer. It does not harm existing plants, only seeds, so spread liberally in your flower gardens, but not in your lawn if you are reseeding. Apply in early spring, and then reseed your lawn six weeks later when the corn gluten meal has broken down.

Tests show corn gluten meal reduces crabgrass by 86% the first year and 98% the second year, using proper applications in the spring and fall. In a 4 year test, dandelion infestation on a test plot was reduced by 100%. (University of Wisconsin)

Vinegar, garlic and other oils have long been a weed control method. What they do is burn the leaves, quickly browning them. However, unless the weed is very young, it does not kill the roots. That means that in a week or two, the weed will say “Hello, I’m baaaack!”, taunting you once again. Hand weeding is easier.

That being said, stronger (11% acetic acid or higher) vinegar is much more powerful against weeds, including the roots. Regular commercial vinegar is around 5%, so this will only burn the leaves of the weeds. Stronger vinegar solutions will be sold as a herbicide, and may be found at some gardening centers and online. Be aware that strong vinegar is dangerous, so handle with care and definitely do not get any in your eyes!

Mulching is by far my preferred method of weed control. Mulch not only blocks weeds from growing, it is a common and effective practice of naturally fertilizing your lawn. Natural mulch includes grass clippings, slightly decomposed wood chips (fresh wood chips actually draw nitrogen from the soil), pine bark, straw and even coffee grounds.

You can, of course, use non-organic soil coverings to prevent weed growth, such as plastic sheets and rubber mulch from recycled tires (hey, at least it’s putting trash to work!), or decorate rocks and gravel, but none of these decompose and add nutrients to the soil.

Controlling plant disease involves similar long-term planning. Diseases include root-rot, black spot, powdery mildew and bacteria such as rusts. The best preventative measure? Keep everything clean! It may seem obvious, but plant disease can only spread if it is given the chance. If fungi and bacteria spores are not given the chance to thrive at the expense of your plants, you will not have a problem. Here are some practices to follow in your day-to-day gardening:

Fortunately, there are many natural products that will combat fungus and molds. Here are a few to try, depending on the type of problem you are having:

Many destructive fungi live in the soil and attack the roots, so why not have your plants “inoculated” by introducing a beneficial fungus instead? These organisms are naturally occurring in rich, healthy soil, and will bind to your plant’s roots anyway, out-competing bad fungus. Sprinkle some of this in the root ball or in the planting hole before transplanting.

Copper compounds have been used for a long time to control a wide variety of diseases. They attack the germination of spores, so they help prevent further spread of the disease. A warning, though – copper products, such as copper sulfate, is toxic to humans, mammals and aquatic species, so care must be taken. As with all pesticides (which are, after all, poisons, synthetic or organic), must be treated with care. Always follow the directions on the label!

Sulfur has been used since the Greeks and Romans, and controls the spread of disease such as black spot and powdery mildew. Like copper, it inhibits the growth of new spores. It also repels spider mites and thrips, but it is also toxic to some beneficial insects, so only spot-treat plants. Sulfur is also used to reduce the pH of soil.

Used to combat fungi that attacks plants, such as mildew. Combine 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 1 gallon of water, and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Mix thoroughly and place in a spay bottle. Spray on contact. Not very effective against black spot.

All oils have the potential to burn plants, so use sparingly. That being said, insects hate vegetable-based oils, and olive and tea tree oil prevents and actively combats fungus on leaves. Combine 2 tablespoons of tea tree oil with two cups of water. Mix well and place in a spray bottle. Spray on contact. Also works great as an antiseptic and air freshener (though very strong-smelling.) We use it in our child’s diaper pail to neutralize smells.

Like oil, use soap sparingly. Soaps are effective on young weeds because it strips the waxy layer off the leaves, drying them out. (A similar process makes insecticide soaps effective as well.) However, for the same reason, they could harm your existing plants as well. A small portion of liquid or tea tree oil soap, mixed with lots of water and spray, is an effective fungicide and insecticide.

– quickly clean up fallen leaves, carefully snip off diseases areas of the affected plant. Place these straight in the garbage – do not place them in your compost bin, as they can then spread and affect surrounding compost materials

– After treating a diseased plant through pruning, wash your gardening tools in bleach or other sterilizer. A lot of disease is inadvertently spread by you, either through spores on your clothing or through your tools

– Diseases are usually plant-specific. One type of fungus will only attack one type of plant. With that in mind, if you do not care about the uniform look of a garden, try planting similar plants in different areas. For instance, if you have two or more rose bushes, do not plant them together. That way, if one becomes infected, it likely will not spread to another one, because there will be a different species of plant in the way (such as garlic chives, which will actually protect your roses from many insects and diseases in the first place!)

– Another obvious point, but if your soil is rich and healthy, your plants will be strong and vibrant, and thus able to ward off a smaller number of fungi and bacteria spores in the air.

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Organic Gardening Reduces Pollution!

Organic Guidelines

Organic farming provides the consumers, with fresh, tasty and reliable food while regarding natural life-cycle systems. In order to reach organic farming a number of practices should be implemented.

To create organic plants a special type of farming is followed. Examples of the requirements are:

  • Doesn’t use chemical pesticides
  • Crop management and fertility is not managed through chemicals.
  • Pests, diseases, and weeds are not managed through chemicals
  • Prohibits use of genetically modified plants
  • Has proper record keeping systems
  • Prohibited chemicals have not been in the soil for at least 3 years.
  • Has been certified by a certifying body (for commercial farming)
Reduce Pollution and Smog

How do we reduce smog? Well besides making sure your car is clean. (San Pablo Smog does a great job!)

Because organic gardening is done in such a clean way it can have huge benefits in reducing pollution and smog. How does it do this?  Well in a couple of ways:

  • It eschews usage of polluting agents.
  • It absorbs pollution

How does it prevent pollution? Here are a just a few of the ways:

  • Organic gardening emphasizes “soil building”. This includes such practices as crop rotations, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations, cover crops, organic fertilizers and minimum tillage. Doing all these things means that chemicals are not necessary to be used in the soil. Since the chemicals are not used, they never enter the ecosystem to become pollution.
  • Synthetic fertilizer or pesticides are not used so they can never enter the water supply.
  • Many of the aforementioned organic gardening practices actually create more of a return of carbon to the soil. When more organic carbon is returned to the soil climate change is improved to the positive.

These organic techniques are especially beneficial for keeping toxic nitrates out of the soil

How does it do that?

  • It doesn’t strip nutrients out of soil
  • It returns more carbon to the air which prevents climate change
  • It prevents the destruction of important soil microbes
  • Prevents the nitrates from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides from filtering down into the water supply.

Nitrogen has been associated with health risks such as cancer, and reproductive and thyroid problems.

Today’s fertilizer usually contains different amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  Typically when a crop is grown these chemicals may be taken from the soil by the plants being grown.  So artificial sources of these chemicals are used as fertilizer to replenish the soil.

However techniques such as crop rotation “field rest” are known to counter the problem and reduce the need for artificial fertilizers, but profit concerns have been prevented most farms from using these organic techniques.

So how can we support this wholesale? Well make sure you use good car smog tests. They will tell you accurately how much of a polluter your car is.  Then also make sure you

Not only that but according to Mother Jones we may be approaching “Peak Fertilizer”.  Please read this important article about how we may be forced to do organic gardening if the fertilizer runs out.

In Conclusion

Artificial or processed fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, additives and other aids are a threat to the long term health of our soil, food, and water.  We should use natural resources such as livestock manure, disease resistant plants, and other organic and sustainable methods in order to prevent the earth from become more polluted.

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When and Where to Use Liquid Organic Fertilizer

While often the fertilizer focus in organic gardening is on compost, manure, cover crops, or the addition of certain minerals, there are also times when liquid organic fertilizers have a place in the yard and garden.  Some of these products can be purchased, and some of them can be concocted by the gardener from items on hand.

There are a number of liquid fertilizers on the market that are approved for organic use.  However, as in all things, there can be too much of a good thing.  Adding more fertilizer to plants than what is needed can cause them to burn or to focus more energy on green growth as opposed to fruit or flowers.

Liquid fertilizers approved for organic use have become more popular, thus there are more on the market.  Check labels carefully on these products to ensure that they are used properly and on the right plants.  Generally, stick to liquid products that are made from natural products as they are more gentle, and slow releasing.  Any amendment that you can find in granular form, can generally be found in liquid form.  Here are a few examples:

Use care when using any of the liquid fertilizers.  Any time that foliage is being sprayed, it should occur early in the morning, or at night when the sun is not likely to promptly evaporate, and possibly burn the foliage. It is also important to use the correct fertilizer in the correct dilution, or it will be a futile effort.

Liquid fertilizer applications often give quick results.  But the organic gardener should be careful not to rely to heavily on this method. The nutrients in the soil are still the most important, and perhaps, digging in a little compost will provide for a plants needs as  effectively, if not as quickly as spraying them will.

This is an effective fertilizer for all plants, shrubs and lawns.  It is just what it says it is.  Ground up fish.  There is a nice balance of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus which most plants require.  This is a good product to use either at the root or on foliage.

Kelp is a type of seaweed. It is a good nutrient provider for human and flora alike.  Kelp assists plants in using the nutrients in the soil that are already available.  Best used on flowers and gardens.

This product can be bought commercially, or can be concocted at home.  This is a brew of compost soaked in water, and sometimes aerated that ramps up the usefulness of compost by concentrating it, and making it available for spraying and watering.

Very similar to compost tea, this entails soaking manure in water and using the resultant liquid.  Not glamorous, but effective in giving plants a boost.

Use when plants are under attack.  If there are signs of possible disease or pest problems, a foliar application of fertilizer can help give plants the help they need to strengthen and fight off these problems.

During times of drought. Organic gardening is about watering only when needed, and during particularly dry times, it is necessary to water.  Using liquid fertilizers at this time give an extra bang for your buck.

Use once a month during the growing season to help plant and fruit production move along more quickly.  Want a greener lawn, prettier flowers, or faster harvesting, liquid fertilization may be helpful.

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Garden Tour: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Whenever I travel, I always enjoy visiting Public Gardens.  I used to manage public gardens, so I got lots of great ideas for the garden where I worked at the time. Now, I just enjoy the superb horticulture, and the opportunity to get lots of pictures to share with people. I interned at the Marie Selby Botanical Garden in the spring of 2000, and I had not been back since. I was thrilled to see that the garden was just as stunning as usual. Let me take you on a short photo tour.

Marie Selby is known for its Orchid research.  It has one of the largest herbarium collections and collections of orchids in spirits (basically-orchids preserved in liquid for 3-d examination of their structures).  They just published a great new book-The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Illustrated Dictionary of Orchid Genera. Because I could not justify buying the book-though it is SPECTACULAR-I bought the t-shirt with the book cover on the front!

One of my favorite parts of interning at Selby was the chance to teach people about interesting plants. Selby€™s research focuses mainly on orchids and bromeliads, as well as other epiphytic plants. (That means plants that live on other plants.) They routinely send their researchers on plant exploration expeditions and frequently discover new species. When I went out to schools to give presentations, I could request plants from the collection to take with me. This one was one of my favorites. Ants make their home in the big root structure of this plant-you can see the tiny holes they use to reach their homes!

It is always funny to travel to warmer locations and find plants that we consider indoor plants sprawling along the ground as ground covers. This is Golden Pothos. We have several of these hanging out at home.

Another houseplant in the north that thrives in tropical and sub-tropical climates is a ficus tree. Inside, most ficus plants stay under control. Outside, in their preferred climate, they grow and grow up, and down. The picture shown here is of banyan tree roots being trained into an arbor. The tree maintains itself through storms and such by constantly putting down roots and rooting into the ground. In this way, one tree can cover acres of space.

The gardens, on the bay in Sarasota, FL, were the estate of the Selby family before becoming a public garden. In the background is the original house. In the foreground is one of the many live oaks with a collection of bromeliads and orchids growing on its branches.

If you find yourself near Sarasota, FL, the Selby Gardens are worth the price of admission. The tropical house displays fragile, beautiful specimens from the collection. The grounds are right on the bay, providing spectacular views. The horticulture is top-notch. If you love orchids and bromeliads, the shop is a must-see. Bring extra money and space. I dare you to come home without an orchid. (I bought three!)


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How to Sterilize Soil

Soil sterilization is a great technique for organic gardeners to master.For potting soil, you will need a sterile mix to avoid bringing weeds and pathogens into your indoor plants. You may also wish to sterilize outside soil if you wish to start over on a patch of garden. Here is why you might want to sterilize soil, how you can do it and how you build up a healthy population of beneficial organisms after you sterilize the soil.

Soil is full of living things: bacteria, fungi, worms and insects. Many of the organisms in soil help break down larger pieces of organic matter like grass, twigs and bark into small particles of humus, which is the best substance you can have in the soil. These organisms also break down nutrients into forms that plants can more easily take up through their roots. Thats the good part about the living things in soil.

The bad part about living things in soil is that there can be detrimental fungi, bacteria and insects in the soil along with the beneficials. In most garden soil, there is also an abundance of weed seeds. If you are gardening organically, from start to finish, and need to create a new flower bed, one way to rid the bed of weeds is to sterilize the soil. Doing this can save you lots of time and money in the long run. If you are starting your own seeds, you need sterile potting mix so that seedlings do not succumb to damping off, and other life-ending diseases that plague seedlings grown in un-sterile potting mix.

Garden soil is a bit more difficult to sterilize, but it can be done using a process called solarization. This is a method of using heat from the sun to kill disease organisms that cause plant problems like verticillium wilt, root rot, damping off and others. In order for your garden to have the full benefit of solarization, the soil needs to reach a temperature of 114 degrees F (46 degrees C) for at least four to six weeks. Heres how to solarize your soil:

A few notes about sterilizing garden soil: For the most part, beneficial organisms will survive the solarization. You can add humic acid or compost to the soil to put back in the good stuff after youve solarized. It is not a bad idea to test the compost for weed seeds by watering a little and seeing if it grows. You can water with compost tea to add beneficials back as well.

Solarization goes most quickly in the south, during sunny, dry days. For almost every location, it works best in the summer. If you solarize in the summer, try to leave the soil covered with black plastic during the winter, or plant a thick green mulch crop to build up fertility, and keep weed seeds out until you plant the following spring. (Always remove the plastic before planting!)

This is such an interesting article to read upon. Gardening is really enjoyable thing to do. Other than this, this is an activity that is eco-friendly. By doing so, you are saving our nature and environment and it will provide us with fresher air to inhale and prevent flood to occur.


Yikes, goatheads are horrible to have! If it€™s allowed, I would actually burn them with a propane torch – Katie uses it as part of her weed program – http://goorganicgardening.com/weeds/my-gardening-flame-thrower

That looks nasty! You can burn your weeds, solarize, or work on your soil. Im always a fan of working on the soil. Often times, if you have some turf growing, but mostly weeds, the conditions in the soil are better for the weeds to grow than the turf. The way to fix that is to make the soil more hospitable for turf. (Check pH, aerate, add compost, soil test, etc.)

I had no idea I was supposed to be sterilizing my soil.. maybe thats why most of my plants keep dying. I am so thankful for this post– maybe itll turn my gardening season around this spring. Great post!

[…] (haha). Ill be starting my seeds indoors this week. Ive also looked up how to sterilize soil so that I can use it to start my seeds in order to give my plants the best start possible. […]

Dont ever microwave soil. You wont know exactly whats in it, and so there could be some pieces or iron ore, other other metals that will ruin your oven. It also doesnt cook the soil through and will only heat it in places.

Actually, using your microwave is an entirely appropriate, safe and highly effective method of sterilizing soil. The radiation will effectively kill bugs and pathogens that heat alone wont. To ensure even distribution, irradiate a few cups of soil at a time in a glass or ceramic bowl. For an 1100 watt oven, three minutes on high will be sufficient to kill all living things in the soil. Unless you get your soil from a scrap yard, worrying about it being full of metal is rather paranoid, but if for some reason the soil you chose does contain metal, your microwave will start ‘crackling – simply shut it off, no harm done.

Hi Cheryl, Viruses are different to bacteria in that theyre not truely alive and need another healthy cell to feed off and reproduce. That means that viruses generally dont hang around in soil, but in the plants themselves. Sterilization will kill the virus, but I think youre basically going to have to dig up the infected plants in the area, set up a quarantine (dont plant anything else there for 1-3 months) and then start again. You may have to burn the infected plants if its serious enough – as disposing of them any other way will just spread the virus. – Chris

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Building a Water Garden Pond

Building a water garden pond in your own backyard is something many dream about, but few accomplish. Many factors work together and help to put people off starting the process, and yet others are daunted when they are faced with a choice of pond kits and don€™t know how to start choosing which one will be right for them.

Price is often a sticking point, decisions about where the pond and waterfall would be located in the back yard (or even front). Labour costs, cost of delivery of the items, the logistics involved in a DIY job which require heavy lifting equipment. Then there is the cost of water, considerations regarding planting, how to do it and how to maintain the pond. And that is before you even start buying the Koi to swim in it.

1. Decide what your budget is for the project €“ Best advice here is a DIY project costs less than a professionally laid out job, simply because you save on the labor costs €“ do not try and save on the cost of the materials. For long term satisfaction and cheapest installation €“ buy the very best materials you can afford. Think long term and in terms of cost-spreading over a long period of time rather than the initial short term expense. For example; buying a rubber liner costs more up front, but lasts more than twice as long as your other options.

2. Decide where you would want it to be located. Look at the proposed site from both inside and outside of the house €“ view the area through your €˜common space€™ windows and make sure that you €“ and not your neighbors, are getting the most benefit from your investment.

3. Choose what type of do it yourself waterfall you want to have in your water feature. The decision about the waterfall governs the size of the pump that you will need to choose in order to give you optimum water flow and filtration. Likewise €“ the budget you will set aside will govern, ultimately, the size feature and thus the size waterfall you can install.

4. Choose a water garden pond kit instead of trying to purchase all the liners, pumps and filtration units as separate items over a period of time. You actually spend less by saving up and then buying a kit outright that suits your budget than doing it piecemeal. By the time you can afford the next bit of kit, you may well have to go back to square 1.5 to install it. This wastes time, which ultimately costs money.

5. Do not skimp on €˜small€™ items such as liner sealing kits. Water creeps out of a liner if the edges of two sections are not made watertight. Water is expensive and the price of the sealant kit is less than constant refilling and losing your fountain because the water level has dropped below critical level.

6. Planting your water pond need not be as expensive as you think. Much of the expense of setting up the plants in and around the water is the purchase of exotic plants and imports. Buy local plants which grow well and suit your environment. While not quite as spectacular (because you see them around you every day), they are more likely to survive the local conditions and weather. Choose plants which are suited to a wet environment.

7. Do not be afraid to call in a professional consultant. Suggestions and constructive comment before you start a project can mean the difference between success and failure when building a garden pond. Sometimes pod equipment suppliers will have a consultation available both in-store and online who can advise you. If you choose buy the your equipment from them, you can even get that advice for free.

In short, it pays to do your homework and plan out your project before you start. You will be rewarded in the end with an amazing water feature if you carefully plan ahead before you start digging up your yard. The end result will be a great place to go, sit back, relax and forget the worries of the business of life. The sound of the water lapping against the rocks will drown out the sounds of the human world. Even though this oasis is manmade, when properly planned and built, your created water garden feature will become part of nature€™s beauty for you to admire for years to come.

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Composting with Worms

We€™ve lately had a few questions about composting with worms. Can you put them in a tumbler? Will they get too hot? How do you compost with worms? (Disclaimer: I am not yet a worm farmer, but I have turned to one of my most trusty sources: The Rodale Book of Composting to bring you some answers.) I just built my own compost pile, about which I will write this week, including pictures. It is quite the piece of sculptural wonder. (NOT!) However, hopefully, it will make me some yummy compost. My neighbor with the most beautiful vegetables in the world was scoffing at my soil yesterday. It€™s time to show him what€™s what. Back to worms!

Conveniently, this relates to my blog post about humic acid. Worms are a one way short cut to your own pile of humus in your yard, worm bin, etc. Humus is compost at its finest: a poorly understood (in terms of science), but hugely beneficial concoction that happens when organic matter is broken down into its most highly digested form. Worm castings (worm poo!) are a rich source of humus, and much cheaper than purchasing a soil conditioning product with humic acid in it. (Although, if you don€™t want to farm worms, a soil conditioning product with humic acid does actually work and is worth the money. I know, because I helped plant some things in impossibly terrible soil about a month ago, and we added a great soil conditioner, which has already helped the soil start morphing into something plants can grow in, not die in.)

Your garden will grow large and lovely with worm castings as part of the soil mix. The Rodale Compost book has great info about a study from the 1940s that compared agricultural plots with worms and without worms, and otherwise similar soil and crops. You guessed it: a year later, the area with worms produced healthy, lush growth of barley, bluegrass and lespedeza, while the plot without worms grew only weeds.

Worms are also a great way to compost/digest your kitchen scraps. You can feed worms banana peels, among other things, which take quite a while to bread down in a regular compost pile. You can even keep a bucket of worms under the kitchen sink for instant gratification re: cleaning up the kitchen.

You can make a lovely little worm bin to keep under your sink, which makes worm composting convenient. To build an indoor worm bin, check out our post last December about building an indoor worm farm.

Eisenia Foetida do very well in a compost tumbler as long as;there€™s enough moisture (damp not wet); nothing too €œhot€ (fresh manure); don€™t turn the drum too often; and have a large enough system to insure gradual changes in their environment.
I live in western Washington, and the tumbler is in full sun and I€™m always supplying others with €œlivestock€.

Worms cannot tolerate soil/compost temperatures above 100 degrees F. That means, you can€™t just dig a hole in your steamy compost pile and dump the worms in, because they will die. You also shouldn€™t put worms in your compost tumbler, because the tumblers heat up quite rapidly in during the summer.

If your compost pile doesn€™t have a concrete or wood bottom, worms will naturally migrate up through the pile, until they reach a point where the temperature is too hot.

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Orchids for Beginners

The last post was all about interesting attributes and intriguing stories about orchids. Now that your appetite is expanding for orchids, we €™ll teach you how to grow them! There are lots of interesting species orchids, but the easiest to grow are some of the new hybrids. Once you get your feet wet with the orchids described below, you can branch out into more interesting varieties. You will have the confidence and the green thumb to keep growing.

There are a lot of ways you can describe a Phalaenopsis orchid.Some people call them the Yews of Orchids. (Meaning, they are so common, like foundation plantings of yews, that they aren’€™t interesting.) Their common name is the €œMoth Orchid, € because the flowers look like moths. These days, you can get these orchids at anywhere from Smith and Hawken to Home Depot. They come in every imaginable color. Here are the details you need to grow them.

Growing Medium: This depends a lot on your individual watering habits. If you tend to over-water, you will want to plant your orchid in medium sized bark. If you under-water, you can pot in moss, which retains moisture. Because the moth orchids are epiphytes (grow on trees), they do not like to sit in wet soil.

Pruning: Does not need to be pruned frequently. You may prune off flower stalks that are completely brown, but leave stalks that are still green so that they my photosynthesize and feed the plant.

P.S. A shout-out to my Mother in Law, Susan, who wrote to me yesterday to inform me that her orchid that has been in bloom since MAY just started to go out of bloom. I think she has a Phalaenopsis. If you can beat that record, feel free to let me know by commenting here. Great Job Susan!

Orchids are such beautiful plants. Your article will undoubtedly encourage many to try growing them. They are really not deserving of their difficult to grow reputation. They just need proper conditions and care.

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Organic Corn Red Martian

Nothing tastes better than corn freshly picked from the garden! Have some fun in the vegetable garden this summer by growing your own corn. For something different on your table, try the Red Martian€ variety of organic red corn from Park Seed. Kids will especially love this tasty treat. Corn named after an alien. Sign me up! In addition to the great taste, the burgundy color of the leaves contrasts nicely with your other garden plants. Here’s how to grow it:

This corn takes 100 days from seeding to maturity. That is roughly three months, plus a few days. So, the time to plant this corn for a succulent fall harvest is NOW! Corn is wind-pollinated, so it is important to plant them close together. If you have limited space to plant corn, it is better to plant it in four foot by four foot blocks (like square foot gardening), for best pollination. Corn is a heavy feeder, so be sure to amend your soil with plenty of compost before planting. Additionally, plant corn in a location with full sun all day.

Red martian corn is ready to harvest as soon as the silks start to barely try at the very tips. You can also dry this corn for fall displays. Park Seed recommends steaming this corn, rather than boiling it, so that you don’€™t lose all of the red coloring in the water.

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