Recent observations and thoughts.

I have wondered about this at length, and it wasn’t until I began to explore other areas of law, politics, N.L.P., and several others that I realized it is all connected.

Gardening, as a lifestyle, has been systematically reduced and removed from day to day life of most. Even having a houseplant or two is nowhere as prevalent as it was when I was young. Housing space, even detached homes have little space for growing one’s daily needs. Tiny lots, no green-space available for community gardens, vertical, high density housing with no storage space or balconies too small for a cat, no roof access… It all adds up to a new requirement of technology and unconventional ideas to accomplish what was once a simple and enjoyable family task.

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

For a very long time I have been watching the maddeningly slow progression of Cannabis information and knowledge. Back in the 1970’s, growing was a mystical, nearly impossible thing. Not due to some corporation’s idea of what is right or wrong, but from a significant lack of knowledge. Very few people I interacted with viewed Cannabis as a plant, like a tomato or tropical flower. It was known by all that this was a “plant” but there was an underlying feeling of difficulty, or mystery that prevented many from learning a few basics and growing a years worth of smoke at a go.

This new requirement gave rise to hydroponics, spectrum specific lighting, irrigation techniques as well as a new understanding of plant requirements. We now know that almost anyone can successfully generate a healthy, productive garden.

The next part of the itch in my brain is surrounding the typical complaints and politico-biz posturing and scrambling that I am seeing. It is ridiculous to me to stake a business, especially the size of businesses spoken of in some of these boardrooms, on people’s apathy and lack of knowledge. It is equally disturbing to me that people bitch and complain about price, availability, quality and the inevitable GMO infusion to commercial produce, but don’t take it any farther.

The solution is VERY SIMPLE.

Grow your own.

Now, I get it that there are some that will simply not be able, for whatever reasons, to grow a years worth of produce for themselves. The reasons are many. Most, that I have heard can be overcome with a bit of unconventional thinking.
Learning, on the other hand, seems to be a problem for many. This is a sore point with me so we won’t go there.

Ok, so lets get into it.

One of my happiest memories is yearly planting of the garden. Of course, I was a kid, so the excitement faded pretty fast. Later, we got a big greenhouse and that was another learning experience and memory I hold dear.
Kids can do it. Seniors can do it. Anyone can do it.

With the non-gardening trend built into life these days, it may be needed that alternatives to conventional dirt farming be employed. This doesn’t necessarily mean huge lights, tanks of water, bottles of additives and half the gear from a high school chem lab.
It can be as simple as a kiddy pool and some floating foam.
There are 5 basic hydroponic methods and each can be hybridized with elements of the others, so the configurations of systems is vast. Crop selection and available space/light will determine what method would be best suited for each installation. Some crops, like leafy greens, love being wet, grow relatively slowly and have a low nutrient requirement. They are well suited for a “raft” type grow and will do very well as an addition to an aquaponics setup. Of course, it could be stand alone as well.

The 5 basic hydroponics methods are;
Flood and Drain (Ebb and Flow)
In this system, the plants are in containers with an inert medium, like pea gravel, coco coir, hydroton or other non-soil, and periodically a pump fills the containers with nutrient solution and then the solution drains back into the reservoir. This takes about 10 to 15 minutes and usually is done between 3 and 5 times a day. This method is suitable for most plants.

Nutrient Film
The plants can be in a small container that allows roots to pass through where they grow to the bottom of a trough, pipe or tray (kept dark inside) and a trickle of the nutrient solution is constantly pumped through the system, wetting the roots and providing nutrients to the plants. This is not suited for large, tall or heavy fruiting crops, as external plant support is necessary.

Deep Water culture
Plants are held as with NF systems above, but the roots are suspended in and covered with nutrient solution, constantly. The volume of the containers holding the solution needs to be big enough to handle the size of root ball the plant will generate. The solution is constantly being circulated through the system and each plant container has an air pump airating the root zone. As with NF above, larger plants will have support issues. Raft systems for lettuce are DWC.

The next systems use elements of the above systems, but are unique enough to be considered their own class.

Similar to NFT, but the roots are suspended in the air and constantly misted with nutrient solution.
Really only suited to industrial applications due to the delicate nature of the system and the required redundancies.

This is really interesting, but complex. It strives to be a closed system, or nearly closed as one can support.
Instead of a typical nutrient solution, the plants are fed by bacterial action in the medium consuming fish waste. It is the same actions that generate fertile soil outside and the same thing that happens in an aquarium filter. Some very clever folks figured out how to raise fish in bulk and effectively deal with the problem of water quality in crowded aquariums by using large beds of inert medium (really big aquarium filters) and plants to remove the nitrates and phosphates from the aquarium water.
Surprisingly this works really well.
As an additional bonus, it lends itself to complete control of everything that goes into the system, and therefore everything you are consuming from your garden.
Ultimate aquaponics start with kitchen waste where bugs like meal worms and soldier fly larvae are grown to feed the fish. The fish poop and feed the bacteria in the growbed medium, replenished several times a day with F&D techniques. The bacteria convert the nitrates to nitrites, then to plant available nitrogen which feeds the plants. You harvest, eat and generate some kitchen waste that goes back into the raising of bugs to feed the fish. For anyone that wants total control of what they feed themselves and their families, this is the ultimate system. It is large, complex and fussy, but if one can keep an aquarium, one can grow with Aquaponics.

Many of the core techniques of each can be used successfully in other systems, though there are some limitations.

The old stand by that is available to all is simple soil growing. It is a skill that everyone should have at least the basics of. Keeping a container of soil and bacteria healthy and happy is not difficult, but does require some knowledge. Building the soil, amending outdoor gardens, maintaining your growing conditions are all things that need to be addressed when growing in soil.

Regardless of what you wish to grow, a system can be created specifically for you and your growing knowledge and experience.

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