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Week Four Tower Garden Fun- Team Ann Arbor

June 29th, 2014

Hi Humble Seeders!

Last month we featured a contest in which we gave away a  Tower Garden. We thought it would be exciting to giveaway such a unique and easy-to-use growing system to one lucky person! We also thought it would be interesting to try the Tower Garden out ourselves here in Ann Arbor, we also had San Francisco-based teammate start one as well. We thought it would be interesting to see how the Tower Garden experience may vary with different locations and differing growing techniqes.

In just under an hour our Tower Garden was fully assembled, filled with water and ready for action. We started our very own Humble Seed utilizing the included seed-starting materials and transplanted our seedlings to the tower the first week of June.  Currently, we spend not more than 10 minutes a day to ensure our plants are growing like weeds! It truly is amazing to witness such rapid plant growth! Well, we can say we haven’t had this much fun gardening in quite a long time!

Check out our Tower Garden photos below:

Week 1 -Jun 12, 2014

The Tower Garden Experiment

Week 4- June 29, 2014

Week 4

Here’s what’s going on inside the reservoir:

Week 4 Root System

Roots extending down through the tower to the reservoir tank.

Roots extending down through the tower to the reservoir tank.

We hope to have more exciting updates next weekend and perhaps even some fruit development!

Now, here are a few extra things we  in Ann Arbor are doing that might help you with your Tower Garden.

1. We change out the water in the reservoir every 7-10 days to ensure there is no waste or toxic build-up in the tank. And, to make things easy, we invested in this hose filter that  removes or greatly reduces thousands of common water contaminants and hazards along with 90-percent of chlorine and 98-percent of dissolved metals. In between reservoir turn-overs, we top the tank off daily with water from our hose (we find that about 2.5 gallons of water evaporates daily).

2. Along with the recommended addition of the Tower Garden Mineral supplements (Nitrogen, Calcium, Iron, Phosphate,Soluble Potash, Magnesium, Sulfur, Boron, Copper, Manganese, Molybdenum, and Zinc), we add our own super charged growing juice consisting of 76 trace organically-bound earth minerals. We steep Bloomin Minerals in a food safe- 5 gallon bucket and add this nutrient dense water to the reservoir after every turn-over.

3. By adding these minerals we are raising the Brix level of our plants and ultimately our food.  Not only are we ensuring we are growing nutritionally-dense foods packed with minerals, we are also deterring insects.  Bugs don’t like the taste of high Brix plants. Insects generally target weaker, unhealthy plants. We haven’t seen any bugs messing with our Humble Seed plants!

4. We choose to also invest in a electronic Ph tester for ease and accuracy. We strive to maintain the Ph level around 5.5. It takes a little bit of time after you do a full reservoir change out to get your Ph stabilized but after that its very low maintenance.

5. We tested out some expensive boutique seed along with an eggplant seedling from large gardening chain store to see how they fare against our seed. Well, the eggplant seedling is on life support and the paper pack strawberry seeds were D.O.A. And, as you can see our Humble Seed plants are doing what they do best-GROW!  (Did you know we have some of the highest germination rates out of all the seed companies?)

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Store-bought eggplant seedling was immediately decimated. Could be due to lack of minerals…. Plant was pruned back and is currently doing much better!

6. We rotate our Tower Garden daily to ensure sun exposure is being distributively evenly over time to all of our plants. The dolly really makes this a simple task.

7. Oh, this should have been at the beginning but prior to starting our seed we preconditioned the rockwool with a conditioning solution to stablize and adjust the rockwool ph to a most favorable condition. Outside of rockwool, what have you found that works best in hydroponic growing system?

8. We are staggering our lettuces to ensure succession harvesting. Thus, you may notice empty slots that are on reserve for future kale and lettuce seedlings.

9. HUGE tip- We marked our growing slots with a Sharpie and then made note of what seedling we transplanted where.

So, we have been learning a lot the last few weeks about this type of gardening and we really enjoy it. We think the Tower Garden is the ideal system for those who have limited time, space, and perhaps  limited mobility. We are confident that through the course of a growing season or two, the Tower Garden will be very cost effective and paying for itself in no time at all.

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you simply don’t have the space? The Tower Garden may be the answer for you!  Passionate about gardening and healthy living, or looking to expand your current health-based business? Consider becoming a Tower Garden distributor! Email info@humbleseed for more information.

 

 

 

 

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Week 5 Tower Garden Updates-San Francisco Team

June 29th, 2014

photo 4

We’re a little over a month into our Tower Garden experience, and we are thrilled by how well our vegetables are taking shape. We transferred our 3 inch tall seedlings into the Tower Garden 2 weeks ago, and they all have almost doubled in size. Our Black Seeded Simpson Leaf Lettuce, Red Saladbowl, Rose Tomatoes, and Tavera Green Beans have the most growth followed by the Yankee Bell Peppers. (Check out our 1st and 2nd photo for comparison). This is our first time gardening in the fog prone Bay Area, as we’re recent transplants from Arizona. We’ve discovered that finding a sunny location for the suggested 5-6 hours is our biggest challenge. After testing out various locations, we settled on a spot that achieves about 4 hours of sunlight a day, and it does appear to be enough.

photo 5

We found that filling the reservoir and adding the nutrients took the most time, but is easy to accomplish. The Tower Garden comes with a Tower Tonic Mineral Blend along with a pH tester kit, and pH adjusters to achieve an optimal range of 5.5-6.5. Twice a week we adjust our pH and water levels if we find they are out of range. This normally takes 10-15 minutes.

photo 1

We also rotate our garden a quarter turn each day because of it’s placement next to a wall. We want to achieve optimal plant uniformity. This task requires two people, or one person with serious biceps!

Transferring our seedlings from the rock wool starter cubes to the Tower Garden was very easy. Though, taking the time to care for the tender roots of each seedling is very important. (Below are our photos showing transferring the seedlings out of the cubes and into Tower Garden. The last photo shows the growth 2 weeks later).

A bonus we haven’t mentioned yet is the lovely water trickle sound the Tower Garden makes while on our patio. Our family is constantly commenting that it sounds like we have a garden fountain or babbling brook nearby! I also think it lulls our toddler to sleep on most days. Now that’s priceless.

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**Friends, what are you growing in your garden right now? What else would you like to learn about our Tower Garden experience? 

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you simply don’t have the space? The Tower Garden may be the answer for you!  Passionate about gardening and healthy living, or looking to expand your current health-based business? Consider becoming a Tower Garden distributor! Email info@humbleseed for more information.

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5 Reasons Why Ordering Seed Now Is Important For Tomorrow

June 19th, 2014

 

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There is no time better than the present to order seeds. Even if you are not yet ready to plant. Even if it’s too late to plant in your region. Or if you think there’s not enough time for a garden…. (Bah.There’s always time!). Ordering seed is still important. Here are five reasons why you should order seed now rather than later.

1. Seed shortages. Last year’s poor growing season, mostly due to the massive California drought, may make it difficult now and in the future for gardeners to get seeds, especially of the fruit and nut variety. When fewer plants are grown, fewer seeds can be saved. A supply of quality seed at the home can mean a family is less affected by poor growing seasons. 

2. Self-reliance. With growing food prices and an unstable economy, why rely on food from an outside source? Especially in the chance of a disaster that could deplete the nation’s food supply. In the book, Saving Seeds by Marc Rogers, he writes, “any small measure of self-reliance we can recapture in our overly dependent society is a cause for satisfaction.” We agree! Becoming more self-reliant means access to the high-quality food right outside your doorstep. A steady stream of seeds will allow you to do just that. 

3. Demand for seeds. The concern over GMO food and chemical-laden ingredients now found in common commercial foods has prompted more people to start their own gardens, thus, more seeds are being sold. Gone are the microwaveable meals! More families are cooking from scratch with vegetables found in their very own backyard. Consequently, it may be worth your time to get the seed you want when it’s available. 

4. Pre-planning your future garden. Planning a garden is a little like homework. From deciding what you’d like to grow and how much, to preparing the soil, researching growing techniques and finding the perfect garden location: there may be some late nights. Luckily, it’s well worth the effort. Planning for the future can mean a more successful growing season, with better yields and more succulent vegetables. Ordering seed ahead of time will ensure you have everything you need when it’s time to implement all those ideas. 

5. Peace of mind. Many people want to know that the food they eat is safe. Having a steady supply of herbs and vegetables is a great way to feel secure about what you’re feeding yourself and your family. You’ll know that quality seed was used, and will gain valuable experiences with organic growing practices. Another aspect of peace of mind is in knowing that you are equipped to live self-sufficiently in cases of natural or man-made disasters. 

Having a supply of high quality seeds available at any given time is becoming more and more mainstream for many people. Why not ordering seed go to the top of your list?

***Friends, we’re curious: What are the reasons you order seed now rather than later? Are there any reasons that weren’t mentioned above? 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you have limited space? Check out this option: The Tower Garden Aeroponic Growing System.

 

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Natural Pest Control That’s Safe For Family And Pets

June 12th, 2014

 

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Has this happened to you? Just when you think all is well in your garden, you notice tiny, pear shaped insects clustering on the leaves, sucking out the juices and leaving damage behind.  Before you grab a bottle of synthetic pesticide, consider that natural pest control is not old-fashioned, and are very effective. Furthermore, natural pesticides mean there are no health concerns for your family, pets, or water supply. Check out these common pests that could disrupt your garden, and the natural pest control options to keep them at bay.

Aphids

About this bug: These pear-shaped insects may appear harmless at first glance, but these little guys defy the laws of science and are born pregnant; which can lead to a quick infestation. 

Organic pest control solutions: Try spraying them off with forceful water or using a plant based soap (recipe below). You can also let nature take its course by attracting beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings and hoverflies to your garden. Plants like parsley, fennel, coriander, sunflowers and Queen Anne Lace will attract these beneficial insects, and could help keep aphids and other harmful critters out of your garden.

Beetles 

About this bug: There are many varieties of beetles, and many will hide under the leaves and flowers of your plants, chewing away the foliage and leaving your plants looking tattered.

Organic pest control solutions: If you’re not terribly squeamish, pick them (or dust buster them) off the plants, and destroy their eggs that may be hiding just beneath the surface of your plant. While beetles love feasting on starchy plants like potatoes, they tend to loathe horseradish, yarrow, catnip and garlic plants. Keeping these plants nearby along with beneficial insects may prevent beetles from trespassing in your garden.

Caterpillars

About this bug: Caterpillars may look charming, but as they increase in size, their mouths grow even larger; leaving gaping holes in their feasting paths. 

Organic pest control solutions: Once they become butterflies, they will deter harmful pests in your garden. But if their caterpillar stage is wreaking havoc on your garden, a natural pest control option is plucking them off the plants and make your own organic pesticides (see recipe below) to deter them from inching along your favorite vegetables.

Leafhoppers

About this bug: Feeding on plant sap, leafhoppers are another villainous garden pest.  Leafhoppers belong to the Cicadellidae family, and there are numerous species that could damage your garden.  Just as their name implies, these insects hop from plant to plant when disturbed. Ranging in size from approximately ¼ – ½ inch, wedge-shaped leafhoppers feed on plants using their sucking mouthparts, similar to their sidekick; the aphid.  Some species of leafhoppers can transmit a virus particularly harmful to beets, tomatoes and other crops causing crinkled, dwarfed or distorted roots and veins. 

Organic pest control solutions: If you suspect a small leafhopper problem, forceful water makes for natural pest control. For more severe infestations, consider incorporating beneficial insects ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies and praying mantids in the garden (see Aphids for plants that attract these insects).

Mealybugs and White Flies

About this bug: Common in indoor plants, these critters can weaken your plants while mealybugs leave a sticky substance behind. Normally infestations occur from a new infested plant exposing the others to the insect. 

Organic pest control solutions: To keep these pests at bay, try creating more air circulation in the area the plants reside in. For severe infestations, spray the leaves with diluted alcohol which acts like organic pesticides (remember to administer a test a patch first). Neem oil, plant based soaps and even natural dish detergent has also been studied to rid your plants of these non beneficial insects. 

Slugs and Snails

About this bug: Similar to caterpillars, these plump pests leave holes in your plants, while leaving behind their trademark sticky trail.  

Natural solutions: Luckily, slugs and snails go wild for a cold brew, and some prefer leaving a container of beer at the base of the plant for the slugs to eventually drown in. If the thought of watching a slug drown in your favorite stout seems hard to swallow (pardon the pun), try attracting lizards and garden snakes to your garden by leaving sunning stones and water nearby.  Your garden will feel like an oasis to these slug-loving reptiles.

*Make your own organic pesticides*

Caffeine Spray: Combine a few tablespoons of used coffee grounds with herbs like: catnip, lavender, yarrow and thyme which acts like organic pesticides. Add 2 cups of water, and allow at least 24 hours for the mixture to steep. Strain, and spray liberally on insects and plant leaves. Combine with organic pesticides soap (below) for a stronger treatment.

Organic pesticides: Add 1-2 tablespoons of castile soap to 2 cups of water. Spray insects as needed. Add boiled garlic cloves to boost the effectiveness.

Beneficial nematodes: Beneficial nematodes are effective microscopic fighters of soil borne pests like gnats, fleas, rootworms, grubs and cutworms. Beneficial nematodes can be applied in mulch with a garden sprayer or watering can. Another benefit? Beneficial nematodes will also reproduce and spread for long lasting organic pest control. Have you tried beneficial nematodes in your garden?

Friends, how have you naturally treated bothersome pests in your garden?

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you have limited space? Check out this option: The Tower Garden Aeroponic Growing System.  Grow healthy and nutritious food year round!

 

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3 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Space

June 5th, 2014

container gardening

If your patio is the size of a postage stamp (been there), then making the most of your space is paramount. Luckily, a small space does not mean you have to give up growing your favorite fruits and vegetables; it just means you have to get a little creative! Hoop houses, vertical, and container gardening are three fantastic ways to manage urban and small spaces.

Hoop Houses – These are miniature, unheated greenhouses made with a series of metal hoops covered in plastic, and set over a raised bed to trap heat. 

     Advantages: This creates a microclimate around your plants, while jump starting and extending the growing season. Hoop houses are a low tech structure to build, and should cost no more than $50 if you want to go simple. This method is especially ideal if daylight length is less than 10 hours with harsh winters – but have little space for a greenhouse. With proper ventilation, hoop houses can be used in the summertime too.

     How To: First, a support structure needs to be built using PVC tubing or standard metal pipes – we’ve even seen it constructed using ocotillo cactus bones. Cut that to the size needed for your garden, and push both ends into the ground in an arc. Once you have this done, cover them with plastic, and presto! Your hoop house is ready to go.

Vertical Gardening – While there are numerous ways to create a vertical garden, there are essentially two types of vertical garden styles: those that grow in soil and those that grow in water. If you’re interested in water-based vertical gardening, our hydroponic Tower Garden posts (including our goals, experiences and photos) is something you may be interested in. Check in with us every month for these posts!

     Advantages: Some of the advantages of all vertical gardening include: plants become less pest and disease prone since plants are away from the ground where pests tend to gravitate. Gardeners also don’t have to be stooped over a garden for hours, as less time is spent  harvesting while leaning over a garden bed. Weeding and tilling become less necessary in some circumstances.  Another fantastic benefit? Typically less water is required for vertical gardening, and your plants will look healthier as oxygen has the opportunity to circulate more evenly. 

     How To: To grow a vertical garden inexpensively, use a chain link fence, trellis, hanging baskets, or a garden lattice. Other effective structures include: nailing decorative cans to a wooden fence, using an old dog kennel or shelving unit, and building your own structure using garden fencing and pipes. Watch to see how the vines and plants grow naturally, and secure the plants with garbage bag twist ties or gardening green tape. Plant the vertical garden next to shade loving plants like herbs, and away from sun-loving plants like vegetables. Did you know that if you hang your plants from baskets or pots, you can actually have the same number of plants as a square foot of garden space?

Container Gardening – Container gardening is another practical way to garden in a small area.  Likewise to vertical gardening, almost anything grown in a regular garden can grow well in a container garden.  

     Advantages: This type of gardening is easy to maintain, and can be done inexpensively. Once you have built your container garden, you may continue using it season after season, and year after year.

     How To: Luckily there are a wide array of containers to choose from that will suit a variety of needs. We find that wood, plastic and strawberry containers are the least expensive, but can easily rot and sustain wear and tear after frequent use. Therefore, if you prefer containers that will withstand the hands of time, then ceramic or metal containers are worth the investment.  Just be sure you drill a few holes at the bottom if they do not already have a drainage system.

***Friends, we’re curious: what are your tips for making the most out of your space??

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

 Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you have limited space? Check out this option: The Tower Garden Aeroponic Growing System.

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Our Tower Garden Growing Plan

June 5th, 2014

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The Humble Seed family couldn’t resist all of the amazing benefits of a Tower Garden, so we got a few of our own! You might have read about the Tower Garden during our giveaway sweepstakes a few weeks ago. It’s truly like a farmer’s market in our backyard – without the weeds, soil, and pests we normally deal with in our traditional garden. We are really looking forward to sharing our Tower Garden experiences with all of you, along with tutorials and what we’re growing.

Our Assembly & Location Experience It took us about 25 minutes to set up the Tower Garden, which was easier than we thought (thanks to the Tower Garden YouTube station we used for guidance).  We live in the Bay Area with lots of foggy days, and a good amount of shade in our backyard, so choosing a location was a little tricker. We found a location that gets between 4-6 hours of sunlight a day, which should work well. It’s also near our kitchen for easy access. Before we dive right into tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, herbs and flowers galore, we decided to create a growing plan to ensure success. Here’s what we have so far…

What We Plan On Growing We are growing a variety of seed from our Veggin’ Out seed kit including: Tavera Green Beans, Rose Tomatoes, Bull’s Blood Beets, De Cicco Broccoli, Simpson Lettuce, Red Salad Bowl Lettuce, Marketmore Cucumbers, and Yankee Bell Peppers. The plan is to place the green beans and tomatoes at the bottom of the Tower Garden with the trellis to help them along, the cucumbers and bell peppers will sit mid range, and leafy greens will go up top. You want to ensure that larger plants (like eggplant) stay at the bottom so that they do not block the sunlight and water from your other vegetables. The end result should look like a pyramid.

Seed Starter Tray Plan Our plan is to take the following steps:

1. Thoroughly wet the seed starter tray and cubes with filtered water for 30 minutes.

2. Fill the cube holes with seed, following the directions on our seed packet. We will lightly fill each hole with vermiculite, and using less vermiculite for smaller seeds like lettuce to keep just enough moisture around the seed.

3. Label all seeds for easy identification. Add a small amount of water to the vermiculite as well as the seeding tray. Set the tray outside in a semi-shaded area because it’s warm outside.

Our Water Plan and Schedule The Tower Garden requires approximately 20 gallons of filtered water for plants to thrive (more on that on another post). We plan on using an All Purpose Garden Hose Filter to fill the reservoir. But if you don’t have a filtration system, you could always fill up a few large water jugs at your local filtered water source. The Tower Garden kit also comes with a Tower Tonic Mineral Blend and a pH tester kit for plants to get an optimal, nutrient rich water source. Very cool. A timer also comes with the Tower Garden, which functions best if watering is on a cycle rather than a continuous flow. Therefore, our plan is to set the timer for 15 minutes on, and 15 minutes off throughout the day and night.

Transplanting Seedlings And Placement Once seedlings are 3 inches tall, we will transplant the rockwool cubes to the Tower Garden, ensuring the base of the cubes are touching the net pot so that they receive adequate water.

Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Maintenance Plan

* Rotate garden 1/4 turn each day to provide equal sunlight for plants (our Tower Garden is placed next to a wall)

* Check water level once a week

* Check pH level twice a week

* Keep shower cap holes clean and free from debris – use a toothpick if needed

* Keep roots away from the pump, trim roots when dangling near reservoir

* Prune and train plants when needed

* Clean the pump filter monthly – follow instructions on manual

***Friends, what aspects of the Tower Garden would you like to learn more about?

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you have limited space? Check out this option: The Tower Garden Aeroponic Growing System.

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