Growing and buying high quality food in the Mohave desert

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Hydroponic salad and herbs in growboxes
NO electric is required to grow in BPA free tubs. Need to find a way for OLD people to be able to grow nutrient dense food year round.
September 23, 2017
8:23 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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As I've been visiting Meadview gardeners I realized that it's just TOO HARD for many seniors to grow outdoors.  Even with a raised bed (like a table) and automatic irrigation almost everything died over the summer.  

So I've been looking at Mike Adams' Food Rising Grow Boxes again, here are his latest videos:

It all looks great, but I'm not paying $130!

Tubs, lids, floats, waterline and rock wool arrived this week.  Had to do quite a bit of research, but BPA free sturdy polyethylene is widely available. 

I also ordered lettuce fertilizer and Cal Mag from Adams, hoping it REALLY will be CLEAN fertilizer.

Chemical fertilizers do not appeal to me, but for hydroponics there's no alternative, can't just throw some cow manure in the tubs.  I have a PPM meter, not sure about EC. 

There is a learning curve and I just hope I'll have the time to properly DOCUMENT my tests.   

I want to compare how salad and herbs grow in water and in the ground.   Of course I want most of my plants to be established in my gardens, but I'm also really tired of NOT having salad in summer -- when I could almost live on it. 

Had volunteer cilantro in March and it quickly went to seed.  The timing is so off.

Tomorrow is seed planting day -- a good day for leaf plants according to the biodynamic calendar.  I'll update with some pics soon.

September 23, 2017
8:48 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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As I was researching rockwool, I found the Grodan growing info.  Lots of great stuff and even specific instructions for many herbs:

http://grodan101.com/growing-t.....wing-guide

I need to start hundreds of plants, will have several locals testing the grow tubs once I'm happy with my own tests.  Plan to have a wide selection of salad and herbs for sale too, so that our seniors can just buy plants ready to harvest.

Grodan A-OK 1"x1" Sheet of 200 Rockwool / Stonewool Starter Cubes for Cuttings, Cloning, Plant Propagation, and Seed Starting https://www.amazon.com/Hydrofarm-RWAO3640-Grodan-Rockwool-Plugs/dp/B00168EO48

Currently $14.43 with free shipping. 

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Mine had broken corners, likely damage from the other items in the box.  I already had a return label printed out, but now decided to keep it because I want to plant tomorrow.

I am NOT happy with Amazon anymore because they used ShurePost again, requiring me to drive 20 miles and waste over an hour and worst of all, I had a 2 day delay.  Twice Amazon reps told me they'd done something to make UPS my "preferred" shipper, but about once a month something goes to the post office.  Amazon is as bad as Walmart now.

I've started ordering from sellers directly and Amazon is still a great resource to find many products, the reviews and the sellers. 

If you have any recommendations for a better deal, please let me know.  Saw discounts for 30 sheets, but that's more than I need at this time.

October 10, 2017
4:25 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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10/10/17 UPDATE after exactly 2 weeks:

On 9/26 I started a nice mix of seeds in a sheet with 200 rock wool cubes:

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The missing rows were the seeds that first germinated:

Salad bowl lettuce, lemon basil and mustard.  

I moved them into the grow tub with the fertilizer solution.

You can see the empty pots with some coco coir for the next round of seedlings.  Not sure that was a good idea.

Note the MANY holes I drilled into this lid - as many as I could fit.  Incredibly, the lid is still very strong, no chance of breakage unless you drive over it or something. 

I'm going to grow MANY seedlings and as they get larger, I'll distribute them to lids with more space for the plants and I might try transplanting them into dirt too. And I'll need quite a few for the local testers.

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There are numerous seedlings in each pot and I plan to take them carefully apart in the next few days.  If they're too close together, I might let two or three grow or just cut the extras off.   Will have to experiment to see what works best.

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The largest seedlings:

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Seeds started on 10/4 in coco coir.  

Rock wool is rather pricey and I happened to have an unopened block if coco coir that had been sitting around at least a year.

To my unpleasant surprise, it smelled like electrical burn, melted insulation, YUK!   I don't remember this stench from when I used it before, wonder if it's from sitting in the plastic packaging so long. The entire room reeked for several days, but it's ok now.  Makes you wonder though.

I wish I could grow entire flats for one plant because the seeds sprout at different times, but I need VARIETY and had so many lettuce and herb seeds.  Divided in approximate thirds:

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The roots and the fertilizer solution.

On 10/3 I moved the seedlings into this tub with fresh tab water and fertilizer and I'm wondering how this will work without pumps and filters.  Already there's a sheen on the top, there was some stuff from the fertilizer at the bottom and most of the "dirt" is the coco coir that I added to the empty pots in preparation for moving more seedlings over.

I'll do some testing with using grey and black tubs and lids, see how less light impacts.

Looks like coco coir is less than ideal and I'll try peat moss.

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My tap water was 228 ppm.

I added 3 teaspoons of the lettuce fertilizer and 3 teaspoons of the Cal/Mag to 4 gallons of water:

1522 ppm and EC 2911 (have to read up on EC, have no idea what it means.)

I added another half gallon of water:

1395 ppm and EC 2950.   As ppm goes down, EC increases?

I should have added a full gallon for 5 gallons total so that all pots are IN water.   I lost a few seedlings when I forgot to water one morning.   I've been watering all the seeds twice a day as it's quite warm in that room on sunny days.   And while at it, I also watered the growbox seedlings as there's not a lot of rockwool in some of the pots or they're not in water.   I think it won't matter once they have roots reaching the water, although the rock wool should probably stay wet too.

So I'll update here later this week with new measurements, some info on fertilizer and EC and of course pics!

As always, I greatly appreciate any tips, don't have to make every possible mistake myself 🙂

October 17, 2017
2:59 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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10/16/17:  It's time to bring the tub back home (still at the Airbnb where we had the food workshop) to move them them into TWO boxes with fewer holes so they have space and light to grow.

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December 5, 2017
11:45 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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11/5/17:

I started to run out of space inside and the plants needed more light.  So we used a hole in the orchard (originally intended to grow mushrooms) for a couple of grow boxes.   It worked very well, they got more light and were sheltered from the horrible wind. 

Of course harvesting is very difficult 2 ft below ground level and I ended up moving the plants to the Collectors Corner in Meadview where I'm now renting a little room to sell plants and supplies. 

1/2 inch hardware cloth kept the plants safe from critters:

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At the Collectors Corner 11/11/17:

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December 6, 2017
12:01 am
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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11/17/17:

I had set up a tub for a customer/friend on her patio on a shelf next to the house.  It was AMAZING how the plants thrived, the lettuce was going NUTS!  Despite several high wind days the plants did fantastic and the only problem was that one plant got blown out of the tub.   So that's something to consider, somehow securing the net pots so they'll stay in place.

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I took the basil inside because it was going to freeze.  It's cool how you can just put the net pots into a glass:

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