Praxxus55712 on youtube is AMAZING!

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This guy covers just about every topic imaginable dealing with indoor and outdoor organic plants. Check him out! His videos have reassured me that I’m on the right track with this blog’s concept.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmglnVmA1qg&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy5fzPlsXK0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jmlcb2c7dzY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84h4aYIfO3s

Some Indoor Gardening Polls

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Confessions of a Recovering Capitalist

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As I continue to learn more about gardening and realize, with each step, that I’m producing a “product” with value, the thought that I should market and sell this product continues to pop into my head. I find myself always looking for ways to make a profit off of all of the the various aspects of gardening: seeds, worms, information, etc.

When I started this blog, I dreamed of giving away everything I learned and any excess I produced to help out with some social issues I’ve observed in the world around me. Now, I’m arguing with myself at every step about whether or not to give away anything for free. I keep thinking that I could get more money and get closer to living a life of financial independence by selling ideas, worms, and seeds from my indoor vegetable garden successes.

The part of me that was raised poor in a capitalist society thinks the socialist part of me that wanted to give away the information is stupid. I’ve taken economics, accounting, and small business courses. I’m also realizing that other people are profiting off of this kind of information. However, the socialist part of me realizes that there are other individuals, like the ones with the seed swap and who are producing how-to videos on every topic for free, who are apparently overcame their capitalist nature and seem to be more peaceful and happy because they did.

I’ve decided to reach a compromise: I will give away the information for free. The hard goods, like soil, castings, and seeds bred for adjustment in an indoor environment, will be sold for the most part. However, I will put aside 10% of everything to give away to those who need, are serious, but can’t afford the goods. I will ask that these people give away their excess as well. I’m looking into contracts for these free exchanges to ensure that anything I give away will also be passed on for free. I do not want what I give away to end up in the hands of someone who would then turn around and only sell their excess, thereby undoing what I’m trying to do and also swindling me.

To summarize: if someone obtains products from me for free, I want to be able to require them to only give away what they produce in excess. This is because they did not start with a capital investment: they started with a socialist donation and therefore, have an obligation NOT to partake in a capitalist system of exchange, but a socialist one. If they obtain goods from me in a capitalist exchange, then it makes sense to allow them to turn around and continue to partake in the capitalist exchange. In this way, I can meet my capitalist and philanthropist inspirations.

Update: This has been plaguing my thoughts all day: I am always thinking about buying things, about moving up, dreaming of what I want. Every now and then something goes wrong in life and I melt down and admit that I have been the happiest when I was scooping horse poo working at a barn in my teens or playing in the woods and gardening as a kid. But my thought process wants to *win* this capitalist game!!!!! It wont STOP!  I want MORE! I want things that make no difference in my happiness (I’ve been very fortunate in that I discovered at a young age what did).

The capitalist addiction is very overwhelming, to be honest. I can be “good” for a while and then I break down and swindle my money away on shit.  I can only think of one solution (because I can’t turn this off)- I have to change rules of the game in my head slightly. I need to start keeping track of how much I give to others instead of what I get.

2nd update: Today I’m pissed off. I’m noticing a huge gap in the “organic farming” community; namely those who don’t have enough money to own land. What are those people supposed to do for themselves? I keep seeing all of this survivalist stuff all over the place- “have your own homestead” “be totally self-reliant” “Prepare for economic meltdown”. Awesome. Except that all of these plans require farm land. How the hell are all of the apartment dwellers across America supposed to prepare for this “economic meltdown”?

The “homesteading” community, which prides itself on being a community effort, seems to be comprised entirely of middle class white people. I have nothing against that, except that they don’t seem to realize how exclusive their community is to the rest of the world.

There is not enough land on earth for every family living in the modern world today to own their own family farm, much less any land at all. Of course, that’s why I made this blog. I just didn’t realize how few people participating in the organic farming community thought about apartment dwellers until today.

The *Right* Seeds are a Long-Term Investment.

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Today I learned a new term: open-pollinated. It basically means that the seeds will produce a plant which will make seeds that will reproduce plants like the ones you bought. I linked the term above to another wordpress blog, “Surviving the Middle Class Crash”, which explains how seed collection is performed.

I also bought open-pollinated pearl onions, broccoli, and lettuce from a website. I’ll attach it to this link if the seeds perform well (see my seed brand review below).

Update: Here is a website where people exchange and give away heirloom seeds-  http://www.heirloomseedswap.com/

Also, this guy has an AMAZING instructional youtube channel covering every topic under the sun having to do with organic gardening. Check him out!

Seed Brand Reviews and Transplanting

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This page will include:

  • Transplanting pictures
  • seed brand reviews

TRANSPLANTING 

I plant one seed per planter well according to the planting depth instructions on the back of the packet, soak the cell with lukewarm water, put the clear plastic top on, and wait. When the seedlings can touch the plastic cover or it’s very likely that they will within 4 hours, I transplant them into larger containers where they’ll be exposed to regular air for the first time. Before this exposure, they don’t usually develop a waxy protective coat around their stalk, so it’s important that you don’t just go from the sprouting container into the ground if you decide to transplant into an outdoor garden.

1.  I like this type of planter because the cheap plastic it’s made out of folds in easily when gentle pressure is applied to the bottom. Here I’m gently grasping the base of the plant’s stalk and applying very slight pressure up while pushing the bottom up as well. This causes the whole well of dirt and all of the roots that have grown out of the cell to gently slide out with the plant.

2.  As you can see, the little bit of root that had grown past the dirt well and the entire well’s worth of dirt came with the plant. This is ideal. We want the majority of the root protected by the soil it’s used to. I am supporting the soil clump with the rest of my hand that you can’t see.

3. Prior to removing the seedling from its original well, I’d filled this container full of potting soil and then stuck my fingers in to create a well in the center to place it in. After removing the plant with the well dirt as shown above, I place it into the space I created and gently pack some dirt around it. I then place it in the seed tray with the other transplants, water from top with lukewarm water until they’re dripping out the bottom and add a little water in the bottom of each well to ensure they wont run dry in the midst of their main growth spurt.

SEED BRAND FEEDBACK

I hate to do this, but I’m quickly realizing that not all seed brands are created equal. In fact, the ones I bought from Walmart have been disappointing me so far.

1. BURPEE seeds. These are the ones that have proven disappointing so far. In the last 5 days, I’ve planted 48 BURPEE seeds. So far, 1 out of 18 spinach seeds have sprouted. This one has now grown to three inches. Unfortunately, my bird took a bite off the top, so I doubt we’ll be able to see how much farther it would have gone. 1 of the 6 squash I planted sprouted, and 4 beans of the 12 I planted have sprouted. All of these plants sprouted by the third day and have already been transplanted. All of the other cells remain dormant. I will update this *hopefully*, if more sprout.

2. Livingston Seed Co. (look on back of package in bottom left-hand corner) seeds. Once again, I’m pretty underwhelmed. 2 out of 18 peas planted 5 days ago have sprouted. The rest is the same as above.

3. Bean seeds from bulk dried goods section at grocery store. I planted these as an experiment for kicks and giggles. Basically, I’d bought bulk kidney and bean-soup beans from my local grocery store about a year ago and they haven’t made it into my belly yet. These had the second best/fastest germination rate. 9 of the 12 seeds I planted 5 days ago have already been transplanted and one of them is 5 inches tall! It turns out dried food goods work better as seeds than seed packet.

4. Bentley seeds. I planted these yesterday and today 10 of the 13 seeds I planted have sprouted! These (red lettuce) were bought from a little stand at the grocery store for $0.50 a packet and I expected BURPEE to outperform these by a lot!

Expenses, Other Drawbacks, Attempts at Solutions

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Expenses

Today I realized I’ve spent ~$105 on start-up stuff. I didn’t keep the receipts (going to start doing that), but here’s what I have so far:

  • 1lb European earthworms
  • spinach seeds
  • garden bean seeds
  • summer squash seeds
  • cabbage seeds
  • lettuce seeds
  • pea seeds
  • parsley seeds
  • cilantro seeds
  • oregano seeds
  • basil seeds
  • a small-well flat-sized planter set up
  • 2 medium-well planter set-ups
  • 2-ten inch diameter pots
  • 1-fourteen inch pot
  • starter soil
  • potting soil
  • liquid fertilizer

The soil alone has cost $10 so far and the pots have come out to be about $20.

Main Drawbacks and Possible Solutions

  • The cost of starter soil. I can’t find starter soil in anything larger than a small bag for $3. This is not feasible in the long term. One bag starts about 36 plants, which will be transferred into larger pots. This means that the soil cannot be used for starting again. To solve this problem, I’m going to experiment with making starter soil from potting soil and worm castings.
  • The price of pots. The starter pots aren’t that bad in terms of how many plants you can produce for the price, considering they are reusable. However, the larger growing containers are too expensive for a very low-income person to be able to budget for. I think the only solution here is going to be to find junk parts and figure out how to create planters that don’t drip all over the living room and meet the vegetable’s needs.
Update 4/8/2012: Okay, the solution is shown above- reuse old yogurt containers and any type of container you buy from the store (the lids can be put underneath to collect excess water.) Old baking sheets can also be used under the plants. Instead of transplanting into the store-bought containers I showed, you can transplant into plastic cups bought in bulk with holes cup into the bottom. For larger plants, you can turn old storage crates into garden beds by hammering holes into the bottom with nails and putting the container lid underneath to collect water. I will get a better picture of this and post it below when I transplant the lettuce into their largest container. You can also use a regular box with a garbage bag liner with holes poked in it for a couple plantings. When the box starts falling apart, you can transfer the liner into another box and use the worn one for worm food.
  • Space. I knew this was going to be a problem. I cannot, realistically, grow 15 heads of lettuce at once in my living room if I use normal planting methods because I wont have room for anything else. I *think* the solution to this is to plant multiple things per container; to go for a total soil-cover instead of, say, just having a pot of garlic by itself. Instead, I’ll have garlic and herbs. I’ll grow cabbage surrounded by carrots. THIS is where experience is going to come into play. I have to figure out what can be grown with what to maximize soil space
  • The cost of starting a “fertilizer maker” (worm bin). After researching the issue of worm purchase and maintenence expenses, I’ve concluded that this actually should be counted as a capital investment , rather than an expense.  It turns out that the European Nightcrawler is a relatively new species with a previously unseen combination of attractive traits. It’s the hardiest worm used for composting, a prolific breeder, consumes the most food per worm, and reaches large sizes desirable for a bait worm. I will be able to sell the worm castings and the worms to a public that’s never even heard of this species. This investment alone may pay back more than I’ve spent on the entire operation so far. One pound of these worms is currently selling for a minimum of $20 over the internet. Locally, no one near me is breeding these worms and those that do breed other species are selling them for $40/lb. These same people are selling worm tea for $14 per quart. They should prepare to be put out of business.

Worms for Making Your Own Compost

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Much thanks to The Soulsby Farm for offering a free tutorial about how to start a worm farm! I was wondering how I would afford enough fertilizer to keep a year-round, complete, indoor vegetable garden running. In the last day, I’ve spent a great deal of time researching worm tea and discovered that youtube is a wonderful resource for how-to information about making it .

Worm tea is a concoction made from worm castings. These are obtained via a type of composing where worms digest your food/paper scraps and essentially convert them into fertilizer/amazing soil. You can order worms online or obtain them from a local dealer. Unfortunately, those near me want to rip my arm and possibly a leg off with their prices. My next project: grow worms and sell them for prices that put these suckers out of business.

I ordered mine from this site and I decided to buy the European Nightcrawler as opposed to the more common Redworm. The reason for this is that my family enjoys fishing and the red worm is a bit too small and fragile to conveniently double as our bate. European Nightcrawlers are the larger cousin of the red worm and thus perform just as well for composting purposes while also being the most hardy and conveniently sized bait worm. In addition, they can be sold to local pet owners as live food.

After reading and watching a lot of good advice about worm composting, I became extremely curious about the validity of their claims about worm tea being the best fertilizer available. I am not the touchy-feely-tree-hugging-earth-lover type who immediately becomes enamored with every “natural” idea and believes everything anyone says about it. I want to test these claims. Hopefully, they are true, as that would save me a ton of money.

So, upon establishing a good colony of “fertilizer makers”, I’m going to start an experiment comparing the growth rates of plants provided just water (which will be left out overnight to let the flourine evaporate), plants provided a common store-bought fertilizer, and those given compost tea + the scraps from the bottom of the tea jug. I will start the same type of seeds from the same supplier in the same container types and measure their weekly growth  (both height, width, and largest leaf size). All of the plants will be rotated daily so differing amounts of light are not a factor.

I will compare the growth rates of 50 plants of each group (150 total) from planting to maturity, calculate the means (averages) for each group, and run a t-test to see if there are any statistically significant differences between the groups. This way, when I tell you that worm tea is the best, I will have actual data to back it up!

Update: I thought this video was pretty amazing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEwB23uhBGY&feature=related