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The Urban Farmer, Issue #018: A Winter Garden * Fungus Gnats * R-O Water
“My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.” ~H. Fred Ale
How Aout a Winter Garden?
It’s not too late to start a winter veggie garden if you get going on it now. When you think of a vegetable garden, you likely imagine crispy green beans, juicy tomatoes, and bright-colored peppers. These are all summer garden veggies, and many of you folks are not able to enjoy a winter garden outside due to all the snow and freezing temperatures.
But hydroponics opens up a whole new world for you! Plant a winter garden inside, in a cool room. Limit the amount of heat getting in, or crack a window open slightly and you have created the perfect environment for a winter vegetable garden.
[In warmer climates, like south Florida or California, you can put your setup on a screened-in porch and take advantage of the mild days and cool nights].
What to grow? We have had great success with broccoli, cabbage, green onions, and the always happy lettuce raft. Carrots can be a little tricky. Make sure the medium is the only perlite and/or coco coir, well mixed and light. Use only stubby carrot varieties, like these varieties: Gourmet Short ‘N Sweets, Thumbelina, Little Finger. Green onions grow wild. We usually end up with enough to chop and freeze for seasoning soups and stews later.
Although broccoli and cabbage are space hogs and overflow the single pots you have provided them, they make a wonderful taste treat. Harvest right before dinner, steam them, and season with butter, salt, and pepper.
Winter gardens seem to be less prone to bugs and provide some of the most interesting and tasty side dishes for your dinner table. So get started today on YOUR hydroponic winter garden.
Those Grody Fungus Gnats!
You know what happens when somebody throws a banana peel in the sink and it stays there for a couple of days, right? Nasty little flies start buzzing around! Tiny grey or black flies with long legs and antennae, flying aimlessly around the sink. Yuck!
These are fungus gnats, and they can also invade your hydroponic garden. You might find them swarming around the plants and landing on top of the plant medium, or they might even take over the nutrient reservoir.
Fungus gnats like damp, decaying organic matter and they love to camp out in the growing medium. Their larvae eat the plant’s roots. Although your crops might not die, fungus gnats can surely decrease their vigor and production. And they are just plain nasty.
How to get rid of fungus gnats? You could try the least invasive method first: yellow sticky traps. If this doesn’t get rid of them, then get some goGnats, and follow the directions on the label. You can even put this stuff in the nutrient solution.
R-O Water: Tastier, healthier, and better for your hydro garden
How’s your drinking water? And is it good enough for your hydroponics system? If you followed our suggestions in the “Nutrients” section, you had your water tested before setting up your garden.
If you have city water, chances are good that your water is plenty adequate. Municipal plants must process the water to government-specified levels. Well water is another story, though. You might be blessed with the finest spring water on earth, or be stuck with horrible water laden with too many minerals (solids).
Really poor quality water (greater than 300 ppm total solids), makes it very hard to successfully grow a healthy hydroponics garden. Your best solution, in that case, is to install an RO (reverse osmosis) water filter under your kitchen sink. An RO filter costs $200-300, but it provides the highest quality drinking water possible (and great water for hydro). It might be a little bit of a
project to collect the RO water from your kitchen sink, but your hydro garden will thank you for your efforts!
We hope you have enjoyed this issue of The Urban Farmer Ezine. Each month, we will bring you another inspiring photo, gardening quote or idea, plus fresh new hydroponics news, techniques & products.
Insiders tips to get you growing…
~Stella and Simon