Carbon Dioxide CO2 Enrichment in an Indoor Garden

CO2 and the Carbon Cycle Having an indoor garden will keep a family in fruits and vegetables all year round, even being able to grow things out of season. However, with indoor climates and lighting being different than the outdoors, much of what the Earth manufactures naturally must be recreated for the indoor garden environment. One of the most important of these is carbon dioxide, a gas with no odor or color that forms when we exhale or when carbon-based fuel is burned. Carbon, present in all organic compounds goes in a cycle of constant reproduction – a cycle we are very much a part of. At the center of each plant, there is the carbon that has been obtained by absorption from the environment. Every living thing is carbon based, and for vegetation to grow and reach its maximum capacity, a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) is needed. It should be monitored closely as not to increase the levels by too much. Ideally, when CO2 is increased in an indoor environment, the temperature should also be warmer. Controllers for CO2 will regulate temperature as well as CO2 levels. Average levels of CO2 are around 300-400 ppm (parts per million) and for a typical indoor garden the levels should be increased by about 1200 ppm. Carbon is always on the move, so remember that the plants growing will absorb as much as available, which depletes the levels. CO2 occurs naturally in the environment, but for an indoor garden, it has to be created, especially in the larger amounts that plants need. Larger open areas would not benefit as much from added CO2 due to the constant exhaust that would have to be running. However, the sealed atmosphere of an indoor garden, and especially a grow box, would benefit greatly from added CO2. Plants go through a process called photosynthesis which is when carbon dioxide and water combine and are powered by the sun (or in this case, a grow light) to create necessary carbohydrates. One of the simplest and most inexpensive ways is to have a CO2 injector. These injectors have regulators to keep a constant flow of CO2 going into the grow box without exceeding the limits that can cause the environment to become toxic with “greenhouse gasses”. Some have timers installed into them to further regulate the CO2 releases. The temperature should also be monitored to keep the environment warm enough to let the carbon dioxide do its work. Since it takes a long time for this type of system to produce the CO2, it is better to use this type of system for a smaller indoor garden that can be easily monitored. Adding CO2 has other benefits as well. When plants are growing, if the CO2 levels are lower, the leaves tend to open up more trying to catch whatever CO2 is available. This in turn, causes water loss. With added CO2, the plants retain more of the water given, which in turn aids in their ability to withstand drought. This results in a hardy plant full of vegetation. It also improves their ability to withstand toxins in the air as well as environmental stresses such as higher soil and air temperatures. In short, carbon dioxide is the food that plants need to survive and reproduce. If a larger indoor growing environment is being considered, investing in a CO2 generator may be the way to go. These run off either a natural gas line or propane. Natural gas is often used due to the propane tanks needing changed often, which can be time consuming. Generators also keep the temperature raised to around 85-90 degrees without a separate heating system. Higher temperatures for the growing environment are essential for the added CO2 to achieve its purpose. The old saying “too much of a good thing” is very true when it comes to creating an environment for indoor gardening. While warm and humid temperatures are ideal, too much humidity can make the plants wilt, defeating the purpose. De-humidifiers will keep the relative humidity (RH) levels between 55-65, and thermometers keeping track of the temperatures will advise as to when the levels need increased or decreased. Adding CO2 in the indoor garden environment will increase the use of water and nitrogen, which in turn will require some space adjustments. This is why it is important to always keep the levels of CO2 regulated and the grow box monitored, so the vegetation doesn’t get too crowded and plants won’t wilt. The levels of CO2 certainly need monitored so they don’t exceed 2000 ppm. This level can be toxic to plants, animals and humans, so...

How to Plant a New Rose Bush

According to research from the University of Illinois, roses have been around for about 35 million years. And, for centuries roses have been one of the most popular flowers in the world. Cherished for their enticing fragrance, their beauty and their long blooming season, roses are available in over 150 different species. With proper care and maintenance, a rose bush can give you decades of beauty and pleasure. Although a new rose bush can grow with very little help, you can give them a better head start with a few simple steps. The first few months after you plant a new bush are crucial not only to the plants survival, but to how long the bush lasts and how beautifully it grows. Tips For Planting A New Rose Bush Here are just a few easy tips to give your new rose bush the best possible start in its new home! When you purchase a new rose bush the roots are generally wrapped in moss and covered in plastic. Although the plant can survive without any soil for quite some time, it’s crucial that you plant the bush as soon as possible for optimal health. If you can plant the bush right away, make sure to store it in a cool place and keep the root ball moist. A basement is the perfect place to store the bush until you can plant it. When Best to Plant Roses Ideally new rose bushes should be planted before they begin their growing season and start to bloom. In most areas, March or April is a good time to plant a new bush. The earlier you plant your rose the more secure the root system will be before new shoots begin to appear in the spring. However, while they may not do as well the first year, rose bushes can be planted at any time. Location and Soil The very first step in planting a new rose bush is to find the ideal location. Roses thrive in soil that has good drainage and in an area where they will get about 6 hours of sun. If you are unsure about how well the soil will drain you can perform a simple test. Dig a small hole that is about one foot in depth and fill it full of water. After all of the water has drained fill it with water again. If the water has drained in less than two hours the soil has real good drainage. If you plan on planting more than one rose bush make sure that you give them adequate growing space. Depending on which type of roses you are planting they should be anywhere from two to ten feet apart. If they are planted too close together they will become too crowded which can damage your bushes. Roses need air circulation to keep them from becoming diseased. Once you have chosen a location remove any weeds and plant debris such as dead leaves. The cleaner the soil where your plant is growing the less chance of disease and pests. Roses do not like to compete with other plants that drain a lot of nutrients from the soil such as grass. The best way to keep anything from growing near the bush is to place mulch around the area. Just make sure that you leave a circle of several inches clear around the base of the plant. Mulch laying around the stem can cause it to rot. Prepare Your Rose for Planting The next step is to prepare your new rose bush for its new home. The root ball should be soaked in water for at least 24 hours before you plant it. And, to encourage new growth you should prune one half inch off of the plants roots. The hole should be approximately two square feet in size. Once the hole is dug, create a small mound with in the center and spread the rose bushes roots over the mound. After planting it’s recommended that you place a small hill of dirt at the base of the bush to help the soil retain water. For the first week the bush needs to be watered daily and then watered about every three days or so depending on the weather. As soon as you see new plants shoots protruding out of the little hill of dirt wash it away with a water hose. New shoots means that your bush is well established and thriving. Written by Connie Corder, Copyright 2012...

Dealing With Pests In An Organic Garden

The mid 1950’s saw the advent of mechanical ways of spraying the crops with pesticides in mass quantities. This got many environmental activist groups speaking out against these harmful chemicals which not only affect the food being treated, but other natural resources such as air, water, and wild life as well. This led to the popularity of organic gardening that began in the 1960’s and 70’s and has continued today. In organic gardening pests are a very real issue, which is why the chemicals were invented in the first place. The old school methods of using spray mists of diluted vinegar/water solutions, neem oil (pressed from the neem tree which has long been used as a pesticide by indigenous people for centuries) and soap and water solutions may take longer, but will do the job with no harm to the environment. Removing pests can be done effectively without the use of harmful chemicals. A good start is to carefully select plants that are resistant to the various diseases that can occur (and pests thrive on). Many gardeners also practice crop rotation to prevent an infestation from pest reproductive cycles. There are also natural solutions that will help to keep pests under control. A garlic and pepper mixture placed in the soil or eggshells placed around the plants will deter many insects. Solutions of dish soap and water sprayed in a mist on the plants will also prevent pests from harming them. Predatory insects such as Ladybugs can be obtained to eat those aphids and other harmful insects who want to eat the fruits of your efforts. The important thing to remember when thinking about “pests” is that some insects are good to have in your garden, especially those who eat other pests. The ground beetle and the praying mantis are good to have for keeping the harmful insect population down. These “good” insects also pollinate the plants. Choosing organic methods of growing food gives the gardener a choice in what chemicals are put into the environment. Many of these artificial fertilizers will aid in plants speedy growth, however the tried and true natural methods are just as effective and will not harm the earth’s natural resources. Growing your own food organically will prevent spending the higher prices at the grocery store for “certified” organic foods and can provide a family with fruits and vegetables grown in the manner intended from the beginning – using what the Earth has given to continue replenishing what is taken. Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2012...

Organic Gardening Grow it Natural

People grow their own food for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the superior nutritional benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables. A concern that many people have however, is the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides. This has led many to consider organic gardening, which takes a bit more time, but avoids using the chemicals that are designed to kill the ‘weeds’, insects and pests. Gardening organically means more upkeep and maintenance, but the safety and well being that comes from knowing your food is pesticide-free is worth it. Organic Gardening A Look To The Land PCmaticMany years ago, of course, all gardening was done naturally. The term “organic” refers to growing food and cultivating soil naturally with no chemicals involved. Organic gardening was first discussed in length by Sir Walter James, 4th Baron of Northbourne when he wrote his book “Look To The Land”. This was where the phrase “organic’ was first used in reference to farming without any artificial treatments. What is important to remember in organic gardening is that there is no quick way to do it. It will require more time and cultivation of the soil manually. The reward however will be fruits and vegetables that are known to be pesticide and chemical free. Grow Organic! Growing food naturally is thought by many to be rich in the minerals and nutrients that are lacking in many of the regular store-bought fruit and vegetable products. When something is “certified organic” by the government, it means that it has passed all criteria for being grown with no pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Since more time and trouble is gone into growing food this way, the prices in the stores are higher than for conventionally grown produce, which has led some to say that the whole thing is a scam. The conflicting information can lead to a lot of confusion, but what should be remembered is that the only gripe that people have is the price. Learning how to do your own organic gardening will give you all the benefits of healthier food without having to pay the cost of the grocer.   Biodynamic Agriculture Organic Gardening Method There are several different organic gardening systems to consider when planning to grow food naturally. One such system that is appropriate for those in commercial farming is biodynamic agriculture. Biodynamic Agriculture follows under the assumption that each farm is an individual ecosystem. This type of farming has no external influences whatsoever, and relies solely on self-replenishing. Much of the commercially grown organic food that is labeled “Certified” by such government agencies as Demeter International has been grown on such farms. Biodynamic Agriculture farming began in earnest after a series of lectures given in 1924 by a philosopher named Rudolf Steiner to an audience of horticulturalists from several countries. This led to further research, and today, biodynamic agriculture is utilized in over 50 countries. French Intensive Or Small Plot Intensive Organic Gardening Method In the early 1930’s, an organic gardening technique popularly used in France was introduced here by a man named Alan Chadwick who had been studying the French Intensive or Small Plot Intensive method. This is ideal for the everyday gardener to grow fruits and vegetables for personal consumption. One of the most important aspects to this type of organic gardening is a “raised” bed. This is where the bed of soil is raised off the ground with the use of either untreated, natural timber or making a lower bed of soil for the raised mound to rest on. This can be done by double digging, or digging the soil manually and adding bits of organic compost to the loosened soil. A top layer is then added for the actual growing. Planting the seedlings close together will encourage stronger growth patterns and provides natural shade for the soil to remain cool and moist. No Till Organic Gardening Method Some gardeners prefer the “no till” method, letting the garden basically replenish its own soil needs, while others manually double dig to keep the soil constantly rotated. Either method will work, although the no till method does take more time. Organic Mulch Preparation Preparing organic mulch for a garden can be done easily throughout the year by saving lawn clippings, branches, green tops from plants, and other biodegradable garden compost. Farmyard manure is also used for its organic properties, however cow manure is preferred since the cow’s stomach digests food better than other animals. Manure should be left to stand several months in a dry place so it can break down and be mixed in with the other compost materials. When mulch is...

Heirloom Seeds and Plants

Heirloom Seeds and Plants and Cultivars Heirlooms handed down from generation to generation is a time-honored custom in families to keep the history and people from the past alive in the present. Bits of times gone by can be seen in the pieces that have been around for many years. The same is true of ‘heirloom plants’, or cultivars that were grown many years ago before the age of commercialized farming. There are many debates over what specifically defines plants or seedlings as heirlooms. The common feature in all is that they are seedlings from plants that originated many years ago and have reproduced naturally through open pollination. Heirloom Seeds Some people place an age limit on originating cultivars, usually placing them between 100 and 50 years old. Some are handed down from generation to generation in families, such as garden items or prize-winning rose-bushes. There are also seedlings that were discontinued for commercial use and have been saved for special distribution. Each heirloom, by whichever definition is considered, has a major component in common, which is they are all products of open or natural pollination. This keeps the plant true to its original cultivar, some of which are said to go back hundreds of years. Those who swear by heirloom plants and vegetables are vigilant advocates for its superior quality and appearance. Heirloom plants and vegetables have also provided continuations of plants that may have died out years ago due to the hybrids that became popular for commercial food production in the last forty years. Why Heirloom Seeds and Plants? Why Heirlooms? One may ask why heirloom plants are so important to gardeners. For many, it is the idea of continuing cultivars from times past to literally taste a simpler time. As the years have passed, fewer families save starter plants to be passed on from each generation to the next. The idea of keeping the same plant going for potentially hundreds of years encourages the concept of keeping history alive. There is a sense of family connection when looking at plants growing in the garden that got their start many years ago with the loving touch of a treasured grandmother or aunt. Another aspect that attracts many gardeners to heirloom plants is the strongly held belief that the lushness of the flowers or the superior quality of the vegetable is due to starting from seedlings begun many years ago. If it is grown in the same type of soil, the plant adapts to the environment around it with greater ease than hybrids which change from year to year. This increases its durability and resistance to pests and other conditions which can cause plants to falter. Most importantly, heirloom plants allow the continued production of seedlings that might otherwise die out. To increase the productivity of plants, many hybrids have been developed. Hybrids do not reproduce exactly from seeds that are saved as heirloom plants will do if properly cultivated. Saving seed from heirlooms and continuing their production will in turn allow plants and vegetables that would otherwise be in danger of dying out. How To Obtain Heirloom Seeds and Plants The easiest way of course to obtain the seeds for heirloom plants is to save them from ones you have already grown. It is extremely important to choose only the healthiest heirlooms to pick over for seed. They should always be put in clearly marked packaging so that the varieties of vegetables will not get mixed up. It is essential to grow the same heirloom varieties together rather than mixing them up. Seeds can be saved for up to five years if stored properly in a cool, dry place. “Indian” Corn The ways to obtain the seeds from the plants themselves vary depending on the species. Beans are left to dry at room temperature, whereas other plants such as tomatoes require some extra preparation. Tomato seeds need to be scooped out, insides and all, and left to sit in a small amount of water for several days until a fine layer of mold appears. Once this happens, the seeds can be cleaned off and laid out to dry.   Another way to obtain seeds if you don’t have the heirlooms available to work from is going to a seed swap. This may require some looking around, but many gardeners are willing to share the excess seeds and plants they have cultivated. Getting together with others who are planting heirlooms will not only add variety to your garden, it will put you in touch with others who are cultivating generational plants and vegetables. Community gardening is something that helped build this country to...

How to Make Compost Naturally

Learn How to Make Compost Compost not only recycles garbage to where it has benefits, it gives the soil the healthy bacteria and nutrients that it needs. Best of all, making compost isn’t difficult to do – it simply requires a little patience and diligence. Anyone who grows their own food knows that it all starts with the soil and the nutrients it gets. There are many commercially prepared fertilizers, but most organic farmers and gardeners prefer using natural compost. Naturally made, especially if it is on-site, compost is very beneficial for organic gardening whether it is large scale commercial, a family business or just as a ‘back yard’ hobby. What is Compost? Compost in and of itself should have three components that make it up: water, “green” waste (vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, lawn clippings, etc.) and “brown” waste (tree branched, twigs and dried leaves). “Green” waste provides nitrogen and “brown waste” provides carbon, two essentials in healthy soil. The water keeps the whole thing moist and easily broken down absorbed by the garden soil bedding. How is Compost Created? Compost piles do not happen overnight. This is something that needs to be started a few weeks to a few months ahead of time at the very least. Some compost piles are left to develop for as long as two years. There is no set way to have a compost pile or bin, although the indoor bins will produce faster results. Compost Methods One method for getting a compost pile started in your back yard is to find a shady spot and chop the brown and green waste into smaller bits as it is collected, moistening with water periodically. It is also a good idea to have a backyard compost pile near a water source. Once the pile has gotten going, then the grass clippings and fruit and vegetable waste as well as other strictly green waste materials can be added and buried ten inches below the original pile. This pile can be left for up to two years and is ready in generally two months or when the green waste added and buried is a dark color. A tarp can be placed on top to seal it, but that isn’t required. Another method for outdoor backyard composting also requires a shady spot that is preferably near a water source. Chop the waste into smaller bits as in the first method and cover the bottom with a layer of brown waste approximately six inches in depth. Then place a three inch layer of green waste along with a bit of dirt or finished compost material, and mix them up a little bit. After it is mixed, add another three inches of brown waste and moisten with water. With a pitchfork turn the mixture over every couple of weeks or so, making sure the dry materials are moved toward the middle. Do this for up to four months, depending on the size of the pile, and when it is completed, let sit for a couple of weeks before using. Indoor Compost Bins Some people prefer to make indoor bins that can be kept going year round. This is also a good method for people who do not have the room in the yard to keep one. To make an indoor compost bin, first get a large, clean, plastic garbage can. Drill some holes for ventilation, about 1/2 inch in diameter, at the bottom of the can as well as the sides. Take a slightly larger garbage can and put a brick in the bottom along with some soil and bits of wood. The smaller can should then be placed inside the larger one, seated firmly on the brick. The larger can should have some form of insulation wrapped around it tightly and a lid should be kept on top once the compost materials are added. The insulation will keep the compost warm as well as prevent odors and bacteria from building up. What Can Be Added to a Compost Pile? There are many things that can be added to a compost pile, however it is important to note that many are not. Some of the things that are acceptable to add are; Bits of newspaper or clean paper  Coffee grounds (including filter)  Grass clippings  Human and animal hair clippings  Ashes from the fireplace  Leaves from houseplants or outside  Vegetables  Fruits  Sawdust  Shells from nuts  Tea bags  Hay  Straw  Rags made out of wool or cotton  Lint from the dryer or vacuum  Eggshells  Cardboard  Wood chips and most trimmings from the yard Worms and castings from developed worm farms or worm composters are also...