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Growing Microgreens in the Plant Lab

Since we have set-up the Plant Lab I have been focused on growing the plants that will feed my customers for my small CSA I’m running this year – but I also wanted to test out Microgreens & see how well they would grow under the Total Grow Broad Spectrum LED lights we have.

Microgreens are baby seed sprouts that are harvested early for a robustly-flavored, nutrient-dense additions to everything from salads to sandwiches. Some of the common seeds used for microgreens include: arugula, beets, broccoli, basil, cilantro, dill, kale, carrots, radishes, sunflowers, mustard & more!

There were so many different varieties to choose from, it was hard to pick one to grow. I actually had Mustard seeds left over from last year’s test with Microgreens & I was determined to make it work this time around!

Here’s a link to the video version of this blog!

Before we get growing, here are a few supplies you’ll need:

  1. Seeds – take a packet, any packet! There are almost unlimited options for varieties to grow. I thought about what was typically missing from a salad that I like (spice) and chose my seeds (mustard) from there. I would recommend looking up “microgreen seeds” to get some ideas of options available & to make sure you’re not using a seed that is treated with fungicides, pesticides, etc.
  2. Growing Trays – a standard 10″x20″ tray will work just fine, but you can grow them in pots or anywhere you want.
  3. Growing Media – you can use standard soil mix, but I used Biostrate felt which is designed for growing microgreens (and I was curious how well it would actually work).
  4. Water – microgreens are like any other seed & need moisture to germinate and water to continue growing.
  5. Fertilizer – since we are usually using growing media that doesn’t include nutrients, we will need to add them to feed the microgreens throughout the growing process. I used Seedlingers Plant Fertelixer & had great results! It has an analysis of 3-.6-.6 & contains 3% calcium. The label states it is an all-natural, biological fertilizer & also says “Feed the soil. Feed the microbes. Feed the Plants.” So I’m guessing there may be some mycorrhizae (beneficial fungi) in there, but can’t verify that.
  6. Light – sunlight works great & it’s free! I used TotalGrow Broad Spectrum LED lights because I don’t have a greenhouse or a window that will get the amount of light that I need. Fluorescent lights will work too but LED has been proven to produce more nutrient-dense & flavor-rich microgreens.

Steps to Growing Microgreens

  1. Moisten the soil or felt so that seeds will stick in place.
  2. Liberally scatter seeds on the growing media. You want a dense coverage, but you also need to think about airflow through the tray – don’t seed so densely that it chokes out your crop.
  3. Spritz with water from a spray bottle or gently water seedlings in.
  4. Check them every day & keep the media from drying out completely.
  5. Begin a low-dose fertilizer regimen when you see green growing from the seeds.
  6. Harvest in 10-21 days depending on the seeds. The should be about 2 inches tall.

Below is my Mustard Microgreens’ growing journey – from seed to salad!

DAY 0

DAY 1

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DAY 2

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DAY 3 & 4

DAY 5

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DAY 6 & 7

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DAY 8 & 9

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DAY 10

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DAY 12

 

I hope this guide helped you gain an understanding of what Microgreens are & how to grow them. If you have any further questions, concerns, or comments, please feel free to drop me a line in the comments section below or hit me up on any of my Social channels & I’ll be happy to help.

Happy growing! 🍀🤓🍀

 

 

 

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How & Why I Built my Plant Lab

Last year was the first time that I was able to grow from seed to harvest & I credit my success to my “Plant Lab”.

The Plant Lab is located in a closet in the unoccupied bedroom on the 2nd story of my house. When I purchased the house, my first thought after seeing the empty closet racks was to turn it into a vertical growing system – and after I bought the house that is exactly what happened!

The set up for 2017 consisted of a mixture of T5 fluorescent & LED grow lights on 3 different levels. Each level could hold 2 propagation trays of 72 seedlings each.

Level 1 & Level 2 each have one T5 fluorescent light – which is definitely not enough light to distribute evenly along the trays, but we made it work for tomatoes & peppers under these lights last year!

Level 3 had two economical LED lights that I purchased from Amazon – they worked a lot better than expected and the quality of the plants was visibly healthier than the fluorescent-grown seedlings.

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Fast forward to 2018

Yesterday we built additional growing space into the plant lab & more than doubled our production area! We did this by repurposing shelves from the greenhouse in the picture below, setting them up in the Plant Lab under a clothes-hanging bar.

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Since there were no existing light sockets, we got light sockets with 15.5 feet long braided cords, wrapped the cords around the clothes-hanging bar, secured it, and screwed the light bulb in – plugged in the cord, flipped on the switch & voila – let there be TotalGrow Light! Learn more about TotalGrow Broad Spectrum Lights here.

This new set-up will help us to accomplish all of our ambitious goals with our Veggie Subscription Box – so far we have 11 people signed up, so we have a lot of seeds to plant and a tight schedule to adhere to.

One of the first crops that we can plant are onions – so that’ll be the first seeds we will sow! Green onions were a popular pick on the preference sheet, so we need to make sure we have enough for every customer.

Subscribers will be getting their Veggie Box Bi-weekly, so Group A will get their box on June 1 & Group B will get their box on June 8 theoretically. This will hopefully spread our harvests out enough to ensure all members will have a full Veggie Box.

In order to achieve this we will be planting certain seeds – like Green Onions, Lettuces, Cilantro – at least every 2 weeks so that the harvest will continue until the heat forces us to resort to other crops like Tomatoes, Peppers, and other late-season veggies (or fruits).

All-in-all we are looking at having 14 trays in production at one time under this new set-up!

If you’re curious about how I set up my Plant Lab – check out my video on the installation!

I’ll be keeping a strong flow of content on my Podcast, blog, and my YouTube channel – if you’re interested in following my journey and learning about gardening, growing or making gains in life, would love if you followed & subscribed 🌰🌱🙏🌳

 

 

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How to Repot Orchids

The first thing you may want to do is check out “How to Prune Orchids” to make sure your plant is ready to be repotted. You can repot your orchids if they have flowers on them, but there is a greater chance of damaging those flowers or stressing the plant out.

A lot of orchids are potted in clear pots, so that makes it much easier to see when they need repotted.

So when do orchids need repotted?

Check out the plants roots – what color are they?

If they’re green & growing uninhibited, then leave it be.

But if you notice that the roots are starting to circle, then you should repot it. If the roots are brown, then you need to repot it.

So how do I repot my orchid?

  1. With one hand holding the pot, put your other hand around the foliage, ready to tip the pot over.
  2. Tip the pot over, dumping the root system out & catching the plant in your hand.
  3. Begin to “tease” the roots out. They may be bound up in the bottom of the pot, or may have grown to fit the pot. Don’t be afraid to pull the media from the roots – you may even remove some dead roots in the process.
  4. Remove dead roots. If the roots are brown, you may be able to strip the root covering – called velamen – away from the roots, leaving an uncovered root that may still help the plant uptake water & nutrients.
  5. Be gentle, but don’t be afraid to hurt the plant. Cutting away dead or decaying roots will aid in the growth process in the long-term.
  6. Once you get the roots tidied up, it’s time to repot. If it will fit, you can reuse the original pot, but you may want to shift your plant up to a larger pot to accommodate new root growth.
  7. Place the roots inside the pot & begin filling the pot with a well-draining media mix. You can either get a media specifically for orchids, but if you can’t find any, a bark mix would be a great substitute.

Hopefully this helps you on your Orchid-growing journey! For a full care guide, check out the Orchid Growing Guide & check out my YouTube series about growing & caring for Orchids!

 

 

 

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3 Types of Grow Lights for Seed Starting

leaf growing in a light

Whenever I talk about grow lights, I always get a sideways glance, a suspicious look, or a playful joke – trust me, if I was growing “smelly tomatoes” I definitely wouldn’t be talking about it! 😂

There was a time where grow lights were only used in dank-smelling basements & illicit indoor grow ops, but times have changed!

People want to grow indoors for a number of reasons:

  • Starting seeds
  • Growing plants & food through the winter months
  • Vertical growing

And in order to grow indoors, you’re going to need some light! The 3 most popular types of lights that growers use include:

Fluorescent

Fluorescent lighting used to be the most abundant light source around us (probably still is in some offices!), but most light has been switched to LED due to efficiency, lifespan, and economics.

Your best bet is to go with a High Output T5 light – that will give you the strongest light that you can get from a fluorescent & should be enough to get your seeds rocking & rolling! Here’s how my tomatoes & peppers did under the T5 last year.

These are great lights for seed starting & I also use mine for my abundance of succulents that I have planted in Root Pouches – stop by the shop if you want to help me clear some out 😊 or let me know if you see one in the picture below you like & I’ll get it listed!

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HPS (High Pressure Sodium)

I have no experience growing under HPS lights, but almost every grower that I have worked with over the past 5 years that uses grow lights, uses HPS. And when I say grower, I mean vegetable, annual, perennial, trees, shrubs, not cannabis.

These lights were the industry standard for a long time, but there’s another benefit that is overlooked – the heat they emit. Growers in warmer states may not want this, but this is a huge benefit to northern growers like Ohio, Michigan, or Minnesota. LEDs may save you money on energy costs, but how much more do you have to pay for supplemental heat?

This is why there is no one-size-fits-all solution for lighting. As with everything in life – it depends on a lot of factors.

LED (Light Emitting Diode)

LED lighting seems like it is on a whole other level than other lights. There are about 8 million different configurations of LED grow lights out there ranging from a $20 panel on Amazon to a $2000 set-up from a more sophisticated manufacturer. I don’t have experience with the high-end lights, but here’s what a few of those cheap LEDs did for my Habanero seedlings last year.

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LEDs have a ton of benefits:

  • Uses up to 50% less energy compared to HPS or Fluorescent
  • Can incorporate a wide light spectrum that includes Far-red, Green, and Blue
  • Ability to dial in a “light recipe” – some lights let you select amounts of Red, Blue, etc
  • Don’t give off high amounts of heat like HPS – won’t burn plants
  • Can provide disease suppression

Because there are so many options out there, I decided to go with the TotalGrow Broad Spectrum LED bulbs. The initial cost is higher than fluorescent lights, but the energy usage is 24W versus 11W – plus I’ll get a higher quality of light from the LED & my plants will grow exceptionally well!

Fluorescent lights have an inefficient & less powerful spectrum that causes plants to stretch out a little, but that should be completely mitigated with this new light set up – I can’t wait to see the power of Full Spectrum lighting!

Full Spectrum

What does Full Spectrum mean? Different colored light has differing effects on plants. See the chart below from TotalGrow to see what the Broad Spectrum LEDs do for your plants.

TotalGrow Broad Spectrum LED specs
Credit: Totalgrowlight.com TotalGrow Broad Spectrum LED Light Recipe

I’ll also be posting updates throughout the growing cycle – from Seed Starting to Supplying our customers with their CSA Veggie Box – so stay tuned to see how these lights perform from Seed to Sale!

As always, feel free to comment any questions, concerns, or drop some knowledge on me with anything I’ve missed!

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Gardening 4 Green Industry News, Trends & Updates

Plant growing

Stay in the know with a weekly newsletter highlighting news, trends & updates from the Green Industry including:

  • Agricultural articles & news
  • Horticulture – the art & science of growing plants
  • Greenhouse growing best practices
  • Gardening tips & information
  • Growing trends across the nation & the world

 

Check out the first Gardening 4 Gains newsletter here!

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Gardening 4 Green Industry News, Trends & Updates v.1

Plant growing

Welcome to the first edition of the Gardening 4 Gains weekly newsletter – keeping you up-to-speed with the latest News, Trends, & Updates from the Green Industry to keep you informed & help make you a better gardener!

Please enjoy & subscribe for weekly newsletters below! 👇👍

 

Researchers Extract Cancer-fighting Properties from Ontario-grown Onions

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Source: HortiDaily

Source: Researchers Extract Cancer-fighting Properties from Ontario-grown Onions

 

 

John Deere spent $300 million on Blue River Technology – a company that uses AI to kill weeds

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Source: Quartz Media

Source: John Deere spent $300 million on Blue River Technology, a company that murders weeds with artificial intelligence — Quartz

 

 

The Psychology of Gardening | Psychology Today

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Source: The Psychology of Gardening | Psychology Today

 

 

Celery Was the Avocado Toast of the Victorian Era

Stored in fancy vases, and served in the Titanic’s first-class cabin. There were days when celery was not just boring crudité, but a luxury.

Source: Celery Was the Avocado Toast of the Victorian Era | TASTE

 

 

Does Cooking Boost Nutrients in Tomatoes and Spinach? – The New York Times

 

 

Germany:What is Going on with the Tomatoes? – HortiDaily

Source: Germany: What is going on with the tomatoes?

 

 

Dig for victory - victory garden poster
Victory is just beneath our feet

Sign up to receive weekly newsletters keeping you up-to-speed with the latest news, trends, & updates from the Green Industry!

 

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Start your Seeds!

It isn’t too late to start your seeds indoors! Spring seems right around the corner, but for us in Ohio, we’ve still got a while. The last frost date in my area is listed as April 20th, but local gardeners always go by the Mother’s Day rule for spring planting.

With that date in mind, we’ve got 8 weeks until we can plant outdoors – which just happens to be the perfect amount of time for tomatoes & peppers. Here’s a few tips for starting your seeds.

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  • Refer to your garden plan – or make a garden plan if you haven’t done so already. It’s quick & easy to do and ensures that you have enough of the supplies you need when it gets to planting time.
  • Select suppliers – there are tons of seed & seedling companies out there, do some research to find a good intersection of quality products with great pricing.
  • Determine last frost date –  this is the most important thing unless you’re growing under cover of a greenhouse, or using frost blankets. Check out your last frost date here.
  • Check planting instructions & set a planting date for each crop – this is important so you don’t have pumpkin vines growing in your closet in March!
  • Location, Conditions & Care – make sure you have a location that will get 8-12 hours of sunlight or from grow lights. Keep your seed trays in a well-ventilated area that is around 70 degrees for optimal germination. And finally, be sure that you are checking daily for water, fertilizer needs, and turning trays if seedlings are reaching.

There is nothing more satisfying than watching the seeds you’ve sown, sprout & evolve into the plants in your garden – and eventually become the salsa in your fridge!

Stay tuned for more gardening tips through the spring & season. And drop me a line if there’s something you are curious about and I’ll tackle that issue in a future post – thanks & happy gardening!

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Winter Gardening: 5 Steps to Planning Your Garden

Winter is a sad time for most gardeners, unless you have a greenhouse or some other structure to extend your growing season. There is always something you can do during the offseason to better prepare yourself for a successful springtime. Here are a few steps you can take, and projects you can work on to maximize your yields, minimize your waste, and Garden for Gains.

  • Pick the plants you want to grow – This seems like an easy task,but there is so much out there that you could grow! Do you want to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, annuals, perennials, or trees or all of the above? No matter what your growing aspirations are, you can accomplish them with a plan. Research your growing zone, your last frost date, and the germination times of the seeds you select to sow.
  • Develop a farm plan with propagating, transplanting, & harvest schedules – It’s better to keep your seedlings inside or under cover until the threat of frost has passed. After that, transplant away! If you do run into a late frost you can cover your plants with frost blankets or make cloches – a mini greenhouse made by cutting a plastic bottle in half. If you plan on having a steady supply of fresh produce, then you’ll want to calculate how many trays to seed, how much space those seedlings will eventually take up, and decide how much of your space you would like to dedicate to each crop. cloche
  • Decide on a fertilization method – I think most gardeners tend to wing it in this area of gardening – spreading manure or granular fertilizer with no regard to what is actually necessary. Talk to your local Extension Agency to get a soil analysis. This will give you a true profile of the available nutrients in your soil along with the knowledge you need to supplement your plants’ needs.
  • Create a compost area – Composting is a great way to turn grass clippings, leftover food, leaves, coffee grounds, and garden waste into nutrient-rich organic matter for loosening up clay soil as well as feeding your plants & building soil microbial health. (More to come on composting in a future post!)
  • Order tools & supplies – This is the fun part, but not always the easiest. Everyone’s first instinct is to go to the big box stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Menards, etc. but I encourage you to go to your local garden center or nursery to get expert help from someone who also has the horticultural bug. My personal first & only stop is my place of employment AM Leonard (also have our sister company Gardener’s Edge). We have just about everything you can think of that you need to grow or landscape along with our own line of high quality tools – give us a call some time!

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New House, New Garden

The past few weeks have been a blur; so hard to believe that I now own a home. I was on the house hunt for about 2 months. Thought I wanted to buy a house in my hometown, but then kept getting hung up on the “what ifs” and the anticipation of the future. I stopped looking for a couple weeks, got my mind right and just started making a list of houses I wanted to see. I found quite a few that were in my price range, had good potential for a few key areas: live-ability, garden-ability, & a good investment – that way I could worry about the future in a more realistic way. If the “what ifs” came to fruition, you have to be able to turn a house around and hopefully profit.

All of that aside, I made a list of about 10 houses from Tipp City to Piqua – my hometown is Sidney which is just north of Piqua and I had seen about 6 open houses and wasn’t finding anything that spoke to me. A few of the houses really peaked my interest, but it wasn’t until the last house where I really felt that “I’m home” feeling. Ironically enough, my realtor sent me an email the morning of the day that we were going out to visit houses, and it was the first day that my current house was on the market. That was the only one that I looked at in Piqua, and was the last one on the tour that day, and I just knew that it was the one. Attractive price point, good potential house that didn’t need a ton of work – just basic maintenance, some paint, and a vision for the future projects.

Of course my starred project was the garden. Everyone who came to my house complimented the size of the backyard and my only reply was “yeah, it’ll look a lot better once I rip up all this grass for the garden”. And so I did.

New Garden

I started digging the first bed out with my all-steel AM Leonard spade (15” blade) and learned that the soil wasn’t too bad on the top layer – but a decent amount of clay and found a few rocky patches, including what I think are 2 arrowheads. Because of the amount of clay that was deeper in the soil, I incorporated sphagnum peat moss into the areas where I was planning beds – just enough to fluff the soil and break up some of that clay.

My first garden at my first house was the first time that I’ve planted a garden with someone; Kyla of course. We planted a pretty good-sized garden:

-4’x18’ strip for late-season tomatoes and cantaloupes. I’m thinking about trying to train the cantaloupe up a stake, never tried it before but excited to test vertical farming out!

Then there is the U which consists of:

-4’x22′ with the first 6 feet of the bed dedicated to the future growth of a golden raspberry bush and then 2 rows of cucumbers 16 feet long. One variety is called Pickle Barrel Hybrid and I will set up a trellis for that side, while the other row is a variety called the Picklebush and those – as you might have guessed – grow more like a bush.

-4’x16′ is the size of the bottom of the U and that has 2 rows of corn called “Baby Corn Bonus”. This should be harvested in 30-40 days and will be awesome in a stir fry! Also have a few rows of Garden Beans – had some for dinner tonight and they taste awesome, nothing better than a good homegrown meal!

-3’x22′ completes the U and I filled that with a mixture of “Space Hybrid Spinach” and “Dwarf Blue Curled Vates Kale”.

-A 4.5’x20′ rectangular “I” sits inside of the U and that is loaded with herbs: Bouquet Dill, Cilantro, Greek Oregano, & Dark Green Italian Parsley. We wrapped this bed up with a colorful mixture of Carrots & German Giant Radishes.

Here’s the status on the Garden of Gains II:

Tomatoes: growing strong and recovering from the 90-100+ degree days we have been having the last 7-10 days.

Cantaloupe: starting to expand their reaches and they have their “feelers” looking for something to hold onto – hopefully I can train them up a bamboo stake and save some space.

Cucumbers: sprouting and looking healthy!

Beans: sprouting quick & strong

Radishes: wouldn’t be surprised if every single seed I planted germinated within like 3 days of planting

Spinach & Kale: starting to peak through

The Rest: other things I planted should be coming up within the next couple of days, especially with all the much-needed rain we have gotten the past few days and hopefully we will get a little later in the week as well. No other method irrigation compares with a good soaking rain.

I’m happy with how the Garden of Gains II has shaped up so far. This is a pretty good-sized garden but the planting flew by with Kyla there to help out. Usually I garden alone, but it is definitely nice to share your passion with someone you love. And you learn a lot about each. You work together. You build something. You are assisting in the creation of something. The key thing is that you do this all together – as a unit, as one. Or at least that’s how it was with me and Kyla. There is never a moment when we can’t find a solution to our problems. It doesn’t mean that we don’t encounter problems, but when both people strive to be the best person for their person then you have a special relationship.

We are all just out here Gardening for Gains.