Yaupon Holly, aka Cassina, or the less-appetizing Latin misnomer Ilex vomitoria (it does NOT cause vomiting) is the only caffeine containing plant native to North America. Yaupon is extremely common in Southeastern Coast of North America. Many have seen its distinguishing red berries in the winter, but few have realized the potential Yaupon has to make delicious caffeinated tea that many say tastes better than its cousin Yerba Mate. It's the perfect solution for those who want to reduce their dependence on commercially produced caffeinated beverages and save money at the same time!
The first step to brewing a hot cup of roasted Yaupon tea is the most important; you must correctly identify the leaves, otherwise you can have terrible tasting tea, or brew something that can potentially make you ill. Fortunately for us, Yaupon is very easy to identify. To be absolutely sure you can wait until the later fruiting seasons in the cold and identify the Yaupon by their red or sometimes yellow berries, but this is not the best time to harvest as the leaves are bitter. Alternatively you can pay attention to their unique leaf structure. Look for their small oval, scalloped leaves which alternate on the stem.
Yaupon Holly can be prepared a number of ways, freshly dried, roasted, or toasted. Here I will document the process for my favorite method of roasting for a rich, malty taste similar to Yerba Mate.
Comment your favorite Yaupon Holly preparation methods and tea recipies!
Cheers and Happy Growing
Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Hydroponics/Aquaponics and How to Remedy Them
Aside from the most common killers of hydroponic crops (Read it Here), nutrient deficiencies can be harder than finding your way through labyrinth to correctly diagnose. Luckily hydroponic nutrients are usually nutritionally complete formula so the issue is more simple to approach, Aquaponics on the other hand is a more nuanced agriculture system with more nutrient pitfalls.
Here's a great resource from MSU to visually identify your Mobile and Immobile Nutrient Deficiencies. Know the difference between immobile and mobile and how they affect new and old growth!
The first thing you should verify once you identify a nutritional deficiency (be sure to completely rule out pests and disease!) is your pH. It is critical to have your pH at a level around 5.5-6 in hydroponics and 6.5-7 in aquaponics. This is crucial for your crops to be able to absorb the essential nutrients that keep them healthy and producing.
HOW TO SOLVE YOUR HYDROPONIC OR AQUAPONIC pH PROBLEMS:
While the solution for you aquaponic pH problem is more complex (check out our entire blog post deticated to aquaponic pH problems), it's a little more simple in hydroponics as you do not have the biological factor of the fish. For the most part, you'll use muriatic acid to drop your pH if it's above 7, and to fine tune it to 5.5-6 use phosphoric acid. Remember to do everything VERY slowly as you don't want to overshoot your pH. To raise your pH I would use Potassium Silicate or Potassium Bicarbonate.
If your issue does not resolve itself once you correct the pH, or if your pH was perfect to begin with, this is where things can get interesting. Unfortunately I mean this in a convoluted, much more complex way that many would rather call "frustrating". This is due to the fact that plant nutrient solutions must exist in the proper ratios of nutrients. Because plants take in nutrients through ion (negative or positively charged) channels, these ions must exist in the right amounts so they don't over-compete with each other and "lock" each other out. Paraphrasing to give an example, since Calcium and Potassium are both positive ions they will compete with the same positive ion channel so too much calcium can give you the visual deficiency effect of not having enough potassium! This of course is simplifying biology a bit, but the point is that your ratios of each nutrient must be correct, otherwise identifying your deficiency is nearly impossible.
Now that you have furthered your understanding of why deficiencies are hard to detect, let's talk about how to approach the solution. As I've mentioned earlier, your first priority is to check you pH. Afterwards, ensure your nutrient schedule is not due for a hydroponic water change, if applicable. These are the equivalent to "have you tried turning it off and on again" in the soil-less agriculture world. The next step is to then identify the affected leaves; if the older leaves are affected that will tell you that you're dealing with an immobile nutrient such as
If you find that the younger leaves are affected then, as you can guess, mobile nutrients are your point of concern.
Your issue is most likely either Nitrogen, Phosphorus, or Potassium since those are used the most. If those are not the culprit, the second most likely group is Calcium, Magnesium or Sulfur. If those miss the diagnosis then only the micronutrients are left. Look at deficiency charts and flow diagrams specific to your crop and pay attention to how younger and older leaves are affected and you will be able to correctly diagnose your specific problem.
If you have any questions, or need help with your deficiencies drop your comments below and we'll be sure to take a look!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you achieve the best results in your hydroponic or aquaponic garden.
Cheers and Good Growing!
If you were to tell someone that they could grow their own tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cannabis, or other fruits hydroponically their first reaction would probably be to wonder how difficult, or expensive it would be to achieve. The fortunate truth is that hydroponics can be as simple as growing with soil, and much more effective at growing massive yields and incredible fruits, vegetables or medicine. Once you experience the power of your own green thumb you'll feel empowered knowing that you can rely on your own skills to supplement your life with the wonders hydroponics has to offer. Keep reading and by the end you'll have made a high-performing hydroponic DWC system out of readily available components. Speaking of components, let's lay them out:
1. 5 Gallon Bucket.
2. 5 gallon bucket net cup (I prefer the 6 inch diameter one)
3. Substrate (Expanded Clay, Coco Choir, Perlite, Lava Rocks, or other hydroponic media would work fine)
4. Power Drill with a 1/4 inch drill bit
5. Box Cutter
6. Aquarium air Pump
7. Air Stone
9. Hydroponic Nutrients
OPTIONAL BUT STRONGLY RECOMMEND FOR MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE:
11. LED Lights and Necessary Hanging Equipment
12. Fan (Preferably Oscillating)
Take your 6-inch net pot lid and place it on the 5-gallon bucket.
Drill a 1/4" hole on the side of the bucket, somewhere close to the lid. This will serve as a hole to run you air stone tubing through.
Fill the 5-gallon bucket half-way with Distilled (dH2O), Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Rain Water.
This step may differ depending on which nutrient mixture you choose. I'm using Advanced Nutrient's three part nutrient mix at 2 ml/L for the early stages of growth (1.5 months) and slowly increase it to 4 mL/L for the the remaining vegetative and fruiting stages. Simply read the nutrient labels and follow their instructions. General Hydroponics, Master Blend, Fox Farms, and many others have wonderful nutrient mixes for your different needs. After you properly mix your nutrients in, fill the rest of your 5-gallon bucket up with water. Some mixes may require you to fine tune the pH, but in Advanced Nutrient's case the final solution is always 5.5-6.0 as long as you use pure distilled or RO water. Mix your nutrients in a 1 gallon distilled water jug that is half full so that you can shake between nutrient additions.
Connect your air pump, tubing, and you airstone. Make sure you run the tubing through the hole in the lid before attaching the airstone. Plug everything in and insure that your airstone sits at the bottom of your 5 gallon bucket. LET YOUR AIR STONE SIT FOR ABOUT 1 HOUR BEFORE TURNING IT ON! The smaller the bubble the better as this helps the nutrient absorb more of that precious oxygen.
Put your plant in! You can start from seed and then transplant it in once it's 3 weeks old, or buy a young plant from a nursery or grocery store. The best time to buy young plants is at the tail end of the growing season since everything will be on sale. I got this Naga Viper pepper plant for only $4 at HEB! First Step is to check for diseases or pests. Once you ensure that your plant is a healthy one, transplant it by first cleaning off the dirt from the roots using a hose. You can be rougher than you think and don't be afraid if you lose a small amount of roots. A little left over dirt is okay too.
Now, simply fill up half of your net cup with rinsed hydroton then place your plant roots in the hydroton. Make sure they are submerged in the solution. Now backfill the remaining space with more hydroton and make sure your plant is supported. Give it a few taps to settle the hydroton if necessary.
ADDITIONAL STEPS FOR THE DISCERNING GROWER:
STEP 7: CHECK OUT OUR BLOG POST FOR LIGHTING TIPS
Hang your light source so that you can vary the height from the plant as it grows. Most, if not all of the respectable companies, include a light intensity map measure in PAR with their lights. This should tell you how PAR varies under a light at different heights and a map showing you how the PAR changes as you move from directly under the light to the sides of the light zone. For a high performing fruiting/flowering plant I'd recommend a PAR of at least 800-900. A PAR of between 300-500 is more than enough for any leafy greens or herbs. A simple trick to increase light around your plant is a simple grow tent with white reflective panels or screen. White generally reflects better than foil or reflective tape, contrary to what you may think.
Connect your lights to a timer. This makes it really simple as you can just leave for 2 weeks and come back to new growth (assuming no disease or pests!).
Add a fan to gently blow your plant and increase air circulation. This helps the plant develop a strong stem, and fight off any fungus or bacterial diseases that occur when you have micro-climates of damp, humid air. This is especially recommend if you are growing in an enclosed space with a large sized plant.
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to comment, I make sure to answer every question you guys may have! This is the best and cheapest way to grow a single fruiting/flowering plant, be it tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cannabis or squash!
5 Reasons Why Your Seeds Are Not Germinating: Quick Guide To Germinating Success
Gardening at home can be an incredibly therapeutic hobby that builds confidence in your abilities to work with mother nature. All this, to many beginner's dismay, comes after the hurdle of seed germination. It so happens that plants, much like animals, are the most vulnerable within the first month of their life and the degree of their success heavily depends on how well it started it's life from a seed. As with anything in life, it can be insurmountably difficult to succeed without the proper information so keep reading to find out the best way to germinate and start your gardening journey strong!
Let's start off with what may be obvious in retrospect: not all seeds are made equal. As an extreme example of this let's take a look at two wildly different plants: Arugula and Oak Trees. On one hand, Arugula seeds are barely larger than a a grain of sand and only takes about 2-3 days sprout. Conversely, a larger oak seed has a tough exterior and it takes 75+ days to germinate! What all this means is that you have to do your due diligence as an expectant plant parent and research what your seed needs to grow big and strong. Here's a rundown of some of the most important germination factors in no particular order:
2. Planting Seed Depth
3. Light or Dark Germination
4. Nicking or Pre-Soaking
1. Temperature plays a huge role in plant metabolism and, along with moisture, greatly affects whether a seed will germinate or not. Many brassicas (Lettuce, romaine, arugula, chard, kale) like cooler temperatures between 65-75 F (18-23 C). As a rule of thumb, warmer temperatures are better for other seeds as it speeds up plant metabolism, but there is a definite point where it's too hot. To be safe, you should not exceed 85 F (29 C). Many gardeners swear by a germination heating mat under their germination tray that is set at 85 F to quickly boost germination success.
2. Planting Seed Depth can vary a good deal between seed varieties, but as a rule of greens thumbs you can expect that the smaller the seed, the more shallow the planting depth. For example a watermelon/cantaloupe seed does great about 1/2" under the soil, but smaller seeds such as lettuce prefer a much more shallow 1/8". You should note that most seed packets will specify the planting depth so make sure to read it in its entirety!
3. Light or Dark Germination is an often overlooked variable when germinating plants. Luckily most edible Brassicas and other food crops prefer dark germination so it's not often that incorrect lighting is the reason your seeds may not be germinating. This is true unless you're planting the small amount of plant families that prefer light during germination. These include many popular flowers like petunias, begonias, and other plants like the coleus and ficus.(https://www.thompson-morgan.com/effect-of-light). As for the dark-germinating plants, it's best to keep them in a humidity dome that is in a dark room or closet, or simply cover with a light-blocking material. As soon you see the first signs of the plant breaking the surface of the soil be sure to bring them into the light to let them know they made it to the sun!
4. Nicking or Presoaking (also know as scarification) is a process used by farmers on seeds that have tough exterior shells. Nicking and/or presoaking encourages the seed to start breaking out of it's shell and can greatly decrease the time of germination for certain seed types such as Hibiscus, morning glories, and some Solanaceae plants. The rule of thumb is if the seed has a waterproof coat, it may benefit from nicking and presoaking. As a caveat, be sure to nick the side of the seed opposite of the hilum, the little dot where the seed was attached to the mother plant. Harming this "belly button" may damage the seed instead and halt any chances of germinating!
5. Watering is often the most difficult parameter to get just right when germinating your plants. Too much water and you'll promote harmful bacteria and fungi that will decay and rot the seed, too little and the seed will dry out and refuse to germinate. To remedy this, many farmers turn to substrates that have the optimal water retention or drain well if over watered. Coco choir is my personal favorite as it is hard to over water, but many have had success with a 50% soil and 50% perlite mixture to start their seeds. The substrate should be similarly moist to a freshly wrung out towel.
My preferred way to begin seeds it to use a germinating tray from companies such as Jiffy. it comes with a tray of compressed coco-choir pellets that you simply hydrate, place the seeds at their correct depth, and cover with a moisture dome then place them in a dark and warm closet. With this information you now have the knowledge to successfully start a seed at your disposal. Once germinated keep an eye on your lighting environment and watering. Carefully observe your seeds as they will communicate any problems in their own language; if a plant is stretching (stillating) it needs more light, if the plant is drooping you're either giving it too much water or not enough.
Finally the biggest piece of advice to be a successful gardener is to keep at it! Each failure is actually a lesson in disguise. Fail hard and fail fast and you will quickly learn to speak the language of plants faster than you can imagine. If you think of gardening as a trial in patience, humility, and gratitude for life and you'll be surprised how much plants are helping you grow just as much as you help them.
Cheers and Good Growing!
Hydroponics carries a certain stigma within popular culture. Mentioning hydroponics conjures images of advanced nutrient regiments and a scientific approach to agriculture fitting for advanced applications or cannabis. This unfortunately is a stereotype that can easily discourage a beginner or intermediate gardener, but fret not, continue reading and you'll soon realize that hydroponics can be as simple as you make it.
To quickly preface, plants generally need a just handful of vital things:
3. Oxygen/Carbon Dioxide Gases
5. Adequate Humidity and Wind Conditions.
These conditions exist in optimal amounts, but as long as a plant has the minimum of ALL of these it WILL stay alive. What this means is that you don't need insanely expensive hydroponic systems and state of the art lights. Additionally you can save yourself from the whiplash of nutrient marketing as plants will thrive on any simple hydroponic nutrient mix as long as these conditions are met.
So, this is all to say that you can get creative with it! Most leafy greens such as lettuce, basil, mint, arugula, kale, chard, etc. grow extremely well in the most basic hydroponic systems. As per the kratky method, you can achieve amazing results with a 1 L plastic (foodsafe!) bottle, some general hydroponic nutrient mixture, and a well lit south-facing window.
IIt typically gets more difficult to grow fruiting plants as you have to account for larger growth, more nutrient needs, as well as stronger light requirements. Still, you can easily grow tomatoes, cucumbers, cannabis, and peppers using a slightly larger, more advanced system. My favorite is using a 5 gallon bucket with a modified top to fit a large net cup filled with expanded clay media, perlite, coco choir or any other hydroponically compatible substrate. The second most essential difference is a source of air for the larger roots. This is as simple as getting a small 10 gallon aquarium air pump and an air stone and throwing that into the bucket! Easy, right? Finally, since fruiting plants generally need more light, they'll require a grow light to achieve the best results. You can technically pull this off without one in a very well lit apartment, but for those with limited window options LED lights are the best choice. In the pictures below, I show that it's possible to grow with the cheaper "blurple" lights sold on Amazon (Vivarspectra and Mars Hydro), but if you're looking for the best results and highest yields I recommend the Spider Farm LEDs from Samsung or the Horticulture Lighting Group's Quantum Boards.
The main point I'm trying to make here is that hydroponics is simply a method of growing a plant without the use of soil. The biggest take away is that it can be as simple as your needs: if you just want to grow some leafy greens to add a splash of delicious flavor to your daily salad it's as simple as using a 1 liter bottle and a very basic hydroponic nutrient mixture. Fruit, legumes, and cannabis take a little more effort, but the reward is generally of higher dollar value so you can easily justify spending more money to make you system a high-performing produce machine.
While it's incredibly fun to experiment and let your creativity lead the way, you can always contact us at Kodaponics and set up a very affordable consultation to insure that your system is successful. If you have a system or design in mind, drop us a message at email@example.com and we can help you make your gardening dreams a reality!
As an avid aquaponic gardener I find myself with more waste from trimming, harvesting and ultimately eating my veggies and fruits. Organic waste, as I see it, is in itself a resource that can be used as an input for another cycle in a biosystem so composting was a no brainer. Our composter setup was made using the rejected frame for solar panels, a 55 gallon barrel, and some old longboard trucks and wheels to allow the rotation the compost in the bin. This is all secondary to a few features that let me harvest black soldier flies (BSF). First of all, the 55 gallon barrel has two ~1" diameter holes on the top that allow BSF adults to lay their eggs in the rich compost. After adding some burst cantaloupes and watermelon rinds to the compost I can expect to have about 2 cups of BSF larvae easily picked from the top of the pile in a day or two. There are far easier methods of compost farming BSF on the web that can use the BSF's natural movement to autoharvest bigger quantities, but since I don't need more than 2 cups every other day and don't mind the 10 minutes it takes to pick out the larvae I just work with what I have.
On top of the BSF, which make excellent feed for our fish, a finished batch of compost can be used to make a powerful compost tea foliar spray. Our process consists of taking a 5 gallon bucket, a pillowcase filled with about 1-2 (~1 kg) of finished and mature compost, One ounce of unsulphured organic molasses, and an air compressor with air stones for aeration. We simply steep the compost in the molasses water mixture while adding copious amount of aeration to cultivate beneficial aerobic bacteria and prevent harmful anaerobes from rotting the mixture and causing a stink. The aerobic brewing lasts for 3 days and the final product is filtered through a strainer to be used immediately. The benefits of a compost tea foliar spray are significant. It establishes a healthy bacterial biosphere on the plant to combat bacterial and fungal infections and pests as well as providing a complete nutrient mixture for better growth and flavor.
My favorite part about all of this an overarching principle that the cyclic movement of nutrients and energy is in harmony with nature. Similar to how a dead deer decomposes to feed very grass that sustained its life, it's evident that nature abhors waste so it's in our best interest to follow suite. By constructing systems that use the waste of one process as a resource for another, we can begin to optimize the conservation of nutrients and microbial life all while greatly minimizing waste.
There are many people that are interested in aquaponics, but the question I always get asked is "what if I've never taken care of fish or a garden before"? Of course, since people ask in relation to our Kodaponic systems I can point out that we have free aquaponic consulting for our customers, but the answer is more complex for those wanting to start out on their own. In many ways DIY and beginner aquaponics share the same vein, so in this post I'll strictly talk about those who have absolutely no experience in aquaponics.
For those who want to test the waters before committing to many hours of reading and research, my recommendation would be to immerse yourself in the community. Check out http://reddit.com/r/aquaponics, or http://backyardaquaponics.com and ask the community what to expect and other considerations. This will give you several different answers and perspectives and a more complete picture of what lies ahead if you wish to continue. Another benefit to joining these types of forums is the fact that you'll have some support with the problems you'll encounter. However, there are some caveats: all information cannot be assumed correct so it's your responsibility to vet the advice given to you to avoid damage from misinformation.
Cheers and Good Growing!
Anyone who has gardened is painfully acquainted with the destructive powers of pests. The list your enemies goes on and on: crickets, caterpillars, mites, thrips, aphids, fungus, all sorts of miners, cutters and piercers hell bent on devouring your garden.
Much like any other battlefield, success in the fight against pests relies heavily on knowing your enemy and keeping conditions favorable to you. What this means in the world of gardening is Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The goal of IPM is simple. Achieve a balanced system that is designed to have favorable conditions to plants. This entails using cultural (non-chemical) defense tactics such as the use of natural predators, synergistic plant choices, and environmentally-minded garden design. The first step is to always monitor your plant's health and check for pests. Use plants that attract pollinators and beneficial insects in your garden. Natural predators like ladybugs, bacillus thuringiensis, bacillus subtilis, praying mantis, wasps, frogs are indicators of a healthy environment and can be killed by using caustic insecticides, leaving you open for worse insect damage.
The second step would be to keep your plants in their best environmental conditions. The healthier and happier the plant, the more resistant it is to pests. Use good spacing, proper airflow and light and be sure to choose a good variety plants wisely to avoid wide swaths of plant death due to one plant specific infection.
Finally, know when to use your active defenses. Create thresholds of action so as to not expend excess labor and resources on a small issue. Observe your situation and carry your preventative and reactive defenses with exactness.
For more IPM information check out A&Ms IPM program, it's very helpful.
DIY Aquaponic Systems
Do it yourself aquaponics is by far the most common subject of aquaponic discussion across the internet so it's a given that I'd eventually make a comment on that. As of today it's evident that the results of intrepid aquaponic growers vary greatly. I believe it's due to the multifaceted complexity of the aquaponic process that, much like everything else in life, is infinitely easier to overcome with good design, forethought, and experience.
Aquaponics can be simple once considerations are made for water cycling, filtration, temperature, humidity, light, water quality, fish type, feed, nutrient additions, pH management, pest and disease management....you get my point; the list is extensive. What I'm trying to emphasize here is that there is a sizable amount of variables that must be accounted for so many beginners may easily fall into the pitfalls of blissful ignorance. Now I don't say this with any amount of disfavor as everyone, including myself, has been in the same position and I wholeheartedly encourage those who are going through the trials of an aquaponic beginner.
So, my opinion is this: while DIY aquaponics is an amazing hobby, those that do it completely on their own are almost guaranteed to struggle. This of course is an observation based on my experiences, but I've seen too many growers give up so soon because they've run into seemingly insurmountable obstacles and it's always sad to loose a participant in the aquaponic community. A criticism without a solution is generally unhelpful to a beginner so I offer this:
1. Read up! Check out my blog about resources, that's a good start.
2. Don't be discouraged, it may take 2 years to "learn the ropes".
3. Take time to think through designs and all the parameters that your desired grow entails and work with them.
4. Leverage the incredible resource of the internet. Connect with others and discuss your failures and successes.
5. Don't forget to enjoy it. Take it easy and take it slow, be patient with your system and yourself. Good things take time.
DIY Aquaponic Siphons
Siphons are the most pervasive methods of emptying the water from a media bed. Generally, a siphon works by establishing a pressure difference between the water-filled section of the media bed and the end of the siphon tube leading into the reservoir or fish tank. To work properly a siphon must first "engage" which means to fully establish this low pressure vacuum that will suck the water out. A common example of this is to use a tube that's submerged in water so that no air bubbles exist. If you were to take one end of the tube and lower it so that it is lower than the end that serves as the water intake, the water would naturally siphon out, naturally getting pulled by the collective pull of low pressure similar to what happens when you drink through a straw.
There are many configurations of piping that can do this but in my experience the bell siphon is the most popular. Bell siphons have some good benefits. They pull from the bottom of a media bed, ensuring that most of the water is expunged but also they tend to concentrate bottom sludge into one point and get clogged. Bell siphons are great if your input flow rate is very small as you can reduce the bell siphon standpipe quite significantly to work in low flow rates (more than 20 minutes to fill media bed). They're fairly easy to engage with proper diameter-reducing funnels to decrease the amount of water required to fill up the downstem and thus start the pressure differential. They're fairly easy to make. But what if I told you that there's something that's easier.
U-Siphons, as you can now tell, are my favorite way of siphoning media beds. They're much more simple to make, incredibly easy to install and tune, and engage consistently as long as the pump input is less than the siphon output when it still has not quite engaged. U-siphons are also completely external from the media bed so they do not take up valuable growspace and they're very easy to modify and troubleshoot as there is no excavation required if it were to get clogged or needed to be removed for maintenance. Additionally, you have the options of placing it on the side of the bed with a slitted intake pipe that extends the length of the media bed and takes in water from many points, not just one as the bell siphon does.
All in all, each application has it's appropriate solution but next time you find yourself looking for a way to empty your grow beds, consider a U-Siphon.