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Archive for the ‘Hydroponics’ Category

Chooks – The Organic Gardener’s All-Rounder

Chooks (chickens) have been domesticated for many centuries. They originate from the Malaysian rainforests so they love to free-range. Chooks are such easy animals to care for, can make great pets for children and are a valuable resource for the organic gardener.
You’ll need to check with your local council to find out their regulations. Some councils won’t allow you to keep any poultry, whereas others will—some even allow roosters.

Some of the benefits of keeping chooks:
- they supply you with beautiful, fresh eggs – daily
- your left overs will never go in the bin again (reduces waste)
- provide you with an excellent fertilizer base
- they dig over the soil (so you don’t have to)
- they reduce insect numbers; great for around your orchard
- provide you with live entertainment

Basic requirements
* Dry, fox proof shelter
* A safe place to lay eggs and hatch chicks (if you have a rooster)
* A roosting perch off the ground (allow about 20cm per bird)
* Layer pellets (or crumble for chicks) should make up the majority of their diet.
* Kitchen scraps are great for variety
* Wheat, corn or other grains should be offered occasionally, but not form the majority of their diet
* Birds have no teeth; they swallow small pebbles or grit to grind down their food in their gizzard. They must have access to a supply of grit for this purpose.
* Never feed chocolate, coffee, avocado or rhubarb, as they are toxic to chooks
* They must always have access to clean, fresh water.

If you don’t plan on letting your chooks  free range in a garden area during the day, they will be much happier if you provide them with an outside run where they will be able to scratch at the ground and enjoy the sunlight.
I lock my chooks up from sunset to about midday. This way they’ve almost always laid their eggs by then, so that I don’t have to go on a daily egg hunt! Old grass-catchers from lawn movers make great laying boxes – just the right size and they offer ventilation.

Liquid Fertilizer
Chook manure is a great base for a liquid fertilizer or to add to your compost heap. You never use it fresh though, as bird manure also contains their urine and will burn your crops.
To make a liquid manure, place it in a porous bag in a bucket and fill the bucket with water. After about three weeks or so you can use the water on and around your plants, diluted to look like weak tea.

Chook Manure for Compost
If you provide a litter of straw, hay or sawdust in your chook’s living quarters they will turn it into great compost material for you. They will scratch it, add manure and turn it over. You can add layers of this organic matter to your compost heap or leave it to turn into a fine, dark substance.

Boost Yield by Adding CO2 to Your Hydroponic Garden

Low carbon dioxide (CO2) measures will limit your plant’s capacity to create energy through photosynthesis.  Crops can process a great deal more CO2 than is normally found in the surroundings.  One of the best ways to boost growth is to enhance the quantity of CO2 available to your crops with a CO2 system in your hydroponic garden.

How to increase your hydroponic garden’s carbon dioxide levels

Choosing a CO2 injector is the least pricey way to add CO2 to your hydroponic system’s climate. These commonly consist of a release,  Regulator, and a gauge to determine the amount of CO2 being inserted into the air.  Some of the more involved carbon dioxide injectors also include a timer to run the scheduling of the CO2 discharge.  CO2 refills are usually distributed independently and can be found at medical or eatery supply shops.

If you want to use your hydroponic garden for a lengthy time or for a number of crops, it may be cheaper to invest in a long-term CO2 production solution. Carbon dioxide generators manufacture carbon dioxide through the heating of propane, natural gas, or any other carbon-based fuel base. They are appreciably more costly than the basic CO2 injector system, but you will eliminate the expense and effort of obtaining CO2 refills. Over a lengthy enough period of time, the investment in CO2 production ends up to be more economical than purchasing an injector and many refills.

For large-scale nurserymen (or those with extra funds to tinker around with), a CO2 gauge with regulator can mechanically maintain your hydroponic setup’s carbon dioxide levels at a selected point. These arrangements can be very pricey, 100s to thousands of dollars, but are a fine extra if you can find the money for it. There is normally an automatic CO2 dial connected
to a regulator that is then associated to a CO2 producer to guarantee that the system continually is set at the user’s fixed CO2 amount. Some dials are marketed separately and are compatible with many varieties of regulators, allowing greater versatility when planning your system.

Whichever system is best for you, it is important to always consider your carbon dioxide system when initially designing your hydroponic garden. Many gardeners will overlook this one part of their system and reduce their crop’s production before a single seed is even sprouted. Remember, a lack of any key facet required for photosynthesis will limit the plant’s development to the point of that deficit. If any one needed aspect is omitted, the full growing process will be impacted.

A Waste of Packaged Gold

As we drove by the plush residential homes, some recently covered with a fresh coating of paint and with the variously landscaped yards displaying their beautiful spired shrubs, flowering gardens and well watered green lawns, it could not be helped but to notice the evenly placed lawn bags filled to the brim with yard waste, just waiting to be carried away by the scheduled garbage pickup. So much labor must have gone into neatly and
carefully packing each one of them so they wouldn’t be torn open by a stiff twig or two. Each fall and spring a similar scene is reenacted by most of us who seasonally do our traditional yard cleanup.

Having been a fairly devout organic gardener in the 1980′s and traditionally would save every bit of waste clippings from our yard that would then go into a 4×4 foot by 4 feet high loosely constructed wooden bin for later processing and churning into a fine mulch, it was difficult to see virtually truckloads of “Organic Gold Plant Food” just waiting to
be carted away to some landfill, or just possibly be used for fuel in some local utility supplier’s furnace. It is beyond my understanding how this “fuel” for plants can be placed on the discard list.

With this fresh on my mind, I recollect a book written by Ruth Stout, an avid gardener, who appropriately called her book…”The No Work Garden” which showed how she only used bales of hay in the 1950′s and earlier to build her garden, spread the hay in the fall and after being well compressed through the winter, she would then simply place the vegetable seed into a small clump of soil at the proper planting time, pressed it firmly and watered to get the seed to germinate. Thereafter, her garden was never watered again. She did this year after year …for thirty years. The soil was perfectly PH level balanced and so were all the required nutrients to sustain all the plants. Sounds like the perfect scenario, but this example is only to show what can be done with most of anyone’s yard
refuse…if properly processed.

Now, to step back to my 4-foot cube of diverse organic refuse and having filled the bin to about the 3/4 mark by eye, placing a shovelful of topsoil in between 3-4 inch layers of the material, we simply add worms, which can be purchased at a local farm store, or mail ordered through a garden supplier. Usually, they come in a few hundred in quantity and are newborns, but you can also use local worms, picked from decayed leaf. Once placed in your compost bin and watered occasionally, they will quickly multiply and digest the organic material aerating your compost in the process. This process is carried out…automatically without energy expended on anyone’s part, except for the original placement of the material and bin construction. After 3 or 4 weeks, given proper rainfall and a little watering, your “pot of gold” should be ready to use. Then, simply place a handful of this composted material in a small hole 6 inches deep, for pre-started tomato plants several inches tall, where you plan to plant your vegetable garden. Pack some of this compost mixed with some topsoil around the sides and also dress around the top of each plant. Given the proper rain, sunshine and warmth, your tomatoes will give you a very early harvest, mainly because you did not discard the “hidden gold”.