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Stop Spider Mites

Tomato and garlic companion planting infographic.

Tomato and garlic companion planting infographic.

Remember if you use this infographic on your website, you must have a link back to this page and our home page www.desima.co

So after getting back to east asia after a trip to Australia. I found I had massive Spider mite infestation. I went online trying to work out the best way to remove them. Some suggested it was too late and you need to remove all the plants. However I didn't want to give up. 
Some suggestions where to use garlic water, a natural pesticide. So I blended up a bunch of garlic that I bought from my local wet market.  Then I got spraying. However reading online, you need to spray them regularly and in particular under all the leaves.  However I'm a lazy gardener, so I didn't remember to this again. Of course because of this it didn't work. 

My ruined tomato plants. 

My ruined tomato plants. 

Having looked into companion planting before. I decided to plant all the garlic around the bases of the plants.  However I was too late for most of them. There was one small tomato plant that I had. Thankfully the garlic sproated and low and behold, it protected it! There were still infested tomato plants around, as the garlic hadn't yet grown next to them. So I removed this older plants and this one that was protected is growing very healthy, strong and fast.

My tomato plant with garlic protection. It lives!

My tomato plant with garlic protection. It lives!

So if you're looking for an easy way to protect your tomato plants, plant some garlic cloves.

 

Have you tried companion planting? Let me know your experience in the comments below.

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The Language Vegetable Problem

Thanks to globalisation, we can now get a glimpse into the life of a person on a different continent without ever having to leave our homes. This has, of course, brought up a number of challenges, such as the loss of independent culture. But it has also brought us a lot closer to understanding each other.

It also helps that most of us speak a common language- English. Even though we share a common language, however, we have also noticed how that language is different in other parts of the world. Through our screens, we can see how people have phrases that mean something completely different to us.

For example, calling someone a madam in England is polite, but calling someone a madam in America might just get you slapped. This is a strange occurrence, but a common one that most of us get used to. Travellers often have to be careful about certain words and phrases. An American in Britain might search high and low for a zucchini, before eventually finding a Courgette.

And while many Brits in Australia might find what they are looking for in a supermarket, they’re still going to be left scratching their head over some unfamiliar terms. All this just to find some vegetables? As a frequent traveller, I call this the language-vegetable problem. It seems that we are all separated by a common language, and this raises a few questions. First and foremost, why do Brits, Americans and Australians have radically different vegetable names.

Courgette or Zucchini?

These members of the Cucurbita pepo family, were farmed in Central and South America for centuries before European explorers even got their funding. By the 1500’s they had made their way onto European dinner tables, and a dispute arose immediately.

Zucchinis in Italy, and Courgettes in France, with neither willing to compromise on their chosen names. Eventually Courgettes made it into British homes, where they stayed and due to an influx of Italian immigrants to America, the zucchini made its home there. Zucchini isn’t that hard to say, so the Americans allowed it to settle.

Now, both sides looked to Australia who also chose to use the term “zucchini”. Not to be biased or anything, but zucchini is a lot easier to say than courgette.

Beetroot or Beets?

This is a fun one. Sometimes, words change in different continents not because of immigrants or customs, but because of the people. For example, the people of Britain feel the need to say Beetroot, which comes from the Latin name Beta Vulgaris. Americans and Australians on the other hand are simple too busy to be bothered with such fuss and therefore refer to them as beets.

Spring Onion or Scallion?

There is a common misconception that green onions and scallions are the same thing. They are not. Scallions are often mistaken for green onions and can also be found under the names of “Welsh onion” and “Japanese bunching onion”. So, which of these are correct?

A true scallion has a long green stalk and a white tip that doesn’t have a bulb. Scallions can also be called spring onions and terms such as shallots, green shallots and salad onions are used to identify scallions. The actual name comes from the ancient Philistine city Ashkelon (Latin name Ascalonia), where it is rumoured that these onions were first cultivated. 

This is an interesting case of names being different due to a common misconception and the variety of names that are available. In other words, someone couldn’t remember the name of a scallion and simply described it, the name took off and stuck. While others stubbornly refuse to give up the original name. Isn’t language a wonder?

Swede or Rutabaga?

The vegetable in question was first noticed by Swedish botanist, Gaspard Bauhin, who noted it growing wild. This led to the name “Swedish turnip” or simply swede. This shortened name was made popular in many Commonwealth nations and still sticks around today, which is why Australians and Brits use the term “swede”.

At some point, Americans adopted the term “Rutabaga” from the old Swedish word Rotabagge, which when roughly translated, means “root ram”. We aren’t sure why this distinction occurred, but we’ll side with the Americans on this one because Rutabaga is a lot more fun to say than swede.

Arugula or Rocket?

In possibly one of the strangest twists ever, the Brits have the more fun name for a vegetable. This leafy green was first used by the Romans who referred to it as Ruchetta. It eventually made its way over the Alps to France, where it became Roquette. As it made its way over the English Channel, the “qu” was dropped for the “ck” which sounded more Anglican, I suppose. And the “ette” was eventually shortened to “et”.

Meanwhile, in America, the Italian term “rucola” was brought across the seas. Somehow the term was changed to Arugula, but only in America, because Italians still use Rucola.  

A Citizen of the World:

You’ve finally made it through the foreign shopping trip, and you now have all your favourite vegetables in your shopping basket. You understand that these different names are due to a series of factors.

Sometimes immigrants bring their terms with them and it sticks. Sometimes an innocent mistake on the part of some unknown person is the cause of a phrase sticking to an entire country. Sometimes most people use a certain term and it stays and sometimes a term or name is tailored for the country.

You are feeling world wise and certainly very smart. You think to yourself that maybe this whole travelling thing isn’t all that hard. And as you walk up to the cashier, feeling satisfied and contemplating immigration, you smile at the cashier.

He/she smiles back and you look down at their name badge to start a conversation, but you freeze as your eyes capture the sight. The name badges in this country are different from those back home. Great.

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Expandable Shipping Container Home [$15,900]

Konbuild is has just launched an expandable shipping container home that you can order directly from mainland China. Their website is a little scare on information at the moment, so I'm looking forward to seeing it updated. I'm a huge fan of tiny homes and container homes. So it's good to see such an affordable solution come to the market. As an Australian we call these granny flats.

konbuild-exterior.jpg

It's pretty neat how it all folds up and expands. I'm sure this will save a lot on shipping. You'll still need to build your own foundation first though.


15900-Shipping-Container-House.png

This is their standard Oslo version.

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Their latest model now comes with a clading and a small gable roof.

Konbuild Update

As you can see the price for the 2018 year Oslo model is now, $15,900. Still quite reasonable.
Would you order one at this price?

Contact them at www.konbuild.com if you're interested.


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DIY Hexagonal Garden Beds

How to make a DIY Hexagonal Garden Beds

How to make a DIY Hexagonal Garden Beds

Finished product first! This is about 4 weeks after planting. Closest middle hexagon holds sage, thyme, basil, cilantro, and lemon verbena. Next to the left holds arugula and brussel sprouts. Behind that holds more brussel sprouts, bok choy, green onions, shallots, and fennel. Right of that holds carrots and sweet onions. Right of that holds potatoes.

Got a bunch of cheap 2' cedar leftovers from a local lumber yard

Profile of each board type you need to cut. In total I needed 22 of the bottom board, 18 of second from bottom, 60 of third from bottom, and 54 of top. Top 3 boards each form panels that make up sides of garden box while bottom board forms post that holds each panel together.

All boards cut down to size.

6 boards of a given type with a post form an assembled panel.

All panels assembled.

I almost messed this part up -- half of the parallelogram-shaped panels should face one way and half should face the other way.

All assembled! I was really surprised how easily everything fit together given how little measuring I did.

On planting day.

4 weeks later (potatoes still haven't shown up in the far right hexagon, I'm beginning to get suspicious). Cost was about $130 for the wood, $40 for the screws, $60 for compost and $40 for a truck to haul the compost. Total cost $270.



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Bee Death Causes

Infographic on causes of bee deaths,

Infographic on causes of bee deaths,

Remember if you use this infographic on your website, you must have a link back to this page and our home page www.desima.co


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Beekeeper Starter Kit

Beekeeper Starter Kit

Beekeeper Starter Kit

Remember if you use this infographic on your website, you must have a link back to this page and our home page www.desima.co


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Bee Friendly Garden Guide

Use this Bee Friendly Garden Guide to create the a home for our little friends in your garden!

Use this Bee Friendly Garden Guide to create the a home for our little friends in your garden!

Remember if you use this infographic on your website, you must have a link back to this page and our home page www.desima.co

Do your part to save the Bees.

Do your part to save the Bees.


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Potato DIY Tower

Use this guide to build your own potato DIY tower. With this setup you can grow and harvest a mass of potatoes. Have fun building guys and gals!

Potato DIY Tower Infographic

Potato DIY Tower Infographic

Remember if you use this infographic on your website, you must have a link back to this page and our home page www.desima.co


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Veggie Container Garden Guide

Use this handy guide for working out the required container size for you vegetable garden. Container gardening is great for renters, those with limited space and for controlling what soil that you use.

Veggie Container Garden Guide

Veggie Container Garden Guide

Remember if you use this infographic on your website, you must have a link back to this page and our home page www.desima.co


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Plant Care Guide

Use this guide below for basic plant care. If you are just starting out, simply follow these handy tips. Get yourself on the path of having healthy and bountiful plants. Plants for eating and plants that are beauty to the eye. Learn how to read your plant. It will tell you what's wrong and what it needs. Simply observe and act! Cheers!

Plant Care Guide

Plant Care Guide

Remember if you use this infographic on your website, you must have a link back to this page and our home page www.desima.co


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Garden Watering Schedule

Use this basic guide for knowing how to water your plants. However it's important to note, this is just a guide. Actually the best thing to do, is to learn how to read your plants. The humidity, amount sun and soil will all effect how much water the plants needs. See this other guide I made on taking care of plants.

Garden Watering Schedule

Garden Watering Schedule

Remember if you use this infographic on your website, you must have a link back to this page and our home page www.desima.co


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Garden Timetable

Are you in North America? Then use this handy garden timetable for knowing when to and what do each month/season. Garden away folks!

Garden Timetable Infographic

Garden Timetable Infographic

Remember if you use this infographic on your website, you must have a link back to this page and our home page www.desima.co


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Comercial Aquaponics

So you want to get started with your own commercial scale Aquaponics. I've teamed up with Andrew Dezsery an expert in the field for the last 20 years.
He's offering for free, Report On Aquaculture & Horticulture
Integration (Aquaponics). 
 

You can learn more about Andrew, here.

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Aquaponics Design Course


Murray Hallam is launching is online course this week for commercial  Aquaponics. He's highly respected within the Aquaponics community. So if you are more serious about getting into the commercial side of things, go check it out. 

Unfortunately the course is now closed :(

This is an affielete link, so if you purchase through this link you will be supporting my blog, allowing me to create more content.


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Garden Gloves (Sponsored)

 

Unfortunately the sponsor is no longer selling these gloves.
These protective garden gloves with claws, make it easy to dig in your garden. They're also water proof. The size fits most hands and are of decent quality. If you search online, it should be easy to find other sellers.



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How to get started with aquaponics

What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a way of growing plants and aquatic animals together in the same system. It is the combination of the two conventional farming techniques, aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic animals like fish and shrimps. In hydroponics, plants are grown in water using mineral nutrient solutions, without soil. So, aquaponics is growing of plants while rearing aquatic organisms together. In this great combination, fish and plants live in a symbiotic relationship. Fish in the water tank excrete waste. The water in the tank that contains fish waste is pumped out to the media bed where plants grow. There are bacteria in the media bed and they convert the fish waste in to smaller absorbable compounds. These are the nutrients for plants that they use for their growth. So plants absorb the nutrient compounds in this media bed. In another way, plants have helped to purify the fish waste in water. This cleaned water is returned back to the fish tank. It is a symbiotic relationship where fish feed the plants and plants clean water for fish to live in.

In aquaculture the waste from aquatic animals accumulate in water and increase the toxicity. Fish excrete ammonia as a metabolic product. Higher concentration of ammonia is toxic to fish. Excess ammonia can cause diseases and even death, so need to be removed from the system. The nitrogen cycle circulates these products within the system and helps detoxify the water.

Illustration of the Nitrogen cycle in aquaponics

Illustration of the Nitrogen cycle in aquaponics

Nitrogen Cycle 

Bacteria play an important role in aquaponics systems by performing major steps of the nitrogen cycle. In aquaponics systems, the bacteria colonies form on solid media surfaces. The toxic ammonia, released by fish, is broken down to nitrites and then to nitrates, which are lesser toxic to organisms than ammonia. This process is called the nitrification. The two groups of bacteria, Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter are involved in nitrification. Nitrosomonas convert ammonia to nitrites and Nitrobacter convert these nitrites to nitrates. The toxicity of nitrites is lesser than ammonia and nitrates are even lesser toxic than nitrites. Plants absorb both these nitrites and nitrates. On the other hand, now the water is clean, without ammonia, and is sent back to the fish tank.

The bacteria are a group of microorganisms, which are minute and cannot be seen by our naked eyes. Though some bacteria cause diseases and harmful to humans some bacteria are helpful and essential for us. Nitrifying bacteria are those who convert ammonia to nitrites and nitrates, like Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter. They are kind of helpful bacteria. Nitrites (NO2- ) and nitrates (NO3- ) are two forms of ions, soluble in water, produced in the nitrification process in the nitrogen cycle. These ions are easily absorbable by plants and they are essential plant nutrients. But for fish, these ions are toxic, if accumulated in higher concentrations in water. 

Source: http://www.evanimal.com/MISE-MAGAZINE

Source: http://www.evanimal.com/MISE-MAGAZINE

Aquaponics and sustainable living

Aquaponics is a way to produce organic food without adding chemical fertilisers. Both the harvest of plants and the fish produce can be consumed. Not only that, it uses the resources to the maximum. It has an efficient water usage. Recirculation of water between the water tank and media bed ensures the maximum usage of water. You don’t have to purchase nutrients regularly for your plants. You only have to buy fish feed. It is an environmental friendly way of sustainable food production, providing meat (fish) and vegetables.

The resources in the nature are declining and the world needs more sustainable food production to feed the growing population. If you can practice aquaponics, may be in commercial scale one day, you are contributing to fulfil this need in a sustainable manner. If you do it small scale now, you can enjoy the fresh organic harvest of plants and fish produce at your own home, in a sustainable manner.

My first aquaponics system

If you are going to build an aquaponics system for the first time, start smaller. There are different types of aquaponics systems. ‘Media based systems’ use a non-soil medium in grow beds. They are the most common and most suitable for home use since they are easy to maintain. Deep water culture (DWC) / raft based and NFT (nutrient flow technique) are two other types of aquaponics systems. DWC is the preferred system among commercial scale growers.

Though an aquaponics system has complex chemical conversions of nutrients by microorganisms, setting up of a small scale aquaponics system is not that hard. The basic things you need are water-pump, air-pump, water heaters and media for plants. A water pump is used to pump water from the tank to the growing beds. You need to select suitable plant varieties and fish types. Leafy green vegetables are popular as plants suitable for aquaponics. 

As growing media you can use river rocks, but be aware of limestone. Rocks that contain limestone change the pH of your water. Another option is clay balls that can be purchased. The bacteria forms colonies on the surfaces of your media rocks, so the media should have the maximum surface area. Over time media beds will build up solids. Your system may need to be cleaned every 7 months if you do not have enough filtration. Worms may take over a role in your system. They digest any organic matter in water.

Do you want a bigger system? This might be a question in your mind. The decision to move to a bigger system should be chosen wisely at the correct time. If you need to rear more fish and grow more plants or you need an income from this, you can think about moving to the next level. Generally speaking, larger systems are easier to maintain, more constant water temperature and less fluctuations in water quality. However it’s best to get experience on a smaller set up first. Our Aqua Garden system is good for an intermediate stage. For a commercial scale system, you will need a land area and capital investment. Once you are confident with the management of aquaponics systems and you have basic knowledge and adequate skills you can go to a bigger scale system.

The Best Fish for Aquaponics (Infographic updated in 2017)

The Best Fish for Aquaponics
(Infographic updated in 2017)

How to select best fish for aquaponics?

Choosing the best fish for your aquaponics system depends on several factors. You may rear fish as an ornamental or for your consumption. Some major things to consider, when selecting fish for your system are, environmental conditions, feed source, your purpose and size of the fish and tank. Are you living in a hot, cold or tropical weather? The fish type you select should be able to tolerate your environmental conditions. The fish should match to the size of your tank. Some fish grows bigger and some fish, even they are small, need a big space to swim through. Also, importantly, check whether the fish type you select does not have legal restrictions. Some fish are prohibited to be cultivated in certain countries. Most commonly used edible fish types are Tilapia, Barramundi and Murray Cod. The favourites among ornamental aquaponics growers are Gold fish, Koi and Siamese Fighting Fish (Beta). Fish types have their own features that you need to consider when selecting them to be in your tank. If you use Siamese fighting fish, you cannot put more than one in a single tank as they fight with each other. You need to select a fish feed, like fish food or dead fish, depending on your fish type.

Gold fish is a great option for you as a starting aquaponics grower. They can live well in a wide temperature range between 10 to 23C (50 to 74 F). Not like Siamese fish you can put any number of Gold fish in one tank. Gold fish are the easiest to get started with because of the wide range of conditions and temperatures they can endure. When you are starting out in aquaponics, Gold fish are recommended as they are the easiest to work with.

How to maintain your aquaponics system

After setting up your aquaponics system you need to wait some time before adding fish. At first, use a source of ammonia such as urine or seaweed extract. This is to cycle your aquaponics system. Bacteria colonies form during this time. The aquaponics system should have built up its cycle before adding fish. For a small system, it takes about 6- 8 weeks to run smoothly. Ensure proper circulation and then you can add fish after this time.

Once your aquaponics system is established and running, you need to maintain it to ensure the smooth functioning. It is essential to test your water regularly. The parameters you have to check are the pH, temperature and water quality. Temperature should be in the range suitable for your fish type.The pH is one of the most important factors you need to check.

 

       i.          Monitor the pH in your aquaponics system

PH is a measure that gives an idea about the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. Your aquaponics solution has free ions in it.  The pH measures the concentrations of the ions that are responsible for acidity and is measured in a scale ranges between 0- 14. Pure water has pH 7, which is neutral. The values below 7 are acidic and above 7 are alkaline. The solutions have a certain pH value where pH 1 is extremely acidic and pH 14 is extremely alkaline (basic). The proper pH for an aquaponics system is 6.0 – 6.4. Some ions become unavailable for plants at pH values higher than 7 or at too low pH values. This unavailability means, though the nutrients are present in the solution plant roots cannot absorb them.

The aquaponics systems tend to reduce pH with time due to the nitrogen cycle. Nitrification adds nitrites and nitrates to your system and these ions make the water acidic, means the pH value goes down. This can be adjusted and bring the pH back to the ideal by adding the correct chemicals. If pH goes down, add an alkaline compound and if pH goes up, add and acidic compound that suit. It is also good to add a buffer solution, which can maintain the pH at a desired value. You can use a pH test kit to test the pH of your water. If the pH has risen, to lower it down, you can add nitric or phosphoric acid. There are things that you need to consider when adding these chemicals. Some chemicals may not suitable for your system. For example, phosphoric acid can cause a high growth in algae, so you need to control. Also, avoid citric acid. It is anti-bacterial and will kill your helpful microorganisms. On the other hand, your system’s pH may have gone down and you need to increase it. Try adding calcium carbonate or potassium carbonate or hydroxides of them. Dissolve these chemicals in water and add gradually to your system over a time period while testing the pH. Do not get the chance of a huge pH change in your system as these chemicals are strong and can change your systems pH dramatically.  Always wear gloves when handling these chemicals. They can burn your skin. Simply, add the suitable chemical in a safe way to your system.

 

      ii.          Add nutrient supplements, if needed

Plants rely on a combination of nutrients. Some of them, like nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), are needed in large quantities and known as macronutrients. The nutrients that are needed in minute amounts are called micronutrients. Some examples are iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu). You may need to add some nutrients like N, P, and K to your aquaponics system as they are not available in fish food and not excreted by fish, but essential for plants. Calcium and iron are also required as supplements. You can add them at regular intervals or when plants show deficiency symptoms. When adding nutrient supplements, you should adjust the pH. Normally potassium and calcium is added as carbonates or hydroxides to increase pH. In this case you are actually adding the potassium and calcium nutrient supplements to your plants. The nutrient supplements can change the pH level of the system. So, best thing is to adjust the pH at the same time you add your nutrient supplements.

 

     iii.          Test water regularly and keep records

Test your water and keep notes on them. This help to understand how your system performs.

 

     iv.          Know when to harvest your produce

Have a variety of plants that you harvest at different times, so there are always plants to clean the water. The balance between plants and fish is important to maintain the equilibrium in the system.There should be enough plants at every time to remove the waste products of fish. If there is a large number of fish compared to the plants, the toxics may not be removed by the plants completely. This can cause fish diseases and may eventually lead to deaths. If you select different varieties of plants that are suitable for different times, then you always have plants for your system.

 

      v.          Check your system components

Ensure good circulation of water between the fish tank and media bed. Poor circulation results in poor oxygen content in your system. A good circulation will reduce the risk of plant and fish disease outbreaks. You can use a filter to avoid entering of particles in to the growing beds. Solids filtration will keep your system running healthier for longer. Keeping backup equipment is also a good idea.

 

     vi.          Control the pests

A good pest control plan will keep unwanted insects and pests away from your system. You can choose cultural, biological, physical or chemical pest controlling methods. Each method has advantages and disadvantages and can be selected according to your needs. These should be handled in a safe manner and some methods need extra care. Remember to be very careful when using chemical pest controlling methods, as the chemicals can get in the water and affect the fish.