Tag Archives: Verticle gardening

Full day homesteading skills class

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey for what people are looking for as far as education here in Indy. Here is the first response to that. Based on the survey results this is what most people wanted to see.

Full day homesteading basics class. 8 full hours plus free samples to take home. As of now here is the breakdown of the class. This is for people from apartments to rural areas. I will give examples of how you can implement in just about any situation. I will bring examples, what materials I use, photos, and a CD/DVD of resources I use when I need additional information.

Class will be $40 per person or $60/couple. If bringing the family or more than 2 please contact me for other arrangements. Pay in advance or at the door. Cash only at the door. You will save the cost of the class alone if you just adopt and use a few of the topics mentioned.  Due to the limitations of Meetup payments (can’t do discounts based on number of people) contact me if you want to pay in advance with cash or use electronic payment.

Register through one of the Meetup groups below although not required. There is a limited number of seats but should accommodate a larger class size but to guarantee a seat registration is recommended.

http://www.meetup.com/AlternativeGardening/

http://www.meetup.com/Indiana-Disaster-Preparedness/

Here is what is being offered. I can add additional topics if time and my experience permits. Seats, and tables provided along with two large overhead screens for notes and examples. There will be breaks and a lunch period as well. Bring your lunch or visit one of the many local places.

  1. Backyard Grocery (fall is one of the best times to start this)
    1. Mini Orchard
    2. Vegetable garden
    3. Edible landscaping
    4. Aquaponics
    5. Backyard Chickens
    6. Goats
    7. Bees
    8. Rabbits
    9. Vertical Gardening
    10. Potatoes
    11. Container Gardening
    12. Medicinal Herbs
    13. Composting and mulch
    14. Water harvesting and rainbarrels
  2. Food Preservation (what to do with everything you harvest)
    1. Canning
      1. Water bath canning
      2. Pressure canning
    2. Dehydrating
    3. Freezing
    4. Smoking
    5. Fermenting
  3. DIY
    1. Laundry soap – how to make – free samples 5 ingredients or less
    2. Tooth paste – how to make – free samples 3 ingredients or less
    3. Bar soap – how to make –(free samples if cured in time)
    4. Fire starters – how to make
    5. Homemade bread – very simple steps <5 ingredients. Way more healthy for family
    6. Homemade pasta – very simple steps <5 ingredients. Way more healthy for family
    7. Make your own ethanol
    8. Battery backup for emergency home power use
    9. Make your own generator from your car with an inverter

The Herb Spiral and Farm updates

                We have been very busy lately. As the colder weather approaches, there just doesn’t seem enough time to get it all done before winter.

 

                I completed the 1st of the herb spirals this weekend. I know it won’t get planted this year, but getting it installed now will allow the ground to settle over the winter, and I can add more soil before actually planting. This spiral cost me noting to make. The walls are made from old concrete field tile that has accumulated out at the farm. The soil is from an excavated area and soil had been piled up. It only took about two full days to complete, and most of that was hauling dirt. I had the layout done in about an hour. Not only can I plant in the bed area, but because I used hollow building materials I can plant in them too. I haven’t yet decided what to plant into the tiles. But while building this I discovered about 6 other larger tiles. About 1 ½ feet across. We are now going to use these as large planter pots. Nothing goes to waste.

Started with a stake, and one tile.

Started with a stake, and one tile.

 

I placed the tiles where I thought it would go adjusting as I needed. Dry fitting.

I placed the tiles where I thought it would go adjusting as I needed. Dry fitting.

 

After I was happy with the design, I started adding soil from the outside first.

After I was happy with the design, I started adding soil from the outside first.

This is what I ended up with. Both my wife and myself can reach the center from any side. The 2 year old calls it her castle and likes to run up the ramp to the top. It helped compact some of the soil and set the tiles, so she helped with this project too.

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      Speaking of nothing to waste, my wife’s grandfather is tickled and laughs almost daily at the stories we tell him of repurposing materials. The tiles were just one example. We found an old door that was repurposed in the chicken house for ease of getting into the laying boxes. Several months ago we found some old aluminum wiring of some sort in a junk pile. We repurposed it to use as a trellis for the blackberry garden. Now it is much easier to harvest the berries when in season. Old fencing, has become used for growing peas and tomatoes. Old bricks will be used for a forge. Old 55 gal drums will be used for water barrels and about 100 uses for old pallets. We have uses or repurpose for just about everything we come across on the farm.

Here is the hay and straw repurposed into fall garden, and the reused fencing in the center as a trellis.

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We have come to the realization, that nothing is junk unless it absolutely cannot be used. Old bailing wire has a million purposes. Junk mail, I shred it and feed it to my worms to make compost, compost tea, new soil, and bait for fishing. Old barn wood has a new life as a dining room table. Old tires, potato vertical growing bins. If I don’t have an immediate use for it, it will go into one of the piles/barns and find a new purpose when one is discovered. Not all the repurposing ideas are my own, but most of the “functional” uses have been developed on demand. The creative are about 1/3 mine 1/3 wife and 1/3 I find online. In my pinterest account you can see some things I stumbled upon.

http://www.pinterest.com/rikkrack/boards/

                We have been cleaning out old garden beds, adding chicken area to keep them safe from predators, and reorganizing materials. 6 new chicken tractors are on the list to build before February. Again these will be repurposed from old materials as much as possible. The build of the tractors will be a post on its own.  Every time we are up there we come up with new projects. We have roughly 45 min to an hour one way drive time from our Indianapolis home. On the way up to the property we discuss what we are going to do, would like to accomplish, and plan for attaching. We have 4 pages of projects, tasks, and wish lists. On the way back we mark off what we accomplished and lists for what we saw that needed to be added or new projects. This week I decided to add a pond to the rose garden that will be build either this fall or next spring. We are repurposing a preformed pond we had here in Indy, which was repurposed from another project. I decided to take all the field stone we have come across during the cleaning phase and make a large waterfall water feature in the pond. This will not only aerate the water for when we stock, but keep some of the unwanted slime and moss growth down. It will be a nice feature to see, and hear. We would eventually like to make the pond into a natural swimming pool so this fits nicely with that plan. Adding a sauna, hand pump for the well, tree nursery, hoop house and the list goes on.

Getting more for less – Class scheduled

Here is a class to make your hard earned money stretch further. All the tips, techniques, and practices my family and I actually use. Demos will be available, handouts will be made available of the items we cover, the products, places to purchase, and recipes. This should be about 2 hours long. If you have missed out on the farm tours, you could hang out after, but it will not be the full 2 hour tours others have gotten, feel free to ask questions before, or after class. We will be sitting outside on our deck, and have bench seating and a picnic table. There is also room for folding chairs if you bring your own. Space is limited so it will be the first 25. There will also be home made pizza as an appetizer to demonstrate cost cutting. There is no public restroom available. Sorry. Cost is $10 per person or $15/couple, easily made up if you use the tips and techniques demonstrated. We have saved well over $700/year doing these activities. Fee free to park in the driveway, our cares will be parked elsewhere. Bonus, drawing at end of class.

We will cover just to name a few subjects/topics not everything is listed;

• Food and Grocery- bulk buying, making from scratch, coupons, discount programs, more

• Entertainment- kicking cable, discounted movies, free e-books

• Making your own-laundry soap (an 11 year old can do it), deodorant, toothpaste

• Cleaning supplies – household cleaners, eliminating harmful chemicals

• Gas- save on fuel for your car

• Utilities- gas, water, electric

• Gardening – how to get seeds for 50-75% off, how to get fruit trees 50-75% off

 

RSVP here

http://www.meetup.com/Indiana-Disaster-Preparedness/events/128496512//

Outdoor aquaponic and garden pond

I was jealous of my neighbors “water feature” and wanted one. I couldn’t justify the cost of putting one in and it not be productive. Then while cleaning out my MIL junk barn, we found a small plastic pond. I dug a hole, and with a spare pump from my greenhouse aquaponics I had a water feature. No extra cost. But how to make it productive? Fast forward a year. I decided I wanted a bigger pond and stock with fish. So again I dug the hole by hand. It kept getting bigger and bigger as I thought of all the things I could add.

Here is a picture of the hole. it is 4 1/2 feed at the deepest 15 feet long and 8 feet wide.

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Next we added a roofing liner. I chose EDPM, 60 mil thick. I got a change through my professional work history to meet an engineer who works at firestone. Who make both roofing liners and pond liners. The material is identical. The only difference is the anti caking agent they use when rolling it or folding it. But here’s the catch, the pond liner is quite a bit more expensive. I just bought the roofing liner, and washed it several times, then with soap, and rinsed a few more. I cycled my system for several weeks before adding fish or plants.

Here are some photos of the system when we just got started.

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Here is the same angle today.

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The overflow from my rain catchment system goes into the pond. After a few spots in the yard heal from chicken devastation, I will swale and fence in the area to remove the pipe. It is only there to keep the water from eroding the surface soil.

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The overflow of the pond goes into my garden.

When stocking with fish I use pet store feeder fish. Here locally I can get 100 different colored and patterned goldfish for $12.79. They are pretty hardy to get the system started, and add some color. The fish I started 18 months ago were around 1” and now are 9”+ and 1-2 lbs each. I feed duckweed and a handful or organic fish pellets. Duckweed will duplicate every 24 hrs in summer, and has more protein than soy and the feed I give them. I bought my first duckweed from a pond store, and it just keeps going. I have given duckweed to people on tours when asked and now sell if anyone wanted to start their own for their systems.

For the production piece. I added drip irrigation to recycled plastic containers which I hung from my deck railing. I took 2L bottles and cut off the bottom. Then drilled holes in the lids. The top bottle drills to the second, and then to the third, which drains back into the pond. In each bottle I used coconut coir as media. We planted cucumber, 3 kinds of melons, 5 varieties of lettuce, strawberries, peppers, and cilantro. The liner is pulled up so high to catch the drip irrigation and to keep chickens and the dog from the back side of the pond.

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For the biofilter I again built my own. Recycled plastic feed containers, and PVC pipe. Inside there are river rock, lava rock, pea gravel and more coconut coir. The top container flows to the second which has a diverter and the drip irrigation. Again all recycled parts. Most of the plants I started from seed. The only things that cost me anything were the pump, bought off season for 75% off, and the liner. Since I bought roofing liner, rather than pond liner it saved me a few hundred dollars. The fish, but now we restock it ourselves when we go fishing. Any minnows that don’t get used, or fish that are too small to eat go to the pond to grow, and keep down mosquito population. The rocks were picked up from fields that get plowed. the 55 gallon drum serves no purpose than giving additional height. I am working on another system of hanging baskets from the pergola to give more growing area.

 

Here are some additional photos and description of our outdoor aquaponic system.  I have experimented with different growing systems. From drip irrigation to floating rafts.

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Do you want to turn your “water feature” into a production space? Contact us and we can help. Want your own aquaponic system, again we can help.

Q: What do you do in winter? All the plants and the drip irrigation go away, mainly to compost. I disconnect the biofilter, and run a fountain to keep the water from freezing and oxygenate the water. The water plants move to the greenhouse, and a stash of duckweed goes into the greenhouse, and in the indoor system, to be returned next spring.

Q: What kind of fish can you use? Any kind of fish that will be winter hardy. You can use koi, goldfish, catfish, bluegill, carp, sunfish etc. You may be able to use tilapia but the water needs to maintain 50 or above and for optimal conditions 70-80 degree water is needed. This year we didn’t get the system cycled in time to optimize the growing season for tilapia. Next year we may put them in once the water maintains above 50 overnight, and then harvest before the water drops below 50. MAYBE 9 moths or less. for now bluegill, sunfish, and catfish are stocked along with goldfish for color.

 

Group tour July 6th

If you are local to the Indianapolis area we are hosting a group tour to see in person and ask questions some of the things we have used on our micro farm in the city. See the three aquaponic systems in action, back yard chickens, medicinal herbs, water harvesting, edible landscapes just to name a few. Ask questions, tips, techniques and see some of the items we have for sale. Because we have a small yard, and to make sure question and answer time is available, we are limiting to 20 people. This will be scheduled through Meetup Alternative Gardening group. If you are not already a member of Meetup there is a link below. We are having it on Saturday July 6th 9am.

 

Group Tour info

Planting Barrel V 2.0

So I took the time and redesigned what was a strawberry barrel and no came up with a planting barrel. You can put so much more than just strawberries in them. If you are limited on space, you just want to maximize space, or wanting a new way to display your flowering plants this could work. And bonus it has a built in composter/fertilizer in the center. In 2′ garden space there is not 60 different planting sites.

All of the steps are available for sale.

I started with a 55 gal white food grade barrel with the top cut off. These are available for $20

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Next I drilled drainage holes in the bottom. Also available for $20 and can be used for a potato barrel. You could probably get 3-4 layers of potatoes in one barrel, around 30-60 lbs of potatoes.

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Next pilot holes along the outside edge for cutting the holes.

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Using a jigsaw  I cut approximately 9″ lines between the holes but not connecting them.

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Using a blowtorch I softened the plastic and inserted empty wine bottles to hold the shape until the plastic cools. Do this in a well ventilated area, and make sure the caps are off the bottles. Learned that one hard way. If the bottles heat up and the cork/lids are still on they can explode from the pressure.

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You have to keep the row above filled with bottles while forming the second one down. As you heat the plastic the upper pockets will start to close.

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Here is the completed barrel with composted in the center and filled with compost/mulch mix ready to be planted. I plan on making this into a salad/herb garden, with varieties of lettuce, cooking herbs, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and radishes. I will publish and post once the plants start to develop.

These are available for $70 empty,

$80 full of compost/mix,

$90 with composter and prepopulated with worms.

$120 filled with strawberries and all of the above

$150 filled with salad and cooking herb mix.

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These are made to order and some plants may not be available. Allow 2-3 days from order to availability. There may be an increased price based on plants requested. Delivery is also available and there may be a fee based on distance from SR 135 and Stop 11.

To order or ask questions use the contact us page or the consulting page.

Morning strawberries

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While it isn’t much our strawberry barrel is already producing strawberries after only 30 days of going in. Next year we should be getting much more we hope.

Strawberry Barrel V 1.0

What to do when you run out of horizontal planting space, or there is no soil to plant in? You go vertical. I saw this online and I decided to make my own it was relatively simple and I had an abundance of 55 gal plastic barrels.

My kids love strawberries and this is a way to densely pack plants into a small space. Since we grow with no chemicals, no pesticides, no man made fertilizer we will let our 2 year old pick and eat right off the plant. It is her favorite thing to do when walking outside. Our sidewalk going to our front door is lined with strawberry plants and the barrel is just off our front porch.  When the door opens she bolts to see if there are any red berries ready for picking.

I first take a 55 gal drum and cut off the top below the thicker ring at the top. In this case I purchased them with the tops already removed due to how they were used. Not all drums are the same. Some have thinner walls, and I always get food grade barrels that contained food grade materials.

Next I drill holes at varying levels, and use a jigsaw to cut the openings. The first one I made I used a 1×2 scrap wood and a blowtorch to open up the planting holes. I am in the process of making strawberry barrel V 2.0 and will have more pictures along the way, and list the improvements. I use the torch to heat the plastic to make it more pliable to bend the top of the cuts in, and the bottom out to make the planting hole. I drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Next I fill in the barrel with compost/mulch mix. Plant the berries. This particular design has 45 plants in a 2’ round space. It should produce about 5-10 lbs of strawberry next year. We are getting some this year, but they will be heavier the year after planting.

Look for version 2.0 in the next week. I do sell Version 1 and 2 if anyone is interesting in owning one, but either doesn’t have the time, tools, or resources to make their own. It can be barrel only, barrel molded, barrel molded and filled with compost mix, or the whole picture. Click on the contact us page, or consulting for more details.

You can plant more than just strawberries, but our new rule at our house is if a new plant comes in it has to have a purpose, if not more than one. Either we can eat it, it improves the soil, or attracts beneficial insects. Strawberries are green almost year round, produce fruit, and has taught the 2 year old colors. Well at least red vs green.

This is just after planting day 1

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Here is 30 days after planting. The solar panel in the barrel has nothing to do with the plants. It is a solar charger for lights that illuminate our American flag at night, and that was the best place to get sun.

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