The Beginning of Our Hydroponic Vegetable Growing Adventure

I have been wanting to write this post for a LONG time now.  We decided on venturing into Hydroponic Growing almost a year ago and just now were able to make it happen.  First, we needed to save some funds to purchase the Hydro unit.  The hubs experimented with a few build your own ideas but none seemed to live up to the potential of our chosen unit, the Omega Gardens Volksgarden.  The Volksgarden outshines its competition in almost every aspect; it is built durably to last, fully automated and easy to operate, produces strong rapid results in almost 1/3rd of the time, and provides clean, local, year round produce.

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Being a large investment we needed to make sure this was a priority and something we really felt passionately about, which it was and we were.  After procuring the funds and purchasing the unit, we needed a home to set it up in.  Then the waiting game to finish the new house ensued.  FINALLY! We were able to start our seedlings and build the unit.

First, we had to choose plants that not only would perform well hydroponically, but that our family would enjoy eating.

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We decided on bush beans, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, Russian kale, red lettuce and arugula.

Next, we had to pick a seed starting method.  We chose to start the seeds in a round rockwool plug that would then be inserted directly into the square rockwool block.  We purchased a starting tray, somewhat like this, to start the seedlings in.  Light and humidity are important for fast germination.  We have one large florescent and two smaller blue/red lights currently on ours.  Along with the lights, we set up a heat mat with temperature control to keep a constant 75 degrees.

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Besides water, plants need nutrients to grow.  We went with a three part Flora type.  Because of the process involved in extracting the nutrients, these products cannot be labeled “organic.” However, we are willing to look beyond the label and read up on the process and feel safe knowing we are feeding our family a safe, nontoxic product.

The rockwool needs to be soaked in the nutrient solution before your can plant the seeds.

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After soaking in a 5 gallon bucket for 1-24 hours, you can lightly shake off 10 percent of the liquid from the rockwool and place in the tray.  We used a small pipette tool to create a 5mm deep hole for the seeds to rest.  Using tweezers, we placed 2-3 seeds in each hole and covered slightly to create a cocoon.  The Volksgarden holds 80 plants but the tray only 78, so we will have at least 2 empty spots until we purchase another tray.

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We then made a home for the seedlings in the basement, under lights.

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Depending on the seeds and set up, the seeds will take 12 hours to 1 week to germinate.  We did have some bush beans starting to open the first night.  Next post, we will discuss the Volksgarden its self.

Have you ever tried to grow produce hydroponically? Or any other alternative growing method?

[Disclosure: Salty Suburban Homestead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links.  Thank you for your support!]

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Putting Up the Garden; Pepper Jelly, Tomato Sauce and Homemade Vicks

Our garden seems to be coming to a close for the season.  We are processing the last of the tomatoes, peppers and watermelon.  Although we did not grow any hot peppers, I still wanted to make pepper jelly, so I used a variety of sweet peppers.  It took all summer to find a pectin I actually liked the taste of an was easy to work with.  I use Pomona’s Universal Pectin.  It is great because it is activated by calcium, not sugar, so you are free to add as a little or as much sweetener as you would like.  Also, you do not have to cook it for hours ont he stove, just a few minutes and its done.

I just followed the directions ont he box to make this sweet pepper jelly.

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Tomato sauce was my next adventure.  I felt uneasy about water bath canning my fresh tomato sauce, so I decided to freeze the jars instead.  I made a basic recipe of olive oil, garlic, red pepper flake, peeled and seeded tomatos, basil and seasoning.  It should last 4 months in the f freezer

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Lil man has caught a cold and is all congested.  I went ahead and made him a homemade Vicks rub so help loosen some of that junk.  Simply melt a big scoop of coconut oil and add essential oil.  I used peppermint and rosemary essential oils and stored it in a small ball jar in the fridge.

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What are you putting up?

[Disclosure: Salty Suburban Homestead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links.  So if you decide to order anything thats recommended on the blog, we would LOVE it if you used the affiliated links. We thank you in advance for your support!]

Canning Simple Tomato Salsa

Our tomatoes have finally started to turn red and now we need to use them up.  What better way then sauce and salsa!  Because I do not own a pressure canner, I had to find a highly acidic salsa recipe to water bath can.  This is a pretty simple tomato salsa recipe from Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars. It is far more tart then I am used to due to the cider vinegar, but I am sure after sitting awhile the flavors will come together and it will be just as enjoyable as any other salsa.

If you do not own this book, here is a pretty comparable recipe for free on the internet 😉


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Do you prefer a canned salsa or a fresh pico de gallo?

[Disclosure:  Salty Suburban Homestead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links.  So if you decide to order anything thats recommended on the blog, we would LOVE it if you used the affiliated links. We thank you in advance for your support!]

Canning Sweet Pickle Relish and Bread and Butter Pickles

We planted 4 small cucumber plants in our garden this year.  Those 4 plants sure did produce a whole lot of cucumbers.  We had dozens and dozens of the those crunchy green guys.  What we couldn’t eat or give away we decided to preserve.  Since refrigerator pickles only last a month, and there are only so many pickles we can eat in a month, canning bread and butter pickles as well as relish was our best bet.

I used both the sweet pickle relish and bread and butter pickle recipes from Liana Krissoff’s Book Canning for a New Generation. I highly recommend this book if you really want to do some yummy canning, as well as Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars.  If you do not have either of these books, I found some pretty comparable recipes for free on the internet: Sweet Pickle Relish and Bread and Butter Pickles.

I cannot wait the 4-6 weeks they take to cure to try them!

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Do you have a favorite pickle or relish recipe to share?

[Disclosure: Salty Suburban Homestead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links.  So if you decide to order anything that is recommended on the blog, we would LOVE it if you used the affiliated links. We thank you in advance for your support!]

Preserving the Summer Squash and Zucchini Harvest

Our summer squash harvest was UNBELIEVABLE this year.  We had an over abundance of the green and yellow squash cluttering our countertop for weeks, and still do. We also received a ton in our CSA.  This seems to be the norm.  Even if you do not have your own garden, I am sure family, friends and neighbors are practically begging you to take some off their hands.

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So, what to do with all this fresh and nutritious produce?  You can simply eat it now; sauté with olive oil and garlic, roast in the oven with other squash, make into pasta and toss with pesto or shred and use in muffins and breads.  Speaking of muffins, here are our favorite! YUM!

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Besides eating all your zucchini and yellow squash right away, you can also preserve it for use later in the year when squash is not in season or available.  We chose to preserve a lot of our harvest by freezing and dehydrating.  You can also can it if you like, we have not tried this method yet.

We make a really great stuffed squash with rice and ground turkey, but it is hot and time consuming to make in the summer.  So we made, blanched and froze the boats to stuff when the weather gets cooler. Also, we sliced and blanched squash coins to freeze.  With these you can just deforest and sauté for a quick side dish. Make sure you blanch your squash before freezing, this will insure it doesn’t get frost bit or go soggy before using.

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Utilize the dehydrator as well for preservation.  This is one of my favorite methods, it doesn’t take up room in your freezer and the dehydrated product last for a very long time.  We shredded and then dehydrated our zucchini.  Find the how-to here.  Later, we can rehydrate the squash with a little water and use in breads, muffins, sauces and sautés.  So many possibilities with this.

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How was your summer squash harvest this year?  How are you eating or preserving it?

[Disclosure: Salty Suburban Homestead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links.  So if you decide to order anything that is recommended on the blog, we would LOVE it if you used the affiliated links. We thank you in advance for your support!]

Super Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Crazy rainy nights and sunny 90 degree days have awarded us with a ton of cucumbers in the garden.  Before I decided to take the plunge and go all out with my first pickle canning adventure, I figured I would get my toes wet with a very easy refrigerator pickle recipe instead.  There are thousands of recipes and how-to’s floating around the internet for refrigerator pickles, but I chose the this one from Kansas City Mamas because I had all the ingredients on hand.

You pretty much just wash the jars, wash and cut the cucumbers, place them in the jars with the spices, mix the brined, pour that over everything and place the jars in the fridge. Thats it! Really!

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These are just a basic garlic, however, you can play around with the flavors all you like. What is your favorite pickle flavor?

[Disclosure: Salty Suburban Homestead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links.  So if you decide to order anything that is recommended on the blog, we would LOVE it if you used the affiliated links. We thank you in advance for your support!]

 

Supplementing with your CSA

Until our garden is, well first made, then producing enough to supply our family with the entirety of our produce needs, we will need to supplement with purchased products.  Last year, John William and I frequented our local farmers markets each week, although fun and enjoyable, it was time consuming and very expensive.  This year, we have enrolled in a local organic farms CSA program.

Credit: Local Harvest

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  How it works is that, in the beginning of the year local farms will sell shares in the upcoming seasons crops.  Customers will pay for full or half shares up front, in full.  Then throughout the summer and fall, each week you go and pick up your portion of that week’s harvest.  It is a large investment in the winter, BUT, it will pay itself back come harvest time, and depending on how well the farm does you can really get a lot for your money.

I love supporting programs like this!  It gives the farmers funds to start that years crops, supports local business, saves you money, and is a fun way to try new produce because you never know what that weeks share is going to contain.  We won’t receive our first share until June, but I will be sure to post pictures.

Visit Local Harvest to find a CSA in your area!  I am sure you won’t be disappointed!