Showing posts with label Food Gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food Gardening. Show all posts

Monday, March 20, 2023

Reviewing Miracle LED Grow Lites for Small Space Indoor Growing Areas

I am not an experienced gardener. Especially when it comes to starting seedlings and growing plants indoors. I often kill more plants than I grow successfully. But I recently purchased the Miracle LED Grow Lite bulbs for my setup and I'm having excellent results with growing starts and plants indoors. I have a very small space to use for plants so I wanted to share what I've learned so far and encourage anyone - even people limited in space - to try growing indoors.



I previously used two high lumen, daylight CFL light bulbs to help keep plants alive in my apartment. I thought they worked well. Since then, I've moved to a home with a wonderful south-facing window. But during the winter and early spring months, my plants still need additional lighting. A friend suggested that I purchase grow light bulbs with red and blue spectrum. I didn't even know what red and blue spectrum was so I did some research. While I am still using the CFL bulbs I believe that the addition of the Miracle LED Grow Lite bulbs have made a significant improvements in my ability to grow indoors.

Miracle LED Grow Lite Bulbs

I started to do some research when my friend suggested that I purchase grow lights with blue and red spectrum. I was familiar with "daylight" bulbs with high lumens. But I had no clue what blue and red spectrum meant.  I learned that there are MANY options to choose from. There are grow lights on stands, hanging grow lights in one large fixture, and shelves with built-in grow lights.  I already have a shelf and a small area so I chose Miracle LED Grow Lite bulbs.

I purchased 3 separate bulbs: The ultra daylight white, the Absolute Daylight (TM) max flowering with red, and the Absolute Daylight (TM) max grow with red and blue LEDs. 


The online description of the Ultra Grow white bulb states:

"Miracle LED Commercial Hydroponic Ultra Grow Lite - Replaces up to 150W - Daylight White Full Spectrum LED Indoor Plant Growing Light Bulb for DIY Horticulture & Indoor Gardening"

Advertising for all of the bulbs states:

  • Nearly zero heat output
  • up to 10x longer life than standard bulbs
  • contains no mercury and emits no UV
  • replacing 150W flood
  • based on NASA Color Spectrum Technology
  • UL listed
  • runs for $1.44 per year

The description on the box for the Absolute Daylight Max Flower with Red states that the bulb is "ideal for plants and vegetables. Promotes flowering and fruiting"

The description on the box for the Absolute Daylight Max Grow with Red and Blue LEDs states that "red, blue, and daylight spectrum light for intense plant growth."

Previously, I had no idea that different spectrums of light are helpful for different plants or plants in different stages of their life (growth versus flowering). I had no clue that red spectrum light promotes flowering.  Now I know the very basics and my plants have clearly benefited already.

My Small Space Growing Shelves

As I mentioned above, I now live in a home with a wonderful south-facing window (southern exposures provide the most light). However, with the shorter days, I need to provide supplemental lighting. The pendant light cords and Miracle LED Grow Lite bulbs allow hours of additional light. 

My home is small so I have to keep my growing area small. I had an old shelf given to me that I repurposed and use for my indoor garden space. I am able to wrap the pendant light cords around the frame of the shelf and add the grow bulbs. The pendant light cords allow the height and placement of the bulbs to be adjusted as the plants grow. 

The growing zone for my area is 6a. However, I live on a ridge and that higher elevation seems to put me in 5b at times. I am learning how to garden here on the ridge and hope to start most of my own seedlings in the future. Because I live an a colder climate, starting seeds early helps to lengthen my growing season. I am also experimenting with growing vegetables to harvest indoors. I've recently started squash plants indoors and I've successfully gotten them to the stage of blooming. If I can successfully grow indoors, I'll have fresh vegetables year 'round.

I am currently having excellent success with this set-up and am very excited about learning to grow indoors. This is a short video of my indoor garden update thus far. 


I am quite sure that the Miracle LED Grow Lite bulbs are major part of the reason I currently have green, healthy plants growing in my little window garden. 



 




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, April 18, 2022

Movie Review: The Biggest Little Farm

I recently watched The Biggest Little Farm and loved it so much that I am going to order the DVD so that I can watch it repeatedly. The Biggest Little Farm is a film documenting a couple who jump from apartment life to farm life and their progress toward regenerative farming. It is a beautifully filmed story about chasing and obtaining dreams as well as caring deeply for the land.



"This all started with a promise we made to a dog"

 In 2010, John and Molly were living in an apartment in Santa Monica, California. She is a private chef who specialized in traditional cooking methods. She dreamt of owning a farm and growing everything she could cook. While they lived in this apartment, she grew her own tomatoes on her balcony and shopped at farmer's markets.

John is a filmmaker. While filming an animal hoard situation, with over 200 animals being removed, John met one particular dog and fell in love. They adopted the big black fluffy dog with the just-look-at-those eyes and named him Todd.

"Todd filled us with purpose."

"We made one promise to him... our home would be his last."

Except Todd was not necessarily cooperative. He. Barked. Nonstop. Large fluffy dog in an apartment barking during every moment his family is away is not a good situation. The poor neighbors complained. Molly and John tried many different things to try to solve the problem including dog trainers, calming dog vests, and taking him everywhere they went. 

Eventually, the eviction notice arrived. Molly and John had some tough choices to make.

They decided that Molly's dream of living on a farm would be the solution. Farms are perfect for dogs. And for people who eat farm to table. Except there was a problem. Molly and John did not have the funds. So they got investors for this land and this "old way of farming". And they purchased Apricot Lane Farm approximately 1 hour north of Los Angeles.

They wanted to turn this neglected piece of land into a healthy and thriving farm with traditional farming practices and they highlighted how farms have turned into singular-focused businesses. For example, each farm specializes in one item such as avocados. Or chickens. But Molly and John wanted to "emulate how natural ecosystems work. They regulate themselves through diversity".  But how to achieve that? 

A man named Alan York mentored them. He had a vision that they couldn't quite see. And he had a plan. This plan included starting the land over and removing what had been planted there. John and Molly didn't quite understand where he was going with his plan. It's hard to understand what you don't know but they followed his advice the best they could.

In order to avoid spoilers, I will stop here.

Recommending The Biggest Little Farm

I highly recommend this film. The cinematography was breath-taking at points. The film was a combination of high quality and beautifully filmed sections that were "National Geographic" in quality mixed with clips from what appeared to be home-videos shot from a handy cell phone. 

I did find myself wondering how in the world they just happened to have all of these video clips over the years that were adequate to tell the story. And the cynical side of me thought it had to be set up or staged in some way. But during an interview I have since watched, John answers that concern. Being a filmmaker, documenting their journey was a part of his everyday life (I imagine much like I find myself filming my chickens, deer, and the sunsets on my ridge each day). In addition, some of their interns had a similar interest in journalism. So they decided to video and to save those videos; the good, bad, and in between. This is how they had so many pieces of the journey on video.

At points, I also thought that they were going to go down the path of farmer-bashing which would have irritated me. But they didn't. They pointed out that farming has been moving away from farms with a variety of crops/livestock to businesses with a single crop/focus.

Is their natural, regenerative ecosystem something I could replicate? Well. No. I am not up to the challenge of finding investors to buy 200 acres of land. Nor am I organized enough to bring in interns to help. I can barely manage myself most days. However, I would LOVE to have this sort of ecosystem, in miniature, on my land in some way. Much like when John and Molly listened to Alan York's directions in the beginning, I just don't quite get it. But I am trying to learn.

This is not a how-to movie. There are no step-by-step directions and I will have to do much research on my own. However, this movie does give a visual overview of how a very damaged ecosystem begins to find it's balance with some help. This movie inspires. This also is a movie about humans who loved a dog enough to give him his forever home.

Rent or Buy The Biggest Little Farm?

You can do as I did and rent this movie on Amazon Prime for just a few dollars. I realized that with Amazon Prime, I could rent movies and avoid buying the DVDs and Blu-Rays that stack up and collect dust when I don't care to view them again. When I rent a movie that I know I'll want to re-watch many times, I do end up buying the copy. This is one of those movies that I will order so that it is on my bookcase and I can watch it again and again.

 





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, April 4, 2022

Reviewing Two Gardening Planner Visual Aids That Helped Me Get Started

Not counting tomatoes and squash, I have not been a successful gardener. And I would dearly love to have a productive vegetable garden. However, I am especially bad at starting my own seeds. I am also really bad at putting plants out too late in the season. Until this year!  This year I have had the help of two seed-starting guides. Today I am reviewing the Clyde's Garden Planner and my local Extension Service Garden Calendar. I haven't yet transplanted my seedlings outside but already am seeing much better results!

 


I have never had much success at starting vegetable seeds for gardens. I also have never had much success outside of growing tomatoes and squash. It always caused me to wonder - why could I grow enough tomatoes and squash to feed a small army but nothing else. Over the past couple of seasons I have learned that successful seed starting has to do with two main things; timing related to last frost and growing conditions. Here I am reviewing two things I am depending on this year with seed starting that relates to timing related to frost dates.

My Past Garden Failures - Not Understanding Frost Dates and Growing Seasons

My gardening style had historically been to buy all of the different vegetable plants I wanted, when they are available in the store, and stick them in the ground (or containers when I lived in the apartment) at the same time. Most - if not all - of those plants died.

Because I am a procrastinator, I often planted late in the spring. I now realize that it was warm enough then for the tomatoes and squash to be happy. But the cool weather plants withered away. And the plants that needed a longer growing season never had the length of time they needed to produce their vegetable.

When I did start seeds, I would start tomatoes indoors and they sprouted despite my ineptitude. If I was lucky enough (rather than skilled enough) to place them in a south-facing window, I ended up with excellent tomato plants. Otherwise, I ended up with super tall, super thin plants that died (I know now that this is called "leggy" and it's from lack of adequate light). I found that I could start squash plants outside by putting seeds in the ground by the time I got around to it (very late spring/early summer). But plants such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and pumpkin would grow vines but no vegetable. They didn't have enough time.

I have since learned that vegetable seeds need to be started in related to frost dates. Which means the "last frost date" which is the projected last day in the spring that your area could receive frost and the "first frost date" which is the projected first day in the fall when the temperatures are lowering and frost could appear. 

Last Frost Date and Counting Backward

Somewhere along the way, I learned that seed packets give directions about starting seeds. For example, my Amish Paste Tomato seed packets read "Start indoors 6-10 weeks before last frost."  That's very helpful. 

It is easy to do an internet search for your expected last frost date for that year. This year, mine is May 5th. But then it was a matter of using a calendar and counting back however many weeks for each thing I wanted to plant. I am not an organized type of person and this making lists from calendars and counting back was sheer madness for me.

Then I discovered Clyde's Garden Planner. Absolute relief. 

Clyde's Garden Planter was the best $7 I have ever spent. It is a simple sleeve of super thick card stock folder over, holding another piece of card stock that slides back and forth. You locate your average last frost date in the spring, slide the red line indicating the last frost to that date, and voila! You can easily and quickly see the recommended planting dates (and whether it is to "seed indoors" or "outdoor planting") of 21 different plants!



Easy as that!

I cannot adequately describe how helpful this one little visual tool has been.

More advanced gardeners will appreciate that at each end of the slide there is a wealth of information such as 

  • how many ounces of seeds for a 10' row
  • planting depth
  • distance between rows
  • distance between plants
  • approximate produce yields per 10' row
  • natural plant companions
Finally, turn the card over and you have the chart for summer and fall planting related to the first frost date expected in the fall. 

2022 Garden Calendar - WV Extension Service


The other visual aid that I was thrilled to find just a couple of weeks ago was this wonderful calendar. I received my free copy from a local family-owned nursery.

In this calendar, the pages are full of information about when to plant or harvest plants, reminders for gardening schedules (such as fertilizing, propagating, and watching for garden pests). 

As each area is very different, I will not go into more detail about this calendar. And while I knew that in the United States, we have the Extension Offices that we can contact if we have questions about things such as invasive insects. But I did not know that there was information such as this calendar available. At least at my local Extension Office.

If you are not aware of what your local Extension Office offers, it would be worth giving them a call or checking out their website. 

Related Links:

If you'd like to see a video of my Tomato and Pepper seedlings, click here. I am not an official "YouTuber". I started posting videos to show family and friends my progress on my land. Now that I've moved into my new home I have had a bit more to share and a bit more people interested in looking. 

I previously reviewed The First-Time Gardener Growing Vegetables by Jessica Sowards which has been an extremely helpful and encouraging book about gardening. 




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Growing Vegetables In Outdoor Containers Reviewed.

 

growing vegetables in containers


Can You Grow Vegetables If You Only Have A Patio Or Balcony?

Many people would like to grow vegetables but either do not have a garden at all or just a small garden. I do not have a huge garden, it is not small but not really big enough for me to grow all the lovely decorative plants I like to grow and also everything I like to have for nature and grow vegetables. Really I need acres! 

For the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in growing vegetables and so three years ago we started. As there is no space left in the garden, it had to all be in pots. 

The first year we only decided to grow veg in March and so had to get on with it really quickly as many seeds need to be sown in March or April. So I did not have time to do research or much reading before I started planting.

In some ways, this was a good thing as I did not get a chance to be worried about it though I could have done with some basic advice. However, to my amazement, most of the crops were a success! 

Beautiful Home Grown Beans
Beautiful Home Grown Beans

Is It Possible To Grow Vegetables In Outdoor Containers?

Last year I grew the same vegetables and improved upon my skill after reading some good books which helped me to understand vegetable growing in containers and what I was doing.

This year I have just started growing my container vegetable garden again and even branched out to some other seeds to try.

I think you just have to give it a go and see what happens. After all, plants always want to grow. If we give them the right conditions they will do their best to grow as big and strong as they can. 

This book "Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet" is one I used to get me going with vegetable growing. It covers how to grow a range of vegetables in a limited space in pots, windowboxes, various containers and how to organise raised beds. I found it easy to navigate and I liked the pictures to give me inspiration. A decent book especially if you are new to vegetable container gardening. 

 

You may have a small garden, or it might already be filled with your decorative plants and flowers and you do not wish to turn over a section to vegetable growing. Or maybe you do not have a garden but perhaps you have a balcony or a courtyard or even space outside your door. Even people who have large gardens may not have soil conditions suitable for all vegetable growing. So yes I would say it is possible to grow veg in pots with just a few conditions.

 Below are a few tips and suggestions from my own experience for starting to grow vegetables and salads in a container garden. 


Tips For Growing Vegetables In Containers Outdoors

1. It is advisable to use good quality compost to fill your containers. I try to always get a high-quality peat-free garden compost that is a good all-rounder. If you can't get compost each year you can use garden soil but this depends on your garden soil, of course, if you have a garden. Ours is heavy claggy clay and while strong plants do very well in it, seeds always suffer and rarely germinate well. 

So I have to buy good vegetable growing compost and this year I have also bought specific seed compost for starting off the seeds that I will then transplant into bigger pots. You will need to feed your veg throughout the year as well. I find a tomato feed or vegetable feed liquid is good.  

2. For vegetables that are remaining where they are sown choose the largest containers you can. This makes sowing easier and you will not have to water quite so much. Soil always dries out quicker in a container. 

I do start off many of my bigger vegetables in small pots first then transplant them to the large pots. However, the smaller the pot the more watering you will need to do.

Containers of metal while they look great will heat up too much and your veg will suffer. If possible try not to have black containers which will also heat up more quickly.

However, I do have black plastic containers which are Ok if I  shade them with other plants or keep them in semi-shade. Choose containers of clay or plastic and if terracotta do line with a plastic bag or old compost bag and make drainage holes, to help prevent it drying out so fast. 

You can theoretically use any container for veg growing and I have been known to use large yogurt pots and even old washing up bowls with drainage holes punched through!

There are containers to avoid though and that is any that have ever held any poison or chemicals and avoid old tyres which may leach chemicals to your veg. You do not want to be eating any form of chemical! 


Vegetables And Flowers Started Off In Small Pots
Vegetables And Flowers Started Off In Small Pots

3. Get a watering can with a rose attachment or a hosepipe with a gentle spray or mist setting for watering the young plants and seeds. You do not want to wash away seeds or destroy young seedlings with a harsh blast of water.

4. Always water the compost first then sow the seeds. This means for the initial stages you will not wash away the seeds into a clump while watering. Then read the instructions carefully, some seeds require a light covering of compost or vermiculite, others need light to germinate and should not be covered. 

5. Try to place your pots in the best position for the specific seeds - for most vegetables they need a sunny spot but for some they will cope well or need semi-shade. The huge advantage of pots is that they can be moved if needed. 

6. When you have sown your seeds do label the containers with the name of the seeds and the date! I forgot to do this with many of the pots in the first year and I thought I would remember what I had sown in each pot, but how wrong I was!

 

7. Put a few sticks in the compost to dissuade the neighbourhood cats, local foxes, or other wildlife from using your nice soft compost as a toilet until the plants grow up.  

8. Do not have a monoculture of vegetables. Either place your containers amongst other plants that are in the ground or pot up some flowering plants, wildflowers and herbs and place them in amongst the vegetables. That way not only will you attract more beneficial pollinators to help but will also attract predators to deal with any pests that will lay eggs or eat your vegetables.

The carrot fly for example is attracted by the scent of the carrot so if we plant other strong scents nearby like mint or chives,  it confuses the carrot fly who cannot find the carrots! I do not use any pesticides or chemicals at all in our garden and that goes for the vegetables as well. So it is important to me to work with nature on this and attract all the wildlife I possibly can into our garden. Yes, I do lose some vegetables to pests but I gain so much more in terms of healthy food and beneficial wildlife. 


flowers
Flowers Planted Near Container Vegetable Garden   


Which Vegetables Can We Grow In Outdoor Containers?

It is always best if you simply grow what you love to eat! You can try anything given a big enough pot. However, some crops like asparagus take a long time to reach maturity and are not so suitable for growing in pots.

Crops like squashes generally take up a lot of space and need more than most containers, though it might be possible with a small variety if you really wanted to try. Especially if you are starting out it is advisable to stick with easier growing varieties. Success breeds success and as we get more confident we can try more difficult veg. 

You can try anything you like. Here are just a few suggestions from my own experience. Probably the easiest crops to grow in containers outside are the Salad Varieties then vegetables like Beetroot, Rocket, Radish,  Broad beans, Baby Carrots, Potatoes and Runner Beans. You can easily buy a wide variety of seeds online. 


 


1. Rocket is very quick and easy to grow and I have had success growing it in a wide variety of containers. Sow a little every week for a good supply.

2. Onions-I buy setting onions rather than seeds as they are so much easier. I simply place them in the container at the required distance and depth. 

3.Potatoes in a bag. This is my most successful way of growing potatoes. I choose potatoes that say they do well in containers. It is important to exclude light from the developing tubers so I simply use 2 compost bags turned inside out and punch drainage holes in the bottom and sides with scissors/ Then a layer of compost and put 2 maybe 3 potatoes in then cover deeply with more compost as they grow. Simply empty the bag out for harvesting. So much easier than digging in heavy soil! 

4.Radish is very easy to grow and does well in pretty much any container. Sow a few, then do succession sowing every couple of weeks for a crop all summer. 


home grown radish
Beautiful Home Grown Radish

5. Carrots but I would advise you to use a tall container and also try a baby carrot variety so they do not need the depth that a garden soil can provide.

I do find carrots take up a container for a long time and are small so sometimes wonder if they are worth it but they are my fave vegetable so deserve a place here. 

They are a vegetable I would always struggle to grow in my heavy soil anyway as soon as they hit a block they will fork and grow distorted so a container or raised bed will always be the way I will grow carrots. Do be aware that carrots must not dry out as again they will grow distorted. One big advantage of growing in a container is that you can easily protect it from carrot fly by placing it high up or by covering it with a light layer of fleece. 

6.Leafy salads from lettuce to oriental mixes and mustards I grow in shallow containers as they are generally a quick-growing crop. I also sow them in between other vegetables like the slower-growing onions.

7.Runner Beans usually require a really big deep pot and supporting canes. I make the canes out of our Cornus or thinner tree branch cuttings.  

8.Broad beans are easy to grow and need well-drained soil and if a taller variety, will need staking. Smaller varieties may not need much support. 


vegetable garden in containers
Our Container Vegetable Garden!

So if you do not have a garden and need or want to grow vegetables do gather together some containers and give it a go! You may have some failures, but you will have many successes.

There is nothing like eating vegetables and salads you have grown from seed and nurtured. You have just picked it and minutes later it is on your plate. You know absolutely what is in it and that it is free from chemicals and has not traveled miles to reach you. 

In my opinion, homegrown vegetables always taste better than anything you buy, they are fun to grow and you will feel so proud of yourself. So garden or no garden, in my experience you certainly can grow your own vegetables as a container garden.


More Gardening Articles









Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, March 15, 2021

Book Review: The First-Time Gardener Growing Vegetables

Perhaps you want to grow your own food but are afraid and have no clue where to begin. Or maybe you can relate to me, having had some experience and success growing literally a couple of vegetables over the decades but far more familiar with wasted time, money, and failed gardening attempts. If you would like to grow your own vegetable garden with confidence, The First Time Gardener Growing Vegetables: All the Know-How and Encouragement You need to Grow and Fall in Love with Your Brand New Food Garden by Jessica Sowards is an excellent investment.

The First Time Gardener - Growing Vegetables

With the purchase of my land, construction of my home, and dreams of having a successful vegetable garden, I am familiar with Jessica Sowards of Roots and Refuge Farm fame through her youtube channel. I spend nearly all of my indoor free time watching videos about gardening and homesteading and her channel has been one that I have learned a good deal from. Her love of gardening is contagious and she is a wealth of vegetable knowledge. When she announced that she had written a book I knew I had to buy it.  

The First Time Gardener Growing Vegetables: All the Know-How and Encouragement You need to Grow and Fall in Love with Your Brand New Food Garden 

This 176 page book is written by Jessica Sowards with photographs by Makenzie Evans Photography. It is part gardening guide, part inspirational prose, and part coffee table visual feast. This book is not an in-depth, encyclopedia of plant names, varieties, and specific growing details of each plant. It is summarized bits of encouraging information.

The Chapters include:

  1. Welcome to the Classroom
  2. The Foundation - What Every Gardener Needs to Succeed
  3. Creating Your Garden
  4. Growing with the Seasons
  5. The Needs for Seed... or Not
  6. Grow Something Lovely - Designing a Captivating Space
  7. The Nitty-Gritty of Garden Management
  8. Making the Harvest
  9. Conclusion - Grow on, Gardener
The chapters are short. Brief blurbs hitting the most important parts of gardening. Including some boxes of summarized information, lists, and charts. The information is chunked into small portions that are not overwhelming for the brand new gardener and would be good prompts and reminders for gardeners with some experience. 

aka "fertilizers" - I've only recently learned about coconut coir

a list of some of the best food plants for container gardening


More About Why I Chose This Book

I currently live in a metro area apartment. I have successfully grown some tomatoes (and a small handful of tiny potatoes) on my south-facing balcony. But I haven't tried to grow a garden in the ground for some years (oh my gosh, decades! My how time flies!). With my planned move to four acres, I am dreaming of having a garden with a variety of vegetables that I will be able to eat fresh or can for later. While I am excited about my plans, I am also afraid.

I am afraid of more plant failure. Over my lifetime, I have made many attempts to grow plants: houseplants, vegetables, berries, fruit trees... and I have failed massively. I have wasted so much time, energy, and money only to end up with seedlings that die, plants purchased from a store that I kill, and a variety of plants that never grow anything edible.

I am also overwhelmed by feeling as though there is so much information to remember; when to plant, what to use for fertilizer, when to harvest, and so on. While everything is available on the internet, I want to make sure to have some good reference books in my home. I do not have reliable connectivity on top of the mountain ridge. There will be many times that I will not be able to look up things on the internet. Also, with this book it will be quicker to flip open to a list or a quick reminder.

Last year I impulsively bought a couple of zucchini and cabbage starts from a roadside stand and planted them in my flower garden. Even though I only sporadically visited my land and did not provide care for those plants, several zucchini grew and I was able to make my own zucchini bread. With a little guidance and support from Jessica's book I should be able to have even more success this coming year.

Related Links:

Make sure you check out the Review This! Gardening tab to see the other posts by our contributors. Our group includes some very talented gardeners. Click this link or the gardening tab at the top of this page and scroll down to see previous gardening posts.

To read more about my land and future homestead please visit my personal blog or take a peek at the video of my house under construction. But be advised, I am not a "youtuber". But with a peek at the videos or blog post it will be easy to see why I will do much of my gardening in containers or raised beds. And that I will need all of the guidance I can get.

I mentioned Jessica's youtube channel. If you love to watch gardening videos and/or someone who finds quiet joy in gardening, be sure to check out Roots and Refuge.

To see what others are saying about The First Time Gardener Growing Vegetables: All the Know-How and Encouragement You need to Grow and Fall in Love with Your Brand New Food Garden be sure to check out the reviews on Amazon


The First-Time Gardener Growing Vegetables Book Review



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

My Favorite Hamama Microgreens Seed Quilt Accessories

Recently, I wrote about my successful experience with growing microgreens, using Hamama Seed Quilts. I thought it would be helpful to also review both the decorative accessories and most helpful extras I use and love for growing these delicious and extremely nutritious microgreens indoors, in the comfort of my living room.

Although the Hamama's bamboo grow tray frame, seed quilt label holder, and other decorative accessories are designed specifically for the company's innovative, patent-pending growing system, the other recommended products I'm reviewing here would be both useful and beneficial to anyone who enjoys gardening, cooking, or both!

Hamama Seed Quilt Microgreens Growing Accessories
My favorite accessories and useful supplies for growing microgreens with Hamama's seed quilt growing system

Microgreens are a delicious, nutritious way to add essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes for those of us who try to live a healthy lifestyle. Since health was my primary motivation for losing nearly 60 pounds on a keto diet, my new healthier lifestyle focuses quite a bit on healthy eating, and especially on getting more nutrition from food and relying less on supplements, something that is especially important when following a ketogenic approach to eating.

My Favorite Hamama Microgreens Growing System Accessories and Helpful Supplies

As I shared in my previous post, the Hamama microgreens seed quilt growing system is so easy, even this “brown thumb” gardening amateur is successfully growing delicious, healthy, nutrient-dense microgreens throughout the year, even here in New England. Now that my husband and I are no longer are at the mercy of the unpredictable and often scant selection of packaged microgreens at our local stores, we use our fresh, home-grown microgreens for more than just garnishes. In fact, they make up half the dark, leafy greens in our large, nightly dinner salads!

Along with Hamama's seed quilts and grow trays, the core of their unique container gardening system, I've also purchased a few accessories and supplies that have made the process of growing my own fresh, nutritious kale, broccoli, clover, daikon radish, zesty salad mix, and other varieties of microgreens more enjoyable and convenient.

Hamama's Custom Growing System Accessories

Bamboo Grow Tray Frames and Seed Quilt Label Holders

Two side-by-side Hamama seed quilts with decorative bamboo grow tray frames and seed quilt label holders
I love the way the bamboo grow tray frames and seed quilt label holders dress up my microgreens growing setup by our living room windows

Since counter space in our small kitchen is at a premium, I grow my microgreens in our living room, which has a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows (although Hamama microgreens seed quilts don’t require a lot of light). So, I successfully harvested a few different varieties of microgreens using this unique growing system, I decided to spring for Hamama’s proprietary bamboo frames and seed quilt label holders. The bamboo frames fit either style of the company's grow tray. I started with Hamama's white ceramic tray. See how nice the bamboo frame looks with it?

Microgreens growing in white ceramic Hamama grow tray with bamboo frame
The white ceramic grow tray is thicker (and heavier) than the black plastic tray.

Not long after, I decided to switch to the black plastic grow trays, which weigh very little and are much easier to carry back and forth to the kitchen (on the other end of our house) for cleaning. Although I try to avoid buying plastic for disposable items, these trays are reusable, and I plan to be using them for the foreseeable future. The walls are much thinner, allowing a narrow margin around the seed quilt, so it's much easier to check the water level in relation to the coconut coir mat (and to add a bit more water, if it's evaporating faster than expected). The marked fill line is also thinner than on the white ceramic tray, so it's easier to gauge how much water to add for soaking the seed quilt.

Whether you prefer the black plastic or white ceramic grow tray, the simple, sleek and stylish bamboo frames make them much more attractive and blend well with any style of home décor. There is a Hamama logo in the lower left corner of one side of the frame. Usually, I'm not a fan of displaying brand names, especially on decorative items. But in this case, I think the logo has been done quite tastefully and doesn't detract from the look. However, it can easily be hidden by facing that side of the frame toward the window, if you prefer.

Hamama microgreens germinated seed quilt in tray with decorative bamboo grow tray frame and seed quilt label holder
The Hamama bamboo grow tray frames and matching seed quilt label holders give my microgreens growing setup a more attractive, "finished" look.

The matching bamboo label holders are great for displaying the coated cardstock labels that come with each seed quilt at an easy-to-read angle. These labels provide a useful reminder of which type of microgreens I’m currently growing, as well as the approximate number of days until the paper cover should be peeled, and the total number of days until harvest. Before I got these label holders, I used to tape the cardstock labels to the grow trays. The tape left a sticky residue and wasn’t very attractive. Now, my bamboo seed quilt label holders coordinate perfectly with my grow tray frames.

Each holder is a nicely finished, rectangular block of bamboo the exact length of a Hamama seed quilt label, with a thin slot for the label. Whenever you start a new seed quilt, simply slide the label that comes with it into the slot, which holds it upright and angled slightly back for easy reading. When you finish harvesting your microgreens crop, just remove and discard the label from the holder, so it’s ready for the label from your next seed quilt.

More Matching Bamboo Accessories

Hamama makes a matching seed quilt holder for storing your extra seed quilts, but since I don’t store mine out where people can see them, I didn’t need one. The company has just announced its brand new bamboo "grow shelf," a gorgeous self-standing, five-shelf, open shelving unit to current customers, who can preorder one now. I expect it to be added to the Shop section of the website soon, so everyone who wants will be able to order one.

Extra Hamama Grow Trays

Once I knew I was going to be using this unique microgreens growing system regularly, I ordered two additional grow trays. As of this writing, the price of two black grow trays is only four dollars more than the price of just one. And, since it’s essential to clean each grow tray thoroughly after harvesting one seed quilt and before starting another, it’s nice to have an extra tray so there’s a clean one standing by to start my next microgreens seed quilt as soon as I harvest the previous one. I can soak, scrub, and disinfect the used tray at my leisure (it’s also safe to clean in the top rack of the dishwasher).

Hamama Microgreens Harvesting Kit

The company offers a convenient set of three tools for harvesting the microgreens grown with their proprietary seed quilts and grow trays. The kit contains:

  • 1 reusable Stasher silicone bag (sandwich size)
  • 1 pair of scissors (with the Hamama logo)
  • 1 bamboo scrub brush with natural fiber bristles (for thoroughly scrubbing your grow tray)

It's a very useful kit, particularly if you prefer to harvest your microgreens by trimming them just above the top of the seed quilt, rather than pulling them out, roots and all. Alternatively, you can purchase a Stasher silicone food storage bag, a pair of sharp, stainless steel scissors, and a bamboo scrub brush with natural fiber bristles (or use equivalent items you may already own) to create your own customized microgreens harvesting kit.

Save Money on Your First Hamama Grow Kit, Seed Quilt, or Accessories Order!

Don't miss my Hamama shopping link and discount code at the end of this article to save 10%!

My Favorite, Practical Products for Growing, Harvesting and Storing Fresh Microgreens

Stasher Silicone Food Storage Bags

You don't have to grow microgreens to fall in love with these fabulous food storage and cooking bags

In August 2019, I wrote a review of my favorite silicone kitchen tools and accessories, including silicone food storage bag. But, after trying the Stasher silicone bag in my Hamama Harvesting Kit, I fell in love with it. I purchased three more in larger sizes, and I definitely plan to add more over time. Although they cost more than other silicone bags, they're totally worth the price!

These Stasher silicone bags are a cinch to open and close, unlike any other brand of silicone food storage bags I've tried. Yet, they're also airtight and watertight. Many people use them for sous-vide cooking, placing the sealed bag of raw food in a pot of boiling water. And since these bags are leakproof, They're also perfect for marinating meats, poultry, seafood, fish, or vegetables to infuse them with extra flavor.

Four Stasher silicone food storage bags
The Stasher silicone food storage bags I have purchased to date
Stasher Silicone Stand-Up Food Storage Bag

The Stasher bag that came with the Hamama Harvesting Kit is the sandwich size (7.5" x 7.5" x 1"), which has a 15 oz. capacity. (It's the smallest one in the photo of my current Stasher bag collection.) However, since I wrap my harvested microgreens loosely in a paper towel before placing them in the bag to store in my refrigerator, I find that I need a larger size if I want to harvest all (or most) of a seed quilt at one time.

The sizes I use to comfortably contain an entire crop of paper towel-wrapped microgreens from a Hamama seed quilt are the tall Stasher Silicone Reusable 1/2 Gallon Food Storage Bag (10.25” x 8.25” x 1.5” with a 64.2 oz. capacity), and the Stasher Silicone Reusable Stand-Up Food Storage Bag (7.75" x 7" x 3" with a 56 oz. capacity) that, true to its name, stands up on its own for easy filling and removal of the contents.

Dedicated Scissors

If you prefer to harvest your microgreens with scissors, it's a bad idea to use your general-use utility scissors that are also used to cut paper, crafting materials, etc. I highly recommend dedicating a pair of scissors exclusively to harvesting microgreens and herbs, and cleaning the blades scrupulously before each use. They don't need to be fancy kitchen shears, but they should be sharp and comfortable and have stainless steel blades. (Who wants specks of rust in their microgreens or herbs?)

If I were putting together my own harvesting kit, it would include the Fiskars 01-004761J Softgrip Scissors with 8-inch stainless steel blades (or something similar), which are backed by a lifetime warranty.

Bamboo and Natural Fiber Bristle Scrub Brush

It's important to clean Hamama grow trays very thoroughly before starting each seed quilt. Although the trays are top-rack dishwasher safe, the top rack or our modestly sized dishwasher is usually filled to capacity with glasses, cups, bowls, long-handled spatulas, cooking tongs, etc. So, I prefer to scrub my grow trays by hand.

It can be challenging to clean between the ridges inside the black grow trays, particularly at the corners and around the perimeter. That's why the Hamama Harvesting Kit includes the small, round, bamboo handled scrub brush with natural fiber bristles, which I find invaluable for this purpose.

When I looked for a similar brush, most of them had either synthetic bristles or components made of plastic or other non-biodegradable components. After considerable searching, I finally found a palm-sized, mildew-resistant round bamboo scrub brush with organic, natural fiber bristles, very similar to the one in the Hamama Harvesting Kit. As a bonus, it comes with soap dish that can also be used to store the scrub brush out on the counter, if desired (just make sure both the brush and the dish are completely dry first).

This versatile brush has medium-hard bristles that can also be used to clean even non-stick pots and pans, dishes, vegetables, and more.

3% Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide and Fine Mist Spray Bottle

Only one of my Hamama seed quilts has ever developed mold, back when I was still a seed quilt "newbie." It was hot and humid in our living room, since we don't have central air conditioning and only turn on each room's A/C unit when we are actively using the room. I made the common rookie mistake of over-watering that one seed quilt, so that the paper covering was wet. When, unsurprisingly, about a third of the sections failed to germinate. I then compounded the problem by covering those water-logged sections with strips of newspaper for two days, after reading a troubleshooting tip for a different problem. (I did say I had a brown thumb!) Of course, when I pulled off the newspaper strips at the end of two days, there were signs of mold, and unfortunately, the seed quilt was unsalvageable at that point.

Before throwing away the moldy seed quilt, I took a couple of photos and shared them in the Hamama Friends group on Facebook and asked how I could prevent a recurrence. The answers were very instructive. One of the best recommendations I got was from a woman who recommended that spraying the surface of the water in the grow tray with food-grade 3% hydrogen peroxide before soaking future seed quilts. She also said she mists the leaves with it after peeling off the paper cover, and hasn't had any mold issues since she started doing that.

I immediately ordered a bottle of food grade 3% hydrogen peroxide. A while ago, I had purchased a dozen small, cobalt blue glass mister bottles. I filled one of them with the 3% hydrogen peroxide and labeled it (since the rest of my cobalt glass misters are also filled with clear liquids), and it now lives next to my Hamama grow trays to remind me to spritz the water before soaking each new seed quilt. And, like the helpful person who suggested I use the 3% hydrogen peroxide for this purpose, I haven't seen a speck of mold since I started following her excellent advice!

I find these pretty and practical cobalt blue glass spritzer bottles useful for many different purposes. They spray a very fine mist, which makes them ideal for evenly and lightly moistening metal clay with distilled water, since this material dries out very quickly when exposed to air while working with it. I keep another filled with isopropyl alcohol for sanitizing makeup brushes, tweezers, manicure implements, etc. in between full soap-and-water cleanings. I also find that they don't leak, so I'm considering keeping another bottle filled with a CDC-approved alcohol-based disinfectant in my purse for when I leave the house. The cobalt glass isn't just pretty; it also helps protect the contents against UV rays.

Save 10% on Your First Hamama Order!

If you haven't ordered directly from the Hamama website before, you can use my Hamama shopping link (or click on the image below), add the products you want to the shopping cart, then use the discount code SUPERGREENS during checkout to get 10% off your product total. And if you're lucky enough to have receive a Hamama grow kit as a gift, you can use this link and discount code to save 10% on the beautiful bamboo accessories made exclusively for the Hamama seed quilt and grow tray system.

 

hamama microgreens

 

My Favorite Hamama Microgreens Seed Quilt Accessories by Margaret Schindel

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