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Dwarfed Autoflower strains will grow in cold temperatures!

By | Outdoor and Indoor Grow | No Comments

Roots have penetratingly grown into the root zone and the plants are headed for a bountiful yeild!

Although growing a bit more slowly in colder temps, the Compact Bush variety Autoflower strains Will Grow!

They grow exceptionally well for this time of year with natural sunlight during the day and supplemental lighting at night. The Vertical Eco Garden makes this transition possible and simple! This potentially saves Big $$ on utilities during daylight hours for up to 6 weeks before and after the optimal outdoor growing season.

When the roots are forced to grow through the layer of geotextile between the pocket and the root-zone of the V.E.G. the plant puts more energy into root growth vs. top growth. This also signals adversity in the plant and causes it to produce more fruits, in this case buds. Currently these plants are showing more rapid growth and size. That indicates the roots are now in that zone. So, we stress a quicker turn around of more buds and tops than a stem and lower leaves ration per all plant material. This also comes at a much lower cost.

Low Cost & Low Overhead Cannabis Production

By | Auto Flower Grow, Outdoor and Indoor Grow | No Comments



Let’s start with the last headline and a common phrase about things to come, or ‘ON THE HORIZON’. Any one living in northern zones is familiar with the sun appearing to travel low on the southern horizon. Likewise, solar panels are vertical and face south for a reason. And for now, at least, the sun is free. The only other consideration I want you to think about as you bare with me, is, if the small start-up gets pushed aside by the big corporations, what happens to American entrepreneurship and innovation? Better yet, what about competition? We don’t really have a healthy economy without it. Having said that, it will be interesting to see if all the major publications on the subject, who have big dollar advertising customers, will run with this article, as they will be receiving it.

Having mentioned competition, lets talk about niche. I am going to draw on another controlled substance that has been with us since we learned about fermentation. As you know, it runs from a low alcohol beer to a ‘kick your ass’ moonshine and everything in between. However, a lot of people can relate to having a cold one or two with a friend and still be able to drive home legally. Likewise, there is a market for a counterpart cannabis. Not everyone wants to get completely hammered every time. Not to mention how big pharma targeted areas already using cannabis for pain management with their opiate death stars, OR anti anxiety meds. Don’t get me started.


These bush beans are producing and blossoming in Northern Michigan in November. Notice the bare tree branches in the background. The leaves have long since turned color and fallen. That’s why we call it the Fall Season. If you’re from up here, you know the season starts with a heavy frost. Most everything on the ground gets frozen unless it is a frost tolerant plant like broccoli or a Northern Ruderalis strain, if you will. These beans survived because they were off the ground and in a Vertical Eco Garden facing south like a solar panel. A green house works even better and is available.

Granted, bush beans are a small plant, and most Autoflower strains are about 3 ft on average. So let’s look at the smaller end of that average. The two I am most excited about are Low Rider Autoflower Feminized by cropkingseeds.com ( they have an 80% guarantee on germination if you follow their suggestions that apply only if your state laws allow it) and Auto Caramelicious by marjuana-seeds.nl (MSNL Seed Bank). Hopefully there are more, or more will be developed. Both are dwarfed compact hardy bush strains that are easy to grow and offer assurance of a bountiful bloom without all the complications and cost of an indoor grow. Having said that, we do realize, being able to grow indoors does have benefits. The benefit we are focused on is protection from freezing. By providing a mobile garden stand, your growing season can start earlier in the spring and grow longer into the fall season. If frost is forecast, just roll the gardens into a building or garage or cover them with plastic. A greenhouse space could be better utilized. With quick turn around of Autoflower bud production, your yield can easily compete with the big operations if your a producer, or provide you with an affordable alternative if you are growing for your personal needs.

It is not complicated to grow a weed. According to a recent article in Maximum Yield, all the essential nutrients needed for a successful grow are listed in this organic plant food. And most plant foods will also have the secondary nutrients but may not list them.

Having given up on the Urban Garden Gorillas, or head honcho at your local community garden, I am adapting a Vertical Eco Garden design to other types of plants besides bush vegetables. Hopefully, this new market is less of an identity.

Here is how it works. Notice the roots must penetratingly grow through a layer of material to gain access to the rooting chamber. Heavy soil is not needed for plant stability. A more non compacting aerated thus bio-intensive growing medium can be used. If your growing organically or not, aeration is key to healthy roots along with phosphorus and root growth hormone production. If your a gardener, you know that the bush bean is a legume variety and does not need a rich soil. Cannabis requires a soil a little richer and better drainage than most vegetable plants, except for these Fairy Tail Egg Plants. They also like frequent hydration, below middle pH in an aerated medium. I provided a picture for your comparison to any vegetable seed catalogs you might have laying around. See if they have a comparable yield growing on a plant. I have not yet found one. The point being, If I can get this yield from my Vertical Eco Garden with a vegetable having similar needs as an Autoflower Strain, what will it do when I grow an Autoflower Strain?

Well, this spring we will find out. I will be growing both of the Autoflower Strians mentioned. Currently, the Vertical Eco Garden has 5 vertical rooting chambers ea having five vertical pockets to plant, for a total of 25. This will probably be ok for the Low Rider. Each root chamber feeds 5 plants. It works like hydroponics, without having to recycle a solution. For the bigger bushier Auto Caramelicious, I will fabricate a 4 root chamber design having 3 pockets each for 12 plants. I can do this because in addition to being the inventor, I am also the manufacturer. I do have a patent, but only to protect the market from ‘look alikes’ that will not incorporate the right geotextile having correct water flow engineering specification in a drain application less compressive values, or some shit from China if that’s OK to say. The picture is of 25 sweet Italian pepper plants. If you want to see a video of the yield, go to facebook.com/TheVerticalEcoGarden


Each Garden below utilizes only 7-8 cu ft of a coir base potting soil. The bottom of each rooting chamber opens for recycling and amending of the growing medium. This process can be automated for commercial growing.

If you want to compete with the sun with an indoor grow, start by picking a location in Seattle. A high end low utility light fixture per ea 4 sq ft of floor space cost aprox. $1,800. Having said that, when all the other utilities of dehumidifying, ventilation and heat control add up, your still looking at giving 40% of your freedom to the utility company.

Thank you for your time,


Commercial Indoor Urban Garden Farming Profits

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Commercial Indoor Urban Garden Farming profits will have to keep up with rising utility costs. Air Freight Shipping FRESH non seasonal cost will also increase. The only non inflationary energy source is the sun. Facilitating growing  specialty produce / product  Outdoors in Midwest to Northern zones has potential. So, sweet Italian frying peppers cost 3,00 ea in the Big city. One garden can produce over 100 peppers. Midwest outdoor gardening starts in June, goes to Sept. that season is extended by 3 months moving plants indoors for frost protection. The Vertical Eco Gardens can be utilized to tap into this non inflammatory energy source and extended outdoor growing time by its gardens being moved on mobile stands indoors. For commercial growers, who grow cannabis for instance, this could mean lowering costs significantly for these three extra months of natural light and conditions. Everyone has to compete in the market, and lower overhead means a reduction in product cost or an increase in profit margins. Using the sun produces better product at a lower cost.

Check out the details in our patent!  US9210846

Gardening in Northern Zones / Commercial Urban Gardening

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Lets start with the latter. A business plan for any venture will want to establish your Niche, Right? Your market research should reveal who is growing what, and selling to who, and at what price. Based on this formula, I would not consider doing research on another urban lettuce farm, unless I could compete in price and quality. I am not an expert. However, my first thoughts for indoor growing would be cost of utility as a major overhead. Again, I am not an expert, but I also would be hard to convince that lights could do better than the sun. Not to mention the cost of facilitating an indoor grow. Will your projections serve that amount of debt? How about the cost of leasing, renting or the long term liability of buying? Industry has left for foreign soil, abandoning industrial sites, so finding a facility might not be too bad, unless the facility was much newer and had all the modern amenities. Niche in a crowded field requires looking at every station, from overhead cost, what to grow and who to sell to, to get the biggest return.

For example, If I had an Italian restaurant with a fussy chef, I would want to find a supplier who could deliver the tastiest fresher Italian Pasta or Stuffing Pepper for my customers. The cost might not be their main concern. And if I wanted to save on utilities, I might want to use the sun and a facility that cost less. Being able to Garden in Northern Zones might not be as difficult nor have as short of a growing season. By facing the Vertical Eco Garden south, it functions like a solar panel. Sun that is lower on the horizon compensates by hitting the vertical garden more directly. The Northern and Midwest gardening season can start earlier and grow later into the autumn. If frost is in the forecast, the Vertical Eco Garden mounted on mobile stands can be moved indoors, where the stored solar heat could keep them from freezing saving utility cost thru the night. I imagine they could be linked like kiddie train cars at the zoo. One more advantage, the potting soil amending and exchange can be automated.

Restrictions To Conventional Home Gardening requires High Yield From Less Resources

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Restrictions To Conventional Home Gardening requires High Yield From Less Resources. Typical restrictions involve city ordinances, limited space, shaded or Northern cold and South West arid climates. Container Gardening has been at the forefront to address these variables and is also a great option when dealing with physical limitations. There are also informal social influences that are pro and con, but those will not be addressed as they are voluntary, and you have a choice. Mt feelings are two fold. The first is that gardening is not an identity. Having said that, In face of any adversity, it is a good idea to choose between solving a problem VS having a problem. And in seeing the problem as an opportunity to grow, we will continue to the next opportunity on how, what and where to grow your vegetables.

High vegetable yields from less resources requires some planning. There is an abundance of information available on the internet that will give a solution to most challenges on small space gardening, pest control and types of plants, including nutrient content. Because we are focused on higher yields of nutrient dense vegetables, this article will use more natural processes that utilize space, resources and yield. For Nutritional and Medicinal content of vegetables, I would refer you back to the internet. The question that often asked is, Can you grow enough to make it worth while? To answer that question, three of Vincents “real food” bush beans have more nutrition than the contents of an entire can off the store shelf. Looking at it from that truth, what you see behind Vincent is an entire store shelf of nutrition. As you know, when it comes to kids and vegetables? If they grow them, they will eat them. So, you can cost effectively grow enough nutrition to make gardening worth the effort, and also introduce your child’s hypothalamus to the “Real Food” source for when they crave nutrition.

No concerns about trampling the plants with wee
ones weeding, because there is no weeding in container
gardening. Just give them a watering can and let them
have some fun.




Container Gardening is a very efficient way to utilize space and resources.
There are many to choose from. Some are ridiculous and expensive novelties and some are very innovative and worth consideration. You can go beyond the typical plot of garden pots with a few innovations and by paying attention to detail. For the money, garden pots, though labor-some will produce adequate yield of nutrition applying a little science via easy affordable upgrades. To begin, what is more important than the housing that contains your potting soil, is the potting soil. The key ingredient in a productive natural potting soil is free, at least for now. That key ingredient is air. We cannot talk about aeration without including drainage. The conventional approach to a good potting soil and container is having good drainage. And the most common problem in container gardening is over watering. This is because too much water and not enough drainage displaces air. There is an article by #TOMOGREN titled “the real dirt on potting soil’” that actually measures the time it should take for water to drip out of the bottom of a pot. It’s about 3 seconds. However, since that article, there are new soil-less growing mediums that provide a higher levels of hydration and aeration combined. There are also amendments that help to prevent over watering. The reason for balancing air and water in your soil is to encourage the friendly microbes and prevent bad bacteria. Excess moisture that displaces air causes an anaerobic condition. This will incubate anaerobic bacteria. Those are the “bad guys” that Toledo had to deal with in their water supply. That is another story, but is relevant if you want to contribute to clean water. You see, an aerated soil provides the oxygen that the microbes in your soil need to produce natural phosphorus and root growth hormones. In short, It was chemical phosphorus runoff that caused the algae bloom that sunk to the bottom of lake Erie where the good bacteria consumed all the oxygen when the algae decomposed. This created an anaerobic environment incubating the bad bacteria. Sorry about the long sentence, but the point is, plants do not absorb chemical phosphorus very well. They prefer the natural foods just like smart humans. Lets talk about what a good bio-intensive, aerated potting soil would look like and then we will move on to the variables of location, conditions and plant types.

Earlier mentioned, were new soil-less mediums and this is key. Not included in “NEW” is peat moss. Peat moss is OK as the readily affordable and available standby. Most potting soils are mostly peat moss. Here is something you should know. It comes from pristine natural environments and is not a sustainable medium. There are operations that farm it VS mine it. Mechanically, once dry, Peat Moss is hydrophobic. It repels water. Anyone who had a flowered pot dry out, knows it has to be replanted, or anchored to the “bottom of the well” until is wont float. The nature of combining high drainage through a hydrophobic growing medium is problematic, unless you have drip irrigation on a timer or find the time spent using the garden hose and watering can relaxing. That’s great, but for the efficient minded gardener getting the ‘biggest bang for the buck’, I prefer Premium Coir.

This block of coir (ground coconut shells) was the size of a big shoe box until it absorbed 9 gallons of water. Notice the center is still dry. Coir works like a sponge absorbing water while providing a non-compacting structure that prevents the displacement of air. Lets not stop there. If a bio-intensive soil will need to combine higher levels of air with water, here is another ‘jewel’, and it too is sustainable. Boiled Rice Hulls. It takes a little time, but notice that rice hulls sink. Not only do they retain their hull shape, which would provide aeration, they also retain water. And because it is an organic cellulose, it will decompose slowly over time. Make sure they are Boiled Rice Hulls as the non boiled have starch and sugar that will rob your soil of nitrogen known as #Nitrogenlockup. If I were going to get into the potting soil business, I would not try to profit from the cost of shipping soggy bags of peat moss. I would simply provide a kit of lightweight absorbent growing medium with amendments and instruction to “Just Add Water”.

This also applies to another of my favorites for hydration with aeration. Now getting into the other components of a good potting soil, I like Forest Compost. Key word here is compost. Forest compost has wood chips. If they do not crumble in your hand, they may rob your soil before they give back. A little chunk of decomposed wood in your soil also absorbs moisture and provides aeration. The other gift from nature in forest compost are the leaves. Leaves are the best compost material known to gardening. Think about how deep those tree roots go for clean water and nutrients before they send their colorful autumn canopy quilting to the forest floor, or to your yard if that be the case. Go from yard work to gathering compost materials changing one simple intention.
Having gone from providing information to being philosophical, I will give the % mixture of a good Professional Potting Soil to get back on the subject.

Professional Natural Bio-Intensive Potting Soil Formula
Given in percentages, the soil-less portion (coir, peat moss, or like) should be no less than 2/3rds or 66%. Forest compost should be 1/3 or 33%. Of that volume 10% top soil, 10% natural hardwood charcoal, 10% boiled rice hulls, pearl lite, or comparable. Last but not least, the soil amendments. Of these there are many, and the ones you choose and the amounts you use, will be determined by the type of plant per soil (pH) and soil culture. Following the directions on the packaging will work in general. This goes for the containers and growing medium as well but more on that later. The most common and most used would be bone meal, a microbial plant food, or worm castings, and blood mealSoil components.. There are also fish and kelp pellets. Natural Liquid plant foods used for periodic feeding would be a fish emulsion, or something comparable. These would have to be a non burning type of nitrogen. There is a way to ‘kick start’ your microbial culture. It is called #Charcoalcharging. Simply mix your hardwood charcoal with the compost according to the articles about 10 days before mixing it into the potting soil. Note, hardwood charcoal is more affordable as a natural hardwood cooking / grilling product. But it is very messy to break up. You will have to trust me on this one. Unless you like to shower under a Garden hose, there are many sources of charcoal as a soil amendment, and a little bit goes a long way.

To give you an idea on how many vegetable you can grow from a lesser amount of potting soil, having a healthy aerated root zone, these are 25 Sweet Italian pepper plants producing abundance’s of ideas for my pasta palette, using only 7 to 8 cu ft / 4 typical bags of a “Tom Ogren” amended type of soil.

Vegetable, Container, Location, and potting Soil Compatibility

You may not see pictures like this in your seed catalog. Here is the reason.
Most gardening instructions will give you the general guidelines to grow most vegetables. However, to get high yields, you will want to cater to what the plant needs. Eggplants are hard to grow because they like a rich soil with frequent watering in a high drainage, if using a common potting soil. In a coir based potting soil, the drainage and watering are less. These Fairy Tale eggplants are located halfway down on a continual root zone in the Vertical Eco Garden. In that space, they have just the right amount of hydration, food and air. Above them would be beans and peppers as those do not need a lot of hydration and nitrogen. Lower on the rooting chamber would be the Broccoli, pickle bush cuke’s and Zuke’s. Cabbage and other vegetables that like rich soil and increased hydration are usually on the lower areas. To simulate this in a container, you can mix and test the pH of the soil culture per each plant specifications. A good tool to have in addition to a pH meter, is a seed catalog that will give the soil culture. Johnny’s Selected Seeds among others will provide this. Another great service that the seed catalogs provide are the Compact Bush Variety of Vegetable Plants. Available in both Heirlooms and hybrids, these were, and are being developed for the Urban and Suburban gardeners.

To give you more of an appreciation for getting higher yields from less resources, these are an Heirloom Compact Silvery Fir Tree bush tomato. They have a slender leave allowing more sun penetration so you can plant them close together or with other plants that like shade.

Tomatoes and peppers like abundant phosphorus. For example, in that pot or container, the soil will need more bone meal. Tomatoes have aggressive root systems and are hungry eaters. You will use a bigger pot or container and hold back on feeding until the fruit start to form, then feed every 7 to 10 days.

Get a pH meter. With the meter comes all the soil pH needs of each plant. To save time, make up a small batch or one gallon of your mix and test the soil. It is easier to formulate a small amount, and do the math before you mix bigger batches. OR, buy an ‘Off the shelf” potting soil and add the amendments mentioned.
To get more assurance that your soil will have aeration, you can line your pot with a couple of layers of Weed Guard material or use a product called Smart Pot. Some roots will grow into this material for more aeration if needed. Plants are smart. It’s called Plant Intelligentsia. Just provide some options, learn to be still, and observe.
Climbing vegetable plants are the original vertical gardening ruler. But there is a reason why commercial growers grow bush varieties. Fundamentally, climbers are indeterminate types and will produce for an entire season. Bush varieties, though produce over a shorter period, will put more energy into yield VS vines needed to climb. This is why commercial growers who are conscious of cost will go with bush varieties. My preference are the bush varieties as I usually grow and process a wider variety in a small space, in a short Michigan Season. For me, the best of both worlds was to grow the bush variety of vegetable vertically.

When, Where and What Vegetables to Grow
First of all, do not be discouraged if the seed catalog requires Full Sun. Not so, when your soil can give your garden the advantage of utilizing only 5 hours of sun instead of full sun. I find it questionable when full sun is required, yet plants will wilt in the mid summer mid day heat. So….. There are also shade tolerant types that do real good with less sun and partial shade. Even a Bell Pepper can grow in shade. In addition to having different soil cultures, another advantage of container gardening is to use plants with a bigger canopy to shade the ones that like less sun. As a rule, an open south exposure is best. With a south exposure, you can also start gardening earlier in the spring or later in the autumn if you use a vertical Gardening configuration or system. This is because a vertical surface, like a solar panel, will catch the sun lower on the horizon during the spring and fall season. If gardening in pots or other containers, these can also be stacked or shelved if there is a backing that will catch and store the suns warmth earlier and later in the day. For an east to west exposure, plants that require less sun, work great. There are many types of greens that grow in many types of conditions. Some are frost tolerant and great for early spring and autumn into early winter gardening. Swiss will “rock your world” if you want to harvest a few leaves at a time for a long season.

Organic, Non Pesticide Dust, for getting rid of Cabbage Worms, Slugs and Japanese Beetles.

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Looks hopeless, and your tempted to grab the pesticides. DON’T, this works. And with your help, we will develop it to work on other kinds of infestations that don’t inhabit my area. It is difficult to get anything to stick onto the leaf of a cabbage or broccoli, and have it survive the rain.

Notice how the Vertical Eco Garden Dessert Dust becomes remnants of the water spots. It survives the rain. And also notice the new growth that has been abandoned. This is a good type of abandonment.

Here’s the formula and where we are to date:
Diatomaceous earth ( sharp glassy silica particle) is a long time proven safe standard for getting rid of creepy crawly aunts, crickets and roaches etc. It irritates their joints. And it is easy to sprinkle it on a floor or  around the base of a plant. But how to get it to stick to the leaf of a Brassica? Not in the picture, use Talc. A generic baby, bath or shower powder will work for small crops. For bigger jobs, talk to the local coatings / paint co. They have one that is used for making flatting paste used to dull  glossy finishes.  They should be able to give you a good price or a resource. The small cup has pea gravel used to keep the ingredients dispersed.

The formula I used was 45% talc, 45% Diatomaceous Earth and only 10% borax. Borax is also a long time favorite for repelling aunts and worms. But there is a precaution. More is not better.

Even with only 10% borax, it burned this eggplant leaf. A previous formula having a mixture of all the ingredients at 1/3 each resulted in more severe burns.  The current  formula with borax at 10 % did not damage the brassicas, but because eggplants, tomatoes and beans etc.have a more textured leaf, more Desert Dust was absorbed. So, maybe cut the borax back a bit for those plants, and or use less early on as prevention. To date, the 10% borax got rid of worms, Japanese beetles and slugs.

Here are some precautions and directions for making the duster from a re-purposed can or container.

If you read the safety instructions on the container of Diatomaceous Earth, it will say to not get it into your eyes. I can testify to that. Even a little is irritating. So, after you make your duster per these directions, make sure your back is to the wind when you dust. With all the ingredients combined with the pea gravel, or something comparable, close and tape the lid thoroughly. Remember, the pea gravel has weight and you don’t want to be the target of your own dust storm. After the lid is secured, shake the container. After the container is thoroughly shaken up, punch holes in the lid. Now your ready to dust, and taken from an old Irish homily, may the sun be on your face and the wind at your back. And remember, this is a non pesticide w o precautions of over-use.  So, if the bugs come back, wack em again. Real simple.

What is a ‘professional’ Potting Soil?

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What is the most over-looked ingredient in a good potting soil?

            How do I go about making or finding a professional potting soil for professional results?

                         Can I use a professional potting soil approach in a box / bed garden?



        In this Blog I’m going to include some information I’ve learned from an article on the web site, www.allergyfree-gardening.com, titled ‘The Real Dirt on Potting Soil’. written by Tom Ogren who is the author of five published books, has a M.S. in agriculture / horticulture and taught horticulture for twenty years. In addition to this he started growing when he was five years old, 57 when he wrote the article and somewhere between then and more recent times he owned two wholesale – retail nurseries. He mentioned a couple of potting soils he favored but could no longer find them and began to buy less costly potting soils and amending them considerably. I will only draw on the points he made in that part of the article, but I recommend this as a good read in general, especially for amending and or making a professional potting soil. 

        We have put into practice, and have been getting good results by applying Tom’s principle approach to amending or making professional potting soil. In a paragraph subtitled Perlite, he points out the pros and cons of high drainage using Perlite. These pros and cons are, better root development via more aeration, but will require more frequent watering. Aeration is key, and air is the over-looked ingredient. 


        Here is how it works:   The main functions of the growing media are to provide nutrients, water, gas exchange and anchorage. Lets first focus on gas exchange because this involves air. The gas is a phosphorus that is the bi-product or production of microbes breaking down organic matter. The microbes also provide root growth hormones. Think of your potting soil as yogurt culture. The bacteria is friendly and it needs air to thrive. Bad bacteria will be killed or kept in check by air. So air is key. In the past, the practice has been to increase drainage with Perlite. This is because Perlite provides air and increase drainage. Air via Perlite also keeps the roots from drowning and keeps the soil from compacting. Both water and compacted soil displace air. However, high drainage results in increased run off or waste of nutrients and water. Also, maintaining moisture is key for sustaining a bio-intensive root zone. So, the down side to high drainage is that run off  of water and nutrients are costly and messy. Air, on the other hand is free (at least for now) and so are the gases that the microbes produce. There are other materials that work better to increase both aeration, moisture and nutrients in a potting soil. Though they are not widely distributed in the major retail stores yet, they are worth the trip to the hydroponic store, and worth the increase cost of shipping if buying on-line. They are less expensive and work better in the long run. These are referred to as sustainable and soil-less mediums.  

        The two most common are boiled rice hulls and Coir (ground coconut shells). Boiled rice hulls replace Perlite, and Coir replaces Peat Moss. All of the plants in the pictures in this article are growing in potting soil that is approx 2/3 Coir and Boiled Rice Hulls.. Coir has safe Ph levels, is more coarse for aeration and absorbs more water and nutrients. Likewise, Rice Hulls also absorb moisture and will hold their shape (see Sink or Swim blog on rice hulls) to trap air. Because they are organic, they will slowly decompose and provide nutrients. As mentioned, Boiled Rice Hulls also absorb moisture and cost about $1.50 per cu ft when purchased on site in small volumes. 

What is a Good Professional Vegetable Potting Soil Mix?

        For making or amending potting soil with medium commonly available, read the article previously mentioned ‘The Real Dirt on Potting soil’ by Tom Ogren. The 2 cu ft. Vertical Eco Garden potting soil mix, given here, in increments of a classic Norman Rockwell garden shovel, is the mix being used to grow all the plants in these pictures. This mix starts with 4 garden shovels of compost forest material, leaf or plant compost. I used my own forest compost but a good ‘off the shelf’ substitute is often labeled Garden Soil.  Here is the rest of my soil recipe:                                                                                     
  • 4 shovels of dampened coir, 
  • 4 shovels of dry boiled rice hulls, 
  • 1/2 shovel hardwood ash , optional for middle pH.
  • 1 shovel top soil, 
  • 8 cups Garden Tone organic vegetable microbial plant food by Espoma, 
  • 1 cup Triple Superphosphate,  or Triple Phosphate, and or 2 cups organic bone meal. 
  • 1 cup organic blood meal for a jump start.
  • 1 cup pelletized lime for pH balance. 
        If you are growing varieties of vegetables, general measurements are fine. You can get more specific when growing one plant type. For this, I would use the recommended soil culture and check the pH. A big advantage of using Boiled  Rice Hulls and Forest compost in a potting soil mix is its longevity.  
        But what about plant anchorage in this loose growing media that doesn’t compact or cake up like peat moss?  In the Vertical Eco Garden design, roots grow through a layer of Geotextile material to access the water and nutrients in the vertical rooting chamber, and this anchors the plant. This unique feature allows the use of a very aerated and moist media needed for a rich microbial environment. The Geotextile felt like material also provides air and the roots like it.  For a bed garden, I suggest a layer of straw or other structure for the roots to grow through. 
Concerns with Peat Moss
         I am often asked,  what happened to the Topsy Turby (spell?) upside down hanging tomato thing? Well, I don’t know.  But I suspect it was the combination of high drainage (perlite with peat moss) and inexperienced gardeners who forgot to water frequently. You see, Peat moss is hydrophobic. Once it dries out and cakes up, its hard to get water back into it. Coir absorbs water. We will post a quick U tube video demonstrating this by dropping a chunk of each in water so you can see what it does. The Peat moss floats forever like a little raft. The coir absorbs water just like a sponge. Actually, this is the main reason for frequent watering when using  peat moss, and I suspect is probably the main cause of problems contributing to over-watering. Finding the balance between damp and wet is precarious. In the VEG system we use drip irrigation set on low to maintain proper moisture, and this works great with Peat Moss based potting soils.    
          The practical solution for utilizing run off /  drainage in the Vertical Eco Garden design was to give all the plant roots shared access to a continual vertical chamber containing the root growth media. Gravity does the rest. It works. And it looks like I need to make a big organic salad. 
And then of course, since it works so well we decided to expand on that.
        For a bed, box or conventional garden that is a min of 12 inches deep,  you can use the Tom Ogren, Vertical Eco Garden and I am sure there are others, approach to potting soil that utilizes air,  thus a more bio-intensive soil. The differences are in the amount of soil, labor and cost. Your results on the ground will be determined also by Mother Nature. This differs from the Vertical Eco Garden design. It is more resistant to heat, drought, torrential rain and foraging.  In the picture above, there will be a wide variety of 125 high yield plants in a garden space of 15 sq ft using a total of only 28 cu ft of potting soil, or 7 cu ft per each VEG. This soil can be easily removed through the bottom openings and amended for recycling. A 4 ft X 8ft X 12in height box will need 32 cu ft to grow 32 plants.  
        The enviro friendly non toxic, treated Geotextile fabric can last for a very long time, much longer than un-treated lumber that is placed on the ground. And we need to turn that around. In addition to burning less of the carbon based molecule that is ideal for construction and materials, lets save the trees that are better left alive to absorb carbon. OK? There is no weeding or cultivating required with Vertical Eco Gardening.  Evaporation removes heat and heat is not absorbed or stored over night as with ground gardens because the plants provide their own shade. Organic bug control? less pest come from the pavement than the ground. There is less waste as the excess water and nutrients draining from the upper plants feed the plants below.  The Vertical Eco Gardens in the above are mounted on wheels and can be relocated for more or less sun, (note the lettuce or shade tolerant plants face due east for only morning sun). The gardens in this picture can be rolled into a building at night for a longer growing season. 
        The over all cost goes way down each consecutive year they are used. The loose media also facilitates automated soil exchange of the potting soil and should open the door to Commercial Urban Farming as soon as this is viewed as more of a business opportunity rather than an identity. Also, if you like to garden and would like to have more free time on more important things, please visit  us at www.verticalecogarden.com to learn more about The Vertical Eco Garden and maybe it will spark some more ideas. 

Rice Hulls… Sink or swim?

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Organic Amending bed gardens and  potting soil for aeration

They sink. The Question is, What is significant about rice hulls sinking as it relates to using them in a growing medium? For these hulls to go from being suspended on the top of the water and then sinking to the bottom, they had to be absorbent. What can also be observed in the bottom photo is, they keep their hull shape after soaking in water for 24 hours. The cellulose make-up of  a boiled rice hull contributes to it’s ability to maintain some of its rigid characteristics after it has been exposed to moisture. This facilitates aeration in a soil needed for a microbial rich environment to produce phosphorus and root growth hormones.

The cellulose makeup and slowely resist decomposition, however,  the hulls are organic and do decompose. Many garden soils, potting soils and top soils, available in bags at retail stores will list compost rice hulls as one of their materials. So, in addition to providing moisture control, and aeration to the soil, we believe boiled rice hulls can be used as a nutrient amendment as well. Please read our previous blogs on boiled rice hulls and join in on the discussion.