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Sunday, August 28, 2016



DIY SIPs For Seed Starters

Acronyms are great, aren't they?  Great for everyone that throws them around with great glibness!  Personally, I'm not a big fan of acronyms, they are difficult for me to remember what they mean and then when multiple meanings of an acronyms are involved the context and meaning must be remembered.  Phooey.

So, what is a DIY SIP?  It is a "do it yourself, sub irrigation planter".  Sub irrigation is ideal because it allows the soil to wick moisture from the water reservoir below as the plant needs them. With the tempermental seeds we've started, it is probably the most ideal solution for starting seeds that require a lot of moisture, but can easily become waterlogged and rot.

Simple SIP Mechanics

Many people have crafted all sorts of great ways to make a sub irrigation planter.  It has worked really well for many people and their plants and personally something similar to the diagram to the right was the most successful starter for my one surviving avocado tree, as noted in the diary entry of July 28, 2014: 1803 Days To Fresh Fruit..

In all versions there is some way of creating a place for a water reservoir at the bottom of the pot and a way for the water to get wicked up into the soil.  I currently have an old wine bottle cut in half and inverted to wick water up into the reservoir for another avocado pit that developing great root structure so far.

Seed SIPs

I like the SIPs and wanted to use it for all the little tropical seeds we're trying to start.  The Jackfruit seeds have become very green, two of the lychee seeds split, a rambutan seed needed quick starting and some of the longen seeds have been soaked for a few days.  The construction of the Seed SIP is really simple and transitions from water soaking to SIP really easily.

The materials needed are:

  1. Little desert or shot cups
  2. Leca clay
  3. Left over tulle fabric
  4. Potting Soil
  5. Label marker
  6. Seeds

Lets Get Started On The SIPs

Little desert or shot cup with Leca clay

We're using the same little cups  that we had in the windowsill to soak all the seeds.  The Leca clay was put in the bottom to help retain moisture and work similar to broken clay or stones used for drainage in larger planters.
We had some soaked in a weak solution of miracle grow and then dried out.  They may expand a little as the water is soaked in.

Tulle fabric layered on
We have TONS of tulle fabric that was purchased for making our own bee hats (to be detailed at a later time).  The tulle fabric will help keep the large pieces of the potting soil above the water reservoir, but some smaller particles will filter through, for sure.  

We want loose aerated soil so letting the smaller particles drop through isn't a major problem, so the tulle fabric will work fine and we don't have to worry about using weed blocker or other fabrics used for larger pots.  We also are keeping a stainless steel chop stick on hand to poke down the sides here and there.

After the tulle layer, we add the potting soil.  It should be put in loosely and not packed down.  Not all the way, but at a place estimated to accommodate the proper seed depth for the particular seed being planted.  

Jackfruit seed, soaked for a week
For the jackfruit, it was about an inch below the lip of the cup.  The jackfruit seed was put in and some soil put on top of the seed.  Then after all the seeds are set up, they look like the bunch of cups in the window sill (as displayed in the lead photo.)

On a side-note, the jackfruit seed was interesting to see after a week.  It looks like it is splitting to form the leaf or something.  Time to plant it before it collects bacteria and rots.  For some reason, it seems beneficial to plant these tropical seeds on the side and not with any particular end pointing downward, so each and every seed was laid flat.

Cross our fingers, hope for some delicious fruits in the next five years or so!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Good Fruits

Mangosteen, Rambutan and Longan

Good Fruits

I was happy to find the fruits I've been looking for at the Chinese Cultural Center today.  I made the scoop with some Longan, Rambutan and Purple Mangosteen.  Not knowing what is or is not ripe, I just picked some and got it home, pretty excited to try out some of these new fruits. 

Rotten Mangosteen

I started out with the Mangonsteen.  It was the one most difficult fruit to find locally.  It was difficult to open most of them, one was very blackened and much was cast aside.  It was a big disappointment, but it is better to pay $6.99 a lb with this risk rather than order it shipped for $90.00 and get just as little.  

The clue, as I've read, is that the mangosteen is overripe when the peel is really hard and firm.  In fact, in a video it showed that the mangosteen dripped juice when it was cut into.  None of these had juice when cut.  Out of the 10 fruits, I was able to eat probably 3 sections worth of fruit just to get an idea of what a fresh mangosteen is like.  

Being the queen of fruits, perhaps they are better fresh, because although they are pretty tasty, I would not pay more than I paid at the Cultural center.  None of these had seeds that could be used for growing, so I guess my search for fresh mangosteen continues.

Partially peeled Rambutan


Of the three similar fruits, Rambutan, Longan and Lychee, Rambutan is my pick.  It is a bit tart and very sweet.  I really like tart and sweet.  Very similar to a grape as many others have posted in their blogs.  Very tasty.

Longan fruits, One partially peeled.

The order of favorites, most to least, is Rambutan, Lychee and Longan.  Longan fruit is small but packs quite a taste.  It is like a very ripe canteloupe with a milky kind of finish.  

Musky undertones, sweet finish.  Sweetness hangs around for quite some time.

After trying these fruits, I'm definitely going to grow some... or at least attempt to in our arid, non tropical environment.  These three are good candidates for container gardening and large, imperial bonsai.  

Friday, August 19, 2016

Late Season Produce

Armenian cucumber plant

Late Season Produce

We got a late start this year for planting.  That didn't stop the armenian cucumbers and other plants from getting busy.  This is actually a great time of year for these plants and we will soon be deep in fresh produce.

Honeysuckle, armenian cucumber , tomato, peppers
We have several types of plants growing on the
dog run fence, along with some honeysuckle on the gate arbor.  It looks really nice and we're looking forward to being able to garden again.

We tried some cluster planting and the vine shade from the cucumbers seem to be helping keep the tomato and pepper roots cool.

We can't wait to get some fresh food on the table.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Window Farm, Version I

Water Pump Window Farm

Window Farm, Version I

We finally put together the first window farm.  We didn't completely research how to manage the window farm with an air pump, so the mechanics are based on moving water through the system using a water pump.

When I was a member of, the first version was this type of system.  There were reasons for changing to the air lift system, mostly due to using less energy and some discussion about being able to properly oxygenate the water.

We did a test set up with three planters to start with.  The results seem promising, so the remaining 18 pots were set up with plants that should do best year round in this type of set up.


Test start for lemon thyme

We made a ballast to hang the planters from some wood we had around.  I also have old jewelry making cord that was used for the airy macrame planter hangers instead of jute, but jute would look really natural and neutral.  

For the test start, we used one of our favorite herbs, lemon thyme and a random selection of lettuce seeds, but I didn't document which type of lettuce it was.  

The lemon thyme sprouted within 5 days.  We have one lettuce sprout so far from an
Random lettuce sprout
unknown number of seeds planted and unknown type of lettuce.  I'm not sure if the seed viability is the issue or if they are just slow to sprout.

Seed Selections

We have such trouble here with something(s) eating our lettuce and leaf crops that we decided to make the window farm a salad bar.  These types of plants don't need to be pollinated, we don't want them to flower and they seem to adapt really well to this type of growing environment.  The seeds include Lettuce; Black Seed Simpson, Yugoslavian Red Butterhead, Tango, Spanish Mix, Romain, Winter Density, and SloBolt.  Also selected arugula and spinach to finish off the leafy type of greens.  We're going to try out some green onions, cilantro, snow peas and yardlong beans as well.  The vining plants are at the bottom of the window farm.

Window Farm Salad Mix

Setting Up The Plants

  1. The LECA balls were put into a third 5 gallon bucket, covered with a weak nutrient solution to get the plants off to a good start.  The soaking was at least 24 hours in order for the LECA balls to absorb the nutritive solution.  
  2. A single layer of LECA balls were added to the bottom of the net cups.  
  3. The rockwool plugs were added on top of the single layer of LECA balls and then the net cup was dunked into the LECA balls to scoop up and capture LECA balls around the perimeter of the rockwool to keep the plugs centered.  This also wetted the rockwool for the start up.  
  4. Seeds were added to the top of the RockWool or pushed into the Rockwool divot depending on the seed sizes.  
  5. The net pots were dropped into the planters.

The Mechanics

Early Renditions of Window Farms

The mechanics of the system we made is based on one of the first versions of the WindowFarm.  We don't have the bottom pipe, everything just leads to a single bucket.  

We also aren't recycling water bottles.  My issue with the bottles is that the growth is forced in one direction and the humidity inside the bottle may be too much for some plants.  Aside from that, the optics didn't quite suit me.

Many items can be used for the planters as long as a 3" net pot can fit into the top of the chosen planter or somewhere inside the chosen planter.

Next Up

I still want to use the air pump for the Window Farm.  Lim San has created a system with a 7' lift from floor to top of the watering system and has done a fine job of it.  Subscribe to see his modified version which works really well.

An air lift system has been recorded to propel water up 18'!  As far as I can find, this record hasn't been beat yet...  So many possibilities...