So I have been asked by a few to make a more comprehensive guide to the way I garden. Well this will be the place to come to learn. I will try to write up a fair amount on each subject but I will be leaning more on natural farming (of course)
The Hippies Guide to Indoor Gardening
First off lets start talking about soil. Now I am not talking about the commercial bagged potting soil that you buy from your local garden center that is completely dead and you end up having to force feed your plants. What I'm talking about is the soil far out in the forest, undisturbed by the foot of man, teeming with life.
This soil has been created over many years of plants growing and dying season after season. The plants grow, flower, set seed, die, decompose and then become food for the seeds they have just planted. The animals, bacteria and fungi help break down and turn organic material into the most beautiful soil you have ever laid your eyes on. They also hold onto and exchange nutrients. Everything from the rocks to the little insects become rich soil for plants to flourish. This is what we are trying to recreate when we bring natural farming inside, but when we are growing medicine we will be taking something from the soil every time we harvest, this means we have to add some food to feed the soil to keep that soil food web going! There is no such thing as bad soil. Because soil is full of life. That is why promix is called soil-less. You can have bad dirt, hard clay and full of chemicals but with some good compost and some time you can turn that barren wasteland into the most fertile rich soil you could want!
What is fertilizer? a fertilizer is any material that is applied to your soil or plants to feed them. There are many fertilizers out there and 90% of them work just great! Most of the fertilizers around nowadays are synthetic chemicals made in a lab mixed with water in a bottle then sold. This is quite sad because of the problems they can cause to our earth and it makes everyone think harder about what mother nature should be thinking about for you.
There are more and more organic and natural fertilizers coming on board and this is a great step towards helping the earth but they tend to hurt your wallet! I don't like using the term fertilizer or nutrient but rather food. I have seen people selling fermented fruits and plants for up to 50 bucks a gallon that you can make it in 14 days with about 5 dollars worth of sugar. (that's where this guide is handy) We will get into using things you can forage for free or buy for cheap to feed your soil. You never need to hit that hydro store. Instead you'll be hitting that farmers market!
There are many kinds of horticultural lighting around today and tomorrow everything will be out dated. We have HID, CFL, LED, CMH, PL, DE HID, Fluros, and im sure there are a few I am missing! Depending on your needs and how much money you saved going to natural farming will help you find out which lighting is best for you! I will talk a little on the popular ones.
HID lighting is cheap to buy but not to run and its easy to get. It can get really hot so it needs cooling but they are a great go to!
LED lighting is probably the most expensive you can get. But some say its worth it! There is a lot around so do some research on your brand because most of it is garbage. If you see diodes tha..... Im not gonna get into this
LEDs are improving everyday. they wont get as hot as HIDs will but that's not to say they cant get hot. They sure can if you got the power pumping through them. There are different types of leds out but SMD (surface mount diodes) and COB (chip on board) are the best.... If you get them from a reputable company like cree, bridgelux, or Samsung.
CFL/Fluro lighting is very popular for veg plants. they are easy to find, cheap to buy and run, not much heat, and they grow good plants! Not much to say about these other then they work great!
CMH/plasma lighting is really new, they have a medium to high cost and I hear they work great but I don't know much on these.
There are also a bunch of pots on the market today. The basic plastic pot is a great go to for everyone starting up. You can get them for very cheap and they work good but they have a few cons like less air to the medium and a higher chance for root bound plants, you can also break them. There are much better options then a plain plastic pots though. There are several companies including smart pot, root pouch, and geo planter that are making fabric pots. These pots allow lots of air to the medium, they air prune roots to help prevent root bound plants, and they are super easy to ship around because you can just fold them up. You can even get them in 400+ gallon sizes if you need something that big outside! The fabric pots are my favorite! There is another company called airpots. They are plastic pots with holes in the sides that stick out. They also air prune roots, but I haven't heard as much good about these as the smart pots.
When I decide to start up a garden my first thought is soil. Well I use Mountain Organics soil mix with some added extras! It is based off the famous Clackamas coot recipe which is based off the Cornell university soil mix.
Base: 1:1:1 sphagnum peat moss: high quality amended compost, and aeration.
Pre amend the compost using
1 Cup Kelp
1 Cup Neem
1 Cup Crab Shell
1 Cup Powdered Malted Barley
1/2 Cup Gypsum
1/2 Cup Clay
4-6 Cups of Rock Dust
4-6 Cups Biochar
This is used on 1 cubic foot of compost and then mixed with the peat and aeration
Using the peat moss you want to break it up from the bail and wet it down with a wetting agent. I like to use aloe vera or soap nuts! I will use 1/2-1 cup of fresh aloe in a blender per gallon of water or one soap nut soaked in water over night then used on a gallon. Water the peat moss like a pot and make sure to use your hands to get that water in there. Peat moss is hydrophobic when its dried out so the water wont soak in very easy. That's why we use the wetting agent and our hands. I will also add LAB to the mix while soaking the peat just for those extra microbes.
For aeration you can use anything from bio char to rice hulls to lava rock or pumice. If you are going the no till route I would suggest using the rice hulls but not adding them to your aeration part of the soil mix. Rice hulls are great for silica but they break down fast so they wont be aeration for very long in a constantly decomposing no till mix. I use lava rock because I can get it in town! Pumice would be my choice because it is much more lightweight then lava rock. There is also a product out called growstone that works amazing and is very lightweight also and its made from recycled glass bottles. now it is kind of expensive but you get the satisfaction of helping the earth a bit more:)
The malted barley I use is from a brewery. Its about 1-2 bucks a pound and lasts around 6 months so just get what you need. 2 row has more of the enzymes were after vs 6 row. Make sure to get it in grain form. Not rolled or powdered. Not the syrup either. Just the grain. Get the grain and go get a cheap 10 dollar coffee grinder. I also use this a lot in my worm bin and as a topdress. its packed full of enzymes and nutrients, it also keeps away pests and contains chitin.
Once it is all mixed up you will want to add a handful of worms to each pot (5 worms per 100 gallons works great) and then mulch with about an inch or two or straw, hay, dead grass, whatever. Even a live mulch like clover alfalfa or fenugreek. The worms along with help from millions of others your soil will slowly transform into some AMAZING vermi compost! Depending on the size of your pot and how many worms you add will tell you how long your pot has till its all castings. A 5 gallon pot can last you about 3 cycles until its fully worm castings. When this happens you can take the castings out of the pot and use that as the compost ratio of another batch of soil. Just amend lightly and mix with peat and aeration!
Next thing I think about is what pot am I going to use?
I like to use the biggest fabric pot I can actually move by myself once its full of soil. I find 10-20 gallons is the perfect size. This allows a lot of room for the roots to grow and for better water retention than smaller pots. If you plan to stay living where you are for at least the next 10 years you could consider putting a bigger pot in your house. I have seen 200 gallon fabric pots inside so its possible, it would just be a pain to move after.
Now what am I going to plant in it?
This is a big question for a lot of us and it will be totally depending on your needs!
Wide leaf varieties grow short and fat and usually have tight flowers because they come from dry regions of the world. Narrow leaf varieties tend to grow very tall and with airy flowers because they come from hot and humid regions. Hybrids usually have the best of both worlds again depending on your needs. There are tons of seed companies and breeders out there so make sure to do some research before you spend lots of money on some bunk genetics. I always tell people good genetics are like a fast car. It doesn't take a race car driver to go fast in a nice car, but give that race car driver a shitty car and he will lose every race.
Now that you have some seeds we gotta get them popped! There are lots of ways of doing so. Everything you add to germinating is another step for possible failure so I like to keep it simple. Now the best way to plant the seeds would be to take them and plant them directly in the soil with a little soil covering it. If you have a mulch drop the seed in the mulch and keep it wet. This eliminates us humans messing with it and screwing things up!
Seeds are popped and now you need to start watering if you haven't already after filling up your pot so here is what I do
My watering schedule is 2 weeks long so I get two a month.
Day 1 Malted barley topdress watered in with aloe vera, silica, and fulvic acid. OR seed sprout ferment.
Day 2 Nothing
Day 3 Plain water
Day 4 Kelp tea, ferment or topdress
Day 5 Nothing
Day 6 OHN
Day 7 Nothing
Day 8 Neem tea, ferment or topdress
Day 9 Nothing
Day 10 LAB
Day 11 Nothing
Day 12 Coconut water (add tm7 once per month)
Day 13 Nothing
Day 14 Plain water
I feed the soil from the day its put into the pot until the day you remove the soil to make some more!
And that's it. It is basically Mountain Organics watering schedule fixed to my needs and ferments added.
I Switch out some feedings for different ferments sometimes. They also help for fixing problems, kick starting soil life, and all around health.
IPM (Integrated Pest Management)
You want to start on your IPM asap! Maybe even before your pots are filled. Spray down everything, your plants tops and bottoms of leaves, your mulch and your pot.
For my IPM I like to spray once a week using several kinds of carrier oils and essential oils switched up weekly.
The recipe is basicly the same for all the oils.
1:1 oil:silica. Stir these together until they are fully combined and milky. now mix this with lukewarm water. Use 1 tablespoon of neem and silica per gallon of water. Add some aloe vera and some essential oils then shake and spray. I tend to only need about 500ml so I break it down.
You can also make your own IPM using several different methods. Chrysanthemum ferments and teas work amazing, OHN (oriental herbal nutrient) also works great for it! EM#5 was made to get rid of black mold. This is LAB with some added essential oils and other things.
Now that your babies are growing and healthy we can start talking about different training methods. Growing indoors we are all limited to height (unless you have a warehouse or no ceilings?) and we are limited to or light source. So to get around this we will train our plants to grow how we want them too. There are a few methods so lets get into them.
LST (Low Stress Training)
This is my favorite way of training. you take the top of your plant and you tie it off to the side to allow the lower branches to get more light. That's it. I like this way the most because you get those side branches but you don't have a recovery time.
HST (High Stress Training)
I only do this with plants that are asking for it. With this method you want to take the eye of the plant (the main tip) and cut it off. this will cause the lower branches to become the main tops and there will be two or 4 of them depending on how you topped ( ex. FIM)
This method is usually used in my garden but only on strong branches. Here you want to grab a branch and squeeze it till you feel it give in between your fingers, then bend it where you need it to go. This takes some practice and is easy to fuck up. If you break any branches you can cut a straw down one side and use it as a brace then you go to your sour dough starter (what you don't have a sourdough starter?? well how are you making bread? ) or commercial yeast and mix it with some water. Just a little does the trick. Now give your plants a foliar. This helps heal broken limbs.
There are some other methods like mainlining and fluxing that I am not very familiar with.
mainlining you let the plant grow 3 or 4 nodes then top the plant and strip everything off the bottom. once the two tops grow top those and strip everything. Keep doing that till you have around 8 tops. this is give you only colas if done right. With fluxing you put a stake or wood or something under the pot that sticks out a foot or two on both sides. you top the plant once, take the two tops and tie them off to the sides towards the stake. now keep tying the two tops to the stakes allowing the other branches to form. when they form tie them down out to the sides where there are no poles. this gives you a plant that is very low and wide with a ton of tops.
How to make your own nutrients
LABS Lactic Acid Bacteria Serum
This is almost everyone's first Korean natural farming input.
First is the rice wash. One night have some rice for supper and take a cup of it and wash it with a cup or two of clean water. Collect this water in a jar and cover it with a breathable lid for around 3 days (leave it till you see white green red purple yellow or whatever color that isn't black for nitrogen fixing bacteria in your LAB). Once separated you want to mix it with milk. They say 1:10 ratio so you would need 10 cups of milk per cup of rice wash. Personally I just fill the jar with the rice wash in it 3/4 full with milk. Now let it sit for about another 3 days until it separate's. You will notice 3 layers. the top is a curd that you can use to make cheese with or just feed it to your animals or compost. My animals LOVE it!
The middle layer will be yellow. This is what we are after. Strain out the curd and collect this LAB serum. This stuff can be capped tightly if stored in the fridge. If storing at room temp you want to mix is 1:1 with sugar or molasses. Good for a long time! This is used at 1:1000 and is safe to use every watering. Also drink some yourself
FFJ/FPJ Fermented Fruit/Plant Juice
This is pretty basic. You want to collect plants that are packed full of nutrients and growing really fast. Stinging nettle, Comfrey, Dandelions, Horsetail etc. Each plant has different nutrients so if you are looking for specific things be sure to research which plants contain what you are looking for. Once you have the plants collected you want to cut them all up and mix them by weight 1:1 with an organic sugar. Now cover this with a breathable lid or just lay a lid onto so gas can escape and leave in a warm dark spot for 7-14 days. After the fermenting is done you want to strain bottle and label everything. When storing these ferments you don't want to seal them off as they omit gasses and that can cause some explosions. They say the ferments last for a year but many have had success after many years of storage.
You can also ferment dry amendments like kelp and neem, you just want to soak these with beer or vinegar or some water before mixing with sugar. Kelp is easy to hydrate but neem will take up to 24hrs and can take in a lot of water.
IMO Indigenous Micro Organisms
This one take a little bit of getting the hang of. What you want to do is cook up some rice. Cook it hard ( use less water then it calls for). Then fill a wooden box 3/4 of the way full. Don't pack it down as you want the air in there. now cover this box with wood or a screen, anything to keep critters out. Take this box deep in the woods. REAL DEEP. Now dig a hole so half the box goes into the ground. Cover the box with leaves and go home. It usually takes between 3-7 days for the IMOS to take over the rice. People say 5 days is the sweet spot. Once done take it home and check for black mold. If there is any just cut it out and remove it. If not you want to break up this chunk and mix it 1:1 with sugar to store it. Store however you can. 5 gal buckets are good for large batches. You can take this and make IMO#3 #4 and #5 by mixing this with different things and other inputs then placing it in different areas.
OHN Oriental Herbal Nutrient
This is the most expensive, time consuming input. To make OHN you want to ferment Garlic, Ginger, angelica, cinnamon, and licorice root just like you do with an FPJ. But here we have some dry ingredients. Do the same thing to these. Soak for 24hrs using beer or vinegar. Then once soaked mix 1:1 with sugar and stir every morning for 14 days. Once done strain 3/4 of it and leave a bit. Now mix with sugar again for a second extraction. You can do this between 2-5 times. Keep all these inputs in separate jars and mix when needed. Once all your extractions are done you can mix it with booze. Vodka is used because its everywhere. 3/4 bottle ohn 1/4 booze. I personally don't use vodka because I cant find organic non gmo vodka so just leaving it like the rest of your ferments is fine! To mix the ohn you want to use 1 part everything cept angelica, you use 2 parts angelica. 2:1:1:1:1. Feel free to add other things like turmeric to the mix.
OHN isn't much of a nutrient but its an amazing IPM spray and its a medicine for sick plants and people. Use at 1:1000. safe to use every watering and make sure you take some everyday for your health.
We should all have an aloe vera plant around. These things are full of amino and fatty acids, minerals and vitamins, it boosts the immune system, and also its a Disinfectant, Germicidal, Anti-biotic, Anti-microbial, Anti-bacterial, Anti-septic, Anti-fungal and Anti-viral. Plus is helps with burns. All these benefits are good in the garden too. Aloe also has lots of saponins and salicylic acids which help with the systemic acquired resistance of your plants. So go get one or ten of these!
A Nutrient Garden
You can easily grow everything you need to grow plants. You can plant alfalfa which mines minerals from deep within the earth with its long roots. It also drinks up lots of nutrients so you can feed it what you want it to be rich in for when you harvest. Oh and did I mention you can cut it back many times a year for several harvests?
There is a hybrid of comfrey going around that doesn't set seed so you get to get roots. The name is Russian comfrey bocking #14. This plant is one strong plant. You can stomp on it, set it on fire, anything besides dry out the main root or pour a bottle of roundup on it and it will survive. This comfrey has a very deep root which also mines a lot of minerals for you. Comfrey isn't a legume though so there are no nitrogen fixing bacteria. You want to keep comfrey clean, cut, and fed. No other plants living around it or else they will steal all the nitrogen the comfrey needs. Feed it heavy dosed neem and kelp teas.
There are tons of other plants I could mention to and maybe in another thread ill go deep into some of the items I mentioned here
Starting up a compost
Composting is pretty basic. 3x3feet minimum size and a good c:n ratio for it to heat up and kill anything unwanted. What makes good compost is what you put into it. You can pack it full or garbage and it will compost but you don't get the best stuff you can out of it. You want to add things that will benefit your garden. To start it off I like to use leaves and or organic straw as my carbon. Now ill mix in yarrow, nettle, kelp, neem, alfalfa, comfrey, malted barley, tea and ferment leftovers etc. until the C:N ratio is perfect. Now keep a compost thermometer in there and make sure it stays in the 140 to 160 degree F for atleast a week to ten days. If it doesn't get high enough you need to add more green material until it does then keep it at that range for 7-10 days. Now the pile can get too hot too. If you notice it going into the 165-170F range you want to turn the pile and maybe add some carbon. This thermo compost is pretty quick and can be done within a few months. once you do it once or twice youll get the hang of the C:N ratio. You can always water it with some LAB to help speed up the composting and to cool it down a little, just make sure not to soak your pile!
Once your thermo compost is done you can use this as your food stock (bedding) in your worm bin. You cant get better then this. Layer some fabric pots 1/4 full with compost, mulch then topdress neem and malted barley and repeat until full. add as many worms as you can afford and in a few months this will be the highest quality worm casting you can find!! Pretty simple huh?
What to do with the compost?
That's easy you just put a layer on top of your pots and water it in. If you have a muddy problem mix the compost with rice hulls. You can also do some other things with it.
This is super simple. Add just enough water till it get soaked up then mix with sugar . Strain and store in fridge for a few days max.
This is when you mix some compost with water and a food source and stir for a day or two. No storing.
Actively Aerated Compost Tea
This is just a compost tea with an air stone added into the bucket to keep everything aerobic. No storing.
These are very new on the seen and not many know about it. Mountain Organics at it once again. He started using veggie glycerin to extract the nutrients out of rich plants and live sprouts. The way you do this is easy ( like I said this is all very easy). First off if you are using fresh plants I suggest drying them a bit. I have noticed with too much water in them and you will start to get a mold to grow and it will ruin your batch. Take your herbs and place them in a jar. It is optional but you can pour a little hot water on the herbs first and it will help it extract. Don't go over 25% water though. Now pour in the glycerin till its just above the plant material. You want to let this soak for a long time. If using fresh plants you will only need a few months, but if using dry herbs you should let it sit for at least 6 months stirring every week. once this is done strain store with a tight lid and label. This stores for 1-2 years approx. Use at 1-2tsp per gal
Reverse osmosis water has nothing in it if it was cleaned properly. This can be a benefit to us. When you add herbs to R.O water the water will strip all the nutrients out of the plants. you can then feed this to your plants. R.O water has a lot of waste and isn't needed if you have a good water source. All the minerals and nutrients in spring water help your plants a lot.
I havnt dove into this that much because a good juicer isnt too cheap but its just like juicing for humans. You juice plant material, mix with water and feed your soil. simple. you take the leftover pulp and use it as a mulch so nothing is wasted and you don't have to wait 24hrs for a tea to brew.