How to Build a Deep Water Culture, Hydroponic Floating Bed

This project has been by far the most productive, and rewarding one we've ever taken on.  We truly believe that hydroponics is the future of farming.  With systems like this one, you save yourself time because there's no daily watering, no weeding, and the whole system uses about 1/3 of the water that traditional gardening does. Maybe even less.  We love that these beds make gardening so easy! We built them knee level so there's no bending over which makes it perfect for anyone with back problems or the elderly.

While there is a little bit of money involved in building the beds, the investment will pay off! You'll be able to grow MORE FOOD, in LESS SPACE, and use LESS WATER.  

We ended up building 4 beds, two for each greenhouse.  We also installed shade cloth over part of the bed for our lettuces and leafy greens to protect them from the sun once the weather started to warm up.  

Experimenting with nutrients and trying different crops has been so fun! Below is how we built our beds, lined out in a few easy steps... 

Here are the supplies you'll need:

(1) 4'x8' sheet of plywood
(10) cinderblocks (optional)
(2) 2 inch x 8 inch x 8 ft. long boards
(2) 2 inch x 8 inch x 45 inch long boards
(2) 1 inch x 2 inch x 8 ft. long boards
(2) 1 inch x 2 inch x 45 inch long boards
(1 large box) 1 1/2 inch coated deck screws
(1 med. box) 3 inch long coated deck screws
(1 roll) 6 mil plastic sheeting
(1) 2 inch x 4' x 8' styrofoam insulation board

Net Pots, Growing Medium, Seedlings, Nutrients, Air pump*
Air-stone*, & a Submersible pump*

Watch as we create the system in this time-lapse video! 

Step 1: Create a level base for the site of your {Deep Water Culture, Hydroponic Floating Bed}.
You can place the bed directly onto the ground or use cinderblocks to create a knee-level bed that is easier to harvest from. 

Step 2: Lay a 4'x8' sheet of plywood onto your level base. 

Step 3: Attach a 2 inch x 8 inch x 8 ft. long board on both long sides of the bed for walls, using a thick bead of liquid nail.  Do the same thing for the short sides of the bed using 2 inch x 8 inch x 45 inches long boards.  Liquid nail all of the seams together. 

Step 4: Secure the walls to the plywood using 1 1/2 inch coated deck screws every six inches around the perimeter of the bed. 

Step 5: Screw corners together using 3 inch long, coated deck screws. 

Step 6: Use a roll of 6 mil plastic to fill the interior of the bed.  Do this two times creating a double layer for strength. 

Step 7: Using a garden hose, fill the bed with water up to just 1 inch from the top.  Smooth out any air bubbles as the bed fills. 

Step 8: Fold plastic tightly over the edges, and using a 1 inch x 2 inch board, secure the edge of the plastic to the bed with 1 inch coated deck screws. 

Step 9: Once the plastic is secured down with the boards all the way around the bed, use a razor blade to cut the excess plastic off. 

Step 10: Top off the bed with water until it's almost to the top.

Step 11: Lay a 2 inch x 4' x 8' styrofoam insulation board on the ground.  Using a hole saw, drill holes into the board at whatever spacing you desire. This will depend on what you'll be growing in your bed.  Drill the hole size to match whatever size of net pot you'll be using.

Step 12: Place your seedlings and grow medium into the net pot.  We recommend using rock wool pellets because they are so lightweight and won't make the board sag in the middle from excess weight.  

Step 13: Add nutrients to water & start growing!

**Additionally you might want to consider adding an air pump with an air-stone to your hydroponic bed. This will help increase oxygen levels in the water.   You can also add a small submersible pump to help circulate the water for even nutrient dispersion. **

Hydroponic tomato plant

Hydroponic genovese basil plant

Hydroponic cabbage seedlings

Homegrown Easy Refrigerator Pickled Radishes

These easy refrigerator pickled radishes are quick to make and quick to disappear since they are delightful on salads, sandwiches or snacked on right from the jar!  They can literally go from garden to jar in about 5 minutes and will last up to three months stored in the refrigerator (although we doubt they'll last that long!).
Because these are refrigerator pickles, there's no need for canning equipment, so anyone can make these at home with a few simple ingredients and jar or airtight container. 

Begin by harvesting your radishes & gathering your ingredients.

You'll need:
1 large bunch of your favorite radishes with the greens removed.
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. of your favorite pickling spice
1. Slice radishes thinly with a mandolin and place into a clean mason jar or container that has a lid.
2. Bring vinegar, honey, salt, and pickling spice to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Then let cool.
3. Ladle pickling brine into the jar/container with the thinly sliced radishes.
4. Seal container with a lid and once cooled all the way, place into the refrigerator.
Your radishes will be ready to eat within 24 hours, however for maximum flavor we suggest letting them marinate in the pickling brine for a week or so.  These picked radishes will last for up to 3 months stored in the fridge. 

Tips for Growing Oregano in Your Herb Garden

Growing oregano at home is easy and very rewarding! We enjoy it in many culinary dishes we create and the goats and chickens even enjoy it as a snack!  It's great for chickens because it naturally boosts their immune systems and can combat diseases like salmonella, coccidia and e-coli. If you want to learn more about other herbs that you can grow to help boost the health of your flock, click here! 

At our homestead we grow two different varieties of oregano, and they are both equally delicious. We grow Mexican Oregano and Greek Oregano

The Trails in Port Angeles, Wa.

Noahh with her "Minnie" and her fruit snacks! Happy life. 

Even when we're home in Washington state we still look like tourists. We each have a Nikon camera and enjoy taking them on all of our adventures.   It's fun to see the different perspectives that all three of us have when we get home and upload the images for editing.

Since this walk of ours was near a seaport village, Becca found it appropriate to bring her AG doll Caroline! So fun.  

Noahh blew "wish" after "wish"! 

(I told you we always look like goofy tourists)

Becca picked wildflowers along the trails. By the time our walk was over she had the most beautiful little bouquet. 

Although slightly windy, it was the perfect day for a beach walk! 

Becca picking all sorts of "pretties" for her flower bouquet. So many colors to choose from! 

Found these old things... I'm guessing old railway ties but I'm no expert!

How to Prep Your Hugelkulture for Planting

We love utilizing our hugelkulture.  We make sure to grow most of our heavy feeders like watermelons, pumpkins, summer and winter squash here. Basically, anything requiring a lot of water.  Because the hugelkulture is set up to retain moisture inside, this makes it an ideal way to grow crops like I just mentioned. 

During the winter months, we cover the hugelkulture with cardboard and mulch. This helps keep the soil from eroding with the heavy rains and the straw and cardboard break down over the winter months.  By the time spring arrives, we start amending the soil with compost, a little more organic top soil, and steer manure.  Steer manure is our secret weapon in the garden beds, and the hugelkulture is no exception.

Once we've added the extra soil, compost and manure, we give it a good mix and plant our seedlings that we started indoors.  By now the spring bulbs are even coming up in front of the bed which always adds a nice touch of bright color while we wait for the bed to fill up with lovely squash plants and vines.  

We've found that the best way to water our hugelkulture bed is with a soaker hose. This prevents unwanted moisture from hitting the leaves preventing powdery mildew from forming.

It's July and we're now starting to harvest from our hugelkulture!   We're harvesting squash of every flavor...yellow crookneck, zucchini, round zucchini, caserta squash and more! 

We love planting sunflowers inside the hugelkulture. This encourages the bees to stop by and do as much pollinating as possible to ensure we have a bountiful harvest.

In the next few months, this bed will be overflowing with pumpkins, summer and winter squash and melons galore.  Stay tuned! ;)

How to Make A Vine Tee-Pee for a Whimsical Garden

Vine tee-pees are a fun way to encourage children to spend more time in the garden. They will add a whimsical touch that even the adults will appreciate and are not only fun to look at but are extremely functional because they save space in the garden by using vertical gardening techniques. 

You can construct your own vine tee-pee this weekend with minimal materials, often free that you may already have on hand.  This is a great project to get the kids involved with because they'll enjoy creating a fun space for them to read, play and make-believe. 

Step 1:  Start by selecting your building site. 
Depending on what you'd like to grow on your tee-pee, make sure to position the structure in the appropriate, full sun or partial shade location. 

Step 2:  Choose the material you'll use to construct your tee-pee.
These tee-pees can be made using free materials such as old branches from a nearby tree, which makes them even more desirable! Free garden projects win me over every time.  You can also use bamboo or other wooden stakes that you may have access too.  We chose to use some branches from an old apple tree we had, because I love adding "rustic" touches throughout my garden. 

(Here you can see the construction of our tee-pee, the metal stakes, and the garden twine that we wrapped around the tee-pee structure.)

Step 3:  Build the tee-pee and secure to ground.
You'll probably need an extra set of hands for this part, as you stand all of the pieces upward creating the tee-pee's shape.  Once you have them all in place, secure the top of the tee-pee together using strong twine or rope.   Then secure the bottom of the tee-pee to the ground using garden stakes. We drove metal stakes into the ground and drilled the wooden branches to them so it was very secure. Last thing I'd ever want to see happen is this blowing over or falling over when the kids were under it. 

Step 4: Wrap your tee-pee in twine.  
Using garden twine or yarn, wrap the sides of the tee-pees so that the vines will have more to grab onto. This will help the tee-pee fill in faster and more evenly.  

(1st year of growth, in the Fall when the leaves are starting to change colors and fall off.)

Step 5:  Choose what to plant at the base of the tee-pee poles. 
On this tee-pee, we're growing clematis flowering vines as well as male and female kiwi plants.
We wanted this tee-pee to be filled with perennials, but if you wanted to replant each year you could try growing any of these varieties: 
Peas, Pole Beans, Nasturtiums, Squash (vining), Cucumbers, & Melons

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