Bad Garden Bugs

Part 1

Little bugs can find their way to your garden by riding in on clothing, on other plants or produce, or through an open window or door. If you find some unwanted guests, spray your plants with water to wash them off. Make sure you spray UNDER the leaves as bugs usually reside there. For more persistent pests, an insecticidal soap may be used.

The most common pests for indoor gardens are aphids, mealybugs, scales, spider mites, thrips, and whitefly.

Aphids

These “plant lice,” weaken the plant by sucking the liquid out of its leaves, resulting in curled-wilted-yellowish leaves and ultimately stunt plant growth.

Aphids are small (1/8 inch long), soft bodied, pear-shaped insects that may be green, yellow, brown, red or black in color depending on species and food source. Generally adults are wingless, but some can grow wings, especially if populations are high. They have two whip-like antennae at the tip of the head and a pair of tube-like structures, called cornicles, projecting backward out of their hind end.

Planet Natural

TREATMENT

A natural remedy are Rhubarb leaves, which are semi-poisonous to aphids and can be brewed into a tea.

  • Pour boiling water over crushed rhubarb leaves and let soak for three days
  • Strain and remove leaves
  • Add a few drops of detergent
  • Dilute tea with water and spray over infested plants
  • Repeat every 10 days

 

Seed Pod Growth

  • If mixing different types of Seed Pods together in one garden, remember to prune faster growing plants from the top so the Light Hood remains at the lowest position until all plants are well established.
  • Tomatoes should not be mixed with other plants, as they spread out substantially as they grow. Other smaller plants will not get enough light and nutrient to grow well with tomatoes.
  • As your plants grow, you may see some dead or brown leaves, especially at the lower part of the plant. This is perfectly normal. Remove these leaves with scissors or pinch them off with your fingers.

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TIP OF THE WEEK

Top Tips for Great Growth

  • Set your Light Hood/Grow Lights to the lowest position when starting a new Seed Pod Kit.
  • Always keep your Grow Lights as close to your plants as possible, taking care to trim back the tallest plants so they do not actually touch the Grow Lights. As they mature, plants should be 1 – 2 inches below Grow Lights.
  • Replace your CFL Grow Lights every 6 months for maximum growth and harvests. LED Grow Lights have a 3 – 5 year life span.
  • Be brave enough to prune. Pruning promotes greater health, larger harvests, and more beautiful plants.
  • Plants will grow into each other’s space and block light. To keep all plants in your garden healthy, trim back the leaves from the sides of the plant.
  • Harvest frequently to maintain a healthy garden, but take no more than 1/3 of any plant at a time.
  • For best growth, keep water level near the fill line. Don’t wait for the ‘Add Water’ alert!
  • AeroGarden plants love a fresh water bath! For extra care, you may empty the water out of your bowl every other feeding time (once monthly) and refill with fresh cool water and then add nutrients.

Carolina Ghost pepper

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

WATER

1. Adding Water

  • Add water to “Fill To Here” indicator located under the Water Port flap.
  • Use room temperature tap water or bottled distilled water. Do not use well water which may interfere with our nutrients, or softened water, as it contains levels of sodium usually harmful to plants.
  • The ‘Add Water’ reminder alert will appear on the control panel when the water level is low. For best results, keep the water level topped up to the fill line at all times.

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Pruning your Herb Garden for Maximum Harvest and Beauty

With proper pruning and harvesting you can increase the yield, health and appearance of your herb garden. They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words, so we’ve created step by step instructional video to help you out.

The main points outlined in the video are summarized here:

1.) Prune early and often, especially fast growing basil. In the video, we show the first pruning on a very young garden. The earlier you start pruning, the more you’ll harvest long term!

2.) Keep your lights as low as possible as long as possible. This means prune your fast growing tall plants to keep your lights within 4 inches of your shortest plant.

3.) Prune horizontal growth so that it does not block light to neighboring plants. See the diagram below.

4.) Always prune at a leaf joint. A leaf joint is the point of connection of a leaf with the stem from which a bud arises. See the diagram below.

5.) Never prune more than a 1/3 of the plant at one time.

6.) Pruning the newest growth of basil plants will create more leaf growth and less stem growth.

7.) To keep your thyme and mint plants bushy, remove the pieces that have long stems and few leaves.

8.) Rotate the pods and put the fullest side of the plants out and the thinner side in towards the center of the garden.

9.) Basil, mint and dill are fast growing plants and require more pruning than thyme, oregano, parsley and dill which are slower growing.

How to Harvest, Store, Dry and Freeze Your Herbs

Harvesting 

Detailed harvesting instructions for all of our seed kits can be found in the “Tending and Harvesting Guides” you will find here in the Knowledge Base. Watch the below video demonstrating how to prune and harvest herbs.  

Storing 

If you would like to harvest morHerb 'n Savee herbs than you can use up while they are fresh, you can store them in the refrigerator. Some of the higher water-content herbs such as basil, parsley, savory, epazote, cilantro, chervil, sorrel and mint keep best if stored upright in the refrigerator with their leaves kept relatively dry, but with their stems in water. (To view or purchase a nifty refrigerator “Herb ‘n Save” that works well for storing these herbs, click here.) Most of the lower water-content herbs such as sage, dill, savory, oregano and thyme prefer to be stored in unsealed bags in the fridge, with a piece of paper towel inside the bag to absorb condensation and to moderate humidity. 

Drying 

All herbs can be dried successfully with the proper technique, but the easiest to dry are the lower water-content ones: sage, dill, savory, oregano and thyme. If you want to dry the juicier herbs such as basil, cilantro and mint, extra care must be taken to make sure they do not develop mold before they dry completely. 

To dry herbs, harvest whole stems (with leaves intact) and bundle 4-6 stems together at the base with a rubber band. Make sure the rubber band is tight enough to continue to hold the herb stems as they dry and shrink. Take a small brown paper bag, label it with the name and harvest date of the herb, and poke quite a few holes in the bag for air circulation. Open the bag fully to allow for maximum air flow. Place the herb bundle upside down in the bag, and gather the opening of the bag around the stem ends, tying them up together with a piece of string. Make sure the herbs are not too crowded in the bag, or mold can result.Hang the bag so that the herbs are upside down in a warm room with good air circulation. The bag will help absorb moisture and wick it away from the plants, as well as protect the herbs from light, which will help assure maximum retention of flavor. 

Check the herbs inside the bag in about two weeks to see how they are drying. Check every week or so until they are completely, crispy dry before  placing them in airtight containers for longer-term storage. Zip-close bags will work, but glass jars with tight-fitting lids are preferable, as they are more airtight than plastic bags. Again, make absolutely sure the herbs are bone dry before placing them in airtight containers. Remove the leaves from the stems when they are dry, and store the leaves whole until ready to use in the airtight container. The leaves will retain more essential oil and therefore more flavor if left in whole-leaf form until ready to use. 

You can also dry herbs in the microwave.  Place herb leaves (not stems) between paper towels and microwave on “High” for a minute and a half.  Check for dryness – and they probably will not be dry yet – and then give them additional 30-second microwave blasts on “High”, checking them after each one until they feel completely dry. Careful – you do not want to burn them! then store the whole leaves in an airtight container until ready to use.  They keep best away from light in the refrigerator. 

Use about a teaspoon of crumbled dry leaves in place of a tablespoon of fresh. 

Freezing 

All herbs can be frozen for longer-term storage. There are two methods: whole-leaf freezing, and ice-cube freezing.For either method, harvest only fresh, whole, healthy leaves, wash them if necessary, and pat them dry with a clean towel. To freeze whole leaves, place the leaves on a cookie sheet (making sure they are not touching each other) and place the cookie sheet in the freezer until the herb leaves are frozen solid. You can now take the frozen leaves and put them in a labeled zipper bag in the freezer – now that they are frozen, they will not stick together in a solid mass. 

To make herbal ice cubes, fill ice cube trays half-full with herb leaves, and then cover with water. Place the trays in the freezer until completely frozen, then pop out the cubes and store in labeled zipper bags in the freezer. When ready to use, just add a cube or two to your favorite soup or stew, but don’t expect to use them as a fresh garnish – they will turn black as they thaw.

 

Growing Salad Greens in an Indoor Garden

Salad greens are a staple in daily meals. From sandwiches, as a side, and, often, with a handful of other ingredients as a full meal, salad greens are versatile and delicious. Growing greens at home, all year round is so much better than store-bought for a variety of reasons.

Freshness. Salad greens picked and eaten fresh don’t just taste better, they are better for you. In our studies, lettuce grown in the AeroGarden averaged 3 times the vitamin C of a wide variety of conventionally and organically grown lettuces available at the store.

As store bought lettuce is picked, trucked, packed, shipped, sold and then refrigerated at your home, it’s nutrient clock is ticking, and it has less food value as each minute passes. Compare that to salad greens that stay alive on the plant until right before you eat!

Variety. While grocery stores have gotten better in the past few years, they still can’t match the variety available to grow at home. If you like iceberg, or romaine, or maybe a greens mix, you are set. But if you know there is a world of greens out there, exploding with flavors and textures, it’s hard to be satisfied with only iceberg.

Spicy, horseradishy cress is delicious on roast beef sandwiches or in stir fries. Or, try Chinese cabbage in soups. Arugula, grown on your desktop can make a wickedly spicy snack in the middle of the afternoon. And growing your own salads opens up the whole world of greens as possibilities.

Safety. A recent Center for Disease control study (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2013/01/29/cdc-leafy-greens-cause-nearly-half-food-borne-illnesses) pinned half of the food borne illnesses in the United States on leafy greens. Since when did salad become unhealthy? When you grow your greens at home you know where they have been, what has (or has not!) been sprayed on them, who has touched them and what they’ve been fed.

How to Grow Salad Greens Indoors

For maximum yields of fresh greens in your indoor garden, pay attention to four key factors:

 

1.) LIGHT
Lettuce is a sun loving plant. While it loves cool weather, it needs lots of direct light to produce big yields.

In fact, even with great indoor lighting, you usually won’t get the tight, balled heads of lettuce you are used to seeing in stores. It’s ok though, as that allows us to harvest individual leaves, instead of heads, in what the British call a “cut and come again” style. It extends harvest periods for months!

To see the difference that light makes, look at these two photos of lettuce with good light, and lettuce that is struggling to find enough.

Simply put, without enough light you just won’t get yields that reward you with enough lettuce to make it worthwhile.

That said, what kind of light is best for lettuce? In general, fluorescent lights and LED’s do really well. Lettuce really likes the cool, blue light that fluorescent’s make possible, and the cooler running temperature keeps the growing space in the right range for cool-temp-loving lettuce. Big lights like HPS or metal halide tend to run too hot and the color spectrum tends toward the red, which causes lettuce to bolt. LED’s can grow lettuce very well, and you can find panels that give enough blue light for the lettuce to thrive.

 

2) MEDIA
Growing media is the stuff that plants root into that helps support them and acts as a “medium” through which they get water and nutrients. The best known medium is, of course, dirt. Hydroponic media range from clay pebbles to gravel to peat-based sponges to systems that have almost no media, like raft hydroponics or the AeroGarden.

The main advantage of working with soil-based media is found in their simplicity. People understand dirt. You drop seeds in, keep it moist, and up come plants. Included among the downsides to dirt are: comparably slow rates of growth, mess, and greater frequency of watering.

Hydroponics is great for lettuce. As you can see in this video, hydroponics provides about a 3X boost in growth rates compared to growing in soil. That’s the difference between two salads a week and six, to put some simple math on it.

 
One of the great things about lettuce is its ability grow in simple “raft” hydroponic systems. In these systems, a raft of foam is floated on top of a nutrient reservoir. Lettuce loves “wet feet” and can grow well in these low oxygen conditions. Raft systems are easy to build and a great intro to hydroponics.

A final advantage to hydroponics is just the ease of watering. Lettuce really loves “wet feet” and it’s easier to achieve consistently in hydroponic systems.

 

3) TEMPERATURE
Here in Colorado, our season for harvesting lettuce lasts about 3 weeks in the spring and another 3 in the fall. We move from too cold to too hot almost overnight. Greens in general are early season, cool weather crops — you can plant them outdoors and they will live under light snows. But they absolutely hate the heat. Those tender leaves quickly turn stiff and bitter when temperatures rise near 80.

The short season in Colorado is one reason to grow most greens indoors, year round. It’s pretty easy to keep at least one room in the house in the 65 to 75 degree temperature that greens love for most of the year. If your salad greens are stretching, bolting, getting bitter, and “going to seed,” check your temperature. If the nutrient solution or ambient air temperature is over 80, that’s likely your problem. Move your garden to a cooler room for best results.

 

 

4) VARIETY
There are literally hundreds of varieties of greens available to try, all with different flavors, shapes, colors, growth habits and potential yields. Some, like AeroGrow’s Salad Greens mix, will sprout in 18-24 hours, and some take up to a week or more. They move from tender sweet butterheads, to crispy romaines, earthy arugulas to spicy, textured cresses. Our highest yielding seed kit in the AeroGarden is the Salad Greens kit. You can literally start to harvest for sandwiches in about 2.5 weeks, and small salads at 3 weeks. Our custom kit choice lets you grow all our varieties to see which ones you like best, or create your own custom mixes. AeroGrow offers a wide variety of greens, most of which are hard to find in stores, or grow your own with one of our “Grow Anything” kits. AeroGardens all grow greens well, but for highest output, always use one of our Ultra or Extra gardens. The “Extra” lights deliver higher yields. Current AeroGarden pods available include:

 

And if you do grow in soil or another hydro set up, experiment with varieties and have fun!