“Everyone Knows Someone Who Needs This Information!” (TM)
The statistics are staggering! In America, one out of every 400-600 elementary school aged children has type-1 diabetes, and 2 million adolescent Americans have it, too! And, although these 2007 are the “latest” statistics available, I am sure that the numbers are far worse in 2010! We have to actively search for solutions.
It may seem strange that I have spent SO much time talking about gardening on my blog recently, and finding techniques with the best chance of success and greater yields, but a lot of the source of diabetes and pre-diabetes is because of poor food choice.
That food choice may or may not be from ignorance about what constitutes a “healthy diet”. Certainly everyone needs to be taught what a healthy diet is, — early in school and then updated all the way to high school graduation.
But, along with moderate daily exercise (just the chance for kids to “play” outside, for at least an hour), there are economic factors, worsened by the current financial downturn and parental unemployment. Sometimes, too, even in good times, individuals and families do not have enough money to buy enough healthy food, even though they know what they need to buy.
So, the answer, for many reasons, is to grow-your-own!
Fresh, alkaline, organic food from plenty of healthy vegetables and a few fruits can make a difference for everyone’s health. And, it is like money in the bank, to tide your family over rough finances and other emergencies.
Accommodate your lifestyle to learn these skills and teach these basic survival skills to your children!
Knowing how to garden and accurately forage are critical. If you don’t know how, you are putting your whole family at risk.
Eating more fresh, organic food is very likely to help you if you are overweight or obese, as alkaline vegetables are your first line of defense. They are calorically small, nutritionally huge and alkaline to help you get rid of acidic pH tissue toxins (which need to be encased in fat to protect the rest of your body).
So, before it’s too late, this month get started on this garden project. Transplants will become harder to find as the season continues (and then you’ll need to grow from seed, which means you will be “late” with smaller chance to harvest).
Get organized, then go-with-the-flow of Life. Gardening is usually considered stress-reducing and good therapy.
The techniques I show let you get away for a few days of traveling, and not have your whole garden at risk, but you should get someone to check it daily in summer (it may or may not require any water for most days with this technique, but when the plants NEED water, they MUST have it!).
Both youth and seniors need this superior nutrition from fresh food, even more than the rest of us do.
Whether you are pre-diabetic, undiagnosed diabetic, a type-1 diabetic or type-2 diabetic, this is fundamental to returning to Health: 70% of your diet must be green, leafy vegetables, low glycemic fruits and vegetables and a few higher glycemic vegetables once in a while. The rest of your plate should be the equivalent of a palm size portion of protein and about 2 teaspoons of a monosaturated oil (organic canola or olive oil) or flax or hemp oil, per meal. Never cook either flax oil or hemp oil; just use them in dressings. Other articles here on the blog will help you. See the archive.
Now, for this week’s hydroponic technique which utilizes, specifically, RUBBERMAID brand totes. These are made of LDPE type plastic and are made to food-grade specifications. You should only use food-grade plastic in food production and preparation.
Most plastics are not food-grade. You can use clean, recycled food containers and buckets OR items like the Rubbermaid totes which are made properly.
Use no PVC and nothing which has housed chemicals, kitty litter etc. There are instructions to set up gardening systems all over the Internet which use PVC and these other items. Do Not!
Polypropylene is an acceptable plastic when food-grade, as is PET or PETE. This is the plastic used in clear water bottles. HDPE and LDPE are used in milk jugs and (maybe) distilled water jugs. Check the recycle number on the bottom of the container. HDPE and LDPE is OK when it is food-grade (already having been used only for food, and sometimes labeled as such). The manufacturer will only have been allowed to use designated food-grade for American food products. Bets are off if the food is imported.
In past sections of this series, I have explained these designations. See links below. Double-click on the images to enlarge them.
There are 2 forms of gardening in Rubbermaid totes. One system uses potting mix and can use rainwater or tap water or a combo. The second system uses a “growth medium and must use hydroponic nutrient solutions, only.
System 1 - Gardening with Potting Mix and Water:
And, I do mean “potting mix” NOT “potting soil”; there are important differences.
In your 10 – 18 gallon Rubbermaid tote, photo 3, if you are using potting mix, you can leave the tote’s rim + about an inch just inside it, and cut the rest of the lid’s center section off, in one piece, to become a support platform between the potting mix and the air / water reservoir (photo2). Or, you can keep the lid intact, as in Photo 1. Instructions are below for each set-up.
You will need to drill holes into the lid cutoff to make the horizontal “aeration bench” platform plastic. And, you will need to cover the top surface of the tote’s soil mix with a white plastic bag in summer and a black bag in winter. A hole must be cut in the bag for EACH plant to come completely through, when planting.
The plastic bag needs to be brought all the way down the side to protect the Rubbermaid tote, as UV rays will destroy the tote, otherwise, in about 3 years if your sunshine is strong. This is needed in both systems.
Notice, in Photo 2, that you must also have a food-grade perforated “wicking pot” filled with potting soil, sitting all the way down to the bottom of the tub OR suspended well into the liquid reservoir (in this case, cotton string wicks must reach from the base of the wicking pot all the way to the bottom).
Drill a support hole for the basket in the horizontal “aeration bench” center. Perforated large yogurt containers work well for “wicking pots”, or you can get large perforated pots (net pots) at a hydroponic supply. The size holes used to perforate the yogurt containers is about 7/64 inch. Start with 4 – 6 per container and see how that works for your climate.
If you keep the lid intact, as in photo 1, this lets you use either potting mix OR growing medium*in any future season. However, you must then use other options to make the “aeration bench” platform:
___ plastic pegboard exists, but I doubt it is food-grade plastic
___ plastic needlwork “canvas” from craft store - would be unknown plastic
___ moderate-size surgical stainless steel mesh or fiberglass screen – good
___ perforated steel gutter covering strips – may contain unacceptable metals in the alloy, but also might be a possible choice – ask alloy questions
___ surgical-grade perforated stainless steel (but you will have to watch the pH of your hydroponic nutrient solution, in any of the metal suggestions, as metal may require you to balance pH) – otherwise, good (unless you have a real allergy to nickel, which is the metal used to prevent the iron in the steel from rusting).
___ “landscape fabric”, “shade cloth” – of unknown content
___ untreated polyester** quilt batting OR organic cotton batting OR coconut coir mat to serve as a filter barrier – good. Use it in combination with the next idea; let it rest on top of the following …
___ PREFERRED: a number of perforated plastic milk jugs and juice bottles to cover the whole bottom of the tote, to serve as the platform, and the vertical fill tube will be inserted in one. The perforations are at all levels as the jugs lie. The water flows into and back out of all the jugs, eventually, through all the holes. Use an amount of water which will leave about 1/2″ – 1″ airspace at the top of the bottles. There must also be one potting mix-filled or “growing medium-filled” “wicking pot” sitting on the bottom, too, connected to the rest of the soil mix (open a circle in the barrier fabrics mentioned immediately above). This “wicking pot” will get all the moisture to the bottom of the tub, when most of the containers are nearly empty, as long as there are holes in the jugs on all sides.
The perforated platform “aeration bench” barrier ideally rests on the “connected milk jug fill-tube system” described, or you can just leave a big, undifferentiated water reservoir area, which is fed by the fill-tube (bottom end cut on the diagonal) as long as the horizontal aeration-barrier is supported above the air-water reservoir, probably by 4 – 6 vertical, totally perforated juice bottles, to the floor of the tote, as well as by side-pressure (as the tote is tapered). Again, one, potting-mix filled “wicking pot” must reach all the way to the bottom, suspended from the platform. Look at the diagram in Photo 2 and just pretend the water is encased in perforated bottles, as I have described.
There must be airspace.
An overflow hole must be drilled. This is explained below, as it is needed for both systems. Suggested hole-size for all holes is 5/16 inch. Use a drill.
I believe that the system using potting mix and regular water / rainwater is by far the easier system. It can grow any vegetable, plant, flower or dwarf tree, as long as organic fertilizer is used to replace soil mix nutrients through the season.
System 2 – With just Growth Medium and Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions
Acceptable soiless growing “medium” = perlite, washed pea gravel, “rockwool”, or coconut coir. This replaces the spaces shown with potting mix in Photo 2, above.
If using a growing medium, then you cannot use regular water.
Larger systems like the 5 gallon buckets and 10 quart to 18 quart Rubbermaid tote need to aerate the roots, in either system.
You also must use nutrient solutions mixed up from ingredients found pre-made, just for hydroponic growing. So, for this type of totally soiless system, you will need to set-up an air pump outside, and submersible aquarium pump and airstone in the tote. And keep the original lid, with desired number of pots inserted.
There are more instructions to set-up this equipment, on the Internet.
Using pure hydroponics, you will also need to segregate your types of plants.
Group 1 – leafy vegetables, which do not flower in order to make fruit e.g. salad greens, lettuces, parsley etc.
Group 2 - tomatoes, eggplants, melons etc. which produce flowers which then produce the fruit or vegetable.
Each of the 2 groups requires different hydroponic nutrient solutions, in a completely hydroponic system, so any individual planter can only grow one group type.
In a totally hydroponic solution system, without soil, use the top of the Rubbermaid tote to have holes and hydroponic “net pots” or perforated large yogurt containers, with a plant and medium inside the small pot. Most of the tote will be nutrient solution, with wicks from each pot to the bottom of the tote. Leave an airspace pocket, too.
The plant roots need to dip into the nutrient solution for at least 1 inch, after seedling stage is finished; they automatically will grow as long roots as they can, but you still need the wicks, as insurance.
The hydroponic nutrient solution needs to be changed every 2 weeks, as well as having healthy liquid levels at all times
Either system needs an “overflow hole” with a piece of drinking straw inserted in it to keep it freely flowing. The height of the hole is just at the lower level of the airspace near the platform, as shown in Photo 2. The hole size should start at 5/16 inch.
Either system needs a fill-tube indicator — this is just a the thinnest diameter wooden dowel with a cork inserted in the end. It sits in the vertical fill tube and you mark the level on the dip-stick which correlates to the tote being at 25% full of liquid in the reservoir. When that mark is level with the top of the fill-tube, at that point, I recommend watering!
Both systems need a vertical fill-tube which is cut on a 45-degree angle at the base. All over the Internet, the plans ‘just use PVC pipe’ for this, but I have taught you NOT to use PVC! So, what you will do is to use PET or PETE clear plastic 1 liter or 2 liter water bottles to “make” the tube.
This can be made either by cutting the bottoms off and have them all wedged together in a tower — using food-grade silicone sealer on the outside seams, only if the bottle seams leak.
OR, you just make a small hole in the bottom of each bottle, smaller than the bottles’ opening. Push hard to insert the open bottle neck into the bottom of the bottle above it. It should be snug from starting with a slightly too-small hole. Same deal with the food-grade, kitchen silicone.
There’s no set height for how tall the fill-pipe should be. It must reach up just beyond the top of the tote as a minimum. Method 2 will make a sturdier fill-pipe and use fewer bottles.
In photo 1, the number of holes cut into the intact, whole lid of the Rubbermaid tote depends on which plants you are growing. For guidelines, please see the EarthBox site (link in Part 4D). The tote box can support the growth of an amazing amount of food.
As the seasons change, sometimes not all the holes in the lid will be used. Make sure to cover all unused holes and the fill tube top with shade cloth, fiberglass screen or a piece of panty hose, to prevent access by mosquitoes to lay eggs!
A plastic bag needs to be brought all the way down the side of the tote or taped around the outside (lid and sides). This is to protect the Rubbermaid tote, as UV rays will destroy the bin, otherwise, in about 3 years, if your sunshine is strong. This is needed in both systems.
The Rubbermaid totes can be made to contain tomato cages and trellises, either internally or nearby. They can be placed on movable pallets, but mobility is confined if it is a truly hydroponic system with pumps and electrical connections. That’s another reason why I prefer the potting mix – regular water system.
Personally, I think the potting mix, liquid fish emulsion fertilizer and regular water is the way to go. It does not require pumps or aeration, either. And, if you do not want to have to check the fill-pipe everyday, then except in the hottest days of summer, having an external reservoir connected (see diagrams in Part 4D), will give you more time between waterings.
I am not going to provide instructions for more complex ebb and flow or NFS (Nutrient Film Systems) hydroponic systems, but this information is on the internet.
If you want to buy commercial units to replicate the tote systems shown here, then check into Earth Tainer(TM) and EarthBox(TM), Emily’s Garden (TM) from hydrofar,.com and AeroGarden (TM) online.
* acceptable soiless growing “medium” = perlite, washed pea gravel, “rockwool” or coconut coir.
** PET and PETE plastics are made into polyester fabric, often, when they are recycled. Top tier fashion designers are now using this recycled bottle-cloth!
Diabetics Need to Garden, Part 1
Diabetics Need to Garden, Part 2
Diabetics Need to Garden, Part 3
Hydroponics with Safer Plastics
Small Food-grade Self-watering Planters Part 4B
Hydroponic Gardening in Glass Bottles Part 4C
5 Gallon Bucket Hydroponic Gardening Part 4D
Please read the Titles Archive to find 3 years of posts to help you learn more about alternative ways to help your diabetes.
(c)2010 Em at http://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com
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