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Diabetics need to monitor their Health very closely and cannot slip-by with little indulgences. Your diabetic diet plan needs to be in place 24-7, and that means eating PLENTY of fresh vegetables and a few fresh fruits! Many diabetics are having to make trade-offs between buying their medications and testing equipment and eating healthy food. Now, there’s a few more choices to keep healthy and organic food as the foundation of your diabetic diet. Keep reading.
Hydroponics is a form of container gardening. It uses soil and a water reservoir in the root zone OR it uses no soil and then requires nutrient solutions (not just regular water) in a reservoir. It is one of the easiest ways to grow anything, but for our purposes, this discussion mostly deals with growing vegetables, as 70% of every meal should be low-glycemic index vegetables, preferably raw or lightly-steamed. That’s true for a diabetic diet and just about everyone else’s diet, too.
Alkaline food, like most vegetables, is essential for helping to neutralize the overly acidic tissues most diabetics have. Big Pharma and their drugs just make you more acidic, so if you are taking the “usual” medications, this makes action on your part even more important. Detoxification and pH balancing is a daily need for you.
This time, the gardening lesson for diabetics is about using 5 gallon, food-grade plastic buckets OR Rubber maid 18 gallon storage totes, which are made from food-grade plastic. Do not use other totes, buckets etc. which are not known to be food-grade.
Also, please be aware of the danger posed to small children by deep buckets and totes and make sure that water reservoirs are unable to be accessed by children. 5 gallon buckets are required to carry drowning hazard labels — if yours is a used bucket, the label may be damaged or removed, but children have tragically drowned even when people are washing their cars with buckets. Just remember how curious small children are! This is a silent, senseless death. Be watchful and eliminate the risk while you are putting your containers together!
Here are some diagrams of the equipment and the process, and then written input follows. Use this strategy to eat organic food, which you have farmed, saving our planet with less use of gasoline to haul your food an average of 1,400 miles to your table. Be concerned for you and our planet, please. Double-click on the photos; this usually enlarges them.
Everything used inside the bucket needs to be food-grade plastic, too. See my past posts in this series for the explanation of what that means and where to find it. Links are below.
In the middle photo, the large hole in the perforated, trimmed bucket lid is to insert a perforated yogurt container, perforated large water bottle bottom section or “net pot” (which is a perforated plastic basket in various sizes, purchased from a hydroponic supply store). Without this internal barrier lid platform, you need the over-turned plastic colander technique described below.
Either of these internal barrier systems prevent wasting a second bucket for the top-tier plant section, as many Internet sites have you waste in their designs. You would only need a full 2 bucket system for deeply rooted large plants, if ever.
Any of these smaller perforated containers let the roots actually grow down into the solution (or just water, if soil mix is above), over time. Meanwhile, the water or nutrient solution is brought up to the soil mix or “medium” of choice’s interface via the fact that the little pot extends to the bottom of the bucket, wicking up the moisture into the rest of the soil above.
Popular “mediums” for soiless growing (and then you must use real hydroponic nutrient solutions) would be made from: washed pea gravel, perlite, rockwool or coconut coir or a combo of these. The “medium” supports the plant, but heavy, large plants may still need to be “caged”, “staked” or tied to a trellis or deck railing.
Note: vermiculite is a forerunner of natural asbestos, so it is not recommended as a medium or in anything else.
As you can see from Gymgirl’s garden in photo 3, she sometimes punctures the bucket lid to insert the plant; sometimes leaves the lid off completely (then the lid may have been used as the perforated divider between soil mix and water reservoir (as in photo 2). And other gardeners cover the soil (with hole for plant) and also the sides of bucket with a black plastic bag.
This “bag” technique is in order to save the bucket plastic from degrading from sun exposure. The plant’s leaves are NOT covered by the bag.
In winter the bag also warms the bucket’s soil, as black absorbs heat, for a winter garden. Use a white plastic bag in summer when weather is hot, to lessen heat gain; the plastic bag also helps retain water in summer as it prevents fast evaporation from the soil (the lid, with a hole per plant, would do this, too).
The containers in the illustrations above all use potting mix (made for containers). Do not use regular soil or “potting soil”.
The reservoir barriers can be made from the punctured, trimmed bucket lids or as I prefer, from food-grade 6″ or 7″ plastic colanders turned upside-down and trimmed to fit the BOTTOM of the bucket.
You will cut off the colander handles and snip the rim in a few places with cuts heading toward the center. This lets the colander flex as you put it into the bucket. The colander must rest on the floor of the bucket with it oriented as a dome.
The perforated barrier lets you use either medium or potting mix to anchor the plant.
You can make it longer between waterings if you also include an external reservoir. See photo 1 diagram. Buckets can also be linked together with tubing and then all you need to do is fill the external reservoir. But the system still needs watching and you need to make sure the height relationships allow for the siphon action to work in all the tubing. Use black fish aquarium tubing as the safest choice.
In a totally hydroponic solution system, without soil, use the top of the 5 gallon bucket to have holes and net pots or perforated large yogurt containers, with a plant and medium.
As mature plants, the roots need to dip in the nutrient solution by at least 1 inch. At all stages of growth, the solution needs to be changed every 2 weeks.
The number of holes in the 5 gallon bucket lid or draped plastic bag depends on which plants you are growing and how many per area. For guidelines, please see the EarthBox site.
This means that sometimes, in future seasons, not all the lid holes will be used. Make sure to securely 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!
The sides of the 5 gallon bucket can also be cut to make a strawberry pot. See the link to the article, below.
In the protected colander dome (filled with soil mix or medium) or area below the perforated lid (with inserted yogurt container filled with soil mix or medium), the water reservoir meets the potting mix or medium above it and around it. This is how the bucket becomes self-watering, through osmosis.
A third watering system option is in 5 gallon buckets, the water or nutrient reservoirs can also be made from 4 side punctured clean juice bottles or milk cartons, lying on the bucket floor and connected by drinking straw sections, to the first jug which receives the fill-pipe, instead of using the colander. Soil or medium tucks around the perforated bottles.
In these illustrations, you should note that they used PVC pipe for the fill tube. This is NOT food-grade! Do not use PVC, some versions of which contain lead in the recipe.
Instead, use water bottles in a column as a fill-tube – either cut the bottom and top off and fit together OR puncture the base (to insert the next, open, uncut bottle). Use these connected in series of PET / PETE clear, #1 (recycling code) 1 liter or 2 liter water bottles. The lowest bottle must have base cut off on an angle to let water come easily into the reservoir space.
Also, the fill tubes do not need to be this high above the soil, as in Gymgirl’s example. Note, look at photo 6 and see the placement that at the divider between soil and water reservoir, there is an “overflow” hole drilled and a cut-off drinking straw will help to keep it open. Double-click on the photo to see it larger.
The “overflow hole” can drain into a protected reservoir, as in the illustration above. Then disconnect and repour liquid when needed, this will also help capture rain water, to use later, rather than sit there and water-log your plants. To do this, the 5 gallon bucket has to be raised to help create the siphon effect. See the illustration.
You can also include a float stick in each bucket’s fill-tube to indicate fluid level there. It is critical to know what’s happening in the reservoir so you know when to add liquid! These should be available at a hydroponic supply.
These individual buckets can also be set-up to be watered in series, using aquarium tubing, from bucket-to-bucket, with a larger external reservoir and pump, too. You’ll find information on the Internet as to how to set it up, but I have tried to stay with the simplest system!
Barring adverse weather or you forgetting to keep the reservoir filled, you should get a fabulous return for your effort. These types of container gardens are far more efficient, and can bring in amazing amounts of food.
As a diabetic, I recommend that you always wear gardening gloves and proper shoes when outside. Diabetes tends to compromise skin and especially for feet, this can become serious, often resulting in impossible-to-cure infections, which require amputation. Sandals are not appropriate shoes.
As an example of what to add to the standard container potting mix – if you use the soil method – here is a recipe. The potting mix / perlite should last 5 to 6 seasons, but the nutrients will need to be added each season.
TO potting MIX only (not potting soil – which can still contain rocks – and not garden dirt), add:
___ Perlite to Potting Mix in a ratio of 60% potting mix to 40% perlite. Then add the items below.
___ 2 cups fertilizer, any three numbers between 10 and 15. Most people use 10-10-10, but 14-14-14 is also possible. Pour in a strip farthest away from your seedlings, so as to not burn any roots. See the Earthbox website for pictures of where to place your fertilizer strip depending on the organization and number of plants per container. Their diagrams are very clear.
___ 2 cups Dolomite Lime Pellets, mixed into the top 4-6 inches of your potting mix. Powdered lime turns into a concrete slab or rocks if it’s not mixed in well
___ 2 tbsps. Epsom salts mixed in with the Lime, if you are growing tomatoes.
By gardening with potting mix or hydroponically, diabetics can garden more safely. And, the buckets can be raised so even those in wheelchairs can still garden and harvest the great foods they need in their diabetic diet plan. See photo 5 of the handicap accessible garden, above.
With the 5 gallon food-grade buckets, you can garden anywhere: on rooftops, balcony, concrete patio, deck, attached to fences etc. I hesitate to say “driveway” because there is still chemicals exuded from car exhaust and gasoline excreta, but people do garden on and near their driveways. I do not recommend doing so.
You may see hydroponic systems on the Internet using roof gutters or long sections of PVC plumbing pipe as hydroponic trays. Neither are food-grade plastic! I do not recommend them.
Other pre-made systems, like the EarthBox, use “recycled” plastic. You need to confirm what kind and if it is still designated as “food-grade”, if it ever was.
Many systems depicted on the Internet also use styrofoam as a barrier and place to insert perforated net pots. This is a styrene product and has been associated with cancer-causing chemicals, even though it has still been allowed near food. This needs to change, and you can do it for yourself; don’t wait for Government to ban its use next to food. We already know there’s a problem!
strawberry 5 gallon bucket planter. Be sure to use day-neutral, everbearing plants.
University of Maryland Master Gardeners 5 gallon bucket PDF, excellent
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