Paul Nickerson

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Pita Pit: Vertical Grow

In Aquaponics on February 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Pita Pit Vertical Grow System

I spent this past weekend in Philadelphia for my birthday. Saturday night, my girlfriend and I went out to dinner at a small restaurant call “The Pita Pit,” located on Sansom St. Aside from the wonderful food (the ‘Greek God’ and ‘Fajita Pita’ are amazing!), I was very excited to see a Vertical Grow system on the wall next to the fountain drinks. The system was a simple, waterfall, system that utilized what appeared to be a pocketed, rockwool sheet, into which the plants were placed. A pump moved water up from a bucket, to the top of the system. I then trickled down into a section of gutter, and returned to the sump tank.

Unfortunately, as you can see from the photo, all of the plants were dead. While the system is functioning properly, there are a couple problems that need to be addressed. The seedlings were placed into the system with the soil still around the roots. Regular water, mixed with a fertilizer (not hydroponics solution) was pumped through the system. Firstly, the soil should be removed from seedlings when they are being grown in any ‘hydroponic-style’ system. Especially in a continuous flow system, the soil will store water against the roots, promoting rot, and eventually killing the plant.

Secondly, in such a system, you cannot simply use standard fertilizer to supply the nutrients needed for plant growth. The nutrients from the small amount of soil around the plants found is this system will quickly become depleted, and another source is needed. To properly sustain the volume of plants in the system at Pita Pit. Hydroponics, or Aquaponics would be necessary.

Hydroponics would entail properly mixing, and maintaining hydroponic solution in the sump take, which would be difficult for anyone without a background in the field.

The easiest, and most customer-friendly, solution to the problem would be to remove the bucket from the system, and install a lovely fish tank with a few large gold-fish. The waste secreted from the gold-fish would be more than sufficient for the plants, and would provide them with all of the needed nutrients for healthy growth. In turn, the plants would filter out all of the waste in the fish tank, and would maintain a clean, healthy environment for the fish. It would also provide a wonderful conversation piece, and a beautiful addition to Pita Pit’s environmentally friendly restaurant!


InDorm Potatoes: Adding The Second Story!

In Alternative Agriculture, Gardening on February 8, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Second Floor Potatoes

So, Potato Plants grow a lot faster than I imagined. The seed potatoes I planted have already reached brim of the base container. Today I noticed they were actually touching the grow light, so i hurried to begin the second story.

To do so, I took a second, 5 gallon, bucket, and cut the bottom from it. This is very easy to do, and can be done with no more than a knife. Next, I used a screwdriver to put a dozen air hole scattered around the container. After filling the base bucket with potting soil and compost, I placed the second bucket on top. It is important to make sure you gently pack soil around every individual leaf in order to avoid air pockets. When the second bucket was in place, the lighting unit was then place on top of the system, and the waiting game begins again!

Propagating Pothos

In Propagation on February 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Pothos Clipping

A close friend of mine recently cut back her Pothos plants, also known as Devil’s Ivy. She was kind enough to volunteer her clippings to be propagated. Pothos Plant is a wonderful houseplants, and perfect for any dorm room. It can flourishes in just about any conditions, and it long, vine-like branches at wonderful look to any windowsill.

Pothos Clippings In Pot

To increase my chances of rooting a strong plant, I utilized both pot-rooting and water-root. To prepare the branch for rooting in a pot, the branch was cut, using sterile scissors, just above each node. The node is located where the leaf meets the branch. These sections were planted in a pot of loose potting soil and compost. The pot should maintain a level of slight humidity, being careful not to allow the pieces to rot as they soak and dry.

Pothos In Water

I took the second length of Pothos branch, cut a fresh, sterile cut off the end of it. I cut the leaves from the bottom six inches of the branch, and placed it in a bottle of distilled water. It is important that a least 2 nodes are submerged in water, as those are where the roots will form. When a strong root system has formed, the cuttings can be potted in multipurpose potting soil.

Recycling Pistachio Shells

In Potting on February 7, 2011 at 1:47 am

I was eating Pistachios today, and tried to figure out what to do with the shells. While they can recycled into compost, even with a vermiculture system they can take a while to break down.

Pistachio Drainage

After observing the fact that my Desert Rose was not properly draining, as I had put a paper towel in the bottom of the pot when I repotted it last, I decided to use the shells to aid to drainage. I unpotted the Rose, removed what was left of the paper towel, then filled the bottom of the pot with a layer of shells, and repotted the plant. The pot drains wonderfully now! I highly recommend recycling your pistachio shells in this manner!

Container Garlic

In Propagation on February 5, 2011 at 7:52 pm


According to Phil, our favorite groundhog, Spring is on the way! With the coming of spring, seeds are appearing on the shelves of garden centers once again! Today I was able to buy my Garlic Bulbs for this coming season. At $7.99/lb, I was able to purchase two, large bulbs for $1.36.


Divided Cloves

To start the garlic, I used the base from the fountain that I bought to scrap the pump for my InDorm Aquaponics system. The base is about 4″ deep, with a 10″ diameter. After having carefully separated the bulb into is cloves, I planted them just under the surface of the soil. I used a mixture of succulent soil, for drainage, standard potting soil, and compost, from my vermiculture system.


Planted Clove SproutedMy goal is to start the garlic, allowing them to sprout in a smaller, more control environment. I will then transplant the healthiest plants to a larger pot. It is important to not over-water the cloves, this will hinder the development of the bulbs, and will not allow the proper formation of clove skins. As a result, the bulbs will not store properly after harvesting.

InDorm Vermiculture

In Gardening on February 1, 2011 at 11:50 pm

InDorm Vermiculture Bin

Over the past couple weeks I have been working on completing my InDorm Vermiculture System. Here it is! I constructed the system from three, five-gallon buckets. I drilled 3/16 inch holes on the bottoms of two of the containers to allow castings, compost, and tea to fall into the lowest container. I also drilled 1/8 inch holes scattered about the sides of the two buckets to allow for air flow. The final bucket I kept in tact to serve as a reservoir to catch the tea and castings as they fall.

With the system built, I laid a bed of damp newspaper and soil. I introduced the worms, red wigglers, and allowed them to acclimate to their new environment. After a day, I dumped a pile of plant clippings, old lettuce, and a heel of bread into the system.

What makes this system to easy to use is that harvesting compost is very simple. Worms seek two things in life: food, and darkness. To drive the worms from the compost in the top bin, I will stop adding food to the top bin, and prepare the lower composting bin with food,  then leave the lid open, allowing light to enter the system. The worms, fleeing the light, and in search of food, will relocate to the lower composting bin, then, I can remove the top bin, use the compost, then rotate the bins to that the bin with the worms in on top, and the now empty bin is on the bottom.

Bins Used For System

Air and Tea Holes

Compost In Upper Bin

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