Paul Nickerson

Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Pressing Cider

In Gardening on December 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Cider PressI know this is not related to Aquaponics, but it was definitely a wonderful project that I think you all should try if you get the chance. This past week I had the opportunity to press some more cider this season. My research adviser owns a large, hand-cranked cider press. We have pressed many gallons of cider this season from seconds and drops.

When pressing cider, it is preferred to use seconds. Drops are cheaper (typically free) if you can get them from someone you know who has trees. Many orchards will not sell drops as they can harbor many fungi and bacteria. If you use drops, it is advised to pasteurize the cider. Pasteurizing cider is a very simple process. Instructions can be found easily online.

IMG_0594We used seconds for this round of pressing. I purchased a half bushel of seconds for about eight dollars from a local orchard. Some of the apples had large bruises on them. Dr. Foster advises discarding any apple than you can press your thumb into easily. Fortunately, I was able to select my apple directly from the orchard, and pressed them the same day. Apples that have some damage and have started to break down sugars make the best cider. From our half bushel we were able to harvest a little over two gallons of cider.

While we drank some of the cider immediately, I heat pasteurized and prepared two gallons of the cider for fermentation in sterilized glass carboys. I’ll most more on that in a little while. A word of advised from one of my professors, “When drinking raw cider, just remember not to drink to much, the more you drink the shorter the residence time.”

Havesting Tilapia

In Aquaponics, Gardening on December 9, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Jared Netting Tilapia This past Friday I was invited to a sustainability luncheon. The lunch was comprised of locally grown and prepared foods including apple sauce and cider, pies, canned vegetables, grass-fed burgers and, of course, my Tilapia. Catching them was one of the most interesting aspects of preparing the fish. I recruited a friend of mine, Jared Franklin, to give me a hand netting, while I sized and sexed the fish. We collected only four fish, and placed them into an ice bath to keep them from jumping around.

The fish was filleted and prepared with a small amount of butter, pepper, and adobe salt. We cooked them in a charcoal grill. It was delicious! Harvested FishFillets

Post-Harvest Update: Messiah College Aquaponics

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on November 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm

This is a quick overview of the system after we harvested the Thai Basil. The plants have begun growing new shoots and leaves. Cuttings that were placed in the rafted sump tank have rooted and will be ready to put in the gutter system. The cilantro is also doing great!

PolyFace Farm: Reposted Video from USAToday

In Alternative Agriculture, Gardening on November 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I don’t typically like to post content that isn’t mine, but I am giving a presentation on sustainable agriculture and thought that this operation is absolutely incredible. Joel Salatin’s attitude about farming is very contagious and his methods are inspired. I highly recommend checking this out. Hopefully I will have the chance to visit the next time I am in VA.

Drying Thai Basil

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on November 8, 2012 at 1:00 am

We recently harvested the Thai Basil from the system and are working on drying it in order to use it in the future. The flowers and leaves were spread out on large pieces of cardboard in front of the wood-stove. Hope-fully this method won’t take too long!

Harvesting Thai Basil: Messiah College Aquaponics

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on November 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm

So today we finally got around to harvesting the Thai basil from the gutter system. The plants had become very large and produced a very large crop. We harvested not only the leaves, but also the flowers. The stems will most likely be used for the production of Basil Jelly. We are planning to dry most of the crop for storage and future use; you can only use so much Thai Basil at once. The bases of each plant remain in the system and will sprout new branches and leaves shortly. Check it out!

Aquaponic Crop Rotations

In Aquaponics, Gardening on September 13, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Since we erected the gutter system in the greenhouse, we have had a number of difficulties to overcome. One such problem that has arose is the fact that the shade cover only extends across half of the gutters, leaving the far side completely exposed.

The solution was simple. Crop rotations. One wonderful feature of the gutter system is that it is incredible modular. One the pump is turned off, the small supply lines can be removed, and each gutter can be moved as a unit. It was easiest to have one person stand on each end of the system and simply lift the gutters to swap locations. We moved all of the new seedlings to the inside, where they would be better protected, and relocated the larger plants outward where they would receive full sun.

Wicking Water and Saving Seedlings

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on September 7, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Last summer we had a number of problems planting lettuce seedlings in the system due to the fact that the root systems were underdeveloped upon transition, and the circulating fan tended to dry out the seedlings at the far end of the gutters.

Learning from our mistakes we decided it was necessary to attach a wick to the rock-wool in order to aid in supplying water to root systems of the seedlings. After running through ideas such as string, cotton thread, etc., we settled on small sections of paper towels, as they effectively wick water, yet dissolve away as the plant continues to develop. This method was used on the first planting of basil, and drastically increased the percentage of plants that took to the system successfully. We recently planted the second half of the system with basil using the same method.

System With GroTech Gutters!

In Alternative Agriculture, Aquaponics, Gardening on March 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm

The 300 Gallon system is currently located at Messiah College, Grantham PA. We recently plumbed in a 180 plant, GroTech gutter system into the main sump tank. After having worked through a number of the problems with integrating different style systems, it seems to be producing well. There have been some Iron deficiencies, but nothing that a bit of Chelated Iron couldn’t fix.

The fish gave birth again! The fry seem to be doing well.

We will be working to integrate SOMAT waste from the cafeteria, as well as poultry waste as an alternative diet. Research in that area should start at the end of this week! I’ll keep you all posted!

Cultivating Ginger: Zingiber officinale

In Gardening, Potting, Propagation on March 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Plant Credit to Kristen Listor

There are a few of us out there who seem to believe that if it can grow, it should grow. I was walking through the grocery store with a friend of mine when we started talking about cultivation of ginger. She remembered a talk she once heard about how simple it is to propagate ginger from its root. Needless to say, we bought some.

As we were not sure exactly how to go about propagating the root, we figured we would try a couple different methods. The best method was also the easiest. We buried the root just a couple inches deep in pots filled with moist potting mix. The pots were placed in warm locations, and kept lightly moist. After a couple of weeks, we started to see shoots arising from the rhizomes.

ImageHarvesting the ginger is easy. As needed, simply brush back the soil from the rhizome and cut a piece away. The plant will continue to grow healthily.

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