Boveda Two-Way Humidity Control

Do you work hard to grow your own herbs only to have them become dry and brittle in storage? We tested Boveda’s two-way humidity control packs to find out if they could help prolong the storage life of herbs and spices. If you have encountered this issue, take a look a Boveda. Their packs keep humidity at an ideal level without the need of unnecessary chemicals.

Boveda is easy to use and only includes salt and water. Just place the pack into the container with your herbs and spices to keep the humidity at an ideal level. Boveda packs monitor the humidity levels and add or remove moisture as needed. This environment and moisture level allows you to have more control over your stored items and helps you maximize the life and aroma of your hard work.

That is not all – Boveda two-way humidity packs can also be used for many products you may want to protect from humidity changes. This could include grains, nuts, dried fruits, tobacco, sugars, and more. You can even use Boveda when storing electronics or wooden instruments.

If you frequently store food and want a solution to prolong shelf life, Boveda two-way humidity packs can help. Have questions? Give us a call!

2014 Fertilizer Experiment Poll Results: Mills Nutrients is the Winner!

2014 Fertilizer Experiment Poll Results

2014 Fertilizer Experiment Poll Results

The results are in and after 2 months of voting on the Atlantis Hydroponics fertilizer experiment poll all of you (our loyal readers) have spoken and I am happy to report that the winner of the January 2013 fertilizer poll is: Mills Nutrients bio-mineral fertilizer line.  We will run the experiment using Mills Nutrients side by side against  General Hydroponics Flora Duo using separate drip to waste reservoirs, feeding individual plants in the same 4′ x 4′ Botanicare grow tray. All of the plants will be lit by a single 400 watt High Pressure Sodium ViaVolt bulb.

Check back soon for pictures of the experiment and also for our next poll where once again, you will decide what products Atlantis Hydroponics tests. Thank you for your readership and your participation.

A New Year Means New Hydroponic Experiments!!!

2014 Fertilizer Experiment

Atlantis Hydroponics’ Potential Fertilizers for Testing in 2014

Although many of us are still reveling in the wonderful 2013 holiday season, I have already turned my attention to the upcoming year. I have been given the opportunity to test some great new hydroponic fertilizers designed to ensure that our 2014 crops are the biggest and best ever…and I would like to share this opportunity with all of you!

There is one dilemma: There are too many products from which to choose.  So I propose you, the readers, pick which products are tested in my experiment. The experiment will be conducted under a 600 watt HID light in a 4′ x 4′ side by side drip to waste hydroponic system. The potential fertilizers for testing are: Mills nutrients bio-mineral fertilizer line (a great Dutch organic/synthetic fertilizer), ROCK nutrients line of chemical fertilizers, Bio Tabs time release biological organic fertilizer line, Xtreme Nutrients line of fertilizers guaranteeing to produce a great grow, and last but not least the well known 3 part (grow, micro, & bloom) line of fertilizers from Humboldt Nutrients.

Vote for what you would like to see tested. Vote early. Vote often. Encourage others to vote. Vote for what you want and I will test, document and share ALL of the results.

Have a Happy New Year and thank you for your readership and participation.

Summer Herb and Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Fresh Fried Squash Blossoms with Summer Herbs

Fresh Fried Squash Blossoms with Summer Herbs

This seasonal recipe combines the delicate flavor of squash blossoms with all the delicious organic herbs growing in your garden during the summer months. The spice of the herbs and the heat of the crushed red pepper are balanced by the creamy, rich ricotta cheese while the citrus notes play on your tongue. I highly recommend this recipe for anyone looking for a delicious vegetarian treat that screams “summer is here!”

Summer Herbs and Squash Blossoms Fresh From the Garden

Summer Herbs and Squash Blossoms Fresh From the Garden

Ingredients:

6 fresh organic squash blossoms
1/4 cup fresh organic parsley
1/4 cup fresh organic basil
1/8 cup fresh organic mint
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil, for frying

Wash the squash blossoms inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Make sure to remove the pistil from inside the center of the blossom by pinching it off at the base. Rough chop the parsley, basil, and mint and place in a blender. Add the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tsp lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1 egg white to the blender. Blend until mixture is smooth and add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon herb and cheese mixture into pastry bag, then pipe generous amount into the center of each squash blossom. Heat oil in cast iron skillet on medium-high to 350° F. Scramble remaining egg in a shallow dish. Pour breadcrumbs into another shallow dish. One by one, coat stuffed blossoms in egg, then coat in breadcrumbs and place on wax paper until all are prepared. Carefully place the squash blossoms in the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to remove excess oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.

Craft Beer in the Scenic City

After Atlantis visited the 18th annual Southern Brewer’s Fest last August, it was hard to believe that Chattanooga’s love for beer could be topped. But as we walked around the first annual Chattanooga Craft Beer Festival (CCBF), hosted by the Tennessee Pavilion, we realized the Scenic City had outdone itself once again.

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This event blew the Southern Brew Fest out of the water. The atmosphere alone was right up our alley considering that for over a year now we’ve been selling brewing supplies, making our own homebrew, and growing a personal enthusiasm for craft beer. Put on by Rhizome Productions, the CCBF was quite possibly the best thing ever for a lover of craft beer.

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Instead of setting up a booth and promoting our store, we chose to mingle and sample with other brew-heads, talking about our own love of beer and answering questions about making beer at home. The best thing about this festival, besides the fact that there were over thirty vendors offering two to four types of beer, was the overwhelming attendance and support of local brewers.

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One third of the beer makers present were native to Tennessee, while half of those were based right here in the Choo Choo City. Chattanooga’s own Barley Mob brew club, Moccasin Bend, Chattanooga Brewing Co., McHale’s, Terminal, and Big River all made an appearance to represent the true spirit of craft beer we share here in Chatt-town.

The new festival brought great innovations to the benefit of enthusiasts by setting up a one time fee and supplying free drinking water. The cost of your ticket would give you entrance to the event, a sample glass, and endless refills to try every single last one of the beers offered. That’s right, if you could manage to drink two gallons of beer in a matter four hours then you would be more than welcome to sample over sixty different kinds of beer. Unfortunately, we could only put down about ten types, but it was fun nonetheless.

Meeting fellow brewers, talking to the pros, and trying more kinds of beer than ever before made the CCBF a most enjoyable experience. We look forward to the Second Annual Craft Beer Festival and hope that next year there will be even more good beers to choose from. Thanks to Rhizome Productions and all our hometown brewers for making the CCBF such a fun and friendly event!

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Spring Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening: A Guide to Organic Soil Amendments & Organic Fertilizers

Growing in a Raised Bed is So Easy Even a Child Can Do It!

Growing in a Raised Bed is So Easy Even a Child Can Do It!

The idea of planting a garden can be daunting. There is so much information and advice as well as countless products and additives to choose from, it might feel as if you need a PhD to grow a tomato. The fact is that everyone can easily grow an edible garden. Similar to buying real estate, the most important choice a gardener makes is location; you cannot grow sun loving plants (which most vegetables and fruit are) in dense shade. Most vegetables (excluding leafy greens like lettuce and cabbage) require a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. Most of us can find an area that gets enough sun, but what are you to do if the area with the correct sun exposure does not have healthy rich soil? The answer is simple: build a raised bed garden.

Raised bed gardens have several advantages over traditional in-ground gardens. First, raised bed gardens are constructed above ground, lending themselves to easier planting, tending, and weeding. Raised beds are little more than large container gardens and can be placed anywhere, regardless of the quality of soil underneath. Also, raised bed gardens are ideal for square foot gardening. You can build them out of wood (do not use pressure treated wood as the chemicals in the pressure treated wood can leach into your soil, and your plants), or buy a raised bed garden kit. Another option for someone that wants a raised bed garden but doesn’t have the time or tools to build one is to use a large fabric aeration pot. Aeration pots are fabric containers that come in sizes from 1 gallon all the way to 300 gallons. The benefit of aeration pots is that they prevent the plant’s roots from becoming root bound, while encouraging a more robust root systems with greater surface area in contact with the soil for improved nutrient absorption.

Root bound plants like the one in this photo can stunt a plant's growth.

Root bound plants like the one in this photo can stunt a plant’s growth.

Viagrow™ Fabric Aeration Pots prevent plant's roots from becoming root bound.

Viagrow™ Fabric Aeration Pots prevent plant’s roots from becoming root bound.

Once you have built your raised bed or purchased an aeration pot, now comes the all important choice of what to fill it with. I prefer a high quality potting soil like Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest which is loaded with organic fertilizers and micro-organisms. However if that does not fit your budget, another less expensive option is topsoil, which is sold by the bag at every hardware store or sold by the truck load. It can be used as base for your garden soil, but topsoil is not ready to use just yet. I recommend when buying topsoil to make sure it has been screened, ensuring that large pieces of organic debris and rocks have been removed. Plan on adding organic matter and organic fertilizer to the top soil; it will guarantee a bountiful harvest of your favorite fruits and vegetables.

The best way to add organic matter to soil is by adding a rich compost. Compost is decayed organic matter, and it is one of the best things you can add to any soil. You may have the notion that a compost pile is a big, ugly, smelly pile of leaves and lawn clippings, but that is not necessarily true. Today people have options of homemade compost piles, well constructed compost bins, and stylish compost tumblers. These provide everyone the option of making their own nutritious organic soil inexpensively. You can also improve the soil structure and improve the moisture retention and/or drainage of your garden soil with the addition of products like perlite, shredded leaves, peat moss, coconut coir, and composted bark sold as “soil conditioner.”

Aside from compost there are several organic fertilizers and additives that can be added to improve your garden soil. One popular option for adding organic matter to soil is to use composted animal manures. There are several kinds to choose from including: seabird guano, bat guano, cow manure, horse manure, and chicken litter. Generally, manures from animals that eat vegetation are preferred to animals that eat meat. Animal manures vary greatly in the nutrition they will provide your garden due to the different diets of the animals that produce the manure. When possible, it is best to use composted manures and guanos in your soil; fresh manure is best placed in your composter to age and breakdown before it is used or you risk burning your plants. An added benefit of animal manures and guanos is that they provide an excellent source of beneficial micro-organisms which add to your soil’s ecology. You also have the option of adding beneficial fungi and bacteria with products like Mykos and Azos.

Other options for amending soil include the following organic fertilizers and additives:

Rock Phosphate
A natural granular source of phosphorous and calcium in addition to several trace minerals. Rock phosphate is an excellent source of phosphorous which promotes cell division, photosynthesis and respiration. Also encourages the growth of earthworms and soil bacteria that enrich and aerate the soil. Slow release so it will not leach away like chemical blossom boosters. Apply 1-3 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. for gardens.

Blood Meal
A slow release organic nitrogen source. Excellent as a top dressing when extra nitrogen is needed. Stimulates bacterial growth. Use 2-3 lbs. per 100 sq. ft or as a top dressing.

Bone Meal
Steamed, finely ground bone provides phosphorus, calcium and nitrogen. Promotes strong, vigorous bulbs, healthy root systems and good blooming. Excellent for flowers, roses, garden bulbs, shrubs and trees. Use up to 5 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.

Greensand
Contains 22 minerals and helps loosen compacted clay soils. Highly recommended for conditioning pastures, lawns, orchards, fields, and gardens. Apply 2-4 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.

Worm Castings
A pure all natural plant food produced by earthworms. Helps develop foliage in plants and improves aeration of the soil. Worm castings are also a source of nitrogen. Use in gardens and flower beds at rate of ½ cup per plant every two months. In potting mixes add 1 part earthworm castings to 3 parts soil. For roses mix 4 cups into soil around each plant.

Sulfur
Sulfur is excellent for lowering the pH of soils for growing blueberries, rhododendrons, azaleas and other acid loving plants. Use according to soil test recommendations – do not over apply. Maximum use ¼ lb. per 100 sq. ft.

Micro Pelletized Gypsum
Pelletized calcium sulfate; supplies calcium and sulfur while loosening clay soils, aiding aeration and water penetration. Use when calcium and sulfur are needed, and pH of the soil is alkaline. Use 2-3 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.

Garden Lime
A natural liming material which supplies additional calcium and helps maintain a near neutral pH in your soil. Apply 3-5 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.

Once you have built your bed, added your soil, and amended it with lots of organic matter and fertilizer, it is time to plant your seeds or seedlings. Starting seeds is easy to do with a Viagrow™ Seed Starting Kit. Another option is to visit your local nursery and buy vegetable seedlings; ask them what varieties will perform best in your area. Water regularly (as needed) and top dress around the base of your plants on a monthly basis to ensure your plants have plenty of food. You will be eating your harvest in no time.

A raised bed garden can produce enough for a family of 4 in a very small area.

A raised bed garden can produce enough for a family of 4 in a very small area.

Bake Your Ale Off: Beer Bread

Beer Bread with Chevre and Radish

Beer Bread with Chevre and Radish

I’ll admit it, I’m afraid of bread. And no, I’m not a no-carb fanatic who only eats tacos made with lettuce leaves and pizza made with cauliflower (yes, that’s a thing). I love to eat bread; it’s the making of the bread that scares me. Baking in general tends to not be my thing. It just seems so…severe. Measurements and timing must be exact or everything is ruined!!! Ugh, no thanks. Chill out, baking, let’s relax and have some fun!

Enter beer bread. Yes, you read that right. BEER. BREAD. Two of the greatest things on the planet, together, creating an even greater thing. This bread is so easy to make; even I have the patience for it. There’s no yeast involved, no kneading or waiting for the precious baby dough to rise. You just mix together a few ingredients, throw ’em in the oven, wait 40 minutes or so, and then you have glorious, glorious beer bread.

Sift, pour, mix, done.

Sift, pour, mix, done.

The type of beer you use will affect a few things with this bread. One, the flavor. I typically make this with a light, easy-drinker without too many overpowering flavors, like Miller High Life or Yuengling Lager. The bread comes out with a subtle beer flavor, but it mostly just tastes like bread. Awesome bread. If you want a more distinctively flavored beer bread, you can use a more distinctively flavored beer, like a Guinness or maybe a spiced beer around the holidays. Do you homebrew? Well now you can drink and eat your yeasty creations. Just keep in mind that the heavier the beer, the longer the baking time will be. For this loaf, I used Bell’s Oberon, a wheat ale, and it lent such a nice, bright, almost citrusy flavor to the bread. So great for Spring with some chevre and sliced radishes from the farmers’ market.

Beer Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 Tablespoons organic cane sugar
  • One 12 oz can or bottle of beer (any beer)
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Sift well with fork, or sift through a fine mesh sieve. Pour in beer, stir until a stiff batter is formed, but don’t over mix (best to just use your hands). Scrape dough into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Melt butter and brush/pour across top of dough. This is optional, but it really adds to the savory crunch of the crust.
  4. Bake for about 40 or so minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Bake time will vary with beer type.

Feel free to experiment with different types of beer. This bread is also very receptive to add-ins, like herbs, garlic, and cheese. Throw in about a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary, and your house will soon smell like…the best thing ever. The final product is great for toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade croutons…the list goes on. So crack open a few cold ones and get baking.

Atlantis Hydroponics in Moving Pictures

Our friends over at greenbookpages.com made us this awesome video featuring all five of our retail locations! It also highlights our excellent selection of General Hydroponics products.

If you’re new to our blog, here’s a little background on our company:

Atlantis Hydroponics™ opened its first store in 1998, with the drive to help make hydroponics the future of horticulture. We pride ourselves in providing knowledge and the best available products to our customers. Carefully chosen and tested equipment and nutrients ensure our customers have maximum results with their plants. We deal in practical, environmentally conscious methods, mastering how to garden effectively.

Teaching earth-friendly practices also translates directly to the community. Atlantis has participated in a number of science days, youth-oriented programs, grade school education, and even art exhibits. Check out our Community Outreach pages to learn more about the exciting things going on at Atlantis!

Orchid of the Week: Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum in flower

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum in flower

This is Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, a species native to Borneo and found only on remote locations of Mount Kinabalu. This slipper orchid is sometimes called the “King of all orchids”; its large size (up to 1 foot across) and majestic, bold coloration make it a true wonder to behold. There is an interesting story to how this particular species came into cultivation. The story goes that it was originally collected back in 1887 and brought into cultivation in Europe. The original location of where the plants were collected was falsified by the plant collector Sander & Sons, who gave the location of New Guinea in order to keep rival collectors from getting hold of the plant. For the next 60 years the plant’s true location remained a mystery. Then quite by accident a population of this beautiful slipper orchid was found at the base of Mt. Kinabalu. This orchid has been line bred for improved size and color, and a good specimen of this species can easily command thousands of dollars per growth. Although it is not easy or fast to grow the beauty of it when it does flower is well worth the cost and the time. I recommend them to anyone who loves slipper orchids! To learn more about orchids and orchid growing contact the American Orchid Society or your local Orchid Society.

Required Light: In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have it in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but not midday. Under artificial lights like T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 16” underneath at least two 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 60° F – 70° F. Daytime temperatures should be kept at or below 85°F to avoid problems.

Humidity: Best kept at 60% RH or higher.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, 1-2 times a week or more under normal conditions. More watering is generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment. Clean water is a must for this orchid so rain water is a great choice or a Reverse Osmosis water filter may be necessary depending on your water quality.

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ¼ strength every other week. I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots just starting to emerge from the newest growth(s.) I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Viastone. Also I prefer plastic pots as they will not dry out as fast allowing the roots to stay comfortably moist.

Hydroponic Fodder: Growing Grains to Feed Our Furry Friends

Deer Eating Barley Fodder

Deer Eating Barley Fodder

I was walking through my local pet store recently and noticed they were selling a small pot of grass for cats at what can only be described as an outrageous price. Is growing grass for pets making someone- or lots of someones- rich? This got me thinking about a hydroponic technique that is gaining traction worldwide: hydroponic fodder production of livestock feed. If hydroponically growing crops is such an efficient method of producing food for humans, then is it also viable for growing food for our pets and livestock?

Barley Fodder 1 Day After Soaking

Barley Fodder One Day After Soaking

Growing fodder is the practice of sprouting cereal grains and then feeding the sprouted grains to animals. The process is fast, only taking about 7-8 days, and has demonstrated impressive results such as a 41% increase in beef cattle weight compared to those fed traditional food stocks. Fodder can be used to feed horses, deer, cattle, pigs, poultry, alpaca, sheep and goats, as well as dogs and cats to a lesser degree. Fodder has been shown to have 23 times more vitamin A than carrots, 22 times more vitamin B than lettuce, and 14 times more vitamin C than citrus fruits according to Howard Campion, a fodder system manufacturer.

Barley Fodder 2 Day After Soaking

Barley Fodder Two Days After Soaking

Sprouting grains for human consumption dates back centuries in Asian countries. Fodder production for animals has been in practice as early as the 1860s when European dairy farmers began sprouting cereal grasses to feed dairy cows in the winter. Currently there are countless farmers worldwide supplementing their livestock feed with fresh grown fodder. Fodder has the benefit of sprouting with very little water consumption, making it dependable in times when drought would normally reduce hay and feed production. A 10 meter by 13 meter building outfitted with fodder growing systems can produce as much food for livestock as 298 acres of grassland.

Fodder production is a simple process as long as you provide the correct environmental conditions as well as a sanitary growing environment. The ambient air temperature needs to be maintained between 63-75 degrees Fahrenheit; the ideal humidity range is from 40 -80%; the water temperature must be kept between 53 -75 degrees Fahrenheit; and the pH of the water should be between 6.2 and 6.4. The general procedure for growing fodder is to take a high quality cereal grain (alfalfa, barley, millet, oat, red wheat, ryegrass, or sorghum) and soak them in a solution of water and a sterilizing agent like the food grade hydrogen peroxide ViaOxy for 24-48 hours. The soaked grains are then laid evenly in flat bottomed growing troughs or channels that allow for complete drainage and irrigated for roughly 2 minutes every four hours. Within 7 days the fodder is mature and ready to be fed to your animals.
The growth rate is pretty amazing, as seen in these pictures.

Barley Fodder 4 Days After Soaking

Barley Fodder Four Days After Soaking