Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

I was asked a question by Jan,one of the readers of our blog,  who has decided to start growing her own food.  Her and her husband have some health issues as I had.  So Jan asked us  some very specific questions about growing food using the food4wealth system.   They like the Food4Wealth system, for organic vegetable gardening for themselves.


Growing food for sale is not their ideal.

First Jan , I want to thank you for sharing your challenges!  There are lots of people who are looking to improve their health by eating right.  I am one of them myself!    I was put on a heart transplant list, but since switching to Vegetarian, my health has improved to where I will not need a heart transplant.   The Hippocrates quote:  “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” is perfect.  The more we eat healthy, the healthier we become also.  Good clean water, Clean natural or organic food, exercise, proper breathing and of course a great mindset (attitude) are all critical to a healthy, happy life.

I hope and pray that you will continue to grow healthier every day!  The Food4wealth system works great for my wife and I.  We put up a greenhouse this year due to the extreme conditions here in Colorado at 7,000 feet elevation.

I am thinking that you will be dealing with the heat as you shared that your season for growing by seed is coming close to the time line to start quickly.

Getting Organic Seeds

Johnny’s Seed sells non-gmo, Organic and Heirloom seeds also.  They were selling some seeds from a company that was purchased by Monsanto. I was told by a supplier of mine, that they discontinued that line due to lack of trust for anything that Monsanto makes. I have not seen it in writing or read it myself so it is hearsay evidence at best at this point.

We have never grown using Bonnie Plants.  I see that they have been around since 1918. Looking at their site, they do have the following  statement:

“Committed to green gardening, we provide eco-friendly gardening products that are safe for the environment and easy to use. Our biodegradable peat pots and fiber pots have already prevented millions of pounds of plastic from entering landfills. Our commitment starts at our headquarters in Alabama, where we employ green growing practices such as sustainable energy production, reuse, and recycling.”

That is a good statement, so I hope that you are using their product.  I will contact them to follow up with an interview and write a post about them afterwords.   Monsanto did purchase Seminis,   Seminis is said to produce 40% of the fruit and vegetable seeds in the US.

Purchase seeds from someone you know is a good practice.

If you can go to a local hydroponics shop or nursery, they usually have access and sell Organic and heirloom seeds.  Just make sure that you verify that the seed packages have the USDA Organic label on the packages.  Burpee seeds also sell organic vegetable seeds.  Some of your local stores may even carry the seed that you are looking for.

I am amazed at how much information that you have gathered, and are sharing.  If I do not know the producer of the seeds, or someone who has been growing with them for years, I do not use them.

I always look for the USDA certified organic seeds, but I continue to read about new exceptions for different additives or food preparation standards that the USDA is allowing. Somewhat concerning for the “Organic” label.

Are they all bad for the consumer?  I do not know, but with my life on the line, I want to read the scientific data and talk to my brother who is a chemical engineer.  If I hear of a chemical that is not naturally occurring, I do not use it.

Alternative Growing Choices


Since you are having a bit of a time getting started,

  • Can you start growing in containers?

You do not necessarily have to start with a 15X15 food garden.  Since you want to get started right away, can you make a smaller bed and then plant what you have.

  • What does your health allow you to do?
  • Are there activities that keep you from digging in the soil?
  • Do you have any relatives who could help you with the labor in exchange for some goodies at harvest?


For your Compost, horse manure is great.  Add your table scraps, no meat, and get some worms to help with the process.  Make sure that the compost bin is covered and reaches a temperature of 104 degrees F.   But you do not want the temperature to go above 149 degrees F.   That will cause the micro-organisms to die.

Using good soil, good water, good seeds as well as learning from your neighbors and local nursery you will continue to learn as you grow.

Composting Temperature Resource:
This is an easy to understand explanation for you.

As long as you are making progress, just keep learning and growing!   Using Jonathan White’s system is a great start.  You can also ask the local feed stores or nursery’s what and who is growing what you want to eat and grow.  Thank you for asking questions, and I know I have not answered all of your questions yet.  Please get back to me on any item that you need clarification on.   If I do not know, I know who to ask for help.  My Wife, business partner and I love to help others.  We were created to help one another and It is a joy to do so.


You are doing a great job.  Vegan and Gluten-free is a great way to get back to being healthy.  Do not forget about your water though.  Clean, healthy water is important.
Looking forward to helping you reach your health goals through good, Organic, Food!

Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on

Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

craig-150Craig Wallin is an expert at growing and building a profitable lifestyle.  In his newest book titled: Growing Microgreens for Profit.  I believe he has come up with a perfect answer for many people who not only want to lots of their own food, but also create a second (or primary) income.

Here is the “notes” of some of what you learn in this book.

  • Learn what microgreens are, and why they’re a hot culinary commodity.
  • Learn “3 steps to the perfect microgreen crop.”
  • Receive instructions for building the “Microbox,” which can put you in business in less than a day!


I took this from his website:   I highly recommend this book.

As a traditional “Farmer and Gardener”,   I had not thought much about microgreens.  Sprouts had always come to mind, but never Microgreens.   I am excited about the opportunities in growing, selling and of course eating these tasty morsels.

You know how nice it is to walk through the garden, smelling the fresh scent of the young plants!  I use to take a nibble here or there of the young plants leaves.  Just to make sure that they were of the highest quality you know.  Have to keep the quality control in place.

But Craig has gone way beyond what most authors will do.  He gives you resources, examples of businesses who are successful with their microgreens that they sell.  I was very impressed with how simple a system can be.  With the ability to start growing immediately and creating an income within 7 to 10 days!

Craig always shares more than most people would, and has shown that he cares about health and wealth of his customers.

I highly recommend that you read Growing Microgreens for Profit and implement all that you learn as soon as you can.

Sustainability is not just about the big systems, it is about a way of life that keeps you focused on your entire environment.  The food you eat, water, the air, and your neighbors.  The 4 legged, two legged and even the winged neighbors who also like the bountiful harvest that you produce.

I really do like the program that Craig shares.  In fact, we are implementing an entire portion of our new greenhouse to just Microgreens!  Thank you Craig!

Click Here  to get your copy of “Grow Microgreens for Profit”.   Get 2 of them I am going to get one for a Fathers day Gift!


Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on

Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

I just got this great question from Marian from Ohio.  Can I grow garlic on my new farm?

Fishes, well no. They are wild garlic plants


“Am trying to purchase an OH farm. It has quite a bit of rain, and not a lot of snow in winter, on almost 20 acres.

A modest farm, but flat and all useable, with a house and 2 big, sturdy barns for alpacas and storage.  Flat land, but no flood plain, and no standing water, which I observed.

Since I have no experience in farming, would like to know what I could plant that would have the right amount of precipitation and cold winter (for a 2-yr crop, if planted).

Only about 4 or 5 mature deciduous trees on the whole place, which animals can use for pasture shade.

Presently, about 10 acres are cropped out to a neighbor for 2013, by owner.   What could occupy an acre or so for a dependable yield without huge money investment that would yield a high rate of return?  Is it too wet for garlic?

What would you recommend? Presently, have no equipment, but could secure use of a tractor. I do have gardening experience, but never grew garlic.”

You Can Grow Garlic on your new Farm.

You just need to answer some specific questions. ( My friend David call this a cuss word: Depends).

It does depend upon some basics as well as how much you want to grow.  Since Marian wants to earn money from her farm, Let’s ask some questions:

I appreciate getting questions like these.  I love new challenges, especially if  I have more questions than I do answers for you.  So here is a list of questions that I have asked Marian to answer:

  • Can you tell me what is currently planted on the 10 acres that is leased?
  • Also, do you have any other farmers there who have their own CSA, (community supported agriculture)?
  • OH is a pretty big state.  What is the USDA Grow Zone?
  • Have you talked to a local Agriculture college, high school FFA chapter or your local county extension agent?
  • What do the other farms grow there?
  • What Life do you see yourself  living on the farm?
  • You said you wanted some Alpacas.  What about Chickens?

This farm, can grow garlic, but let me share a little basic information about Garlic:


Garlic grows best in well-drained soils. Sandy loam soil high in organic matter works best for garlic. Excessive moisture or drought will lower the price you can get for your bulbs, as well as lower your yields. A good quality green manure, Rye grass, peas, beans, alfalfa, buckwheat and even leaves are used to till into the soil.  You want to place this on your beds before you plant garlic.


Most recommendations are to add between 15 to 30 tons per acre depending upon the soil condition when you start.  Garlic likes a pH between 6 and 7.   Add Lime (organic of course) if pH is below 5.8.   The best thing to do is Test, Test and Test the soil. I would recommend calling a local garlic farm in Ohio for some local help.  I will share some recommendations after I speak with some of them.


What is it that you want to accomplish with your farm? Is it going to be your only source of income?


I have a basic list of questions that I ask any potential Farm business owners so that I can help them decide what it is that they want to do.


If you want, I can send you the “Test”.  It is really a list of questions to get you focused on what you need and want.  As well as what will sell in your area and who you can speak with locally.


I also want to share with you a very basic guideline to growing garlic.


No matter where you are located, there is always some way to become more self-sufficient and sustainable.   We have been testing systems for growing food, as well as finding others who are making a living on 1/10th of an Acre in the city of Los Angeles.


We are currently using the Food4Wealth system in a trailer park in Colorado at 7,000 feet elevation.


The best thing that I can tell you, is to start growing!  Keep at it and ask questions.

Decide what kind of food you want and enjoy the journey!!

Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on

Posted by & filed under water.

How to save water is a growing challenge.  There are water shortages world wide.  Hydroponics is one way to save up to 85% of the water it takes to grow our food.   I have met some Great people who are sharing many great ways to save water.  They are working to educate and advocate for us all.  Go to their website and donate if you like to drink clean water.  Who knows whose life you may be saving?


Saving water should never become a public concern only in times of drought when water is undeniably scarce. The world water supply is finite. Every drop of water wasted is a drop less in a wild and scenic river, a drop less of a needed salmon run. Every drop of water that circles a drain unnecessarily wastes energy through the manufacturing of chemicals in the cycle of sewage treatment.
The world water supply is dwindling, and yet it is only water supply we will ever have. The water we use in our kitchens does not indicate an endless supply of safe, clean water. This water will be treated, and eventually will be returned to us, but in a chemically altered state from the previous time we used it.The following are some water facts that you may not know.

Here is a Water Footprint Infographic.


Their website:  states their mission as follows:  The mission of Save the Water™ is to conduct water research to identify toxic chemicals harmful to humans, animals, and the environment.  Save the Water™ is committed to finding methods to eliminate the toxins and improve the quality of drinking water.

We respect the right of every individual to have access to safe and clean drinking water.

Save the Water™ is committed to the education of present and future generations on water sustainability issues in order to insure the protection and conservation of water. Without clean drinking water, no species plant, animal or human can be saved. We must insure that the water is not contaminated to the point where we can no longer drink it.

With proper funding Save the Water™ will provide the extensive educational instruction and research necessary. Your support and generosity will help us fulfill our mission.


How to Save Water in Agriculture

Hydroponics technology is a growing and becoming more and more popular.  With limited resources, Aquaponics is also growing rapidly in technology and efficiency.   There are groups and businesses like  who are  helping others grow their own food in remote areas.

Another company, Fodder Tech, is still emerging as a technology that will revolutionize the cattle industry.  Imagine lowering the amount of water used to feed the cattle for the meat industry by more than 50%!  The production of the Fodder that they produce uses hydroponics technology.  A wonderful way to save up to 85% of the water to grow most of the cattle feed.  That is not the only place that hydroponics is growing.

Urban Hydroponics is another  answer in “How to save water” questions

There are hydroponic vegetable and herb gardens all throughout the world.  Shipping containers can be turned into hydroponic growing stations!  Very efficient especially when using Solar power to run the lights and the water pumps.

How to save water is an ever growing concern.  Pesticides, pollution, waste, drought take a toll on the water.  Now governments are taking water rights away from its own citizens.   How can this be?  We are allowing it to happen.

It is time for us to all be aware of our own water usage.  Do we really require a chemically maintained green yard?  How many children, animals and adults get sick each year because of the dangerous chemicals sprayed or applied to “Their Lawn”?  Too many in my opinion.

Lawns do look nice, but they cannot feed your family.  Hydroponics and home gardens do feed the family.  And since we are looking for ways to save the water, Hydroponics is one of the best answers.

There is a beginners course about Aquaponics by my friend Jonathan White from Australia.  They have had very intense droughts there for a while.  I highly recommend that if you are interested in Aquaponics, that you check it out.

Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on

Posted by & filed under Hydroponics, In the News.

We have seen the news stories about food shortages.  The shocking truth about food shortages is even documented by the news.  Video footage of young children with bloated stomachs that are barely alive.   Mothers and fathers asking for help from whoever will listen and help.  Drought and famine seems to be growing in the news.

Drinkable water is quickly becoming more and more scarce.  Chemicals are added to our drinking water to “protect” end users from disease and bacteria.  Desalination technology is growing quickly as the need for more water continues to rise.  Without clean healthy water, our food quality diminishes also.

What is the shocking truth about food shortages?


In my opinion, there does not need to be any food shortages.  We have technology that can provide food even in the desert, using Hydroponics, Aeroponics and Aquaponics.  We can grow fodder for animals using hydroponics like Foddertech systems that can produce up to 6,000 pounds (3 tons) per day.


I want to share with you an article that was shared with me from Eat Drink  On April 8, 2013 Jennifer Kaplan Shared the following report:

The article suggests that companies dealing in fertilizers/grains/trading, seeds/chemicals and farm equipment all stand to gain from the global food shortage.  And, it comes as no surprise that environmentally unpopular companies like Archer Daniels Midland, DuPont and Monsanto are on the list.


The inflation in the food prices is set to continue globally. The demand is rising faster than the supply can keep pace and in 2007 and 2008 there were riots in 60 countries due to run up in the prices of corn, wheat and soybeans …

Agriculture has the potential to be one of the most promising investment themes for the coming decade (sorry Facebook investors!). Here are some of the selected stocks that you can use to play the agriculture theme.

The post goes on to accurately point to two factors causing rising food prices globally:

Increased demand from China. asserts that financial opportunities exist as “established players jockey to lock in supplies of essential grains and position themselves as a supplier to China.” They site the recent bid from the Japanese trading house Marubeni to acquire the US based grains merchant Gavilon (a spinoff from Conagra Foods) as being an obvious way of getting a footing in the Chinese supply channel.

Diversion of agricultural resources to produce biofuels.  The articles suggests that global agriculture giants are investing, and diverting grain, for the Ethanol market.



The Great news is this:  We as readers to such magazines like Grit, Mother Earth News, Cappers and others who believe that we are the solution are growing, literally, in numbers.

We have seen that in this world, that there is truly no “Lack” of food or water.  There is a lack of knowledge on many peoples part, but not those of us who thrive on the lifestyle of growing our own food.  It does not stop there either.  Look at all of the innovations that are shared in each edition of Grit magazine.

We are growing our own food in extreme conditions here in Colorado.  We use the food4wealth growing system, because of the ease of growing smaller gardens and food plots.  Last year we grew enough food for ourselves and 2 other families.  Even though we were in the middle of a drought, our harvest was plentiful.



I am excited as the time to plant our garden outside is getting closer.  We have a new farm that is at 8,800 feet in elevation.  We just got the well tested.  It provides 6 gallons per minute.  The water test is not complete, but there are others that are living in the area.  They too grow their own food and live where city power or water is not available.  This is a going to be a great year!


The best news is this:  As we grow locally and grow healthy natural food or organic food, the food shortage myth can be eliminated.  Again, this is my opinion, but I do believe that you feel the same way.  Looking forward to hearing how you are living a life of Abundance!


Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on


Posted by & filed under Hydroponics.

Hydroponic Gardening-the Ultimate guide, has taken me from 1985 until now to complete my experiments and understand how it works.     I started my experimenting with hydroponics  in 1980.

The  thing I like about hydroponics (hydro=water and ponos=labor) is that the water does the work for me, to a certain extent.  Hydroponic gardening  technology has improved greatly since then and is now becoming very popular.

Single Plant Hydroponic garden

Hydroponic Gardening a Short History

In 1937, Time Magazine shared this story about hydroponics!

Last week a new science was given a new name. Hydroponics, by its foremost U. S. practitioner, Dr. William Frederick Gericke of the University of California. Set out in row’s at the University’s plant experiment station in Berkeley are a number of shallow tanks made of wood, concrete, metal. From some of these tanks grow thick, towering clumps of tomato plants bearing rich red clusters of fruit. From other tanks and in an equal state of vigor grow potatoes, tobacco, gladioli, begonias. The roots of the plants are not in soil but in chemically…

Hydroponic Gardening is not new,  from Ancient Babylon to the Aztecs in what we call Mexico, there have been hanging gardens.  Beautiful examples of how beloved and useful water is.  The Chinese also have many examples of hydroponic gardens. Dr. Gericke from the university of  But even in the last five decades, there has been some tremendous innovations and understanding of how to succeed using hydroponics. The United States Government studied hydroponics even in space on board the first space station.  They also studied how to grow hemp, yes, marijuana for both fiber and for increasing the potency of the drug effectiveness of the pot plant.  All of these tests used and refined hydroponic gardening.

You do not need soil

Without the restriction of having to grow in soil, hydroponics can produce a higher yield, as well as use less water.  This makes the dependency on rain and massive irrigation resources, or lack of irrigation, less of a problem.  Without having to worry about drought, the ability to live a sustainable life is greatly increased.  Especially where the soil in the area is either very poor or contaminated by pollution or purposeful destruction.   The need for massive doses of pesticides or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) is eliminated.  Most pests live in the soil.  This creates a our water, soil and food cleaner, while conserving HUGE amounts of Water.   And you may have heard about the water shortages that the large corporations and the news is starting to talk about.   Water is life.  If WE do not start managing our water useage, do we really want our governments to manage it for us?  They have done such a great job of keeping the rivers, lakes and land free from pesticides and other contaminants like mercury, PCB’s, etc….

Hydroponic gardening is becoming very popular with commercial growers as well.  There is a US Military Veteran who has a hydroponic garden/farm in southern California.  It is called Archie’s Acres, they are growing naturally healthy food using hydroponics.  At the same time they are also helping other veterans and college students to become self sufficient and learn a business.  A lot of our food, especially in the cold winter months comes from greenhouses growing hydroponically.


What can be grown hydroponically?

Most vegetables can be grown hydroponically.  Pretty much most of what you grow in your soil garden can be grown in a hydroponic garden.  Here is a small list of some of the vegetables that can be grown:

  • Tomatoes
  • Zuchinni
  • radishes
  • lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • melons
  • carrots
  • onions
  • peppers
  • herbs
  • spices
  • And the list goes on.

You are limited only by your desire to experiment and ask for help from others.  Remember in school when you had a test?  If you asked someone else for help, you would get in trouble.  In Real Life, if you do not ask for help, you might get into trouble.  Either your plants will fail or you could end up spending a lot more money learning the hard way.

Homemade Hydroponics

If you are limited by finances to get started, ask for some help.  my first hydroponic system cost me $6 to make out of 2 buckets and some rope.   We got about $50 worth of tomatoes out of the plant!   We also grew some hydroponic strawberries.

Hydroponic gardeners are excited to help and the ones that I have met, have a passion for helping others.  Life is an open source, ask for help, it makes for a more enjoyable journey.  I know for myself, the more I share what I know and as I ask for help, the better I become at growing our food.


6 Different Types of Hydroponic Systems

I know of 6 different types of hydroponic systems.  That is if you count the drip systems as one, as there is drip system-recovery and drip system-non-recovery.  So I guess you could say 7 different types that I know of.  Are there other systems?  Possibly, but I am only going to share what I know.  If you know of more please share!

Here they are, then I will go into more detail about them.

  1. Wick System
  2. Water Culture System
  3. Flood and Drain (aka-Ebb and Flow)
  4. Drip System (Recover and Non-recovery, yes, I am talking about recovering the water)
  5. NFT System (Nutrient Film Technique)
  6. Aeroponic System (is it really a hydroponic system?  Yes)


Wick System is  easiest and most inexpensive hydroponic system to build.  It uses wicking material, like cotton rope or other non-polluting fibrous material.  The material shout be absorbent, and will be used to move the nutrient solution from the reservoir into the soil.   My first experiment I used two (2) buckets.  One bucket to grow my tomato plants, and the other to hold the nutrient solution with the wicks floating in the solution.  It was easy to build, and cost me about 6 dollars total including the soil, seeds and buckets.  I made my own nutrient solution using compost.  Our water supply was not treated with chemicals so I did not filter the water.


Water Culture System, or as I like to call it, the Floating garden.  It is made up of a tank, of nutrient solution, an air pump that supplies air to an airstone (add air back into the water) and a float to hold the plant containers so that they will float on top of the nutrient solution.  This system works great for growing lettuce ans other product that are fast growing and take larger amounts of water.  Popeye must have had a floating hydroponic garden with all of the spinach he ate.

Flood and Drain (Ebb and Flow) System.  This system works by flooding the grow tank with nutrient solution, but only temporarily. Then the nutrient solution drains back into the tank.  It requires a submersible pump, and you now have two tanks.  One for growing the plant, and one for the solution.  In addition, there is an overflow drain from the grow tank back into the nutrient solution tank.  If you do not have the overflow, if the pump fails to stop working, you would then have a mess.

Drip System (recovery and non-recovery)  The drip system is one of the most used types of hydroponic gardening  systems in the world!  There is a grow tray, that has a pump to deliver the nutrient solution.  For the drip recovery system, there is a drain from the grow tray to recover the solution, as well as an air pump and an air stone to add air back to  the nutrient tank.   The non-recovery drip system will just pump nutrient solution to the plants at a specific rate.  This can be more difficult if you live in a hot climate or if you have problems with your automation of adding water and nutrients to you plants.  However, if you are present all of the time, some of the drip systems are very simple.   Take a watering container to the plants and drip the nutrients to the base of each plant you are growing!  Low tech but it works great!

NFT System.  The NFT system (Nutrient Film Technique)  and no, I am not talking about hollywood or homemade films.  The NFT system is actually a continuous flow system.  the plants and their grow pots are placed into a long pipe or channel.  the nutrient solution is continually circulated but in a very shallow stream of water.  This water, also called the nutrient solution, flows past the bare roots of the plants.  But the root mat develops in the bottom of the channel.  The upper surface of the root, will be moist, but will be in the air to make sure that there is an abundant supply of oxygen to the roots.

Can there be problems for the plants if there is too much solution in the channels?  Yes, so getting your flow right and keeping it clean and working properly is very important.


Aeroponic System is the  most high-tech type of hydroponic gardening that I know of.   The growing medium is mostly air.  So  instead of flooding the channel, the roots hang in the air and are misted with the nutrient solution.  The roots are misted every few minutes, or as needed to ensure that they receive the food they need to grow healthy.  Since the roots are “hanging out to dry” so to speak, if the spraying cycle is shut off by loss of power or other challenge, the plants could die .   It is a great system, and I have see a couple of them.  Majestic Hydrogardening has one that he has created.  I am impressed with his ingenuity!

Hydroponic Gardening: grow you way to health

So I have taken you through the basics of Hydroponic gardening.  This really seems simple, and in practice it can be, as long as you understand the plants, flowers included, that you want to grow.  There is a lot more to learn.  The more you learn and grow your own food, your health will continue to improve.   Every journey starts with the first step.  I hope that I have inspired you to take that first step to growing your own food and flowers using a hydroponic system.

Join us for more great information about this and other information that will allow you to live the life you dream of.  I invite your to  Sign up for our “Growing Newsletter”  at the bottom of this page.


Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on