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

Posted by & filed under Hydroponics.

I did not use to think of  a drip system as being a hydroponics system.  I have discovered that due to the recent droughts that  homemade hydroponics drip systems are increasing in popularity.  They work great for food and flower growth.  Once the drip system is installed, watering can be automated.


Drip irrigation has been used for as long as we have written history.  There are many advantages to homemade hydroponics drip irrigation.

The advantages of  drip irrigation are:

  • Watering plants is highly efficient
  • Good quality balanced water is recycled.
  • Moisture in the root zone is easily maintained.
  • Growing media (soil, etc.)  is less of a factor in healthy moisture.
  • NO Soil erosion when using  hydroponics.
  • Less weed growth.
  • Water distribution can easily be automated.
  • Less time spent on watering and irrigating.
  • Lower energy costs, especially when using gravity feed irrigation.

The disadvantages of hydroponics drip irrigation are:

  • Expense: initial cost can be more other systems.
  • The sun can affect the tubes used for drip irrigation, shortening their usable life.
  • Plugged water lines, if the water is not properly filtered.
  • Water Chemistry.  since there is not much waste, salts applied with the water can build up in the root zone.  Make sure that you keep your chemistry balanced.
  • Threats from rodents, especially if the hydroponics system is outside.  It is a great place for them to get a quick drink.
  • Cost of purchasing high end organic nutrients

Homemade Hydroponics Drip Systems Cost Less

There are lots of homemade hydroponics drip systems that have been created.  From buckets, small ponds with a recirculating pump all the way to complex, automated greenhouse systems.  I have seen PVC pipe, used gallon containers and even bathtubs with grow media in them with drip feed tubing feeding the vegetation.

Here is a list of some of the inexpensive material you may need to create your own homemade hydroponics drip system:


  1. 1. Air pump, fish tank air pump :  you do not need high tech gadgets
  2. 2. Good Sized PVC or bucket container (approximately 10 gallons)
  3. 3. 3/4″ PVC pipe  (White PVC)
  4. 4. Clear tubing  (1/4″ Inside diameter)
  5. 5. T connectors (2)
  6. 6. PVC Plant Pots
  7. 7. Air Line  as required
  8. 8. Garden drip line, hydroponic shop or hardware garden supply
  9. 1/4″ ball valves (used to adjust the flow of nutrients)


Now, you will take your materials, and put the system together.  I am not going to give you exact step by step directions, experiment some and get it to work for you!  If you are struggling, you can send us a picture and your questions if you need to.  The BEST thing to do though is to go to the local hydroponics store and start a relationship with a local expert!

If you want to grow outside in the soil, you can still use the same method to water and feed your plants.  One great way to use drip irrigation is to create a highly efficient garden.  The Food4Weatlh growing system is what we use in our home garden.  It is easy to grow, and does not take alot of maintenance.  Last year, in two (2) rows 3 feet wide and 18 feet long, we grew enough food for 3 families plus ourselves.

Homemade hydroponics drip systems are easy to make, and we are getting our garden ready now.  Most people who live in warmer climates have already started their plants.  We are just starting our indoors due to the short growing season that we have.  We would love to hear your stories and be able to share them as you are growing Your food this year!

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 Animals.

You need  chicken feeder plans, but you want them for free.  The great news is that there are hundreds, if not more,  chicken feeder plans for free on-line and on

There are three types of chicken feeders.

  • Automatic chicken feeders
  • Manual chicken feeders
  • Natural chicken feeders

You can get lots of plans for free, but I want to share this set of automated chicken feeder plans with you. :  Rod from is giving you access to his plans for free.


Chicken feeder

As you can see from this picture, the plans are easy to understand and simple to build.  The high quality of the plans and the automatic chicken feeder are obvious.

Chicken Feeder Plans can be made from many different materials

There are Chicken feeder plans that use:

  • Wood  (Like the plans from Rod from woodworking
  • Plastic buckets (similar to or made from home depot buckets)
  • PVC Piping  (look for them on
  • Metal (Galvanized pipe or sheet metal rolled into a round cylinder)

There are lots of ideas and plans available, watch a couple of videos from YouTube, or better yet, you can learn how chickens naturally feed themselves.  Chickens4wealth is taught by Jonathon White, and he shares how he raises his chickens to learn how to find their own food.  It provides a great environment for his chickens, which makes them better producers.  I like natures way better for feeding the chickens!


Automatic  or Manual Chicken feeder plans?

As I shared, my favorite automatic chicken feeder is an open environment. That is natures’ automatic feeder. The chickens automatically find their food!  You may need to supplement their feed, but your costs will be significantly less.

If you must keep them safe from predators by all means, keep them caged.  There are mobile chicken tractors that you can purchase or build also.  Your chickens get the advantage of being able to forage on the ground, but they are safe from predators. When it is time to move the chicken enclosure,  just hook up to the tractor and move the entire brood to a new area.  Good for the chickens and for the soil!  This gives them some live food and it also cuts down on your expenses.  You all win!

I know that some of you do not have enough room to move your chickens around your property.  The great news is that you can build an automatic feeder from available plans.  It beats hand feeding your chickens by throwing the seed on the ground.  Some chicken feeder plans have open-ended feed fests for their chickens.  Without a cover for the feed when the chickens go to roost, the mice and other animals will come in for a “Free” meal on your chickens feed.

 Choose chicken feeder plans that work for your flock

All in all, if you have a small area and you can’t let your chickens roam free, the automatic chicken feeder plans will save you time and money when chicken farming.  You will have less waste, and there is a cover over the feed while the chickens are sleeping.   To find out how much to feed your chickens, and get great videos and a book about chickens I recommend Chickens4Wealth.      Jonathan White shares his expertise on how the chicken thinks and thrives in the right environment.  I use his resources myself.

Chickens are not only productive for eggs and meat, but they are also great entertainment!

Let me know when you make your own chicken feeder from the plans that we shared.  Today is a great day to start crowing about your chickens!


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.

The Basics of Hydroponic Gardening

Hydroponic Gardening was known as early as 600B.C in the hanging gardens of Babylon “working with water” to grow food and flowers has become hydroponics.  It was Dr. Gericke from the University of California who coined the term “Hydroponics”.  Dr. Gericke discovered that you can grow flowers and vegetables in shallow tanks filled with water!  As long as those tanks contained the proper nutrient solution, the plants grew.

During World War II, the armed forces built hydroponic gardens on the barren soils of the Pacific Rim islands, supplying soldiers with fresh vegetables, resolving the need to ship fresh foods long distances.

Single Plant Hydroponic garden

7 Tips from an Expert


I have spent time with Johnathon Wood from Majestic Hydrogardening.    I wrote down some of the most important aspects of hydroponic gardening that he shared. Here they are, just as I wrote them down:

  1. Your Why.  Having a reason and a passion to grow food, spices and herbs for yourself and your family.  You do not have to start big, just start and take action.  Knowing that becoming self-sufficient is important in providing food for our family is important for most people.
  2. Choose how to start hydroponic gardening.  You can grow inside using lights or a sun room.  You can grow outside on a deck and yes, even in soil using a non-recovery hydroponic system.
  3. Nutrients are key to hydroponic gardening.  If you do not understand nutrients and what your plants need to thrive, you need help.  We invite you to join our newsletter at the bottom of this page to get the scoop on what you need.
  4. Different systems.  Find the hydroponic gardening system that works for your lifestyle!  This could be the make it or break it for your desire to grow your food.  There are lots of different systems, so ask questions.  It is the only way to get answers.
  5. Chemistry and the importance of proper pH.  Wow, is this IMPORTANT?  Yes it is, but it does not have to be that difficult.  Balancing all of this out can be as close as asking an expert.
  6. Pest control. You need to be aware of what your environment is doing to breed pests and allowing them in.  Do not grow on carpet in your home.  Carpet is a breeding ground with lots of hiding places for pests.  DO grow on black plastic or in a tent to keep your plants isolated.
  7. Water issuesWater issues are one reason that hydroponic gardening thrives!  It uses less water, and helps you grow your food during a drought!  But then again, this is where the chemistry of hydroponic  gardening is important.  Keep the chlorine and other contaminants out of your garden.

 Conclusions about Hydroponic Gardening

These tips are the basis that I had known about for years.  But there is one more way that you can increase your food production and lower your nutrient expenses with hydroponic gardening.  I invite you to go to Easy Start Aquaponics and learn more about Aquaponics.  Aquaponics combines hydroponic gardening and raising fish for both food and for the nutrients for your garden.

The number 1 secret is going to be this:  Start growing something today!  Take action, ask questions and get your whole family involved.  We have the neighborhood kids come over to our house all of the time.  They wanted to know where food really comes from.  One of the best rewards we have received for growing our own food is this:  Seeing those childrens smiles when they taste food right out of the garden.  Even better than candy is what one 4 year old said!  Gardening on purpose, hydroponic gardening or even aquaponic gardening, what a fun way to eat what you learned.

Posted by & filed under Animals.

Organic chicken farming is a great addition to profitable small scale farming.  Raising meat birds organically is animal friendly and is good for the earth. Unlike mass produced caged chicken farming where the chickens are born, raised then sent to market without ever touching the earth.  Live fast and die young appears to be the motto of those chicken farms.  Here are the top 5 reasons chicken farming is profitable.


New Terra Natural shared years of research of the benefits of organic chicken farming.  The article that I am quoting below only shares about meat chickens.  However, there is much to also share about chicken farming for egg production.

Here is what New Terra Natural Foods shared:


The advantages of organic chicken as a livestock animal for your small farm are many:

Top 5 Reasons Chicken Farming is Profitable

  • Meat chickens are a quick turnaround: in 10-12 weeks you can raise day-old chicks to roaster size. This means a quick return on your investment. You can also do more than one batch of birds a year.
  • Meat chickens are space-efficient: you don’t need a lot of land to raise some chickens, even on pasture. A batch of 100 birds can be confined in about 1/5 of an acre without harming the land.
  • Meat chickens are time-efficient: caring for pastured poultry should only take about 20 minutes a day. This leaves time for other farm activities.
  • Organic free-range chicken is a premium product: if you have ever looked at the price of organic chicken in the stores, you will see they are charging a hefty price. This means you have a good margin for profit for your own birds.
  • Free-range organic chicken is delicious! You can fill your own freezer with healthy, great-tasting meat.


They also agreed with my assessment that the key to organic chicken farming is to minimize your losses.  A 95% success rate from hatching to market is important.  So you want to ensure that you care for your birds by keeping them warm, dry, well nourished and happy!  The other thing that you need to do is to keep them safe from predators.

As you optimize your system for raising organic chickens, you can make a 60% profit on each batch of chickens that you grow.  New Terra Foods believes that it can also go as high as 70% profit.  Depending upon where you live, and your seasons, you can grow up to three batches of chickens per year. With as little as 1 acre of  property, organic chicken farming can improve your life financially, as well as provide food for your table.

So as part of your plan to make your small scale farm profitable, organic chicken farming can be another profitable leg of your life.  I want to invite you to check out chickens4wealth created by Jonathon White from Australia.  He has shared his successes before.   As we live at 7,000 feet, we had to make sure that the chickens here could breathe at this altitude.  Make sure your chickens will thrive in your environment.


One of the best things that you can do, is decide if raising chickens is right for you.  You can also sell eggs if you wish. I have a friend Ronda who shares that her chickens not only provide her with more than enough eggs, but also  hours of entertainment.  We even had one chicken who loved to jump up and get pets from us every time we would go out to their yard.   Yes, chickens have provided me with lots of entertainment and joy also.  I was just at Big R Farm and Ranch store here in Monument Colorado.  I took some pictures of the chicks that had just arrived.  We are going to go this Saturday, March 23 and go to their presentation on raising chickens!  I love learning!  The more tips and valuable information I get, the better we can grow.


Look for more information about organic chicken farming in our upcoming posts!  Make sure to leave a comment as well as leave any questions that you may have.


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 Plants.

I want to share with you the top 10 profitable spices to grow for your farm.  But first, let me share what the most expensive spices that you can buy are.


The most expensive spices in the world are considered to be Saffron, Cardamom and Pure Vanilla beans.  Saffron being the most expensive due to high labor cost.

  • Saffron sell for approximately $1,000 per pound!
  • Cardamon sells for $60 per pound in the pod, but $100 per pound ground up.
  • Then the third most costly spice that I could find is Pure Vanilla Beans.  Pure vanilla will sell between $50 and $200 per pound.

That is just the bean!  Even though these spices are the most expensive does not mean that they will be profitable for you to grow.  They are labor intensive to harvest and where would you sell them?

One of my trusted sources for finding  profitable spices to grow

I have shared how the top 10 profitable spices to grow for profitable small scale farming is an important part of growing.  I read articles by Craig Wallin quite a bit.  His website  Profitable, also shares the top 10 profitable spices to grow.    I have also grown many of the herbs and spices that he shares.  I wanted to share his views of the ten most profitable spices to grow, because they are my pick also.  Except for catnip,  I am sure that it is great, but I am a bit of a dog lover.  I have a mental block about catnip.  All the rest I use and grow myself.  Thank you Craig for your article!



1. Basil. Basil tops the list at number on of the top 10 profitable spices to grow.   Basil is a very tender plant and should be kept indoors until there is no danger of frost. Growing basil starts in plug trays can work great for basil. Expect to be selling lots of these, so keep the fresh plants coming.

2. Chives. Standard chives are a steady seller. These will start to germinate after a week or so. And unlike basil, these can actually do quite well in cooler weather.

3. Cilantro. Cilantro is another popular culinary herb. In addition to its cooking values, it also has many other ones. It is particularly good for digestion and other medicinal values. Expect to sell lots of this at the Saturday farmer’s market.

4. Oregano. Oregano is one of the most popular herbs that you’ll find in Italian cooking. Unforgettable taste and aroma give this herb its main appeal. Oregano is a commonly used garnish for stews, soups, and gravies.

5. Parsley. Parsley is so popular it even has historical significance. The ancient Greeks used it at the athletic games, weaving it into victory crowns. They also fed it to their horses to make them run faster.

6. Catnip. Catnip is commonly used for cats, but can also be a soothing sedative for humans. It has been known to provide pain and stress relief and to also help with flu and cold symptoms.

7. Chamomile. Chamomile can make for a nice, soothing tea. It also has medicinal values, such as a digestive, sleep, and calming aid. Plus it’s very easy to grow!

8. Lavender. Lavender has so many uses it’s been called the “Swiss army knife” of herbs. The medicinal values include usefulness for skin care, women and children’s health, pain relief and nervous system conditions. The essential oil that is found in lavender is one of the top ten in the fragrance industry.

9. Marsh mallow. This herb has many medicinal values, such as being good for coughs and bronchitis, the digestive tract, and several skin conditions.

10. St John’s wort. St John’s wort is highly known as a mood-boosting substance, but it has many other values too. It is particularly useful for cold and flu prevention, immune support, and skin treatment. The healing ingredient in St John’s wort is called hypericin and is found in the top of the plant.

These are just a few of many profitable herbs to grow. Given the right care, these herbs can grow into something that will bring joy to your customers and put money in the bank.



 When deciding which of the top 10 profitable spices to grow, ask yourself these questions:

  • What will it cost your to grow these spices and herbs?
  • Who is your customer?
  • What price will you be able to sell them for?
  • Can you pre-sell your spices and herbs?
  • Do you have restaurants, schools or other businesses in your network?

One of the best ways to start  selling the top 10 profitable spices to  grow , is to pre-sell them  by using  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).  The other way is to start small an grow your business like you do your crops.  The Food4Wealth Program makes life easier for starting spices to grow for profitable small scale farming.  There is less work to get started and less daily maintenance.  I invite you to 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