Out of the Grow Bed, Into the Pan and Onto the Plate

Here’s what’s going on in our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse these days.

Greenhouse Full ShotWe just harvested a ton of lettuce and moved into flowering plants. Notice we still have lettuce in the first Grow Bed, which is about to be harvested. In the back bed we have the Queens of the Greenhouse–a couple of huge Zucchini Plants that are pumping out huge Zucchini. The leaves on these plants look like African Elephant ears. They were planted in early April. We’ve got eggplant, tomatoes, okra, peppers and corn in the middle beds.

We’re giving corn another try this summer as we actually got cobs to grow last year; but they didn’t mature into edible corn. I’m so eager to be able to grow non GMO corn, which is pretty much impossible to get in the U.S. these days thanks to Monsanto and friends. I just broke down and ordered non GMO corn flour so I can make my own corn tortillas as tacos is one of our favorite dishes around here. Bob's Red Mill

We just harvested four Zucchini from the Queens; and I can’t wait to get them into the kitchen so I can cut one up and make Italian Zucchini paddies.Four Zucchini and the Queens #1Four Zucchini and the Queens #2

Below are a couple of photos of an outdoor Zucchini Plant that was planted on the same day the indoor plants were placed into our Food Forever™ Growing System. Every day we have to go out and water this puppy. Once we do that this evening after the hot desert sun goes down, it will perk right up and not have those droopy puppy-dog ears.Zucchini in soil #2Zucchini in soil #3

The difference between these two plants is remarkable to say the least; and we’ve hardly done anything in the way of maintenance on the indoor plants. Trimmed off some of those huge elephant ears the other day and that was about it. No watering and no weeding. Aquaponics systems don’t have weeds, and the watering is done automatically in what is called an ebb and flow schedule designed into the system.  That means about every 15 minutes the Grow Bed is flooded with water and then it drains out. This goes on 24/7 with the aide of the Bell Siphon.

So here they are in the pan, thick slices of zucchini that were dunked into a couple of raw whisked eggs and then dipped into Italian Bread crumbs and quick fried.Fried Zucchini Paddies

And from the pan, they went to the plate. I’m not planning on auditioning for Master Chef any time soon; but I had to add a few leaves of our fresh basil (we’re growing tons of it on our growroom right now) for color and image appeal. Notice shadow of the cook in the foreground.Zucchini on the Plate

Here’s a photo of the ingredients that went into making the zucchini paddies. Fresh, just picked zucchini from our Food Forever™ Grow Bed, 2 eggs, some Italian Bread Crumbs, graded cheese, salt, pepper, oregano and our own aquaponically grown dried basel (in the bottle with the yellow lid). Oh, and some Prego on top.Ingredients for Pan Fried Zucchini

This is making me hungry so if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to send the zucchini on the next leg of its journey–into my stomach.

Thanks for visiting.

Once you get the bug (pun intended) Gardening becomes a way of life!

Through The Eyes of Grace Photography, Title: Desert Dreaming

I’ve lived in the desert for over six years now; and I’ve yet to get used to what happens when the seasons change from fall to winter as it appears to happen over night and unexpectedly. One weekend we’re in our pool playing pool volleyball and the next weekend is winter. Last year we got caught with our volleyball court still under the pool cover and our swimming suits hanging on the fence. Then, poof, summer was over.

This year we did a little better personally and had voluntarily abandoned the pool ; but we were still trying to hang on to our outdoor garden and failed as four cool days and frosty nights in a row hit us like an arctic winter. We desperately tried to tarp this little outdoor oasis that sits beside our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse; but it wasn’t able to keep the freeze out. We pretty much lost everything although there are some tomato plants still hanging on to life. They are the ones that were closest to the cement blocks that make up the riser we built to raise up the greenhouse. The heat from the blue flame heater inside the greenhouse must have passed through the wall enough to keep these plants alive.

The photos below are what frost bite looks like on cherry tomatoes, squash and corn. It’s a sad sight. 

Still I got a sweet harvest from this outdoor garden today as you can see by the photos below. You wouldn’t believe how incredible these cherry tomatoes taste (although, they’re not quite as sweet as the ones that are growing in our Food Forever™ Growing System).

The squash had a ways to go so they are pretty small; but I’m sure they’ll taste really great. The radishes hadn’t been in the ground long and I was surprised to see how big some of them were as we harvested them prematurely as well. They actually survived the frost better than the squash and didn’t have frost burn at all. It seems that the plants that were closer to the ground did the best. 

You may be wondering how we’re gardening outdoors at all since we do live smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert as you can see from the lead-in photo. The truth is we didn’t think we were going to be able to grow a traditional garden here either. That’s why we built a Greenhouse and started our gardening careers doing Aquaponic Gardening. Neither one of us had ever gardened before so our first foray into gardening was Aquaponic gardening.

Our first season of Aquaponic gardening was in 2009; and our Greenhouse turned into a jungle. We were amazed and we got the gardening bug big time. In fact, now I just don’t feel right if I don’t have food growing in my environment. In 2011, we decided we wanted to use the space alongside our greenhouse for a traditional soil garden. So what we did was we ordered a truck full of “real dirt”, built raised beds and planted our first outdoor garden.

This year our outdoor garden did better than our first year; and by next season, we plan to have a little protective fence around it to keep the critters out. They don’t seem to like tomato plants and corn so they pretty much left the garden alone this past season; but we were feeding them in an area that is close to the house so that may have made a difference.

Through The Eyes of Grace Photography, Title: Lunch Date

So now we basically had to give up on the outdoor garden. But back in the Aquaponics USA Greenhouse, things are still growing and there’s no fear of frost burn.  We have two Grow Beds full of runaway tomato plants. By runaway I mean I haven’t trimmed off the suckers enough and these plants have taken over the Beds. I recently harvested quite a few tomatoes from them, but as the weather has cooled, their production has gone way down. However, they are still working at putting out fruit as you can see from the photos below.

Tomato growing in our Greenhouse in November, 2012.

Below are a couple of photos of lettuce that is growing in our Greenhouse right now.

Lettuce growing in our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse.

Here’s some Chinese Cabbage and Lettuce growing in our Greenhouse.

The Peppers you see in the photo below are also growing in our Greenhouse right now in mid November; but the Pepper Plant that produced this fruit isn’t doing well because it’s being strangled by the huge tomato plant that has taken over that Grow Bed. Nevertheless, this determined Pepper Plant was able to pop out these lovely peppers.

Peppers hanging out of the Grow Bed that has been taken over by Tomatoes.

I planted a bunch of seeds into seedling trays yesterday (Aquaponics gardeners can be planting seeds in November) so we plan to plant a lot of leafy greens into our Grow Beds soon. Leafy greens love cool weather; and we’ll be growing a lot of lettuce, basil,  chinese cabbage and more in both our Greenhouse and Growroom soon.

We’ll share more photos and stories about our adventures as Aquaponics (and soil) Gardeners in the near future. In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and GET GROWING!