Food self sufficiency tips and hacks

Float one of these transducers in the kratky system, and you end up with a hybrid kratky aeroponics system.

This is their single head unit, they make up to`12 heads, but it just floats on top.
Newest model 1 head Mist Maker in Operation - 1 disc water fogger/ mist maker /The House of Hydro - YouTube

They have directions on how to make a whole aeroponics system using their stuff of course.

I stopped looking right here because it is a big rabbit hole. :slight_smile:

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Hey Guys, I have a new diffnert problem on this new to us property than in the past decades.
We grow in dirt. In soils.
Previously it either digging out and removing the 30-40% by volume of big rocks to leave the actual dirt’s/soils; or hauling in enough outside bought dirt/soil to get above the rocks. As Family we’d done both.

Here now on my humpy ridge corner it is small rocks filled dirt thinly above actual sticky grey-red clay.
Well 500 feet away and downslope at the creek bottom corner I have washdown settled rock free topsoil/dirt at least 10 feet deep across a quarter acre patch.
I just need to mine it. Like here, ‘mining your own property for soil’

Bare-in-mind this guy developed himself previously to be a very successful Urban market gardener.
His raised beds, like our will be is to conserve on the amount of soil moving and concentrating you’d have to do.
And raised bed lower volume of soil I can see the feasibility to; needs-must, shovel it out and wood fired barrel burn it back de-bugged sterile and start over again. Take that! you roots cutter bugs and potato blight spores.


Sterilizing soil would be my very last option, however it is proven that under controlled conditions plenty of food can be grown in inert bases. I’m thinking mainly of Dutch buckets now. Still, all nutrients would have to be maintained in a metered delivery system. I did not get in to real gardening, until I was 63 and forcefully retired by the economic collapse. The only treeless part of my property was a stretch of mostly wetlands meadow. The area I chose to garden was a sloping hillside that went from steep to a gentle grade. With a shovel and wheelbarrow I dug out that area from four foot deep at the west side and after separating the top soil moved the remainder to the back east side of the area filling in a area of constantly wet soil. This made a flat area 100 X 150 feet of raw sand. I started building slightly raise beds, about 8 inches high, dug them out down two feet and filled them with the top soil I had saved. These were 4 foot wide by 30 ft long beds and the first two took most of the saved top soil. Each year as I started more beds I had to scout more places to get non-mucky soil and I made lasagna beds with layers of soil and leaves and grass clippings stacked on top of one another. Took about two years for one of those beds to break down and be plantable. With what I have learned since I would do a hugelkultur fill for those beds.

Also I would do no-till because even a raised bed will develop a mychorzal network if not constantly decimated. Spirit can be maintained in every aspect of life.


Yes, the mykhorizzal network is important in the nutrient cycle both as a taker and a giver. No-till in my opinion is the way to go in the long run, forest floors are funghi-dominated and farmland is bacteria-dominated and having a mix of them is the best of two worlds. If I am not mistaken you can have up to 30% tree foliage cover without losing any neccessary light to the crops on the ground (if properly spaced), you also get the benefit of some shade and moisture saved on(in) the ground in high summer.
If memory serves me right it is the mykhorizza that brings nutrients from the deep to the plants in exchange for polysaccharides (sugars), it was some years that I learned exactly how and what but decided that I did not need to remember the specifics, just how I should do it.
Which is a good thing because now I can fit in woodgas stuff in the small kidney-on-top :smile:


If you are on a slope, the guy in the video you posted that created his own problem then installed a 1950s greenhouse design, you have a couple of choices.

If you want to grow outdoors, you don’t want to till that close to the slope. he tore out all the roots holding the dirt back, it needs to be like 20ft away from the slope or else it will wash out. You only need to till like 1-2". You want residue left on top to physically slow down the water and help regulate the soil temperature/evaporation.

If you are into moving rocks, create terracing and maybe wider then they are using so you can get equipment down it. The ethiopians are doing it large scale right now all by hand.

Otherwise, you are looking at natural ecosystem to hold roots in.

The soil needs carbon and aeration, if you look his soil is really washed out and light probably clay. He has dirt not soil. He needs to create more aerobic conditions by adding carbon and dead root systems, worms, reintroduce the aerobic bacteria and fungi, and if there are like potato beetles issues, possibly add beneficial nematodes. If you get the soil biology right, in theory the nematodes come back but it could take years. The fungus will add like 30% more carbon to the soil then just plant roots, so it is kind of a lazy way to add more carbon and get better plant growth.

IF you are going to create a greenhouse, don’t follow the guys 1950s design almost all growers that use that design are out of business because it cost too much. He is right about trying to control the atmosphere and sterilizing the soil, but you also need to reintroduce the ‘good’ guys. They sterilize the beds every couple of years using a gas it is like methylene something. and because the beds are so deep, it can be less effective, then you have to tear the whole bed apart. The iron pipes will rust out, and create issues down the road and finding out where they are leaking is an issue. The bottomline is professional growers are switching to hydroponics if they can. It has it’s own issues, but the above is a lot of work as well.

You can grow potatoes hydroponically.

However, if you want to use soil, then I would suggest benches. They are easier to maintain, and you can control the temperature better and cheaper. You don’t have to buy them, you can make them to help keep costs down. Do your research though. Most horticulture people aren’t fabricators, it is easier and cheaper to buy the products off the shelf because it will take a year or two to figure out what you need and build it, and you won’t be growing in that time period.

These guys are claiming a 30% energy savings for their bed heating system, which is 30% less wood to process for heating which is a lot of wood. I worked for a guy with the old style heating system, who is now out of business, but it was like 30 cords a year to heat his system.

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I haven’t seen anybody use anything but hoop houses or curved pipe structures like this guy. I am assuming you are talking about the cost of heating a hoop house for in a cold climate when most market crops have to be started in February. My main issue with them is their inability to sustain heavy snow loads. This is from The Real Martian youtube channel. He had an elaborate system set up which he lost one night due to a huge snow event. If you have lots of time there is some good information in his many video’s. You would have to scan though them to understand just what he lost. I started watching because he was doing aquaponic trout when I was researching aquaponics.

Aside from that there are a lot of market gardeners with hoop houses around here and I have a buddy in North Carolina that did very well growing in his. Personally I would go with a geodesic design like the ones Paul Robinson designs.

I got the guy in NC to run pipes through his hydroponic leaf crop beds which were designed like those I posted from the MHPgardener. Loops of pex that hot water from a propane fired water heater were pumped through the liquid filled beds and it was enough to keep the roots and the area just above the plants warm enough to thrive. All his tomatoes and cukes were grown in soil and it was a considerable expense to run his forced air heaters when temps dropped below freezing. I suggested running hot water pex under the soil as well but he retired before that could happen. If the roots are kept warm and the leaves are kept above a hard freeze then almost any plant will survive. Heating the 17 foot long by 30 inch wide bed in my little 200 sq ft greenhouse with a Rocket mass heater really only requires about two five gallon buckets of wood for a four hour run.
Another issue I see with a lot of grow houses is they are used to provide the same heat levels for all plants. Some plants required much higher temps than others and it would make sense to partition off the areas to serve the needs of particular plants. Growing tomatoes and beets or carrots in the same vicinity makes no economic sense when you are paying for or furnishing fuel for heat. I may not have the time or energy to institute all the ideas I have in this quest for self sufficient food production but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Being 75 is not as much fun as it sounds.


All the time in the world and not enough gusto to do what you really want. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to retire.


I was actually referring to the cost of heating and maintaining the beds. If you look at the “Flexible Greenhouse On-Bench Rootzone Heating Systems” They are doing almost exactly as you describe with the pex, polyethylene is highly thermal conductive, and pex is highly cross-linked polyethylene, but I didn’t see if that increased or decreased thermal conductivity. If it is close, I would probably go with pex provided it is similar cost just because it expands if frozen.

Hoop houses collapsing in snow or high winds can be an issue, but a lot of them are reinforced. Maybe we should ask shiller if his hoop house withstood the 40" of snow. I think he used wire livestock panels. His isn’t that big though. It is all design considerations and as always a bit of homework upfront, saves a lot of time and hassle in the long run. Kind of like should I till all the way out to the edge of this drop off?

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Of course just like wood-for-energy it all depends on what you expectations and real needs are.
What your base climate can do for you.
What you actual physical location Land demands that you do.

Wife’s mother did do heavily built wooden benches with her own made soil in a double walled 16x32 foot greenhouse. THis was for jumpstaring plant to be later set out. To make some late winter greens. Back-when in 15 to 30 cents a gallon it was stove oil gravity feed heated. Could have been easily woodstove heated.
My deceased B-I-L became a twice daily smoothly man try to get healthy going for 80 years old. He made up a 10x20 south shed wall green house with soil benches for his year around needed kale, spinaches and such. I figure he spent more for electric lights and fans ventilation than he did for Grid electric heating.
Then a Wife’s high school friend bought 90+ acres out in eastern Verginia State. Has terraced her east facing slope side with 100 foot long extensive terraced grow beds like in your pictures. She wants three crops rotation organic market garden sales.

One simplification a person can do is give up eating Mediterranean and southern eastern European grains. Then no need for fields. Plowing. Annual replanting.
Go corn/maize in clump growths in cut off barrels. Potatoes in controlled raised beds, barrels and terracotta pots. Then YOU control annually the growth soils prioritized just for that crops growth. And I do mean right down to heat sterilizing and resetting back up individually each pot, barrel and bed.
Yeah. Yeah. Sacrilege!! No fancy heritage raised breads. Yup. That’s right.
The movie, The Martian, way instead. Except with lots of wild forage too.

Yeah. I did fresh water fishtanks for about ten years. One exotics Tropicals with all of those accumulating problems. One for goldfish miniature carp.
Sorry fellows you will never convince me to go back to wet, pumped systems problems. I do not need to grow in a basement or Urban warehouse.

I live next to a large shallow catfish, perch, bluegill lake. Ha! Let other go bass crazy.
I practice a lot now just eating fish and chicken meats. We need far less than our programming has taught us.
Face it. You are going to have to still buy out some basic core food, something. We buy rice.
We used to potato ourselves for year around. Then the garden spot became blight contaminated. Only the barrel method at least 300 feet away then would get potatoes to maturity.

So simplify your needs and wants to what you can support doing on an ongoing basis. Old and aged using a sit-down walker.
Steve unruh


I reached the same conclusion about Aquaponics even though I built infrastructure for a drain back media bed system. The biggest drawback was the requirement for an uninterrupted source of power and the necessity for constant monitoring. I saw several peoples systems on line, other than the guy in the video, who lost all their fish with a single day long power failure. For people not familiar with aquaponic systems so the terms make sense.


The bigger the water system the less monitoring required.
Mine is a average sized swimming pool turned into a pond. I pump into four beds every second day with a small solar pump that then drains through a boulder filter back into the pool. I decided that instead of using the beds as a media filled aquaponic bed with plants growing directly in the media I used large square buckets filled with soil and planted in them. Now it’s a wicking system.


That is an interesting system Tim. What do you grow in it?


Tom I keep rabbits so mostly plants that we can both eat both the leaves and the root stock like sweet potatoes. Also leafy greens,onions and herbs.

Out diet is mostly meat with pasta or rice mixed with leaves from foraged weeds, sweet potato leaves, passion fruit leaves, moringa etc. There’s very little processed foods in our diet.
Edit: I don’t believe in gardens that I have to religiously maintain. I find what grows with the least effort and most nutrition and stick to that.


Anyone have any -good- information on “electroculture”, they are combining the ‘magnet’ stuff I posted earlier. But they they are adding antennas and claiming better results. now the explanation I just heard from a youtuber, was because energy was spiraling from the sun, and spiraling from the earth, which is completely false, so i had to turn the video off because they are clueless and just repeating bunk. It could be electrochemical, as it could add electrons to the soil, and possibly make it easier for various chemical reactions to occur OR it could be adding vibrations similar to the sound effect on plants which I think I posted information on as well. (if not I might have some study’s bookmarked.)

Since youtubers are claiming it is a hot topic, that everyone is talking about, I was just curious if anyone knew actual information. :slight_smile:


This has been around for a hundred years at least but I"ve just started hearing about it and I have spent a million hours on homesteading and growing sites. Now it’s all over the web. Some kind of zeitgeist I suppose. Anyway not much expense or effort involved so I’ll be trying it out. I have a couple hundred feet of welding cable that got burned up in my fire. Not the same as the solid wire they use for the coils but copper is copper.

I want to read up on it some more. Now that you mention it, I think I have heard of it before, but I think I was told it was a wives tale.Then was shown a patch under a windmill with lightning rod that was more green then the surroundings.

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I found this while looking for something else. It is how to use chamonile as a fungicide.
(it is that small daisey looking flower stuff )


This video details pretty much the same process I use for making worm casting tea. This tea or compost tea, which are basically the same animal other than that worm casting tea is considerably more potent, is beneficial for accelerating the micro-biology in you soil. Sort of like adding Nitrous oxide to you IC fuel. Microbes are necessary to convert the elements in the soil to a form which plant roots can absorb. Once made, the tea should be applied within a day or so otherwise the microbe in the solution will use up the available oxygen and basically start to die off. I use the same kind of air pump. However I use a 10 gallon pail to make a 5 gallon mix because as shown in the video, a little extra container space is a good thing. The other variance between what I do and what is shown in the video is their use of Humic acid and fish concentrate. I use yeast and corn syrup or molasses as a food source for the microbes, only because the other ingredients are not something I can get locally. You can buy worm castings at any garden supply or box store. I question how effective they are after sitting in a plastic bag on a shelf for possibly months but by brewing them into a tea they will be rejuvenated.


Do you buy the yeast extract? that is where I got hung up. I need to find a brewery that will give me some. :slight_smile: Oh wait, didn’t you say you just added yeast or did you kill it first?

I think he is right, I think the fish hydrolosate is basically a fish ground up into tiny pieces. It might be cooked for storage purposes, but I don’t see a reason why a meat grinder wouldn’t work. they are saying a tablespoon, which is basically a small crappie or sunfish. Those are easy to catch in your area… the fishing license is like 8 bucks though.


I just use powdered yeast like you would make bread with. I mix it with warm water and some sweetener and if it bubbles after a while I figure it’s good and dump it in the mix. I’m not real scientific about these things. After all it’s just worm crap. :innocent: As techie as I get is trying to keep the PH in my beds and hydro containers within limits best for different plants. I like to keep the animals healthy that will eventually eat most of my produce before I get a chance to harvest it. I’m saving my nickles to get into some serious grow houses. Of course then it will be two legged predators to worry about.