Companion Plants

Happy New Year!!

We are getting ready and going through seed catalogs for the 2018 season.  Every year we optimize how we can constructively preserve the soil and minimize any type of chemicals to control pests and disease.  When you over winter plants inside the home, greenhouse, or store it for the next season, many of us have run into pests.  Bugs like aphids, fruit flies, and thrips are the most common pests.  Other disease the thrive is mold with the cool and moist conditions.  

Best practice is to control conditions so that the environment is optimized when problems are the lowest, or in other words start plants when pest and disease are in their dormant stages.  


Top Left Bright Orange flower: Nasturtiums attracting hover flies which will consume aphids

Top Left Bright Orange flower: Nasturtiums attracting hover flies which will consume aphids

Placing plants into any enclosed structure effect how plants perform.  From the Penman–Monteith equation, there are four basic principles that guide a plants above ground development which are wind, solar radiation, relative humidity, and temperature.  Each of these conditions can be monitored and indicators of plant stress can be observed in a disease development or attraction of pests.  Growing companion plants to attract or filter air borne disease can help buffer stress conditions.  A great resource is research at NASA.  NASA has publish several papers on plants that we should consider taking to space.  Top of the list of plants are African spider plants and Aloe vera.  I am also going to consider selecting these plants to be installed into my grow chamber.  Both plants are simple to propagate just by simply taking a daughter plant of a spider plant or a leaf cutting from the aloe plant and placing it in soil.


Chlorophytum comosum - Spider Plant most common plant found in the indoor plant section of any home store.  Simple to propagate. 

Chlorophytum comosum - Spider Plant most common plant found in the indoor plant section of any home store.  Simple to propagate. 

Aloe Vera: commonly found in specialty grocery stores or even online.  Very easy to propagate by cutting leaf and sticking it in soil. 

Aloe Vera: commonly found in specialty grocery stores or even online.  Very easy to propagate by cutting leaf and sticking it in soil. 

The Indoor Garden Appliance

This is a stainless steel Randell countertop fridge.

This is a stainless steel Randell countertop fridge.

"Why did my plant die again?"

Winter is coming and I would like to prep things for Spring 2018.  Some of the ideas were to build a garden indoors to over winter some of my plants.  A friend of mine from Indonesia still doubts that she will ever keep her kaffir tree alive.  I have sent her two.

I decided that I would build her an indoor garden system that could help her sustain a garden for items that are hard for her to get at the market. 

These were the specifications:

1. Child proof- she has two kids who are very active.  House plants/any plants would need to be protected from their curiosity.  

2. Temperature and light controlled- there are five major inputs to a plant.

(1) soil - soil is consistent and only needs to managed once a year, that is how farmer monitor their soils. 

(2) Light - daylight changes with the time of the season.  Winter has less daylight hours, summer has more daylight hours.  She lives in an apartment complex, so light will need to be supplemented. 

(3) Wind speeds - wind is not a factor when growing indoors, but helps the plant become more rigid in growth.  The less wind the more tender the vegetation, this might be a better quality if the vegetation is consumed.  But in tomato plants you need this to support fruits if she attempts growing plants. 

(4) Temperature - the scientific model used for plants is called Growing Degree Days (GDD).  There is a thresh hold where plants stop developing when it is too cold, hence you don't see to many plants thriving in the middle of a winter snow storm.  The thresh hold for most produce gardens is about 50F or 10C.   Regulated temperature should remain at an optimal for development.  A good range would be about 75-85F degrees.

(5) Relative Humidity - is the last type of measurements that is taken to indicate if a plant really needs water, or too much water is in the system. 


All of the indicators about are collected in weather stations across the U.S.  If you ever need the data, it is online anytime from NOAA.    

The Appliance

I found a great article about things that Ikea was doing in Europe.  (  The unfortunate thing is that Ikea makes it only available Europe.  The design is also not kid friendly.   Things liked about the product is that it was a neat design.  Things I did not like were the inputs that has to be monitored.  The plants are grown in an open environment.  There are pests like aphids and thrips who can do massive damage to your indoor garden.  (I don't know if you love chemicals, but if you do, might as well spray it directly into your mouth). Thrips are similar to fruit flies but look like tiny miniature mosquitoes.


I don't want to spray chemicals, because this is your home (I can account to this problem from my greenhouses).  Have you ever smelled a tomato plant?  If you have never smelled one, it is pretty pungent.  If you ever grow basil you get the entire place smelling like basil.  Imagine living in small space and having this product in your place.  

I found an old fridge that was in an old out building at farm where the folks use to run a restaurant.  Below are pictures.  I had to do some rewiring to get the lights to work, other than that I will contiune to make modifications.   

Here it is the barn, I got it for FREE!!!

Here it is the barn, I got it for FREE!!!

Loading it up.

Loading it up.

I didn't have a pressure washer, so I took it to a local self-service coin car wash.  It turned out pretty.

I didn't have a pressure washer, so I took it to a local self-service coin car wash.  It turned out pretty.

Here are the measurements 2ft x 4ft x 2ft.  Perfect for a small apartment appliance. 

Here are the measurements 2ft x 4ft x 2ft.  Perfect for a small apartment appliance. 

Building the indoor garden

Living in such small space and not being able to find the produce at your local store? 

When I lived on campus at the University of Tennessee,  I missed all the fresh produce that we had growing on the farm and in the greenhouses.  I started to explore the different types of indoor gardening I could grow inside an apartment.  One of the guys at work actually had setup an aquaponics system at his house.  His setup was pretty good size system but all of his fish died in a matter of minutes.  Why?  There were too many fish for his system.  His approach was the IBC tote holds 275 gallons, cut in half is about 100 gallons.  The "internet says" 1 gallon per fish, but this is only true if you have a excellent filtering system.


My second window aquaponics setup with cherry tomato plants south facing window.

My second window aquaponics setup with cherry tomato plants south facing window.

His lesson to me was get less fish, so I started small with 10 fish in a 10 gallon tank.  The breed of fish I started with were the blue tilapia.  Near work, I was able learn about a gentleman who started a commercial system.

My First system north facing window of the apartment

My First system north facing window of the apartment

This is a setup at the local hydroponic store

This is a setup at the local hydroponic store

At Ecorich farms when I started there, the system they had was just in its first year of trial.  It was a lot of learning at his place.  He had several types of systems there was the deep cycle, there was the flood and drain.  The last was the PTFE system that he used for contious harvest.

What I learned from Ecorich was that you have to be very strict on biosecurity.  They had a thrips infestation that can destroy your plants.

On to my system...


"A young prince was deeply affected by the suffering he saw all around him. He saw that men and women, children and old people, all suffer not just from occasional calamities such as war and plague, but also from anxiety, frustration, and discontent, all of which seem to be an inseparable part of the human condition. People pursue wealth and power, acquire knowledge and possessions, beget sons and daughters, and build houses and palaces. Yet no matter what they achieve, they are never content. Those who live in poverty dream of riches. Those who have a million want two million. Those who have two million want ten. Even the rich and famous are rarely satisfied. They too are haunted by ceaseless cares and worries, until sickness, old age, and death put a bitter end to them. Everything that one has accumulated vanishes like smoke. Life is a pointless rat race. But how?

He visited ashrams feet of gurus but nothing liberated him entirely—some dissatisfaction always remained. He did not despair. He resolved to investigate suffering on his own until he found a method for complete liberation. He spent six years meditating on the essence, causes, and cures for human anguish. In the end he came to the realization that suffering is not caused by ill fortune, by social injustice, or by divine whims. Rather, suffering is caused by the behavior patterns of one’s own mind.

No matter what the mind experiences, it usually reacts with craving, and craving always involves dissatisfaction. When the mind experiences something distasteful it craves to be rid of the irritation. When the mind experiences something pleasant, it craves that the pleasure will remain and will intensify. Therefore, the mind is always dissatisfied and restless. This is very clear when we experience unpleasant things, such as pain. As long as the pain continues, we are dissatisfied and do all we can to avoid it. Yet even when we experience pleasant things we are never content. We either fear that the pleasure might disappear, or we hope that it will intensify. People dream for years about finding love but are rarely satisfied when they find it. Some become anxious that their partner will leave; others feel that they have settled cheaply, and could have found someone better. And we all know people who manage to do both.

Great gods can send us rain, social institutions can provide justice and good healthcare, and lucky coincidences can turn us into millionaires, but none of them can change our basic mental patterns. Hence even the greatest kings are doomed to live in angst, constantly fleeing grief and anguish, forever chasing after greater pleasures.

If, when the mind experiences something pleasant or unpleasant, it simply understands things as they are, then there is no suffering. If you experience sadness without craving that the sadness go away, you continue to feel sadness but you do not suffer from it. There can actually be richness in the sadness. If you experience joy without craving that the joy linger and intensify, you continue to feel joy without losing your peace of mind.

But how do you get the mind to accept things as they are, without craving? To accept sadness as sadness, joy as joy, pain as pain? “What am I experiencing now?” rather than on “What would I rather be experiencing?” It is difficult to achieve this state of mind, but not impossible.

Avoid killing, promiscuous sex, and theft, since such acts necessarily stoke the fire of craving (for power, for sensual pleasure, or for wealth). When the flames are completely extinguished, craving is replaced by a state of perfect contentment and serenity, known as nirvana (the literal meaning of which is “extinguishing the fire”). Those who have attained nirvana are fully liberated from all suffering. They experience reality with the utmost clarity, free of fantasies and delusions. While they will most likely still encounter unpleasantness and pain, such experiences cause them no misery. A person who does not crave cannot suffer."

Mr. Larson

There are sometimes that I dive into these rabbit holes.  Sometimes chasing that  Trix rabbit.  Sometimes that tattoo rabbit.  Sometimes the Alice rabbit.  Sometimes the Buffy rabbit.  You never know if you will come back from the other side of that mirror.  Was that image you see just a mirage like the hotel in Vegas, or the blurry oasis in the Death Valley desert.  What was I chasing,

or was it chasing me and I didn't know it?


Great friends past but their messages were silent.  It is up to us to find that message.  To chase their rabbit to find what they were trying to tell us. 


For what did they leave us with,

but are pieces of light encapsulated,

in fireflies.

In their darkness of the moon,

we must to collect,

that light,

and bring it with us to day light,

and let the rabbits back to their home,

their journey,

their cancer,

their den,

their light.


Rest in the breezes my friend,

Rest in the fields of gold,

as the sweet grass blades brush through your hair.

Your dreams were built with your eyes open,

so now you may rest with your pieces of light,

so I will dig to find and barrow them and return.

The Garden Craft

There is a craft to gardening, from a beginning farmer, to a horticulturist, to the miracle herbalist.  There are four basic principles: 1. You, 2. Wind, 3. Rain 4. Earth.

You: what are you gonna decide to grow and where are you going to grow it?

Wind: determines how much water you are going to loose to the atmosphere.  ET or evapotranspiration occurs on the surface of the soil and transpiration through the plant as it respires pulling water and nutrients from the soil.

Rain: water is essential to plant growth.  There are many techniques that plants use to achieve this goal.  There are epiphytes that grows off other plants like mistletoe.  There are cacti that uses a lower light frequency to grow at night and conserve water.  And then there are the  giant kelps of Monterey that live in the ocean, filled with water.

Soil: is a basis of where plants can get nutrients to re-energize.  Plants are connected to the earth.  Unlike humans, plants need that connection to grow.  In life this is where the full circle comes back to you.  You need that connection to grow.  The connection to plants to be nourished,  the connection to people to grow.

I am learning various crafts to create a garden in many spaces.  The cycles of gardening has begun. 



Where are you going?

What do you believe in?  Do you believe that if we are built into an image that we can manifest what ever we think about?  

I believe that images projected on us as a child is what we are reporjecting in life.  I book that impacted my life us "The Giving Tree."  A projection is programmed into your subconscious that you have to dig it out and reprogram it.  For instance what was one book or author that has influenced you as a child?  What was the story about?  Where are you right now?  What is the reflection on the book on your life right now?  Does your life run in parallel with this book?

Where the sky meets your soul

I there a place in your dreams that one day you get there it becomes deja vu.  You have to pinch/beat yourself several times to know if you are seeing the dream or feeling it?  Life becomes paused in that moment because you step back, and breath the moment in as you soul melts into the surroundings.  

I had just those moments not seeing the dream in the future, but in the present moment.   They are like pages out of a book that ripe out and past them into the adventure book.  

In the hunt for the medicine man, I found the him in the jungles of Vang Vieng, Loas.  If you have never been to paradise, it is found in a country where live exits from the past.  

Live it, feel it, breath it in.



Pages from a book

Pages from a book

Vang Vieng 

Vang Vieng 

Gardening in the online space

Since I was a kid growing up in Ottawa, IL.  I could remember waking up on the weekends and spend the whole time at the garden.  It never occur to me being difficult, but it was hidden almost because it was constructed in the middle of the forest.  

Illinois is flat and surronded by premium farmland, but yet the my parents construct this 20 acre vegtable farm in the middle of a forrest, located in a remote clearing next to a National Gaurd training facillty in Marsalles, IL.  We would have to drive 20 minutes along the I&M Cannal.   We past the G.E. Plastic facillity through the City of Marsalles.  Countined past the ball feild, Nabisco facillity, and over the two lane bridge over Illinois River.  You could see a park under a part of the bridge that led to a lock and dam.  

This garden was special because it was at the bottom of a valley.  The only way to reach the valley by vehcle, was a bulldozed dirt road my dad created.  If it rained, you had to trek your way down either along the road or use forest animal trails.  At the bottom of the valley was a large creek.  To cross the creek my dad constructed a land bridge using two huge culverts.  Gravel was placed over the culvert that allowed us to cross over a 20 foot section.  I remember during hard rain seasons that flooded the area the bridge would sometime get washed out.

Parts of it had sandy depoits from the glacial era.  Sometime you would wonder if was an Indian Burial Mound like the one here on campus.

Our High Tunnel here.

Our High Tunnel here.