Wednesday, November 1, 2017

How to Assemble The Waterboxx From Dew Harvest

The Groasis Waterboxx is an incredible invention.  It allows the growing of many garden plants, like peppers and tomatoes, with potentially no water added after planting.


Two Parks Improved Whopper Hybrid Tomatoes - which together produced over 100 fruit without any watering after planting, with the Waterboxx.   
Plants can grow astoundingly tall with the Waterboxx. 

Two cayenne (chili) peppers in a Waterboxx - which produced 361 full sized peppers without any water after planting thanks to the Waterboxx.  
The Waterboxx ships with its different components stacked within each other, taking up far less space.  This does mean that some assembly is required.  So, how is the Waterboxx assembled?


For most garden plants, we recommend an extra wick be inserted.  For this, a 3/16 inch drill bit is required, as shown in the video below:



The Waterboxx can be cleaned after each use and reused for up to 10 years.  You can buy the Waterboxx in the United States at DewHarvest.com

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Growing a Living Fossil

There is a tree that is currently endangered in the wild, was once thought to be completely extinct, is one of the fasting growing trees known with a maximum height of at least 200 feet, and that can grow in most of the continental United States.  Is this a tree you would like to plant?

This tree is the Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides.  This deciduous conifer (which has fine, soft needles that are shed in the winter and regrow in the spring) is an utter joy to plant and grow, and one of our favorite trees.

In the 1940s, a Japanese scientist at Kyoto University described the Dawn Redwood as a fossil from the age of the dinosaurs (the Mesozoic era).  Dr. Miki, the scientist, thought this tree was extinct.  However, the same year Chinese officials in the province of Hubei came across living examples of the tree, growing in a few tiny groves in China.  The fact that these were the same tree was soon realized.  Due to the critically endangered status of the tree, the Harvard University Arboretum funded an expedition in the late 1940s to collect seeds  from the original habitat.  This expedition led to a craze for planting this tree in arboreta and landscapes settings around the world.

The Dawn Redwood is in the same subfamily, Sequoioideae, as Coast Redwoods (like those growing on the American West Coast around San Francisco) and Giant Sequoias (originally from the California Sierra Nevada mountains but now grown worldwide).

We had considered planting the Dawn Redwood for some time (after planting its cousin the Giant Sequoia) but we dithered.  This was a mistake!  The Dawn Redwood is beautiful, the fastest growing tree we have yet seen, and one of our new favorites.

A problem with growing the Dawn Redwood is that it is only available in sapling (less than 24 inch tall) size.  For most people used to planting 6 foot containerized (and therefore unhealthy) tree specimens from big box stores, this can be an adjustment.  However - this is really an opportunity.  The Dawn Redwood needs near constant moisture after planting until it is well established.  This would be almost impossible to provide a 6 foot tall tree - the grower would need to water it twice daily in warm climates!.  However, there is a device for growing sapling trees that doesn't require any effort after set up - called the Groasis Waterboxx from Dew Harvest!

The Waterboxx is a self refilling water battery for plants.  It consists of a 15 liter water reservoir, that has a lotus leaf inspired lid that collects dew, transpiration moisture, and rainwater.  The water is slowly released through a wick to the plant roots below.  See a video of how the Waterboxx works here.

We planted a single Dawn Redwood with the Waterboxx and had the following amount of growth in just 101 days - without any supplemental water after planting.



We plant to leave the Waterboxx around the Dawn Redwood for one more growing season and then reuse the Waterboxx for other trees.  As the Dawn Redwood grows in most of the continental United States, the Waterboxx may only need to be left in place for one growing season in sunnier climates (we are growing in Central Indiana) with faster growth.

The Dawn Redwood is a wonderful landscape tree, which will grow from zones 5-8 so long as water is available to its roots (after the Waterboxx is removed).  It is extremely fast growing, with about 2 feet a year expected after the tree is established.  It it intolerant of de-icing salt so should not be planted by roadways or sidewalks that receive salt.  However, the Dawn Redwood does well in standing water and is excellent for planting by creeks or ponds.

The Dawn Redwood is available as saplings from the Arbor Day Foundation here or from Giant-Sequoia.com here.  If you are truly adventurous, you can try to grow from seeds available here.

The Waterboxx is available in the United States from Dew Harvest, at our website here, www.dewharvest.com.  Outside the United States it is available from Groasis.com

A preying mantis decided to spend the day on the growing Dawn Redwood (of its own accord - mantis was not moved for photo).

Friday, September 15, 2017

Growing Tomatilloes

The tomatilllo  (Physalis philadelphica) is little known in American gardens.  This flavorful fruit, also know as a Mexican Husk Tomato, is finally starting to get the recognition it deserves, however.  

Tomatilloes are green or purple fruits that are used in salsa verde and other green sauces in Mexican cuisine.  These fruits are excellent however, sliced and lightly roasted on almost any starchy food.  Our favorite use is to slice them and place them on top of pizza (before baking), a recipe we call Pizza Victoria.  

Tomatilloes will likely grow anywhere tomatoes grow (far north of Mexico).  Our experience described below was at our test garden in central Indiana, hardly a balmy climate.  

Tomatilloes can seem difficult to grow - and indeed they may be without the Waterboxx.  Like most nightshade family plants, tomatilloes need very consistent watering.  With raised bed gardening, it is very hard to keep consistent water to the roots of the plant.  An ingenious gardening device, the Groasis Waterboxx, changes that.  

Two tomatillo plants growing in a Waterboxx in a raised bed.  Without any supplemental watering, these two plants produced over 200 fruit!
Tomatilloes must be grown from seed.  There are many seed suppliers on line.  Almost all of these seeds are heirloom, meaning you will not need to buy seed year after year but can just save and dry seed from your plants. The varieties that turn purple has more sweetness than the varieties that are green at maturity.  We recommend the purple variety unless you are only interested in tart salsa verde.

Tomatilloes, just like tomatoes, should be started indoors in a peat pot 6-8 weeks before last frost date.  Once last frost date has passed, they are ready to be transplanted outside.

To plant outside, first slightly moisten the soil and add any desired fertilizer.  Then take an assembled Waterboxx with two wicks, press this down into the soil to leave an indentation.  The raised dirt in the center should form a figure 8.  You will plant one tomatillo at each corner of this figure 8. 

Remove the dirt, plant the tomatillo even with ground level (leaving the peat pot in place), place an evaporation cover and then place the Waterboxx carefully over the tomatillo plants.  Your work is now done!

Three tomatilloes, about 2-3 days from maturity, in their husks (which look like alien pods from a science fiction movie) with the Waterboxx in the background.

The tomatilloes will not need any more care, with the possible exception of staking if your plant gets large, between now and harvest.  Tomatilloes are ready to harvest when the fruit is growing enough to burst out of its husk (or it the fruit falls from the plant).  

A ripe tomatillo, grown without any watering after planting with the Groasis Waterboxx

You can learn more about the Waterboxx at DewHarvest.com or buy it here

Monday, September 4, 2017

Growing Cucumbers with No Watering

Cucumbers are a very pleasant fruit (yes, they are a fruit as they grow from a fertilized flower) for home gardeners.  This vining cucurbit (in the family with squash and watermelon) tends to produce earlier than almost any other vine crop.

Cucumbers are great in salad, great in sauces (like tzatziki), flavorful in infused water, and good for slicing or pickling.  Few fruits have so many different uses.

The difficulty with cucumbers has been the large and consistent amount of water these plants need.  For best production, cucumbers need water almost every day in a raised bed garden.  This places a terrible strain on most gardeners, who have better things to do than lug a watering can into the garden.

Two cucumber plants growing in our Central Indiana test garden - by early September these two plants had produced 45 cucumbers!
Several years ago, an invention, the Groasis Waterboxx, was applied to growing cucumbers for the first time.  The Waterboxx was initially developed to grow trees in dry places.  It functions through biomimicry.  The Waterboxx has a lotus leaf inspired lid, which is used to collect dew and condensation.  This water, as well as rainwater, is then funneled into a 15 liter (4 gallon) reservoir.  From this reservoir, water is released (passively without any moving parts or human interaction) by one or more wicks to the soil below.  The Waterboxx itself prevents evaporation of this soil moisture (just like the ground under a stepping stone stays moist even with the exposed soil around it becomes dry).

The Waterboxx works wonderfully to grow trees - allowing native and important non-native trees to be established with no watering after planting.  .

When the Waterboxx is placed around garden plants, it functions the same way as with trees.  The garden plants, like cucumbers, get consistent amounts of moisture all day with their roots never drying out.  The Waterboxxes only need refilling with water if there is no rain for several weeks (the Waterboxx reservoir completely refills with 4 inches of rainfall).

We planted two cucumber plants in our raised bed garden, placed a Waterboxx around them, and then did nothing besides train the vines on a string trellis.  Our results were astounding.  We had over 45 full sized cucumbers be produced in our short, northern summer.  The cucumbers kept producing even in periods without rain due to the ingenious design of the Waterboxx.

Why not try out the Waterboxx in your garden? It can save you time, effort, while ensuring better harvests.  The Waterboxx has been used to grow cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, melons, eggplants, zucchini, squash and pumpkins.  You can learn more about the Waterboxx here or buy the Waterboxx here.

Our book, The Waterboxx Gardener, is available here.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Evergreen Hedges - Tree Selection and Maintenance

     As Americans have rediscovered their back yards over the past several years and decided to spend more time in their current home because of the recent recession, more have decided to plant evergreen hedges.  The advantage of hedges are obvious - privacy, sound reduction from nearby streets and neighbors, habitat for wildlife, as a windbreak lowering heating costs in winter, and improvement in home value and curb appeal.  Unfortunately, we have seen a significant number of dead hedges over the past several years - mostly due to inappropriate trees for the area, inappropriately planted and insufficiently watered during the recent droughts.  We will attempt here to educate on the best types of evergreen tree for certain growing conditions, and how the Groasis Waterboxx might be useful in the planting of the hedge.  For the purposes of this post, we will only be discussing trees that grow at least to eye height (thereby blocking line of sight).

Arborvitae

      In the Great Lakes region where we are based, this is definitely the most popular hedge tree.  The Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald' variety seems to be the most commonly planted, but sometimes the faster growing if less picturesque Thuja standishii x plicata 'Green Giant' is used.  Both of these arborvitae (Latin for "tree of life") can be grown in zones 5-7, with the 'Emerald' variety hardy to zone 3 (see zones below).  
USDA Hardiness Zone Map - From Wikipedia
The 'Emerald' variety has a very nearly cylindrical appearance (with a slightly tapered spire), but tends to grow only about 12-18 inches per year, and reaches it maximum height of 20 feet slowly.  The 'Green Giant' variety can grow up to three feet a year under ideal conditions, and can potentially grow to 60 feet in height.  Both of the arborvitae are extremely sensitive to drought.  Over the last three summers, we have seen approximately 60% of established arborvitae die and 90% of newly planted arborvitae perish.  These trees, when bought potted from nurseries, almost always have a thick root ball when their base is removed from the pot.  Even when properly planted, these roots tend to stay near ground level, and will quickly dry out in periods of even partial drought.  One solution to deal with this is the rather arduous task of snaking a soaker hose throughout the trees every spring, and watering them thoroughly at least once weekly.  The soaker hose will need to be removed and stored before freezing in winter.  This can quickly become expensive, and tends to further cause roots to grow near the surface.  A (far cheaper) solution is to plant small bare root arborvitae (available from Arbor Day for as little as $2.49) using the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx allows you to plant smaller, much cheaper (potted arborvitae sell for around $35 at big box home improvement stores due to the recent die off) arborvitae with properly formed roots.  The Waterboxx induces the roots of the tree to reach downward toward capillary water, not laterally (staying near the surface).  Because the Waterboxx contains a water reservoir and collects dew, you will not need to irrigate the trees after planting.  After approximately one year (depending on growth), the Waterboxx can be removed and reused.  You can calculate whether using a Waterboxx will save money during the first year using our calculator.  

Leyland Cypress

The Leyland Cypress (X Cupressocyparis leylandii) is also an excellent evergreen hedge tree, with the ability to grow much farther south than the arborvitae (up to zone 10).  The Leyland Cypress is also considerably more drought tolerant, as well as faster growing than the 'Emerald'  arborvitae.  The drawback to this tree is its mature size (up to 60 feet) and its susceptibility to infection.  As with the arborvitae, we recommend planting bare root Leyland Cypress using the Waterboxx, giving the tree an excellent foundation with deep roots.  The Waterboxx can be removed and used again to extend the hedge or to plant other trees.  
It is important to be a good (and thoughtful) neighbor when planting hedges, not planting tall plants that will block sun from reaching a neighbor's yard.  Also, each of the hedge trees discussed here can get certain diseases (arborvitae are susceptible to bagworms [Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis] which appear to be pine cones at first sight) that will need to be dealt with immediately if spotted.  These diseases are more likely to take hold of unhealthy trees, another incentive to use the Waterboxx to properly establish the hedge at planting.

Be the first in your area to start growing plants with the Groasis Waterboxx. The Waterboxx can be purchased in the United States from Dew Harvest, with discount prices on orders of five or ten. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".



   




Friday, October 14, 2016

Growing Peppers Without Watering

Growing peppers in the backyard garden can be frustrating.  Even though peppers are not as prone to damage by insects as other plants like squash or eggplants, they are very finicky overall.  Pepper plants frequently fall over if not staked, required near daily watering yet produce relatively little, and many varieties don't do well with hot temperatures. Peppers also wilt in during the height of the summer.   Finally, almost all weeds grow faster than pepper plants, requiring you to constantly be looking out for soil invaders near your pepper plants. After a few years, especially in hot climates, gardeners decide it is not worth the effort and many stop attempting to grow these plants.

This is a shame, especially as a new device makes it extremely easy to grow peppers.  The device, called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon, or Waterboxx for short, collects dew and rain water, stores it, and then slowly releases it to the roots of a growing plant.  It doesn't require electricity and, after set up, may not require any manual watering, especially for peppers.

The Waterboxx: a tree or garden plant in planted in the central opening, water is collected from dew and rainfall from the corrugated tan lid, funneled through siphons (shown here in red) into the green reservoir, and then slowly released autonomously through a wick to the plant roots below.  Image from Groasis.com  


First, let's discuss bell peppers. These peppers are some of the most popular to grow because they are the most useful in the kitchen and most expensive at the store- frequently about $1 per pepper, even in season.  However, these pepper plants will drop their blooms if daytime temperatures get about 90 degrees Fahrenheit consistently.  The Waterboxx, however, stores water and keeps the base and roots of the plant cool, relieving some heat stress from this plant.  It also provides consistent moisture and prevents any weeds from growing around the pepper.  If you do live in an extremely hot climate (like the desert southwest), however, we would suggest 30% shade cloth over your pepper plants to prevent overheating.

Two bell pepper plants in the height of the summer heat - with no water at all since planting, besides rainfall and dew. The Waterboxx not only waters these plants but blocks out any competing weeds.  

So, the Waterboxx can be used to grow bell peppers well.  How about long peppers?  Yes, the Waterboxx is especially well suited to these peppers.  Below you can see long peppers thriving in the Waterboxx.  These two plants, in one Waterboxx produced over 100 peppers, with no watering after planting.


The Waterboxx growing long peppers - over 100 peppers from this plant without any watering after planting - a truly impressive feat!
How about jalapenos?  Will the Waterboxx help grow this delightful variety?  Yes, with incredible yields, as well.  Two jalapeno plants in a single Waterboxx with no watering or care after planting grew over 80 peppers!

Two jalapeno plants growing in a Waterboxx - produced over 80 peppers with no watering, no weeding, and no other care after planting.  


Finally, we come to the king of the hot peppers, the habanero.  The Waterboxx also can be used to grow this pepper, with large yields and no work after planting.


The Waterboxx growing two habanero pepper plants with yellow habaneros scattered through the upper leaves - no watering, weeding, fertilizing, muclching, or any other work since planting!

There has never been a device like the Waterboxx for growing peppers - it can completely eliminate the need for any watering after planting, completely eliminate weeding, eliminate mulching, and help produce high yields.  It also encourages tall, straight plants with its unique figure 8 central opening.

Find out more about the Waterboxx here or buy the Waterboxx here.

We would love to hear your comments, including any results, below.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Atmosphere's Carbon Dioxide Passes Key Level

This past month, the world’s longest running carbon dioxide measurement site measured atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to be above 400 parts per million.  While this has happened before, it has never happened in the height of the northern hemisphere summer, when carbon dioxide levels reach a yearly low due to growth of vegetation.

This is a significant milestone, and it is almost certain that no one now living will see levels drop below 400 ppm during their lifetime.  When observations at this site in Hawaii started in the 1950s, the average level of carbon dioxide was 315 ppm.  

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at Mauna Loa Hawaii, with clear fluctuation throughout the year
From http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/obop/mlo/programs/coop/scripps/co2/co2.html, public domain
This carbon dioxide is of course the most prevalent greenhouse gas, as well as the main cause of ocean acidification.  There are some benefits to the current level of carbon dioxide (we likely have postponed the next ice age, for one).  However, clearly continued increase in carbon dioxide levels will continue to change climate, raising sea level while also making it harder for many marine organisms to flourish (due to ocean acidification).  We have reached a point where we need to stop increasing carbon in the atmosphere.

For reference, carbon dioxide hasn't been this high in the atmosphere at any time during Homo sapiens tenure on this planet.  
Carbon Dioxide levels are higher now than at any time in the last 800,000 years, at least.
Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


Almost all proposed "solutions" to this problem have really been efforts to just decrease how much carbon dioxide we are emitting, rather than removing any carbon dioxide.  This is futile, as almost all human productive activity produces carbon dioxide (even making steel for wind turbines and mining lithium for batteries).  Also, as more of the world electrifies, energy consumption and therefore carbon dioxide emissions will continue to increase from the developing world.  You can hardly blame the people of India and Africa for wanting a standard of living we enjoyed 60 or 70 years ago in the U.S.  This standard of living, currently, is only made possible by fossil fuels.

So, what is to be done?  We cannot stop using fossil fuels, so are we just stuck with the consequences of our emissions?  The answer is a resounding no.  Fossil fuels, specifically coal, are the compressed and aged products of ancient forests of massive trees, buried before organisms evolved that could readily dissolve lignin in wood. If we could replant reasonable numbers of massive trees, we could begin counteracting this emission of carbon dioxide.  We have calculated that some single trees (for example, the General Grant Sequoia in California) have stored more than a lifetime's emissions of carbon dioxide.  Even if we didn't plant massive trees, planting large numbers of smaller trees on currently dry, barren land would make the land productive and carbon sequestering.  

How is this to be done?  Planting sequoias outside their current range and planting trees in dry, barren areas has been made entirely possible by new technology, called the Groasis Waterboxx.

A schematic cutaway view of the Groasis Waterboxx (from Groasis.com).  Water is collected on the tan lid, funneled through the siphons shown in red to the green reservoir, and slowly released to the roots of the growing tree via the white wick.

The Groasis Waterboxx acts as a self refilling water battery for trees.  It collects condensation and rain water, stores it, and slowly releases it to the roots of a growing tree sapling. The method in which the water is released forms a water column beneath the Waterboxx, inducing the tree to grow deep roots that withstand future periods of drought.  You can see Waterboxx results below.  

Thirteen months' growth of a white teak tree in the desert of Ecuador - truly incredible growth without watering and with the Waterboxx

Three years' growth of a salt cedar (invasive in the U.S.) tree with the Groasis Waterboxx in the Sahara Desert!  These trees had over 88% survival with no watering after planting when the Waterboxx was used.
Image from Groasis.com
Two years' growth of a sequoia from planting with the Waterboxx in central Indiana.  No water was given to this tree after planting with the Waterboxx, even after Waterboxx removal.  The sequoia grew surprisingly well, and could easily be planted throughout the eastern U.S. with the Waterboxx.  

If you live in a part of the U.S. with near average or above average rain (25 or more inches), have you considered planting a sequoia or other large tree on your property?  If you live in an arid part of the country, have you considered enriching your land, providing shade and sequestering carbon dioxide by planting desert-adapted trees.  This is now possible with the Waterboxx.  What is more, trees planted with the Waterboxx can be affordable, bare root trees, enabling large numbers to be planted.  The Waterboxx itself is reusable for up to 10 years.     

Wouldn't it be rewarding to leave your land better than you found it, while taking action on the biggest environmental issue of human history?  

You can find out more about the Waterboxx here at DewHarvest.com

We would love to read your comments below.