Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Grow Garden Kale Without Watering

By now you may have discovered how easy it is to grow Waterboxx tomatoes and Waterboxx melons, and you may tried using the Waterboxx to grow peppers - trying to beat our 361 chili peppers from a single Waterboxx without any watering after planting. 

Less well known, however, is that the Waterboxx from Dew Harvest can be used directly to grow kale.  Kale is well known for nutrition benefits - unfortunately it is also well priced for these - being several dollars a pound in most grocery stores.  The Waterboxx allows you to grow your own kale, from late winter to late fall in most of the country, and likely without any watering after planting and Waterboxx set up. 

Waterboxx grown kale -after several cuttings and with no water after planting

To start growing Waterboxx kale, first we must choose a variety.  We recommend a tall heirloom variety to get the most produce - dinosaur kale.  Dinosaur kale, also called Italian kale, Tuscan kale lacinato kale, or cavalo nero, it the variety of kale used in minestrone and ribollita.  It has a mild flavor even if raised in hot temperatures (being from Tuscany), and was reportedly raised by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.  

We recommend starting the kale seeds in 3 inch wide peat pots about 4 weeks before you transplant them outside.  We recommend regular potting soil in the peat pots, and about 10 seeds per peat pot.  Water regularly and place in a sunny window.  When the kale is about 8 inches tall, it is time to transplant outside.  This can be really anytime of year the ground is not frozen and when there is sufficient sun - kale is a very hardy plant.  Take an assembled Waterboxx, orient the central opening on an east west axis, and press the Waterboxx in to the soil to leave a soil relief.  Remove the Waterboxx.  At either end of the soil relief, remove some soil and place the kale containing peat pots.  Water gently, and place the Waterboxx again, without using the white evaporation cover.  Fill the Waterboxx with 4 gallons of clean water.  

Kale a few weeks after transplanting (and after several late snows - kale is VERY cold hardy)

Believe it or not, this is likely all the work you will need to do for the kale, unless you have a very dry growing season.  Kale, just like the Waterboxx lid, exhibits superhydrophobicity, meaning it is very difficult for water to stick to kale.  This, along with transpiration from the kale leaves themselves, means that the Waterboxx will likely stay at least partly filled from natural water sources.  You don't need to do anything besides harvest kale before the leaves get too large for the Waterboxx lid.



You can leave kale in place so long as it is still growing and hasn't frozen solid - in most places at least until December.  Mild climates can support kale through the winter, but we recommend replanting each year in a different location.  You will find kale is one of the easiest Waterboxx greens to grow.  You can buy the Waterboxx from DewHarvest.com in the United States and Groasis.com internationally.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

START SAVING THE EARTH – START IN YOUR OWN BACK YARD

What if a solution to climate change, worsening nutrition, and water scarcity could be grown in your own back yard?  What if a simple but ingenious device allowed you to grow trees and garden plants with no water after planting?  What if you could grow your own hyperlocal produce while caring for the environment?  These are “What Ifs” no more:



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.

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


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

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

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

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com.  

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.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 


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".