Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming, Sustainable Homes and Living

LED grow lights vs Fluorescents

We have been growing microgreens for a few years now and are in to our 3rd growing season for our Friends & Family Microgreens Club.  We have been using T5 and T8* Fluorescent lights since the beginning, but the old T8’s are only used in a pinch. Seeing as we have changed pretty well all of our home lights to LED’s now, we thought we better start looking into changing out the lighting we use to grow our microgreens as well.

I belong to a microgreen growers group on Facebook and this question comes up over and over again. What type of lighting should I use for growing microgreens? I’m sure the group admins pull their hair out every time it gets asked…

As with anything, there are many different answers to this, based on several parameters. What is the budget? What level of grower are you – Personal use only, Growing Club, Start-up Entrepreneur, Large-scale Commercial Grower or something in-between.

As Growing Club members, we need to keep our budget to a minimum, as we are not a profit centre. Because of this, we started looking at LED tape / strip lights, which come in a roll and run on low-voltage. There are mixed reviews on these lights, with concerns of safety, quality and growth of plants on one side and loving the low power consumption and ease of setting up on the other.

Because of this we popped into our local LED lighting shop to see what they might offer. Canadian Wholesale Lighting supplied us with 2 different versions of LED grow lights: The tape or strip light I was thinking of, along with a package of 5 – T5 LED Tube fixtures.

What did we compare?

  • Ease of use
  • Energy use
  • Quality of Microgreens, including:
    • Taste
    • Visual – Colour / Growth / Volume

Ease of use / Energy use

The TopLED Strip Light comes with cord / transformer and mounting brackets, but has no in-line switch. This means you would have to use a power bar as switch, as we have done, but if not using that growing shelf one growing cycle,  you have to unplug the light. Not a big deal, but a little less convenient.

As we were just doing a test, we used cable ties to hold it on to wood hangers. This will have reduced the efficiency a bit, as strip curled around each end. In proper install, we would cut to length and attach with cord connectors. Light is a Red / Blue at 4 – 1 ratio. 1 – LED Strip light tested at 38 watts


TopLED Strip Light

The T5 LED Series Tube fixtures are boxed as a set of five 280mm x 10mm LED strip lights built in to reflective tubes, with a power cord / transformer / switch, connection cords which allow for one power cord to run a series of fixtures and brackets. Very easy set-up. The light is very hard on eyes, so we mounted them on lowest grow shelf. If you were using this style in larger install, I would recommend wearing UV eye protection. 5 – LED T5 Tubes tested at 27 watts


T5 LED Series Tube fixtures


Our existing 60cm / 2 ft. Sun Blaster T5 Fluorescent lights are in their 3rd season. They also came with power-cord / switch,  built-in ballast, connection cords which allow for one power cord to run a series of fixtures and brackets. Tubes can be replaced as needed.  4 – T5 Fluorescents tested at 84 watts total.


T5 Fluorescent Lights

Quality of Microgreens

Now to the part you have probably been waiting for. How did the microgreens grow under the 3 different lights?

We grew three trays of each, making sure they were all given the exact same conditions. All were grown in 10 x 20 trays (standard greenhouse tray size), using certified organic ProMix container mix.

The grow room was kept at a 20 C / 70 F temperature (we keep it cooler then some growers as we work on a 2 week cycle).  We grew Sunflowers and a Brassica mix. All trays were put under light on day 5, which includes a day for Sunflowers to be soaked before planting.

During the first cycle, the approximate height from top of soil to bottom of lights were as follows.

  • LED Strip – 27 cm / 10.5 inches
  • LED Tube – 24 cm / 9.5 inches
  • T5 Fluorescent – 22 cm / 8.5 inches (our standard height for these)

During the second cycle, we lowered the LED’s hoping to get better results

  • LED Strip – 18 cm / 7 inches
  • LED Tube – 14 cm / 5.5 inches
  • T5 Fluorescent – 22 cm / 8.5 inches

How did they grow?

You will see below, that there is a considerable difference in volume and density of the crops. The two types of LED lights had quite different success with each variety of Microgreens, while the T5 Fluorescents remained more consistent.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers        T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Sunflowers        T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Brassica Mix


Brassica Mix       T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Brassica Mix        T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Taste Test

We did a taste test at end of second cycle. A very experienced tasting team, which included two family members and myself 😉 We did a simple 1st, 2nd & 3rd rating system. The results are as follows…

Sunflowers

  1. LED Strip light – Nice taste, good water content
  2. T5 Fluorescents – Not a lot of difference to above, just a hair behind
  3. LED T5 Tubes – Very bitter. We used in a smoothie.

Brassica Mix

  1. LED T5 Tubes – Nice taste, good water content
  2. T5 Fluorescents – Not a lot of difference to above, just a hair behind
  3. LED Strip – Limp. No appeal

Final Conclusion

It seems that the different Microgreen varieties fared differently with the different lights. All I can really say is that you will have to try out which Microgreens grow well under your lighting. The big difference for most of us will be the cost to buy and cost to run.

The LED Stip lights should be the least costly to buy, as you can easily take one 5m / 16.4 ft strip and cover a 4 ft. shelf. The LED T5 Tubes used the least amount of power, but I don’t really think that the five tube package covered all the plants on 4 foot shelf that well.

The T5 Fluorescents used considerably more wattage, but are quite consistent in growing a good crop. If you are growing a few trays for yourself, the overall cost wouldn’t be that much. If growing on a larger scale, that cost would add up quickly.

We definitely would need more time to really make a proper conclusion. 

*We didn’t use one of our old 4ft T8 Fluorescents as part of this test, but just for fun, its power was rated at 54 watts for a two tube fixture.

Posted in Sustainable Homes and Living

Microgreen Lighting test

Watch for the results of our lighting test, which will come out in about a week! Over the last month, we have been testing out 2 types of LED grow lights. We will be comparing them to each other and to our existing T5 Fluorescents. Thank you to Canadian Wholesale Lighting for asking us to try these out!

T5 Fluorescents
LED plant growing strip light (Tape Light)
LED 1 foot T5 lights
Posted in Healthy (& Tasty!) Eating

Fermenting root veggies

We have just started fermenting our own root veggies

I must admit that I never really liked foods like store-bought Sauerkraut. We had both tried Kimchi at Korean and Japanese restaurants and were not impressed. So when I started reading and hearing about how important our gut bacteria is, to not only only our digestive system, but the healthiness of our entire body, we were both rather skeptical.

Then we realized that fermented foods we have eaten previously sometimes contained vinegars, which is what gave them such a harsh flavour. Looking into fermented foods further, and talking to family that grew up with fermented foods, we realized that “real” fermented foods were much simpler.

On to YouTube to look at some videos and away I went with trying out my first fermented food trial. We happened to have a few turnips in the cool room that were getting towards the end of their storage life. We picked up a small celeriac (celery root) to go with the turnips and also added ginger root, mustard seed and Himalayan salt.

All I did was put grated ingredients together, pound them for a bit to get juices coming out and put them into an earthen bowl. There was not quite enough liquid to make sure veggies were fully covered (otherwise there will be spoilage), so I poured small amount of previously boiled water over the mix.

A lid from another bowl fit in upside down to give a partially sealed cover. I also added a few extra plates on top to make sure it stayed down on first batch. Didn’t need it on this one. Then I just covered it up and put it in a dark corner of kitchen for a week or so.

It tasted great! It wasn’t harsh like the vinegar-based products at all and the ginger gave it a nice little kick.

This time I am using sweet potatoes, carrots and ginger, along with mustard seed and salt. Next time, I may even add some onions and garlic!

Try it out for yourself. It is very good for your health and adds a flavourful condiment to your meal as well. Don’t eat too much in a day to start or your digestive system might not be too happy. Also, if you have health issues, or an overbalance of bad bacteria in your system, you may experience die-off like I did.

Be sure to sterilize everything used in process, and don’t use any veggies with molds on them.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming, Healthy (& Tasty!) Eating

Microgreens

wp-1476915124094.jpgWe’ve just recently started playing around with microgreens for our family. Taking two old window blind displays that are best kept out of landfill, I reconfigured them a bit to line up the horizontal supports to allow for continuous shelves across both units. The light fixture that was previously hanging vertically inside one of the units makes great lighting for the top shelf.

 

 

We also picked up a few grow-light units that were on clearance at a local indoor gardening shop for the middle. These use very little power, but as you can see below, the plants love them! We still have a couple of 3 foot fixtures sitting in shop that will work once we expand to using bottom section of displays. The plastic panels that used to sit in behind the display blinds were handy as shelf covers (makes easy cleaning) and light reflectors.

wp-1476912753779.jpg
1 week old Peas – Can’t wait to try these!

This little storage room in our shop is heated with a small oil-filled heater each year already, so there will be no additional cost to keep the plants happy. We keep the heat very low and will see how happy the micro greens are once winter really sets in. About a week before this post, we were down to -4 C overnight and it was still comfortable in room.

Total cost to get going was only about $80.00 + cost of seeds. We decided to buy larger quantities. The two below we bought 10 kgs. of each. A little costly up front, but will save a lot over winter and spring. From what I can read, micro greens have an average 4 – 5 times the nutrients as their mature counterparts. There was a study at the University of Maryland that tested the claims on nutrition and found some exciting results. Here is the short version from WebMD.

We bought our seeds in bulk from a Canadian seed supplier that sells only organic, non-GMO seeds. Here is part of our first indoor crop!

wp-1476912753774.jpg
The Sunflowers (Sunnies) are looking great as well. Diannes’ favorite! The black pieces are just the seed hulls that haven’t fallen off yet.

If anyone else is experimenting with microgreens, please let us know. We are thinking of starting a local ‘MicroGreens Club’ next year if all goes well, where we could have affordable monthly subscriptions. Let us know if there is anything along those lines in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Flooring

3 Reasons to Choose Sustainable Hardwood Flooring

When you’re thinking about redoing your floors you have a lot of options to choose from. From bamboo to vinyl there are many different materials available that can be used for flooring. Here are 3 reasons to choose our  hardwood for your flooring needs.

Hardwood is Healthy

3 Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring - blog.ecotimber.comCarpet is notorious for releasing unhealthy Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, into the air. Exposure to these VOCs can have any number of long-term health effects. With hardwood flooring most if not all of the danger of VOCs is eliminated. Factory finished hardwood is sealed and UV-cured which means that it does not emit VOCs. If you’re finishing the wood on-site look for a water-based finish to minimize the VOCs. In addition, look for a low VOC glue to use when installing a hardwood floor to further minimize the risk of long-term health effects.

Hardwood is Sustainable

3 Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring - blog.ecotimber.com

These bluegrass planks were collected from fences that were being replaced and will be made into flooring.

Trees are a renewable resource. Responsible harvesters plant new trees to replace those that they cut down. Wood is also recyclable. Sawdust, a byproduct of manufacturing wood flooring, is the primary material used to make particle board. Hardwood can be reclaimed. When old buildings are torn down there is frequently wood in them that can be reused in other buildings.

The Forest Stewardship Council certifies wood that is harvested from well-managed forests. They ensure that these forests are not damaged and that the local ecosystems are unharmed. When you purchase wood that carries the Forest Stewardship Council seal you’re helping to support the Earth’s forests.

Hardwood is Eco-Friendly

3 Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring - blog.ecotimber.comAs trees grow they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide is converted into carbon and oxygen.  The carbon is stored in the tree and the oxygen is released back into the air.

Forests around the world provide habitats for numerous species. They also help to prevent soil erosion and flooding. In addition, turning trees into flooring requires less energy and produces less waste than many other methods of manufacturing flooring.

The next time you’re shopping for new flooring remember these 3 reasons to choose hardwood flooring.

Posted in Flooring

Benefits of Cork – One of Nature’s Great Resources

Benefits of Cork – One of Nature’s Great RESOURCES

Check out this video in which Candace Olson talks about why she likes cork flooring.

Cork, used for everything from wine bottle stoppers to bulletin boards, has become very popular among designers. But what makes cork flooring such a good fit for your home or business? Read on to discover some of the many benefits of cork.

Renewable

Cork comes from the bark of Cork Oak trees. These trees are native to the Mediterranean region where they can live over 200 years. The bark from the trees is first harvested when the trees are about 25 years old and after that it is harvested every 9-12 years.

Sustainable

Cork Oak trees are not harmed when their bark is removed and will in fact continue to grow. In many Mediterranean countries Cork Oak trees are protected by law and can only be cut down with government permission. In addition, the Cork Oak forests provide homes for a number of endangered species.

WEZP-PA-Beja-CAFF_Vignette_1Recyclable

Cork is recyclable and there is very little waste in the process of turning cork bark into consumer goods.  Some cork flooring is created from the remnants left from making cork bottle stoppers.

Healthy

Cork is naturally hypoallergenic and it resists dust mites and mold. In addition it repels some insects.

Easy Care

Due to its nature cork both repels water and resists fire.  It also retains its shape even when heavy furniture has been sitting on it and it resists wear and tear.

Insulating

Cork provides thermal insulation, aiding in the regulation of temperatures, and it helps to absorb ambient sound.

Comfortable

Cork flooring feels warm and, because of its elasticity, cushioning.  As a result it is easier to stand on for long periods of time than harder floors.

100% Cork Candice Olson Discusses Benefits of Real Cork.wmv from EcoTimber onVimeo.

Posted in Flooring

Orchard Walnut – A Unique Collection

Do you know the story behind the flooring in your home? What was it before it was made into flooring? EcoTimber only offers FSC certified sustainable products. And that means that every piece of wood we sell has a story.

The Orchard Collection

A Californian Walnut Orchard - blog.ecotimber.com

A walnut orchard in California

What happens to commercial orchards that have aged and can no longer bear fruit? They are cut down and replanted to insure a future harvest. The trees that are cut down are often used as biomass fuel in generating electricity. We save the best of these trees to be recycled into flooring.

Traditional Walnut Flooring

Most of the walnut flooring created in North America comes from the American Black Walnut tree. This tree grows in the Eastern US but is not ideal for commercial walnut harvesting. At EcoTimber our Orchard Walnut collection is different.

Our Orchard Walnut Collection

Orchard Walnut collection - blog.ecotimber.comThere are over 200,000 acres of commercial walnut orchards in Central California. These orchards are the source of 98% of the annual US walnut crop. When these orchards are about 40 years old the walnut production drops significantly. The trees are then cut down and replanted. In about 4 years the orchard once again begins producing. Approximately 7000 acres of walnut orchards are cut down every year. We take the best of the cut trees and turn them into flooring.

Grafting – The Secret to Spectacular Flooring

Grafting step 4 - blog.ecotimber.comGrafting step 2 - blog.ecotimber.comGrafting Step 1 - blog.ecotimber.com

Commercial walnut growers know that they get the best harvest when they combine a tree that is hardy and resistant to the local diseases with a tree that gives a high yield. They do this with a process called grafting. As a result of grafting the walnut trees develop highly variegated grain patterns. These grain patterns make this wood highly sought after for certain luxury items like car interiors.

Features of Our Orchard Walnut Flooring

Grain Graft Closeup - blog.ecotimber.com

A closeup view of the grain graft.

When you buy EcoTimber’s orchard walnut flooring you know you’re getting an eco-friendly product. The thick walnut wear layer is entirely made from recycled walnut. The pine backing comes from FSC certified well-managed forests.

Our Orchard Walnut Flooring has beautiful variegated grain patterns - blog.ecotimber.com

Our Orchard Walnut Flooring has beautiful variegated grain patterns.

This flooring has exquisite color and grain variation. The factory-applied clear stain offers superior durability without releasing dangerous VOCs into your home. A thick wear layer that can be sanded down and refinished to look like new means this floor will last a lifetime. The cross-ply construction means that it will resist cupping and warping.

Do you know what story your floors tell? What type of story would you like it to be?

Posted in Flooring

Unfurled Bamboo – The Newest Bamboo Flooring Trend

Bamboo flooring has undergone a number of changes since it was first introduced in the early 1990s.  The “third coming” in bamboo flooring is now unfurled bamboo, which was introduced around 2011-2012.

Unfurled Bamboo

Unfurled Bamboo FlooringThis format takes the round stalk of bamboo and runs a single slit up the length of the stalk. The round stalk is then carefully “unfurled” and flattened into a sheet.  The width of this sheet is the same as the circumference of the round stalk – approximately 6” to 8”.

The thickness of the sheet equals the thickness of the stalk’s wall, which is approximately 1/4” thick. Now, for the first time ever, bamboo has a wide, single piece (6”-8”) face, with the knuckle running across its full width.  This sheet can be used as is as a wear layer or three pieces may be laminated together in thickness prior to running it into flooring, yielding the standard U.S. 3/4” wood flooring thickness.

Unfurled Bamboo Flooring

Even more unique, unfurled bamboo allows you to leave the natural skin on – just as it comes from the bamboo grove – and use this skin as the flooring’s natural finish without the need for topcoating with man-made finishes. Alternatively, you can partially remove the natural skin and tint/topcoat with traditional UV finishes.

Unique to unfurled bamboo being finished with UV finishes is the one-piece face with the knuckles running fully across the face.  Given bamboo’s unique cellular and fiber structure, whereby the outer skin is by far the hardest and most impact resistant part of the bamboo stalk, initial ball drop impact tests on the natural skinned, unfurled bamboo (which better replicate walking in high heels on the flooring than a lab Janka hardness test) amazingly show less denting than even on the densified strand woven format!

We believe this is the result of both the hardness of the natural bamboo skin coupled with the bamboo stringy fibers, which are largely concentrated in the bamboo stalk’s wall just under the skin, acting much like steel rebar used for tensioning and reinforcing concrete for strength. Or simply think of skin and underlying fibers in unfurled bamboo’s outer surface as a trampoline, whereby high-heel impact/ball-drop impact springs back as a result of the skin/fiber tension, producing little to no denting.

Unfurled Bamboo