The Gardenisto

The Gardenisto is passionate about aquaponics, hydroponics, horticulture, and traditional gardening. The Gardenisto shares his knowledge to help other enthusiasts in their own gardening endeavors.

Hummingbird Sage Kumquat Cocktail

| May 9, 2021
Hummingbird Sage Kumquat Cocktail
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.
Preparation Time

15 Minutes

Cooking Time

20 Minutes

Total Time

35 Minutes


About 6 Drinks

A Hummingbird Sage Kumquat Cocktail is a great way to enjoy two unique ingredients from the garden. While you can substitute hummingbird sage with another culinary sage, or savory herb, hummingbird sage adds an extra refreshing flavor to an already interesting citrus and tequila melody.


About 45 kumquats, sliced in thirds, seeds removed
15-20 hummingbird Sage leaves, roughly chopped
2/3 cups honey
2/3 cups water
10.5 ounces tequila


  1. Mix the kumquat Sage syrup with the tequila.
  2. Rim glasses with Sage salt.
  3. Fill glasses with ice.
  4. Pour marg Mix over ice.
  5. Garnish with more kumquat and Sage.
  6. Enjoy

Pineapple Sage or Hidcote Lavander also make great cocktails when combined with citrus. While nobody will complain about this drink, no matter how its served, presentation matters. You can save time and impress your guests by using a premade rimming salt, like Paloma Twang-a-Rita Rimming Salt and an attractive glass. It will take a simple and enjoyable drink to the next level.

Hummingbird Sage Kumquat Ingredients

Hummingbird sage and kumquat are simple, attractive, and tasty ingredients

For guests who are slower drinkers, although its unlikely to be a problem with this cocktail, there is nothing worse than a warm beverage. Consider treating them to a beverage that stays colder longer, by serving it in a double walled, insulated margarita glass.

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Container Gardens Anywhere

| May 4, 2021
Raised Container Garden Bed
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

If you live in a climate or region that makes traditional gardening difficult, you can put container gardens anywhere, and still enjoy the season. The growing season in our higher elevation mountain town is very short, and there are very few ways to have fresh produce year round.

We grow year round in indoor aquaponics systems, but when the temps are right we spring up containers, and plant them with seedlings we start indoors, weeks or even months earlier.

The best part about small container gardens, is that you can put container gardens anywhere. They add some late spring, summer, and early fall curb appeal, and greenery makes sitting outside just a little bit more enjoyable.

When the weather changes, perennials get moved inside, the soil gets removed and stored, and the boxes get moved to storage. The yard is once again clear, and ready for snow removal.

, and untreated wood are both great for container gardens and raised beds. For the sake of ease and mobility, we line our wood raised beds with a polypropylene container. Standalone, the containers work fine, but they aren’t the most attractive or strong. Wood makes the containers more attractive, stronger, and protects them from damage.

Galvanized raised garden bed rings are also a great bottomless option, for quickly deploying attractive raised beds. They are also more affordable than a galvanized tub. However, for decks or concrete walkways, Behrens 17 Gallon round galvanized steel tubs work great.

Galvanized Raised Container Garden Bed

Small galvanized tubs make great raised container gardens for decks and walkways.

We use a high quality potting and raised container soil, so we save our soil and rejuvenate it with fish waste from our aquaponics systems, every year. If you don’t have access to high quality organic fish waste, or old mushroom compost, we recommend using a high quality soil like Foxfarm Ocean Forest, or Foxfarm Happy Frog.

You will pay a premium for good, ready to use soil. However, its also possible to mix your own soil using equal parts of compost, coco coir or peat moss, and perlite or vermiculite.

You can use whatever source of good rich organic compost you have, or buy bags of it. Maybe a neighbor or a friend has an old chicken waste pile, or you have your own compost bin. We also recommend coco coir over peat moss, because of its greater eco-friendliness.

One last thing to add to your soil, if you aren’t already using one with plenty of healthy mycorrhiza, is mycorrhiza. We like to use Dr Earth fertilizer, because it is organic, and loaded with mycorrhiza that will inoculate your soil and plants, and help them thrive.

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Seed Starting

| April 21, 2021
seed starting equipment
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

It’s the time of the year for seed starting, and while it’s not a difficult thing to do, we put together a seed starting guide to help ensure a high rate of germination.

While there is nothing wrong with directly sowing seeds in the garden, we prefer starting seeds indoors, in seed starting trays. The trays produce healthy plants with a nice plug that is easy to transplant later.

Successful seed starting depends on creating and controlling perfect germination conditions. Seeds require warm temperatures, moisture, and a near sterile growing media.

What You’ll Need:

Coco Fiber, Burpee Organic
72 Cell seed starting tray, Pro-Hex

Dr. Earth organic fertilizer - Recommended
Seed Starting Heat Mat - Recommended
Rockwool Cubes - For Hydroponic Applications

Making The Seed Starting Media

Place a brick of coco fiber, perlite, and a little bit of organic fertilizer in a 5 gallon bucket.
Bring about 4 liters of water to a boil on the stove top, or electric kettle.
Hydrate the coco fiber brick with the hot water. The hot water will expand the coco fiber, and sterilize the media at the same time.
Mix all the contents of the bucket thoroughly. Use a tool, and be careful not to burn yourself. If you have one, an all metal paint mixer is the ideal mixer for lightweight seed starting media.

Measurements for the seed starting ratio are fairly loose. To get the right mix we use 1 brick of coco fiber, 4 to 6 quarts of perlite, and about 1 cup of Dr. Earth Organic fertilizer. Seedlings don’t need

Setting Up the Seed Tray

Fill each cell to within 3/8″ of the top, with the seed starting media.
Sow the seeds, and then cover them by filling the cells to the top with the seed starting media.
Water the cells, by misting them with a water bottle.
Place the seed starting cell tray, in the outer tray.
Add a little bit of water to the tray.
Cover the seed starting tray with the lid.
Place on a heat mat. (If you have one)

Seeds Labeled and Sown

Seed trays filled with media, cells labeled, sown, and covered.

While it isn’t necessary, a heat mat (B00P7U259C) will improve germination rates. We always use them, and highly recommend them. Seeds also don’t need light to germinate, but once they have sprouted, they will grow spindly and weak without a strong source of light. So we also always use a grow light for seed starting.

Grow Out

Crack open the lid to partially ventilate the seedlings when the majority of seeds have sprouted.
When all the seeds have sprouted, fully uncover the seeds, but maintain a high moisture content by leaving water in the outer tray. Remove the heat mat.

Sprouts 48 Hours

After 48 hours, even most stubborn seeds will successfully germinate.

Carefully harden off the seedlings by gradually introducing them to sunlight outside. Start by leaving them outside in indirect sunlight for an increasing amount of time. Then slowly introduce them to filtered and then direct sunlight.

You will burn and cook seedlings if you introduce them to the sun’s strong UV rays too quickly.

Hydroponic Starts

If you intend to start seedlings for an aquaponic system, Grodan rockwool is a great starting option.

Fill your outer tray, not the plant cell tray, with rockwool cubes, hydrate with water and a dilute hydroponic mixture, sow seeds, and treat the germination process the same as non-hydroponic seedlings.

Instead of transplanting into soil, you will be able to plant into clay pebbles, ebb flow beds, or even directly into net pots and rafts, depending on your aquaponic or hydroponic set up.

Sprouting In Rockwool

Sprouting In rockwool is super easy, and will allow you to plant into more hydroponic setups.

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DIY Aquaponics System 2 Indoor

| February 24, 2021
DIY Aquaponics System 2a
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

After establishing the DIY aquaponic system in the living room, I started work on phase two of the build out. I made a few functional changes, like plumbing two waterfalls for movement and aeration. I also decided to switch from my DIY gravel filter to an external canister filter. I removed the upper grow boxes and created plexiglass net pot holders for the goldfish pond.

The removal of the upper grow boxes allowed me to achieve much cleaner lines. I created an aesthetically pleasing wooden wrap that follows the clean lines. I also did some finer wood work to wrap the waterfalls, and used aluminum strips to suspend the lighting.

I expanded the system with a 20 gallon tall tank. Its fed from the canister filter, and returns to the sump/crawfish tank. I added a sponge filter to the 20 gallon to helps polish the water. A sponge filter could probably handle the 20 gallon filtration on its own, but my stocking density is pretty high, and the point of the system is to utilize fish and plants to create balance. I couldn’t create that balance of nitrate production and removal without tying the plumbing back to the whole system where the majority of the plant life is.

The 20 gallon sits on a stand, made from the same wooden materials as the rest of the system. It ties together the aesthetics, but also elevates the tank to make the return to the sump functional.

DIY Aquaponics System 2b

At night, the led lighting on the aquaponics system is very soothing, and the sound from the waterfalls adds a zen like ambience.

I wanted to achieve an aquaponics system that is enjoyable to look at. I think I’ve achieved that, and I’m happy with how it all looks and operates. I did further enhance the experience with LED lighting in all tanks. I also did some aquascaping with dark slate stone and white high contrasting sand in the 20 gal. The sand increases the surface area for beneficial bacteria to inhabit, so it improved the system.

I have minor plans for more lighting, and an elevated sump style aquaponics system over the 20 gallon. Some other minor wood work will happen to create a more cohesive aesthetic, but I’ll be happy to call it ‘done’, soon and focus more on plants and automation with a raspberry pi microcontroller.

If you missed the part one, with an equipment list, check it out here.

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DIY Aquaponics System 1 Indoors

| August 14, 2020
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Our mountain town gets way too much snow and way too many cold hours to have an outdoor garden, so I decided to build an DIY aquaponic system in the living room, and bring the garden inside for year round growing. I also wanted to make the system as aesthetically pleasing as possible, whilst bringing an outdoor experience indoors in a tasteful way.

My indoor aquaponic design started off as a fairly simple design. As it came together, I made changes. Some of the changes simplified the system, whilst others were improvements that may have increased the complexity, aesthetics, or efficiency.

The initial setup uses two 4 foot by 15″ totes, with one elevated and offset above the other, with two additional 12 site grow boxes on the very top of it all.

I eventually simplified this, but pushed to quickly get plants ‘planted’ and the system cycling properly. If you are unfamiliar with a nitrogen cycle, its the most critical part to any aquarium, and definitely the most fundamental thing in aquaponics to understand. Click Here for a simplified explanation in a post from a few years ago.

Upper Boxes
The two upper grow boxes are Deep Water Culture systems that each hold about 2.5 gallons. and have 12 2″ net pot grow sites.

Upper Offset 4ft Box – AKA the Goldfish Pond
As the Name implies, this holds some floating plants and 8 goldfish. In this type of environment, the goldfish have grown very fast.

Lower 4ft box that acts as a Sump, and a Crawfish Tank
This Tank holds 6 virile crawfish, to help me gauge future aquaculture bioloads, stocking density and demand.

The first version of the system used a 410 GPH pump pulling water through a Bucket full of Filter Floss, before doing a DIY gravel filter. The sump/crawfish tank was given a an aquarium gravel substrate, and I added MarinePure bio filtration media which is amazing on its own.

The water is heated with a 150w aquarium heater, and lighting is a simple Lithonia 4ft 2 bulb hanging fixture, with two LED bulbs.

I designed the system to have a low overall electrical requirement, and high vegetable production volume.

This is part one. I thought its was important to share the bare bones, even if the system has been well established by the time of writing this and has evolved into having fountains, more aesthetic clean lines, underwater LED lighting, different mechanical filtration, another tank, and the addition of some game fish.