Flooded Planet

Exploring the World to the Very Last Drop

Tag: hydroponics

Hydroponic Happy

Hydroponic Happy

The three basil ladies you see here started out in life from a very tough place. The attending gardener was doing his best to kill them. I had placed them in a gallon jug container outside with the micro-nutrient mixture I use for my hydroponic efforts. The jug was just a discarded water container, made of plastic, of course, and mostly clear. Me neglecting to darken it so that the algae would not grow was a big mistake. Algae is an amazing organism in that, with a little water and sun, its abundant and rapid growth is virtually guaranteed. I would imagine that the high nutrient content in the water did nothing to help that situation, as well.

By the end of the first day, the algae was already growing in the jug, which was probably no big deal for the moment, but the basil  were noticeably suffering, probably mostly from the shock of being separated from the parent plant abruptly, by way of my scissors. I think a lot of it had to do with the way in which I cut them, leaving absolutely no root growth for them to begin life in a new environment with.  By the end of the second day, I counted the experiment as all but dead in the water (literally and figuratively).

However, life will find a way, and so it went with these three little ladies. I transferred their lifeless and wilted bodies into the three jars you see here, filling each about a third full with clean gravel, then another third of the way with the same micro-nutrient mix I was using outside (not the same stuff…it had been overtaken by the algae…just the same mixture). I placed them in my windowsill, and within a couple of days, they had bounced right back (the aluminum keeps the algae from getting a foothold).  You should see the root system on these plants now! Hundreds of tiny roots growing out of the portion of the plant that I initially cut from the parent. It’s really kind of amazing.

The peppers you see on the table beside the basil are also products of a hydroponic effort and with many more still on the way from the same plant, growing in nothing but expanded clay pellets for support, and the micro-nutrient mixture in which the pepper plants roots are quite happy.

I can safely say that, between my soil-based efforts versus the hydroponic-based planets, the soil-less stuff is winning magnificently. Not to mention that it’s just plain fun!

HydroTonics IV (Oh Lettuce…I did not know you well)

Here’s an unexpected twist to my hydroponic lettuce experiment, and it centers around expanded clay ball dust. What? Yeah, I know, me too.

If you’re like me, you don’t read the instructions that come with any product with “some assembly required” because you think that the knowledgeable advice included, free of charge, applies to all the other morons who don’t know how to turn a screwdriver, not you. You always know exactly what you’re doing…of course. Which is why my lettuce experiment is now defunct, all because I got a little cavalier with the clay balls (like those shown in picture in HydroTonics III). This one guy on his blog says I should wash those things 3-4 times, flushing the water until there’s no more color coming off the things. So, I took that to mean one good flushing, which is basically what I did, then called it good.

Last night, the dripping I have previously described in the other hydrotonic entries, the very dripping which plays the oh so crucial part in the whole hydroponic experiment world…abruptly stopped and would not continue on no matter what I did. There was gentle shaking of the tube, followed by more violent shaking, which was then followed by swapping out of pumps. The ultimate desperate act was a complete extraction of baby lettuce children, along with a dismantling of the entire setup, including all separation of components to discover the source of the problem.

The answer had been provided in the instructions…of course. Stated in bold-faced honesty (almost as if this very same thing had probably happened to others, and this was their attempt to spare me the same fate). It was those darned clay balls. If not flushed thoroughly of their dust, it would seem that they will likely cause the small drip holes to clog, which must then be cleared with a specialty tool known as a toothpick.

I will not provide any additional details beyond this other than to say that the lettuce is now outside in a pot full of good soil, and I am now switching to hydroponic…turnip greens!

The saga continues…

G2

HydroTonics III

Well, I guess I could synchronize the Roman numeral in the title with the number of weeks that this experiment has been going on, so let’s do that. Week three and the lettuce is still growing, albeit much slower than I would have hoped. The literature says that, with hydroponics, plants can grow up to twice as fast, although that has not been my experience so far. This could be for a couple of reasons, both of which are due to my own inexperience:

  • I now believe that I transplanted my little lettuce babies way before they were ready. As a result, their roots did not get a chance to develop to the degree that was necessary for proper growth (see, this is what happens when excitement overrules prudence and patience). Their root systems are probably going to be permanently compromised all the way up until harvest time.
  • Secondly, the lighting I am using is just a standard fluorescent light bulb that fits into a lamp that can be clamped on to the edge of a table. Since I’ve read quite a bit about grow lights, I can safely say that an ordinary fluorescent bulb is not going to offer the plants the natural lighting that grow lamps provide. As a result, growth is probably somewhat delayed.

All things considered, however, the lettuce babies are all growing into small children. The largest one is perhaps three inches high. Color is good, and with no indications of any nutrient troubles showing in the leaves yet. I have changed out the nutrients one time so far and will continue to do so about once every 7-10 days.

hydrotonics-cmprsd-20161008

I’m still quite smitten with this whole idea of growing things in nothing more than nutrient-rich water. Why it fascinates me so I’m not quite sure, although I suppose it has something to do with my memories of a backstage walking tour I took several years ago at Walt Disney World in Orlando, while visiting Epcot’s Living with the Land pavilion. There, you can take the slow moving boat ride through a variety of hydroponic greenhouses, and also view the fish aquariums that are part of their aquaponics efforts.

Once finished, you can also participate in a more up close and personal walking tour of the same areas. A knowledgeable tour guide provides you with more detailed explanations about the technology behind those amazing plants growing in ways that are anything but conventional agriculture.

It was truly beyond belief what can be accomplished with these innovative growing techniques involving technologies that are much more mature than I had realized. Now that I’ve caught the bug, myself, I am once again astonished at the selection of online products offered to the home hydroponics hobbyist. This thing has really taken off and it’s just terrific!

I didn’t want to drop a lot of cash into this project initially, in case things did not work out. My initial interest in hobbies tends to wane, and I am more aware of this about myself as I get older. So a conservative approach is about all that I allow myself, at least in the beginning. I still feel a general enthusiasm about hydroponics, however, so it’s probably time to invest in a second system to sit side-by-side with the first. Maybe get my first grow light. And something to test pH. And…

Looks to me like the beginnings of a commitment, and what could be better than that!

Update No 4 coming in about a week.

Thanks for stopping by!

G2

HydroTonics II

I let you know a few days ago that I had invested in a starter hydroponics kit. I also relayed that I was going to start with some tomato plant cuttings as my first attempt at growing something in the tonic waters. That plan, however, was not meant to be, as the cuttings never rooted the way the websites said they would. So we’re going to try lettuce.

A few words about this setup: it’s from a company called General Hydroponics, and the kit I purchased, called the Waterfarm, is about as basic as they come. I’m quite certain that I could easily duplicate their set up with a few parts from the hardware store and cut my price by half. My purchase was from a local distributor and I paid about $55. That seems about right, especially considering that the pump, tubing, and clay pebbles were all included. But, all in all, a very basic system, and not so appealing to the eye in design or color. It is doing what it’s supposed to, however, so I’m not going to complain too much.

The lettuce was started from seed. I had the beginnings of sprouts only after the second day, and after about one week’s growth, they have now been transplanted into the clay pebbles that come with the set up. The Waterfarm is a drip system, using a small air pump to lift the water from its reservoir up above the clay so that the little sprouts can get the equivalent of a perpetual shower of micronutrients that they will ultimately need throughout their lifecycle.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with hydroponics, there are plenty of websites that cover the topic thoroughly. Start reading and you might get hooked. Wikipedia is always a good place to start. The advantages of this approach are numerous: I’m using very little water, since the pump is recycling the same two gallons over and over; I don’t need soil, pesticides, or herbicides, since this whole experiment is taking place inside; I can also control lighting and temperature to a much greater degree than I would be able to outside. Obvious disadvantages will be the added cost of powering the pump and the light. For now, this is on such a small scale, that I may not even notice an increase in my electric bill.

Some websites I’ve read also state that hydroponics requires a lot of attention, but I think that could easily be said of an outdoor garden, as well. Until I’m further into this experiment and can better gauge my time investment, I’m going to reserve judgment with regard to the amount of effort this venture will require. So far, I’m having a whole lot of fun!

I will keep the updates coming.

G2

HydroTonics I

PGA – HydroTonics I

So, moving forward, the PGA shall stand for Personal Gardening Anecdotes. Apologies to anyone who thought they would be getting the latest golf updates here…easy mistake to make, for sure, especially if one was perpetually in the lake and thought FloodedPlanet might be all about golfing gaffs. But I digress…

I have had more than a passing interest in hydroponics for quite some time now. So I thought it serendipitous when I found myself tagging behind a truck a few nights ago that sort of changed my luck. Driven by the owner of a recently opened hydroponics supply store in my neck of the woods, it came into view only just before I was preparing to turn off onto my final road home. The business name was plastered across the back windshield. Turns out, that’s all I would need to take action.

Two days later, I found myself leaving the owner’s shop laden with my beginner’s kit and a wealth of new information that caused my happy head to sort of lean to one side. It felt like a whole new world had just opened up for me to explore.

Four days later, and I’m now set up and ready to transplant several tomato plant cuttings into the clay pellets that will serve as structural support for these fuzzy-headed little gals. Perpetually drip-fed with pump-driven micro-nutrients, and lit by a nice compact grow lamp from above, they’ll have it pretty darned cozy during their growth cycle.

No pests, no herbicides, no wondering about the weather. The sun and the water and the food all taken care of. The food…the tonics…are to be described a bit further. Contained in three joyfully different bottles, all brightly colored and with creative branding, every one, they sported number triplets like 5-0-1, 2-1-6, and 0-5-4. Rather cryptic to the untrained eye, but each signifying different ratios of the various minerals that most any plant will need and want if it’s to stay growing and green for the duration. The accumulated repositories of gardening know-how all contained in these tiny little bottles of micro-pureed goodness just left me all a twitter with excitement.

Somehow, I’m pretty sure that something is scheming behind the scenes to show me the error of my misguided ways. What could possibly go wrong, right? In the meantime, it’s a pretty little picture I paint.

Updates forthcoming.

G2

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