Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bending the seasons

My 18 month old grandchild, Ava, delights in, and makes a major production of, presenting her grandmother with a flower. I try to have something in bloom for her whenever she visits. She is only here a few minutes before she is standing at the basement door waiting for me to take her to the growing area to collect her prize.

The flowers in the photo are Pot & Patio Asters, which have been growing in the Folger's container since September 12, 2008.

The Asters are being replaced with Carnations, which I am going to force into bloom. The Carnation already has buds, which have been forming for sometime while it has been growing with the lettuce.

Hopefully, you can tell by the photo that hydroponics is not expensive, and it is not rocket science. Anyone with basic hand tools skills can make a system out of pretty much any container.

In this case all that was necessary was to cut a circle to accommodate the net pot. Then, I drilled a small hole in the cover to pass an airline through, and attached an air stone. Any pet store has the tubing, pump and air stone. The cost for all would be about ten dollars.

I use hydroton expanded clay pellets to support the plant, but pea gravel would also work. Fill the container with enough nutrient mix to bring it to the top openings in the net pot. Place the air stone on the bottom, and turn on the pump. You are now have a hydroponic system!

I have grown: strawberries, lettuce, greens, a full size tomato, and all kinds of flowers in one of these systems. I call it my one plant wonder. All that air oxygenating the nutrient mix will make the plant grow very vigorously.

For someone just experimenting, or just getting started, an all purpose nutrient mix would be best. If there are no hydroponic dealers locally, an online search can locate nutrients.

Beginners think they can just toss in some fertilizer, like Miracle Grow, and away they go. That will work for a week or two, however, after awhile your plant will begin showing signs of stress. I did a comparison of nutrients and found that Miracid most closely matched the hydroponic mixture I use. It was close, but, that only counts in horseshoes. For instance, plants need calcium, not much, but it is absolutely essential, and it is not included with garden fertilizer. I tried to add calcium to a mix of Miracid by adding calcium supplements from the health food store. It does not dissolve well at all. As CO2 mixed with calcium carbonate is pumped into the sea to rescue coral reefs, I tried using carbonated water to dissolve the calcium. While it worked to some degree, the plants still showed calcium deficiency. Take my word for it, buy commercial hydroponic nutrients. Mixing your own is not worth even trying, unless you are growing on a commercial scale.

All you need now is a sunny window, or strong light source, and you can bend the seasons also. Good bye soil borne problems, welcome to hydroponics.

1 comment:

Zach Keatts said...

I started reading your blog today. I wish I had found it before I bought my setup :D

I am very pleased to find an account of hydroponic growing without the website trying to sell me a bunch of stuff.

I look forward to learning more. I love gardening, but I don't have the time to weed, fertilize, till, and any other myriad number of things that go along with the traditional method.

Your blog has given me hope that it is still possible to grow my own vegetables.