Friday, July 24, 2009
Ebb and Flow
In my part of the world folks are beginning to call this "the year with no summer." So far we have only had one day when the temperature hit ninety, and eight days when it hit eighty or above. The worst part is that with the cooler weather we have had rain, rain, more rain, and high humidity. Many of the people I have spoken to have said they are having problems with fungus and mold in their gardens. I had a slight problem with fungus on the cucumbers, but a quick application of fungicide kept it in check.
My bush beefsteak tomatoes have run their course and I have replaced the Autopots with a large ebb and flow system. The system in the photo is a large rubber mixing tub that can be purchased at Tractor Supply or even Home Depot. The reservoir is simply a large storage tub holding 15 gallons of nutrients with a mild vegetative mix. The four inch tiles cost sixteen cents each at Home Depot and serve to keep the bottom of the net pots from standing in liquid. I estimate that it cost me about thirty dollars to build this ebb and flow system, and I hate to think of what a commercial unit this size would cost.
Going forward I will use the ebb and flow system for swiss chard, and in late August I will begin growing lettuce. The smaller systems will be planted with beet greens and perhaps Pak Choi.
Last year I was really ticked when General Hydroponics raised their prices by twenty five percent "due to price of fuel". Now, in retrospect, I realize that they actually did me a favor. Since then I have been on a quest to reduce my nutrient costs as much as possible. Today I found a source for commercial grade hydroponic nutrients that is only ten miles from my home. It was necessary to spend about seventy five dollars to purchase the minimum amount. However, and this is a big big however, I came home with seventy five pounds of nutrients and calcium nitrate. By my estimate that will yield over three thousand gallons of nutrients at the strength that I use them. One gallon each of General Hydroponic's Flora series three part concentrate cost more than I spent today, and it yields far far far less. So thanks General Hydroponics, and you know what you can do with your nutrients. And on the same topic; when you go to a hydroponic store, or look at a catalog, there are a zillion additives being hyped. They make all kinds of claims like guano picked under a full moon by forty year old virgins on remote tropic islands, only forty dollars a pint. As Barnum once said: "there is a sucker born every minute." Hell, you would spend almost twenty dollars for a quart of pH down at the hydro store. White vinegar will work just as well, and a half gallon is a buck and change. Yeah, you may have to add it a little more frequently, but that is a big big savings.
I should package the nutrients and calcium nitrate in two pound bags and market them on EBay. At least these are brand name, and pH buffered. The nutrients I purchased on EBay are not buffered, and the pH drift is insane.
I have been trying to purchase additional self watering containers at Agway, and they have been out of stock for weeks. The manager has kind of ignored three requests that they replenish their stock, so my next project is to bypass Agway and build my own.