Being interested in hydroponic gardening, growing plants in water, and the possibility of having fresh, homegrown veggies all winter, I started reading and watching videos about it a couple of years ago.
There are two general forms of hydroponic gardening, one is aquaponics that uses fish to provide nutrients to the plants and one that uses prepared plant food instead.
The videos about aquaponics on YouTube make building the complicated setup that distributes the waste products from the fish up to plants0 from readily available parts look easy and the sustainability aspect of it is appealing. An aquaponics garden can be set up with solar power and exist self-contained off the grid if there are plenty of aquatic plants and brine shrimp on hand for fish food. But it isn’t for people like me who have almost no handiness skills to build the required frame and system of pipes, pumps and tubing, much less the greenhouse to put it all into. I could imagine myself being completely overwhelmed with a project like this, and this is exactly why I read and watched, but never tried it.
Recently, however, I found information on what is called the Kratky Method of hydroponics where everything is contained in the container that the plant is grown in. No pumps, no aeration, no running water to clog up, no fish to keep alive. All that is needed is a jar (and I’ve seen people use even plastic beverage cups and old water bottles), a small net pot, something to hold the plant stable in the net pot, water and some hydroponics plant food. Truly something I can do.
So last weekend I bough some lettuce, tomato and bell pepper seeds and two young tomato plants to start out with on the Kratky Method. I also got some net cups and General Hydroponics Maxi Grow from Amazon, and two amber 2-quart, wide mouth Ball jars from Walmart for the tomato plants.
The seeds are started in potting soil and are then moved to their hydroponic growing container after they get their first true leaves. Of the seeds I’ve planted thus far, I have only a few lettuce sprouts that look like they emerged within last 24 hours or so and they have a few days to go before they end up growing out of jar.
Just this evening, I moved the tomato plants from the potting soil in which they were growing to their new Ball jars with the Maxi Grow nutrient solution. It took about 20 minutes to take them out of the pots, clean the potting soil from their roots, and then place them in their jars with the solution. I put them in a sunny area of the house for lots of light, and now, it’s a matter of time to see if they will survive the transplanting trauma. If so, I will be checking them every so often to top off their water level if needed and change their nutrient solution weekly.
I also have a couple of grow lights that I bought for some tropical plants that I had growing at the office in an area where there was no natural light coming in at all. Now that I have no office and the plants are doing fine in the house, I can use the lights for my veggie plants when the days start getting shorter in hopes of extending the growing season for them as long as I can.
It probably isn’t that great of an idea to make long term plans for these plants right yet, though. I have to be sure that this is something I definitely can do before I start thinking about all the yummy salads I will be munching on in January.