Blooming Idiots

 Posted by at 1:26 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 092016
 

After I mentioned a few days ago that I had told my son Travis about hydroponic gardening, a couple of blog readers expressed an interest in hearing more about it, and one person asked me what hydroponics is, saying she had never heard of it.



Basically, it is a method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in water. Plants may be grown with their roots in just the mineral solution or in a medium like perlite or gravel. My research shows that, when done properly, plants grow up to 50% faster with a hydroponic set up, and vegetables can be as much as 50% larger. Years ago I had a friend who was really into it, and I was amazed that in a room about the size of a one car garage he was able to feed his entire family year-round.

It can be done on a large-scale and cost a lot of money, or on a small scale on the cheap, like the set up we’ve been helping Travis with. For those of you who are interested, here’s the condensed version of what’s involved.

We started out by buying two plastic 18 gallon storage tubs at WalMart, two aquarium pumps, aquarium tubing, and air stones. Then we ordered a bag of rock wool plant plugs, 3 inch round net cup pots, and hydroponic grow rocks from Amazon. Overall, the whole dual setup cost between $75 and $100.



Terry laid out a pattern incorporating eight of the cups for each storage tub, and using a 3 inch hole saw on an electric drill, Travis cut the holes in the lids of the tubs.

Cutting holes small

Holes cut small

After soaking the rockwool plugs in water and rinsing them, and doing the same with the grow rocks, he put a few of the rocks in the bottom of each cup.

Cup stones small

Then he inserted a couple of seeds into each plug and put them in the cups, and put more of the grow rocks around them.

rockwool

Cups ready small

Meanwhile, we had filled the tubs with water, hooked up the aquarium pumps and air stones, put the stones in the water, checked the pH balance of the water, added Miracle Grow, and then placed the cups into the holes.

A couple of grow lights in metal reflectors were mounted above and he’s ready to go. Travis used seeds for most of the pots, but did transplant a tomato plant that was looking pretty bad into one of them. We were all shocked that within an hour or so the plant’s wilted leaves had opened up nicely, and it looks like it’s going to be just fine.

Grow lights

Travis and his wife Geli are vegans, and once he gets going with this, after a little bit of trial and error, I think he is going to be able to take a big bite out of their grocery budget. It’s been a lot of fun helping him set things up, and especially seeing his excitement about the project.

It’s Thursday and that means it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Death On The Pedernales, book five in my pal George Wier’s popular Bill Travis mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Death on the Pedernales

Thought For The Day – They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.

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Nick Russell

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  9 Responses to “Blooming Idiots”

  1. Interesting post. Please keep us updated how his little garden is growing. I would be most interested in the tomatoes. Yum!

  2. Very interesting setup. I assume the water touches the bottom of the cups and you have to keep it full? Does the air stone just keep the water moving so it doesn’t stagnate? I’ve never seen anything like this … it’s so cool!!

  3. Learned about Hydroponics 50 years ago in HS…..where has everyone been????

  4. Nancy, the water is about 1/2 inch over the bottom of the cups. The pump and air stone provide oxygen to the water.

  5. I’ve been growing hydroponic veggies and plants for over 25 years now Nick. We started with a simple system like you describe and it has grown until now we have a greenhouse and supply not only our own needs but also our kids families and every year we donate a ton of stuff to the local food kitchen. Tomatoes, beans, sprouts, lettuce, you name it. And it all tastes so much better than what you buy in the supermarket.

  6. People think we are crazy but we have a single tub system just like you describe in our motorhome but not as deep and have grown our own basil, beans, and herbs for 4 years now.

  7. Oh they are going to be eating good! Have been growing my own vegetables with hydroponics for many years and nothing compares. I have 15 bins just like you describe and stagger my planting schedule so that I always have new things ready to harvest. We are a family of five and I also have a steady clientele of customers who come by to buy tomatoes, beans, etc. This summer I am building a greenhouse from PVC and plastic sheeting to give me more room to grow in cold weather. I can’t remember the last time we bought produce at a grocery store.

  8. “Blooming Idiots”?? Do they need to be rotated often? You got me with the title.

  9. Roger McLeod, I would love to see pictures of your “garden”. Wow, 15 bins. Do you have all grow lights? Do this in your basement? I must have been living under a rock. I never heard of this, and I have a Master Gardener certificate!

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