Gardening

Back Porch Hydroponics – Part 1

From the moment Angela and I decided to pull up our suburban stakes and embrace the homesteading lifestyle, one of the projects we wanted to do was set up a hydroponics system.  I have been fascinated by them since the first time I saw a system online and researched the benefits of growing plants in a water based system.  We have watched thousands of videos, seen some of the most elaborate set up’s you could possibly dream of and some ingenious DIY cost effective systems.  Although we have plans for a more permanent hydroponics system with even the potential of integrating fish to make it a true aquaponic’s operation, we decided to start small, work out the kinks and then progress from there.

With all of the variations you can go with, we chose to go with a variation of the Floating Mat System.  We wanted something which would be cost effective, easy to set up and maintain but yet capable of producing an abundance of veggies in a short period of time.  Here’s how we did it!

There are countless mediums you can use with the floating mat system, we decided to go with 4 18-Gallon Rubbermaid Totes due to their compact size and the depth needed to allow room for the roots to grow.  One of the concerns you will face with hydroponic systems is algae growth.  Since we went with the floating mat system, we do not have pumps aerating the water.  So to assist in slowing this down, we chose to utilize the black totes which will block the UV rays from affecting the water.  About a month or so ago Angela had ordered some Hydroponic Soilless Pots in anticipation of our system.  While looking for a good medium for the pots we came across the Extra Large Foam Noodles and immediately knew this is what we needed.  The inside diameter of the noodle was the perfect size for the pots and would provide enough buoyancy to keep the pots from being submerged once the plants began to mature.

We cut the noodles into roughly 1 inch pieces, allowing enough of the cup to be exposed to the water and afford the roots ample room to grow.  Obviously this system is not one you would use for your root type vegetables such as carrots and radishes,  but is perfect for the leafy goodness of lettuces and such.  We went through our sees and decided on Rocky Top Lettuce Mix, Roughwood Improved Green Glaze Collards, Ridgeline Organic Romaine Lettuce and European Mesclun Salad to start off our hydroponics planting session.  Once all of the disks were cut, we filled each of the cups roughly 2/3 with Premier Peat Moss added our seeds and covered to the top of the pot.

 

Now comes the moment of truth!  We guesstimated on how big we felt the plants were going to get, so for the 3 lettuce containers we went with 9 pots in each and for the collards we went with 6.  Planting hydroponics is somewhat like planting in a traditional garden.  You have the option to do a direct seed into the ground or to start your plants inside and plant once they are ready to transplant.  For our first crop we went with the seeds directly into the hydroponics system.  One of the wonderful aspects of growing hydroponically is the quick turn around from seed to harvest.  If all goes well, we will have harvest-able crops within 5 weeks, which means starting at about week 3 we will start our next round in the house allowing the seedlings to begin growing and then transfer them to the totes as we harvest.  If all goes as planned we will quickly be over run with lettuce and collards. To maintain good nutrients and pH balance within the totes, we are armed with a Hydroponic Nutrient TDS Meter and Blue Gold Hydro Organic Liquid Mineral & Nutrient  to ensure our crops stay extremely happy!

Well, there you have it.  Hidden Truth Farms is officially in the hydroponics business!  Be on the look out for updates over the next couple weeks to see our progress.



 

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