Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hydroponics: The Easy Way

After I posted the.. 3 posts on how to build the window farm, I realized how complicated it was. I decided I wanted another hydroponic system but opted for an easier route. And a cheap one too! This is what I came up with and boy was it easy! If any of you are thinking of dipping into the world of hydroponics or would just like to grow some edible plants inside, this is definitely the way to go!! 

Before we start let me give you a little background info! This particular kind is called a water culture system. Basically the plants are suspended and the roots grow directly in the water. You put the nutrients in the water which makes it super easy for the roots to get which means less roots. However, roots need air as well! So we have an air stone in there to oxidize the water. Hydroponics is so great because it uses 70-90% less water than traditional farming and produces greater yields. Also, it can be quite space saving and is great for indoors! Plus you can avoid all those nasty pests that come with outdoor gardening. It's just really great all the way around. 

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Here's what you'll need:
Rock Wool Cubes
Seeds
A small aquarium air pump 
An air stone 
Tubing 
A plastic tote box (make sure it has a lid)
A drill/drill bit/knife
Plastic containers (I recycled some containers I already had) 
Clay Pellets
Nutrients (I used this)

I started out with lettuce. I put some seeds onto a moist piece of paper bag (we don't have paper towels), put them into a plastic bag and stowed them away under our sink for a couple of days to germinate. 

Then I transplanted them into the rock wool cubes. 
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I cut the rock wool in half and then poked some holes in it with a tooth pick. I did so many because I have bad luck with seedlings dying and will eventually pluck some of the bad ones out. 
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Then, with a pair of tweezers, I carefully placed my little seedlings in the holes. 
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And last, I soaked the cubes with some water mixed with a small amount of nutrients. I covered these with a plastic container and set them in a window sill until they reached about an inch and the roots were coming out the bottom.
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Once they were tall enough, it was time to build their new home! 

I choose a container that was about 15" wide, 20" long, and 6" tall. You can use just about any container with a lid on it! Just research how much root space your plants will need. For the plastic containers, I just found matching, round, plastic containers I had that I buy nuts and stuff in. 

Next, I drew out the placement. 
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To cut the holes, I drilled holes all the way around the sharpie lines. I found it was easier to cut through when I drilled about a million holes. This is kind of the hard part, I definitely got an arm work out! 
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After I had enough holes, I cut through it with a knife. 
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Then I drilled holes all around the bottom of my plastic containers.  
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And slipped them in!! 
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     Now, to hook up the air. Basically you stick the air stone in the bottom, drill a hole through the top or side (above where the water will be!), stick the tubing through to the inside, and attach to the air stone. Then attach the outside end to the air pump! My air pump came with a check valve so I went ahead and stuck that somewhere between the plastic container and the pump. This is so water doesn't make it back to the pump. IMG_4619
And the very last step is to fill the plastic tote up with water, put your plants into your plastic containers and fill with clay pellets! If your rock wool doesn't reach the water, you may want to spray them down until the roots can reach. 
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my little helper ;)
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And there you have it! Pretty easy right?! 

I've come to the realization that something has been missing on my blog! And I'm not exactly sure how to explain it. I suppose in one word I could describe it as a sort of environmentalism? Although to me it's more of relearning how to do basic things the right way and trying to live life as healthy as we can, and as naturally as we can. It effects everything we do and how we live day to day. We've been cutting meat and processed foods out of our diet, spending more time outside, gardening, watching less tv and buying less. And it feels really good. I could say we have been being more "green" but I have mixed feelings about that word. Because eco-friendly and green might not be the best solutions. I think what I'm aiming for is sustainability, to really find the best, most practical ways to do things while reducing our eco foot print. 

Well enough rambling! I just wanted to share that little bit of what my mind's been mulling over lately. And this was kind of the perfect post to do it on! I know everything I do may not be perfect and "eco-friendly" but we're trying little by little. Baby steps (: 

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