Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day 18 - It's all gone

The myth has been broken. Hydroponics is not as easy, as maintenance-free and as hardy as what the books or experts may have said.

I had a busy two weeks that include many late nights at work and some traveling. I had little time to take care of my two hydroponics kits but I made sure it was top-up with water and appropriate nutrients. I also ensured they were away from direct rain and sunlight before I plunge into two weeks of late work and travel.

After two weeks, it was all gone. The only pot left alive and healthy is the Sweet Basil but even then, it did not look like it has grown 1 mm more than when I last photographed it two weeks ago.

What has gone wrong? I really don't know... the only thing I could think of is that the wind has been a bit strong lately, so even if the plants were sheltered, the saplings may not have able to withstand the wind that may have bounced around the room.

Any hydroponic experts out there who can help explain why all the potted plants except one has not survived?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Day 6 - Home Hydroponics score card

This is the 6th day of hydroponics growth and here's the report card:

Herb Kit
  1. Sweet Basil - Still the best growing herb
  2. Dill - Thin stems striking out
  3. Lemon Grass - Seeds has just germinated and peeking out
  4. Italian Parsley - No sign of life
Pix 1: Can you see the herbs peeking out from the top 3 pots?

Pix 2: The sweet basil is going strong

At this moment, the sweet basil continue to be the most obvious growing herb. Dill and lemon grass is starting to grow too but may not be too obvious from the photographs. Still waiting for the Italian Parsley to show some life.

Vegetable Kit
  1. Kang Kong - Growing strong and fast
  2. Cai Xin - All have germinated
Pix 3: All the vegetable has germinated and growing well

Pix 4: The Kang Kong is shooting up fast

The vegetable are much stronger and have all germinated and growing well especially the Kang Kong which just seem to shoot up overnight.

Day 3 - Hydroponics result

Today is the 3rd day of my hydroponics adventure. How is the result? Did anything even grow?

Just as sure as the stock market had seen massive drop in the last 2 days due to Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and AIG near collapse, so has my hydroponic plants seen life!

The Herb Hydroponics Kit
There are 4 different herbs in the Herb hydroponics kit. These are:
  1. Sweet Basil
  2. Dill
  3. Lemon Grass
  4. Italian Parsley
Pix 2: You can see the Sweet Basil growing clearly in Day 3

On Day 3, only the Sweet Basil has seen some life. There has been germination and some leaves has peeked out clearly(see above pix). As for the other 3 pots, they remain empty and void of life.

Video 1: In this video, you will see the other 3 pots are empty while Sweet Basil has germinated.

Vegetable Hydroponics Kit
There are 2 different vegetable in the Vegetable hydroponics kit. These are:
  1. Kang Kong
  2. Cai Xin
Pix 4: The Kang Kong has germinated

These are Asian vegetable popular in Asia for Chinese cuisine and you may not be familiar with it if you are not from Asia. For the vegetable plot, the Kang Kong has germinated as you can see from the picture above. No signs of life from the Caixin pots as yet.

Care for Hydroponic plants

For lazy or busy people, hydroponic planting is one of the easiest and most hassle-free way to grow plants. Virtually any plant that can grow in soil will grow well the hydroponic way. For some plants, the hydroponic way may even result in faster or better growth.

Pix 1: Hydroponics plants can be kept indoors as long as it recieves sunlight. However, keep away from direct rain water.

Some of the hassle-free advantages of hydroponics include:
  1. You can re-cycle the growing media because they are in-organic. If you use Leca, brick shards, styroform peanuts, marbles, etc, simply wash, sun-dry and re-cycle for the next growth.
  2. No watering needed. The plants roots grow direct into water so all nutrients and water are on call at all time.
  3. No fertilising needed. Just add the right proportion of liquid nutrients.
  4. No weeding needed.
  5. No necessity for direct sunlight although it will help. You can use artificial lights or even silver foil reflectors to re-direct sunlight.
  6. Can be grown indoor. In fact, one reason why hydroponics is popular with city and apartment dwellers is because it grows well indoor and require minimal care compared to a outdoor garden.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Act 1, Scene 1 - Hydroponics Day 1

Today is the time for my first hydroponics venture. I had bought two home DIY hydroponic kit from a hydroponic farm. Each kit is supposedly good for two cycles of planting - I reckon if the art, science and fun of hydroponics and healthy living gets to me... then I may just invest in better hydroponics equipment in the future. For the moment, a simple DIY kit is good enough.

By the way, one of the kit is for vegetables and one other kit is for herbal plants. They are basically the same... except the seeds are different and the planting pots are different in size. Other than that, almost everything is similar.

Pix 1: This is the herbs hydroponics kit

Firstly, following instructions on the DIY kit, I cut holes on the top of the Styrofoam box as instructed. Then, I fill in the Leca or vermiculite to 3/4 of the pots and fit them into the holes..

Pix 2: Cutting a hole in the Styroform box and adding vermiculite

I then add in the herb seeds as instructed. There should be 3-6 seeds in each pot and carefully distributed to avoid congesting in one particular part of the pot.

Pix 3: Adding seeds to the 4 pots

Next, I add tap water to 1 cm just below the top of the box and following instructions, I add the right proportion of nutrients to the water and stir to mix the nutrients well. I then cover back the top of the Styrofoam box.

Pix 4: Add tap water to just 1 cm below the box top

Pix 5: Add in the right mixture of nutrients using the measuring cup

Pix 6: Mix well

Once the top is covered, I put the box in a place which receives sunlight but away from direct rain water. If your planting location has insects or pest, you may want to cover the box with a plastic sheet to prevent pest from getting at your plants.

Pix 7: Cover the top and place the box under sun but away from rain and pest

What are the basic ingredients of DIY hydroponics?

Let's first take a look at what's needed to start off to a DIY hydroponics.

Pix: Two boxes of DIY hydroponic kits which was bought from a hydroponics farm. You can also make your own.

Styrofoam Box
Use a Styrofoam box you can find easily or make your own out of plastic or wood.

Net Pots
Use any plastic bottle and cut holes at the bottom for water to flow in.

Growing Media - Leca, Vermoculite
You can use Leca or vermoculite, which you will most likely need to buy, or any non-organic material such as sand, gravel, brick shard, styrofoam packing peanuts. The recommended media is Leca or Vermoculite as they are light, porous and PH-neutral and thus make growing media for hydroponics.

Baked clay pellets, also known under the trademarks 'Hydroton' or LECA (light expanded clay aggregate), are suitable for hydroponic systems in which all nutrients are carefully controlled in water solution. The clay pellets are inert, pH neutral and do not contain any nutrient value.

Vermiculite is another mineral that has been superheated until it has expanded into light pebbles. Vermiculite holds more water than perlite and has a natural "wicking" property that can draw water and nutrients in a passive hydroponic system.

Plant seeds
You can use any seeds readily available in packets and sold in shops. Popular seeds can include tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, lemon grass, parsley and many others. Use only 3-6 seeds in a small planting pot.

Leafy Nutrient Solution
Numerous 'recipes' for hydroponic solutions are available. Many use different combinations of chemicals to reach similar total final compositions. Commonly-used chemicals for the macronutrients include potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate, potassium phosphate, and magnesium sulfate. Various micronutrients are typically added to hydroponic solutions to supply essential elements; among them are Fe (iron), Mn (manganese), Cu (copper), Zn (zinc), B (boron), Cl (chlorine), and Ni (nickel).

Measuring Cup
Use a measuring cup to ensure you pour in the right amount of nutrient solution at any one time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting started with home hydroponics

Gosh. The news today is all about Lehman Brothers going bankrupt and AIG being bailed out. Lots of financial giants are falling....and the stock market had nose-dive this morning.

Who cares anyway. I don't play the financial market.

I'm more busy with my first DIY home hydroponic adventure. I attended a community talk on hydroponics a couple of days ago and had bought a couple of DIY home hydroponic kits. You can either buy one of such kit or make your own hydroponic kit. Here's what inside an ideal hydroponic kit:

Pix: A typical DIY hydroponic home kit

1. Styrofoam Box
2. Net Pots
3. Growing Media - Leca, Vermoculite
4. Plant seeds
5. Leafy Nutrient Solution
6. Measuring Cup

If you don't buy or can't find such a kit, you can assemble them yourself using familiar items around the house such as plastic bottles, packing peanuts, paper cups etc. For your information, I bought the kit you see in the picture for less than US$8.