The Urban Farmer, Issue #022

March, 2010: 5 Quick Hydro Tips * Are Hydroponic Crops Nutritious? * Goodies on tap


~These amazing living walls are designed by Patrick Blanc. Patrick Blanc is a French landscape designer and botanist who patented the vertical hydroponic garden he calls “le mur végétal”. Here is an example of the stunning living wall art at Stella McCartney’s store.


Number 1: Get Your Plants Off to a Good Start

For best results, choose disease resistant varieties of seed and sprout your own baby plants! Seeds can be germinated in individual sprouter "plugs", which consist of hydroponics-friendly medium. In your plant nursery, keep it warm, moist (but not saturated), and most importantly... very bright light; like flurorescents, hung very close to the seedling tops. This helps produce short, thick stocky baby plants. (All about seedlings)

Number 2: The Right Light

Different plants have different light requirements – and a single plant has different light needs at different stages. Lettuces, cooking herbs and leafy greens will do fine with T5 fluorescents. Flowering or fruiting crops need HID lighting, two different kinds at different stages of growth. A plant in the early leafy growth stage needs more blue spectrum light, or Metal halide (MH); whereas when it reaches the flowering or fruiting stage, it uses more of the red spectrum, or High Pressure Sodium (HPS). (All about lighting)

Number 3: Proper Nutrition

All plants require some sixteen different mineral nutrients in order to reach their full potential. These fall into the category of either micronutrients or micronutrients. Do not use Hyponex plant food or other liquid houseplant foods. Only nutrients specially formulated for hydroponics will keep your hydro garden healthy and productive. (All about plant nutrients)

Number 4: Preventing Disease and Warding Off Pests

Just as with traditional gardening, hydroponics means battling unwanted insects and plant diseases. The best ways to avoid these problems consist of maintaining a clean growing environment, selecting hearty, disease-resistant plants, ventilation and temperature control, and constant monitoring for problems. The latter is especially important; most problems are easily cured if caught in their initial stages. (Pests & Plagues)

Number 5: Keeping it Pruned

Discolored, insect-eaten or unhealthy leaves and diseased roots should be removed with a pair of sharp scissors. Judicious pruning will also help your plants to grow fuller and allow it to concentrate its energy on more productive shoots. Dip the shears in rubbing alcohol to kill any bad bugs which might be hanging out there.


(Some excerpts by Andrew Weil, Universal Press Syndicate, Tucson, Arizona)

Q: I'm thinking about a hydroponic garden. Can you tell me whether the veggies and herbs grown in hydroponic gardens are as nutritious as those grown in the soil?

A: In a traditional garden, plants get many of their nutrients from the soil. In a hydroponic garden, the nutrients must be supplied via specially formulated mixes.

The question of whether plants grown in hydroponic gardens are as nutritious as those grown in soil has never been answered. Some experts believe that the growing method has little to do with a plant's nutritional value. And some maintain that the fact that plants don't come into contact with the soil makes them healthier because there's less of a chance that they'll pick up diseases.
On the other hand, the pathogens in the complex soil environment can make some plants produce higher amounts of beneficial compounds.

I haven't been able to find studies that settle the issue one way or the other, but I did come across a 1994 industry-commissioned study that concluded that hydroponic peppers and tomatoes were more nutritious — and more flavorful — than the same varieties grown organically and grown by conventional methods.

A big question relating to hydroponics is whether vegetables grown this way can be considered "organic". Some commercial hydroponic growers use pesticides on their crops, and while home hydroponic gardeners can get organic media in which to grow their plants, most commercial operations rely on solutions of chemicals and minerals that don't qualify as "organic".

[Note from ed: the hydroponic gardens we grow and describe in our website are not "organic" in the true sense of the word. You can try to grow an organic hydro garden by buying "organic" nutrient solutions. However, we do not recommend this, as these organic mixes rely on composting, or formation of an organic food cycle within your system. This can be quite tricky to manage. We have never done a true organic garden, and urge you to save this method for after you have gone the pure chemical nutrient route, and have some experience under your belt].



We are hard at work on our new kits and ebook offerings. Soon we
will be launching the following:

  • Make a PVC hydroponics stand (2 kits)
  • Build a sturdy, turbo-cooled grow closet (ebook/kit)
  • Ebook: Plans for all 4 full-sized hydro gardens in one book! (ebb & flow, top drip, raft and wick), PLUS the PVC stand, with many great bonuses.

We are very excited about these new products and apologize for the "coming soon" signs you may have seen around the site (don't you hate that?). We hope to have these new pages up and running in a couple of months... hopefully right after Easter... just in time for your spring garden!

Hydro Tip of the Month

For your hydroponic garden, you will find that you only need a few of the seeds from each seed packet. Did you know that you can easily save the leftover seed for 3-4 years and not lose viability (ability to sprout)?

Here's how:
Keep them in the original packet, fold over and over to close packet tightly. Place all the packets in a clean, dry mayo jar, (or triple bag them in ziploc bags). Place some silica gel (like you find in beef jerky) or pour a tablespoon of dry powdered milk in a tissue and fold it up, this does the same thing. Close the jar tightly and store in the refrigerator (not freezer). Easy and economical!

We hope you have enjoyed this issue of The Urban Farmer Ezine. Each month, we will bring you another inspiring photo, gardening quote or idea, plus fresh new hydroponics news, techniques & products.

Insiders tips to get you growing...


~Stella and Simon from Hydroponics-Simplified.


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