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Urban Farmer: Green Your Home * Growing Media Simplified
October 01, 2012


The Urban Farmer, Issue #051 *  Green Your Home * Growing Media Simplified * Hydro Tips

October, 2012: 




"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace."
    ~May Sarton




Green Your Home with a Hydroponics Vegetable Garden

From Goodhousekeeping

If you're a gardening enthusiast, or aspiring to grow more of your own veggies at home, you're probably excited for spring planting season! But, if you don't have outdoor space, consider planting indoors. especially if your outdoor gardening space is limited. To show just how practical and economical growing


What exactly is hydroponics? As the name implies, hydroponics is a system by which "water" (hydro) and nutrients are used to grow plants, without the use of soil. This means that plants can be grown indoors inexpensively, regardless of season or climate and you can have more growing cycles per year due to a faster growth rate.

To show how easy growing vegetables can be, and to better show the setup process, we tried out the "Emily's Garden" hydroponics system provided by Hydrofarm (~$100) and, while natural lighting will work in most instances, we used a 4-tube flourescent T5 lighting system (~$85) from hydrofarm to supplement.

HydroponicsRight, you see some other essential materials in the kit: nutrients to add to the water, a pH tester to maintain water balance, and a starter growing medium for planting. You'll also need (of course) a variety of your favorite vegetable seeds!

To start, seeds were inserted into a growing square and dampened with water. Each growing chamber (there are 6 total, pictured left) is first filled with clay pebbles. The growing square with seeds is nestled level with the surface, and provides seeds with the protection they will need during infancy. The growing square is kept damp by nutrient water circulating below the surface, which rises up through the clay by means of capillary action (similar to the way a drop of water will travel through a paper towel).Hydroponics

Lastly, our lights were positioned overhead, and programmed using an adjustable timer to cycle on during the day, and off at night. During infancy, lights are left on for a short period. As plants mature, they will flourish in increased lighting. According to our measurements, the cost of running our grow-lights for the entire year should be about $30 in electricity. This cost can be mitigated by supplementing with outdoor light as well.

After about 10 days, our first signs of life appeared. After only 4 weeks, our lettuce mix was ready for harvesting. It will likely provide one or two more cuttings before reseeding. Last, our tomato plants took off, but will eventually need support, as they often collapse under their own weight.

HydroponicsAside from trimming, and supporting plants as needed, hydroponics systems reqiure minimal maintenance. The grow lights cycle on and off automatically with a timer, and water circulates continuously with a pump. From our experience, evaporated nutrient-water needs to be topped off about once a week. Our tomatoes, lettuce, basil, and other veggies were clean, insect-free, and delicious!

If you're curious about growing your own food, go ahead and give it a try — Hydroponics vegetables are a great way to teach children about growing plants, in addition to avoiding the use of soil which can be a mess. Best of all, you know exacly where your food is coming from! You can start with a basic kit, and buy artificial lighting only if required during the winter.


Hydro Growing Media Simplified

There are only 3 basic growing media that we recommend for your first gardens:

That's it. Forget about gravel or HigroMite or vermiculite or rockwool. Later, if you want to branch out and learn about other growing media, visit our "Advanced Hydro" section (coming soon). There are also two advanced hydroponic techniques that don't use any hydroponic growing medium whatsoever... aeroponics and NFT (nutrient film technique). Later...

For now, all you need to know about are the "Big 3": Coco, LECA, and perlite. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and so are better suited to specific growing systems.

Coco Coir and perlite are denser, and hold water better, but LECA has superior drainage and aeration. Experienced hydroponics nuts usually have their own favorite formulas using these 3 media.


Hydro Tip of the Month-   It's been proven that hydroponically grown vegetables can have up to 50% more vitamin content (particularly vitamin A, all B complexes, C and E) than conventional crops.


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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