Hydroponics Made Easy
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One of our absolute favorite ways to grow food at home is with an indoor aeroponic system.
It sounds fancy, but it is actually pretty simple. Aeroponic growing is a form of hydroponic gardening, or simply put, growing plants without soil.
In this system, nutrient water from a basin is periodically pumped up a chamber to rain down over the plant roots.
We love digging in the dirt, but in our climate, that gets tricky for certain crops at various times of the year. Having an aeroponic system indoors allows us to have fresh herbs in the middle of a snowstorm and delicate greens during a heat wave.
An added bonus is that doing it this way uses 90% less water than a traditional outdoor garden (great for arid locations) and because you control all of the variables, the plants grow 30% faster. There are no weeds, the lights and water pump are on a timer, so all we have to do is top off the water now and then and harvest.
You can do this anywhere. This thing does not disappoint. We have our system set up in our living room!
If you want to start small, you can even grow hydroponically in mason jars.
Plants grow a little slower in this passive system compared to a circulating system like the Tower Garden, but it works well enough. It is best suited for greens and herbs. You just need the following items:
1) Rockwool Cubes (this acts as your "soil")
2) Hydroponic Baskets (suspends plant above the water)
3) Seeds (Lettuce seeds like these work great!)
4) Vermiculite (optional)
5) Hydroponic Nutrients (water alone won't cut it)
7) Whatever jars you have lying around! (wide mouth quart jars work best for the baskets we recommend)
Follow these easy steps to get your mason jar garden up and running:
1) Soak your rockwool cubes in filtered water until they are thoroughly wet.
2) Remove the rockwool from the water and place a few seeds in each hole of the cubes. If your house is very dry like ours is during woodstove season, add a bit of vermiculite to each hole and sprinkle it with water.
3) Set the cubes in a shallow container with a little filtered water and wait for them to sprout. Don't let them dry out. To speed things up, you could place them on a heat mat. If you do, we recommend covering them with a dome of clear plastic to keep the moisture in (you'll remove the plastic once they sprout).
4) When you have little seedlings, it is time to move the cubes to their mason jars. Fill the jars full enough so that just the bottom of the rockwool cubes will be in contact with the water.
5) Follow the instructions on the nutrient bottle to add the appropriate amount of fertilizer to the jar. If you are using FloraGrow and FloraMicro, we recommend 1 teaspoon of each per quart jar. (Note: the reason why we wait until the seeds have sprouted before adding nutrients is to discourage algae growth in the jar. You could also wrap your jars with aluminum foil to prevent algae, but it isn't mandatory.)
6) Put the cube in a hydroponic basket and place it in the mouth of the jar.
7) Set up your light so that it is within 4-6 inches of your plants. Plants require both darkness and light to produce energy and metabolize, so we recommend using a timer to give them 12 hours of each. You don't have to turn the light on until the seeds sprout.
8) As your plant grows, the water level will decrease, allowing the roots to breathe. You do not want to keep filling the jars to the point that the roots are totally submerged.
9) You should only need to add nutrients if you run out of water completely and need to refill.