Friday, February 15, 2008

Intro to Outdoor Hydroponics

Last spring I took two patio tomato plants from the nursery, uprooted them, shook the dirt off, and stuffed them into a tray of volcanic rock that was periodically flooded with a nutrient solution. As soon as I had them uprooted they started to wilt and get droopy. But within hours they recovered, turned to a darker shade of green and started growing, big time. The results were insane. These little bushes turned into tomato factories and yielded probably 10 times that of the 'regular' plants.
And oh yeah, they tasted awesome
It's mid Feb now and I'm preparing for a more elaborate outdoor hydro garden come summer.

I love hydroponics. Here's why-

+No digging.
+No weeding.
+Root zone can be inspected for health and is protected from pathogens.
+Nutrient deficiencies and bad pH levels can be addressed instantly and accurately.
+Increased Yields- we all have a finite area in which we can garden. Hydroponics makes the most efficient use of this space. This is really what it's all about- more produce, faster.
+It's fun building the systems and playing god.
+Fertilizers are used more efficiently and are kept out of the environment where they cause all sorts of very real problems like algae blooms that ruin your local fishing and swimming holes.

Hydroponics does have some weak points that I intend to eventually smite.

+The more productive hydroponics systems require electricity to circulate air and/or water. The otherwise awesome NFT technique, for example, requires a near-constant flow of solution. If the nutrient stops flowing, like during a power outage, the roots can dry up and cause total crop failure in a matter of hours. Ouch. We have micro-burst electrical storms and power outages throughout the summer, so I need a system where the plants don't start dying the moment the plug is pulled!
+Hydroponics nutrients are typically a mail-order item and generally come from non-renewable sources. I guess some people actually make organic hydro' solution out of things like seaweed and bat crap, but I'm interested in a local, home brewed solution. Maybe I can use some kind of compost soup. This will be the hardest hydroponic obstacle to tackle. And I'm not going to get into it this summer.
+Some people might argue that the cost of hydroponics systems is a major drawback. Maybe. But I intend to illustrate that a hydroponics system is quite affordable, when you make it yourself.
+The last problem I can think of is that an Outdoor hydro' system needs provisions for keeping rain water out of the nutrient solution. No biggy.

Thats all for today. I'm planing on posting more about the construction and running of a supper-yield under-the-eves hydroponic garden.


ocean512beach said...

Am looking forward to seeing your initial set up cost numbers. Am working on an ebb and flow system.

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