Conventional or Hydroponic

Conventional or Hydroponic growing methods

Conventional or Hydroponic

Conventional or Hydroponic

So, because I am an old style gardener, then this dilemma has come to me at a late age. Excitingly, though then I have decided to “raise the gauntlet” and take on the challenge of growing hydroponically. Because of the terribly bad cold start to the gardening year then many of us have had to wait patently for the weather to warm up. Here at the end of may the temperature has broken the 20c temperature for the first time in 2021.

So our growing season is on the way! However I must confess to be a composting freque. Indeed keeping worm boxes to produce to feed the worms with our scrap vegetable waste to produce excellent compost. This I have started to use on my citrus and fig plants. Vermiculture, is the name given to this worm farming compost maker. However I digress!

Since starting this blog then I cant fail to be impressed by the number of young people taking up growing.

I say growing and not gardening. Mainly, because of the modern and diverse methods of growing all sorts of things indoors and outdoors. Also I am also impressed by the number of females that are taking up this wonderful hobby and pastime.

YouTube videos offer help and advice for anything and everything to do with growing things. Whatever system you use then the advice is there for all to see. This was the inspiration for starting up my worm farm. The energy given out by the presenters of these videos is sometimes overwhelming and inspirational. Therefore these new growing methods are giving growers and gardeners big decisions about which methods to try. Conventional or Hydroponic !

Although a newbie to hydroponics then I will try and give a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of using the hydroponics system.

Hydroponics is a water based system

Basically, a simple description is that hydroponics is plant growing by using water and water based nutrients. So the plants are not grown in soils but other mediums. Of course these other mediums can come in many different things ! Including coco products, rockwool, clay ball pellets, vermiculate and of course perlite. Plants are grown in these types of materials with the use of nutrient solutions to feed and improve growth rate and crop size.

For example I used to grow my tomatoes in grow bags. These grow bags were peat based with added nutrients for the first part of the plants life. After that then I had to manually feed the tomatoes to ensure a good crop. So, this would be both time consuming and also unpredictable due mainly to the weather conditions. Hot weather would mean more watering and more irregular feeding. However always came up with a decent crop by the end of the growing season.

So what now!-Conventional or Hydroponic

Well now that I am experimenting with hydroponics then I do this differently. Hence, my tomato plants are grown in a “Autopot System” as seen in the attached image. Although the initial cost can stretch your pocket the initial outlay can last you years. These systems are made from good quality materials and can be used for many seasons. The growbags are now replaced by a mixture of clay pellets and coco fibre. This medium “Hydrococo” can now be made ready mixed and ready for use.

Combining new and old then I still plant a French marigold with my tomato plants to ward of whitefly and other aphid types. This “companion planting” has worked for me for years now. Of course the Autopot system is fed by a large plastic reservoir. The tank is of course filled when required. Including the addition of nutrients. This growing season then I have been recommended to try out “CX Hydro-Base A and B” by my local Hydrostore shop in Leeds.

My belief is that the whole project is easier without the use of soils or garden composts.

Of course the big winner is that the plants only take up the water and food they require. Also a big bonus is that we can now go on holiday. Without having to ask a friend or neighbour to reluctantly look after your precious plants.

Other growers also use perlite as their preferred growing medium. especially for smaller project. At the moment I am experimenting with lettuce growing in water in plastic boxes<see attached images. of course their progress will be monitored for another blog when the lettuce is ready for eating.

, So to summarise, then researchers have found that your plants will grow 25% faster and produce 30% more growth than soil based growing methods. Importantly, this is because the plants root system has easy access to food and vitamins that ill boost the plants growth. Gardeners can easily control the correct amount of nutrients that your precious plants require. far better than the old individual pots and grow bag systems.

Novice gardeners -Conventional or Hydroponic

In my opinion then novice gardeners should start their new past time/hobby by trying the traditional soil growing methods. However this only applies to people who have a garden or are willing to take over an abandoned or disused allotment (this was by first option at the age of 14). Otherwise, a simple hydroponic system can be set up in the home? Hydroponics do use chemicals so soil gardening can satisfy the people would be the way forward for the more ECO friendly person growing organically.

Finally the choice is your! However as an elderly person then I am already looking forward to my newly found way of growing by using hydroponics supplied online by my local Hydrostore shop here in Yorkshire UK. Finally, like most things in this life , then you pay for what you get.

is may warming up

Is May Warming Up!

Is May Warming Up!

Is May Warming Up!

So, as I have mentioned many times 2021 has become one of the coldest on record. Importantly, gardeners and all growers of plants need the weather to be warming up as we get into the month of May. Consequently, I am writing this article half way through the month. On checking the 10 day weather forecast then I am over the moon to see that the threat of frost has now subsided.

Although I am still taking caution then I am going to through caution to the wind and get ready for the outdoor plants. Of course , it means in my case that the lemon and orange plants can now go outside for the summer. Therefore my greenhouse can be cleaned out and get ready for my new season tomato plants. I will grow twelve plants down the length of the greenhouse.

12 pot Autopot system

For the second time then this year I will be using the Autopot twelve pot system. My system was purchased online from the Leeds Hydrostore at the start of last years growing season. However last years weather was totally different to this miserable cold year. We were at the start of lockdown and the weather was scorching hot. Just the start that us growers require for a good start. Of course this year will be different. Especially outdoor growers where the soil is still very cold!

Fortunately, I have a greenhouse, providing early heat by using an electric greenhouse heater. So, as a growing medium then this year I will try “CANNA Coco Pebble Mix“. Last year I mixed my own so this year I will try the ready mixed, mainly because it should be a little easier and time saving.

As you can see in the image that my pots are all set out and connected to the water tank to check that the water flows into the system correctly. In the background the plants are all waiting to be planted. This year I was going to grow some American varieties such as “Kellogg’s breakfast” . However, because of the lower temperatures early on then I have decided to stick to varieties to grow in lower temperatures. This attached link “cold weather tomato varieties” gives a good list of some of these varieties.

I could go for the well known tomato varieties.

Of course I will keep my readers informed and which plants I eventually decided to grow. Mind mind is still swinging towards some of the more common and well tried varieties such as Money Maker, Alicante and Ailsa Craig. Also Beefsteak varieties are now popular and I will grow a few of these.

Finally one of the reasons that I decided to go with the “Autopot ” system. Of course, was that my plants will still be fed and watered, if I need to take a short break. In the past then I found it difficult to go away and find someone to look after plants correctly.

growing the Kratky system

The Kratky system

The Kratky system

The Kratky system

So here we are at the beginning of May 2021. This is important to me because it is my birthday on the 6th. Consequently, I can also remember the weather in that particular week. Traditionally the early may weather is hot and sunny. Unfortunately, according to the forecasters then this year will be much different. Frustratingly, we have just survived the coldest April since 1922 and as growers and gardeners then dont we know it !

Gardening, techniques include having to move things about to fit other things into. As I look out of my office window the weather is dreadful! Heavy rain and windy making it feel very cold. Unfortunately, my citrus plants are holding up my circle of planting. So, when my citrus goes outside then my hydroponics grown tomatoes can go in. Because of the cold then I am about three weeks behind this year.

With past experience then I realise that the weather can catch up over night! Lets hope so. So, as I have written in some of my earlier posts then I am really looking forward to growing by using one of the Kratky methods.

Who was Kratky ?

Kratky was a guy studying in the “University of Hawaii“. B.A.Kratky discovered a method of growing plants by using “Deep Water Culture“. Subsequently, his simple system would be used without the use of an electric pump. So making the growing system simple and easy to use. His growing method was simple and easy to use, developing into perhaps six split off systems. So, making growing plants possible in all situations. Including growing indoors with the aid of grow lights .

However the actual system of hydronic growing came from a succession of people experimenting in soilless growing conditions up to the emergence of Professor Gericke. Professor Gericke experimented at the University of California” in the 1920’s and 30’s. By growing tomatoes in commercial sized buildings. His experimentation lead to the growth of tomato vines growing to twenty five feet long. Of course by not using soil but water and a mineral nutrients solution. In 1937 prompted by a phycologist (W A Setchell) he introduced the name of the new growing system as water culture and hydroponics.

Of course the system moved forward at a rapid pace up to the huge amount of technical aid now used in hydroponics and its derivatives. Of course the Kratky system is perhaps the basic way of growing . Requiring no electrical aids. However, because the system doesn’t use any form of aeration then problems can occur with temperature spikes. Say if the weather gets very hot the solution can become stagnant with blooms of algae growing in the solution mix.

Air pump the solution for algae growth

The obvious solution to this is to add an air pump into the system. This added air will oxygenate the growing solution. Importantly, the plants roots will have a good access to oxygen. Accordingly, the pumped air will regulate the temperature of the growing solution cutting the levels of any algae growth due to heated stagnation. So, I will adding a small aquarium pump to oxygenate my hydrotropic tanks (As soon as the weather warms up ) .

So, at the moment I have collected my plastic boxes and mesh pots to start my salad growing hydroponics system to kick off and cant wait!

All equipment can be purchased in the York area from Hydrostore York.

rockwool germinating cubes

Starting my Seeds in Rockwool

Starting my Seeds in Rockwool

Starting my Seeds in Rockwool

As I write this post we are at the back end of March 2021. The winter here in the North of England has been on the cool side with the odd milder day. Much different to last year when we had only a couple of frosts in the whole of winter! Even my outside “Basjoo Banana” plant survived with some of its leaves in tact.

However as I have said this winter was to be much colder. As you probably know then I have been growing most things all my life. Including, my favourite fruit the tomato’s. Now in my later years then I am trying out more difficult plants to grow and perhaps survive the English winter. Including, pot grown figs, lemons and other types of citrus trees and pomegranates.

The secret is keeping them over wintered!

Introduction to Hydroponics

My son in law works for a local Hydroponics store and since then I am becoming fascinated by the hydroponics method of growing things such as salads and herbs. This also includes tomatoes, of which I have successfully grown a full crop in the last growing year. So, this year will be my very first venture growing some different lettuce types starting of with rockwool cubes to germinate my seeds.

Rockwool is the stuff that is used in loft insulation to insulate our homes from the cold and is made out of highly heated molten rocks. This sounds strange but the rocks are heated until they melt and the resulting molten rock is spun to make the wool type threads. I suppose that it must look like molten volcanic rock when flowing down a volcano!

In fact it was first discovered around 1850 on the “Mauna Loa Volcano” on the island of “Hawaii”. Importantly, the use of rockwool for insulating buildings was first used in 1935.Followed by other uses including a great product for growing seedlings.

Rockwool stores water and oxygen

So, the rockwool cubes that we buy to start off our seedlings are perfect because they store enough water while providing oxygen to the newly planted seeds. Of course here in the UK we have just put our clocks forward for British summer time and the growing season “begins in earnest”. This week will bring our first daily temperature of over 20c. I cant wait to get started with my first ever planting of lettuce seed in the rockwool cubes. The ones I purchased were the SBS Grodan Cubes. So these cubes are 1.5 by 1.5 blocks in a 77 plug tray. Perfect for my requirements.

The cubes look a perfect size to me but you can cut them up smaller if you want t save money. I bought mine from the local “Hydroponics store” in nearby Wakefield. Before the seeds are sewn I will soak the correct number of plugs in water for a few minutes, before draining them after the soaking for a further 15 minutes. This gets rid of any excess water there may be in the plugs (cubes).

Sowing the seeds is just the same as in any sort of growing medium! A little tricky depending on the size of the seed, especially tiny lettuce seeds. I would normally just scatter lettuce seeds onto a tray of compost and then prick out the newly grown seedlings. However by taking a little time once the seeds are placed in the centre of the plugs then there is no need for any pricking out the seedling and causing the plants to stress.

Using a cocktail stick

Tiny seeds such as lettuce can be spread out on a piece of tissue paper for better observation and easier handling. So, I am then going to use a tooth pick or cocktail stick (Same thing), to ease a seed into the hole in he centre of the rockwool plug. When the seeds are all positioned then I will spray with a little water to moisten the seeds. I will then place a little “vermiculite” on top of the plug hole to seal the seeds inside.

The next stage will be to place the seeds in a tray and in a propagator for germination and then onto the next stage which I will cover in the next blog. The propagators come in many shapes and sizes and are available online at your local Hydrostore here in Yorkshire UK.

How Deep Flow Technique (DFT) Hydroponic Systems Work |

How Deep Flow Technique (DFT)

Home » Growing Systems

How Deep Flow Technique (DFT)

So, this excellent diagram shows exactly what a hydroponics system looks like. Of course this is the exact same method that I successfully grow my tomatoes and peppers in my Alton timber greenhouse. Importantly, we gardeners live busy lives! Also, many of us are all for high tech gadgets to help us through our busy working days. This in my opinion is where “hydroponics Stores” can help us.

Buying the equipment can be a bit expensive! However, there are many times when a family member asks you what you want for your birthday or perhaps a Christmas gift. So, I must confess that this is how I did it. My first purchase was for a “Water tank” and self watering system. Over the years I have always had problems with kind hearted relations promising to water your precious cucumber and tomato plants. Consequently, they are left right to the end of the week and then are drowned by your lazy or forgetful friend or relation.

As we all know this break in fluid flow can cause all sort of problems with your plants. However the purchase of the “plastic flexi water tank” and associated connections has solved this problem for me. So, before going off on holiday I just make sure my tanks is full with water and the correct amount of nutrients. My local Hydrastore gave mmw a great price with advice about the size of the plastic reservoir tank required.

The Deep Flow Technique (DFT) is similar to two other hydroponic systems, but it ultimately works in it’s own way. In this article, you’ll learn how DFT hydroponic systems grow crops.

Source: How Deep Flow Technique (DFT) Hydroponic Systems Work | AgriTechTomorrow

Hydroponics

Growing Systems

Growing Systems

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Growing Systems

Growing Systems

Growing by using hydroponics is of course now becoming a very popular hobby. So, whether it be farming or the person that just wants to grow small plants at home using a simple hydroponics system and a small grow light. My interest is the later. Although I have a large garden then my main interest is in growing in my “Alton” timber glasshouse. Of course using hydroponics wherever possible.

I do admit that as an older person then hydroponics equipment is affordable. However once purchased the equipment can be used over and over again. Online hydroponics shops are now making equipment more affordable and within reach of many of our large towns and cities. Here in West Yorkshire “Hydrostore” keep an excellent range of hydroponic equipment an will shortly be extending their range to include normal garden tools and equipment! of course all included online.

Hydroponics are soil-less

Of course hydroponic systems are a water based growing system and is of course soil-less. Giving your plants water and nutrients that is controlled. So, my concern was always based on the fact that having a young family meant that I had to take them on holidays. Of course having to leave my garden and greenhouse with a reliable water source! Of course we all have friends and relations with good intentions! All willing to look after your beloved plants. However, most times have ended in disaster. Non gardeners dont understand your precious plants requirements. For instance many will just give the plants one good watering the day before your return from holiday. Thinking that they have done you a big favour. However we all know different. This problem was remedied by the addition to my greenhouse of an hydroponics water system. As long as you make sure that the reservoir is full to the brim then you can go on your holidays knowing that you plants will be watered when they require the water. So, for some strange reason then it is always hot and sunny when I go away on holiday!

Grow more plants

So the old method that I used to grow my tomatoes and peppers was in grow bags. I must confess that I still do like this method of growing. However it is the constant watering and feeding that can make it hard work. Miss a day on a hot day can cause the grower a huge problem. So, by using hydroponics then this problem will be eliminated! Accordingly all you must do is make sure that the reservoir tank is filled regularly.

Plants grown in hydroponic conditions do not need to spread their root systems to find and take in nutrients. Because of this we are able to fit the plants at closer spaces. So in my own particular case then I can fit in another four tomato or pepper plants.