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Hydroponics ALL THE WAY!

Yes, this time it’s my final decision: I am going to start growing everything hydroponically. That is, everything except the fruit trees, vines and bushes that are already in the ground. Gee, I wish I’d known last spring what I’m about to tell you. I could have built hydroponic set-ups for at least the vines and bushes that went into the ground. Alas, now I fear ‘twould be too late.

But let me get to where I’m going…

The Kratky method

I ran into the Kratky method a couple of times the other day when I first started geeking out on hydroponics videos. But the thumbnails I saw were of lettuce plants floating on Styrofoam® rafts, in containers much bigger than the metal shelves in our bathroom. So, of course I concluded that the Kratky method has to do with floating lettuce on over-sized Styrofoam® rafts.

And I assumed that it used a pump (and therefore electricity) like the typical hydroponics set-up you see.

WRONG ON BOTH COUNTS!

The Kratky method of hydroponics is about growing in water by allowing the roots to stay continuously wet with the nutrient solution while still providing some air space for, well, air. The usual (read: commercial-grade) hydroponics systems you see, even small ones, involve pumps and tubes and possibly airstones. Rather than being constantly wet, the pumps and tubes deliver occasional bursts of nutrient solution to the plants’ roots – oh, and, of course, air. You have to provide some kind of aeration to plants grown hydroponically, right?

NO,  NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO! At least, not the kind of aeration that requires you blowing into the water with a straw every few days or using electricity to pump it through.

With the Kratky method, you don’t need to mess around with any kind of supplemental aeration, because you let the water levels fall as the roots grow. Two birds with one stone: the roots get air, and they get moisture and nutrition! The other cool thing is you never have to totally empty the reservoir and refill it. When the water level appears to be getting dangerously low compared to where the roots are, you add more solution. Done!

But it only works for greens…right?

On one video I watched, the lady said that you could only allow the roots of greens to have constant contact with water. But I was okay with that, because I had already begun to plan to grow the larger plants in a system like one of the two below (isn’t the first one the coolest EVAH?), outside.

Then I watched this video:

And that got me even deeper into the Hydroponics Rabbit Hole. I can’t even remember now what search phrase I used to find the article on the instructables website – something about Kratky – but find it I did, and boy am I glad!

If you’re too lazy busy to click that last link, here’s the brass tacks: you can grow ANY kind of plant using the Kratky method! And the author of this article isn’t blowing smoke – if you read down toward the end, she describes how she’s grown tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash using the Kratky method.

HELLO!? You can use the method for fruit-bearing plants!!

So, J will no longer have to build a special system – not even the aeroponics tower for the strawberries! We won’t have to use electricity to grow our own food. For the metal shelves – lettuce, spinach, indoor brassicas, and indoor carrots – I’m going to buy under-the-bed storage boxes (yes, they are food-grade, I found out). For everything else, well, take a brief look at this video (and I mean brief; he obviously doesn’t know that he’s making things far more complicated than necessary).

I have been saving up, and can continue to save up, all manner of food containers: milk jugs, almond milk cartons, glass bottles and jars, plastic ketchup bottles, plastic bags. (And have been desperately hoping to figure out a way to reuse these items to keep them out of the garbage!) We don’t have to go out and buy brand new (and completely unsustainable) PVC pipes, or pumps or tubes or large containers for water reservoirs. All we need are some pieces of “garbage,” the ingredients for the Kratky method (hydroponics growing medium and fertilizer, mainly), and voila!

Suffice to say that I’m going to be doing some experimenting this summer. The big one will be seeing how a strawberry does indoors under grow lights, in a ketchup bottle!

I’m excited…and SO glad that growing hydroponically can be much less expensive than I ever thought, and THRILLED that it doesn’t require electricity. 🙂

PS – With that, I have discovered the method of gardening that truly requires no irrigation and no weeding.  *Dances around and jumps for joy*

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