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How Is My Kratky Experiment Going?

A few weeks ago, I made a major gardening decision. Two, actually. The first was to grow lettuce and spinach indoors using the Kratky method of hydroponics (click on the link above if you don’t know what that is). The second was that from now on, my outdoor vegetable and fruit annuals would be grown using the Kratky method. So, how’s it going?

The big disappointment

My HUGE disappointment is that I have no cucumber in the garden this summer. So easy to grow! And it’s not because of the trip to Minnesota. It’s because the few seeds of the two varieties I wanted to grow seem to have all become inviable. I might have tried the lemon cucumber, but I really don’t like that variety as much.

Right now, just to experiment, I’ve got the very last Yamato Extra Long cucumber seed and a melon seed in between moist paper towels in plastic bags just to see if they’ll even germinate. I soaked them overnight in a hydrogen peroxide solution, which is supposed to facilitate the germination process. If the melon seed germinates, we’ll get some fruit some time in October. Yes, very late for melons – at least in these here parts. But something is better than nothing.

The Kratky lettuce

Here’s a photo I took of the lettuce growing in net pots two or three weeks ago:

Supposedly, if you grow lettuce using the Kratky method, you have a full, mature head of lettuce after a month. Well, it’s been a month. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

I think the reason is twofold. First, there are too many plants per pot – there’s only supposed to be one, hello! Here’s the deal. I overplanted the seeds because they are ones that I had saved from a lettuce plant when we still lived in Plano, so I had no idea whether they would still be viable. Then I got the genius idea not to thin them out until they were big enough so that the trimmings could help make a salad.

Well, by that time the roots were already growing into the water…and I couldn’t tell which roots come from which plant! So I didn’t dare thin any of them.

Second, either the red and blue LED grow lights aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, or they are not close enough to the plants. They are growing, but it remains to be seen how long it will be before I dare begin to harvest the leaves.

The next two photos show you how the Kratky method works. First, a view of the lettuce growing from the net pot. Then, a photo of the roots. Notice how only the ends of the roots are actually in the water. They have followed the water and nutrients down. The rest of the roots are exposed to air, which is how the roots keep from drowning. Clever, eh? One of those things I wish I’d thought of first!

Spinach surprise!

Out of the first thirty-six spinach seeds I planted, none of them germinated. I dumped the whole lot and started over, this time with only twenty-four (two seeds in each of twelve pots). A little better result: four germinated.

*Sigh.* I did some digging, and found out that if you want to germinate spinach seeds indoors, you need to put them in a refrigerator (or in our case, cooler) for a few days because they don’t like germinating in warm soil.

Now you tell me! 😉

So I’m going to try one more time. In the meantime, the four that germinated are doing well and have their true leaves. Here are photos of one of the plants, and then the roots in the water.

Notice how dry the coir, or coconut fiber, is in the first photo. No matter – the roots are getting their moisture from the jar below, remember? I love this non-messy way of growing food!

Okay, one more plant.

Later ‘Mater

Talk about a late tomato! It’ll be interesting to see when this starts producing fruit. It’s still a baby plant in the middle of July.

Of the several tomato seeds I planted, this was the only one that germinated (and none of the peppers did – another seed type I need to test for viability). It was very leggy (long stem) when it first came up, so I carefully removed it from it’s net pot, then replaced it deep down inside and surrounded it with more moist coir. The first true leaves were just barely poking above the coconut fiber. Now look at it!

It’s even grown a new leaf since being transplanted, and it was probably only a week ago! Since it has its true leaves, I am now feeding it the hydroponic nutrient solution, and that seems to really be helping it grow. Probably in the next week I will get it outside in the five-gallon bucket of nutrient solution that I had prepared for the tomato cutting that failed (because I cut it from the wrong part of the plant, duh!).

There you go – the beginning of my Kratky gardening journey!



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