My hydroponic journey began some seven years ago while visiting Hawaii. Upon returning to Kodiak I bought a high pressure sodium light and two units from General Hydroponics. My goal at that time was to grow tomatoes inside during the winter. No easy feat as I would learn. These buckets within buckets hold about 3 gallons of nutrient in the bottom bucket and the upper bucket holds the grow medium. (Photo alongside). Do they work. Yes. Do they work well, not really all that well as a single unit. If they were connected to a large reservoir they might do better. The biggest problem is a full size plant can drink up the nutrient solution in less than a week so you have to stay on top of the water. (Post of April 2021 three tomato plants go through ten gallons of nutrient solution per week)
Next came a unit called “Emiliy"s Garden” and a whole slew of “AeroGardens” of which we still have several. Actually using an AeroGarden on the kitchen counter for kitchen herbs. Emily’s garden works but like so many small container approaches the limited reservoir and limited plant capacity leave you wanting more. Now, lured further down the rabbit trail I learned about the “Kratky method." For simplicity sake this approach is inexpensive, scalable and excels for things like herbs, mustard, and arugula.
This project is about getting people with limited space and a limit to the resources they might want to commit to something they are not quite sure is an endeavor they are eager to take on. As we continue to add information the readers will see how a chance encounter turned into something novel that is leading me in a new direction with my life's endeavors. Controlled Environment Agriculture is now on a freight train. Weekly, new operations are springing up all across the globe. It is not just for the cold climate regions. High tech climate controlled structures in northwestern Australia are situated next to the coast. Using high tech systems to pump water deep offshore they have a natural heat pump used to cool the greenhouses under the scorching outback sun. Solar panels are providing all their needed electricity and they are growing nearly twenty percent of the continents tomatoes. Let's take on sustainability and take control of at least some of our groceries!
For the first time hydroponic entrant. Please do NOT get caught up in glitz and glitter. One of the greatest attributes of hydroponics is Simplicity!
Any large container here on out Reservoir can be transformed into a hydroponic grow pond. I love the NFT approach. Clean easy to cycle takes attention to maintain the reservoir but when it is dialed in it is a smooth running producer. But it does take a lot more monitoring than other methods. But you have to have your hands on the pulse of your products. It is my opinion that newcomers would be best served by starting at the most basic of approaches. And depending on whether you are growing in your home or in a greenhouse the trail is divided. In your home choose the Kratky method as a starting point. In a greenhouse or hoop house choose a small floating raft. Really comes down to how much water volume you have to deal with. Kratky containers are very manageable with minimal water spillage risk. A raft while it can be as small as a ten gallon tub generally is larger say 25 gallons and up. I have not run a large flood and drain system so I am going to steer clear of that option for the time being. It is a very good option but I want to stay the course and talk about the systems I know and have succeeded with.
So with that pick either the Raft selection or the Kratky selection and let's get started
3181 Mill Bay Rd. #1 Kodiak Alaska 99615