These are photos of my outdoor hydroponic grow.
I used the NON-CIRCULATING Kratky method of growing hydroponically, a method by Dr. Kratky who is a professor in Hawaii. For the best explanation of the system see MHP Gardener’s videos in You Tube and also search there for ‘Kratky hydroponics’ or ‘Kratky method’. The 2 small movies I posted previously show a bit more of my grow on the deck.
The method itself is one where you can grow in containers (like these 10 gallon ones and as my movie shows…. also in 5 gallon buckets). The seedlings, started inside in rockwool cubes, under lights, are set into small 3″ net cups (or for buckets- large 6″ net pots whose rim covers the entire top of the bucket). These net cups are put into the holes drilled in the tops of the containers, sitting on the top by the tiny top rim of the net pot. For the 10 gallon containers (called ‘totes’), I drilled and ‘planted’ 3 lettuce plants each. In the 12 gallon totes I put in either 6 mini heads of lettuce or 6 baby pak-choi plants.
A nutrient solution fills the container to just the bottom of the net cups. Over the life of the plant, the nutrient solution is wicked up by the plant’s growing roots. As the solution gets lower, the plant develops air roots (providing oxygen) from the bottom of the net cup, while the other roots keep stretching to meet the solution as it gets lower and lower. No watering is ever necessary again. There is more to the system of course……so do some research.
My bush beans in pots with soil are setting beans like gangbusters, but I believe the plants have just started showing signs of a soil-borne pathogen- the same one that causes late blight in tomatoes, damping off in seedlings and 32 other nasty funguses and rots on peppers, eggplant and even fruit etc. I share this nasty turn of events (the beans will probably die before I can harvest them), in this post, because it’s a SOILBORNE disease. No soil- no soilborne diseases in hydroponics.
All I can say is this years attempt at hydroponic growing of lettuce, pak-choi, eggplant and one pepper- under a plastic canopy, in PVC cages covered with netting, in totes or 5 gallon buckets… has been a HUGE SUCCESS and I plan to try to get in some fall seedlings for fall lettuce and Pak-Choi. I am certainly going to plan on using the same system on the deck again next spring/summer/fall. And I plan on expanding the varieties I can grow this way.
It will be less work next spring to get going. I’ve already made the PVC cages (which only pressure fit together, so I can pull apart the individual pieces of piping to store). I’ve already sewn the netting that covers the pvc cages and the 5 gallon buckets (sewn from a bolt of wedding veil fabric) that washes and dries by machine and can be folded and stored. In the sun, the netting lasts about 3 seasons, with holes sewn up they last even longer.
The tables are long boards (covered with Tyvec house wrap, to reflect light and wipe clean) that can be stacked up & stored and the sawhorses that hold it all- will be folded up and put away. The canopy frame was from an old outdoor canopy whose covering had fallen apart, so I just bungie-corded a large piece of plastic to it, to cover the containers (necessary because no additional water should enter the containers or buckets since it throws off the balance of nutrients and drowns the air roots that form.) The canopy, at the end of the season folds up like a big square umbrella to store.