Category Archives: VEGETABLE GARDENING – HYDROPONIC, VIDEOS, PHOTOS & POSTS

What I Learned- Outdoor Kratky Hydroponic Grow- 2014

The gardening season has ended for 2014.

In this last short video, I wanted to share some of what I learned growing lettuce, pac choi, peppers and eggplant, using the Kratky method of hydroponics, outdoors, from transplanted seedlings started under lights indoors, into net cups in both bins and buckets.        

A few things I didn’t get to mention in the video,  that I learned…

Next year I WILL NOT drill a hole in the bottom side of the bucket, put in a grommet and run a clear tube through it to gauge the level of the nutrient solution.   I found it to be unnecessary, unwieldy and makes the buckets unstack-able for the winter storage.   Since I use those round tomato cages in my hydro buckets (legs through drilled holes in the bucket top/net cup),  I have just enough support of the plant, to just lift the lid a little (albeit carefully) and look to see if the nutrient solution is running low, or add some from a gallon jug.

The panda film (thick plastic bought online that’s black on one side and white on the other), worked like a dream.  It kept ALL algae from the inside of both buckets and bins.  The only other thing needed I learned, was the black bucket top/6″net cup that covers the buckets, should be painted with a good quality white spray paint.  I did that and the paint still looks brand new, and, just like the white side of the panda film, reflected the HEAT away from the nutrient solution.  

I found that it helped the loss of moisture to the net cups (rockwool cubes, roots and “grow stones” in them) to cover the cups with aluminum foil taped down over them. I believe it really helped evaporation of the nutrient solution as well, and kept anything (including sunlight) from getting to the roots.  I learned (for the bins) that if I have a dark bin and younger plants that don’t yet fill the top space- it also helps to cover the top of the bin itself with aluminum foil.  It doesn’t have to be neat and just a few pieces of packing tape will hold it down.  I found (just like soil in container plants outside) that aluminum foil reflects light back to the plant’s undersides, confuses insects and, most importantly in these hydroponics, reflects the sun’s HEAT away from the nutrient solution and the plant’s roots inside. 

5 gallon Buckets-  I have used the white ones from Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot.  After a season or 2 at the most, they are too brittle to carry, fill, move, and shatter into small sharp pieces.

Try the ORANGE paint buckets from Home Depot… less than half the price.  You don’t need the tops and they will be covered by panda film around the sides and the bucket top/6″ net cup painted white on the top, so the dark color matters not.  They appear to have more rubber and less of the cheap brittle plastic in them- so they should last many more years.

Last but not least.. I learned I love this form of gardening.  Though I will still grow my peas, basil, tomatoes, radishes, swiss chard etc. in the soil, in containers in the front yard, next year… I will grow everything I grew hydroponically this year (and probably more) on the deck again in 2015.

I think the rest of what I learned is in the short video wrap-up below. For you gardeners out there- I hope to see you back here with posts and videos of my inside seed starting in the spring of 2015.

Enjoy!             Rebecca

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UPDATE Sept 22nd, Hydro Kratky buckets – Eggplant, Cucumbers, Peppers

The five gallon Kratky method hydroponic buckets and one 10 gallon bin are still producing good produce.  Here in West Virginia, we can have frosts as early as Sept 30th.  Tomorrow night we go  down into the high 30’s at night (but in the 70’s daytime), so I I’ll have to protect the eggplants and the pepper and the cuke for each night, in the hopes of keeping them going until the weather gets warmer again in a week.

As you can see, the eggplants are of harvesting size (and went with tomatoes, basil & parsley in a tomato / eggplant  & cheese (one crust) pie last night).

The H-19 cucumber has produced cukes of  anywhere from pickling size to these huge ones- for cucumber salad.  I found the skin a tiny bit thick at this large size, so I’ve been peeling these, (unnecessary if picked smaller).  (My fingers are stained from dehydrating plums and peaches this week).

The Boris sweet peppers are doing great- large & small go into everything- eggs, chili, etc. 

I should comment again, that these 3 plants are taking additional water at least once a week (nutrient solution).  The cuke in the 10 gallon bin and the eggplants and pepper in the five gallon buckets all take the same 2 gallons of nutrient solution each week.  Unfortunately, they have all had bouts of running dry  completely down to the bottom of the container.  Obviously this has taken a toll on the plants….. but bless their hearts- they keep producing.

H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber Sept 22, 2014 still juicy & firm, even at this size.

H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber Sept 22, 2014 still juicy & firm, even at this size.

H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber in a 10 gallon bin / tote

H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber in a 10 gallon bin / tote

Hansel Eggplant Sept 22, 2014.  The spotted leaves are either from running out of nutrient solution or stink bug damage.

Hansel Eggplant Sept 22, 2014.  I believe the spotted leaves could be a result of running out of nutrient solution or the PH, which changes in the nutrient solution, might also be way off at this point- too acidic or too alkaline. Then there is the possibility of a virus, as a result of the explosion of new stink bugs and the crud they carry in their bites.

Hansel Eggplant, loaded with eggplants of all sizes

Hansel Eggplant, loaded with eggplants of all sizes

Hansel eggplant Sept 22, 2014

Hansel eggplant Sept 22, 2014

Gretel Eggplant Sept 22, 2014, still smaller than Hansel, but producing many eggplants

Gretel Eggplant Sept 22, 2014, still smaller than Hansel, but producing many eggplants

Boris pepper Sept 22, 2014. The foam is just helping hold up the plant against the round tomato cage's legs that go through holes drilled in the bucket net cup rim cover.

Boris pepper Sept 22, 2014.   The foam is just helping hold up the plant against the round tomato cage’s legs, that go through holes drilled in the bucket net cup rim cover.

UPDATE Sept 7, 2014 Hydroponic Cucumber, Eggplants & Pepper

The nights are getting downright cold.  I haven’t found the time to start seedlings of lettuce or choi under the lights in the bedroom to put into the hydroponic 10 gallon bins on the deck.  (I’ve been too busy with the beans, new peas, basil and tomatoes in the soil containers in the front yard).

But, the cuke, eggplants and pepper (planted out in the hydro bins June 17th) are still going gangbusters in their Kratky method hydroponic containers on the deck, so I thought I’d show you and give you some additional info on the growth progress and variety names etc.

H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber in a 10 gallon Hydroponic bin, as of Sept 7, 2014

H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber in a 10 gallon Hydroponic bin, as of Sept 7, 2014

These ‘H-19 Little Leaf’ pickling cukes get easily 4+ inches long and they are firm and tasty. As of Sept 8th, I have picked a cuke every day for a salad, for 2 weeks now.
I have not needed to replace any nutrient solution in the 10 gallon bin/tote yet. (It went in around the 3rd week of June, but since the early small leaves had spider mite, the newer stronger leaves didn’t take off, and make lots of flowers and large cukes, until mid August). They have the same nutrient solution as all the rest (see earlier posts for details).

The H-19 Little Leaf pickling cucumber closer up, as of September 7, 2014.

The H-19 Little Leaf pickling cucumber closer up, as of September 7, 2014

 

Hansel & Gretel Eggplants as of September7th, 2014

Hansel & Gretel Eggplants as of September7th, 2014

Hansel and Gretel (the names of their varieties) are in 5 gallon Kratky method hydroponic 5 gal buckets, both loaded with eggplants and flowers. They are also growing taller by the day…. I hope they stop growing taller now (should be at their 3 foot height) and just put all their energy into eggplants.

 

Hansel Eggplant as of Sept 7, 2014

Hansel Eggplant as of Sept 7, 2014

The Hansel & Gretel eggplant variety (from ‘Johnny’s Seeds’)are a small, long oriental type. Hansel is the purple and Gretel is the white- same size & length. They reach about 5-6 inches in length and are about 1.5 inches in diameter. They are totally non bitter and slice up perfectly in anything (stir fry, eggplant parmesan etc.). As you can see they grow in clusters- easy to see & pick.

I would definitely recommend growing this variety in a hydroponic bin (Kratky non-circulating method), but the size of the container needs to be bigger than 5 gal (which really only starts out with a little over 3 gallons of nutrient solution). For the past 3 weeks, I have added to each bucket- 1.5 gallons of freshly mixed nutrient solution as the level drops to almost nothing within 5-7 days.

I don’t really mind mixing it by the gallon and adding a milk jug’s worth of solution (lift up the top of the bucket net cap, with plant tilting on top, and pour in carefully), but if I could find a larger capacity container that has the same features as the bucket- I might go that route in the future. The bucket-covering 6″ net cup and the tomato cage that goes into the bucket through holes drilled in that net cup/bucket cover, is important.  The cage holds up the netting cover until the plants are huge and flowering well, and after the netting comes off, the cage helps support the 3 foot eggplant from toppling etc. I just don’t know what other system/container, net cup, cage system I could use to get the same results of protection and support. So 5 gallon buckets are my choice for now, and I’ll just keep adding solution. It’s still easier than watering everyday (as I have to, for my container soil plants in the yard).

Gretel Eggplant as of Sept 7, 2014

Gretel Eggplant as of Sept 7, 2014

Gretel grows a little slower than Hansel, but if you look in the middle you can see her little white eggplants coming on strong.

 

Pepper & eggplants in 5 gallon buckets as of Sept 7, 2014

Pepper & eggplants in 5 gallon buckets as of Sept 7, 2014

The Boris pepper and behind it, the 2 eggplants, sit on the deck in their hydroponic (Kratky non-circulating method) 5 gallon buckets. They are covered (as are the now-empty lettuce bins), over all with plastic over an old canopy frame. The nights are getting colder, so the extra protection is good for both types of plants.

 

Boris Pepper as of September 7, 2014

Boris Pepper as of September 7, 2014

The Boris pepper up close. We have already harvested 4 peppers that were easily 6 inches long, and a good diameter. The size and production of the Boris variety is great- but the taste is not as good as any old banana pepper (not as sweet or as pepper-ry tasting).

I am however, definitely impressed with the ease and production of growing peppers in a 5 gallon bucket

UPDATE Aug 17, Hydroponic Outdoor Grow VIDEO- 5 gal buckets w/ eggplants

This is an update video of my hydro grow on the deck, ( non-circulating hydroponic Kratky method ), to show the SUCCESSFUL progress of the hydro 5 gallon buckets holding 2 eggplants, a pepper and a large red pak-choi.

I also show how the hydro bucket was put together and give my measurements and mixing instructions of fertilizer, in the nutrient solution in the buckets, as I replace some.

Lastly, a quick visual update of the lettuce and baby pak-choi in the totes- by the time you read this, most will have been harvested.

July 27, First 2014 HYDROPONIC Outdoor Grow VIDEO

Here is my newest garden adventure- using the Hydroponic Kratky growing method in bins & buckets. The seedlings came out from under the lights when they were 8 weeks old (too old) after having been seeded May 17.

They ‘went hydro’ on July 17th.

This movie shows their remarkable progress 10 days later by July 27th.

VERY SUCCESSFUL. Growing lettuce, pak choi, eggplant & peppers outside on the deck (but undercover) in net pots in bins and 5 gal buckets, using the Kratky non circulating hydroponic method.
10 gallon bins/totes are in homemade PVC pipe cages with homesewn netting covers.
Five gallon buckets are growing eggplant, pak choi and peppers with small tomato cages and home-sewn net covers, using the same hydroponic method.
Nutrient solution for all is Master Blend + Calcium Nitrate + Epsom Salts (tomato formula).

A post with more information on the method and supplies used, is with my Vegetable Gardening- Hydroponics page-  listed in the Post Categories choices at the bottom of my HOME/ ABOUT ME page…

HYDROPONIC Outdoor Grow PHOTOS, Methods, Supplies & 2 wk Updates

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.

Hydroponic lettuce starting to grow- outside on the deck, in PVC cages with netting covers and plastic canopy over all

Hydroponic lettuce starting to grow- outside on the deck, in PVC cages with netting covers and a large plastic canopy over the buckets and the tables holding all the bins

Romaine & Summer Crisp lettuce starting to grow in a hydroponic container, covered, on the deck

Romaine & Summer Crisp lettuce starting to grow in a hydroponic container,

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydroponic containers- Romaine lettuce in their cages & netting & in hydroponic containers on the deck

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydroponic bins-  Romaine & Summer Crisp Lettuce

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydroponic containers- Green leaf lettuce in a container on the deck, in PVC cages with netting over

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydro bins- Green Leaf lettuce & baby Pac-Choi at left

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydroponic containers- Green Leaf Lettuce growing in a hydroponic container on the deck

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydro containers- Green Leaf lettuce -3 varieties

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydroponic containers- Romaine Lettuce growing outside in hydroponic containers on the deck

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydro bins- Romaine Leaf lettuce, “Winter Density” at left and “Jericho” at right

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydroponic containers- Summer Crisp lettuce in hydroponic containers on the deck

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydro bins- Summer Crisp lettuce in front & Romaine behind

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydroponic containers- Romaine and Summer Crisp Lettuce growing outside in hydroponic containers on deck

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydro bins- Romaine and Summer Crisp lettuce

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydroponic containers- Romaine and Summer Crisp Lettuce growing outside in hydroponic containers on the deck

UPDATE 2 weeks after planting in hydro bins- Romaine and Summer Crisp lettuce