Just an update on the status of the floating raft hydroponic system. Earlier updates are here:
First off, I’d put one pea plant in the back corner just to see how legumes would do. After all, they typically have nitrogen fixing bacteria in the roots and I had no idea how that would impact things. Well, they love the hydroponics system. These are a small sized pea plant that is relatively heat tolerant. “Lincoln”.
★★★★★ 4.8 out of 5 stars. Read reviews.
A high-yielding variety with sweet, tender flavor.
Appropriately enough, these peas were introduced in peacetime, just after World War II. Lincoln quickly became a favorite with American gardeners thanks to its high yields and sweet, tender flavor. Suited for eating fresh, freezing or canning, the 4-5″ pods are loaded with 6-9 sweet, tender peas. Heat- and wilt-tolerant, the 18-30″ plants require staking with a small pea fence for proper support.
So reasonably good with some heat, and about 1 1/2 feet to 2 1/2 feet tall. Well I planted some of these a while back, and something got all of them in the dirt. Neat excavations rather like a bird beak. (We have some kind of crows around…) So I started more in a small pot in a tub as a wicking water supply and mote ;-) Then, some weeks ago, transplanted one of them to the hydroponic system via the expedient of just lifting it with a spoon and washing off the roots.
Here I set the pot near the hydroponic one. Clearly the hydroponics are winning. That pot has 4 plants in it, the hydroponic cup has just one. The pot has been watered with Miracle Grow along with regular bottom water supply. (Hear, drying out is my major problem with very low humidity air)
I think you can see why I’m getting very interested in hydroponics. With that kind of growth on peas, they become a very viable “emergency” food crop via hydroponics. The leaves and shoots are edible too, BTW. I’m going to look for some short stature Snow Peas and Sugar Snap Peas where you can also eat the whole pod. One of my concerns about hydroponics had been that it looked great for greens, but there was little grown in the way of starches / grains / legumes. This shows it is a viable technique for getting some “energy crops” grown too, just not done commercially for cost reasons. “Field Crops” don’t have the margin of salad greens. There’s plenty of protein in greens, along with mineral and vitamins, but they are low in gross calories. Peas are a nice starch source.
Here’s the whole tub in the front perspective:
Also note the other plants have really taken off too. In the front row right is “Chinese Kale” or “Chinese Broccoli” (it goes by both names) and it is doing well. Right behind it is some kind of kale / collards cross also doing quite well. (At least, that’s what they tasted like when I munched a bit). It is hard to be sure as I usually just depend on leaf shape to tell me what I’ve got and the Senposai has the same leaf shape and overall look. I’ll check my notes later and see if I wrote down who is in what spot. Also of note is that the green onions are doing great too. As I’ve historically had “drying out” issues with onions, this is a big win for me. With a mix of brassicas, peas, lettuce & saladings, herbs, onions and things like tomatoes and similar, you can put together a pretty good “survival garden” just in a closet or office space. It would certainly dress up a bunch of stored rice and beans nicely!
We’ve already had a few salads from the lettuce and today I harvested 2 plants from the back row (just after this picture). You can see that the two harvested in the front left are already re-growing and the one first harvested (just behind them) is nicely regrown too. These are all growing faster than the “Bag-O-Dirt in a tub” though it is also doing well.
Here’s what it looked like on 18 June 2019, just a week ago:
Here’s the image from 14 June, just 12 days ago and shortly after the transplanting:
So, at some point, I’m going to try some other short stature “bush” type regular beans and / or Lima Beans, but not any time soon. I already have too many beans growing in the dirt garden ;-)
FWIW, my Kratky Method bucket and tub have finally started to take off. Managing the water height has been an issue. IF your starts don’t quickly get roots into the water, a mix of evaporation and faster growing neighbors can leave them not touching the nutrient solution. Overall, I’m happier with this raft based system. Once the starts get going well, the Kratky Method seems OK, but getting to that point is a bit more complicated (especially with mixed species in one bucket / tub with different growth rates). Perhaps a restart on the Kratky Method systems using all lettuce or all peas would work better ;-)
At this point I’m entirely sold on hydroponics as an addition to the regular garden. My biggest problem now is just working out my management pattern. What to start when. How much of what to grow, on what schedule. How many tubs. All those details. It would be a LOT easier were I just trying to grow lettuce and herbs and not experimenting with a dozen things at the same time.
My suggestion to anyone else just getting started is simple: Start with lettuce. Once it is under control, add some more salad plants. Once that’s all doing fine, add an herb garden. Then think bout adding things like brassicas for asian stir fry and peas and tomatoes and all that other stuff. It will be far less complicated “out the gate” and you will have rapid success.
At this point too, I’m thinking of limiting my dirt gardening to those things not well suited to a simple hydroponics approach. That, and the winter garden when our monsoon rain patter would over fill these open tubs (until I get an indoor rack going…). So things like squash, corn, runner beans, roots like beets and carrots. All things that take a lot of space or have big deep roots.
I’ve had a lot more success with “leafy greens” along with green onions and peas in this raft hydroponics system than I’ve ever had in the dirt. The major issues in the dirt garden have been drying and bugs/snails. Both eliminated here. I’m suspecting, too, that Miracle Grow + Dirt is not as effective a fertilizer as hydroponic solution. There may well be some micro-nutrients missing in my soil, and your typical home gardener doesn’t do soil testing. It’s been a half decade since my last compost pile (when things were growing relatively well) so it may partly be the last 1/2 decade of neglect coupled with Miracle Grow alone not being an adequate “fix”.
It takes a long time to build up a good garden soil. One of the things that “Preppers”, unfamiliar with gardening or farming, too often ignore. Just having a jar of seeds in the freezer and a shovel in the garage is NOT enough. A garden is a living community that takes a couple of years to “get right” and highly productive. The biggest takeaway for me from this hydroponic testing has been that, while there are some techniques to learn, it is “instantly highly productive”. For a “survival garden”, I’d now rather have a 1/2 dozen of these tubs with foam panels pre-cut and net-cups + nutrient bag all stacked in the garage, than have a 1/8 acre of lawn and a shovel…