Interesting “off the grid” Hydroponics Using Kratky & Others

Lesson Learned from this video? For big plants use just one hole in the lid of a 5 gallon pot.

In particular, there’s several shots of celery growing in one. One celery plant per bucket. It makes sense. A plant that big will use a lot of solution to grow large. With 6 / bucket you get into the need to refill them. With one, it would largely be “plant it and forget it”.

So now I’ve got to go buy me a Celery Bucket ;-)

I’ve not succeed at growing celery. ( I also haven’t tried much…) I do constantly buy it. My basic 3 are onions, carrots and celery. Mirepox used in all sorts of cooking. These folks clearly do a good job of it with one / bucket. I especially like the moment when they say they only remove the stalks as needed, not harvest the whole plant, and proceed to remove a stock and munch it ;-)

Now that I’ve worked out a decent way to get onions without the drama, moving on to add celery makes sense as the next step. So “note to self” to go buy another bucket and lid.

They paint their buckets black to “prevent algae”. When I checked the roots in my Lowe’s bucket, there was some green in it. So a can of black spray paint on the shopping list too. Then just one big 3 inch hole in the lid for my Celery Can, and get some sprouted celery going to plant.

One thing I’ve really come to appreciate is the joy of absolutely fresh vegetables. Made a lunch salad today.; Stroll past the kitchen, scissors in hand, and cut just one salad worth of lettuce. It will be just as much fun to go pick 2 or 3 stalks of celery as “that’s all I need right now”. Oh, and no more sorry wilted green onions in the fridge either. Those “dismal” ones wilted and rescued from the fridge, are now looking quite nice in the Kratky jar on my window ledge.

These folks also have an interesting pipe system on the wall of their shed. What looks like 4 inch ( 10 cm ) pipe going around the perimeter, level. They just use a water bucket to pour solution in one end and let it flow through the whole pipe. Adding more when needed. Simple. Works. One of those is in my future too, hung on the fence. A simple starter on the more complex Plumbers Delight systems with pumps and power.

They call their system Off The Grid Guerilla Buckets. 22 minutes:

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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38 Responses to Interesting “off the grid” Hydroponics Using Kratky & Others

  1. andysaurus says:

    You may wish a translation for “scab”. In the local patois, it means acquire through theft, force, begging or other nefarious means. I know there are many other Aussies who follow you, they may wish to refine my understanding.

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    Dutch bucket with perlite for carrots, parsnips and celeriac (since you like the taste). I assume beetroots, turnips and swedes (rutabagas? in the USA) and your horse radish.
    Was advised to add 15% vermiculite to give better solution spread. Was also advised “don’t be so bloody silly, you can’t separate the two when you’ve finished growing”.
    Perlite dust is supposedly a health hazard, hence some damp it before pouring it into buckets.

  3. Bill in Oz says:

    What does ‘scab’ mean in the USA ?

    In Oz it is used to refer to a person who is employed by a company when the union membership go on strike – replacing the strikers..

    Not a term of endearment ! In fact very derogatory and avoided here in Oz

  4. jim2 says:

    Scab has been used in the same sense here in the US for many decades.

  5. cdquarles says:

    One of the meanings is a person who crosses union picket lines, which is more or less the same as yours, Bill. There are others, including the proteinaceous covering of a bodily wound.

  6. Steven Fraser says:

    I always thought that the ‘alternate acquisition’ was a ‘scav’, short for ‘scavenge’.

    BTW, the letter ‘B’ in greek, is pronounced like a ‘v’, as in alpha, veta, gamma, delta…

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steven Fraser:

    You have just answered a long term question for me. I’d never really cared enough to go down the search trail, but it had been a low grade “nag” since the mid ’70s when I had my Russian class. They use the letter B for the V sound… I wondered why…

    The Cyrillic alphabet was derived from the Geek… so now I know why they use B for V…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ve_(Cyrillic)

    Ve (В в; italics: В в) is a letter of the Cyrillic script.

    It commonly represents the voiced labiodental fricative /v/, like ⟨v⟩ in “very”.

    The capital letter Ve looks the same as the capital Latin letter B but is pronounced differently.

    There’s another letter with the Bee sound that looks sort of like a 6 or a sigma:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_(Cyrillic)

    Be (Б б italics: Б б б) is a letter of the Cyrillic script. It commonly represents the voiced bilabial plosive /b/, like the English pronunciation of ⟨b⟩ in “bee”. It should not be confused with the Cyrillic letter Ve (В в), which is shaped like Latin capital letter B but represents the voiced labiodental fricative /v/.

    The Cyrillic letter Б (Be) is romanized using the Latin letter B.

    So my wondering was caused by insufficient exposure to Greek… but now I know.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    FWIW, I’ve finally gotten used to the idea of “Time to make dinner, how about a side salad. I know, I’ll go cut JUST ENOUGH LETTUCE LEAVES AND GREEN ONION LEAVES to make the salad.

    This whole hydroponic greens thing is really changing my approach to shopping and cooking….

    For one thing, between the Bag-O-Dirt lettuce and 5 cups in the floating raft, I have all the lettuce I can regularly use. Then the two Kratky cups of Green Onions gives just enough (one leaf at a time) to make all the stuff I need (for salads and quesadillas and …) though I’ll need some more to replace the onions I use in things like stews and “Chicken rice slow cooker stuff”.

    It is also the case that I’ve become aware that I need to work out a more regular seed starting calendar. I did all of these lettuces essentially at once, and they are all aging about the same. Better would be a regular “start one lettuce very week” (or whatever it is on timing).

    I really Really REALLY like just stepping out the door and cutting just exactly the lettuce I want for whatever I’m making and having it be perfectly fresh. Ditto the green onions.

    One other note, I’ve now got Basil, Sage, oregano, rosemary, cilantro all growing great. One Small Problem: ALL my skills are based around dried dead herbs. Now I need to figure out how to work fresh herbs into my cooking. Essentially, for the rest of my growing life, I’ll have all the absolutely fresh herbs I want.

    So I need to formalize all this stuff. And make a Celery Bucket rotation. With onions and Celery year round I just need to work out carrots to have my basic mix for cooking with zero store runs.

    Oh, one other note, as the various “Leafy Greens” in the floating raft system have gotten large, solution consumption has gone up. I need to add a couple of gallons a week now. Still way less than “in the dirt”, but of worth to note.

    Not too surprising, I was looking at a 4×4 foot square where I turned over 1/4 of it and planted more summer squash… and thinking I ought to turn over the other 3/4… and found myself thinking “I could just place a hydroponic tub on top of it and not have to deal with weeds…. or the shovel…

    Hydroponic growing has worked dramatically more easily than expected, at far lower cost than expected (given the water cost savings and hydroponic nutrient being a lot cheaper than the volume of Miracle Grow I was spraying for the same yield). with far better quality of crop at the end of the process. I’m sold.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    Just a note that today I planted a 5 gallon Kratky Method can with 2 celery plants. IF I can make this work reliably too, that ends my buying celery at the store. With just the two of us, I often end up pitching out part of a bag of celery. Being able to just go pick a couple of stems when I need some would be a big improvement.

    I found a BLACK bucket and lit at Home Depot for about $6. Just not needing to paint it is a big win. The BLUE bucket from LOWE’s has started to have some algae growing in the nutrient solution. Similarly the Yellow Top tub. Looks like the top is translucent to enough light to grow algae.

    The raft / tub is NOT showing any algae, so it looks like it is fairly light proof. I cut the foam for a second one today. Filled it, populated with net cups, and planted some more stuff in it.

    I also got a 4 gallon smaller square box (with lid) and set it up with the green onions. It is a little strange to just grab plants and move them around the garden…

    So, so far, the rafts have worked best and the Kratky tubs and buckets have been the least work to set up. Cutting the styrofoam is more of a mess. This is in large part due to the ticker sections sticking in the hole saw more; that I’m NOT using 1″+ construction foam but stacking up a double layer of thin stuff, and it is done as 3 sectins (so 6 total pieces per tub).

    I bought some black paint and “sometime” in the next few days will be painting the yellow lid (that box is black already) and the blue bucket. We’ll see if adding the workload of painting the Kratky Tubs / Cans makes the cutting styrofoam sheets for the raft systems seem like less of an issue ;-0

    At this point I have about as many total plant positions as hydroponic as I do in containers or in the dirt garden

    Oh, one other note: As the Leafy Greens in the first floating raft tub have gotten quite large, they are transpiring more water. I’d had to add water to that tub a couple of times a week lately. Today I also added some more nutrients. (Tomorrow I’m going to make a Big Pot Of Greens and reduce the water demand ;-)

  10. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – Do you have a hot knife (wire) for cutting the Styrofoam? It sounds to me like you are trying to cut holes in Styrofoam, and that is not easy to do.

    If you don’t have a hot knife, you can make your own hollow round punches out of metal tube. In this case, a steel can. If you have a bench grinder or a belt sander, it’s just a matter of selecting a steel can in the diameter you want and sharpening the rim. Or… I have one around somewhere… there are can openers that remove the lid around the bottom of the rolled joint instead of cutting out the inside of the top of the can. The opener cuts perpendicular to the long axis of the can. I think they may leave a sharp enough edge to punch a clean hole through Styrofoam.

    Or… don’t punch through with the can. drill a small hole through the bottom of the can, attach a bit of wooden dowel to the top with a screw, then heat the can edge enough to push cleanly through the Styrofoam. I know you have all sorts of little stoves around suitable for heating the cans.

    Let’s put the smith back in Mr. Smith, although I think your forebears would get a chuckle out of you forging hole in Styrofoam.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    I use a bread knife to cut the panels to length ( 32 inches) and then to cut 2 x 6 inch widths off of the remaining chunk that’s 16 inches long (these small insulation boards are 48 inches long x 14 1/2 wide x about 1/2 thick). I do this on two panels to get the 2 “big” 32 inch x 14.5 inch chunks and 4 small 16 inch x 6 inch chunks. Two small chunks, end to end, make the 32 inch x 6 inch coverage needed to fill out the final 20 – 20 1/2 inch width of the tub. (Yes, one big piece would be much better)

    These all get piled 2 high and holes drilled (so the top and bottom layer holes align).

    I do the drilling with a standard drill hole saw.

    Why?

    Because eventually I’m going to make a bigger (like 4 inch diameter pipe x 10 feet long x 1/2 dozen to a dozen of them…) system and the hole saw is needed for the PVC.

    Why such little styrofoam in so many chunks?

    Because the metalized on one side insulation board cost a lot for a whole sheet, and I just wanted to make a “test case” to evaluate. A small lowest cost possible investigate test case. That thin strips of wrong shape styrofoam was a lot cheaper AND fit in my car without having any cuts made by Home Depot.

    It came in a package of 6 boards… So enough for 3 tubs. I’ve now made my 2nd one (and later this week will use the last of it for the third tub). Once that is done, I’ll be free to make any future tubs using the “right stuff” ;-)

    Styrofoam does not put up with sunlight forever, so eventually these “kludge” floats will need replacing. At that time their replacements will be the sturdier, thicker stuff too, all one piece, just cut and drill holes.

    Drilling the styrofoam IS an annoyance, but just because I get to dig the cut disk out of the hole saw with a screwdriver in the holes in the side of the drill. The actual drilling is nearly trivial. So why do it?

    a) To get practice at cutting holes as that’s the “biggy” in the other PVC pipe system type builds.

    b) I also am making some plastic bucket & tub based Kratky Method systems, and that plastic gets drilled too, so I’m buying the hole saw in any case.

    “Going Forward” am I going to be drilling styrofoam? I doubt it. Mostly as I think I’ll be moving away from this approach “eventually”.

    Why, again?

    I want to grow some things that are larger and with roots. Those need a bucket of “grow medium”. Pearlite or sand in a bucket. The Dutch Bucket system. Then, when winter comes, I’ll be transitioning to growing lettuce and such indoors under lights. Almost universally those DIY Home systems (at least in the videos) are either Kratky Method tubs, or are PVC Pipe Plumbers Delight “Grow Walls”. I’m leaning toward the Grow wall….

    Big commercial operations generally run the DW (Deep Water) Tables with floating rafts on top. These need to be carefully leveled as they are often 4 x 8 feet or even longer “raceway” structures. A minor tilt and the water is spilling out one end when the other is dry… My construction tubs are short enough that my patio slope just shows up as one end an inch or so below the edge when the other is at the edge. Liquid self leveled…

    So now I can either take on the work of making things all leveled out everywhere and buying or building a BIG rack to hold the weight of a set of these tubs ( about 100 lbs each, so 5 of them in a rack is 500 lbs…. and a bit much for along one wall of my office…) plus the expense of buying an air pump and bubblers and all to increase aeration and yield…..

    Or I can start on the lighter weight NFT Nutrient Film Technique pipes that use ONE of those yellow top crates as a “tank” for a grow wall of PVC pipes with just a few mm of water in each of them… Or make some little sprinkler systems inside the crate / tub things to make them aeroponic and again dramatically reduce weight. Both of which use hole saws to cut the holes….

    At that point the construction tubs w/ floats are “retired” to seasonal use outdoors.

    Essentially, they were a “Rapid Prototype” proof of concept that worked very well, and have served their purpose of demonstrating success. Now it’s time to “do it right”. (Though exactly which kind of “right” will be the end stage depends on a couple of more trials and some personal interest… But aeroponic crates vs NFT PVC tubes is the most likely final candidate set.)

    Now, once I have more dirt and I’m in Florida, odds are high I’ll build a bigger version of the raft and table set up. The commercial guys knock together a box and line it with a plastic sheet, then float a full sheet of insulation foam on it. Big, Fast, Cheap, Effective. My construction tubs are just a small “toy” version of that.

    But do realize I’m not ditching the tubs forever. As long as it isn’t rainy season here, I’ll have them running. I expect them to be my main production for lettuce, green onions, and herbs for at least another year, maybe too. (Big things, like celery, are going in the 5 gallon Kratky Method cans for the simple reason that a full sized celery would capsize in the smaller float segments…) I took the time to make them, now they pay me back for a year (or maybe 2, until the foam degrades in the sun). At that point I’ll have a decision to make about replacement foam or a better system.

    Were I planning to continue making styrofoam rafts, and in some quantity, then I likely would go with a “hot knife” approach. The more sturdy construction foam panels come in styrofoam (polystyrene foam…) and “some other stuff”. I don’t know if the hot knife is a good idea on the other stuff (some things, like urethane, give off bad juju when burned…) and then I wanted the aluminum film on top to prevent UV damage… so something needs to cut that too. Sharp knife or hole saw…

    So in the end just “buy the damn hole saw” and move on was the decision…

    FWIW, I have some mild suspicion that getting PVC disks out of the hole saw will be about the same amount of “issue”… but we’ll see. They will be curved… (Though some folks use square section downspouts from gutters as the tube and get flat holes…)

    I know, far more information than anyone would want about “why drilling holes in styrofoam when hot knife is better?” but there is some reasoning behind it.

  12. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – I’ve drilled Styrofoam with a hole saw and got beads/chips of Styrofoam all over the place and no clean edge. I’m talking foam 2″ – 3″ thick, though. I just wish I had thought of the hot can method for cutting holes before now.

    I have a leftover sheet or two of that metal-film backed insulation panel from when I insulated my garage. I didn’t drill any holes for that project. The other Styrofoam I cut and drilled was at work for a few projects over the years. I’ll have to dig out a panel and look at how it differs from the more crumbly stuff I dealt with at work. And same as your experience, I don’t recall any particular problems cutting those film-backed foam panels.

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, I’ve used up the last of the “too thin” styrofoam panels. I’ve now got 3 of the construction tub grow tables in use. Somewhere around 36 – 40 plant stations. ( I didn’t drill them all the same so need to do a full count to be sure).

    I’ve also got 2 x 5 gallon buckets going. One with 2 x 3 inch celery stations. (That may need enlargement to a 4 inch net cup “someday”, or IF it turns out that the celery is a bit big for a 3 inch cup, I could use this one for something else and make a new one…) The blue Lowe’s Bucket needs some sun block as it is getting a bit of algae growth in it (OTOH, that algae is making oxygen and reducing my need for a bubbler…) It has 6 holes which is likely way too many for anything other than small plants… but the things growing in it are the experimental Tomatillo plants that grow rather large… Woulda, coulda, shoulda… So that’s another 8 stations.

    The yellow lid tub is also getting a bit of algae, so I’m going to move the plants in it to one of the new raft tubs, and then dry and paint the lid black. It has 12 stations.

    Then therei’s this cute little 4 1/2 gallon tub I bought. Dark gray bottom, white top. The white top was way too translucent, so it just got a coat of black enamel primer… In about an hour (in the sun) I’ll call it dry and put it back on the tub, then move some plants into it. 4 stations.

    Add that ll up, it’s about 38+8+12+4 = 62 plant stations. Plus 6 experimental aluminum foil wrapped wide mouth jars on my office window ledge make about 68 to 70 total planting stations.

    I think that will be enough for a while ;-)

    Now I need to start using them more effectively. Less playing with stuff, more production and harvesting.

    I’m going to set one of them up as lettuce. Just a bunch of different kinds of lettuce. Another one will get onions and other leafies (provided they “get along”). Probably use it for growing “starts” to a bigger size to move into the lettuce grow out tub. Maybe.

    The Cole family plants grow really well in hydroponics, but the big leaved ones use a lot of water when the leaves come on. I bought a “6 pack” of small Pak Choi and I’m going to try them as a production cole crop. I really like it in stir fry…

    So, with lettuce from 5 gallon buckets, some cole / greens, lettuce, onions, and other misc. greens, I figure that’s abut 30 stations… so what to do in the other 40? :-)

    I’ll think of something…

    FWIW, I now have about the same production as hydroponics than I do as Dirt Garden.

    I also still have 4 more construction tubs that are not presently in use as hydroponic tubs. It will stay that way until I’ve got the present set full and producing. Then I’ll take on the business of having Home Depot cut a polystyrene / foil panel into 32 x 20.5 inch chunks… Start making more production oriented plant floats.

    I also noticed some of the folks float the panels on the water (with aerated water) while others set them on top of the edges of the box (for non-circulating grow boxes. I think I’ll try making at least one panel that is 36 x 24 and just sits on top of the construction tub, with more distance from plants to water. I could see starting small plants in a float with guaranteed water contact, then moving them to the tub with some air gap on the upper part of the roots (once the roots are long enough and still reach the water…)

    So far, my only failures have been in early starts and Kratky Method boxes. Watching a video on a commercial grower, they have a middle stage where they grow the lettuces and such in the rock wool cubes until they have significant roots and are about 3 inches tall. Doing that would fix my “doesn’t reach the water in the Kratky Race” problem.

    I really like the way these folks set up their commercial greenhouse in Ontario.

    Grows a LOT of plants for a commercial operation year round in Ontario Canada. 2000 heads of lettuce / week + a bunch of other stuff. They use a squarish channel with a thin film of nutrient solution. One “pool pump” and a 250 gallon tank. Once a week tops up the water (50 to 100 gallons / week) and nutrient. The rest is starting new plants, moving them to the grow out stations, and then harvesting / shipping / collecting money ;-)

    Ether in this video or another from the same guy he has a kid in the background “planting” a trough. They just pick it up, turn it 90 degrees to align with the walkway, and set it on those wood stubs. Now its easy to plant it or harvest it.

    It looks to me like the maximum production with the minimum equipment and labor.

    If I had an acre or two in the country, I could see me doing this for a living.

  14. Larry Ledwick says:

    I was pondering the idea of using vinyl rain gutters with a top cap of the styrafoam sheet.
    (not sure if it is available in black but an outer coating of aluminum paint (for opacity) topped with black would work)
    You could set it up as a rocker and just pour solution in one end of the gutters and tilt them so the solution runs along the bottom of the gutter. Slosh it back and forth (or as above periodically turn on a pump)

    Cut in handy 4′ lengths you could lay out a batch of them on a table top too. and move them down the table as the plants mature.

    Something like this:
    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Amerimax-Home-Products-10-ft-White-Traditional-Vinyl-Gutter-M0573/100079740

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry:

    Here’s a video of a guy using downspout for the grow channels. He is all enamored of his plexiglass endcaps… BUT, a video in Spanish and another one in Portugese both showed folks using NFT troughs with NO end caps. It ought to be tilted to drain at one end anyway… So they just put the 1/4 inch feed line in the uphill end, and hang the lower end over a 3/4 pipe (cut out the top 1/4… personally I think gutters with a gutter cover would work well) back to the tank. Maybe I’ll see if I can find one of them again…

    This guy uses a heat gun (at about 11:00) to put a lip on the uphill end of the downspout material. I think he ought to use a more square form…

    The Hispanic guys didn’t even bother with net cups. Just plopped the rockwool block into the race…

    Not the same video, but showing the “just drain by gravity and gutter” end and showing skipping the net cups…

    Ah, here’s the one in Portuguese where they skip the net cups:

  16. Larry Ledwick says:

    Yes I was thinking of using the gutter covers as a support for the rooting balls of rock wool or what ever, and perhaps a layer of fabric tape along the bottom of the gutter to help retain a bit of moisture, the capillary action would distribute the moisture across the entire surface giving the roots access to both air and water (not that different from your paper towels you use for seed starting really.

    In fact a strip of paper towels would be cheap easy to acquire and disposable at the end of the planting cycle.

  17. Larry Ledwick says:

    Make those holes the right size to hold a cheap disposable cup, put the support media in the cup, and a hole in the bottom then drop the cup in the hole in the gutter and you are in business. If using the down spout you would have to use an alternate method to retain moisture along the bottom, perhaps a strip of bed sheeting you could pull into the tube at the start of the project or a couple pieces of cheap cotton cloths line rope along the bottom to act as a water reservoir. That way your periodic slosh of water and nutrients would have a place to wick into to hold the plants over between water sloshes.

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry L:

    There are two divergent paths:

    NFT – Liquid flowing all the time, or almost all the time. No real grow medium, just flow a thin film of nutrient past the root ball. It retains it’s own dampness.

    Flood & Drain – you have some kind of grow medium that holds some solution. You periodically flood the plants & medium with solution then let it drain out. How often can vary from “every 15 minutes” in those rock wool starter beds in the video in this comment:
    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2019/07/04/interesting-off-the-grid-hydroponics-using-kratky-others/#comment-114446
    up to ever other day in things like tomatoes in pots of Perlite

    Were I going for your “tilt a rail” system of flood and drain, I’d likely just stuff the trough with perlite… Flood it once a day.

    If you want to do the whole capillary wetting thing, look up “wicking pots”. Or The Rain Gutter System:

    While these are usually done with potting soil and the automatic wick water is just water, nothing would prevent using hydroponic solution in a tank to the water valve. I’d likely use a more dilute mix to allow for evaporation concentrating it.

    I’m pondering something like that for bigger plants. Things like Squash and a bucket of carrots…

    FWIW, this is like an automated version of my Pots In A Tub, where I put a few inches of water in the construction tub and let the pot wick it up over time. I just let the regular holes in the bottom of the pot do it.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    Here’s a guy running a manual water supply Rain Gutter System with tomatoes in pots on top of the rain gutters. He is using Hydroponic Solution.

    He’s in Louisiana and says that they normally have a dead time for tomatoes in July and August heat, but by using hydroponic solution, his tomatoes just ran right through it and are doing great.

    He shows his gutter and it is growing algae, which I’d expect. IF running hydroponic solution in a gutter system like this, I’d cover it between pots to prevent the algae problem. Even just aluminum foil would do.

    In any case, I’d take this as an existence proof of a hybrid of the hydroponic system and the “rain gutter” system works.

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    This guy is using the same 3/4 inch x 14.5 inch x 48 inch 6 pack of styrofoam I’m using. He cuts it into 1/3 rds and uses them in rain gutters…

    I think I’d spring the money for a real end cap though ;-)

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    Another “lesson learned” / decision made.

    Last night was another very nice salad from the hydroponic lettuce. We’re up to 3 or 4 “cuts” so far, so “cut and come again” does work OK. But it is starting to bolt and some leaves were just starting to bitter a little.

    I think it will be much better to succession plant for full heads of lettuce. So I need to start one or two lettuce plants / week and get them to the planting out stage. I think we’re eating about one or two a seek… but cut and come again isn’t exactly “by the head” counted…

    I’ve got way too many green onions in at present. I had started a bunch of seeds in dirt, then decided to do the “rinse the roots and put in hydroponics” when the same case took off and got about 3 x as large in just a week or two… (thus my adding the additional spaces …) and I’ve started the process of localizing the herbs to an herb garden tub. (It is so nice to be able to just move plants around from spot to spot ;-)

    I’ve also learned that Tomatillos grow very very well in hydroponics, but need a bigger pot / media as mine are now trying to fall over and out of the can. A 2 inch pot is just not able to hold the bottom down with that much top growth. I figured that would be an issue and knew that a Dutch Bucket like system was the right one for them, but was in “experimental who cares about production” mode ;-) Bascially they are a “many hot months” crop and I didn’t figure I’d get them to maturity anyway… So some decisions needed on that bucket ‘soon”.

    I now have a few net-cups of celery and pak choy just started. I bought these in a very small 6-pack at the local nursery. The celery was root bound and did not want to loosen in a water dunk / swish so they are just put in the net cups like a rock wool cube. The pak choy did wash (mostly) free of dirt and are just roots and ceramic spheres in the cups. IF this works well, that will become my standard starting method (as I’m already good at starting things in 6-packs of potting soil). This will have particle / clogging issues in pumped / small orifice systems, but in Kratky it doesn’t matter if some bits of crap end up in the water.

    I’ve painted the top of the other tubs with translucent lids. All a flat black. That ought to end the algae growth in them. I also need to “bite the bullet” and go digging around in the garage for those old aquarium air pumps and stones… assuming they are still in there somewhere…

    The only other point is that I think I’m now ready to move up to the next step and make an active system of some sort. I’m thinking something using gutter / downspout troughs and a small tub & pump for a NFT system. I’ll probably get it all designed and built just in time for fall / winter tear down and storage ;-)

    As an EOTWAWKI quick garden system, a set of nested tubs, holes already drilled and filled with an inventory of net cups and a big bag of nutrient solution: will deliver a whole lot more food a heck of a lot faster and more reliably than attempting to set up a dirt garden starting from lawn. Whenever I get to “tear down and store” I think I make a photo of it all packed up.

  22. Larry Ledwick says:

    Poking around found a couple interesting sources folks might want to look at.

    Video series

    Aquaponics supplies and lots of good info in their page like ideal temperatures for tomato growth

    https://hydro-gardens.com/product/tomato-formula-25lbs-bag-4-18-38/

    https://www.amazon.com/MASTERBLEND-4-18-38-Complete-Combo-Fertilizer/dp/B072F2BL9D

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    Today I added a bubbler to the yellow top crate / tub. I had to move it to the rear patio area where I have an outdoor electrical outlet. Cost was about $10 for the air stone, air line, and aquarium pump at the hydroponics store.

    It is now running nicely with a fresh load of nutrient solution, a new collection of plants in it, and with the underside of the lid painted black.

    All up this ought to eliminate algae issues (all black) and give better and faster growth. It was doing OK, and now it ought to be even better. With the air added, I’ll be running it as a DWS – Deep Water System. So refiling as needed to keep the water at the net cups. No more “race condition” of root growth vs water drop.

    It is mostly herbs now. (Sage – growing great guns, Oregano, Cilantro,…) but I’ve also added a Lemon Cucumber. Yes, it’s way too big a plant for this small net cup system. Did it deliberately to test the efficacy and how much all the (eventual) leaf area sucks down solution… I grew one of these a decade or two ago. It made a couple of fruit that are small about lemon sized and yellow (thus the name). Very nice. BUT with my dry conditions it was always thirsty and I could not keep enough water in the soil. It never really thrived. I’m hoping this fixes that.

    I’ve also stuck a summer squash in one of the construction tub rafts to do the same test on them. That raft is full of green onions for all the other stations. As they take nearly no water (they are so small…) I’ll get a good read on water use by the squash.

    I had to empty the crate / tub to move it and poured that nutrient solution on my container plants and dirt garden. It will be interesting to see if the plants notice the difference ;-0 Since I’d moved the plants that were in it to the added construction tub when I built it (a few days ago), this was a chance to change which plants were where and plant out another dozen as this crate came back on line

    So among other things, I also have 7 pak choi planted out now. (One of the 6 pack cells had 2 plants in it).

    I’m really happy with the results of starting things in dirt and moving them to hydroponics by swishing the root ball in water to clean it. LOTS more roots and less failures. (None failed so far…) Also no need to buy rock wool, no rock wool dust, etc.

    Ii might have issues when I go to a pumped NFT tube with junk in the water not playing well with the pump, so I’ll need to filter the water at the pump inlet, or use some other starting system. But that’s weeks away.

    The “Greens” in my very first construction tub / raft have overgrown so much I must add a gallon or two of water every day. I need to eat more of the greens… (cole family greens like collards (my hybrid mix I call Kalards) and Chinese Broccoli and some other.) Clearly the very large leaf mass things would work better in a pumped system with make-up water automation (but then I’d also need nutrient concentration testing…)

    So “going forward” note to self: Start more lettuce, less things like collards, kale, and other cole greens that the spouse doesn’t like ;-) And put the big cole family plants into something with more water…

    To recap:

    I’ve now pretty much got my Herb Garden set up running. I’ve got an Onion Garden going. I’ve got celery running in a Kratky bucket (and it is looking fine). The lettuce is getting a bit old and I need to do some new starts of it, plus organize the places where it is presently stuck (i.e. clean up from my prior experimental phase).

    OH! And that one pea plant has gotten to about 5 x the size of the ones in dirt, made some pods, and at least one pod is big enough to eat as a “sugar snap” with peas visible inside. Just astounding more growth. As “some critters” really like eating the peas in my dirt garden, I am certainly adding “small bush sugar snap peas” to my plan for inside growing…

    At the hydroponics store, they said they bought their 4 foot long 6 foot tall “bread rack” at Home Depot (about $60 he thought, maybe…) and the “wrap” around it (reflects light in and keeps humidity in) costs about $40. I priced LED “Shop Lights” at Walmart (the 6000k daylight) at about $25, so about $50 / “tier”. So for 3 levels of plants that’s about $250 for the works. By my estimate that’s enough to keep us in salads, peas, and herbs and then some all winter long. Ought to use about 270 W of power for the lights MAX and maybe as low as 180 W, maybe 10 to 20 W for the air pump. Since we often run an electric room heater in winter, that really is effectively free light as the heat is used too.

    So figure that about October I’ll be looking to add that inside “somewhere”…

    I have 3 or maybe 4 more of the construction tubs, so I’m also going to make a Home Depot run for the bigger construction foam / foil backing. I’m going to have it cut into 5 pieces of 2 x 3 foot each. These will just lay on top of the tub, not float in it, and will also be run as DWS units with added air bubbler. That’s likely several weeks away still.

    Since I already have the tubs, and the hole saw: Total cost to add 3 or 4 more of these will be the cost of the foam panel (IIRC, it was about $16?) and 4 cuts. Then $10 each (or maybe less for one bigger air pump) for the air set up.

    What has sold me on the hydroponics is that it has cured the issues with all the things I could not effectively grow. For things like squash, corn, beans that I always could grow well, and that have big deep roots to get at the soil moisture, I’ll continue to use the dirt garden.

    Oh, one other note:

    The Chinese Broccoli has bolted in the warmer weather as has one of my Cilantro (even though quite small still). I’m OK with them bolting as I want more seeds of each; but as a “note to self” I need to put bolt prone things in the shadier cooler parts of the yard once July comes. One of the unexpected interesting things is that with the hydroponics, you CAN move them around the yard as the weather changes ;-)

    I’m very very happy with my little hydroponics system experiment and I’ll be growing our greens and more this way for years to come. It is more effective, faster, easier, uses less water and costs less than dirt gardening while providing more food way sooner.

    Once I’ve got more experience with it, I hope to do a write up on a “Prepper Package” with “how many grow stations” to cover salads, peas, and a few more bits for 2 people; all of it a stackable “kit” that can sit in the garage awaiting the need… I’ll probably do that over the winter when my outside grow stations will likely be shut down. We get all our rain as monsoons, generally, so they will tend to collect too much water (for the ones with the float inside the rim of the construction tub). That would be a good time to give them a clean out and stack, photo and compute # / person…

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry L:

    Nice find.

    FWIW, the Master Blend stuff can be mixed up as desired for different plants. It costs about $55 for 25 pounds…

    https://www.amazon.com/MASTERBLEND-4-18-38-Complete-Combo-Fertilizer/dp/B071HFDVB2

    The stuff I’ve been using takes 2 or 3 teaspoons ( 10 to 15 ml ) of powder per gallon…
    https://www.amazon.com/General-Hydroponics-MaxiGro-Gardening-2-2-Pound/dp/B00NQANQAC/

    The point being that nutrient cost is so low as to be unimportant. I save more on the water cost than the nutrients add…

    So far everything has grown fine without any “tuning” of the nutrient solution, but that’s an area for me to start exploring. There are particular mixes to promote flowering (for fruiting) or vegetative growth (for all those leafies).

    One other note: Saw a video of someone growing radishes in fruit cups. They used a foam disk with a cut from the side to the center to hold the sprout. As the radish grows, it just compresses the foam. One of those “Oh Duh!” head slap moments… I really love radishes, but between slugs and them splitting from irregular water (dries out then too much then dries out then too much and splits…) they are not that easy here other than very early spring or late fall. I’m looking forward to regular crisp radishes, a few at a time 8-0 ) Maybe after the next set of tubs is up and running…

  25. Larry Ledwick says:

    I found an online calculator for master blend fertilizer mixes.

    https://www.tool-rank.com/tool-blog/editorial/masterblend-hydroponic-fertilizer-calculator-for-any-container-size-201610071988/

    Using it as a verification tool you could probably work up a simple excel spread sheet to mix components to get any target value you want.

    I just ordered some 3.5 gallon black plastic pails from amazon, nice size to play with on the balcony or if necessary bring indoors at night to avoid frosts later in the year.

    Pails
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CMQU960/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00
    lids
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DPJ48GO/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00

    They are also useful for a million other preparations purposes such as setting up a gravity driven water filter.
    This filter is rated at 100,000 gallons filtered to 0.1 micron filter removes 99.99999% of all bacteria and 99.9999% of all protozoa and cysts (also filters 100% of microplastics)

    At 2 gallons a day usage that is enough water for 136 person years of filtered water.

  26. Larry Ledwick says:

    Drat – Forgot filter link:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XZVBSMX

  27. Larry Ledwick says:

    Looks like if you get both of them you can tweak the phosphorus level by mixing the maxibloom with the maxigro and get a better phosphorus profile if you need it.
    (you could also add a bit of coke cola to the mix since it is acidified with phosphoric acid)

    General Hydroponics MaxiBloom
    General Hydroponics MaxiGro

  28. Larry Ledwick says:

    Ok I got bored and went on a little recon trip to the local home and garden shops at Lowes and Home Depot, plus tallied up some info from some on line videos


    Fertilizer mix info aquaponic blends
    ----------------------------------------------------------------- N P K
    Masterblend Tomato Fertilizer ----------------------- 4-18-38
    Masterblend Hi Yield Garden Fertilizer ------------- 8 10 8
    Masterblend Hi Yield tomato & vegetable food --- 4-10-6
    Calcium Nitrate ---------------------------------------------15 - 0 -0
    Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt)

    ---------------------------------------------------- N P K
    Standard Miracle grow --------------------- 24-8-16
    Miracle grow for tomatoes -----------------18-18-21
    (target PH for water = 6.54 - 6.7)

    ======================
    https://hydro-gardens.com/
    8765 Vollmer Rd
    Colorado Springs, CO 80908-4710
    (888) 693-0578 or (719) 495-2266

    https://hydro-gardens.com/product-category/fertilizers/
    https://hydro-gardens.com/product/tomato-formula-25lbs-bag-4-18-38/
    https://hydro-gardens.com/product/cucumber-formula-25lbs-bag-8-16-36/
    https://hydro-gardens.com/product/lettuce-formula-25lbs-bag-8-15-36/
    https://hydro-gardens.com/product/pepper-herb-formula-25lbs-bag-11-11-40/
    https://hydro-gardens.com/product/southern-vegetable-formula-25lbs-bag/

    Master blend mixtures
    Fertilizer mix -------------------- N P K
    tomato target ------------------- 4 - 18 - 38
    cucumber target---------------- 8 - 16 - 36
    lettuce target-------------------- 8 - 15 - 36
    peppers target----------------- 11 - 11 - 40
    SOUTHERN VEGETABLE FORMULA 7 - 14 - 36

    Aquaponic fertilizer mix blends ================


    master blend hydroponic mix for 1 gallon
    2 grams masterblend Tomato
    2 grams calcium nitrate
    1 grams magnesium sulfate


    Hydroponic Fertilizer: What I use
    MB = master blend tomato fertilizer
    CaNO3 = Calcium Nitrate
    MgSO4 = Epsom salt

    5 gallon mix
    for tomatoes 12 g MB + 12 g CaNo3 + 6 g MgSO4 = 20 - 18 - 38 blend
    for lettuce 10 g MB + 10 g CaNo3 + 5 g MgSO4

    one gallon mix
    (vegetative stage) young plants 2 g mb 2g caNo3 1g MgSO4
    (flowering stage ) mature plants 3 g mb 3g caNo3 2g MgSO4

    =======================

    Some other fertilizers available at home depot and lowes garden centers

    Lowes
    Sta-Green 5 # jar
    24 - 8 -16 @ $9.48
    Miracle Grow tomato plant food 1.5# box
    18 - 18 -21 @ $6.98
    Miracle Grow Bloom Booster flower Food 1.5# box
    15 - 30 - 15 @ $6.98

    Home Depot
    Scotts Turf Builder Starter for new grass 3 # bag
    24 - 25 - 4 @10.98

    Miracle Grow all purpose plant food
    5 # square container
    24 - 8 - 16 @ $9.98

  29. Larry Ledwick says:

    Same guy that did the fertilizer mix video, I like his simple low cost approach and practical methods.

    mhpgardener Video clips on dutch bucket systems

    Dutch Bucket Hydroponics – How It Works & How to Make Your Own Buckets

    Dutch Bucket Hydroponic Tomatoes – Lessons Learned and a New Crop

    Dutch Bucket Hydroponics – Tips & Expanding the Reservoir

  30. Larry Ledwick says:

    I just took delivery of the 3.5 gallon buckets I ordered, they look to be identical to the ones in the video in the original post. Still waiting for the lids to arrive but these look promising to play with for a small balcony garden test.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CMQU960/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00

    I also found a nice reference on the Kratky method of growing lettuce (etc) from the University of Hawaii which has lots of good info and descriptions of not only how, but why some decisions are made (for example why to mix the nutrients as two part solutions prior to putting them in the growing beds to avoid chemical reactions that happen at high concentrations)

    https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/vc-1.pdf

  31. Larry Ledwick says:

    Here is another low maintenance option for arid water limited locations – “wicking beds”

    wicking beds – provide water to the plants from the bottom up via capillary action in the bedding material. Not hydroponics per se but have a lot in common with the basic concept of the Kratky buckets in that they self manage watering and require no power once set up, other than occasional top off of the water reservoir which can easily be done by hand.

    short video on wicking bed gardens

    https://vergepermaculture.ca/2011/05/30/guide-to-wicking-beds/

    https://permaculturenews.org/2011/06/20/from-the-bottom-up-a-diy-guide-to-wicking-beds/

  32. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry L:

    I semi-re-invented “wicking beds” with my use of the construction tubs to hold water that drained from pots. I first did this about a decade+ ago, so no idea if I was first, or not.

    The “wicking bed” has a wick like connection from the retained water to the dirt / root ball. I just let the bottom inch of potting soil in a pot serve that purpose, so just make sure there are drain holes in the bottom and set it in a construction tub. Generally letting it run dry once a week (minimum) to control mosquitoes and let the roots have a breather. Sometimes running it more dry than wet if the plants seem watered enough.

    That, BTW, is why I’ve got so many construction tubs to redeploy as hydroponic beds ;-)

    My first success with green onions and my first use of this method was a large rectangular window pot in a tub. Finally could keep the potting soil wet enough for the shallow rooted onions to be happy…

    Also worked with Lima beans, and some Little Marvel peas.

    Drying of the top layer of soil, here, can be quite extreme when it is July and August with humidity near nothing, heat over 90 F, and constant full sun… I’ve watered in the morning and found the top several inches of soil dead dry in the afternoon… Similarly, I’ve watered thoroughly only to find only the top inch wet as there was a layer so dry water would not enter just below that…

    So the construction tubs were tried, and were a big success. Now I’ve found something even better ;-)

    Oh, sidebar on Kalards (my Dinosaur Kale / Green Glaze Collards / Purple Cabbage cross):

    Harvested a large pile of leaves today from the first hydroponic bed. It is now less over grown ;-)

    In a large cast iron skillet, chop up 3 or 4 slices of bacon into 1 inch chunks. (Covers about 3/4 of the bottom of the pan). Add a similar volume of chopped onion. On medium high, sautee the onion in the bacon grease as it renders out. When it’s about done rendering, pile the leaves ( previously washed and cut into finger sized bits or torn into playing card sized chunks) on top. Turn and mix ever few minutes until the green wilt and cook some. Salt and pepper as you like it. One final stir and onto the plates.

    My Kalards were not bitter like Collards often are when prepared similarly. They also have a thicker and softer leaf with a sweeter flavor (a bit more like cabbage that way but with color like kale – though some have the ‘glaze’ finish of Green Glaze and some are dusky like Dinosaur Kale – still trying to stabilize that trait). A generally milder flavored and better textured dish, IMHO.

    In any case, I liked it so much at ate 2 big bowls of it as lunch ;-)

    One batch makes enough for one big bowl (so serves 2 or 3 as a side dish), so I made two batches to get my 2 big bowls…

    I’ll be growing hydroponic choy for stir fry and fried rice, but Kalards for “bacon fried greens” ;-)

    As these are biannual for seed savings, I’ll still need to grow out a patch in dirt every so often to overwinter to get a new batch of seeds. OTOH, I’ve got a few years supply of seeds at my present rate of use ;-) But I do want to “breed up” the glaze trait and get to a more purple tinted form. As of now, most are green and only a few a green-purple. The all still grow great and have the flavor / easy growing / heat resistance and other traits I wanted, so I’m happy with all the F3 and F4 or so that I’m now growing; but I have my target preference on the aesthetics side ;-)

    These guys grow Just Fine here in winter (thanks to the Dinosaur Kale I think) and in August heat (thanks to the Green Glaze Collards) while not having the strong Kale flavor not any Collards bitters (thanks to the cabbage component in Green Glaze AND the purple cabbage).

    FWIW, part of how I tracked the crossing success was the “dusky dark” color from the Kale and the purple from the Cabbage showing up in Green Glaze parent seeds. Made it easier to know I’d gotten an F1 cross. Then just restrict next generation plantings to seeds from those plants with “mixed ancestry”. It is a fairly easy cross to make and track.

  33. Larry Ledwick says:

    Last night I was looking at propagating plants by cuttings, online looks like a great way to rapidly expand your plantings without dipping into seed stocks.

    I wonder if you could take one of the leaves from the Kalard you like and drop it in a glass of water and see if it roots easily, if so, no seed necessary for a while as you can carry the plant over via cuttings during the winter in a small window vase or similar.

    Works especially well if you have a bit of the rooting hormone if the plant needs a little help setting roots in the water.

    https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/tomato/tomato-plant-suckers.htm

    https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/tomato/starting-tomato-cuttings.htm

    https://northernhomestead.com/how-to-grow-tomatoes-from-cuttings/

    https://lovelygreens.com/propagate-tomato-plants-cuttings/

    https://www.apieceofrainbow.com/how-to-root-tomato-plants/

    https://www.apieceofrainbow.com/grow-tomatoes-100-lbs-20sf/

    https://thegardeningcook.com/propagating-tomato-plants-with-cuttings/

    https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/how-to-grow-tomato-plants-from-cuttings/

  34. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry L:

    You can root just about anything. In the limit case, my Alma Mater developed plant cloning to the point where you start with a small scalpel sample and petri dish.

    For the Kalards: They over winter just fine in the garden here. In fact, they generally continue to slowly grow here. Many “cool season” crops just LOVE the California “winter”… For a LOT of plants, I can grow them better in winter than in summer.

    Soil is wet. Temperatures don’t make them bolt or dry out. Bugs less. etc.

    Fava Beans just love it, as does pretty much any cole / brassica. (To some extent, I’m being stubborn trying to grow one of them in the summer heat. The Chinese Broccoli just bolted straight to seed…)

    So I’ve just left a patch to over winter and harvested (way too much…) seed the following spring. I have a LOT of it in storage. Enough for a few years worth at present use rates even with consistent hydroponic grows.

    But, per cloning:

    Yeah, I’m slowly getting experience with it. I have a very nice Kratky jar of Basil on my window ledge in front of me, cloned from the batch I set out in the garden… than inside a week had bolted to seed and gotten a strong flavor. Sigh.

    So one of my goals is to set up an inside grow with cooler temps and modest light so my cool season herbs and vegetables can be grown in summer and NOT bolt to seed.

    It looks like the best simple technique is to bed the cuttings in damp sand, covered to keep moisture high, at about room temperature, and wait a month… I’ll be trying that next time I get some sand.

    The Kalards make a stem about 3 to 4 foot high (and lots of nummy leaves along the way…) and then in spring make a big batch of flowers. These end up making pods rather like skinny radish pods or cabbage seed pods. Hard, about 3/16 inch diameter and about 2 to 3 inches long. Unlike radishes, these pods split easily long ways and out come the small round dark seeds. You get several hundred from one plant, and I was growing about a dozen of them to have a better chance of some crosses being what I wanted. At this point (after the hiatus in Florida) I’ve lost track of what all I’ve got in the seed freezer, but it is a LOT.

    Since this latest trial was with some “lesser desirable” seeds that were just stored in the fridge for several years, and they are about 100 % germination, well, I’ve got seeds…

    So on my “someday” list is to just plant out another dozen or 2 dozen plants, then rogue out ALL the ones that are not somewhat purple and with gloss. That cross ought to stabilize that trait as being in most of the seeds from them. That, then, just takes a bit of rogue out for any future seed grows to “stabilize the cross”.

    What I’m growing right now is some of my oldest seeds, and labeled as “I THINK it is a THIS grown near a THAT” so NOT one of my careful seed grow batches with ascension noted and with selection for desired traits. IIRC, I’ve already got a couple of purple / glossy selected batches in the freezer. I intend to look for them about September for an over winter trial / crop / seed duplication; (The idea with this present batch was to just use them up and ‘waste’ them on the hydroponics play / test… Little did I know ;-)

    FWIW, one of the BIG surprises for me with seed saving was just how rapidly you end up with way too much seed.

    Take the 8 Ball Squash. Took my oldest packet and started, maybe 6 plants. Now, late in the season and with several of them “got away from me and run to seed”, I’ve seeded out, fermented, dried, and packaged a few hundreds of 8 Ball seeds. A lifetime supply of renewed seeds with a “now” date. Essentially from being lazy in the garden.

    At this point the Acorn and Yellow squash have started to bloom / set so I need to NOT collect any more 8 Ball seeds AND ought to turn them to compost (as they are wearing out anyway). Then I’ll be in a position to choose to save yellow straight neck or Carnival Acorn seeds (or a cross of them) later in the season.

    All three of these are Pepo type, so easily hybridize. Makes for some interesting mules if you let them play together. I once let a light yellow patty pan (also Pepo) cross with a light green zucchini. This was basically an accidental contamination of one of my plants, but I figured “let’s see” anyway. The result is a very nice lime green very thin skinned oblate spheroid squash about small fist sized. I saved seeds from it somewhere too. “Someday” I want to grow it out again and see how stable it is.

    But really, my favorite is a yellow zucchini. Nice thin skin. Good flavor. LOTS of production and in some ways most important: I can easily SEE all the fruit so I don’t end up with a SURPRISE! giant one over the weekend… and suddenly I’m in seed production mode… But it is slower than the 8 Ball for first production so every year I end up with too much 8 Ball and not starting the yellow zucchini in time. (This year I did a yellow straight neck instead as the spouse likes it. Baby fruit forming now…)

    So, FWIW, saving seed is very easy for a lot of plants. Mostly you just leave them alone to do what they want to do already… then clean and bag it. IF you are sloppy about it, you might get some interesting “mules” or some new gem. The only real “problem” I’ve had is bean beetles or weevils in the dry beans. For them, I shell them out, into a jar, and freeze them for a couple of weeks. Kills the weevil eggs and all is good.

    So, in essence, to get more of the Kalards seeds of the kind I want:

    1) Plant a big patch, like a 4 x 4 foot square.

    2) Rogue out the off type. (Some traits show up very early, so things with any red stems are likely purplish and things that are glossy tend to stay glossy).

    3) Harvest and eat leaves from them but only slower than they make new ones.

    4) Toward the end of the season, rogue out any that as adults didn’t get the type characteristics you wanted, or where the flavor was not as desired. (Hot and bitter ones don’t survive the summer…)

    5) Ignore them over winter.

    6) In spring, weed and wait. Let them run to seed. When drying pods (about mid summer / early fall here) collect the pods. Let them dry in a basket on the patio if not completely dry yet.

    7) Shell out, package, label, freeze or refrigerate.

    I’ve done it all many times. Bi-annuals are the hardest as they have that “over winter and wait” step that is not present in the annuals. Beans and squash are nearly trivial. Change the “In Spring” to “In Fall” and leave out the weed and drastically shorten the “wait”…

  35. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh, and I probably ought to mention that part of the reason for doing the “cross and recross” instead of just cloning a purple glaze individual is that process of “stabilizing the cross”. I don’t have as my goal an unstable F1 or F2 hybrid that must be cloned to stay on type. My goal is to get the genes blended into enough individuals so that every time they make seeds it is “on type”. That process is called ‘stabilizing the cross” and takes many generations. But in the end you have a stable type with only very few off type “rogues” to “rogue out” when planting.

    But yes, if I wanted a lot of glazed and purple fast, I’d just plant a 20 x 20 foot area, and take clones from whatever individuals were of the type I wanted… MUCH faster. But I’m not all that interested in faster as I enjoy playing with my plants ;-)

  36. Larry Ledwick says:

    The thing that fascinated me about propagating plants by cuttings, is the idea of if you have limited seed, you start one or two seeds in the house and if they sprout and grow, then every week or two take a cutting from the growing plants and root it then plant, and you automatically get a series of plants which will be in different stages of development so all your harvest does not come in at the same time, and by taking the cuttings you are basically squaring the number of plants every time you do it, and one or two good seeds can fill a garden with a dozen or so plants very quickly so when the weather gets warm enough for planting you have maybe 4 or more fairly mature plants to move to the garden and then quickly create several more in the early part of the growing season.

    This will also prevent you having all the plants in a critical phase of development at the same time so a hot dry spell or light frost is less likely to take out the entire crop.

    If you used it aggressively even with only a handful of stored seeds in the freezer, you could feed several dozen people with a little effort and a decent sized garden plot.

  37. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry L:

    Oh, Yes!

    That’s basically what I’m doing with the Basil. I’d intended to plant it out to the garden for “production” but the heat and it bolted. So I decided “OK, let it run to seed” and just took a couple of cuttings to root so as to get some NOT bolting for in the house production in a Kratky jar.

    IF you were short of seeds, it’s an ideal way of continuing to produce food without starting seeds again.

    Given my annoyance with Rock Wool, I’m likely to use it for things like future celery starts (Why I was willing to spend $1 / plant in a 6 pack when that buys a fully grown one at the grocery store…). So my intent to to practice rooting a bit of the celery I now have growing as an experiment / skill building exercise.

    I’d also like to do something similar with lettuce and choi. Right now I’m stuck in the seed timing loop and I’d rather be in a “clone one a week” loop. But I’ll need to work on that some other day…

    The onion I’m choosing to grow is an allium fistulosum so is a green onion that “splits” (or basically makes it’s own clone) at maturity. The idea being to never need to plant / start seeds again just by letting them grow bigger than your usual “green onion”.

    So yeah, I’m headed that way. Just very slowly…

  38. E.M.Smith says:

    Hopefully a last update of the season:

    I’m harvesting more “Lemon Cucumbers” than I regularly eat off of one small vine in a hydroponics float. Things with a lot of leaf are like squash and cucumbers do work, but watch the fluid levels.

    The “dirt garden” has done what it often does about this time of year. The bits of Bermuda grass stolons and seeds that were missed in the prep, come roaring back and about now have taken over the lower levels of the plots.

    Yes, I could spend hours hand weeding it (and have some years) but it’s easier to just wrap up the plot for the year. I’d hit it with roundup if I trusted roundup…

    Once again the “no weeds” aspect of the hydroponics is calling my name….

    FWIW, I’ve had a lot easier time of success with the floats in tubs. The Kratky and the aerated crate are both more “picky”. So “going forward” I’ll likely standardize on the tubs for outdoors. Indoors I’m going to try a crate based aeroponic system just to try reducing the pounds of water per unit floor (floor loading on 4 x 1 inch legs would be rather high with 600 lbs of water on shelves…) but “we’ll see”.

    The green onions have done fine. It’s hard to get them started then to scallion stage, but after that, they take off. I may go to a bottom watered medium for the smaller starts.

    For things with lots of sprawl and leaf area (squash / cucumbers) I want to make a float with just one or two holes in it so it gets the whole tub to itself ;-) Let water maintenance needed then.

    So there you go.

    My plan at this point is to shutdown the dirt garden squares, run off the outdoor tubs, then get it all cleaned up and stowed by about end of October. That’s when our winter starts to set it, plus we’re likely to take some road time then, so …

    All of which means not much more likely to be said about hydroponics until many months from now.

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