DIY Home Hydroponics Garden – Part 1

Part 1 – Seeding

Today I decided to take some time off of the computer and start a hydroponics or soil-less (yup, you read that right) garden.  In case you didn’t know, you can grow plants these days without soil and actually it is done quite a bit in the floriculture industry where they use soil-less media (the stuff they put in the pots to replace the soil).  So if there is no soil, where do the nutrients, those essential macro and micro elements that the plants need to grow come from? Good question.  The nutrients are added to the irrigation water as well as to the soil-less media.  This ensures that the plants have the nutrients that they need to grow, but at the same time the plants benefit from the superior characteristics of soil-less media, compared to soil, such as being bad microorganism free (viruses and such), good drainage, good water holding capacity, and so on.

In the hydroponics setup that I will be doing, all the nutrients that the plants need will actually be in the irrigation water or nutrient solution, and actually, the plant roots will be constantly submersed in this nutrient solution.  If that doesn’t really make sense now or if you can’t imagine it now, that’s okay.  Just hang around this blog for the next few weeks and you will see.

I will hopefully be leaving for grad school in January (hopefully – still waiting on acceptance), so I decided to keep things small and a little bit more manageable.  I decided to only plant lettuce and cauliflower this time around (last time i had some tomatoes and maybe some other stuff, I’ve forgotten).  I know the lettuce grow really fast and I think the cauliflower will take around 45 days or so, so I should be harvesting the cauliflower before Christmas.

picture of different packages of seeds

various seeds I had on hand

I found the plug tray that I used the last time.  It is a little beat up but it works.  I dumped the soil-less media and spread it around, lightly packing it in.  You should be able to buy soil-less media at Home Depot or someplace like that.  I’m in the Philippines right now so I’m not sure where you can get that stuff in the US, but it should be readily available.  I bought mine at someplace like City Hardware.  Any store with a garden and lawn section should have some.  The clear bag with the brown stuff in it is coconut coir dust, which makes a really good soil-less media.  I’m not sure if you can get coir dust there, but there is plenty of it here in the Philippines and it usually comes in compact, dehydrated blocks.

bags of soil-less media and the beat up plug tray

bags of soil-less media and the beat up plug tray

I only filled up 4 rows of holes, around 24 holes.  I decided on having only 12 lettuce plants and 12 cauliflower plants.  Yeah, I know, not very many, but this is just a hobby and something that I’m doing for fun.  :)  After filling in the plug tray I watered the media and then used a broken, plastic, disposable fork to poke little holes for the seeds.  I didn’t make them very deep, less than a quarter of an inch.  I then put cauliflower seeds in the first 2 rows from the right (excluding the 4 holes on the very right) and lettuce seeds in the next two rows.

soaked plug tray

soaked/watered plug tray

placing the seeds in the little holes

dropping the seeds into the little holes - seeding the plug tray

I decided to plant some Petunias as well.  I filled up a plastic planting box with the coconut coir dust as well as some soil-less media from the red plastic bag.  I then watered it and scattered the tiny tiny petunia seeds.  I hope they will grow.  I haven’t had much success with petunias in the past.  After seeding and watering I placed both the plug tray and the petunia box out in the sun, not in the shade.

Petunia Box!

Petunia Box!

Another thing I want to do is to grow strawberries from seeds.  I bought the seeds from eBay.  I’ve got two varieties, Ever-bearing Picnic Strawberry and Ogalalla Strawberry.   The label on the back of the bags says to put them in the fridge for four weeks.  So I placed the two bags in a bigger zipped lock bag and put the seeds in the fridge.  I hope I remember 4 weeks from today to take them out and plant them.

Strawberry Seeds

Strawberry Seeds

Well, this is just the beginning of my hydroponics garden.  I hope you learned something.  Stick around because there is more to come.

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