May 27, 2010

The Grow Op

Hi all!

My hubby, as I call him on my blog, does a lot of baking and gardening at our home too. He often does the things I'm not so interested in, which works out for me! So, I asked him to write up a blogpost. I thought it would interest some of you and give a different flavor on my blog to have him post once in a while about it. Here he writes about growing hydroponic tomatoes in our basement.

Please welcome my hubby, Klaus!


The Vegetable Grow-Op

It started off as a way to start seeds indoors since our growing season leaves much to be desired. The first time I planted my first tomatoes, at the beginning of March, it turns out that it was way too early. The plants were about 2 feet tall and starting to get small tomatoes by the time I was able to move them outside.

The following year I got bolder. I built a rack, got various size pots for transplanting, started them a bit later, and also started peas, chard, onions and squash. I hung up a fluorescent light fixture, and everything mostly thrived. Until the aphid infestation and a slow-start to the growing season. Oh well, live and learn. The most curious thing that year was the spontaneous appearance of a massive bumble bee. Did I forget to mention, this setup is in the basement, in a closed-off furnace room?

This year I started down a similar path, cleaned all my pots, and used fresh soil. But I bumped the lighting and tweaked the spectrum. Turns out cool white lamps are good for leafy growth, warm/soft lights are good for flowering. Last year I only had soft/warm, and my tomatoes were a bit spindly.

Now, with the new lighting, the growth is pretty amazing and the roots quickly started growing out the bottom of the pots, and these were already my bigger pots. I had considered hydroponics in the past, but always rejected the idea because it seemed like too much work: testing pH, checking chemicals, etc. But I took the plunge. The irony is, hydroponics turned out to be less work than soil based, and the results are unbelievable!

My setup is kind of a hybrid system as I didn't want to disturb the roots of my plants. I basically suspended the pots just above a hydroponic solution and put Air Stones (for fish tanks) under the roots. This makes the solution bubble up to the bottom of the pots and the roots.

A second setup is more true hydroponics, where i knocked the soil off the roots of smaller plants, and embedded them in rock wool insulation (similar to fiber glass insulation). Then I suspended that in a tub and used an old, small pond pump to occasionally spray the solution onto the pots from the side. A better approach would probably be to set up drip irrigation, i.e. pump solution to top of plants, but I just used what I had around the house. I also set up a fan on the same timer as pump to encourage strong stems and wind pollination.

The reason it's so low maintenance is because you only change the solution once every 2 weeks, and in the meantime you do pretty much nothing but watch 'em grow! Here are some pictures of the tomatoes that have grown.

Hydroponically Grown Tomatoes


A Canadian Foodie said...

I am super impressed. I am really interested in what you are doing. I want to do this, too.... so will you mind keeping me informed and being my mentor throughout this next winter? I have a huge unfinished portion in the basement that I can use... and just really need a mentor. That's me. A chicken sometimes, but when I find someone who can do something well... watch out! Will you take me on as your new project?
Please? I am serious... and I am pretty sure my hubby will get involved and help me with this, too. What a GREAT idea.
(...and, Maki, not like my macaron begging - where you just check back to see if I get help somewhere else... I have my finger on YOU! )
:) :) :)
Amazing stuff!

Your Sister said...

Wow! Those are the tomatoes in your basement? That's fantastic!

Maki said...

Valerie, your hilarious! With you being unleashed in the blog world, you are very much like a kid in the candy store!!! hahaha.

Look, you'll have to convince my hubby Klaus. I have absolutely no idea in the slightest about what is going on in my basement. Can't help you with macaroons since I've never made any but I did give you some pointers in camera buying, if I remember :) Good luck!

Kiki: I know! I was shocked because I never go into the furnace room so I haven't seen the tomato plants since they were small! I was so shocked!

coffee girl said...

Wow that is truly impressive! Those are some quality home grown May no doubt!

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