I must be one of the biggest failures in growing things in a hydroponics setup, I think. Currently, I’ve been experimenting with hydroponics for maybe around two months, and perhaps I’ll chart my progress and experiments to see what I’ve tried, and also which setup seems to have worked the best.
1. I bought a pre-made hydro. setup from OCH. It cost $10, and came with a styrofoam box which could hold up to eight net pots; fine vermiculite; leca bits (aka expanded clay bits, stands for Light Expanded Clay Aggregate | the common brand in the market is called Hydroton); and two packets of seeds. I haven’t tried the seeds at all, but used the net pots, leca and vermiculite placed in a small container of hydroponics solution to germinate some other seeds. Perhaps the other seeds were no good (such as Horti), so absolutely nothing germinated. I got discouraged, and since dad wouldn’t let me take up space with the box, I left hydroponics on hold.
2. After reading of some people on GCS having done and are still doing hydro, my interest was regained. 42ndFloor’s posts on hydro also aroused my curiosity, and I began to research on alternative methods to grow plants using water.
3. I experimented with using leca bits again, but on a much smaller scale. I filled the net pots with leca and fine vermiculite, and stood them in a small container of solution. Things grew, but not well. They seem stunted. Also, the fine vermi. kept leaking out of the net pots. It annoyed me, so I stopped this method.
4. Tried the other “common” method of germination, which is in starting cubes I made on my own. They sprouted pretty quickly and pretty well. But when the roots got too deep, they were hard to remove from the cubes without damaging the plants. I didn’t quite like the idea of having the roots grow out the other side of the cube before squashing them at the mouth of a drinking bottle, so another idea scrapped. Excellent sprouting method, though.
5. My best experiment comparison and success came when I went to Ban Lee Huat to buy GOOD seeds at a really cheap rate. Since kangkong (water convovulus/water spinach) seeds were quite large, I decided to use them in my experiment. So, I sowed kangkong seeds in soil and in a small (1/8 the size of a 500ml drinking bottle) container filled with leca bits and just poured the solution directly into it.
6. Halfway through, I took out two of the sprouts from the container of leca bits and placed those two in pure hydroponics solution without anything (inspired by 42ndFloor’s method for her lettuce).
7. It’s been about a month. Upon comparison, the kangkongs in leca bits are in 3rd place in terms of growth; the ones in soil are in 2nd place; the ones in pure hydro solution are 1st. I figured that the soil ones grew better than the leca ones because of the size of the container I’ve used. Even though in hydro, nutrients can get to roots easily because they are in liquid form, root balls still need space to grow. I retarded their growth by constraining them in too tight a space.
8. I’ve realized that it’s best to do germination in pure vermiculite moistened with hydroponics solution, covered with a transparent lid, and left in a bright place. When the seeds are about 3cm long, then they can be transferred very easily to pure hydroponics solution, since they’re not so fragile then and I can use rooting cubes to hold them in place. It’s one step more, but I can do it in less than 15 minutes, because vermiculite is loose, and the roots come out easily.
So, in conclusion, I am going to sow my vegetable seeds using #8, then transfer to pure hydro solution.
Good news is, my kangkongs are almost ready to be harvested. At least this experiment is one I can eat. =D