Saturday, August 2, 2008

Starting Plants

Getting plants started is pretty much the same as with ordinary gardening except that you generally want to start them in a passive, non-organically based medium. The main reason for that is to make sure you don't get either disease organisms or a medium that will distribute particulates into your nutrient solution where, if you're using NFT or other methods that require pumps, the particulates can interfere with the pumps.
The picture here is of a cucumber plant started in a perlite cup and embedded into a hole cut in a 4" diameter 10' long PVC channel which nutrient flows down. To prepare the cup I generally put a little loose rockwool in the bottom of the cup after cutting triangular cuts in the bottom sides of the cup which I fold out. The rockwool fills the cup to over the height of the triangular cuts so that the perlite that I put on top doesn't have a chance to flow out into the nutrient solution. The use of the perlite ensures that there is a portion of the root zone that is easily accessible to oxygen and keeps the cucumber roots from being too flooded over their whole length. My experience is that the cucumbers like this a bit better than just being rooted in rockwool cubes.
I position the cup in the channel so that the holes lie directly in the line of nutrient flow. When the roots get down to the holes they exit into the nutrient flow directly so the plant always has lots of nutrition. That's really all there is to it though. It's pretty simple.

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