Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Beginning A Recap

Recapitulation of my Hydroponics Adventures seems like a fun thing to do so I thought I'd start updating my blog with a little retrospective of how I got started with hydroponics.

Frankly it all started with bad gardening experiences.  Don't get me wrong, I like gardening.  I just don't like digging around in dirt.  I don't like mulching.  I don't like bugs.  I really don't like slugs.  I don't like weeds.  Whenever I did gardening it seemed like all of those things as well as others like critters would come out of the woodwork or maybe just out of the woods to mess up my plants by eating them, crawling on them, giving them diseases, splitting the tomatoes and generally spoiling the experience.

I'm also a computer person since I am, among other fun technical things, a computer programmer.  So I was a fairly early adopter of personal computers and even ran what was called a bulletin board in the early 1980's in Minnesota in the Twin Cities area called Terminal Station.  HERE is a peek at the past.  I got into email and message boards pretty early and so it was natural when I got to wondering "What's that hydroponics stuff I've read science fiction about anyway?" to look around and see if there was an interest group.  Well I found one and started reading about what hobbyists were doing and though, "That doesn't sound too hard, I think I'll try it."

Of course the first thing you need to do if you're a scientist type is do some literature research so I started reading books.  Here's a picture of some of the books I acquired and read up on as I tryied to learn more about hydroponics.
As I read the books I ran into lots of ideas for hydroponics systems.  Some were very simple like wick systems where you just dipped a wick into a nutrient (fertilizer) solution and it clued the plants in to where to find nutrition.  Others were a lot fancier requiring pumps and timers and instruments.  They all sounded like great fun so I decided to make a few systems to try it out.  My wife gave me permission to set systems up on the side deck of the house and I was off and running.

The problem was that there were so many kinds of systems and people on the message board kept talking about different kinds of systems so that no sooner did I get one system going that it seemed like a good idea to set up another.  It wasn't very long before I had the whole deck covered with systems.

I had a Nutrient Flow Technique (NFT) system.  I had a flood and drain system.  I had a wick system.  I had a sort of passive valve system that was supposed to add its own nutrient by gravity feed whenever the plants drew the nutrient down enough.
Pretty soon the deck was covered with systems.  I learned a lot that first summer of 1997.  Meanwhile, the editor of The Growing Edge came on the message board looking for a hydroponics hobbyist to write articles.  I sent her some email and pictures of what I was doing and she asked me to write an article.  What could be greater than combining my hydroponics hobby with one of my other loves, writing.  That was the launch of a fun association with The Growing Edge, sadly no longer published having met the fate of so many other specialty magazines.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Weedless Garden: What's Next?

I gave my talk on Hobby Hydroponics at the library in Harrisonburg this afternoon.  It's always a lot of fun for me and the folks that came seemed to enjoy it.  In the talk I cover hydroponics basics and talk about the various kinds of systems I've made over the years.  HERE is a link to one of my early stories for The Growing Edge magazine which is no longer published having met the fate of many small specialty magazine with the growing dominance of the internet.  I think I'll have to put together some sort of mosaic image showing all the different system designs I've played with over the years.

I really like the nutrient film technique (NFT) systems but they need continuous flow which means if you lose power you may have a problem since the flow stops so you might want to ensure that there is a little nutrient retention in the design to keep the plants from drying out if that happens.

I'm also growing increasingly fond of float systems but I don't have a good tomato support design for those.  I really want to get back to doing hydroponics and giving talks like I did today are very self-motivational.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summarizing The Journey

The hydroponics adventure I've been on since sometime in the 1990s has been slowing down of late mostly due to an injury I sustained when I fell and tore my medial tendon in my right leg.  That had to be surgically repaired but all the injury wasn't reversible so I've been pretty cautious about walking around especially on hills and grass outside.  As you can imagine that puts a crimp in one's hydroponics style.

Wife and I were talking about getting a small hobby greenhouse because in our new house in Woodstock, Virginia (about forty miles from Harrisonburg, Virginia where we used to live and moved from in 2012) we have discovered that there are quite a few deer shopping for treats so if you expect to grow tomatoes, for example, in an NFT system like I've usually done, the deer will be thrilled and come and eat all your tomatoes.  Whatever system you build needs to be deer-proofed.

I thought a little LINK PAGE might be helpful so herewith are links which can be used to check out hydroponics topics.  I may add to this as time goes on.  To return from a link just hit your browser's back arrow button.


1, Starting Plants in Rockwool Cubes  SEE HERE
2. A fairly simple NFT system design  SEE HERE
3. Preparing your nutrient solution (here using TotalGro) SEE HERE
4. Keeping data as you experiment  SEE HERE
5. The baby pool float system adventure SEE HERE Design
6.  (a) Here it comes! SEE HERE
7.  (b) Early in the adventure SEE HERE
8.  (c) A little later SEE HERE
9.  (d) Tomatoes need supports and we can't sink the float SEE HERE
10.(e) Did we mention jungle phase? SEE HERE

That's probably enough for now.  I'll probably add to this later if the inspiration so moves me.  Meanwhile I'm still thinking about a small tomato system that would be deer-proof and easy to manage maybe right off the back patio.