*Kratky Hydroponics - Fast, Easy and Cheap Salads*
31 October 2020
I love the idea of "plant it and forget it" gardening, so when I learned about Kratky I was all in.
Here's what I did: Started lettuce seeds. Located a plastic bottle and spray painted it. At one week old, I transferred the seedling to a net pot and drilled a hole into my painted bottle - the size for my net pot. Next, I mixed fertilizer and water and poured it into the bottle, inserted the net pot with seedling and placed my bottle on a window sill with good light.
Then I left it alone. I didn't add any more water. Didn't test pH, didn't do anything. After about three weeks I started harvesting lettuce. It was that easy. No pumps, no bubblers and no lights – no electricity.
You can find many YouTube videos that explain the Kratky Method but basically it works because as the plant grows it uses the nutrient water. As the water level is drawn down it leaves a space at the top for the roots to breathe. The top roots breathe while the lower roots feed.
You can purchase net cups but I recycled small jello, yogurt and pudding plastic containers and drilled holes in the bottom and sides. Any small (2 oz to 4 oz) plastic drinking cup will also work.
Many people start seeds in a product called rock wool for hydroponics. The only problem with rock wool is that it's a one-time use item. I started seeds in dirt. When transferring them to my "net pots" I inserted the seedling and then filled the net cup with perlite to support the plant.
Most people fill their pots with clay pebbles instead of perlite. Clay pebbles are another item unique to hydroponics. I used what I had on hand.
I like the square, plastic, 64 oz. juice bottles because they sit nice on my window sill.
You'll find many creative ways on YouTube that people block sunlight from getting into the bottle, thus reducing algae. I chose paint. I first used black but found the roots were baking. Black might work in the winter to keep them warm but for spring and summer I decided to use black then applied a second coat in a light color to reflect the sun.
Add only enough nutrient water to cover 1/8" to 1/4" of the net pot. If you fill it up you'll drown the seedling. I had trouble seeing the water level inside the painted vessel so I made a "dip stick," marking 1/4" up from the bottom of my net cup on a popsicle stick so I can better see where to fill the water.
The choice of fertilizer is important. Preferred by many is MasterBlend®. It is a 4-18-36 fertilizer that is very inexpensive. It's best when combined with magnesium sulfate (epson salt) and calcium nitrate. Miracle Grow worked but after some experimenting, it appeared to me that a fertilizer made specifically for hydroponics produces faster, prettier and tastier foods.
Fertilizer is the only item I purchased. I purchased a multi-part kit from Amazon. I chose to buy dry fertilizer and mix it with water rather than to buy a pre-mixed, liquid fertilizer. I can't see paying for water. Dry fertilizer is also space-efficient for storing.
Mixing MasterBlend is easy. It's recommended to mix in grams so a scale is needed for accurate measuring but I just used teaspoons. This system is forgiving and pretty much foul proof.
My hydroponics equipment-shelf is very tidy with minimum equipment. About 18" x 24" is about all the space my hydroponics supplies require as compared to having a shed full of in-the-ground gardening supplies! I've also branched out, successfully growing radish, bok choy, spinach, kale and cherry tomatoes in a variety of containers. Still working on beans, peas, cucumbers and strawberries.
The Kratky Method of hydroponics is cheap, easy to get started with and space efficient. I can use free, recycled trash. Kratky will allow me to supplement food storage with healthy, fresh, crunchy salads. It will allow me to garden indoors, if I choose, year round and with little time investment. Krakty plants grows fast, it looks beautiful and it's very tasty.
MasterBlend Kit: $25
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