Well I am the first to admit, I had never heard of hydroponics let alone grown anything using the method.
I love growing things, both indoor and outdoor, though I am a bit of a traditionalist using soil or compost. However that is where the traditionalist leaves as I like to grow salad leaves in recycled tins, potatoes in buckets and kitchen scraps in upcycled Costa coffee cups. This was a whole new ball game: Commence Operation #Hydroponics.
I received a message from Melissa, the project leader for the Live LAGOM project…
‘…you have been randomly selected to try one of our new secret products, we’d love to send it to you!‘
Well I didn’t need asking twice…how exciting…what could it be…
The next day a large box arrived with what I thought was an indoor greenhouse…wrong. I was now the proud owner of a prototype hydroponics kit KRYDDA/VAXER. Ikea were bringing hydroponics to the masses and I was one of the first people to trial it. The kit looked like it should be in a science lab (which is what it had been used for commercially)and I should be wearing a white coat, goggles and mask working in a sterile unit not my home 🙂
The term Hydroponics comes from the ancient Greek ‘hydros’ meaning water and ‘ponos’ meaning work. Plants are grown without the use of soil but in water with nutrients dissolved in it and depending on the hydroponic system: roots are suspended in, flooded in or misted with nutrient solution so the plant can gain all it needs for growth.
Back to my parcel…I unpacked the box, read and digested the information and got to work creating my hydroponics lab! In my dining room which does have a conservatory style glass roof.
The KRYDDA/VAXER growing kit (currently on sale in Ikea shops at £58) consists of a nursery and sprout box with clear lid, a metal cultivation unit, LED cultivation light, cultivation insert, growing media (mineral wool and pumice stone) and fertiliser. I also had a selection of seeds specially designed for hydroponics – Lemon Basil, Purple Basil, Endive, Chicory, Rocket and Coriander. Luckily all the salad leaves I eat.
I soaked the mineral wool growing media in water before putting them into the individual plastic inserts.
I put a couple of seeds onto each of the mineral wool plugs and labelled the row ends so I knew what was growing where and how long they took to sprout. Each set of seeds has a different germinating time like any soil based seeds.
Next step was to fill the base to the max line, with water. A word of caution here: Make sure you set up your kit in the location it is staying in as it becomes very heavy and difficult to move once the base is full of water! (My first mistake was to have to move it to a different location after it had been set up!)
After I had decided where it was going to live I put the clear plastic lid on top and left it to it. Although I had been provided with an LED cultivating light I decided not to use it for the nursery growing stage. The seeds had been placed in an area with lots of natural light and was warm and snug with its plastic lid on.
The next week was a mass of activity from both the seeds and me! Seeds were germinating and sprouting upwards, I was taking pictures daily to post on Facebook & Instagram and I spent a lot of time just watching…they really are fascinating to look at.
After 3 days I had my first seedlings, Rocket was the first one to sprout with the two types of Basil being the last. The root system that eventually grows hanging down from the wool pods, looks like something out of Alien.
After a week the Rocket was ready to move to the next stage and grow on using pumice. This was where I made my second mistake. In my haste to move the seedlings on and because I had a prototype all the instructions were in Swedish so I made up/guessed the quantity of fertiliser needed to be added to the water in the cultivation unit base. It was wrong! I had added 1 lid full to a litre of water (it was actually 1 lid full to 6 litres of water I found out later) Disaster…I killed all 8 of the seedlings I had moved! I couldn’t believe how upset I was…after all their hard work converting the suns energy I had managed to kill them in less than a day.
A quick message to Melissa to translate and I found out all I needed to know to try again. The good thing about the nursery unit is that you grow 50 seedlings so plenty more for me to transfer and have a go at growing on!
I decided that I would move a selection of seedlings this time as more had grown on and even the one pod that hadn’t shown any interest in growing, decided to suddenly sprout. Result!
I have to say I still haven’t perfected this stage and the seedlings that are still growing in the nursery are doing far better than the ones I have moved.
As you can see from the picture right I have more salad leaves growing on the mineral wool pods (nursery) than I do in the cultivating stage.
What I have learnt from this experience?
- The seedlings do not like to be handled too much, once transferred leave them alone!
- Make sure you set everything up in the location before adding the water to either of the bases. Very heavy and unstable when you need to move it and they hold A LOT of water!
- Check the water content daily in both bases it can disappear quickly on a warm day
- Have a mixture of fertiliser ready to top up the levels with. I used an old squash bottle 🙂
- Grow a selection of seeds as they all sprout at different times, it means you have a constant supply of new seedlings or leaves to cut.
- Don’t give up of get disheartened if it goes wrong.
- The WOW! factor when anyone comes round is a real winner. Everyone wants to know more…be prepared to chat about it for A-G-E-S 😉
To date I am still yet to taste the salad leaves but it wont be long as the nursery ones are coming along nicely. The cultivating stage ones may take a bit longer but I am determined to crack it!
I never thought I would be a convert from the traditional soil based growing method but I loved the whole experience and the thought of being able to grow salad leaves in the middle of winter using this system really appeals. However I will still be using the tried and tested leaves in a tin with soil as they look good too.
Thank you IKEA for giving me the chance to have a go at hydroponics…I look forward to a winter of eating salad leaves