Hydroponics, sustainable?

I have some strange generic predisposition for farming.  My family originated from Farmers before moving to the States long ago. As a kid, I always enjoyed helping with the garden, and in fact the schools would have the annual gardening contest where you’d bring in what you grew, and win ribbons, etc.

I like growing things, but I’m not good at it.

I live in Texas, and this year I had a number of hot pepper and tomato plants, the weather either killed, or severely wounded every one of those plants. First a torrential downpour laid waste to all the plants while I was at work (these are all potted plants) and then figuring out how often to water these plants (all facing east, all getting hammered by the sun for a good portion of the day.) all contributed to a less than stellar year of growing some of my food.

Most of the pepper plants survived, but they are producing stunted fruit, still, delicious. Next year, I’ll do it all differently, but I’m not done just yet.

I got the idea of starting some hydroponic-style plants over the winter. In the house, where I could control everything, light, temperature, all of it.

It’s a lot more involved than planting seeds in the backyard.

You have to mix up nutrients for the plants, remember, hydroponics gardens dont have soil, the plants rest in little plastic containers called net cups,  that are slightly submerged in a chemically enhanced water.

But first you need to balance the pH of that water, so there are chemicals for that.

After the water is pH-neutral (which allows the plants to more efficiently suck up the nutrients in the water), then you have to mix up the chemicals the plant needs to thrive in this weird, liquid world.

It’s not exactly rocket-science, but it’s much more involved than traditional gardening.

If you run out of nutrients, the plants will die. If you run out of water, the plants will die.

Is this a sustainable type of gardening? I think so, as long as the lights are on, as long as nothing very very bad happens.

So as of today, right now, I think this is a good idea, and a great project to involve the kids in. I have a 6 year old, and I want her to be involved, to learn the responsibility of caring for something, and then reaping the benefits of that care. Sure, it’s not a puppy, but this is a start.

I’m a Tech guy, so I have a little side-project that uses a webcam to regularly photograph my hydroponics project, and then build timelapse video of the plants growing in it.

Gardening can be technical, see?

In any case, I’ll update here in the future as these plants grow (hopefully) and add my thoughts along the way.



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