Gardening: Hydroponic Style (Part I)

12 May

So I’ve been saying how I was going to blog about a pet project of mine.  Figured I’d get to it now.

Hydroponic Gardening

Hydroponic gardening is basically the method of growing plants using a nutrient-rich solution rather than soil, and this allows for some interesting ways to mount certain plants and watch as they grow.  More importantly, using hydroponics allows for some gardeners to produce more fruits and vegetables and at a faster rate.

Hydroponics at the Epcot Center

I think I first encountered the idea of hydroponic gardening when I went to the Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center several years back.  I thought it was the coolest thing in the world!  Growing plants…without using soil?  Didn’t know such a thing was possible!  You can read an older article about it here, though unfortunately their video no longer works.

And who doesn’t love Disney World?  The scope of Walt Disney’s imagination was just astounding, and his legacy still continues even in the world of gardening–further shaping the world of tomorrow.

At the Epcot Center there is an entire attraction dedicated to Disney’s on-site hydroponic gardens.  You sit in one of those narrow attraction boats with the canopies and float through their facility, taking in all the wonderful sights.  I don’t remember if I ever took photos of this attraction, but I do have vivid recollections of the experience.  And actually, here’s a video of it off YouTube:

Image credit: NEWSCOM.

All sorts of things were being grown in their indoor facility–ranging from squash and pumpkins and tomatoes to flowers and green leafy things.  I just remember how much light played a role in the facility because it was entirely awash in a pleasant, even white glow during the day.

The important things about growing plants using hydroponics indoors is making sure the plants get enough light and are regularly fed with water that is appropriately supplemented with nutrient solution.  These nutrient solutions can be either chemical or organic, and I’m not sure which the Epcot Center uses, but I’ve chosen an organic solution in keeping with my original purpose for growing plants hydroponically in the first place!

Why I’m Trying out Hydroponics

The reason I started this hobby actually has nothing to do with being a green thumb and having a love for gardening because this wasn’t a natural interest of mine.

Over the past five months I was working on my Senior Project for school.  You may know that I studied interior design in college–and I use the past tense because I am officially done with classes now and will be graduating tomorrow, yay!

Anyway, for my project I chose to develop a restaurant/retail store concept.  My imaginary client owned his own organic food business, which he developed  over the years by working closely with local farmers who use organic farming and environmentally-friendly practices.  He sells his own food products but had recently become interested in branching out into the hospitality industry.

So says I.  (I guess that’s the fun of making stuff up; storytelling has its place in interior design!)

Eventually, Mr. Client came to me, and after further interviews I learned he also has a passion for the culinary arts.  “I think I’d like to open up a small restaurant.  Or maybe even a big one.  I’m not sure.”

Well, if any of you know my writing habits, I just don’t do small.  So I said, “Let’s go all the way with this thing.”

Naturally, that scared him–and it even scared me, to be honest.  How was I supposed to design an entire restaurant?  Well, it was too late for second guessing myself.  We were both excited about it now.  I told him I had some ideas I’d like to research more and that we should probably both so some research as it pertains to restaurants.  Hire some consultants, all that jazz.  It would be a learning experience for us both.

To Make A Long Story Short…

My idea was to incorporate Mr. Client’s philosophies about producing foods organically and using environmentally-friendly practices into my restaurant concept.  This is, more or less, what I came up with:

The cover page for my Senior Project.

We’re facing south, here, and Tempe Town Lake, a man-made lake here in Phoenix, would be viewable actually out those westward windows but mainly from the north, which you can’t see.

Tempe Town Lake, looking southward at the Hayden Ferry Lakeside buildings, “A” Mountain near ASU and also the Mill Avenue Bridges–an iconic feature in Tempe, AZ. My restaurant, hypothetically, would be situated further east (left) on the lake, on the same side as those buildings.

The idea is that the building would be rigged with a watering system, ebb-and-flow most likely, that uses a hydroponic approach by spiking the water with nutrient solution.  That way, along with carefully-placed fluorescent lighting, you could grow herbs from inside the facility.  (The same idea of this terraced garden feature would be mirrored on the exterior, as well, on the northeast side of the building with terraced plant beds, instead using plants that are more suited to Arizona weather and the climate.)

In real life, I would have to consult lots of different professionals to pull something like this off: architects, landscape gardeners, probably a lighting engineer…though, for this project it was pretty much free rein in matters beyond interior design, heh.  As I see it, the interior designer is basically the visionary for the interior environment.  You have your role and expected areas of expertise, yes, but all the particulars of the stuff you aren’t knowledgable in would have to be worked out with folks who really knew their stuff within their various fields–which means lots of collaboration.  (And more costs for the client to sort out, though that’s something they have to know going in already understanding the scope of their project.)

I had to present my ideas to a real-life interior designer and everything.  Learned a lot about design and myself in the process.

But that’s not what this blog entry is about today.

Learning More About Hydroponics Through Experimentation

I decided that if I wanted to develop a restaurant concept that utilized hydroponics I should probably learn something about it–and what better way to do this than to start my own hydroponic garden?

So that’s just what I did.  I visited this small local store that specialized in hydroponics and purchased a not-so-cheap starter kit.  (It cost over $100. O_O) Had to bite the bullet on that one.  I really wanted to explore my project as fully as I could, and I knew that getting into hydroponics would be one of the best ways to do this.

Anyhow, the kit was a lot larger and more involved than I expected, lol, which was why I was apprehensive about the price and everything.  But before I could even start using that actual system with the pump and all, I had to begin with starter cubes…

…And actually, this story is getting really long, so what I’m going to do today is leave you with a couple of photos of the kit as it currently sits in my room today.  I’ll have to come back another time and talk about how I put it together and nurtured my little seedlings into green sprouts.  Tee-hee-hee.

Basil 1, Dill and Basil 2 suspended in clay pellets before the kit is filled with nutrient water.  (I accidentally dropped Basil 2 when I took it to my presentation, though–*after* the presentation was over.  Figures.  More on that another day.)

 I think I should give them names.

The kit at sundown, with the lights and protective Anti-Kitty Kat Kage™ installed.

Yeah, I have cats.  (Typical writer, heh.)  You’ll get to meet them soon!  And I should say they are quite the characters.

And Now Tiyana Attempts to Make a Connection Between (Hydroponic) Gardening & Writing

I said I was going to try, and since this post is already at over 1,000 words I’ve got to do it quick!

Gardeners are like writers in some ways, though they work with different things; I am sure of it.

Both:

  • must approach their trades knowing that the endeavor will be an ongoing process, if they are to grow in it
  • should understand that it’s possible to get better at what they do over time
  • will have to put in a lot of time and effort in order to do so
  • would surely benefit by sharing their experiences with others who also do what they do, swapping tips and ideas, etc.

So how are plants, grown hydroponically or traditionally, like stories?  Well…

Both:

  • require lots of love and attention in order to turn out well;
  • should not be rushed because they thrive best when they develop at an appropriate pace;
  • must not be neglected (or else they die!)

Ta-da!  I did it!  Not with any amazingly original insights, but by golly, I did it.

Stay tuned for more about my adventures in hydroponic gardening! 😀 (Part II)

Care to Share?

Do we have any green-thumbs out there?  How about any who’ve tried hydroponic gardening?  Have you heard of it before?  Any pointers would be great, as well, as I’ve already come across some failures in my attempts to grow this little herb garden.  (Three of them–two oregano and a cilantro–didn’t make it past the starter cubes; I did something bad…)

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9 Responses to “Gardening: Hydroponic Style (Part I)”

  1. Mark Andrew Edwards May 12, 2011 at 1:13 PM #

    Congradulations on your graduation! One major life transtion down…several to go. 🙂

    One other link to hydroponics is how it is used in science fiction, just in case you want to tie that in to your next post.

    Like

    • Tiyana May 12, 2011 at 4:37 PM #

      Heh, no kidding. Thanks. 🙂

      Oh, see, I don’t know how hydroponics is used in science fiction! I’ve never read a story with it in there before, so I wouldn’t be able to write about that. But if you know of any examples, that’d be cool to look up.

      Like

  2. T. S. Bazelli May 12, 2011 at 1:23 PM #

    Yes congrats!!!!

    I’m a ‘black thumb’. Plants die in my care, so I wouldn’t be the best one to give advice hehe.

    Like

    • Tiyana May 12, 2011 at 4:42 PM #

      Thanks, Theresa. 🙂

      Aw! Well, one of my thumbs may be black (or both, depending on how you look at it…haha). I’ve alredy killed three seedlings, lol, if that’s any consolation.

      Like

  3. Stephen A. Watkins May 12, 2011 at 2:18 PM #

    My first thought was that your project there looked pretty snazzy. I’d eat at a place like, that, if I were judging on looks alone. (In reality I judge on restaurant recommendations from friends and others, but there you go.)

    Like

    • Tiyana May 12, 2011 at 4:51 PM #

      Heh, thanks, Stephen. It was definitely fun to work on, though a lot of work…

      Like

  4. Hydroponics May 13, 2011 at 12:14 AM #

    Thanx dude……..its really awesome……..I hv got lot of info regarding gardening here………waiting for your next post……..keep it up!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Like

  5. suzannebrandsen August 4, 2011 at 11:54 AM #

    Just stumbled on your blog today while floating around wordpress & found this to be really informative. I love gardening, to the point where it’s just not always socially acceptable.. And I love to learn more about it. Also, there is a hydroponics store right next to my work, & I have spent lots of time browsing their showroom area over the years. They grow the biggest basil I’ve ever seen! Best wishes, for me I’ll stick to soil but I can definitely see the interest here. 🙂

    Like

    • Tiyana August 4, 2011 at 1:29 PM #

      Hi, Suzanne! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      I’m really not much of a gardener, haha, so this has been interesting. That’s cool that you live right by a hydroponic store! I’m sure I’d visiting them all the time asking questions and stuff in your shoes, heh. The stores out here are not that close to where I live, unfortunately.

      I actually think sticking to soil would be easier in some ways (especially when it’s outside), though where I live it’s hard to keep certain plants from dying in our extreme heat, so it’s nice be able to maintain them indoors with the hydroponics–less mess and pests and pretty much takes care of itself! Also, plants do grow pretty fast using the system.

      That reminds me: I should probably finish writing that last post I promised in Part II! Learned some more about maintaining the plants and whatnot.

      Like

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