Gardening: Hydroponic Style (Part II)

(Check out Part I if you haven’t already!)

So I’m finally coming back to my hydroponic experiment.  I’ll try not to talk too much about it, since it has nothing to do with writing really!  Though, I can’t make any promises.

Step 1: Purchasing a Kit

At first I thought maybe the Home Depot might have some hydroponic products, but to be honest they don’t have a whole lot.  They basically told me I’d have to go to a place that specializes in this stuff.


So I went back home, hopped onto Google and started looking up local places that sold hydroponic products.  I came across a store called Sea of Green (they had one right by ASU on University and Dorsey, for any locals that are interested).  What’s nice about the place is that they have their own plants growing there using hydroponics so you can see how they set all the equipment up and place them by windows that get a lot of sunlight.  The people there were really friendly and willing to indulge my first-timer questions.

After chatting for a bit, they suggested I try Emily’s Garden.  Being the penny-pincher that I sometimes am, I asked how much is this going to cost?

…let’s just say it was over $100.


I’m too BROKE for this kind of thing.  Don’t you understand? I am a COLLEGE student.

“Well,” they said, “this is pretty much the most basic kit you’re going to find here, so…yeah.”

*deep sigh* I wanted to be all experimental and get into my Senior Project, so I just bought the thing.  (Of course, I didn’t actually respond this way.  I’m just dramatizing.  And paraphrasing.  I do that a lot.)

Oh, but that’s not all I had to buy.  Don’t forget the fluorescent lights.  Oh, and the starter cubes–which actually come with the kit, btw.  You can’t grow seeds in a bed of clay pellets (also included in the kit).  Speaking of seeds, have you bought any yet?

Lucky for me, I did buy some while I was at the Home Depot.

Good, then you’re also going to need some plant nutrient solution.  That’s how your herbs are going to get their nutrients, since that usually comes from the soil.

Of course, says I.  Secretly, I’m thinking, This was supposed to be easy.

The more they tried to explain all that was involved, the more I started feeling like Commander Shepard in Mass Effect.  My original endeavor to grow the cute little herbs I had in mind was beginning to look more like this:

Try conquering that plant species.  As Shepard said, standing at the foot of this four-story-tall monstrosity that’s keeping her from saving the galaxy:

Nothing’s ever simple, is it?

Nope, nope, nope…

So I foot the bill.  Bring home the kit.  Five minutes out of the store I’ve forgotten all about how much money I just spent (you don’t understand how much $100+ means to me, lol) and am beaming to everyone about how I got a shiny new hydroponic kit.

Now, if I could just get these seeds to start growing and set this kit up right…

Step 2: Growing the Seedlings

Before I can put the seeds into what are called starter cubes (which are made from an expandable material called rockwool), the instructions tell me that I actually have to soak them in nutrient solution for 12 to 24 hours.  And I have to test for pH levels.

Lame, right?

Okay, so this part was really new to me.  Well, maybe not completely new.

If you own a pool, then you know that maintaining the chemical balance of said pool is pretty important stuff.  You can hire someone to do it, or you can do it yourself.  My dad was doing ours for a while when we has a saltwater pool…but that didn’t work out so well, haha.  We had lots of little algae friends hanging out in the back for a while.  (Though, I am pleased to say they have long since been evicted.)

The same sort of thing can happen with the starter cubes if you have no idea what you are doing–which I did not.  But that’s okay because I learn by making mistakes.  Sometimes.

I got this organic solution called FloraNova Grow (a smaller bottle, mind you).  To start off, I poured a gallon of water into a pitcher for hand-watering the starter cubes.  The label tells me to mix 1/2 teaspoon of solution per gallon of water, so the common household pitcher worked out pretty nicely.  So I mix the stuff in…

…and then it’s on to checking the pH levels.  Not too hard, really.  My kit came with all of this stuff, so I just had to take a sample of the mixture, put it in a test tube and add a few drops of the test indicator.  It has this color chart on the indicator bottle where you can gauge whether the mixture is in the target pH zone (between 5.5 and 6.5, it says).  If it’s not, then they have you add an acid or base solution to the mixture and re-test it until it’s at the right level.

Lucky for me I haven’t had to do this yet, heh.  Our water is apparently at the perfect levels–sweet.

What NOT to Do

Eventually I got to put the seeds into the cubes.  I actually made little labels out of toothpicks, paper and double-stick tape (so I’d know what the heck I’m growing in each cube) and then stuffed some seeds into the cubes.  (Btw, you shouldn’t put them in too deep or else they won’t get enough light and grow!  Yes, I made that mistake, too, with some cilantro seeds.  Bah!)

Now, sometimes I get so excited about things that I forget to read ALL of the instructions…

…which happened when I started watering the cubes with my nutrient mixture.  The instructions clearly say:

Keep the starter cubes lightly moistened, but not over saturated, in propagation tray with a humidity dome (ensure that the cubes are never sitting directly in stagnant water as this could hinder the germination process).

Yeah, I totally skipped that part.  (Besides, no one mentioned that at the store!)  So guess what?  Both of my oreganos and my cilantro died in the process.


Oh well, live and learn.  Moral of that story: Don’t suspend your starter cubes in an unnecessary amount of water.  Okay?

Anyways, next week I’ll get more into the actual kit–because I have successfully failed at keeping this story under 1000 words.  How about that!

Got any tips for growing hydroponically?

If so, I’d love to hear from you.  I’m sure I’ve broken many rules by now, but I must be at least doing something right because the other three are still growing!

(Btw, I have no idea why the text keeps changing colors.  It’s driving me nuts, but I can’t fix it!)


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