Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2015

Hydroponic Kale

Hydroponic Kale

People spend virtual (and sometimes, literal) fortunes trying to improve their gardens. We buy books and magazines, we attend seminars and lectures, we listen to radio shows and watch gardening television channels. Many folk even hire designers, landscapers and gardeners to do the work for them. On top of that, we search far and wide for the finest soil amendments and nutrients.

Gardening is BIG BUSINESS, and often a big expense, so I thought I’d offer for FREE, an often overlooked gardening secret that will kick your success into overdrive. It’s so simple, you’ll be inclined to think I’m overstating the case, but I’m NOT.

This secret is the same whether you’re growing in the ground, in raised beds or in containers. It’s also the absolute biggest open secret in Hydroponic and Aquaponic gardening. Oxygen!

Surprised? Feeling underwhelmed? Don’t be. Pretty much everything in nature needs oxygen in spades.  Sure, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and carbon dioxide are important nutrients, but you can put all the fertilizer in the world on you plants and if oxygen isn’t getting to the roots, the plants will not thrive.

Lots of new gardeners discover this when they spend good money on bags, or truck loads, of expensive topsoil only to find their gardens are not producing like they had hoped. The topsoil is just too darned dense for the roots to get oxygen.

If you add good soil amendments, like peat or coconut coir, tree mulch, perlite, or in some situations, small lava rocks, you will get almost instant results. I like perlite and sphagnum or coco peat added to my worm compost (not just castings) and a little straw as my favorite soil mix or amendment. This gives me lots of nutrients plus is loose enough for oxygen to get in and for the roots to spread out in search of the water and food it needs.

Similarly, in my Deep Water Culture hydroponics and aquaponics systems, I have seen results skyrocket by doing nothing more than adding extra oxygen to the grow beds and fish tanks.

I’m not a scientist, I’m a farmer. I learn by experimenting. I have watched healthy plants shrivel and die when the oxygen supply to the roots is cut off, even if adequate nutrients are available.  On the other hand, I’ve seen plants flourish with less than optimal nutrient and climate conditions, if the oxygen supply is optimal.

Kale bouquet. Think my wife will like them?

Kale bouquet. Think my wife will like them?

Let me use my hydroponic kale as an example.  Last winter, I grew Deep Water Culture (DWC) kale, swiss chard, lettuce and bok choi all winter long in my small unheated greenhouse. To keep the water temps up, I used a fish aquarium heater at night and let the sun do the work during the day. I kept the nutrients and water topped up and used plenty of oxygen. The results were off the charts.

In another system, designed the same, but using only half the oxygen, results were seriously reduced, and the plants were more susceptible to aphids.

Finally, this fall, I have been growing kale outside in a DWC hydro system with phenomenal results (see the pics in this article). I have not adjusted pH or nutrient levels.  Frequently, my top ups have been provided by rain. Sometimes, I top up with the garden hose, using city water. I have not treated the chlorine or chloramines.  All I have done is keep the oxygen levels up with lots of air stones.  I have not done a complete nutrient replacement and have topped up with nutrients only about every 3rd or fourth top up.  I got similar results last spring with cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi.

Your plants need proper light and nutrients to be optimal, but before you spend a bunch of money trying more fancy foods and supplements, try making more oxygen available and see what happens.

Now it’s your turn. What’s been your experience with oxygen and your garden? For that matter, what’s been the one thing you’ve done or change you’ve made that has made the biggest impact on your results? I’d love to hear your experiences. After all, we’re in this together.

 

Read Full Post »