I’ve been meaning to make this update for weeks now, so it’s a little out of date. Hopefully I’ll follow it up early next week.
At first I was worried that the hydroponic foods I was growing were going to make me sick or would taste funny. I know that there’s no reason they should but it’s weird when you actually grow a plant on nothing other than water and carefully mixed chemicals. You’re afraid that those chemicals from the water would add some odd taste to the plant simply because you saw the chemicals separated on their own rather than mixed in with the dirt and soil in a normal growing setup. Anyway not only does all the produce taste fine, it’s growing faster than I can figure out what to do with it.
Here’s how the setup looks now:
All the lettuce was just taken out. It was growing nicely in the cool overcast days but when the full dry Utah summer heat hit them they bolted and started spending all their energy in sending up seeds. So they were pulled out and every leaf that could be harvested was plucked and set aside for salads.
At first I thought 12″ spacing was too much but the plants are almost too close together. I didn’t have much choice where to put the hydroponics for this test so they’re a bit close to the grape vines (on the left). And the two hydro tubes could probably a bit further apart but at least they’re staggered to try to increase the distance between plants.
Pablanos for chili rellenos. I was running a plant growth fertilizer mix while these guys were coming on. Shortly after I switched to a bloom and fruit mix and the plants exploded with flower buds for more peppers.
Jalapenos are going like crazy. I just wanted a few to make salsa with, I don’t really like them on anything else. Right now I’m getting about 900% more peppers that I know what to do with. As they ripen I’ve been taking them off to keep the plant sending out flower buds but then I don’t use them and they go on the compost pile.
Bell peppers on the otherhand are growing at just the right pace. I can think of a million dishes that require Green Peppers so the more the merrier. Sautéing onions and green peppers is probably the best smell in the world of cooking and a key component in a huge majority of foods. Everytime a green pepper comes on I have an excuse to make Chicken Enchiladas, Fajitas, etc.
A simple salad with hydroponic Buttercrunch lettuce, shredded cheese, and some balsalmic Italian dressing. Tasted great with a very light flavor. Amazingly even a week and a half later the leaves were still storing pretty well in the fridge with no preservative other than a light washing in the sink when they were picked. A bag of Doll mixed greens that was purchased about the same time and forgotten in the bottom of the fridge drawer had turned to a bag of brown slime. So it even has good storage life in addition to being preservative free.
So far so great! A lot of free* produce, too much for me actually, that was home-grown had no added preservatives or chemicals to allow for transport cross country. My produce didn’t incur high carbon/fossil fuel costs by being transported from farms in California and beyond, not even the cost of driving my car down to the supermarket to buy it. And finally it was just fun as hell to grow plants in a geeky futuristic way that I used to think only existed in Antartica, the Epcot Center, and NASA colonization plans.
To top it off this is working in Utah, one of the most arid states of the nation, and growing better than plants in a traditional garden. As far as this experiment is concerned it’s a 100% success, easy to accomplish, and is a great potential technology going forward into a future more attentive to making the most of available resources.
My secondary test was to see if it was possible to make a highly productive garden that could sit on somebodies apartment balcony so even in the city you could have an urban garden. I got the idea when I saw a tiny balcony in Tokyo packed with so many plants it looked like a tiny 3×8ft jungle. The problem is I have to wait another season to try that out. But I think I’ve learned enough this time around that it shouldn’t be too hard to make a great 10 site planter.
*Electric usage: $2.00
Water usage: ~100 gallons (a few bathtubs full)
Fertilizer usage: ~$10