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Thread: Hydroponic Gardening

  1. #1
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    Hydroponic Gardening

    Hi all,
    I am interested in doing a hydroponics garden. I can not garden per se, as I live in National Parks most of the year and they do not allow you to "plant" anything in their soil. It is understandable, I would not expect basil growing in a desert of cactus or tomatoes in a pine forest. But, if I went the hydroponics route, I could do everything indoors, and not have to worry about as many pests and other creatures going after my plants.

    I have done sprouts before, alfalfa, radishes, mung beans, etc as sprouts. But hydroponics seems a little harder in some cases. I would have to deal with chemicals, light, humidity, and watering. Where I live right now and in the future are areas of low humidity, and I do not want to spend serious money to "garden."

    But I have the perfect place to do it - my RV has an extra room - I have a toyhauler 5th wheel, where the motorcycles go in the back in the garage. When we are at a park, the bikes come out and sit under the nose part of the 5th wheel and the garage ramp is closed. There are two windows in there, and the AC vents to that area. So the air circulation would work, I am just worried about humidity. It does not get very humid in the desert for sure, but if there are enough plants back there, i would have humidity enough (I think) from the plants. I am not going to put in a humidifier, that is just wasting money as the humidity would go through our thin walls and go right out the windows.

    But I would like to find out if others have tried hydroponics, if you know of any good websites that would have instructions, and what worked well for you. I figure if I can get this to work, I will not have as much need to go into town to get our salads and veggies, as they would be growing in our house. Thanks for your suggestions!

  2. #2
    Senior Member herbgeek's Avatar
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    I have not grown hydroponics myself, but there is a store near me that sells the equipment that is part of a chain. http://www.wormsway.com/ The website looks like it has some useful information.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Gina's Avatar
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    From having tired to grow a few things indoors, your biggest problem will be not enough quality light. A few things grow well near windows, but most things really don't do that well. Most indoor growers supply lots of supplemental light, and that requires use of lots of electricity.

    I have really large, south-facing windows in one room where the sun streams in, and thought I had more than enough natural light to be able to grow a few things inside. It was worth trying but it didn't work well at all. My plants were in pots on saucers, not a traditional hydroponic system.

    Also, don't assume you'll be free of pests. The big chompers, yes, but plants grown indoors are often spindly and prone to things like aphids, scale, mealy bugs and fungus knats that are very difficult to get rid of once in your system.

    Something to consider might be 'passive' hydroponics which merely means planting things in a fast draining mix, and let the bottom of the pots sit in the water/nutrient mix that drains when watering. That would allow you to carry a few things outside for natural sun during the day, though that would be more work. Or depending where you are parked, let them remain outdoors over night.

    I like to grow cukes and bush beans that way - in 5 gallon pots on the patio with 'their feet' in the water that stands in their saucers. It's dry here so I dont have to worry about watering them as often as when they are in the ground. When their saucers are empty, it's time to water again. It was an experiment that worked out well. When they are up against the house, critters don't bother them much either. I've also grown carrots this way. Lettuce would probably work too, but I have a different 'not in the ground' system for that.

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    Thanks Gina, I was thinking of doing the ebb and flow method for the plants. I figure I could start small and see what kinds of problems I might face. I am not sure I would have to worry about some bugs as they would not be in the "soil" and the only bugs we seem to get in Canyonlands are gnats. It is just too dry here.

    So do you have many trellises for your cucs? What I worry about out here is the ravens, they go after EVERYTHING and they are not afraid to come right up to the RV. It is definitely a more unique situation, and I only know of a couple of rangers that are doing "gardening" per se. One guy has a veritable greenhouse in his house and back patio, and he grows just about everything, and then another ranger has one of those aero-gardens.

    Maybe I should try one of those aero-garden things first, and see how it does. Then go for the other stuff. At least that way I can do it right at the kitchen window, which would get more heat than the back room, until I get to Utah. But I was wanting to get some of this stuff and try it out before I got to Utah.

    Herbgeek - thanks for the website, I will check it out. The stores are on the east coast and I am in Nevada, but their website looks interesting.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Gina's Avatar
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    I'd do more reading, select a system you think will work, and then go for it. I love to experiment, and if I hadn't actually tried growing things inside, I never would have eventually developed how I currently grow my lettuce, and other salad greens outside.

    As to bugs, there is no way to know what you might get until you try. (If you build it, they will come.)

    Since cukes trail, I stick a small tomato cage into each pot. The plants don't grow as large as when in the ground, but they are more than productive enough. I grow a variety called 'cool breeze' which seems to be able to take mild winter temps as well as warmth - I'm near the coast so it rarely gets hot here. Our animals seem less interested in eating cuke vines, at least while there are other things to eat.

    I also grow peas in 5 gallon pots on tomato cages (outdoors) - snow peas esp, but also English type and sugar snaps. Just make sure you select a variety that stays in the 2-3 foot height range so they don't exceed the wire cages. These are very attractive to birds however, esp when young.

    Onions/scallions also do well in pots. You can just pick the outer leaves, and the plants keep producing.

    Have you considered building a small, totally collapsible wire enclosure to keep birds and other light-weight critters out? Something you could anchor with stakes, yet easily take apart and take with you, and could be set up in the sun while you are at a place for some time? Something large enough to enclose some easy to move 3 or 5 gallon pots w saucers?

    Have fun. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    Last edited by Gina; 1-8-11 at 1:56pm.

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    Gina, a collapsible wire enclosure sounds like a great idea! I will have to figure out how to do it. I know that square foot gardening by Mel Bartholomew had a 4'x4' chicken wire cover for his boxes, so I could do something like that.

    DH and I discussed this further, and while it would be cool to have a hydroponic system with the watering set up, I do not think it is going to happen now. I want to be a gardener, but I really don't have the space in the RV. The RV gets hot in the summer, and we are not going to run the AC when we are not there. Plus, if we go away for a weekend, how are you supposed to water the plants? I guess I could get those water bulbs...I do not know. But I think I will take it slow, and right now, do more sprouts and lettuces. If I can do more than that, getting the soil end rather than the hydro end, well, I know the soil end.

    I do have larger pots where I can for larger plants like cucs and tomatoes. I would still go for the smaller variety of plants.

    I went to SproutPeople.org to get some ideas, and they do have a system for the larger greens which I might be able to use. Research, Research, Research - always a good idea.

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    Senior Member Gina's Avatar
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    Gina, a collapsible wire enclosure sounds like a great idea! I will have to figure out how to do it. I know that square foot gardening by Mel Bartholomew had a 4'x4' chicken wire cover for his boxes, so I could do something like that.
    Thanks. I grow all my lettuce/greens in short, largish wire enclosures. But they are not easy to break down and move.

    If I were thinking of something that would be easy to transport, I might make the 4 sides each totally separate, of 1 inch chicken wire tied to a pvc square/rectangular frame. Guess I'd think in terms of a footprint of 3 X 5 feet to start. Maybe 3-4 feet tall.

    Use ribar/metal stakes at the 4 corners for stability and anchoring it from blowing away, and just tie the sides to that with something easy such as light rope tied in bows so each side could be easily removed at any time. ??

    For the top I'd use a 'sheet' of wire - either something heavier (I've used some 1X1 heavier hardware cloth that is perfect - it stays 'flat', and the 1" openings are easy to get your fingers into for lifting.) to just lift off easily- or more chicken wire that coujld just be rolled back. Weights/rocks on top to keep it in place. A couple pieces of bamboo or something might be needed to support the wire on top so it doesnt bow down.

    Have fun.

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    Senior Member kib's Avatar
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    My chicken wire is just a 3' tall piece that circles the periphery of my raised bed, pulled together at the top and pinned with clothespins. When I want lettuce I just unpin it and it springs open. I could imagine using 4' chicken wire and just setting it on the ground, surrounding a collection of pots. Undoing it is totally simple, it's just a matter of removing the clothespins and rolling it up again.

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    Thanks to the both of you! I think I will do sprouts for now, then try out these chicken wires for my square foot gardening (in pots) later on in the year.
    Oh and I like the smilie Gina, might have to use that one too!
    Last edited by ljevtich; 1-11-11 at 8:15pm. Reason: for the smilie!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Gina's Avatar
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    Good luck with your garden. If it were me, I'd try what Kib suggested. If that isn't tall enough for what you want to grow, you can adjust.

    Feel free to use any of my smilies. They are not really mine anyway.

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