You must have heard a lot of times that “It’s not the quality of the seed but the quality of soil that decides the growth of a plant.” But not always!! There is another way of growing plants too, without the need for good soil, called Hydroponics.
Hydroponics is the art of gardening without soil. Hydroponics is a Latin word meaning “working water.” In the absence of soil, water goes to work providing nutrients, hydration, and oxygen to plant life. Sounds fun and interesting right?
To learn how you can do this exactly, watch this workshop on “Hydroponics at Home” with our speaker Mr. Hepi Patel who has shared the ways of growing plants using Hydroponics at home. He is an Agricultural consultant for Organic, Hydroponic & Conventional farming in U.A.E. He started Hydroponic farming in East Africa in 2005 and is now developing, and consulting firms for Hydroponic farming for small kitchen farms indoors and outdoor cultivation in U.A.E. You can learn more about Hydroponics and other farming on his Facebook page on https://bit.ly/3bI1YQK.
Hepi and his ways of growing hydroponics at home:
“Hello, everyone. Welcome to another international workshop by TAOS. Today we have with us, Mr. Hepi Patel. In this workshop, we will be discussing growing hydroponics at home, in which he commands an experience spanning almost 15 years. He’ll tell us how we can grow microgreens, herbs, and plants using hydroponic techniques. So, let’s get started,” said Zehra.
“I started out in 1996 with organic farming, basically. Realizing that the land area was rapidly getting depleted, I started to search for alternatives. While growing it out of the soil, there are a lot of problems involved, pests, climatic variations, etc., which get chalked out in the hydroponics method. That is how I got actively into this process,” said Happy.
“Please tell us how new home gardeners can start out with hydroponics.”
“There are a lot of techniques which can be used for the purpose. I have grown chilli, rosemary, fig, microgreens, fenugreek, coriander, etc. so far. Growing mediums like perlite, cocopeat, etc. are easily available in the market which can be used to make these setups.”
“So, how did you make these buckets?’
“You must be having buckets in your place. Fill it with perlite, cocopeat, and then you can use it for planting. In one bucket, you can plant a tomato plant, a chilly plant, etc. You can simply grow them from the seeds themselves.”
“We need to soak the seeds priorly?”
“Yes, the seeds need to be soaked, particularly for microgreens and other short-term crops to get faster production. You can grow leafy greens like lettuce in boxes easily.”
“What all vegetables can we grow using the hydroponic technique?”
“We can grow anything using this technique. From tuber crops, microgreens, vegetables, microgreens anything you want can be grown using this technique. For short-term crops, you can use a seal and bowl in which you can grow fenugreek and others. For the long term, like 6 months and more of crops, you can grow them in buckets.”
“What nutrients can we provide the crops?”
“People nowadays are aware of organic products. So, in the market, you can get nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, etc., in organic form. Then, you can also use inorganic fertilizers like MOP, NPK, etc. We use vermicompost also for our produce.”
“What is the amount of nutrients that need to be added?”
“For bucket systems, if you have vermicompost or related fertilizers, then add about 20-30 grams of it at most. For chemicals, some ready-to-use chemical fertilizers are available, which you need to add about 5-10 grams.”
“So, please elaborate on the benefits of hydroponics and why it is preferable over soil growth?”
“We are totally unaware of what all chemicals are being sprayed on the food bought from the markets. In hydroponics, you will get the same produce chemical-free, pests-free. You are also using less water, less fertilizer and thus saving the environment in a way.”
“Are there any special conditions that these plants require?”
“When you are growing them indoors, try to provide some artificial lights, like led lights. Take a bit of care in providing water and light to the plant, or it may have an adverse impact on them. The max temperature limit for the plants is 30⁰c.”
“How do we start out with the hydroponics? Is it the same as soil-grown plants?”
“To give an example, for lettuce, you need to use cocopeat. We can take a tray filled with cocopeat, humidify the soil with 100% water, and then we plant the seeds, cover it with transparent plastic and it will germinate within 3-4 days. After that, we will remove the plastic and keep it aside for 2-3 weeks. They will grow about 2 inches and can be transplanted into bigger space.”
“So, first we use the seeds to germinate the plants, and then we transplant it in the hydroponics box?”
“Is there any specific time or frequency for watering?”
“In small containers, you don’t need to change the water since they will be ready at most within a month. For bigger containers, you need actually to check the texture depending upon which watering varies.”
“For coriander also, we just need to soak some seeds and then transplant them later?”
“Yeah, first take some cotton cloth and put some coriander seeds. Soak it in the cloth overnight, then take it out in the morning and spread them on the soil. It will germinate within 3-4 days.”
“Any tips you would like to give to beginners?”
“Yeah, soaking the seed before planting is very important since these seeds and plants will be having to deal with more amount of humidity than in soil, by almost 50-60%”
“Can you explain briefly how people can grow potatoes in this way?”
“Yes. I put it in a cotton cloth and kept it in the fridge for a week. When they germinated, I cut them into pieces. I filled a tub with perlite and cocopeat and planted them in the tub at a depth of about 30 cm. I got a good yield from that. It took about 100-120 days for the yield to be ready.”
“What other plants are suitable for growing in this season?”
“You can plant tomatoes, potatoes, brinjal, peas, herbs like rosemary, basil, etc. Flowers can be grown in any season in India.”
“What other plants are you growing on your indoor farm?”
“I have a good amount of lettuce planted right now, oloroso, butterheads, etc.”
“Can you explain how people can make hydroponics using PVC pipes at home?”
“Yes, you can carve holes in the pipes and put in cups for growing plants on them. You can make holes every 20-30 cm and go on with the process. In some of the images you can find on the screen, you can find how they are grown on a commercial level,” said Happy.
“Any last suggestions?”
“Choose the seeds wisely. Some of the seeds you will find are present in your house, like chilly seeds. When you are buying them from the market, check the quality properly. Make sure the seeds are properly soaked before you plant them. That’s it.”
“That was an interesting session. Thank you for joining us today.”