Hydroponics & Aquaponics

  • Growing & Harvesting Chives in Hydroponics

    Chives are a wonderful Perennial herb to grow if you are feeling like you might like to start your own herb garden. Chives are related to onions and garlic, with long hollow green-stems and a mild, not-too-pungent flavor are usually used fresh. 

    The small size and perennial nature of chive plants means they take up little space and can provide a continual supply of fresh leaves for cutting in both indoor and outdoor systems.

    Demand for pre-packaged fresh, hydroponically grown chives is growing rapidly as many consumers have come to realize the dried product just does not stack up against the freshly harvested foliage for flavour, aroma and appearance.

     

    Growing and Planting Care

    • Seed selection is the key to success of your gardening effort. Careful selection of seeds that are disease-resistant and good yielders of high-quality, nutritious produce is recommended.
    • Chive seed germinates easily and rapidly, usually within eight to ten days, but a constant moisture level must be maintained and a media with a high water holding capacity is recommended. Optimal temperatures for germination are between 16° – 22° C, with germination being most rapid at 21°C
    • Chives are a temperate or cool season crop, which prefer good light levels combined with average temperatures, although they will grow well in partial shade. 
    • Warm temperatures (above 27°C), promote the formation of flower stalks which restricts foliage development. If both foliage and flowers are required for harvest then a compromise needs to be reached in terms of flower or foliage production. 
    • Often groups of chive plants are set aside for flower harvest only so that total removal of the tough, fibrous flower stalks can be carried out on those plants used for foliage production.
    • Nutrient solutions for chives in hydroponics are similar to those recommended for other members of the Allium family, requiring good levels of sulphur for the production of essential oils and aromatics in the foliage. 
    • Care must also be taken with the balance of nitrogen so that lush, overly weak growth does not develop at the expense of foliage quality and shelf life. 
    • A Nitrogen deficiency will usually be characterized by reduced growth and nitrogen and calcium deficiencies, and reduced leaf quality and will speed up senescence of the older leaves and harvested product.
    • The pH levels are best maintained at a level of 6 to 6.5, with an EC of 1.8 – 2.0 mS cm-1.

    Harvesting

    • The first foliage cut should not occur until the plants are at least 15 cm tall, and only a limited amount should be taken at the first harvest
    • All of the leaves should not be cut at any one time – 1/3 to 2/3 of the plant can be cut, leaving some foliage for the next harvest and to provide assimilate production for the plant.
    • Eventually the plants, after many harvests, can become less productive, so replacing plants every two-three years with new seedlings or divisions is a good idea.

    Selection and Storage

    • You'll find fresh, raw chives in the produce section of almost any grocery store. Usually, they are packed in bunches. Chives are available year round.
    • When choosing the best chives, look for full stalks that are bright green and evenly colored. Avoid chives that are wilting or starting to yellow as these are older and won't last as long.
    • When you bring chives home, don't cut them until you are ready to use them. Wrap them in a paper towel and refrigerate until you need them in a recipe. They should last about a week.

    Nutrient Composition & Health Benefits

    • Minerals in chives include calcium (3 mg), phosphorus (1.7 mg), and potassium (8.9 mg)
    • Vitamins in chives include vitamin A (3% of your recommended daily intake), vitamin C (3%), vitamin K (8%), and folate (1%). 
    • Chives contain vitamin K, which is important for bone health and blood clotting
    • The numerous phytochemicals in chives can boost your immune system. Chives also contain"selenium" in trace amounts, which is another important mineral that strengthens immunity. Immune cells deficient in selenium can have difficulty in producing proteins and transporting calcium.
    • Chives are rich sources of " folate ", and we don’t have to stress the importance of folate during pregnancy. Folate helps in the brain development of the fetus – it also aids "cell division and DNA synthesis".
    • "Folic acid" also helps to prevent birth defects, especially in the baby’s brain and spinal cord
    • Chives are good sources of "choline", which is one important nutrient that aids proper sleep.

    Culinary Uses

    • Chives can be featured in all sorts of recipes, from baked potatoes to soups, salads, sauces, and omelets. They're frequently mixed with cream cheese to make a savory spread
    • Chives are typically chopped and can be used as a garnish, although they do have a mild Oniony flavor, especially fresh ones.
    • Chives are good on just about anything. Their mild, oniony flavor pairs well with any savory dish, and the bright green color adds visual appeal as well.
    • Chivebutter, a compound butter made by blending chopped fresh chives into butter, is frequently served with grilled steaks or roasted poultry.
    • Chive stems are extremely narrow, which makes them particularly attractive as a garnish, whether chopped and sprinkled over a dish or draped whole across an entrée.

     

  • Growing & Harvesting Basil in Hydroponics

     

    Basil has been used some way in almost every place in the world and has collected its own interesting history throughout the ages.The woody herb can be sweet, savory, or peppery, and it smells amazing. 

    Herbs are much more profitable than leafy greens, and can be a fantastic crop line for market growers. The pricing you receive will vary depending on your market.

    Altogether , there are 150 different species of Basil , but the most common types are:-

    • Sweet Basil
    • Genovese Basil 
    • Thai Sweet Basil
    • Purple Basil 
    • Lemon Basil 
    • Lime Basil 
    • Lettuce Basil 
    • Spicy Basil 
    • Green Ruffles
    • Holy Basil
    • Cinnamon Basil 
    • African Blue Basil 
    • Cardinal Basil 
    • Greek Basil 

    Sweet Basil (aka genovese basil or common basil) - The most common and widely available form of basil, with a fresh, subtly sweet flavor and aroma. Sweet basil is typically used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.

    Thai Basil (aka licorice basil) - A variety commonly used in Southeast Asian and Chinese cuisine known for its smaller, darker leaves and spicy, anise-heavy flavor. Used frequently as a garnish in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.

    Cinnamon Basil - A mild variety of basil with a spicy, cinnamon-tinged flavor. Most frequently used in Asian cooking, including marinades, fried rice, and noodles.

    Purple Basil - A less-sweet variety of basil known for its deep purple tone and clove-scented flavor. Typically used as a garnish in Italian and Thai cooking, to add a hint of color and aroma.

    Lettuce Basil - With larger, wrinkled leaves reminiscent of lettuce, this basil has a milder flavor than its counterparts and is often used as a base for salads.

    Holy Basil - This form of basil is known for its religious uses rather than its flavor. Holy basil is revered in the Hindu religion as a symbol of the goddess Tulsi, and is traditionally made into basil extract that is placed around Hindu shrines. Culinarily, this variety has a bitter flavor and is most frequently used in Indian cuisine, particularly in teas and rich dishes.

    Lemon Basil - True to its name, lemon basil tastes like sweet basil with a hint of lemon, and can add a slightly acidic taste to a wide variety of recipes.

    Christmas Basil - This fruity variety of basil tastes like a cross between Genovese and Thai Sweet basil, and is typically used in drinks and desserts.

    All of the popular varieties of Basil can be grown Hydroponically , and then the choice to make is more associated with the flavor of the Basil itself.Today, it’s best known for its versatility and distinct flavor, adding herbaceousness to a wide variety of dishes all over the world.

    Growing and Planting Care :- 

    • Seed selection is the key to success of your gardening effort. Careful selection of seeds that are disease-resistant and good yielders of high-quality, nutritious produce is recommended.
    • You can plant Basil in 2 ways , By germinating the seeds, or By cuttings, which form the roots within a week.
    • Basil is a warm - weather herb ,so it's best to maintain a temperature of between 70 to 80 degree F .
    • Basil seedlings can be started and grown in a wide range of substrates - Rock wool and phenolic foam are probably the most commonly used substrates for starting seedlings. Other popular choices are coconut coir and peat moss that have been stabilized with a chemical binder or with a mesh wrap.
    • Follow the link below for a complete guide on sowing the seeds in seedling-tray to transplanting the seedlings in Net-Pots and transferring to the NFT system https://youtu.be/wGtU1wZmd9Y
    • After sowing the seeds, water the seedling-tray twice a day and keep in a dark area as sunlight should not fall on them until they germinate. You can keep the tray in a dark area or cover the seedling-tray with black/white polythene cover or with another empty seedling tray over it.You will see sprouts coming out in a few days to a weeks’ time.
    • Once you see small true leaves, place the seedling-tray in a partial sunlight area. Moisten the seedlings with either plain water or 10% nutrient solution (around 200 PPM) twice in a day. Remember that throughout the germination period, watering should be just enough for the cocopeat to be moist. Never overwater or the seeds will not germinate and rot. Continue the plants in the tray until the plant roots reach the bottom of the cube in about 3 weeks and transplant in the NFT system / DWC system.
    • Every Plant variety has a separate Nutrient composition that's apt for the fleshy grown Basils. https://hydrilla.in/hydroponics-nutrients/hydroponic-herbs-nutrients.html
    • As you see that the Basil has become mature than before, know that their nutrients ratio will change .
    • The mix of Potassium and Calcium are more in the feeding nutrients .
    • It is crucial to know that Potassium and Calcium have a direct association with the oil and flavour of Basil leaves and branches .
    • Also , Even Nitrogen and Magnesium are deciding co-factors in yielding leaves and certain essential oils & helps in Photosynthesis,respectively.

    Pruning 

    • Basil plant has been bred to be a single - stemmed plant growing upward . For most Home growers and commercial growers , a bushier plant is better and a pruned plant looks better , yields more .
    • The upward growth is known as Apical growth. To change the way that basil grows , growers can trigger a secondary type of growth that moves outward and up instead of straight up . This is called Lateral Growth.
    • A young basil plant (5 - 10 cm / inches tall ) , has buds on the side of the stem that haven't grown out yet.Those are the lateral buds ; they're the back-ups that will only grow if the main stalk gets badly damaged or removed.
    • Clip the stem right above those lateral buds , the buds will be triggered to grow out .
    • By pruning Basil this way , growers can increase the production of that branch and control the shape of the plant.

    Harvesting and Storage 

    • Harvest the Basil leaves before Bolting to Flower .
    • Do not pinch . Invest in sharp sheers! You will damage or pull off a whole stem more often .
    • Harvested Basil must be lightly wrapped in plastic and stored at temperatures between 52 - 57 degree F . 
    • Cut stems can be located in a glass of water at room temperature to maintain shelf life for several days ..
    • To extend the shelf life further, fresh basil can be chopped up and frozen into ice cube trays filled with water or stock for future use. Once solidified, freeze basil cubes in a freezer bags to free up your ice cube trays. 
    • Dried basil will remain fresh in an airtight container for up to six months. 

    Medicinal Uses And Health Benefits 

    • Basil contains many chemicals. These chemicals might help get rid of intestinal worms.
    •  Basil is a good source of vitaminC, Calcium, Magnesium,Potassium, zinc Chlorophyll and Iron.
    • Use its fresh flowers for bronchitis.
    • Use the leaves and seeds, with black pepper, for malaria.
    • Use the whole plant for diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
    • Use the pill and ointment form for eczema.
    • Use an alcohol extract for stomach ulcers and eye diseases.
    • Use an essential oil made from the leaves for insect bites.
    • Many studies support the use of the entire plant of holy basil for human use and its therapeutic value.

    Culinary Uses 

    • This popular herb is used in a variety of Mediterranean and Asian dishes, ranging from creamy sauces to light, herbaceous salads and spicy curries.
    • Ingredients that are complimented by the addition of basil include meats like chicken and beef, olive oil, eggs, tomatoes, and herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano. 
    • Basil is most aromatic when used fresh, but fresh basil should be added at the end of cooking, as excessive heat will significantly deplete the flavor or even cause the herb to turn bitter. 
    • Dried basil is preferred for use throughout the cooking process, as the flavor won’t be significantly altered by the heat.
  • Growing Stevia (Natural Sugar Plant ) in Hydroponics

    The Stevia plant is a perennial that can be grown indoors/outdoors in the Hydroponic System. A single plant can play a big role in the reduction of refined sugar consumption.

    In most of the diet, sweetners, usually supplied by refined white sugar derived from sugar cane and sugar beet, are recognized as being the leading factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes and tooth decay.Just one half teaspoon of 100% pure Stevia extract powder equals the sweetness level of a whole cup of granulated sugar.

     

    Growing and Planting Care 

    • Gardeners can choose to start from Seed or by Root - cutting, and grow in either cocopeat and vermicompost mix grow media or in Hydroponic Nutrient solution alone
    • This Herbal sweetener is famous for poor germination rates as low as 50% or less and if the Stevia seeds germinated it is a slow grower .
    • Better you take a cutting from a new growth that is not too much green or too woody . If the cutting is too green and fresh it will wilt soon , and if it is too woody it may face trouble rooting .
    • Before propagating Stevia, make sure to check the plant from which the cutting will be taken. Ensure that no disease or pests are present that will be passed on to the new plant by observing the leaves, stems, and grow-media for any unusual spotting, insect presence, or fungal residue on the plant or in the grow-media. Once the established Stevia plant has passed this check, it’s time to grab some fresh cuttings to propagate.
    • Slice the stem with a sharp knife under the third leaf node , counting from the top of the plant . A leaf node is an active area where the leaves are emerging from the stem .
    • The cutting should be roughly about 3-5 inches long.

     

    Nutrients Applications :

    Stevia is not a heavy feeder and does not like much Nitrogen. Hydrilla suggests feed Stevia in a Hydroponic System with low nitrogen and high potasium https://hydrilla.in/hydroponics-nutrients/stevia-nutrients.html Special formulation for growing hydroponic stevia plants and maintain the nutrient solution pH in the range of 6.0 to 6.5.

     

    Pruning and harvesting Stevia :

    • In the first year year , you can let Stevia plant grow and need not to prune the leaves , it will eventually grow into a tall plant with 7- 8 branches 
    • To maximize the leaf production , you will have to trim back your plants quite a few times to encourage branching.
    • Perform the first pruning when plants are about to 8 - 10 inches in height.
    • When grown year round you can harvest Stevia up to 5 times a year. It will keep growing new stems from where you have to cut it back .
    • It is recommended not to cut it back beyond half of the stem height.
    • To get more sweetness in the leaf ( more of Steviol glycoside content ) , make sure you pluck the leaves prior to flowering .

    Make the most of your Stevia harvest by storing all that wholesome sweetness for future use. There are two main ways to do this :- 

     

    By drying the leaves. 

    You can dry individual leaves or entire stems, but only the leaf has the sweetness you want to preserve. This can be done by hanging stems or leaves in bunches, as you would with other herbs. Or remove the leaves from the stems and spread them on a non-metal screen outdoors with plenty of air circulation. A day in the sun should suffice. You can use a food dehydrator, or even an oven on low - 140 degrees for about 20 minutes.

     

    By making a Stevia extract.

    Making an extract will require the use of dried Stevia leaves that are only lightly crushed - not ground fine. This method extracts the sweetness from the Stevia herb and concentrates it in “ Water or Alcohol ” for future use. Bring 1 cup of water to a near boiling, add 1/2 cup of lightly crushed Stevia leaves. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 40 minutes. Strain through cheese cloth or a coffee filter and pour into a sterilized dark colored jar. Store your Stevia extract in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. This yields 3/4 cups, equivalent to about 3 cups of sugar. Now you know how to make a Stevia extract!

  • Hand - Pollination in Cucurbits

    Ever wondered how a plant forms fruits from flowers? Or how a tree spreads its dynasty and sprouts up young lings all over an area? That sorcery is ‘pollination’! Read more to learn about this.

    What is pollination? It’s the transfer of the fertilizing powder or pollen formed in the anthers of flowers to the stigma. What then follows is fertilization, which is a boon of nature. Clearly, pollination forms an inseparable part of the process of fruit manufacturing.

    Natural Pollination challenges:

    However, you must have observed that at times a plant forms flowers that bloom fully and then simply falls off from the plant. Apart from the male flowers that do not form fruit, if you see female flowers also fall off this way, then it is cause for concern. Cramped spaces and balcony gardens in concrete jungles exhibit one thing in common: the lack of insect traffic that forms an intricate network in the process of pollination and the low density of crosswinds resulting in lack of pollinators. Pollinator decline and concentrated pollination needs of monoculture may also be other factors in pollination shortage.

    Growing your Hydroponic vegetable garden inside can have its many perks .Not all vegetable plants produce dry pollen to be carried by wind to produce fruit , this type of pollination called Anemophily.instead so many vegetables like Cucurbits crops rely on attracting insects for pollination to produce fruit , when the pollination occurs by insects/animals is called Entomophily. When hydroponic gardens are moved inside they lose the ability to be pollinated, so you will have to do it by hand.

    Before Going to hand pollination in Cucurbits , you should know the flower morphology and identification of flowers.

    All gourds bear separate male and  female flowers.The male flowers generally appear first,followed in a weak or by female blossoms.it is easy to tell male from female flowers,as the female flowers have the small gourd shape below the bloom , while the male flower grows on a stem without the ball shape/bell shape below the flower . You can have a look at the pictures below ..!!

     

    The Female flower with a small fruit attached to it needs to be pollinated to produce into a matured fruit.honeybees and insects help in pollinating the flowers . though you can find lots of unpollinated young female flowers withering away in indoor gardens due to lack of natural pollinators. To get mature fruit , Hand-Pollination is a good practise in cucurbits .before going for hand pollination process, everyone should know the floral biology :-

    1. Time of Anthesis (Flowering) in both Female and Male  - 5:30 to 7 am
    2. Anther Dehiscence - 5 to 6 am 
    3. Pollen fertility - 5 am to 2pm
    4. Stigma receptivity - 24 hours before to 24 hours after Anthesis.

    After the opening of male flower , the anther dehiscence is between the temperature range of 20 - 30 degree celsius. Pollen fertility was considerable upto noon and by afternoon fertility was greatly reduced,and it was negligible by evening of the same day.In female flower , stigma becomes receptive 24 hours before anthesis and remains upto 24hours after anthesis.if pollination not done flowers remain open only for a few hours , after which the petals wither.if pollination done after 24hours the stigma loses its shine and becomes brownish and increases by about 3mm in length,showing the start of fruit formation.

    Hand-Pollination in the Cucurbits:-

    Identify the male flowers and female flowers on your cucurbit family plants .All cucurbits produce orange colored flowers except Bottle Gourd and Pumpkin which have white flowers.before going for pollination process

    Method 1 :- The first thing to do is to find a male flower , cut it off of the plant and snip its petals.as you do this ,try not to touch the stamen as much as possible so pollen doesn’t transfer to your fingers.next you want to find a female flower on the plant that is blooming open with its petals pushed back . Touch the stamen to the stigma on the female flower , and gently roll it over the stigma .

    Method 2 :-  The 2nd method of pollination requires a small paint brush or cotton swab .Find a male flower and brush the stamen to collect as much pollen as possible.next , find a female flower and brush the pollen you collected over the stigma of the female flower.

    Repeat these methods , pollinating every female flower and get a matured fruit ..!!

    The long day and High temperatures promotes only male flowers in cucurbits , to control over this problem some cultural practices we have to follow :-

    • The first vine that grows will have male flowers,but make it produce more female flowers by cutting the ends of the vine back .
    • Avoid heavy leaf pruning (Heavy leaf pruning leads to more Malne flowers in plants )
    • Growth Regulator application in cucurbits is done at 2 - 3 leaf stage .
    • To enhance the female flower production - Ethylene is used and to enhance the male flower production - GA3 used 
    • In commercial farms , the sex ratio in cucurbits should maintain : -  25 -30 : 1 or 15 : 1 ( Female : Male ) to get higher yields.

    Conclusion 

     Pollination is an important step to indoor vegetable gardening.Without it,flowers will not turn in to fruit.be sure to repeat the process several times over the period to make sure flowers are well pollinated.

  • Incredible benefits of Parsley

    Parsley:

    Parsley is a food rich in vitamins and minerals, but if we tend to suffer from kidney stones or if we are pregnant it’s better not to use it to avoid problems.

    Parsley is a delicate aromatic plant with an intense scent that is often present in the cuisine of various countries. It is native to the Mediterranean and it is also consumed in several countries of Orient.

    Its flavour is intense and, curiously, we will appreciate knowing that it also belongs to the botanical family of Umbelliferae, in which are included coriander, dill, celery or carrot. We can enjoy it in many ways, in infusions, in salads or in sauces, rice or meats. The flavour Parsley brings to our dishes is, without a doubt, very characteristic. If you do not consume it yet, we encourage you today to do so and we give you 5 good reasons to start using parsley right now.

    1. Parsley takes care of your bone health

    Many of us know the importance of phosphorus,  calcium, vitamin or vitamin B complex however many do not know that vitamin K deficiency is associated with a greater risk of bone fracture.

    Regular consumption of parsley gives us a good level of vitamin K which is ideal for improving healthy bones. It also improves calcium absorption in your body.

    A very important habit such as always growing fresh parsley with the right amount of plant nutrients ensures our health and well-being.

    1. Parsley helps you regulate blood sugar levels

    Parsley is rich in a very special type of flavonoids called myricetin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance. In addition, parsley has anti-inflammatory properties and also helps in regulates the level of fat in the blood.

    Because of these properties, we are not only fighting the onset of diabetes, but we are also taking care of our cardiovascular health by also reducing arterial inflammation. Having a good infusion of parsley and lemon after meals is healthy.

    1. Parsley for your kidney health

    Parsley is diuretic and it stimulates the renal function as it helps in detoxification tasks of the body. Because of its potassium content, it helps us to regulate arterial hypertension. However, parsley is not recommended for a person already suffering from kidney stones because of its oxalic acid content.

    1. Very suitable in cases of anaemia or fatigue

    Parsley always brings the most nutrients when consumed raw. It is rich in vitamin A and vitamins of group B. In addition, we can also get a good intake of potassium, calcium, zinc, phosphorous, iron and magnesium. Hence, parsley can become a supplement in our diet and is more than interesting in case of deficiencies, anaemia, or in periods of stress.

    1. Strengthen the immune system

    Instead of looking for vitamin supplements in pharmacies, we can opt for this healthier, natural solution such as eating vitamin-rich foods.

    Apart from being a good source of vitamin C, it is also interesting to know that parsley contains a chemical called apigenin. It is also a powerful antioxidant capable of acting against multiple viruses and bacteria.

    Do not hesitate to consume fresh parsley by adding it to your soups, salads, and pasta.

     

  • Hydroponics Vegetable Garden Guide

    Ready to jump into Vegetable gardening Hydroponically? Gardening might seem daunting at first, but it can be most rewarding given you grow healthy nutritious greens in the most hygienic way. You give nutrition, safety and immunity to yourself and your loved ones! Everyone knows about this however many do not take up gardening because of many reasons – lack of time, space, effort, vacation etc. Hydroponics offers solution to a lot of these factors. While gardening needs dedicated effort, Hydroponics reduces the time spent, automates irrigation, gives best nutrition to the plants thus giving you enough motivation to stay put with your gardening efforts. In addition to providing healthy food, vegetable gardening is an interesting hobby, healthy outdoor exercise, offers productive activity for the retired, handicapped, or physically challenged, and is an excellent teaching tool for children. Our Vegetable Gardening Guide for Beginners will help you plan a garden self-sufficient for your family and get guidance on growing vegetables from seed to harvest in Hydroponics.

    Make Good Use of your location 

    Success of your garden depends greatly on location. The advantage of hydroponics is that it is soilless. The space you have identified might be your apartment balcony or your house terrace. There is no need to shift loads of soil nor is there need of waterproofing. There is a water saving of 90% because of which urban gardening can still be visualized.
    Sunlight is absolutely necessary to produce healthy high-quality vegetables. If your space is limited to a balcony that does not get enough of sunlight, your options will be limited to few leafy greens that do not demand heavy sunlight.

    Plan your Garden

    • Deciding the size and arrangement of hydroponic systems depends on the space you have. If your space is limited to a small balcony of your apartment, you can give preference to Hydroponics NFT system.
    • These systems can be designed to fit into small spaces such that indoor gardening is also possible with these systems. If you have enough space like your home terrace, start with making a list of greens and vegetables that your family enjoys. Also, make sure that they can be grown successfully given the climate of your area.
    • Once you make the list, please note that there are variety of hydroponic systems suitable for different plant varieties.
    • NFT systems are suitable for growing all leafy greens, herbs and small vegetable plants. For growing large vegetable plants please choose a Dutch bucket system which gives good root space and support needed for the large plants. You can find information on plant varieties suitable for a given season below.

    The list of leafy-vegetables and Herbs that can be grown in NFT

    Warm Season Crops Cool Season Crops
    Spinach Broccoli
    Baby Spinach Lettuce - all varieties of lettuce
    Coriander , parsley , Celery Cauliflower & cabbage
    Amaranthus ( Red,Green & Bi-color variety ) Strawberry - Perennial in nature , requires, cool season for flowering and fruiting.
    Swisschard Kale
    Mint and most of Indian herb varieties Bokchoy , Watercress

    The list of vegetables that can be grown in Dutch bucket/Grow Bag system:

    Warm Season Crops Cool Season Crops
    Tomato Carrot
    Chilli Radish
    Okra Winter Squash
    Beans - Dolichos beans, Peas, Cluster bean , all leguminous crops . Onion, Garlic , Leek & Spring Onion
    Brinjal / Eggplant Potato
    Cucumber Turnip
    Summer Squash Beetroot
    Muskmelon & Watermelon Capsicum - Coloured variety except Green variety
    Gourds - Bitter gourd, Bottle gourd ,Snake gourd ,Ridge gourd  
    All herbs - Mint,  Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Insulin, lemongrass, Bonesetter, Ashwagandha, bhringraj, Stevia etc  
    • By seeing the growing season of different vegetable crops ,  plan in a staggered manner  so that you can have at least uniform weekly harvest of all vegetable crops for the kitchen.
    • Successive plantings are desirable if you wish to have a continuous fresh supply of certain vegetables. Don't plant too much of a crop at any one time. Two or three small plantings of leaf lettuce and radishes may be made a week to 10 days apart.
    • Tomatoes and Chillies may be planted every two weeks until you have used up all your dutch buckets reserved for that plant variety. At least two plantings of other vegetable varieties should be made on a monthly basis to have enough produce. Several plantings can be done throughout the season based on your requirement.

    Obtain good seed, plants, equipment and supplies

    • Seed selection is the key to success of your gardening effort. Careful selection of seeds that are disease-resistant and good yielders of high-quality, nutritious produce is recommended.
    • You can purchase seeds from nearby organic stores or online by checking for good reviews. Hydrilla also has good supply of exotic variety of seeds please check https://hydrilla.in/hydroponics-aquaponics-seeds.html/
    • Some herbal plant varieties like Mint and Rosemary are grown using propagation as germination from seed is difficult. For such plants, purchase plants from nearby nursery.Once planted you can also practice taking a cutting from grown plant and propagating further.
    • pH meter, EC meter, hydroponic nutrients, cans for stock solution are must have for your hydroponic garden. Organic neem oil, hydrogen peroxide, a generic biopesticide and biofungicides in small quantities can be kept to use if necessary for pest and disease management.

    Sowing of seeds

      • Follow the link below for a complete guide on sowing the seeds in seedling-tray to transplanting the seedlings in Net Pots. https://youtu.be/wGtU1wZmd9Y
      • After sowing the seeds, water the seedling-tray twice a day and keep in a dark area as sunlight should not fall on them until they germinate. You can keep the tray in dark area or cover the seedling-tray with black/white polythene cover or with another empty seedling tray over it. Based on the plant variety, you will see sprouts coming out in few days to a weeks’ time.
      • Once you see small true leaves, place the seedling-tray in a partial sunlight area. Moisten the seedlings with either plain water or 10% nutrient solution (around 200 PPM) twice in a day. Remember that throughout the germination period, watering should be just enough for the cocopeat to be moist. Never overwater or the seeds will not germinate and rot. Continue the plants in the tray until the plant roots reach the bottom of the cube in about 3-4 weeks.
      • The temperature for seed germination and transplanting period varies with different crop varieties.
      • Transplanting of seedlings in different Hydroponics systems mostly depends on the Root system of the plant , growth pattern & growth cycle of the plant.

     

    NFT (Nutrient Film Technique)

     

    Hydroponics NFT System

        • Nutrient Film technique growing is primarily used for growing Leafy green plants. In this system a thin stream of water (Nutrient solution) flows through rectangular channels. Because the nutrient solution stream forms a thin film in the bottom of the channels it gives the method its name .Follow the link for unpacking and installing the NFT system https://youtu.be/d32S8XPnAD8
        • When you see roots at the bottom of the cube or when the seedling produce 2 leaves, transplant into NFT channels and fertilize until the plants reach harvestable size. Try to do the transplanting of seedlings during the late afternoon/evening. The transplanting period is varies with vegetables varieties and climatic factors.
        • The seedlings can be placed directly in the net pots and expanded clay medium can be filled to close the gaps and also provide anchorage to the plant. Follow above the video link for transplanting of seedlings in the net pots.
        • The net pots are then placed in the NFT channel. They are placed such that the bottom of the net-pot touches the top of the nutrient solution. This is essential for the first few weeks when the root system of the seedlings are still developing. This is very important for the young plant to grow. If the seedling in the net-pot doesn’t touch the nutrient solution, the roots will not grow, eventually the plants will dry out and plants die away!
        • The nutrient solution flow in the channel should be in continuous mode and the circulation pump should be running 24×7 hrs because of recirculation there is a fall of the nutrient solution from the return pipe to the reservoir, the fall also causes aeration.
    • By seeing the growing season of different vegetable crops, plan in a staggered manner so that you can have uniform weekly harvest of all vegetable crops for the kitchen. For example, if you are using an NFT system with around 50 grow spots for your family, you can plan for above listed varieties in the system. Based on your family consumption and likes, you might want to grow more Spinach plants. If you have set aside 10 grow spots for Spinach, don’t sow for all 10 at once. Sow on a weekly basis such that you can have ongoing harvest for your kitchen.

    NFT system maintenance

        • Hydroponic reservoir should always be closed with a lid. Any unused grow spots in the channel also should be covered using a net cup. Sunlight should not hit the nutrient solution else Algae develops in the channel.
        • If temperature is very high, cooling of nutrient solution is important. You can paint reservoir with a reflective paint. Drop some ice water bottles into the reservoir.
        • If you see root rot issues, mostly a result of high temperature and low oxygen levels, make sure your pumps are running enough to replenish oxygen. To solve the rot issue, use some hydrogen peroxide solution.

    Cleaning Your NFT Channels

        • After each crop your NFT channels have to be cleaned to prevent any pathogens moving on to your next crop. Hydrilla has openable NFT channels that are relatively easy to clean as the cover of the channel can be opened exposing the channels for cleaning. To clean the channels, you can use Bleach powder or Hydrogen peroxide. By cleaning your channels regularly, you will not transport bacteria or pathogens from one crop to the next.

    Dutch Bucket system

     

        • For indoor gardening, a hydroponic Dutch bucket system gives growers a way to grow large nutrient demanding crops separately. In this system we are going to grow large-statured vegetable and fruit plants like Tomato, Capsicum, Chilli, melons; Herbs; large-rooting plants like Turmeric, ginger, potatoes etc.
        • The design of Dutch buckets systems is quite simple, with multiple variations on irrigation and equipment. A reservoir pump runs nutrient solution through a straight line over the buckets. Drippers control the flow to each bucket, and the solution runs through the media and then drains out of the bucket.
        • The more conservative drainage option is to run your Dutch buckets on a recirculating system. In a recirculating system, the buckets are irrigated and drain into a return line, a PVC line at a tilt that brings water/nutrient solution back to the reservoir for reuse.
        • Clay pellets, coco peat, perlite, and vermiculite can be used as grow media in the buckets. When using granular media like pellets the water can be recirculated between the dutch buckets and the reservoir. This gives excellent nutrient supply and aeration to plant roots.
        • If using porous growing media, open to drain or drip irrigation system has to be used.
        • For certain crops like herbs and root crops, mixing grow media also gives good aeration while keeping water level in the right amount so that the roots don’t rot.

    Grow bag system

    Hydroponics Grow Bag System

        • Grow bags can be economical alternatives to dutch buckets however they will not have long life and durability like buckets.
        • Granular media like clay pellets cannot be used with grow bags. Any porous media like cocopeat and perlite can be used, hence only drain to waste or drip irrigation system is used with grow bags.

    Cleaning Your Dutch bucket/grow bag system

        • If there is any Algae formation in reservoir, it can be disconnected from the hydroponic system, cleaned and filled with fresh batch of nutrient solution.
        • Buckets and grow bags are cleaned at the end of crop cycle. Plant along with the media is removed from the bucket, left for drying so that the media which is stuck to the plant roots dries up and can be removed.
        • Media is then sterilized with warm water to remove any accumulated salts, pathogens etc.
        • Inside of the Buckets can be cleaned with bleach and filled with clean media for next crop.

    Hydroponic Nutrients

    Hydrilla provides 'Grow' and 'Bloom' formulas containing all macro and micro nutrients necessary for plant growth. Grow formulation is used to promote vegetative growth. You can use this nutrient for all leafy greens and for the first few weeks for vegetable plants to promote good leaf growth. Bloom formulation has to be used approx. from second month after transplant for flowering, vegetable and fruiting plants to promote bloom and fruiting process.

    Preparing Stock solution of nutrients

     

    Nutrient Mixing, Balancing PH and EC

        • Follow the below link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Rp09ofyBEE
        • There are meters to measure both the parameters. pH meter measures, well, pH!. Electrical Conductivity meter measures EC which can be indication of the total dissolved salts in your solution. It is good to have both of them if you want to manage a system properly. It also helps to learn about hydroponics by studying the effect of plant growth on EC and pH and vice versa.
        • Understanding what the plant takes is important. When the plants are small, they take less nutrients and as they grow their consumption goes higher. Also, in summer, plants consume more water and in winter the consumption of water is less. This is mainly due to temperature and relative humidity impact on transpiration.
        • Measuring the conductivity daily will help us to figure out the nutrient absorption patterns in plants.
        • If the EC of the solution keeps coming down, the plants are taking more salts so you have to replenish the nutrients accordingly.
        • if the EC is climbing up, the plants are taking more water. We should refill the tank with plain water and reduce the EC of the solution to avoid salt build up.
        • Measure the volume in the tank every day. Refill the tank if it goes below the required volume. Once it is refilled check the EC and pH adjust so that the final values fall in the optimum range needed for the plants.
        • For Different vegetables the nutrient application method and concentration of nutrients would be different ,To know more about the EC and PH of vegetable crops follow the link https://drive.google.com/open?id=180kGIhnwRKBFAMQEiJUvNHQGSBBokJWf and for Herbs  follow the link https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uYaow5JfhhQbUrOPHk-2NmY-rPzJ19b3

    Deficiency in Hydroponic plants

        • The main cause of deficiency in plants is water hardness. Due to water hardness the plant roots are unable to take up the nutrients. It is important that a water test is conducted before going for Hydroponics.
        • Water containing too much calcium and magnesium (called "total Hardness") may create serious problems. Contact your municipal water supplier who can provide you with an analysis of your water supply. If you are using well water or any source of water, many laboratories can provide you with an analysis if you send them a sample.

    There are other reasons too resulting in deficiency

        • Acidity of the nutrient solution
        • Alkalinity of the nutrient solution
        • Root disease such as root rot causing plants to not take up nutrients.
        • Environmental stress such as extreme temperature, humidity etc

    Plant protection in Hydroponic plants

    Vegetables are affected by a number of pests and diseases, but the severity may vary according to locality. Insects and diseases can cause much damage to your crops if precautions are not taken before these pests arrive in your garden.  Select good disease resistant seed varieties for planting.

    Control of pests & diseases naturally/Organically

        • Use Yellow and blue sticky traps for early pest and disease detection
        • Remove dried and affected plant parts
        • Neem-oil extract
        • Pyrethrum spray
        • Pongamia extract
        • Alcohol spray at minor concentration
        • Herbal water spray
        • Garlic / pepper spray

    Harvest at Peak Quality

        • The quality of your vegetables cannot be improved after harvest. It is therefore important to harvest your crops at the proper maturity. For example, tomatoes have to be picked when they are crossing orange and turning red however if the temperature is high pick them a little early and allow them to ripe in little lower temperature.
        • To maintain quality after harvest, handle vegetables carefully. Avoid bruising or damaging them, for injury will encourage decay.

    Note :For further help and support in gardening Call/WhatsApp on +91-9108498102.

     

    Stay healthy! Stay safe! Happy gardening!

     

     

  • Microgreens growing guide

    What are Microgreens?

    The term microgreens defines a juvenile or a nascent stage in the life of a fully grown plant. Microgreens are very similar to sprouts, the difference being that they are grown in light, not darkness. They, like sprouts, can be grown on a small scale as a hobby at home or as small or large commercial operations. The basic difference in all the above-mentioned varieties is the duration and method of harvesting. The microgreen phase of a plant is when it starts forming its first set of leaves. Also known as 'vegetable confetti', the tiny, delicate, and very young microgreen leaves are used as an essential ingredient in salads and other foods as garnishing or as a taste enhancer. The tuft-like appearance of microgreens makes them an unusual visual and culinary delight. The flavourful and highly nutritious greens grow up to 2 inches tall within as little as 6 days.

    Microgreens are more nutritionally dense than the regular greens. They are replete with flavour, taste, and nutrition! Scientific evidence has proved microgreens to be 40 times more nutritive than the leaves of the same mature plant, grown using the normal potting and harvesting methods. Microgreens pack in a considerably higher percentage of the following nutrients: Vitamin C, E, and K. Lutein and beta-carotene (even more than the carrots!) can be found in abundantly large proportions in Microgreens. Not just loaded but overloaded with five times more carotenoids and micronutrients, microgreens are indeed a superfood that grows fast and provides a burst of health and beauty all at the same time!

    Seed selection and Sowing

     

    Some common seeds include red amaranth, arugula, beets, borage, cabbages, chards, cress,

    Kales, Mizuna, Mustards, Pak Choi, purslanes, radishes, sorrel, and others. Check Appendix 1 for elaborate seeds list.

    Purchase seeds specifically listed for use as microgreens, as they are not treated with fungicides. Since they are not treated, they may have fungal spores and/or bacterial spores on their surface. These pathogens must be eliminated by surface sterilization to prevent them from causing death of the germinating seedlings. If different seedlings need to be combined in the same tray, select varieties having the same growth rate. Do not combine seeds that germinate quickly with those that germinate slowly. For example, radish is ready to harvest in 5 to 6 d, whereas some lettuce and other greens may take 7 to 10 d. Some useful combinations include purple and Diakon radishes, amaranth and all greens, amaranth and spicy greens, and Komatsuna (green or red) with wildfire lettuce.

    Seeding densities should be thick enough to cover the tray, but not to the point of inhibiting airflow. Both small and large seeds should be sown thickly, then gently tamped into the growing medium/mat/towel. As a rule of thumb, sow small seeds at a density of approximately 10 to 12 seeds per square inch of tray surface, and larger or medium-sized seeds at a density of 6 to 8 seeds per square inch.

    Surface sterilization of the seeds before placing them on the paper towels or capillary matting is critical to success. Use a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) in a plastic cup to swirl the seeds around for 3 to 4 min; then rinse with raw water using a household strainer.

    Key growing information

    Culture

    Microgreens should be grown in a protected area like greenhouse or indoor grow room. Since the growing period is limited to a week or less, they should be given maximum protection as there won't be time for any corrective measures in case of pest or disease like Mold. Mild sunlight or < 30 W LED lighting is sufficient for good growth. They can be grown in a potting mix (coco peat, perlite, and vermiculite) or soilless medium. Shallow trays of 2" deep are sufficient. Grower can purchase capillary or burlap mats and place them on the trays to sow seeds. If not mats paper towels can also be spread on the trays. Cover the trays after sowing with paper towels until germination.

    Watering

    Moisten the paper towels or mat with some raw water and then place the seeds from the strainer into the tray with a spoon and spread evenly around the surface using the spoon or clean fingers. When adding raw water for the first 3 d until the seed germinates, be careful to pour the water slowly along the edge of one end of the tray so that the seeds do not float. Commercial growers choose to either circulate the water to the bottom of the tray or implement a mist spray to provide even moisture.

    After germination and the seeds have grown into the paper towels or mat (usually 3 d), start using a dilute nutrient solution (half the normal recommended strength when growing the same plant for full growth). Nutrient concentrates can be purchased from Hydrilla store. Harvest the seedlings after 7 to 10 d using a pair of scissors to cut off the shoots as the roots are not consumed.

    Lighting, Temperature and Humidity

    Similar to any other germination rules, keep away from light until germination. If using LED lights choose moderate intensity of around 30 W and place the lights about 12 in. (30 cm) above the tray. Operate the lights for 12 to 14 h/d. provide a moderate temperature of around 24 C until germination and then reduce it to 16 C to 18 C. High temperature inhibits germination and also can increase disease after germination. Sufficient air circulation can be provided with fans to prevent pest and disease issues.

    Diseases

    Since Microgreens are densely planted, they are prone to diseases like mold due to damping off, poor air circulation, saturated media/mat, high temperature, and humidity condition.

    Harvest

    Microgreens can be harvested anywhere between 1 to 2 weeks based on the variety. They are usually harvested a couple of days after true leaves appear. They usually reach a height of ½” to 2”.. The majority of vegetable varieties grown as microgreens are ready for harvest in less than 2 weeks, though the brassicas mustard and radish have a faster growth rate and therefore mature faster than beets, carrots, or chard. Herbs grown as microgreens tend to be comparatively slow-growing, maturing in 16 to 25 days. Depending upon types, varieties, and environmental conditions, a production cycle can be prolonged up to 4 weeks and beyond. They have to be cut at the shoots as the roots are not consumed. Use clean sterilized scissors to cut to prevent any disease infection. They can also be sold as live produce without cutting the roots. The weight of the product might increase but this also increases shelf life.

    Packaging and storage

    They can be packed in clamshell boxes and their shelf life ranges from 5 to 10 days under proper storage conditions. They are nutritious best when consumed immediately on the harvest.

    Yield data

    Many factors come into play when evaluating microgreens yield. The two most obvious are seeding density and  plant size at harvest (days to maturity). Even small changes to these factors can alter yield quantities. Then add natural vs. supplemental light, inside growing vs. greenhouse growing, seasonal shifts, variations in equipment and materials, etc. Want a larger plant? Use a bit less seed and wait a few more days. Want to harvest at the cotyledon stage? Sow more thickly and harvest earlier. Always be sure to provide sufficient airflow and appropriate temperatures to support your plants. Give importance to taking good notes. To replicate or alter the results of any given seeding, you need to be able to see clearly what was done before. Sowing dates and quantities of seed sown should be based upon customer demand, delivery schedules, and varietal growth rates. As noted, different varieties grow at different rates. Keep records and modify your system as needed. With some training, good record-keeping, and repetition, a grower can become adept at estimating seed requirements versus project yield, timing production cycles, and forecasting ROI.

    Marketing

    Marketing topic is mostly addressed last in any guide however market research should be given the top priority. Few tips here:

    1. Before going into production, get in touch with potential buyers possibly superstores selling microgreens, oriental restaurant owners or chefs, etc.
    2. Produce few mixed varieties and distribute samples and take feedback. Feedback collected from chefs is very useful.
    3. Once you finalize the varieties, sort them as per their growth period and sow them separately.
    4. Modify your product varieties to keep customers engaged.
    5. Keep your product and deliver it fresh. Keep the nutrition promise.

    Appendix 1: List of microgreen seeds

    1. Amaranth, Garnet Red
    2. Corn Microgreen Seeds
    3. Yellow Carrot Microgreens Seeds
    4. Mizuna Green Microgreen Seeds
    5. Garden Cress Microgreen Seeds
    6. Sunflower Microgreen Seeds
    7. Radish Purple Microgreens
    8. Green Mustard Microgreen Seeds
    9. Wheatgrass Microgreen Seeds
    10. Coriander microgreen seeds
    11. Alfalfa microgreen seeds
    12. Clover microgreen seeds
    13. Peas microgreen seeds
    14. Kohl Rabi Purple microgreen seeds
    15. Parsley microgreen seeds
    16. Kale microgreen seeds
    17. Basil Purple microgreen seeds
    18. Basil Green Microgreen seeds
    19. Kohl Rabi Green Microgreen Seeds
    20. Beet Root Microgreen Seeds
    21. Pak Choi Microgreen Seeds
    22. Amaranthus Red Microgreen Seeds
    23. Radish Pink Microgreen Seeds
    24. Radish White Microgreen Seeds
    25. Onion Microgreen Seeds
    26. Broccoli Microgreen Seeds
    27. Spinach Microgreen Seeds
    28. Cabbage Microgreen Seeds
    29. Cauliflower Microgreen Seeds
    30. Fenugreek (Methi) Microgreen Seeds
    31. Red Chard Microgreen Seeds
    32. Red Cabbage Microgreen Seeds
    33. Red Kale Microgreen Seeds
    34. Rocket Microgreen Seeds
  • How to grow tomatoes in hydroponics from seedling

    Hydroponic tomatoes are the tomato plants that are grown and catered to while in nutrient solution instead of being in the soil.

    Hydroponics can be an economical alternative, capable of delivering fresh luscious and healthy fruit all through the year.

    Hydroponics can deliver fresh fruit that is as tasty as outdoor grown tomatoes from your local grocery store or farmer's market. The main advantage is that you can grow this summer fruit all through the year, even in winters.

    For beginners it is not best option to grow tomato in hydroponics because all fruit plants require more inputs and care than leafy greens and herbs. This includes careful monitoring nutrient mixes, and adequate lighting, not to mention a lot of maintenance and pruning. And tobacco mosaic virus, fungal blight, and various bacterial infections can kill your crop. Whiteflies, many worms, and spider mites can all appear on your indoor grow area, eating and killing your tomatoes.

    Tomatoes can be growing in the following ways

    • Growing tomatoes from seed
    • Growing tomatoes from saplings

    Growing tomatoes from Saplings: -

    • Saplings are the easiest route to having your own hydroponic grow system. You can buy these from your local hydroponics/garden store.
    • But using saplings of tomatoes grown outdoors is not a good idea for a hydroponic system. Seeds germinated in outdoor soil could be contaminated by pests and germs.
    • Just one infected seedling is enough to destroy an entire crop. So, hydroponic veterans prefer to grow their seedlings indoors.

    Growing tomatoes from seed

    The most important of growing tomatoes from seed is to get good quality seeds. There are many varieties of tomatoes. Almost 300 to 400 varieties are there. The varieties differ in the following ways

    • Fruit shape (Cherry tomato)
    • Fruit color (Yellow cherry, Black prince)
    • Fruit size / weight (beefsteak tomato)
    • Plant growing habit (indeterminate & Determinate)
    • Taste and Flavor

    Tomatoes are an excellent summer fruiting vegetable to grow using all methods of aquaponics & hydroponics, although physical support is necessary. Given the high nutrient demand of tomatoes, especially potassium, the number of plants per unit should be planned according to the fish biomass, in order to avoid nutrient deficiencies. A higher nitrogen concentration is preferable during early stages to favor plants vegetative growth; however, potassium should be present from the flowering stage to favor fruit settings and growth.

    Tomatoes prefer warm temperatures with full sun exposure. Below 8 - 10°C the plants stop growing, and night temperatures of 13 - 14°C encourage fruit set. Temperatures above 40°C cause floral abortion and poor fruit setting.

    There are two major types of tomato plants:

    Determinate (seasonal production) and indeterminate (continuous production of floral branches). In the first type, plants can be left to grow as bushes by leaving 3 - 4 main branches and removing all the auxiliary suckers to divert nutrients to fruits. Both determinate and indeterminate varieties should be grown with a single stem (double in case of high plant vigor) by removing all the auxiliary suckers. However, in determinate varieties, the apical tip of the single stem has to be cut as soon as the plant reaches 7 - 8 floral branches in order to favor fruiting. Tomato rely on supports that can be either made of stakes (bush plants) or bound to vertical plastic/nylon strings that are attached to iron wires pulled horizontally above the plant units.

    Planting Instructions: -

    • Transplant the seedlings into units 3 - 6 weeks after germination when the seedling is 10 - 15 cm and when night-time temperatures are constantly above 10°C.
    • In transplanting the seedlings, avoid waterlogged conditions around the plant collar to reduce any risks of diseases.
    • Once the tomato plants are about 60 cm tall, start to determine the growing method (bush or single stem) by pruning the unnecessary upper branches.
    • Remove the leaves from the bottom 30 cm of the main stem to favor a better air circulation and reduce fungal incidence.
    • Prune all the auxiliary suckers to favor fruit growth.
    • Remove the leaves covering each fruit branch soon before ripening to favor nutrition flow to the fruits and to accelerate maturation.

    Pollination: -

    The wind, bees and other insects pollinate tomatoes naturally outdoors. As a hydroponic grower, you must perform the job manually. Transfer pollen using a small paintbrush or cotton swab by dabbing the tip on the stigma of each flower. This procedure is best done between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. when the flower petals are bent backwards, exposing the stigma. You can introduce bumblebees to do the job if you have a greenhouse.

    Harvesting: -

    For best flavor, harvest tomatoes when they are firm and fully colored. Fruits will continue to ripen if picked half ripe and brought indoors. Fruits can be easily maintained for 2- 4 weeks at 5 - 7°C under 85 - 90 percent relative humidity

  • How to grow plants in NFT Channels?

    Growing Plants in NFT channels

    Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) growing is primarily used for growing leafy green plants. Using this method, a thin stream of water flows through a rectangular channel about 3" to 10" wide (wider channels are used for fodder crops). Because the nutrient stream forms a thin film in the bottom of the channel it gives the method its name. Plant roots are bathed in this stream of nutrients and grow very quickly.

    Hydrilla offers NFT channels in different sizes. And these channels are punched with specially sized holes to enable a grower to precisely space crops for best growth.

    When installed the channels are sloped about one inch over every thirty-six to forty inches to allow the nutrient film to flow easily. The nutrient liquid is pumped in through a small diameter feed line, flows down the channel to be collected at the lower end. At the lower end the film flows back into the reservoir ready to be reused.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    What kind of plants can be grown in NFT channels?

    NFT channels are primarily used to grow leafy green plants with a short growth period. Bibb and leaf type lettuce are an ideal plant for such a system but you can grow other leafy green plants such as spinach, broccoli, and certain herbs. Larger plants such as cabbage, that take longer to grow, are heavier, and have larger root systems are not suitable for an NFT system.

    Starting seedlings for NFT channels: -

    seedling-trays Seedling Trays

    Most hydroponic plants are started in cubes and transplanted into the channels. The cubes can be made of rockwool, coir, peat moss or a type of spun polymer that allow the nutrient film to soak the cube but also allow the film to flow past it.

     

     

    To start seedlings the first step is to wet the cubes. Run several quarts of water through the cubes. This not only wets them but also cleans out any excess salts in the cubes. set the cubes in standard seedling flats before placing a seed in the dimple in the center of the cube.

    You will find it difficult to set a single seed in the middle of each cube because the seeds are so small.

    Keep the seedlings damp and keep the temperature in the germinating area around 20 to 25°C and Keep the temperature around the seedlings at least 13-21°C at night and up to 25°C during the day. Moisten the seedlings with either water (no nutrients) or half strength nutrient solution until the plant roots reach the bottom of the cube in about ten days to two weeks.

    How to Transplant into NFT System?

    When you see roots at the bottom of the cube or when the seedling leaves are around 2" long, transplant into NFT channels and fertilize until the plants reach harvestable size. When placing cubes in the channels the slots in the bottom of the cube should run along the channel to help the nutrient film flow easily. Nutrient flow at this time should be about 2 liters per minute for large plants and 0.5 liter capacity per minute at a pH of 5 to 5.8 depending on temperature and time of year.

    Harvesting the crop: -

    To harvest the crop, the lettuce and its cube are gently lifted out of the channel. The cube can be disposed of by trimming the roots away, or it can be left in place depending on what your buyer prefers. You might also have to trim away any leaves with brown tips or discoloration. Immediately after harvesting the crop should be cooled, packed and shipped. Delays are critical to the quality of your product at this stage.

    How to clean NFT Channels?

    After each crop your NFT channels should be cleaned to prevent any pathogens moving on to your next crop.

    To clean the channels, you can make up a mixture of water with a half cup of bleach added to kill of organisms and then rinse with fresh water or you can clean with a bacterial fungicide such as Oxidate or Zerotol. By cleaning your channels regularly, you will not transport bacteria or pathogens from one crop to the next.

    Mixing Nutrients: -

    Hydroponic Nutrients Hydroponic Nutrients for Leafy greens

    If you are planning a small system, using concentrated solution is an option, but at Hydrilla we recommend using an easily dis solvable granular fertilizer. This fertilizer is based on the plant requirements only. However, if your water supply analysis tells us that your water already contains specific elements, we can change the formulation to suit your water supply. Because some fertilizer materials react together in storage, Hydrilla supplies them in separate containers for the grower to mix in separate tanks. Only after the granular fertilizer is dissolved is it mixed together.

    After mixing the nutrient solution is pumped to the upper ends of the channels allowing gravity to move it down toward the lower end. At the lower end the solution is funneled back into the reservoir. In some systems the nutrient system flows continuously, while in others it is pumped through the system every three or four hours.

  • Major Differences between Soil and Soil less crop production

    There are many similarities between in-ground soil based agriculture and soil less production, While the basic plant biology is always same. However it is worth investigating major differences between soil and soil-less production in order to bridge the gap between traditional in-ground practices and newer soil-less techniques. Generally the differences are between the use of fertilizer and consumption of water, the ability to use non-arable land, and overall productivity. In addition, soil-less agriculture is typically less labor-intensive. Finally, soil-less techniques support monocultures better than does in-ground agriculture.

    Soil vs Soil less crop production

    Fertilizer:-

    Soil chemistry, especially relating to the availability of nutrients and the dynamics of fertilizers, is a full discipline and fairly complex. Fertilizer addition is required for intensive in-ground cultivation. However, farmers cannot fully control the delivery of these nutrients to plants because of the complex process occurring in the soil, including biotic and abiotic interactions. The sum of these interactions determines the availability of the nutrients to the plant roots. Conversely, in soil-less culture, the nutrients are dissolved in a solution that is delivered directly to the plants, and can be tailored specifically to plant's needs. Plants in soil-less culture grow in contained inert media. These media do not interfere with the delivery of nutrients, which can occur in soil, in addition, the media physically support the plants and keep the roots wet and aerated. Moreover, with in-ground agriculture, some of the fertilizers may be lost to weeds and runoff, which can decrease efficiency while causing environmental concerns. Fertilizer is expensive and can make up a large part of the budget for in-ground farming.
    The tailored management of fertilizer in soil-less agriculture has two main advantages. First, minimal fertilizer is lost to chemical, biological or physical processes. These losses decrease efficiency and can add to the cost. Second, the nutrient concentrations can be precisely monitored and adjusted according to the requirements of the plants at particular growth stages. This increased control can improve productivity and enhance the quality of the products.

    Water Use:-

    Water use in hydroponics and aquaponics is much lower than in soil production. Water is lost form in-ground agriculture through evaporation from the surface, transpiration through the leaves, percolation into the subsoil, runoff and weed growth. However, in soil-less culture, the only water use is through crop growth and transpiration through the leaves. The water used is the absolute minimum needed to grow the plants, and only a negligible amount of water is lost for evaporation from the soil-less media. Overall, aquaponics uses only about 10 percent of the water needed to grow the same plant in soil. Thus, soil-less cultivation has great potential to allow production where water is scarce or expensive.

    Utilization of non-arable land:-

    Owning to the fact that soil is not needed, soil-less culture methods can be used in areas with non-arable land. One common place for aquaponics is in urban and peri-urban areas that cannot support traditional soil agriculture.  Aquaponics can be used on the ground floor, in basements (using grow lights) or on rooftops. Urban-based agriculture can also reduce the production footprint because transport needs are greatly reduced. Urban agriculture is local agriculture and contributes to the local economy and local food security. Another important application for aquaponics is in other areas where traditional agriculture cannot be employed. Such as in area that are extremely dry (deserts and other arid climates), where the soil has high salinity (coastal and coral sand islands) where the soil quality has been degraded through over-use of fertilizers or lost because of erosion or mining, or in general where arable land is unavailable owing to tenure, purchase costs and land rights. Globally, the arable land suitable for farming is decreasing, and aquaponics is one method that allows people to intensively grow food where in-ground agriculture is difficult or impossible.

    Productivity and yield:-

    The most intensive hydroponic culture can achieve 20 - 25 percent higher yields than the most intensive soil-based culture, although rounded down data by hydroponic experts claim productivity 2 - 5 times higher. This is when hydroponic culture uses exhaustive greenhouse management, including expensive inputs to sterilize and fertilize the plants. Even without the expensive inputs, the aquaponic techniques described in this publication can equal hydroponic yields and be more productive than soil. The main reason is the fact that soil-less culture allows the farmer to monitor, maintain and adjust the growing conditions for the plants, ensuring optimal real-time nutrient balances, water delivery, pH and temperature. In addition, in soil-less culture, there is no competition with weeds and plant benefit from higher control of pests and diseases.

    Reduced Workload:-

    Soil-less culture does not require ploughing, tilling, mulching or weeding. On large farms, this equates to lower reliance on agriculture machinery and fossil fuel usage. In small-scale agriculture, this equates to an easier, less labor-intensive exercise for the farmer, especially because most aquaponic units are raised off the ground, which avoids stooping. Harvesting is also a simple procedure compared with soil-based agriculture, and products do not need extensive cleaning to remove soil contamination. Aquaponics is suitable for any gender and many age classes and ability levels of people.

    Sustainable monoculture:-

    With soil-less culture, it is entirely possible to grow the same crops in monoculture, year after year. In-ground monocultures are more challenging because the soil becomes tired, loses fertility, and pests and diseases increase. In soil-less culture, there is simply no soil to lose fertility or show tiredness, and all the biotic and abiotic factors that prevent monoculture are controlled. However, all monocultures require a higher degree of attention to control epidemics compared with polyculture.

    Increased complication and high initial investment:-

    The labor required for the initial set-up and installation, as well as the cost, can discourage farmers from adopting soil-less culture. Aquaponics is also more expensive than hydroponics because the plant production units need to be supported by aquaculture installations. Aquaponics is a fairly complex system and requires daily management of three groups of organisms. If any one part of the system fails, the entire system can collapse. In addition, aquaponics requires reliable electricity. Overall, aquaponics is far more complicated than soil-based gardening. Once people are familiar with the process, aquaponics becomes very simple and the daily management becomes easier. There is a learning curve, as with many new technologies, and any new aquaponic farmer needs to be dedicated to learn. Aquaponics is not appropriate for every situation, and the benefits should be weighed against the costs before embarking on any new venture.

    Category Soil-based Soil-less
    Production Yield Variable, depending on
    soil characteristics and management.
    Very high with dense crop production.
    Production Quality Dependent on soil characteristics and
    management. Products can be of lower
    quality due to inadequate fertilization/treatments.
    Full control over delivery of appropriate
    nutrients at different plant growth stages.
    Removal of environmental, biotic and abiotic
    factors that impair plant growth in soil (soil
    structure, soil chemistry, pathogens, pests).
    Sanitation Risk of contamination due to use
    of low quality water and/or use of
    contaminated organic matter as
    fertilizer.
    Minimal risk of contamination for human health.
    Nutrition Nutrient delivery High variability depending on the soil
    characteristics and structure. Difficult
    to control the levels of nutrients at the
    root zone.
    Real time control of nutrients and pH to plants
    at the root zone. Homogeneous and accurate
    supply of nutrients according to plants growth stages. Needs monitoring and expertise.
    Nutrient use efficiency Fertilizers widely distributed with
    minimum control of nutrients according
    to growth stage. Potentially high
    nutrient loss due to leaching and runoff.
    Minimal amount used. Uniform distribution
    and real time adjustable flow of nutrients. No
    leaching.
    Water use System efficiency Very sensitive to soil characteristics,
    possible water stress in plants, high
    dispersal of nutrients.
    Maximized, all water loss can be avoided.
    Supply of water can be fully controlled by
    sensors. No labor costs for watering, but
    higher investment.
    Salinity Susceptible to salt build up, depending
    on soil and water characteristics.
    Flushing salt out uses large amounts of
    water.
    Depends on soil and water characteristics. Can
    use saline water, but needs salt flush-out that
    requires higher volumes of water.
    Management Labor and equipment Standard, but machines are needed
    for soil treatment (ploughing) and
    harvesting which rely on fossil
    fuels. More manpower needed for
    operations.
    Expertise and daily monitoring using
    relatively costly equipment are both essential.
    High initial set-up costs. Simpler handling
    operations for harvest.

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