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Blog

farm tech, farm food, farm style

Filtering by Category: Farm Tech

Growing Hydroponic Specialty Crops

Tyler Baras

I recently did an interview with Evan Bromfield of The Urban Vertical Farming Project and I'm super excited about how it came out! Below is an excerpt, head over to The Urban Vertical Farming Project blog to read the whole article!

Hydroponic Monsters: Not your usual suspects of lettuce and tomatoes, but these little-known plants kill it in hydroponic systems

Mizuna – “Mizuna is just a beast in hydroponics,” Tyler says. “It’s just the easiest crop to grow.” Mizuna’s serrated leaves look like saw teeth and it has a peppery, spiced taste, like a more mild version of arugula, something most people are already familiar with.

Mint – My farm already has 7 different mint varieties growing and we are still trying to get up and running fully. That 7 could easily double. Tyler says that some of the more unique flavors of mint are “a good way to really surprise someone. Though some of them are just gross.” He gags at the memory of lavender mint. But, anyone who has made the mistake of planting mint directly into a garden bed knows it’s a voracious plant, and it’s no different in hydroponics. Varieties that many people have never heard of (including the bartenders that make great customers for this specific plant) include: chocolate, pear, and pineapple.

Sorrel – Sorrel leaves have an interesting lemony tang similar to oxalis, an easily forageable edible plant most people think is a clover-like weed. In fact, oxalic acid gives both of these plants their flavor. Tyler recommends that when giving samples to chefs “Start with eating the stems and then the leaves. And, usually you just see the red vein sorrel, but the green sorrel is way tastier.”

Watercress – “It just explodes in any system I put it in,” says Tyler. “But it’s a magnet for aphids so you have to have a pretty good pest control program.” Tyler has found that it’s also a good plant for the farmers market. “Usually I think of it as something that people aren’t super familiar with, but if they know it they love it.”
— https://urbanverticalfarmingproject.com/2016/12/08/growing-rare-plants-hydroponically/

Easy Low-Maintenance Hydroponics - The Kratky Method

Tyler Baras

IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE ‘EASY LOW-MAINTENANCE HYDROPONICS - THE KRATKY METHOD!' VIDEO ABOVE, GIVE IT A LOOK-SEE THEN CHECK OUT THE BLOG POST BELOW TO LEARN MORE!


EASY LOW-MAINTENANCE HYDROPONICS - THE KRATKY METHOD

Got a black thumb? Are you a serial plant killer? Don't give up, all hope is not lost! There is an easy way to grow... it's the Kratky Method!

Quick Definition

The easiest hydroponic growing technique. No pumps, no complex irrigation systems... it's pretty much just plants sitting in water. And it works!

History

Most of the early hydroponic research focused on static water systems. These systems worked, BUT, as scientists tend to do, they kept experimenting and eventually found there was an increase in plant growth when the nutrient solution was aerated. This discovery spurred the development of many circulating hydroponic systems like nutrient film technique (NFT) and top drip irrigation. Now most of the hydroponic research is focused on these circulating systems, BUT, there are still horticulturists experimenting with non-circulating hydroponics. One of the most vocal proponents of non-circulating hydroponics is Dr. Bernard Kratky of the University of Hawaii. He has done so much to continue the development of non-circulating hydroponics that his name has almost become synonymous with the technique... thus it is commonly referred to as the Kratky Method! Learn more about non-circulating hydroponics from the man himself in this paper or this video!

DIY Kratky Systems

Here is a simple system I built in 10 ish minutes. I made a video with my buddy Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden) which explains the system shown below in further detail. Gary is an avid gardener but new to hydroponics. He is going to be releasing videos of his experience with hydroponics and I'm super excited to follow his progress. You can do it Gary! 

 This basil is less than 3 weeks old!

This basil is less than 3 weeks old!

STEP 1

 Cut foam board to fit inside a 5 gallon bucket.

Cut foam board to fit inside a 5 gallon bucket.

STEP 2

 Get seedlings. Leafy greens (lettuce, kale, herbs..) are the ideal crop for Kratky style systems. Seedlings can be started in a hydroponic substrate like the stonewool above or in soil. When using seedlings started in soil, try to use as little soil as possible and wait until seedling has developed enough roots to prevent soil from quickly washing away into the nutrient solution (see image below).

Get seedlings. Leafy greens (lettuce, kale, herbs..) are the ideal crop for Kratky style systems. Seedlings can be started in a hydroponic substrate like the stonewool above or in soil. When using seedlings started in soil, try to use as little soil as possible and wait until seedling has developed enough roots to prevent soil from quickly washing away into the nutrient solution (see image below).

 This is a well developed seedling started in soil that I transplanted into a hydroponic system.

This is a well developed seedling started in soil that I transplanted into a hydroponic system.

Step 3

 Cut holes in the foam board to fit seedling plugs. Most leafy greens should be spaced 6" apart. Fill bucket with water and mix in hydroponic fertilizer using recommended rates on fertilizer bag. For this system I used  MaxiGro by General Hydroponics .

Cut holes in the foam board to fit seedling plugs. Most leafy greens should be spaced 6" apart. Fill bucket with water and mix in hydroponic fertilizer using recommended rates on fertilizer bag. For this system I used MaxiGro by General Hydroponics.

Step 4

 Let it grow! No need to do anything. I didn't touch this system for nearly 2 months!!

Let it grow! No need to do anything. I didn't touch this system for nearly 2 months!!

2 Months Later...

 I severely neglected these basil plants. I didn't give any attention to this system and should have harvested the crop much earlier (probably after 1 month) but I just let the system keep doing its thing and after 2 months I had these monster basil plants. Hooray for the Kratky method!!

I severely neglected these basil plants. I didn't give any attention to this system and should have harvested the crop much earlier (probably after 1 month) but I just let the system keep doing its thing and after 2 months I had these monster basil plants. Hooray for the Kratky method!!

The Salad Box System used in the "Easy Low-Maintenance Hydroponics - The Kratky Method!" video was provided by Hydrofarm. I only promote products that I believe in, and the salad box is pretty rad. Thank you Hydrofarm for helping me create educational content! 

Home Hydroponics with Farmer Tyler on Studio 512 (KXAN Austin)

Tyler Baras

Earlier this week I visited Studio 512 on KXAN Austin to explain the science behind hydroponics and show some easy-to-use home hydroponic systems. Thank you Amanda Tatom and Studio 512 for inviting me on the show! It was a lot of fun!! 

Kid Astronauts and Space Plants!

Tyler Baras

Recently I visited the 1st grade class at Preston Hollow Elementary in Dallas, Texas. We first discussed what is required for a plant to grow on Earth, then we explored the ways these requirements could be met in space... using an LED Growth Chamber!

Learn more about growing food on martian soil: Link 1  Link 2

Check out the University of Arizona's Lunar Greenhouse: Link

Get more information on the LED Growth Chamber: Link

Wet Wilts and Water Uptake

Tyler Baras

If you've not yet seen the Wet Wilts video above, give it a looksie! I simplified the role of the Casparian strip in the video, the deeper science is even more exciting!

The information below was sourced from Plant Physiology (Fifth Edition) by Lincoln Taiz and Eduardo Zeiger.

Before the Casparian strip, water enters a plant through three pathways:

  • Symplast and transmembrane pathway: Moving through a network of interconnected cells.
  • Apoplast pathway: Moving through the space between cells.
  • Transmembrane pathway: Moving in and out of cells.
onepath.png

Before entering the core of a plant (endodermis), all water must move to the symplastic pathway. To enter this pathway, water (and solutes) must pass through the plasma membrane of a cell. Water movement across plasma membranes is dependent on aquaporins. Aquaporins are proteins in a cell's membrane that serve as channels for water transport. The permeability of aquaporins is influenced by several factors including temperature, anaerobic conditions, and pH. 'Wet Wilts' as described in the video occur because of anaerobic conditions. The reduced respiration rates in response to anaerobic conditions “can lead to increases in intracellular pH. This increase in cytoplasmic pH alters the conductance of aquaporins in root cells, resulting in roots that are markedly less permeable to water. The fact that aquaporins can be gated in response to pH provides a mechanism by which roots can actively alter their permeability to water in response to their local environment.” Wow science is awesome. To sum it up:

  1. Low oxygen environment leads to reduced respiration in root zone
  2. Reduced respiration leads to increased cytoplasmic pH
  3. Higher cytoplasmic pH leads to reduced permeability in aquaporins
  4. Reduced permeability in aquaporins leads to 'wet wilt'

When will you see wet wilt?

  • High light levels: full sun or powerful grow lights increase transpiration and water uptake demand
  • Poor drainage: leads to low oxygen levels in root zone reducing permeability of aquaporins
  • Low humidity: increases transpiration thus increasing water uptake demand
  • Large plants: large plants often transpire more than small plants, increasing uptake demand

Products used in this video

My partnership with Hydrofarm does not force me to show specific products, I only choose my favorites to feature. Here are the products I used in this video:

Hydroponic Workshops at The GrowHaus

Tyler Baras

CropKing NFT

Do you want to learn how to build a hydroponic garden? Awesome!

I'm teaching that!

Join me for a Hands-on Introduction to Hydroponics workshop on June 6th or July 11th. This class will prepare you to confidently create and maintain your own hobby hydroponic system. Register early to secure an optional hydroponic starter kit for the Build-Along Session. Visit The GrowHaus Workshop Calendar for a complete description and registration.

I'm also teaching a Two-Day Advanced Hydroponic Training workshop July 18th & 19th. This course is a comprehensive introduction to hydroponic farming for all skill levels, combining both classroom and experiential learning. Included in this course:

  • Hands-on training for vegetable production from seeding to sale and distribution
  • Introduction to different types of commercial hydroponic systems
  • Plant Pathology and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for leafy greens
  • Choosing and Blending Hydroponic Fertilizers (Synthetic and Organic)
  • Environmental Controls for Greenhouses and Indoor Farms
  • Food Safety
  • Packaging and Post-Production
  • Marketing and Distribution
  • Group Farm Design Session

Visit the The GrowHaus Workshop Calendar for more information and registration!

There are a limited number of scholarships available for these workshops. Please contact kelsey@thegrowhaus.org for more information.