Monthly Archives: February 2017

plants growing hydroponically

An Overview of Hydroponic Gardening For Indoor Plants

February 23, 2017

plants growing hydroponicallyOne of the questions I get asked all the time is: what exactly is hydroponic gardening? What makes it different from regular gardening? Well, let’s see.

Basically, hydroponic gardening uses more water. The word Hydro is Greek for water. That’s where the name comes from.

What does that mean? It uses more water? Yes.

In normal gardening, the plants are put in soil and watered from above. The water seeps into the soil and the plants drink it with their roots. Depending on the plant you water every day or every few days. You want the soil to always be moist so the plants can get the water they need. If you need nutrients, you can put them in the water but it generally doesn’t happen. The plant growth depends on the soil and any diseases that are in the soil can affect the plant.

With hydroponic gardening, the plants are not put in soil, they are put in some kind of growth medium. Then you run water through that medium continuously. You put nutrients in the water and the plants seep up that water. They get a lot more water and they grow a bit faster and it works really well. It is also much easier to manage.

So basically, the plants sit in water all the time and that water contains mineral nutrient solutions. Those nutrients can come from fish waste, duck manure or just normal nutrients.

Your two main techniques are: sub irrigation and top irrigation. You can guess from the name what they are. There’s another distinguisher between a continuous flow solution and a static solution. In a static solution, the plants sit in containers containing the nutrient solution. If it is un-aerated, the solution is kept very low so that the roots are above and can get enough oxygen. If it is aerated, air is pumped into the water.

In a continuous flow solution, the nutrient solution constantly flows past the roots. It is easier to keep control this way because the same solution goes to all the plants and you can control it from one centralized area like a large tank. You don’t have to control each smaller tank separately.

Another variation is something called aeroponics. In this system roots are continuously saturated with a mist of nutrient solution. With this method you don’t need a substrate and the plants grow with their roots suspended in a growth chamber and are just occasionally wetted with the mist.

The main advantage of aeroponics is the fact that the plants are aerated better than with hydroponics. Another advantage is that any type of plant species can be grown using aeroponics.

Then there is fogoponics, which is just an advancement of aeroponics. It uses water in a vaporized form and the main difference is in the size of the misted droplets.

Since these are indoor systems you will of course need hydroponic lighting but that is a matter for a different article and as I’m sure you’ve noticed, we have a lot of those on this site.

glass teapot infusing blooming tea

An Afternoon Tea Leads To a Garden Idea

February 4, 2017

Every week I go to a meeting of my local gardening group. We run a small urban garden in our town and we talk a lot about that, about gardening in general and also about expanding to more urban gardens.

One of the big discussions we’ve had in recent times is getting more of the local children involved and perhaps even getting a gardening program into schools. I’ve talked a lot about that on this site, but in my town, we’ve yet to implement something like that.

One of the ladies in our gardening group is an avid tea drinker. She’s even gone so far as to travel to Asia simply to sample the best teas in the world and to bring some of them back. Whenever we have a meeting, she brings a new type of tea and lets us try it. This last meeting was no exception.

She had even just bought a brand-new beautiful glass teapot with a see-through infuser inside. It allows you to watch the tea leaves unfurl as the hot water grabs hold of them. It’s a beautiful sight and kind of hypnotizing.

glass teapot infusing blooming tea

To debut this pot, she brought what is called a flowering (or blooming) tea. These teas are actually different types of flowers that are dried in a certain way that when they hit the hot water they slowly begin to unfurl. What was a little lump turns into a beautiful flower inside the pot.

As it expands it also lends its essence to the tea making for a really wonderful taste. I’d never seen this before and I thought it was amazing. The following video shows what I mean.

I had actually just read an article about growing tea recently, for some reason. And watching my friend’s tea unfurl in the pot at our community garden meeting, I put two and two together. Why not plant tea in our garden. Or perhaps in a new garden. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I thought this was a brilliant idea. It was the second brilliant idea I had during that meeting. The first being that I would get my own see-through glass teapot just like hers. I also wanted to experience the hypnotizing view of tea leaves unfurling every day. I’ve been meaning to get more into tea anyway, and I think this would do it for me. It is certainly better than my current coffee habit.

Now how cool would it be if I could watch my own tea leaves unfurl in that teapot. I would love to debut it with tea leaves grown in our own personal garden. Since that meeting I’ve been reading up a lot on this and it doesn’t seem that hard to grow tea. You just have to get the right plant, and my friend is actually planning a trip to China, where she can find some of the best tea plants and bring them back. So that problem is taken care of.

Our garden is indoors, but tea leaves don’t need that much light to grow. The lighting we currently use, some of it fluorescent lights and some of it LED lights, will work just fine to grow tea in our garden. I don’t think we’ll even need to use natural light.

In terms of environment, tea generally likes a lot of water and a lot of humidity, but the temperature doesn’t matter that much. I learned that some tea grows in very hot and humid areas, while other tea grows in high altitude cool areas. The common theme is the humidity.

The best teas actually grow in cooler climates. Places like the mountains of Japan or Fujian province in China or the Highlands of Taiwan or the Darjeeling region in India. None of these places are hot.

In fact only some tea, like Assam, grows in a hot region. And this is nowhere near the best tea. The best teas all seem to grow in cooler areas and high altitude areas.

And we live in a cold region. We don’t have too much humidity here, apart from the summer, but we keep our garden fairly humid, because we grow a lot of plants that need humidity. I think we’ve got it all pretty well set up.

The only thing left to do is get the actual tea plants and start growing. And, of course, getting my beautiful new glass teapot ready for our first harvest. I can’t wait.