“Growing your own food is like printing your OWN MONEY!”
Sounds interesting, isn’t it? You bet it is!
The quote above is the same quote that piqued my interests on how to grow my own food (and possibly create money out of it). I was on that point of my life, although I’m still 21 at that time, that I began to wonder on how can I get healthy food that I’m sure is organic and healthy to consume. The main reason why I was already thinking about stuff like these was because I got sick almost every week last November of 2016. I didn’t feel very good and my stomach got upset regularly for the next 2 months. I was also alarmed by news and videos on social media about GMOs and inorganic farming methods used by traditional farmers. Do you know how much pesticides and herbicides that go into our bodies every time we eat fruits and vegetables that we get from the supermarket? Me neither. I was ignorant.
So I began to research about possible ways on how to grow my own food. I read about farming articles, backyard gardening blogs, and farm-to-table forums and watched Youtube videos. But the most interesting topic that i read is was about Hydroponics.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is the method of growing fruits and vegetables without using soil. That is the simplest way to describe it.
To be more precise and scientific, hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture, the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. In hydroponics, you can produce crops 5-10 times more effectively than in conventional farming. Using hydroponics, you can easily produce 500 kilos of lettuce using 1 hectare of land in a month.
In the field, you need at least 10 hectares or more to achieve this. If you switch from traditional farming to hydroponics farming, you can save 95% of the water that could have been used to produce the same amount of crops if you planted on the field. Studies also show that plants grown hydroponically grow 30-50 percent faster than soil-grown plants and also yield more fruit. In essence, you can produce more in a short amount of time thus making money faster when you sell your produce!
Types of Hydroponics
I asked myself that if hydroponics can be grown in a small scale, can I possibly do it on a household level?
I researched more thoroughly and luckily enough, there are tons of Youtube videos, websites, Facebook groups, and forums that teach, sell supplies, and talk all about hydroponics. I learned that there are 3 main hydroponic methods in growing your own healthy and organic veggies and fruits that you can start in a 5 square feet area.
- Kratky Method
- Deep Water Culture
- Drip System
- Ebb- Flow (Flood & Drain)
- N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique)
B.A. Kratky from the University of Hawaii discovered this non-circulating hydroponic growing method that does not require any pump or air stones, and no electricity at all. A plant needs light, water, nutrients, and oxygen to grow. The Kratky method provides all this in a very simple way. You add water with all the mineral solution needed into a container with a net pot and some rock wool (or a growing medium of your choice), plant your seed and let it grow.
Deep Water Culture
Deep Water Culture, otherwise known as Direct Water Culture or DWC, is a simple yet effective hydroponics system that works by suspending the plants’ roots directly into a highly oxygenated nutrient solution. DWC systems are proven to be very effective, easy to construct and operate, and are an ideal choice for those of you who are new to hydroponic cultivation.
The way a drip system works is just like it sounds, you simply drip nutrient solution on the plants roots to keep them moist. Hydroponic drip systems can easily be designed in many ways, as well as from small to large systems. … A container (reservoir) to hold the nutrient solution. A submersible fountain/pond pump.
Ebb- Flow (Flood & Drain)
The Ebb and Flow system works by temporarily flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into the reservoir. This action is normally done with a submerged pump that is connected to a timer. When the timer turns the pump on nutrient solution is pumped into the grow tray.
N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique)
N.F.T. systems have a constant flow of nutrient solution so no timer required for the submersible pump. The nutrient solution is pumped into the growing tray (usually a tube) and flows over the roots of the plants, and then drains back into the reservoir.
More oxygen equals more plant growth, and plants receive more oxygen under aeroponic conditions, with their roots exposed to air and unencumbered by dense soil. The way nutrients and water are delivered also demonstrates the efficiency of aeroponics. The nutrient solutions used on plants require only a little water.
My Own Garden
Curiosity and wonder led me to apply what I learned and make my wish to grow my own food come true. But since I am living in an apartment in the heart of Manila, there is no available space or garden for me to launch my hydroponics project. After quite some time researching and digging for information, I found out that I can grow indoors using artificial lighting. The simplest and cheapest way to start the project is using the Kratky Method.
I ordered the supplies online thru the Facebook page of Hydroponics Garden Supply. My orders came 3 days later. I built my own grow box (1ft by 1.5ft) and put it beside my bed . Then I installed 4, 14watts growing lights for the plants artificial sunlight. Finally, I created the reservoir of the nutrients using an empty grapes styrofoam container. I punched 8, 3×3 holes and laid down a thick plastic covering inside the box so the nutrient-filled solution will not spill. I also layered the walls of the growing box with aluminum covering so that all light will be reflected to the plants.
I started my first attempt using Pak Choi seeds last February of 2017…and I failed miserably. The roots drowned and the seedlings didn’t survive lol. Well, I really didn’t expect much for an inexperienced newbie like me. I have absolutely zero knowledge in plants and farming prior to this.
The 2nd attempt was on March 2017. I learned a lot from my first attempt and studied harder than I did when I was in college haha. I learned how to properly take care of the seedlings and that they should be grown first in a seedling tray before transplanting it to the Kratky set-up. They sat and grew in the seedling tray 4 inches under the lights in my home-made grow box for 1 week. Since it is very hot during the day, I only turn the lights on of my grow box during night time from 7pm to 7am. And then turn it off from 7am to 7pm. After their first true leaves have sprouted, I transplanted them immediately to the set-up where they can grow exponentially and be harvested in 3 weeks time.
Came the April of 2017 and my very much awaited harvest came. There were fully grown, fresh, organic, and healthy looking Pak Choi crops branching out of the growing box.
Unfortunately, my SD card got corrupted and cannot get the step-by-step photos that I captured when I did my 1st successful Kratky Hydroponics project. These are the only surviving photos that I currently have that I posted in my Instagram account:
1ST HARVEST APRIL 2017 (posted May 2017)
Farm-to-table Pak Choi 🙂
I was so pumped up and wanted to learn more about Hydroponics so I did my 3rd attempt. This time, I planted Green Ice Lettuce. Here are the results:
2ND HARVEST MAY 2017 (posted May 2017)
2 weeks old since transplant. They look so irresistible, aren’t they? 😀
4 weeks old and ready to harvest. (The color is darker because the only light that shined on them is my camera flash)
The 2nd harvest was very bountiful that I shared it with my girlfriend and gave some to my younger brother. There was still 250 grams left to be consumed so I sold it to a vendor outside our apartment for only ₱35.00 ($0.69). I happily sold it to him at a bargain because I really just want to share my blessings. I used that ₱35.00 sale to buy 1 pack of Green Ice Lettuce seeds from Ramgo.
In the future, I will be owning a farm and make it a full scale hydroponics farming business.
Until now, every time the crops are due to be harvested, pure excitement and delight still floods me.
Now I can finally say NO to unhealthy pesticides, herbicides, and GMO foods! Horraaaay!