Our hydroponic garden is exceeding all of our expectations. We’re harvesting greens on a daily basis (lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, mustard, basil, and bok choy). We have lots of cherry tomatoes that are just about to turn red. We have tons of pepper flowers, and a few tiny peppers starting to show up. Our pea plant has climbed two feet up the rope we hung for it. It’s been two months since we started our seeds, and we’ve been harvesting produce for over a month already.
We have two water reservoirs which currently each have the same organic nutrient solution in them. But this weekend, we’re going to separate out the blooming plants (peppers, tomatoes) from the green plants (all the greens listed above), and put different nutrients in each side, in order to encourage fruiting on the tomato and pepper plants. My husband has been reading extensively about hydroponic gardening, and came across an additive that can be added to the water to make the plants healthier, and the produce taste better. The downside is that it costs $60/gallon. So he kept researching. He eventually came across a substitute that works just as well, for a whole lot less. Blackstrap molasses. He went to the store last night and bought a 32 ounce jar. He diluted it with water and ended up with a half gallon of solution, for about $6. Then today he made a tea using kelp and dulce flakes that we had in our cupboard, and added it to his molasses solution, for even more plant wonderfulness.
He is still using a store-bought organic nutrient solution for the hydroponics, that comes with exactly the right proportions of potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. But he’s talking about maybe making that himself in the future. Our garden will pay for itself in about 6 – 8 months, and frugal DIY options like these make it even easier for a hydroponic garden to be not only an ecologically sound option, but also a frugal option (and great for people like us with very limited outdoor garden space).