Just because you live in a shoe box doesn’t mean that you can’t grow delicious food that provides a large supplement to your family’s normal diet. While it may be easier to have the expansive and rich soil of farmland in the Great Plains, you can easily mimic the process of growing food in only a four feet by four feet chunk of space. With the right set up and know-how you can grow almost any type of vegetable or fruit that you can imagine.
Hydroponic growing systems are your answer to growing food in tight spaces. When you grow food hydroponically the food grows up to 25 to 30 percent faster, because the plants do not have to spend valuable energy growing roots to find food. The plants are suspended in a nutrient rich solution, which also saves you the hassle of dealing with messy soils and insects that are attracted to the soil. This nutrient rich solution contains essentials such as potassium, zinc, magnesium, borine, copper, etc. The pH level needs to be constantly monitored to maintain the balance. There are many meters and monitors available to keep a constant watch on the solution as the pH strips are not reliable for constant monitoring.
Farmers enjoy numerous benefits using hydroponics growing systems. Soil not being part of the equation, nor contamination or soil borne diseases. Operation is easy as there are automated systems that do all of the timing for you. Additionally, hydroponic systems recycle the potable water, so you only have to change it once every couple of weeks. You also have a wide variety of plants that you can grow in this method including, but not limited to, tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, greens, lettuce, and a variety of different herbs.
The basic 5.4 ft2 (0.5 m2), sixteen unit hydroponics setup is easy and affordable. You can buy the system from an online retailer or hydroponics store, or you can build one yourself. There are many variations on the hydroponic growing system, but the easiest method to use if you are limited by space is a drip system that includes a pump and timing system. First, you must decide to either buy the system or build the system. While figuring cost, include the money you will save growing part, even all, of your family’s food supply.
If you live in a small space you will need to allocate at least a 5.4 ft2 (0.5 m2) space in your apartment, or on your balcony. You can reduce this space even more by building vertical, with a two by two feet space on the floor, and another two by two foot space on the wall above the floor units. When you do it this way, you will have 16 separate units that you can use to grow different plants, the same plant in all of them, or do half and half. This is all up to you and your food needs and preferences. However, wherever you decide to put the system, it needs to be in close proximity to a window so that it can receive the sunlight it needs. If this is impossible, then you can also buy grow lamps that will give the plants the light spectrum they need to grow.
A drip system is one of the easiest hydroponic systems to use. There isn’t a lot of setup, and the maintenance is not time intensive. The system incorporates a reservoir of nutrient rich solution that gets pumped directly to the roots in the individual units. Usually the drip timing needed will be for 15 minutes every couple of hours. The plants are very sensitive to this, so you must keep a schedule for watering.
This is why a pumping system with a timer is a very handy thing to have, because otherwise this can become a full time job. This pump and reservoir system recycles its own water, so you only have to change the solution every couple of weeks. Don’t toss it. Use it to water for your other house plants.
Now you have the basic information you need to start growing hydroponically in your apartment, on your balcony, or in your back yard. There is more to learn, and many different methods you can use than what is described here. There are also a multitude of products and gadgets that you can buy to make growing food hydroponically extremely simple and cost effective.
[alert type=white ]This article was written by Kayla Shaw. It was originally published under the same title in Garden Culture Magazine, Issue 1 available here along with all of our print editions as they hit the street.[/alert]