Jericho resident Dave Clift gave an informative talk on Hydroponic Gardening to a dozen folks on Monday. He started by expressing his vision of forming a community of growers, each taking on a few crops to ultimately produce a large and varied harvest, perhaps enough to donate to the local food shelf.
Hydroponics has advantages over soil gardening Dave explained, such as the ability to grow year round, and little or no bugs or airborne molds to contend with. Since plants are grown in water the roots, hidden in conventional gardening, are visible and fascinating for kids and families alike.
Dave’s talk was emboldening for the uninitiated. He said his mere two by two foot space can produce a variety of vegetables. Using visuals, including a beautiful head of lettuce he let us sample (tasty!) Dave described the various hydroponic systems to choose from. He uses the Kratky method largely because of its simplicity.
Using no electricity, pumps or piping, this method has you start out with enough water in your container to cover the plant’s roots. Through time the water gradually descends; by the time it’s at the bottom, the plant is usually ready for harvest. Dave showed pictures of the table set up in his basement, garbage bags wrapped around the legs to provide darkness for the roots.
Lighting: Dave described the pros and cons of various systems ultimately recommending LEDs over fluorescent lights. While more expensive, LEDs cost less to run, are more efficient and are the ‘lights of the future” Dave said; with their full spectrum capability, you can grow almost anything with them.
Growing Mediums: Describing the many options out there such as rock wool, perlite, and coconut fiber, Dave showed us “leca” samples, his preference since they’re so easy to use. Leca are clay pellets super fired to create a porous medium.
Water: In Dave’s case, since he has chloramines in his tap, he has opted to use water he collects from his roof. He suggested that regardless of your water source, you need to make sure the ph balance is correct, as in soil gardening.
Is hydroponics organic? someone asked. NOFA will not certify hydroponics as organic because it doesn’t use soil. Indeed over 20 nutrients are needed for plants to grow, and since there is no soil in hydroponics, it is necessary to add fertilizer of some kind. Dave uses “Cornucopia Plus” an organic nutrient mix made here in Vermont. He mentioned a local store, GTG Hydroponics in Underhill as a convenient source for supplies.
A handful of people at the talk signed up afterwards expressing interest in the hydroponic gardening group. Perhaps Dave’s vision is on its way to realization!