Easy Gardening With Homegrown Organic Hydroponics

Learn how to start your own organic hydroponic garden.


| March/April 1977



Organic Hydroponics

Weather growing organic hydroponics in your home, on the rooftop, or anywhere else, these helpful hydroponic gardening tips are sure to get you started in the right direction.

PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ANDYIVANOV3712

To many, the idea of organic hydroponics seems like an impossible contradiction. Hydroponics, the growing of plants in a medium other than soil, usually utilizes a chemically derived nutrient solution. Organic gardeners, as a rule, do no like hydroponics: for those who love the soil, the prospect of plunging elbow-deep into a gritty mix of parlite and vermiculite is not very inspiring. Nor is brewing up a batch of Hy-pon-ex or Miracle-gro. However, as an enterprising group of urban gardeners in Montreal has discovered hydroponic food production need not rely upon a chemical nutrient solution ... and, under the unique conditions of rooftop farming in the city, soilless vegetable cultivation has distinct advantages.

The Montreal Project

Two years ago, the Canadian government funded an eighteen-month demonstration project in Montreal to investigate the feasibility of rooftop agriculture. The intent of the funding was the development of appropriate agricultural methods and technology so that people would be able to farm the flat wasteland above their city. The target community was the inner-city, ethnically mixed neighborhood, St. Louis Sud. Project workers taught courses in gardening and "roof maintenance" skills, so that community residents could take over the project when funding ran out.

The two gardeners who were hired to teach, research, and supervise were experienced organic gardeners who preferred to work with soil. During the first summer, the rooftop gardens were planted in earth. Over 100 cubic yards of dirt had to be carried by hand up two flights of stairs, each cubic yard weighing between 195 and 270 pounds. The soil then had to be loaded into carefully positioned containers, so that the stress on the roof would be minimized. Even though the roof was strong and could support 80 pounds per square foot, still much of the "wasteland" had to remain uncultivated. If a lighter medium had been used, more rooftop space could have been utilized for food production.

During that first summer, the differences between ground level and rooftop agriculture became apparent. Container soil dried rapidly and had to be watered daily. Nutrients leached out with every rain and the plants had to be side-dressed with a variety of fertilizers at least every three weeks. Since the relative populations of soil micro-organisms and animals are greatly reduced in rooftop containers, their role in soil regeneration in the rooftop project was less significant. Earth worms, though they lived well in the boxes, could not bring minerals back into the earth from the parent rock because there were no parent rocks. By July, the root systems had become pot-bound, filling the entire container. It was found that insect problems occurred more easily on the roots than on the ground it strict care was not maintained. It began to look as if organic container gardening could never be more than a poor cousin to ground level organics.

The project workers, however, came up with a solution, a method which could minimize the many logistical and ecological problems that were being encountered. That method was hydroponics and, given their organic gardening background, the workers decided to experiment with organic hydroponics.

The Organic Hydroponic Procedure

Contrary to prevalent thought, it is extremely simple to mix a batch of organic nutrients adequate for the needs of any plant. One can either use a tea made from high quality compost, or a basic solution of 1 1/2 teaspoons fish emulsion, 1 1/2 teaspoons liquid seaweed, and a teaspoon of bloodmeal to each gallon of water. The mix varies, depending upon the type of plant being grown. Less bloodmeal should be used with flowering and fruiting produce than with leafy crops. Other nutrients can also be added: blended eggshells, for example, might be helpful when added to a cabbage crop. There is room for variation and for more experimentation ... the basic mix is meant to be a starting point rather than a proven end product.

meatball
2/10/2014 7:34:49 PM

Bioponics does the best job at creating organic hydroponics because it specifically defines that there are to be no chemicals used, hence distinguishing it from hydroponics which allows chemicals. Bioponics works because it simply follows the laws of mother nature. Anaerobic microbes decompose biomass in anaerobic bags submerged in the water. Aerobic bacteria and fungi further consume and decompose, setting up a rich biota within grow beds (that strictly avoid chemicals), that exchanges nutrients to the roots of plants on a balanced and regular basis. Properly done, bioponics creates a primordial soup to nourish the plant roots. As a result, there is no more sustainable approach to farming, ever. www.bioponica.org


muse
2/6/2009 9:46:32 AM

This is so interesting for urban farming, but also for those of us who received as holiday gifts those little hydroponic salad growers from well meaning friends who know that we love home grown food. I've been open minded but vaguely horrified by the unknown contents of the "nutrient" tablets and now I'm ready to experiment with the information in this article.


khjki,jykjk
7/18/2007 1:36:45 AM

wow!!!!!






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