We are very pleased that our balcony garden project has been nominated for the TASPO Awards 2019 in the category "Best Digital Concept". This further motivates us to inspire others for the hydroponic cultivation of herbs, salads and vegetables on balconies or terraces.
Most people associate hydroponics with dusty plants on the windowsill planted in clay pebbles. Or you might think of large plants in office buildings that have a water level indicator to make them easy to maintain.
Most people are unaware that hydroponics and hydroculture can also be used to grow vegetables and herbs at home / indoors or on the balcony / outdoors.
Space is available on every balcony or in front of a sunny windowsill, even in rooms without sunlight plants can be grown with suitable plant lighting. Now the balcony garden, kitchen garden or roof garden is not a new thing. Everybody knows Urban Gardening in earth. But only few think of a hydroponics cultivation.
When you bring the term hydroponics into play, many people think of space technology because they have already heard it in this context. Still others who may have heard a little more about it think of "unnatural, artificial, not like in nature" etc.
More particularly, agriculture was already practised on floating rafts by the Aztec tribe of the "chinampas" about 1000 years ago because conventional earth cultivation areas were limited. Others believe that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were the first hydroponic gardens. It doesn't really matter who first did what. The fact is that hydroponics works very well. Especially in the urban environment, when there are no "normal" cultivation areas, hydroponics has many advantages.
The term hydroponics derives from the Greek words for water (hydro) and work (ponos) - "working with water". In a hydroponic system plant roots do not grow in soil, but in nutrient-enriched water.
Compared to the cultivation in soil, the plants get everything they need to grow through the nutrient solution, delivered directly to the roots. Nutrients do not have to be dissolved out of the earth by pouring. This also saves the plant energy because it simply gets to the nutrients. All other things remain the same - the essentials are
Advantage of a hydroponic city garden is that you can grow everywhere, even if there is no soil or no soil can be used due to weight reasons.
There are many different systems for hydroponic cultivation which are designed to maximise yield. They differ mainly in function and complexity.
Simple passive hdroponic systems
They are simple, as they usually do not require electricity, pumps or other technical devices. But they are also less effective than active systems.
They are more complex in setup, but also much more effective than passive systems.
You can buy a finished system, such as a herb garden for the kitchen or practical planting towers for vegetables and herbs or drip systems for growing tomatoes
We build a simple „DWC - Deep Water Culture System“ . Sounds more complicated than it is.
What is needed:
Drill 4 - 6 holes into the removable lid, depending on the size of the tank. The holes must be large enough to hold the net pots, but not to slip through them.
To convert the box with the lid and the net pots from a passive to an active system, you need an aquarium air pump with aeration stone (Internet approx. 20 Euro). If you want to use the tank indoors, please make sure that the pump is as quiet as possible. The aeration stone is placed in the tank as an oxygen supplier. The best way to control the air pump is to use a timer. DWC is by the way a very effective, simple system, with which you can get familiar with the hydroponics very well. You easily can try different things.
Now you just have to put the prepared plants into the net pots and insert the net pots into the holes of the box. Add water to approx. 1 cm above the lower edge of the net pots and add hydroponic fertilizer according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Switch on the pump via the timer every 30 minutes for approx. 10 minutes - this supplies the roots with oxygen. Attention: Only immerse in water if all electrical consumers are disconnected - Observe and follow the manufacturer's instructions for the air pump.
After one day, measure the pH value and adjust if necessary. For this you can use pH-Up, if the water is too soft, or pH-Down, if the water is too hard.
From time to time measure and adjust the nutrient content with the EC-Meter. We only do this about every 2 weeks - but it also depends on the nutrient consumption of the plants.
For a quick start in hydroponics you use cuttings or multiply sprouts such as spring onions. Cut off cuttings from an existing plant, e.g. basil, and place them in a glass of water (which is already your first passive hydroponic cultivation system) - it's that simple.
Alternatively you can buy e.g. salad seedlings and remove the soil by carefully rinsing them with water.
Or you can start from zero and start growing with seeds. Here you can also choose the growing substrate by yourself. There are substrates that can be easily removed from the root, such as expanded clay pebbles or perlite. Or there are substrates in which the root grows, so that the substrate can not and must not be removed, such as rock wool, coconut substrate, or Eazy Plugs. Once the roots grow into the substrate, the plant with the substrate is introduced into the hydroponics system.
The aim is to have seedlings with developed roots. The roots may be 2 - 3 cm long. These seedlings must now be placed in the hydroponic system using a net pot and a suitable substrate surrounding it.
The Aeroponic System is different - here we work completely without substrate, but it is more in the field of professionals.
Plants having soil as substrate are not suitable because they pollute the system and the roots start to rot because they do not get enough oxygen.
DIY hydroponics plant cultivation. You will see, it is not rocket technology at all. With a summer like 2018 in Germany, always 30 - 40 °C, you will quickly learn to appreciate the advantages of hydroponics. With the nutrient storage container you have considerably less work compared to cultivation in soil. The larger the tank, the better the water supply. Even simple hydroponic systems can produce a great yield!
If you are looking for more hydroponics, check out various hydroponics shops on the internet to discover more hydroponics growing systems.
Since we are talking about the cultivation of vegetables and herbs in the private sector, we try to explain hydroponics in a simple and understandable way. Some experts will certainly have objections on how we explain, evaluate and classify things, but we want to show that everyone is able to cultivate hydroponics. Even those who do not have a degree in hydroponic plant cultivation. We also talk a lot about our own experiences, which are probably not entirely in line with scientific findings. We want to cultivate hydroponically, simply and profitably but without achieving the maximum yield, which is the case, for example, in commercial applications.