Hydroponics – Starting out

I was gifted a small hydroponics kit from my mother a year ago for Christmas. It took me a while to get to assembling it and wasn’t sure how much I’d want to fiddle with it. It came with three seed packs, preloaded with Basil, Dill, and Parsley. About the time the Covid stuff got into high gear, putting the kit together seemed like the thing to do, so I got busy. Honestly, it was so easy, I kind of kicked myself for not doing it sooner. The seeds grew very, very well, and I harvested them to use them in cooking.

Now I’m hooked on the idea of hydroponic growing. It appeals to my engineering sensibilities, as I can measure out the food, water, light, and seeds in a predictable way. Growing food outside (which I’m doing as well) is more unpredictable, due to the low control of the outdoor environment. It also appeals to my concerns for a long-term view of the world that includes global food scarcity.

To feed my habit, I’ve bought a refill kit that allows me to plant the seeds that I want, when I want. Doing this, I’ve grown a tomato plant, and a jalapeno pepper plant, plus some leafy lettuce. They grew like wildfire! Actually, that’s a bit of a problem – they grow so fast that if you don’t harvest the crops really quickly, their roots overgrow the water and food capacity of the small unit.

There was only one thing to do: Go bigger.

I have built a hydroponic growth rig in my front living space, which was really not being used for anything these days. I’ve installed three 4 gallon containers, and so far I’ve transplanted those newer plants from the small prefabricated hydro unit into one of these containers. A natural-wavelength LED light hangs above the containers, set to a timer, and a fish-tank pump drives a bubbler to circulate the food-enriched water 24/7. All of this is mounted on a new chromed metal shelving unit, over a nice rug to accent the appearance of the farm in the room. The transplanting process wasn’t too hard, and now I have a set of plants ready to thrive for the future.

Now I need to decide what plants to start in the small unit to fill the next big container, and then the next. If things go as planned, I’ll have some really fresh salad ready-to-eat, very soon!

Going into the future of space exploration and exploitation, hydroponics has been heavily investigated. Besides just feeding myself and my tribe during uncertain times, I am looking forward to investigations that can lead to significant contributions to space-based agriculture.

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