In previous articles, we have explored many different types of hydroponic systems. A recap: hydroponics is the art of growing plants without soil but by using nutrient-rich, water-based solutions. This type of farming is convenient as it is particularly helpful in areas with poor soil conditions or little space for cultivation.
Other benefits of this type of farming system include an increase in crop yields, crops with healthier nutritional value as no artificial pesticides are required, and it is near 90 per cent more efficient in terms of its water usage.
On a commercial scale, it is initially costly but in the long run, economically sound and sustainable. It also is a great way for aspiring, small-scale farmers to experience interior cultivation without much financial stress.
A fairly new method of hydroponics has been on the rise. ‘Kratky hydroponics’ is now, by far, the simplest form of this type of system that can be used to explore indoor farming.
It is different from deep water culture because it is a simple and easy-to-build technique. Kratky growers do not need to buy the electronic devices and don’t require electricity to operate the system.
This method of hydroponics was developed by horticulturist, Dr Bernard A Kratky at the University of Hawaii.
It is described as a passive form of hydroponic farming since it is does not use electric pumps or any form of mechanics, unlike other active, cycling methods, to deliver the nutrient solution to grow the crops.
Kratky hydroponics simply calls for the growing seedling to be suspended in a nutrient solution. The seedling is placed into a space on a raft that floats on top of water with the added nutrients.
With the roots suspended in this solution with the nutrients to feed and grow, the plant is drawn up. The water in the tank decreases as the plant grows and in turn this creates a zone of oxygen to keep the roots healthy. By harvest time, the solution would be almost used up.
The low maintenance and low monitoring nature of this method, often described as the ‘set-and-forget’ approach, makes it easy to create and use at home.
Growing lettuce this way is the easiest introduction for beginners. You will need: a reservoir (gallon buckets or a large basin), a raft (a piece of Styrofoam in the shape of your reservoir), net pots, hydroponic nutrients, water, and lettuce seedlings. Firstly, you set up your nutrient reservoir by filling it with water near to the brim and adding the hydroponic nutrients to the ratio the packaging calls for.
You then cut out spaces in your raft large enough for only the base of the pot and place them in the slot.
Put your raft with your pots to float on the nutrient solution then place your seedling in the pots, ensuring that roots pass through the net and are suspended in the water.
Over time, the plant will grow by using up the solution and in doing so, create space for oxygen as well. In about 30 days the growth cycle of your lettuce should be complete, and it should be ready for harvest. It is suggested you clean out your reservoirs thoroughly every 3–5 growth cycles.
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