A substantial amount of agriculture in practice today relies on chemical fertilizers and pesticides that end up in our soil and from there on our plate in the form of contaminated vegetables and fruits, which is playing havoc with our health in more insidious ways than we care to know. With agriculture becoming less profitable as a business and fewer people willing to farm in the near future, the fear of food shortage in a couple of decades is not unfounded either. The alternative to it in the form of ‘organic’ choices is equally expensive and you do not know how much of it is ‘greenwashing’.
So what is the way out of this mess that we are spiraling into? The answer lies in knowing how to grow your own food. The easiest way is to ensure food safety is to have your own kitchen garden that allows you, to begin with, to grow salad leaves, herbs and some fruits. If only someone could hand you a kit and a guide to grow one yourself, right?
This search has led a lot of health and environment conscious people to consider growing their own kitchen garden and thanks to hydroponic kits available today, that is possible to do, even if you live in a city apartment!
Hydroponics involves soilless farming that can be done from the comfort of your own house or apartment. Now think about the amount of labor that saves! No need to till, cultivate, or even fumigate and since now you are growing veggies without depending on soil quality, you can grow them all year around, while saving 95% more water. Experts say, hydroponic plants grown on rooftops can reduce overall temperatures by 3-5 degrees, fighting the onslaught of global warming one hydroponic system at a time.
Hydroponics use soil-less medium for the plants to grow which is nutrients-rich water passed through a ‘grow plate’ where all the seeds are sown and grow roots in coconut waste also called cocopeat instead of soil.
When you grow your own food, you are also essentially saying no to the chemicals and pesticides that fruits and vegetables come laced with today, that no amount of potassium permanganate solution can wash off.
Here are a few important tips to help you with your hydroponic kitchen garden:
When you are trying to get around growing your own kitchen garden, you may wonder about what kind of seeds would you like to grow? A good indicator for it is, pick varieties that are disease resistant that are pollinated in the open rather than genetically modified. Also pick seeds whose plant sizes are manageable and don’t mind growing in moisture rich conditions.
Dry and harden up the seeds before getting ready to plant them. You can use trays for sowing them in.
Hydroponics does not use soil for the plants to grow in. It instead uses a nutrient solution mixed with water for the plant’s nutrition. You can make this solution at home, based on the types of salts each plant will require, which can be tedious and time consuming or you can simply order online a safe-to-use nutrient solution from reliable platforms like Urban Kisaan.
Some herbs with shallow roots will grow on nutrient rich solution. But some others will require mediums like coconut kernel or foam among others.
Now you can grow plants in variety of soilless media like vermiculite, sand, cocopeat or perlite, though cocopeat is one of the more popular media because it has high water holding capacity.
Cocopeat comes from coconut waste, that is the fibrous parts of the kernel mixed with dust rich in minerals. Some people also use vermicompost in the ratio of 1:3, that part compost and rest of it is cocopeat. Cocopeat can take in about 7 litres of water. Experts say that those hydroponic plants which are grown in cocpeat grow 50% faster than in regular soil.
Naturalists suggest spraying neem oil on plants can help fight against pest attacks on plants.
You can try low maintenance varieties like basil, sage, rosemary, curry leaves, lemon grass, chillies, spinach and other greens that require relatively less sunlight.
Some of the herbs that grow well with hydroponic systems include oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, tarragon, peppermint, lemon balm among others.
Some of the veggies that are suited to hydroponic plant systems are lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, celery among others.
If you have a terrace garden, you can go for pomegranate or guava.
Climate wise, cauliflower, peas, cabbage, radish and carrot, ball types of gourds, and fenugreek are suited for growing in lower temperatures. Okra, tomatoes, chillies, eggplant, spinach and coriander can be grown any time of the year.
Though your plants may not require soil, because their nutritional needs are being met through the medium and nutrient solution infused water, it will still require sunlight and some varieties more so than others, especially the flowering varieties like tomatoes. These plants should get six hours of sun light every day, according to experts. If you do not have the option of letting your plants sit out for some good sunlight, indoor lighting under a specific spectrum of light can also work. Check out with our in-house experts on how much lighting does your hydroponic system need and what are its non-solar alternatives.
Most herbal varieties function well in a pH level less than that of tap water. An imbalance in the pH level of the water in which the plant is growing can restrict the ability of the plant to absorb nutrients from it.
15-27 degrees C is an ideal temperature for plants to thrive in. Always make sure your plants are getting a similar temperature around your hydroponic systems. Do keep in mind that artificial lighting can also can increase the temperature of the room, where plants are vulnerable to the rise and fall of temperature.
For starters, just getting their feet wet in kitchen gardening can easily get hassled with what seeds to pick, how does one know their quality and type (if they are GMO or openly pollinated), or if the solution made at home has enough nutrients in the right ratios, if the system is getting sufficient sunlight, and whether the cocopeat is fit for use and will hold enough water and not let the water run off! These are too many permutations and combinations to take care of, when you are just starting off. To make your life easier, platforms like Urban Kisaan have specialised in researching and developing hydroponic kits for you, that you can simply order online here- https://shop.urbankisaan.com