It’s starting to look like home around here. In particular, I’ve got my Aerogardens set up and just started another batch of sprouts. That’s how I do, so it feels like I live here for realz.
I’ve tried honest-to-gosh dirt gardening in various ways and locations over the past several years, and had pretty meh results. Most stuff lived, but it didn’t thrive. When they were first issued, I had a couple of the seven-pod Aerogardens, and loved them. In particular, I became addicted to home grown tatsoi and mizuna, and I’m looking forward to having them around again. A recipe:
Loose Cannon (as opposed to Colcannon)
Wash a russet baking potato and cut it into 1/2″ dice. Place the diced potato in a covered microwaveable pot with a tablespoon full of water and maybe some minced garlic and nuke until fork tender. While the potato’s cooking, slice a bunch of dark greens (chard, collards, kale, spinach, tatsoi, mizuna…) into 1/4″ strips. While the potato is still hot, toss in the greens and add salt, pepper, butter, bacon bits, olive oil, cheese, sriracha, Sockarooni sauce, the kitchen sink or anything else that sounds good. Consume mass quantities.
I’ve chosen to work with the smaller, three-pod models this time around because I remember what a pain it was to wash out the big seven-pod deals. A disadvantage of the smaller models is I’ll have to add water more often, especially once the plants get big, but I don’t mind that. You can get or make gizmos to handle watering if you’re going to be out of town.
The Aerogarden version is in fact not “aeroponics,” which is a specialized form of hydro farming involving regular mist applications, and is the sort of thing you see only in colleges or commercially. Aerogardens use “deep reservoir” hydroponics, which (depending upon whom you ask) is essentially Kratky hydroponics plus a bubbler (similar to what you’d find in an aquarium.) And, anyone who’s ever rooted a philodendron in a glass of water has done Kratky hydroponics. (I wouldn’t eat the philodendron, though.)
There are dozens of ways to do home hydroponics, ranging from the Rube Goldbergian to the dirt-simple (minus the dirt), but I like the Aerogardens first, because they look nice on a shelf (some DIY versions look like plastic bins with holes drilled in the top, which is what they are) and also because the system has been fine-tuned to grow plants as quickly as possible. The combo of a bubbler circulating the nutrient solution plus a grow light mean the plants outperform those just placed in a window or growing in static solution. You could create a DIY version for maybe 30% cheaper, but, unless you’re growing at the “farm” level, DIYing it may not be worth it.
Aerogrow has corrected a couple of problems from the old days. They’re now using liquid nutrients instead of nutrient tablets. The tablets attracted moisture like crazy. They were always disintegrating in their little bags and were very hard to use. Also, the new gardens now have LED grow lights instead of CFLs. I don’t know which Demon of Environmental Destruction convinced the western world’s so-called “green” crowd that CFLs were a way to Save the World, but, in truth, they’re just mercury delivery devices. Anything you have to use hazmat procedures to clean up after during normal use — light bulbs break, folks — is not “green” in my book. In addition to not being potentially toxic, the LEDs are also far, far less expensive to purchase outright and last about five years, compared to 6 months for the CFLs. And, unlike the CFLs, the LEDs don’t catch fire or explode (something I’ve personally witnessed twice in CFLs) when they go bad. Two major improvements.
I got home after dark today and with the Aerogardens on, my kitchen looked like it was lit up for a party. Fine with me, since it’s nice to come home to and also likely a crime deterrent. (The gardens run with the lights & bubbler on for 16 hours and then shut down for eight.) In the picture above, the rest of the room is lit normally, but looks dark because of the way my camera adjusted to accommodate the grow light brightness. Since I’ve got all this great light available, not to mention a bunch of seeds leftover from the Great Microgreen Experiment (they grew, but I discovered I don’t like the texture of microgreens), I plan to also set up a few Kratky jars next to the units. This requires the consumption of mass quantities of Sockarooni sauce, of course. No, you can’t use just any jar. Only Sockarooni Sauce jars will work. Because I say so. (To be continued…)
You can, however, use finagled yogurt containers instead of the store-bought baskets. Let’s not get too picky about this.