Below is an article which was written by one of our customers, Robert Quaye, for the Skye Gardening Society Spring Newsletter 2009.
Hydroponics – My Way
by Rob Quaye
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants by using mineral nutrients, without soil.
About 15 years ago I started using hydroponics and began with the initial system of troughs, pyramids, tanks and pump. Ten years ago it grew to nine troughs, twenty-eight plant pyramids, two pumps and one eighty-litre tank of nutrients. I use troughs and pyramids because they are easier to add to or remove from the system.
I grow in three rows:
Outside - with the most sunlight – green peppers
Central – tomatoes
Back – cucumbers, melons and other experimental plants.
The nutrient mix consists of: Nitrogen, Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Magnesium, Zinc, Sulphur and Molybdenum ie requirements for normal plant life. Nutrients are pumped from the tank to three branches which have flow valves. Each branch is connected to three slightly inclined troughs. The nutrient flow is collected from the branches into a small tank, which in turn is pumped back to the main tank. The correct proportions of nutrient are maintained by a Nutrient Wand –EC Meter ranging from 0 – 50.0 mS/cm. This is because the nutrient mixture is always changing due to plant consumption through different growth stages. The wand gives better control of the system and the growth rate of plants, especially when various types of plants are grown.
The advantages of hydroponics are:
1. control of flavour, colour and quantity through nutrients;
2. an extended growing season;
3. can be left unattended for 7/8 days;
4. no weeding.
An extra advantage would appeal to gardeners who use hanging baskets. The actual basket is water-tight with two chambers: lower one with nutrients and water, the upper has a shaped matting which partly hangs into the lower chamber with perlite on top into which the plants are placed, topped off with the clay balls to retain moisture. The lower chamber is filled via a small “drawer” in order to top up the solution.
I have learned a few tricks over the years which makes life easier and plants more productive and I should be pleased to help any member in the SGS.
All the supplies come from The Achiltibuie Garden, just north of Ullapool and they are very friendly, keen to help and a great source of information.