Sometimes I have nerdy foodie dreams; dreams of beautiful kitchens with peg-boards covered in neatly organised utensils, shelves that slide out for easy access and minimal bending…of entire walls covered in fresh herbs… Well, when in rental (vs Rome and villages of basil) you can always make a baby basic herb hydro like this. It took me an hour, probably two hours, and the result is hopefully going to be a batch of fresh herbs on demand. Making pizza? BAM! Fresh herbs. Bad breath? BAM! Fresh mint. Relationship problems? BAM! Nah, they’re still there, sorry.
Herbs wont fix your shitty relationships, but a hydro set up is there when you need it and always down for eating. And just like all of the things I enjoy in life: there’s stuff all energy involved but the gains are massive. because it’s inside, the bugs are busy with the neighbours instead! The soil-borne diseases are killing some other family. Hydroponic gardening also uses so very much less water than the conventional gardens (think evaporation and water draining away). So top points for being slightly greener (ignore the plastic container haha – although icecream containers are a great hydro option).
So here’s a simple herb hydro. It cost about $10.
How this Works
The roots of a conventional plant is rinsed of its soil, and then placed in a small plastic support. The stem is supported by perlite rocks, which act much like the soil would. The majority of the roots will hang in water (the top part should be free to breathe a bit). The water will contain a hydroponic food source. As the plant’s roots have constant access to food and water, they are able to spend more time developing foliage and less time root growing (roots spread out seeking food, at the loss of leaf growth). With the occasional food and water top up, your hydros grow quickly (very quickly) and easily.
What You Need
Containers – depth isn’t a big factor, but the roots do need some space to develop. It’s also preferable that you don’t use a clear container as algae will develop. I chose clear because I would otherwise forget to check on water levels.
Seedlings – this is because it’s easier for a beginner to use already developed plants, and the container they come in doubles up and is used as part of the hydro itself!
Dremmel – this is to cut the lids
Perlite – this is a very cheap medium to replace soil. I get from the hardware store. It’s clean and natural, but its purpose is to provide support to the plant’s stem.
Hydro food – a small bottle will go a long way, chaps! They sell the cannabis growing stuff at Bunnings etc, so just go for the leafy (ie not the flower) type when using herbs
Quite simply remove the seedlings from their tray. Use a container of water to rinse the soil from the roots. Be gentle but they’re very capable of taking some rough love.
Take the tray the seedlings came in and cut into individual segments.
Drill a few holes in the segments to allow the roots to grow out of the base.
The lid is what will support the plants. Measure out enough holes to grow your herbs. They can be relatively close together (my 5 litre containers happily hold 4-8 herb seedlings.
Use a dremmel to cut the drawn out holes. Check the seed tray segments fit.
Putting it Together
Thread the base of the root system through the seedling tray segments. Fill the segment with perlite to allow the stem to be supported. The perlite is the little white pebbles you can see in the pics. Think of how soil would usually support the stem!
Place the newly supported plants into the lid. Once all are filled, you can fill the containers with water! I JUST use water for the first few days, to let the plants acclimatise and to ensure the rest of the dirt falls off.
Place in a sunny window.
After a few days, add some food per maker’s instructions.
Remember to check on water and food levels (most food needs redoing after a week or so, it should say how often on your bottle). And try to remove algae if it gets too much, as this can steal oxygen.
Update – 2 weeks later
Good growth happening here. Especially with the basil, which really thrives. I enjoy seeing the herbs reaching towards the sunlight and looking so damn healthy, without a bug in sight. These herbs are doing really well, especially when you consider that I give them only a capful of food per container, per week. And these herbs don’t get any direct sunlight either.
Algae – 2 months later
Below is two week’s worth of algae. We had a few hot days and I still haven’t painted the clear containers…as stated, the algae will grow if the containers aren’t kept dark. Algae floats in the water and needs light to be reflected onto it. With a full-of-food environment like this hydro set-up, it really is perfect for algae. Each container takes about 5 minutes to clean, so try to use black containers where possible (mine was a money issue).