(My) Intro to Hydroponic Gardening

Last night, we paid $3.99 for a basil plant (no fresh cut basil available at Fred Meyer) that failed to yield a full cup of chopped basil.

That plant is down to a few tiny leaves (we have tried to keep these live plants from Fred Meyer alive in the past) sitting on the kitchen counter turning brown.

We eat a lot of basil, and it pains me to pay so much for something that grows so readily that we consume so much of.

I’ve always been fascinated by hydroponics. Per Wikipedia, hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.

We live in an apartment, so no garden plot.

We live in the Northwest, so there is no sun to speak of (I kid, I kid… not really).

If we want either of these things (including favorable temperatures) we have to create them for ourselves, which is where hydroponics come in. There are some mainstream solutions, like Windowfarms. I don’t like the Windowfarms solution because it is designed to hang in a window. We have already been admonished (by the property management company) for having a piece of cardboard in our window to prevent the drafty winter air from freezing our sensitive tootsies. A Windowfarm would likely get us evicted. The other thing I don’t like about the Windowfarm design is how rough it looks. I want to have a neat orderly system when I am done, not some Coke bottle monstrosity.

I do not mean to put down the Windowfarm idea, it is great to use found or recycled materials to build your system. It fits perfectly inline with the “grown your own food” mentality.

Since our apartment is entirely carpeted, it is incredibly important that we not have any leaks. There are many types of hydroponic systems, but the one we chose to use is called a top drip system. The top drip system typically sits over its reservoir, which contains the water/nutrient pump and air stone (if you choose to use one).

Reservoir with water/nutrient pump and air stone.

The water/nutrient solution is pumped up from the reservoir into a basket pot that sits atop it. The basket is filled with expanded clay pellets. The clay is practically inert, so it doesn’t effect the pH of the water, nor will it impart any meaningful mineral content to the nutrient solution. The basil will be planted in this basket.

Various Parts for hydroponic basil.

Basil seeds, nutrient pump, air pump, and flow limiting nozzles.



In this photo you can see the basket full of expanded clay. I cut a notch into the bucket rim to allow the tubing and wiring to extend into the bottom of the reservoir.

Clay with water nozzle

Here is the clay growth medium with my flow limiting nozzle.

To germinate the basil seeds I wet a paper towel, spread the seeds upon it, and put the whole thing into a plastic container. I will keep it wet, and over the next couple of days the seeds will germinate.

Basil Seeds

Basil seeds germinating using the wet paper-towel method.

That’s it for today! I’ll post an update when the basil germinates.


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