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Matt Blashaw takes friends on a house hunt in Napa Valley wine country.
This is a photo montage and video of how I made a hydroponic vegetable patch for cheap, less than $300. Anyone can do the same in their garden patch, although it’s hard work, it’s not complicated. If you want more info on how to setup your own hydroponic garden patch, contact me via my urban farming website http://urbanfoodfarms.com
I started with a small space about 50 square feet in the back of the building where I live. I dug the ground out about half a foot. Then I bought 18 concrete construction blocks($.98 each) and 6 bags of 3/4 gravel ($3.20 per bag). After clearing out the soil, I put the construction blocks around and added the gravel in the center using a rake to even it.
The space took 9 coco coir bales total. I guesstimated the volume by multiplying the area cube by 7.48 to obtain a number of gallons ((L x W x H) x 7.48). Each bale expands to about 18 gallons. There’s a good section of the video showing how coco coir is used and how much water it absorbs. Although it shows only a few seconds of watering, the bales can actually have the hose running for 3 or 4 minutes without any runoff. Needless to say coco coir is a great soilless organic growing medium and it’s ability to absorb and retain water is truly amazing.
Once the coco hydrated, I broke up the clumps by hand and raked it to even it out. The result is an airy, fluffy, light growing medium that not only has plenty of moisture but also offers insane amounts of oxygen.
The next step was to add pelletized fertilizer in the proper amount and mixed it in the top 3 to 4 inches of coco with the rake. Coco coir has many advantages over soil, but as with all hydroponics, it requires fertilization because it does not retain nutrients as well as soil does. I did not install an automated watering system. I’m going to water by hand. According to the advice of an agronomist, the plants will get water only for the first 2 weeks. The reason is that since there is fertilizer mixed in the coco coir, not fertilizing the water will prompt the roots to search for the nutrient available in the growing medium resulting in larger root systems. After that, I will fertilize with every watering using a liquid fertilizer.
I used the excess coco coir to fill the construction blocks. Each hole is used as growing container. The concrete not only protects the plant, it also retains moisture and keeps the roots warm.
With the trip to the hardware store the whole thing took less than 1 day to finish including planting the plugs and seeds. The cost of the material was about $200 for the 9 coco bales and $75 at the hardware store for 18 blocks, 6 50lb gravel bags, a shovel and a rake and 2 caps for the sprinklers and a bag of fertilizer. 200pc plug trays are $28 each and can be ordered from http://urbanfoodfarms.com
Working with a section on the ground is much harder than the racked hydroponic trays I usually use. This takes a lot more bending and crouching but I think the results are going to be incredible.
The vegetable patch is now planted with winter crops. We have lettuce, spinach, arugula, mezuna (mustard greens) and green onion plugs, plus I planted 13 cabbages, 4 cauliflowers, 4 rows of radish and some carrots.