In the pictures above you can see my current hydroponic empire – a Tupperware container in the upper drawer of an old file cabinet – and yes, I should do a separate blog post on that. One of the big benefits of having this hydroponic setup in a file cabinet is the complete lack of pests even though I’ve been growing food in there for more than 6 months and have had serious pest problems when growing food in other parts of the house. A couple weeks ago I noticed really tiny black bugs were crawling around in my lettuce empire, and I was quite surprised – how could they have gotten there?? I got that answer about a week later when I suddenly had a large contingent of tiny flying black bugs rise up like a dark cloud when I opened the file cabinet drawer to inspect the crop. I tried killing them by hand, which had a pretty low success rate, and then I remembered the vacuum that I had purchased for squash bugs. Voila! Victory over diabolical bugs was swift with my vacuum! What a feeling of satisfaction; not something I feel all that often related to gardening.
I bought this lightweight vacuum off of Amazon.com but it’s probably available from a lot of places. At only about a pound and a half in weight this vacuum is super easy to use even with my arthritic hands. This is the first time I’ve used it to murder my enemies, but it sure worked well with this first try.
Written 2/27/2020 in Saint Louis, MO USA
I bought a grow light from Happy Leaf LED and a small hydroponics kit (baskets and clay pebbles, a few seeds) and this is what I now have 4 weeks after setting this up (see picture). The kit from Happy Leaf LED didn’t include the fertilizer that needs to be added to water put in the jars – I bought that from Amazon for $17 USD. The sunlight from the window is probably useless; I think all the growing is due to the grow light. The light and 6 black plastic baskets to sit in the top of my mason jars, the pebbles and about 20 lettuce seeds cost about $100 on sale, and most of that cost was the made-in-America light. I think that light is about 17″ long and cost about 5 cents a day in electricity to run for 16 hours (electricity is about $0.10/kWh in the winter in Saint Louis and the Kill A Watt meter said it used .43 kWh for one 16 hour period). I put seeds of my own in 3 jars – kale, cilantro and basil. Basil barely came up at all and then died; lettuces, kale and cilantro did pretty well. The picture with this post shows the plants after I harvested enough for 2 salads, so the growth was about double what is shown. All the growth after 4 weeks is good for about enough salad for 4 people, so since we want at least twice that per week, I might need to double the number of jars per week to grow what we want on a continuing basis. And since it takes about 4 weeks to get to this point, does that mean that I’d have to have 32 mason jars, one set of jars planted each week, to have a steady supply of the salad that we want? I’ve got a lot of questions still unanswered about this process and I’m not sure how to do the financial analysis on this – do we harvest all from each jar and then have to replant, or would the cut-and-come-again capabilities of these plants mean that I’d only need half as many jars as I’m thinking? How many jars can this one light manage? How long until this system pays for itself/breaks even? How tall a space do we need to deal with these plants? Btw, the onions growing in the foreground in the picture are seated in old glass floral frogs – see my previous post about that for more information. I’ll post again when I have more data to share. Thanks for reading this!