As you well know by now, hydroponics is a means of growing plants without soil. This adds a versatility that is hard to appreciate when planting a garden. You have so many additional options available to you. But it also means that you have to do things slightly different. In this latest post on hydroponics, I want to go through the step by step process to start seeds.
By far the best way to start seeds is to use a seed starting cube. The advantage to these is that the cubes can hold water while allowing air to reach the seeds, which is important during germination. There are several brands on the market such as rock wool or oasis starter cubes.
I personally prefer the Oasis brand because the cubes come in larger sheets that are easy to separate and they tend to be less expensive. Once seeds start to sprout and grow roots, the starter cubes make it easy to transfer the seedlings to the hydroponics system of your choice. A one and one half inch starter cube fits perfectly in a 2 inch net pot.
The starter cubes are first soaked in water. Drain the excess then allow to cubes to sit for a couple of minutes. If excess water accumulates in the bottom of the tray, drain it again. Do not squeeze water out of the cubes. This will remove air pockets inside the cubes which are important for the seedlings.
The starter cubes need to be soaked in water that is free of chlorine or chloramine. You may have to check with your local municipality to determine which chemical is used for disinfection because there is a different process for removing each of these chemicals from the water.
Chlorine is volatile (evaporates easily) to some degree and can be easily removed by allowing a 5 gallon bucket to sit over night. However, chloramine is very stable and takes several days for this to happen. This is often not practical for most hydroponic growers. The good news is that chloramine can easily be inactivated by adding ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) to the water. Typically this means 1000 mg (1 gram) per 40 gallons (150 liters) of water.
Once the chlorine or chloramine has been removed, check the pH of the water. Tap water generally has a pH of 7 to 8. If this is the case, you will need to use a pH down solution. The final pH of water used to soaking grow cubes should be 5.5
Once the cubes are soaked and ready to go, just place a couple of seeds in each starter cubes. It may be easier to use a toothpick for this purpose. Just dip the end of the toothpick in water and touch it to the seed then drop it in the hole.
Once your starter cubes are ready, place them in a tray and put a humidity dome over the tray. It is also helpful to place the trays on a heat mat. After about 10 days and once the seedling start to grow, then transplant them to your system.
Seedlings are initially self contained, meaning they have all the nutrients that they need. If you want to give them an extra boost, then use quarter strength nutrient solution compared to what you would use in adult plants.
In the next post, I will go over several different types of hydroponics systems so that you can get an idea of what will work best for your personal situation.
Go off grid and live well,
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