A few weeks ago I decided to embark on the journey to Hydroponics via the Kratky method. Granted… I am only dipping in a toe at this point - pun intended. Here is a quick status update and thoughts on what went right and what went wrong.
I have started a second Kratky container which also contains Buttercrunch lettuce.
The image on the left is the first container and it took 5 days for the plant to germinate. There is actually a second plant starting, which is not obvious in this picture, putting it 12 days after initial planting. The image on the right is a second start which only took 3 days to germinate – these were started in a 2″ net cup but not directly in the Kratky container like I did with the first. I move them to the new Kratky container the day after they sprouted. As you can see all the plants are looking very healthy and strong. All of the seeds were started directly outdoors. Although the second start was done under shade netting as it is still pretty hot here in Mission Viejo.
My control plants using just regular soil and watering techniques all germinated within 3 days of planting. They were started indoors which was a mistake because they got very leggy very quickly. I moved them outside once I realized my mistake. I transplanted them today to a self-watering container.
Observations/Thoughts (not Kratky related)
- We were going through a heat wave when I started this adventure. It was close to 100 degrees with a lot of humidity at the time – it lasted for about a week and a half. Back down to 70/80 now.
- Starting plants indoors in the summer out of direct sunlight was not such a good idea. I have since started more outside and they are no where near as leggy as the first batch.
- Doing the side-by-side comparison was a good idea because it gave me an idea of what to expect.
Observations/Thoughts (Kratky related)
- I need to soak the soil before putting in the seeds. Leaving the soil dry, planting the seed and letting the water soak in probably caused the seed to be smothered. Hence the late germination. In fact I don’t think it would have worked at all had I not poked around to see if the seed was doing anything. I located the seed in the net cup and gently re-covered it ensuring there was a small pocket of air around the seed. Within a few days of doing this the seed sprouted.
- I need to fill the container all the way to the top with solution. With the heat, direct sunlight and the net cup exposure to the air there was a lot more evaporation than I was expecting. As you can see by this image the net cup is almost out of the water and there is not a single root exposed to the air or solution. This is the most critical part of the Kratky method – getting the roots into the solution and let them drink there way to the bottom. I may have to consider covering the soil with some plastic to reduce evaporation. I didn’t tighten the lid all the way down on the container also – that too could be contributing to the evaporation. To mitigate this issue I topped off the container with plain water. With the lower temps right now I am hoping this will not be a continuing issue.
- It is too early to tell if the plants are doing better than the “control” plants. The late germination has thrown off the timing. I have been documenting the entire process with pictures daily so hopefully I will be able to compare them and see whether or not there is a difference in the early growth.
Here is a little montage of the plants I started in a 6″ pot.