Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Start Of My Project

Urban agriculture has become quite a trend in my Brooklyn neighborhood.  Within a 1-mile radius, I have over 3 well-established rooftop farms and everybody seems to be growing something on their roof, windowsills or hard-to-come-by gardens.

My neighbor is one of these and when I recently saw her flowering tomato plant, I must admit, I had a pang of jealousy. I've tried on several occasions to get plants to grow in my apartment, but they all withered and died.  I just assumed gardening wasn't for me.

The good thing about having neighbors that grow plants is that they are full of information and after picking her brain for a couple of minutes, I decided to give it another go.

I went to my local gardening store, bought a self-watering planter, a basil plant, a tomato plant and some arugula seeds.  I also bought a seed starter kit and some pot soil. I actually managed to start the seedlings and repot the basil and tomato into my planter.  Woohoo!! All was well, until about 7 days in to my project when I started getting alot of what I believed to be fruit flies, but were actually fungus nats.  I had been over-watering my planter (watering every time the reservoir was empty) and now these fungus nats were killing everything!

I ended up adding a layer of sand to keep them at bay, and of course, while I was at the store buying sand I also ended up buying some potted rosemary, eggplant and paprika.  Within a couple of days, these plants were forming spider webs and fungus, yuck!!

Meanwhile, not enjoying the nats, my husband (bless him for this) went out and bought a 5 gallon hydroponic bucket system as a present.  He got a 10L bag of Hydroton, a net, an air pump and a flexible air stone with hose. At first this set-up bewildered me.  I had no clue how to use it.  I didn't understand the concept.  It wasn't until after I extensively googled hydroponics, that I felt confident to make the switch.  However, I was still hesitant to put my little eggplant in such a large bucket, and to top it of I had to find a place to put it.  I couldn't really set a 5 gallon container up on my windowsill and quite frankly my apartment is too dark to put the container anywhere else.  Yes, you can get grow lights, but that would mean more of an investment.  Not to mention the electric bill that it would produce.

And then I stumbled on hydroculture or 'passive-hydroponics'...

As long as I kept the roots above the water solution, I could use the Hydroton, instead of soil.  And the same principles of hydroponics applied.

Unlike other systems of hydroponics, with hydroculture I can easily convert my current pots and it takes up a lot less space.  My paprika plant immediately was transplanted into a recycled deli container and my rosemary was planted 'pot-in-pot' style.  Hopefully this will rid them of their spiders and fungus!!

Meanwhile, I'm keeping my fingers crossed hoping that my plants will take to their new homes!!  I'll post updates shortly!!

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