Nothing like a world-changing event to foster changes in humanity! Many people are returning to Nature, even if simply through gazing at the sky and listening to the birds. In many parts of the world Spring is springing, and in the southern hemisphere the Autumn has settled in. Changes in the flora and fauna remind us of the big-picture-constant: change. Referenced as impermanence by the Buddha, as flow in the Tao te Ching, and as the Great Mother’s cycles by the Native Elders, change is the constant of existence. Stability is an illusion.
Those who are fortunate enough to have a back yard or a balcony that gets sun are thinking of planting. Growing food is on more people’s minds than ever before. Excellent! The challenge is when you have to use what’s at hand because, even if a store is open, it might not wise to go there right now. A case is easily made that growing food for neighbors and self is an essential activity but others might have thought of that first and have emptied the local Tractor Supply or ACE hardware or nursery of the good stuff. If you do go to a Lowes or Home Depot or local hardware store or nursery, please be fully mindful in your actions. Bring sanitizing wipes for everything you touch, think ahead of what you might need (tools, seeds, soil, bagged compost, and such), pray for the well-being of everyone that you interact with, then get home and wash your hands thoroughly. (Remember to turn off the water while lathering for 20 seconds!)
Last winter and Spring were full-on experiments for me with indoor food raising plus starting as many plants as possible for the garden. I remind those who might think that this is a lot of work that my body is physically handicapped due to MS (my left side – shoulder to toes – does not work properly or fully) and I have a small four-room home of approximately 800 square feet. So, friends, if I can do it, anyone can! Granted, I love gardening, and nothing pleases me more than cutting the greens for my meal and tasting their amazing quality. The same is so for picking snap peas or beans or kale or summer squash in season. Pick it and eat it!
This post is about indoor easy hydroponics. Growing sprouts, microgreens, even a variety of lettuce greens and herbs is super easy to do.
Several posts last winter and early Spring here on Blazing Light displayed growing microgreens in empty Noosa yogurt containers and other plastic containers ready for recycle. To do this method you need to order online:
- the type of seeds that you want to sprout as sprouts (like clover) and those to grow as microgreens. Arugula is one of the easiest to grow. Leaf lettuces also sprout well but have less nutrition; then there is clover, kale, broccoli, and such. Get organic seeds if possible.
- cellulose/plant-based matting cut to the size of the top of the container you are using for microgreens. Here’s a link.
- a container prepared in the way shown in this video.
The difference between microgreens and sprouts is how many days or weeks mature each is. Both are very healthy food and easy to grow. Sprouts are generally ready to eat in less than 7 days. Microgreens require two to three weeks. Microgreens also can be used for planting in containers or put in individual hydroponic “grow pots” to keep growing and be harvested at any measure of maturity.
Sprouts can be germinated in any jar, lid off. You’ll need some sort of screen for pouring off the water at rinsing time each day for the first couple of days.
- a teaspoon of clover seeds will produce a lot of clover sprouts. Start with 1/2 teaspoon for your first experiment.
- In a clean glass pickle or tall jam jar (I don’t use plastic for sprouting but you can), place a 1/2 t. of clover seeds (or sprouting seeds or sprouting mix) in the jar.
- Rinse with luke warm water, pour off the water.
- Then add new water to fully cover the seeds.
- Place in a dark corner of your kitchen or counter. Let stand for 8 hours.
- Rinse every 8 hours. This means to pour off the water. The seeds should be moist but not standing in water after the first 8 hours which soften the seed shell. Do this for two days (no need to do so in the middle of the night). You will start to see sprouting tails in 2-3 days.
- Once the majority in the jar has begun to sprout, rinsing is no longer necessary. The key now is not letting them dry out while they are still growing and become full sprouts (like those bought in a store) but also not too moist which slows growth. Find a happy medium for your kitchen climate.
- In 5-7 days, eat! Store the uneaten ones in the fridge in their jar covered.
Kratky (standing water) hydroponics
I use this method for growing lettuce greens and arugula. I have found it fool-proof for these food plants. Kale and chard seem to need water flow against their roots to grow well; so this method is not for them. This method also works for cilantro. Parsley did not do well for me with this method.
The idea for construction of grow vessels is the same as illustrated in the video on growing microgreens (linked above). The difference is the container for growing. I use plastic planting boxes gotten at Family Dollar last year on clearance for $1.12 each. They are about 18 inches long and 6 inches deep. Note to self: add the water last and only once the planter is prepared and in the location in which you will be growing. Transporting a planter container full of water sloshing around is not easy. !!
I used sliced pool noodles last year to float individual plants once they had been grown in the microgreen way. Then, they were lovingly and gently removed from the microgreen container and put into the pool noodle which then floated in the larger contained filled with a water+nutrient solution. (Oh, yeh, order online a nutrient solution. I used Master Blend which is a mixture of three purchased together.) The method generally used was from this video. I had great success last winter through early Spring, ate fresh greens myself, plus gave away to neighbors. Just as important, I learned what worked well, what did not, and thought about adjustments for ease of use and quantity increase for this winter.
Therefore, this winter, the pool noodles (cut in half lengthwise) were used as floats upon which a mesh was laid, paper towel the length of the mesh and fully extended into the planter to its bottom on both ends (the water wicks up the paper towel to the matting), then the cellulose/plant-based matting (linked above) cut to the width and length of the (to be floating) mesh and paper toweling. You will see in these photos that the mesh is held in place with clothes pins for security.
I grew lettuce as microgreens, ate what I wanted as they grew, but had plenty as well to separate and “plant” in pool noodle slices (rings) floating in water with nutrient solution. These individual plants would grow to maturity.
I also have taken some of the individual microgreens and planted them in homemade potting soil. The potting soil is a mixture of 2/3 coconut coir and 1/3 good soil (to be used for the backyard permaculture project). Because these are heirloom varieties of lettuce, their mature size is much smaller than store-bought hybrids. Heirloom lettuces are smaller and do not keep in the fridge. They are for eating as you pick them, just as animals would eat as they pick in the meadow or forest. Certainly, red leaf, romaine, and such could be grown in planter boxes in soil and grow to full size in a sunny window in your home.
I want to praise these heirloom lettuces as well as ARUGULA. Arugula has been exceedingly easy to grow as microgreen and let mature without fuss into full sized. The cellulose matting is them given to the worms in the worm bin for food. I eat a handful of arugula with each meal. It is high in Vitamin C, K, and all kinds of phytonutrients.
Have fun if you decide to play with any of these DIY indoor growing projects!