Bucket garden ideas is the answer for you if you have a small space, little time, and a limited budget. This is an ideal solution for people that are away from home for days at a time. The bucket garden idea video includes easy instructions on how to build and maintain and expandable self watering system.
Easy hydroponics are a passive system that produces a large amount of flowers or vegetables, very quickly, in a small space. Hydroponics is the process of raising plants without soil. How can this be? The plants are started in a soil-less medium like: rockwool, foam cubes, or compressed peat pellets (Jiffy-7). To start the plants, the roots should just touch the nutrient liquid; some of the roots will grow deep into the solution. The nutrient solution contains easy to obtain fertilizers and other elements that are found in your local big-box stores, hardware, or garden stores.
Easy hydroponics or soil-less gardening is a perfect utilization of rooftops, patios or yards with poor soil quality. Hydroponic gardening provides essential nutrients quickly to the roots on a very consistent basis resulting in better growth and higher yields. Hydroponics provides a more stable soil fertility, temperature, and moisture than gardening with traditional soil. Because of the ample nutrients available, plantings can be denser. Soil-less gardening greatly reduces the majority of soil born insects and diseases, reducing the need for pesticides. Easy hydroponic gardening uses less water per square foot, compared to gardening with traditional soil. Hydroponic gardening helps to eliminate the back breaking work of carrying bags and bags of soil or the endless job of hoeing weeds. For a good video on easy hydroponic gardening, check this out:Http://Www.Youtube.Com/Watch?V=Odyeffycvky.
This article shares with you three different easy hydroponic systems. In these passive floating systems, no water circulating pumps, aeration pumps or engineering skills are required. Pumps are common in commercial systems. The passive floating hydroponic gardening system holds the plants just on top of the nutrient solution in cups with drainage holes, supported by a sheet of Styrofoam™™. I will first share with you Passive Hydroponic Universal Instructions that will help you get started. These instructions include: selecting crops, choosing containers, starting plants indoors, mixing fertilizer solutions, and starting plants in hydroponic solution. I will then describe the materials needed to construct three different systems including: plastic tote, wading pool, and wood frame systems.
Caution Even a small amount of water can be a possible drowning hazard for children. Please make certain that your hydroponic system is well protected from small children.
Cool season plants love this passive hydroponic system. I recommend a spring and fall planting of leafy green vegetables that include: lettuce (bibb, Boston, leaf, and Romaine), mustard greens, bok choy, mint, chives, and kale. Warm season crops that can be planted after the early spring crop is done include: Swiss chard, basil, cucumbers, watercress, and zinnia, an annual flower.
This article guides you through building three different passive floating gardens. The sizes include: a 6.25-gallon tote, a kiddie 4-5′ wading pool, and a 4’ x 8’ plastic lined wooden structure. Any noncorrosive container can be used, including water tanks, buckets, or tubs that hold water and are 4 to 6 inches deep. To hold the plant roots just at the surface of the solution you will need net pots or Styrofoam™ coffee cups. Net pots can be purchase from a commercial hydroponic supplier.
Cut cup holes in a 1½” thick Styrofoam™ sheet large enough to allow the net pots or cups to drop 1/8 inch below the bottom. A 3” net pot or a standard Styrofoam™ cup will need a 2½” hole. A 2” net pot will require a 1¾” hole. . Standard Styrofoam™ cups need to have 1/4″ slits cut in the sides and the bottom to let the roots grow through.
Purchasing seedling transplants is the easiest way for beginners to get started. It is easy to find a large selection of low cost, green leafy vegetable varieties in any garden center. In most cases the seedlings have been started in a soil-less mixture. It is common for these garden centers to have the plants displayed outside so they are already acclimated to the outdoor environment.
Starting Plants from Seed Indoors
I have had great success starting plants in compressed peat pellets (Jiffy-7). The pellets are very easy to water and show good resistance to dampening off disease. Start the seeds approximately three weeks prior to moving them outside. The plants need to be fully rooted with leaves approximately 1 to 1 and 1/2” inches long before moving them outdoors. It is critical that you harden off your plants before setting them out. Hardening off is the process of slowly acclimating plants to a more sunny, cool, windy outdoor environment. A week before transplanting, place your plants outside in a shaded area for approximately an hour. Then extend the time one hour each day and place in more direct sunlight each day for the remaining part of the week. Hardening off will have a very positive effect on the success rate of your transplants.
Mixing Fertilizer Solutions
Add 1 to 2 level teaspoons of water-soluble 20–20–20 or 18-18 -21 fertilizer with micronutrients to each gallon of water (J. R. Petters inc. All Purpose 20-20-20 Water Soluble Fertilizer, or Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Tomato Plant Food 18-18-21) and ½ to 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). See figure 2. Additional calcium may need to be added if you have soft water. Stir until dissolved. In most cases you can grow an entire crop of greens without changing or adding solution. Monitor the water level and add water if it becomes low. If it rains alot you may need to add additional fertilizer and Epsom salts at the same ratio to compensate for the additional volume of water. The pH level of the solution should be checked with a simple pH tester that can be purchased at a pool supply store or garden center. The final pH of the solution should be 5.5 to 6.5. Adjustments can be made upward by adding agricultural line. By adding aluminum sulfate, you can lower the pH. You can grow two crops of greens in the same solution before the entire solution needs to be changed.
Starting Plants in Passive Hydroponic System
Transplants should be flat bottomed, fully rooted in a soil-less media consisting of: rockwool, foam cubes, or compressed peat pellets. I would not recommend coconut fiber, sand, Perlite, or Vermiculite, because it doesn’t form a ball, which makes it more difficult to transplant. A flat bottom seedling makes good contact with the solution in the bottom of the cup. Do not add, remove, or pack the soil-less mix in the cups. This soil-less root ball should be surrounded by air. By having the roots extend slightly out of the nutrients the plant can absorb needed oxygen through the exposed roots. Use a toothpick can be used to prop the plant so it stays upright in the cup. It is important to remember that the plants roots should not be covered by the solution. Do not place the cup deeper than 1/8” into the solution. If the plant’s roots seem too wet, place the cup on its side to reduce contact of the solution.
Easy Hydroponics: Tote with Styrofoam™
This easy hydroponic system is low cost, easy to build and easy to operate. It’s an excellent way to explore soil-less gardening for the beginner. This is a reliable system I used with classroom
4-H clubs to encourage participation in the gardening program. I’m not aware of any of the demonstrations that were not successful. You can build this hydroponic system for less than $10. I have added two larger hydroponic systems below that you may want to try after you have success with this easy hydroponic passive tote system. See figure 3.
Materials Needed: **
see plant starting instructions in “Passive Hydroponic Universal Instructions” above.
6.25-gallon (24.38″L x 15.13″W x 6.13″H) dark colored hard sided plastic tote
1½” thick Styrofoam™ sheet 24″L x 15″W to fit the opening of the tote
4-net pots or Styrofoam™ coffee cups**
Water soluble fertilizer**
Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate)**
permanent marker, sharp knife, hole saw, measuring spoons, water to fill the tote.
Place Styrofoam™ on a flat surface, set the bottom (smallest part) of the tote on top of the Styrofoam™ and trace around the bottom of the tote with the permanent marker.
Using a sharp knife, cut along the trace line through the Styrofoam™ to form a rectangle. The rectangle must be able to freely float up and down in the tote as the water level changes.
Using a hole saw, drill 4 holes away from the edges from the edge to help prevent breakage according to directions in the container section in the “Passive Hydroponic Universal Instructions” above. See figure 4.
Place the net pots or Styrofoam™ cups in each hole.
Place the tote in an area that is level and will get 6 to 8 hours of sun per day.
Fill tote with thoroughly dissolved fertilizer solution to about 2 inches of the top of the tote. Float the Styrofoam™ sheet on the fertilizer solution in the tote.
Drop the plants into each net or cup making sure that the roots are in contact with some of the solution.
Watch the plants closely for the first couple days to make certain that they are not wilting and remain in contact with the fertilizer solution. You should see noticeable growth within one week.
Enjoy fresh nutritious crisp greens directly out of your soil-less garden.
Easy Hydroponics: Wading Pool1 with Styrofoam™ Floating System
The easy hydroponics wading pool system is low-cost, easy to construct and can produce plenty of crisp nutritious lettuce for the family. This is a great first time experience producing food in a soil-less garden. You can build this hydroponic system for less than $20. See figure 5. Here is the link to the K-State Research and Extension, 4-H publication that I have adapted these plans used, Wading Pool Hydroponics.
**see plant starting instructions in “Passive Hydroponic Universal Instructions” above.
Hard sided plastic wading pool 4-5 ft. in diameter
1½” thick Styrofoam™ sheet to fit the opening of the pool
12-15 net pots or Styrofoam™ coffee cups**
Water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer**
Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate)**
1- Packet of seeds and 12 to 15 Jiffy-7 pots or 12-15 started plants **
permanent marker, sharp knife, hole saw, measuring spoons, water to fill the pool (measure how many gallons are needed to fill the pool before you mix the growing solution.
Place Styrofoam™ on a flat surface, set the bottom (smallest part) of the wading pool on top of the Styrofoam™ and trace around the bottom of the pool with the permanent marker.
Using a sharp knife, cut along the trace line through the Styrofoam™ to form a circle. The circle must be able to freely float up and down in the pool as the water level changes.
Using a hole saw, drill 12 to 15 holes that are at least 6 inches from the edge and 12 inches apart inside the circle to help prevent breakage according to directions in the container section in the “Passive Hydroponic Universal Instructions” above.
Place the net pots or Styrofoam™ cups in each hole.
Place pool in an area that is level and will get 6 to eight hours of sun per day.
Fill pool with dissolved fertilizer solution to about 4 inches of the top of the pool. Float the Styrofoam™ sheet in the pool.
Drop the plants into each cup making sure that the roots are in contact with the solution. See figure 6
Watch the plants closely for the first couple days to make sure that they are not wilting and remain in contact with the fertilizer solution. You should notice notable growth within one week.
Enjoy fresh nutritious crisp greens directly out of your soil-less garden.
Easy Hydroponics: Wooden Frame with Styrofoam™ Floating System2
This easy hydroponics system uses a large wooden frame that is big enough to supply nutritious greens for the whole family and neighborhood. See figure 7. This system was designed by the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Florida, but it will work anywhere in the country. You can build this hydroponic system for under $50. The biggest drawback I see with the system is the plastic liner; it could be susceptible to rodent damage. For the beginner, I would recommend starting with leafy green vegetables, concentrating on the spring and fall seasons. Warm season vegetable crops are harder to manage in a passive hydroponic system. For the complete extension publication go to: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs184.
3 – 2” X 6” X 8 ft. lengths of treated lumber; cut one of the boards into two 4 ft. lengths
12 – #10 x 4-in Philips-Head Zinc-Plated Interior/Exterior Wood Screws
1 – 4’ x 8’ x 1½” sheet of Styrofoam™ insulation board
1 – 12’ x 6’ six mill polyethylene plastic sheet
3 – 1 x 2 x 8 Spruce-Pine Furring Strip; cut one of the strips into two 4 ft. lengths
24 – 11-Gauge 1¼” galvanized roofing nails to hold down furring strips and plastic
36 net pots or Styrofoam™ coffee cups**
Water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer**
Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate)**
36 started plants **
power drill with head Philips screw attachment, 4” x 1/8” drill bit for screw pilot holes, hole saw or sharp knife, hammer
Connect the 4 ft. and 8 ft. lengths of treated lumber to form a rectangle. Make certain corners are square.
Drill three pilot holes in each corner and insert screws.
Check the ground where the frame sit and remove any debris that could puncture the plastic liner.
Place the frame in an area that is level and will get six to eight hours of sun daily.
Center the 12’ x 6’ six mill polyethylene plastic sheet in the bottom of the rectangle to form a trough.
Put the long edge of the plastic sheet on the long edge of the rectangle. Secure by placing the furring strips over the plastic on the top edge and nail through the furring and the plastic into the wooden frame.
Make sure the plastic sheet is pushed down into the bottom of each corner of the wooden frame. Be careful not to puncture the plastic liner.
Secure the plastic with the furring and nails on the second long sides.
Secure the plastic with the furring and nails on the remaining short sides.
Place the Styrofoam™ sheet in the frame to make sure that the edges clear and that it can move freely up-and-down when the water is added. Trim if needed.
Drill holes according to directions in the container section in the “Passive Hydroponic Universal Instructions” above.
Mix the nutrient solution thoroughly as recommended above in the “Passive Hydroponic Universal Instructions**” section. It should be at least 5 inches deep. This frame method will take approximately 50 gallons of solution.
Check liner for leaks.
Small punctures in the plastic can be repaired by cleaning and drying the surface and then applying waterproof glue on each side of the plastic.
Place plants in net pots or Styrofoam™ cups making sure the roots are in contact with the solution. See figure 8.
Watch the plants closely for the first couple days to make sure they are not wilting and remain in contact with the fertilizer solution. You should notice notable growth within one week.
Enjoy fresh nutritious crisp greens directly out of your soil-less garden and be prepared to sell or give away some fresh produce.
The easy hydroponic passive floating system, regardless of size, is ideal for the beginning gardener. It is low cost, and gives gardeners with small space a way to produce large amount of quality vegetables. This easy hydroponics requires less work than traditional gardening. There is no need for tilling soil, toting and mixing big bags of soil, and no hoeing weeds in the hot sun. By following the “Passive Hydroponic Universal Instructions” above, you can use any size container and successfully produce great vegetables at home. The three examples of passive floating hydroponic systems give one a choice of a small, medium, or large system that are all low cost. I would encourage any new gardeners to try this easy hydroponics system for growing vegetables.
1Evelyn Neier, “Wading Pool Hydroponics”, Family Nutrition Program/ Junior Master Gardener/, 4-H Youth Development, funded by UDSA SNAP.
2M. Sweat, R. Tyson, and R. Hochmuch, “Building A Floating Hydroponic Garden” By Florida Cooperative Extension Service/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs184.
Make your home more beautiful, meals more flavorful and improve your home environment by raising your own herbs with these indoor gardening tips. Raising your own herbs is easy, fun and can yield tasty rewards. Picking fresh herbs in your kitchen for cooking can lead to a sense of accomplishment. Use the winter months as a great time to experiment with raising herbs. I will share some simple tips to help make your indoor herb garden a big success. The most important topics include: selecting herbs, soil, planting containers and controlling the light, water, and, environment.
Indoor Gardening Tips: Selecting Herb Plants
The beginner’s list of herbs that grow well indoors includes: chives, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, and tarragon. Avoid sun loving herbs such as: basil, coriander (cilantro), dill, lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Here is a great website that will give you some ideas and help you get started http://www.gardenista.com/posts/urban-gardening-diy-shade-tolerant-windowsill-herbs-to-grow-in-your-apartment. Purchase the herb plants from a local garden store or nursery. Experienced gardeners may want to consider starting your herbs from seeds. It takes more time and your success rate will not be as high as purchasing established plants. As winter approaches, transplant the herbs into individual pots. Move these plants to a partially shaded location outside for several weeks. This will adjust the plants to the decreased amount of sunlight that they will encounter inside for the winter. Then you can move the herbs growing inside your house during winter to your outside garden in the spring.
Indoor Gardening Tips: Choosing the Soil for Herbs
Beginners should always start with commercially prepared potting soil. These soils have all the correct nutrients, organic matter, and adjustments for the proper pH. In most cases potting soil will have a higher concentration of organic matter which causes it to be a lighter soil with less chance of compaction. The downside to this porous potting soil is it tends to dry out more quickly. Soils with a high amount of organic matter provide an ideal environment for microorganism activity. This activity provides a slow usable release rate of required plant nutrition. This great indoor gardening tip came from a greenhouse operator — these light potting soil mixes should always be pressed firmly into the containers. Pressing the mix tightly will aid in water retention and stimulate root growth. I recommend using a layer of fabric (old t-shirt or towel) in the bottom of the planting container. This holds in the soil and allows water to wick up into the pot from the bottom. I like this method better than using stones in the bottom of the pot. If you choose to make your own potting soil, use sterilized materials, and at least one-third of the mix should be organic matter (peat moss or compost). Herbs grow relatively slowly indoors during the winter. Fertilizer should be used sparingly. If your herbs do not have a deep green appearance apply a liquid fertilizer using 50% the recommended rate on the label. If the plant then shows a deeper green color, continue the applications at the half rate. It is always better to under fertilize plants that are being grown indoors.
Indoor Gardening Tips: Choosing Herb Growing Containers
Containers for growing herbs can be as simple as a cut down two-liter bottle, an exquisite handcrafted art pottery, or a commercial plastic pot. University research has shown that plants benefit from being re-potted. Begin with a smaller pot working up to larger pots as the plant roots grown to fill the container. I experimented by planting seeds in a very large pot. Then I planted seeds in a small pot and the plants were transplanted into a series of larger pots. The results showed that re-potted plants grew faster and more vigorously than the seeds that were planted in a large pot and not transplanted. So to increase the production of your indoorherb garden plants increase the pot size as the plant roots circle around the edge the pot. Containers with more soil have a larger margin of error when it comes to watering. Most containers will function as long as they’re clean and have drainage hole(s) in the bottom. I’ve not found a lot of functional differences between plastic, terra-cotta, wood, metal, or fiberglass containers. In most cases your choice of container will depend on your individual preferences.
Indoor Gardening Tips: Choosing Light Sources for Herbs
Light is the herb’s best friend! Most herbs love lots of high quality direct sunlight. A minimum of 5 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily should be the goal to raise herbs indoors. Less light may keep the plants alive but the plants will not thrive. A south facing window will provide the best light with west and or east being your next best choices. My indoor gardening tips include: maximizing production by grow growing herbs in a south window with the addition of artificial light. Two practical choices of grow lights are fluorescent or high-intensity discharge (HID). The light can be a fluorescent shop light that is positioned within an inch or two of the growing plants for up to 16 hours a day. I have experimented with artificial lights at different distances from the plants. My results show that the lights that are 2 inches away from the plants will quadruple the growth, compared to lights that are 2 feet away from the plants. Fluorescent lights or specific grow lights are highly recommended over incandescent light bulbs. Old style light bulbs are not as efficient and will produce more heat, which tends to dry out the soil quickly. If your plant has long spaces between leaf nodes and is tall and lanky, your plant is not getting enough light. Tall is not always better. Learn how to build a low-cost, simple to make, artificial lighting system for your indoor herb garden at this website http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy5fzPlsXK0.
Indoor Gardening Tips: Proper Watering of Herbs
Over watering is the biggest mistake made by beginning indoor herb gardeners. Place your herbs in a location that you will visit on a regular basis (example kitchen window). If you see the herbs many times a day, you can keep a close watch on the soil’s moisture level. The best way to determine the moisture level of the soil is to stick your finger into the pot about half an inch. If you can feel the moisture the plant can go another day without being watered. After repeated daily moisture samplings you will be able to estimate how often the plant needs to be watered. In most cases a heavy watering once a week will provide enough moisture for your plant. My indoor gardening tips include: checking the soil’s moisture level often and watering your plants from the bottom. To water from the bottom, put the pot on a saucer or water reservoir tray designed specifically for potted plants. Adding water to the saucer or tray allows the plant to wick up the water into the soil. Remember, most herbs prefer to be on the dry side rather than the wet side. If your plant turns yellow, you are watering your plant too much.
Indoor Gardening Tips: Proper Environmental Conditions for Herbs
When raising herbs indoors it is important to consider temperature, air movement, pests, and humidity. Most herb plants prefer a temperature in the 70°- 80° F. range. A quick temperature change may be detrimental to the plant when moving it in or out of the home. If the plant is outdoors and the temperatures have cooled off, moving the plant back into a warm interior temperature may cause the plant to go into shock. I have seen the leaves completely fall off of plants after being moved into a warm home. It is important not to have your plants sitting near air ducts or doors. The direct contact with extreme temperature and moisture changes may kill the plants. My indoor gardening tips include: examining your plants on a weekly basis for pests. If possible remove bugs by hand or use an insecticidal soapy spray at the first sign of any insect problems. Most heated winter homes have a very low humidity level. Having potted plants in this environment will help add moisture to the air. Be aware when the artificial heat is on in your home, it will be using up moisture that is stored in your plant’s soil. So additional water will be needed by your plants during these periods.
I hope my herb indoor gardening tips have helped you discover how simple and easy can be to grow herbs. With a small amount of time and money you will have quick access to herbs that will add some new flavors to your cooking. The beautiful green plants growing in your home helps to bring nature indoors. This touch of nature also helps increase the amount of humidity in your home’s dry winter air. Plants help clean the air, and the photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. You can be successful growing herbs by remembering these herb indoor gardening tips: select the correct herbs to plant, purchase high-quality potting soil, and select a container that can be well drained. Light is important and you must provide a minimum of 5 to 8 hours of direct sunlight or substitute with 16 hours of fluorescent light daily. Indoor herb gardeners must be aware of the plant’s total environment including: temperature, drafts and air movement, pests, and indoor humidity. You can easily enjoy growing herbs indoors and add flavor to your cooking by growing flavorful herbs in your own home.
Here are some fall garden ideas that will get the beginning vegetable gardener started without waiting for spring to arrive. August and September are perfect times to start a fall garden in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4B and higher. The warmth of summer gives the new vegetable plants a quick start and can provide some of the best quality produce of the year. Yes, this is the time for beginning gardeners to get started. The experienced gardeners have been enjoying fall vegetable gardens for years.
Fall Garden Ideas – Which vegetables do I plant?
My favorite quick harvest, cool loving fall crops are frost sensitive. They include: radishes (maturing in as little as 18 to 21 days), kohlrabi, (one of my favorites), leaf lettuce, arugula, and spinach, (maturing around 55 days). A frost blanket row cover can keep the plants 4-6 degrees F. warmer and greatly increases the length of your production. I like the frost tolerant brassica crops that can take some frost like: kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. The frost sensitive root crops that I recommend are beets, carrots, turnips, and parsnips. If they are well covered with straw you can leave them in the ground until the soil starts to freeze, and they will become tastier. However don’t let them get frozen into the soil. I have had good luck with frost resistant crops like evergreen bunch onion, garlic, leeks, and chives wintering over in USDA zone 5A. Many gardeners recommend these risky frost crops including: bush beans, sugar snap peas, and cabbage. However, I would not recommend them for beginners. Any of these vegetables are great fall garden ideas.
Fall Garden Ideas – When do I plant?
How does a beginning gardener know the best date to plant a fall garden? First click on Plant Hardiness Zones, then enter your zip code, and click on the zone it provides. It will show you the date of the Average First Fall Frost. Count back from the Average First Fall Frost, the number of days needed for your crop to mature. It will be found on the seed package. This will give you an estimated planting date for that crop. These fall garden ideas are just an estimate; mother nature does not always follow the charts. Areas within a specific zone may be affected by buildings, trees, hills, lakes, etc. creating a micro climate. You can reduce the number of days needed by using a frost blanket, closures, covering plants with straw, or by purchasing vegetable transplant from your garden center.
Fall Garden Ideas – How do I start?
Gardening in a bag, square foot gardening, and straw bale gardening are fall garden ideas that are easy, cost efficient, and productive ways for the beginning gardener to get started. Bag gardening is when you plant your vegetables directly into the bags of soil you purchase from the store. Yes it really works! I had two bags going this summer and they produced sugar snap peas, Swiss chard, and meal after meal of okra. I am now getting ready for my fall crops. Straw bale gardening is a method where one takes a wheat or oat straw bale, tip it on edge, soak it with water, let it set for a week, make a depression in the bale, fill with potting soil, and plant. As the bale slowly decomposes the vegetables will grow into the decomposing bale. Square foot gardening take a little more planning and cost but is well worth the effort. Build a small raised bed 4 feet by 4 feet by 6-12 inches deep and then fill it with quality organic matter. I have had square foot gardens that yield four times as much produce compared with a traditional row garden.
Fall is a great time for beginning gardeners to get started. Fall gardens provide seeds with faster germination in the warm soil. It is very pleasant to work outside in the fall weather and the soil takes less water while many of the common insects are no longer around. Try these fall garden ideas and enjoy the cool loving crops that thrive in the pleasant fall weather. So if you are a new gardener it is time to get started with these great fall garden ideas.