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Hydroponics at Home

Updated: Mar 1

Mary Reilly-Kliss, Ozaukee Master Gardener

Ever the gardener who needs green growing things year round – veggies, house plants, perennials, – you name it –, and fascinated by the hydroponics project at the Saukville Food Alliance, I put a small indoor hydroponic growing system on my Christmas wish list, and one of my family members came through!

The system is very easy to set up and mine came with easy-to-follow directions. Basically, you put about a gallon of water and the provided liquid fertilizers in the water well; drop in the tubes which contain a sponge growing medium; put a couple of seeds on the top of each tube and wait. My system also provided small covers and plastic domes for each tube. The timer which regulates light and the water pump is set for 18 hours on, 6 off.

I set the system up on February 1, planting Black Seeded Simpson and Red Salad Bowl lettuces, some of my faves from Jung’s Seed Company. I am thrilled to say that I did not have to wait long for germination, because the next day, a seed sprouted.

Every morning, I checked the “garden” and took progress photos, some of which have a pink glow due to the ultraviolet light. Here are some of the highlights:

The directions recommend removing all but one seedling, but I consider that a perfect waste of good food. I saw no reason to do that using the cut-and-come-again method. Now, at the end of February, I am about to do a second harvest, and think that I may continue doing so until my real-deal outdoor garden begins to produce. I also plan on experimenting with using the system as a “seed starting” method, removing seedlings and planting them in soil when they are large enough. I may try this with annual poppies which do not transplant well in normal soil.

Once the growing medium sponges become slimy or moldy, they are replaced. An ample supply of liquid fertilizer is provided as well, so all I need are more seeds – and I have those!

So, hydroponics at home? ABSOLUTELY! So much fun, and tasty to boot.

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Ozaukee Food Alliance Hydroponics

Susan Steinhafel, Ozaukee Master Gardener

In addition to sharing Mary’s enthusiasm about hydroponics, I am experiencing the Ozaukee Master Gardener hydroponic project at Ozaukee Food Alliance in Saukville. I just started volunteering there!  Joanne (on right) is a wonderful and delightful person and instructor which makes the experience even more heightened. We are giving “cheers” to each other with our little lettuce starts. Good luck little guys, grow big and yummy!

From propagation of seed, to putting the developing plug into the hydroponic unit (demonstrated in the left photo), the caring, cleaning, PH monitoring, and balancing of nutrients makes it more of a biological lab than just growing lettuces. It is a fascinating project that does so much good for the community.

Volunteers at OFA are amazing. I love their passion and love for the well-being of the community. I share Mary’s excitement of hydroponics and wish her much success growing plants year round!


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