Note: For a complete set up and explanation of the nine site deep water system, go to part one of the hydroponic chronicles.
Winter can be rough on the gourmet palette. Folks used to enhancing their food through fresh herbs can find the dried counterparts to be unsexy. Options exist if the taste buds scream for fresh year round. One is windowsill herbs, which will provide growth although winter daylight can be insufficient in length.
Another solution (one resolved in the Fifth Season Asheville store) is to grow a medley of herbs in a nine site deep water culture. Since Asheville employees burnt out on basil for the past year (see our explanation on how to grow Italian basil hydroponically), we decided on a mix of cilantro, dill, thyme, and marjoram.
Since we’re under the hypothesis that most herbs require the same amount of nutrients in a hydroponic setup, we decided it would be safe to do a medley.
Once the baby herbs grew their first set of true leaves, we moved all of them to the nine site system. Since herbs don’t need a big dose of fertilizer in the infant stage, we added a small amount of seaweed solution (specifically Canna Rhizotonic) to help with overall immunity and root development. Canna calls for 3 teaspoons per gallon, but since these were infants, we cut the solution down to a teaspoon per gallon. We added 10 teaspoons (for the ten gallon reservoir) and let it stand alone (minus fertilizer) for a week.
After week one, we decided the herb babies were ready for their first real food. We stuck with a complete Canna nutrient regiment. We gave the plants another 10 teaspoons of Rhizotonic, and then followed it with Canna’s specific hyroponic fertilizer called Aqua Vega A and Aqua Vega B. Once again, we took precautions with the fertilizer requirements and cut the required dosage by half.
How did we determine this? Young herbs don’t need alot of PPM* (Parts per Million) in the water, and we figured that 250 PPMs is enough for these fledglings (in contrast, a healthy adult tomato can take 3500 PPMs). We added small doses of the nutrient at a time until we measured (using a Blue Lab Combo Meter) 250 PPM.
*PPM by definition is a volume unit of measurement; the number of parts of a substance (i.e. Canna nutrients) in a million parts of another substance (i.e. reservoir water).
The system sits in a grow tent called the Dark Room 80. It offers optimal reflection, vent holes for fans, and metal beams to hang lights. It’s perfect for folks who don’t have the time to build a greenhouse or don’t own extra space in the home.
For lighting ,the herbs are placed under two light fixtures:
1)A Pioneer Jr. IV ballast fixture with four 2 foot blue bulbs. We use the blue bulbs throughout the growing cycle since herbs never require red T-5 lighting for a flowering cycle. Herbs remain eternally in the vegetative cycle, thus requiring only the blue spectrum.
2) A 125 watt cool (aka blue spectrum) compact fluorescent hanging in a Bright Wing Reflector
In the next couple of weeks, we’ll update how the herbs respond to the growing regiment. This is our first stab at growing a variety in the deep water culture. Hopefully, we’ll be decorating our food with fresh herbs very soon!