However, as the old saying goes, “within a gray cloud is a silver lining,” there may be a lesson in this. I have been working on a more robust, more 'off the grid' extreme version of my Hydrosock passive wick jug system for some time now. Why?
Why not? A system that can take the stresses of exposure and insect attack without a lot of expense, complication, and hassle is just the thing for newbies, soil converts, 'preppers,' and everyone like me who is cheap and lazy; you'll recall that I stated in some of my videos and posts that I am proud to be cheap and lazy-when it comes to hydroponics! I don't have a lot of time to spend growing stuff, and I certainly don't have the space and money. And let's face it, times are getting stranger and more uncertain. It would be nice to have a hydroponic food system that has almost no reliance on electric power, and zero reliance on pumps, bubblers or computers.
To top it off, aside from the nutrients themselves, over ninety percent of the system comes from a grocery and/or a department store. It's inexpensive, very water-efficient, and the majority of the components can be reused and recycled. I see 'win,' 'win,' and 'win.'
But Jim, you say, there has to be a catch, some drawback, something that is a really big negative for the latest 'extreme, off-grid, “combat” ' Hydrosock wick system. There are a few minor drawbacks but they are workable. One drawback is a small reservoir that can dry up quickly if not being paid attention to. For the effort and cost, and the level of food production for such a limited growing space, the issues are extremely limited. Use a two-gallon plastic bucket in place of the milk jug and the problem is solved.
The Rio Grande tomatoes and cayenne peppers I am growing right now -which I documented in a recent You Tube video- were nearly calamities from the beginning. I started growing them in February on my inside growing table. I started them in a home-brew, non-commercial experimental nutrient batch, one of many dozens I have created over the last year or so (go to this blog to learn more.) They started growing like crazy but then slowed to a near-halt. Read about my natural nutrients experiments here. I changed them to the General Hydroponics nutrients that I am so fond of using and talking about.
Indoor chill, barely adequate grow lights, and the constant changes in nutrients and pH nearly took them out. By March however, they had recovered and began a very fast growth spurt that I had not anticipated. I had planned for finishing the bigger, better pvc pipe and wood greenhouse by the beginning of March. My job, homeschooling a teen, and incessant rain put the brakes on that!
The plants got so big on my growing table that I had no choice but to put them outside. I miscalculated. I thought the cold weather had finally gotten past us (the coldest winter on record for this area – as low as 4 degrees fahrenheit). I made the decision to put them into the unfinished greenhouse. Whoops!
Within a few days of putting my plants outside, the weather got very cold (a low of 33 degrees) and rainy. And then sunny and hot. And then the torrential rains fell. In a two-week period, the plants went from 33 degrees to more than 80 degrees. They got soaked and stayed soaked. The nutrient solution pH went haywire from all the rainwater running down into the reservoirs. All the leaves on the cayenne pepper plants were gray-colored from being so wet. I really didn't think the plants would pull through.
I whipped up a batch of my “nothing like it” foliar feed (find out about foliar feeding here) and insect repellent and began an every-other-day feeding along with regular nutrient solution changes. The plants began to perk up, and I saw nary a trace of bad bugs. I pulled a worm off one pepper plant, and I saw some gnats and aphids. I stopped the foliar feeding when blossoms began to emerge.
I wrote a previous article about controlling insects and doing it in a low-impact way. I discussed beneficial insects and predators. Putting these plants out into an open area was proof positive of allowing the good bugs access to the bad bugs. Spiders galore patrol the plants, and ladybugs have been flying cover sorties to take out pests. Predatory wasps sting the fool out of anything that moves. Little green frogs moved in for a tasty banquet.
Then more rain, high winds, and chilly weather. I watched and fretted. This is old-school growing, just like it has been done for millennia. You are at the mercy of God and nature. A good greenhouse would have saved all this anxiety, but then I would not have truly learned about the capabilities of the latest Hydrosock version 'X.'
When I finally thought my trials and tribulations were done, then the really hard rain, very high winds, and hail decided to add a few more tests. No, not done yet. An EF-2 tornado came within 100 yards of my property, packing winds of 120 miles per hour and cutting a 1/10 mile wide path of destruction for 5 miles along highway US 27! My two neighbors and I were very fortunate, with virtually no damage; people along the highway had an incredible amount of damage. My wife estimated that the winds hitting our house and the unfinished greenhouse were in excess of 80 miles per hour.
If the bees and insects didn't do the job of pollinating my plants, then the rains and winds for weeks on end certainly did the trick!
This is real-world testing. Sometimes that's the only way to prove that a system has mettle and consistency. I have grown hundreds of plants over the years in various versions of the Plain 2 Grow Systems Hydrosock hydroponic jug. This system has nearly all the advantages of soil growing AND hydroponics, in a compact, easy-to-build and easily maintained package. No, I can't grow trees and shrubs in it, but who cares? I'm growing food in an easy, cheap, smart and environmentally sound way. I am hard-pressed to come up with good reasons to run nozzles, bubblers, tubes, pumps, and computers.