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Although hydroponics allows would-be urban gardeners to grow plants anywhere without the need for light or soil, the method of growing is only now beginning to take off among those who consider themselves part of the growing organic movement. This is because the nutrient solutions used for hydroponic gardening are considered by many to be incompatible with organic growing. Recently, an experiment in Montreal has shown that organic and hydroponic growing methods are compatible.

The Purpose of the Project

Funded by the Canadian government, the Montreal Project sought to compare the success of growing tomatoes in an organic hydroponics system and in an organic traditional soil system. The purpose of the experiment was to help determine the most beneficial way to grow plants on rooftops in the urban environs of Montreal. At the end of the project, the tomatoes grown in the organic hydroponics system were much larger than their soil-grown counterparts. In addition, the hydro organic vegetables were less damaged by aphids than the soil-grown variety.

Organic Materials for Hydroponics

To be organically grown in a grow room or grow box under grow lights or outdoors in a hydroponic system, seeds must get the benefits of nutrients. Typically, the nutrition is provided by chemical solutions, but there are alternatives. Chemical nutrient solutions can be replaced with entirely organic growing solutions, such as an organic compost tea or a mix of 1-1/2 teaspoons of emulsified fish, 1-1/2 teaspoons of liquid seaweed and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of bloodmeal. Perlite and vermiculite, made from lava and mica, respectively, and ordinary sand can be used as the growing medium for hydroponics boxes.

The Feasibility of Hydroponics

Those who champion organic growing often criticize hydroponics, saying that it is too expensive to be a practical choice for the every day person wanting to grow flowers or an herb garden. Many assume that the cost of plant lights, water filters and the other component of a hydroponics system must be very expensive. The Montreal Study found that because higher yields were possible with hydroponic growing, the comparative cost per tomato grown was not much more than that of standard organic growing outdoors. In terms of indoor growing, the cost is even less, as you can continue to grow vegetables and other plants year round when you would otherwise be unable to grow with an organic soil system.

While the Canadian government does intend to continue to study the benefits of hydroponic organic growing, the Montreal Project does prove that hydroponic and organic growing methods are compatible. If you'd like to get started growing plants the organic way without traditional soil, check out the selection of supplies in our grow shop. We have all of the essentials that you need to set up your organic hydroponic garden system.

Mint (Mentha) is one of the most popular herbs due to its excellent aroma and wonderful flavor. This herb spreads profusely and is an easy herb for beginners to grow. It is a perennial and is easily recognizable by its sweet aroma and square stems.

Preparing for Growth:

Mint is not particular regarding the soil it is grown in or the amount of light it acquires. Mint thrives on ample amounts of water and actually grows from underground runners.

You will want to mix your soil with a great deal of compost but stay away from manures. Manures will cause weeds and weeding is extremely difficult within a mint patch.

Planting:

Even though many opt to grow mint from seeds, it is advisable to select small plants instead. Choosing small plants will give you the ability to select a specific variety. Mint should be planted 1 to 2 feet apart from each other and mulch in order to retain enough moisture. If you have older mint plants, they can be divided every four to five years.

As mint will take over your garden, it's a good idea to actually plant them in a container that is sunk into the soil approximately 10 inches deep.

Harvest Time:

The best time to harvest mint is in the morning before dew evaporates. In order to dry the mint, cut the stalks above the first set of leaves as soon as buds appear. Hang them upside down in a dark, dry and well ventilated room. They should remain there for approximately 2 weeks or more. Mint can be harvested quite often for your enjoyment.

Diseases and Insects:

Mint is highly vulnerable to fungal diseases. Remove the infected leaves by hand and apply an organic fungicide when fungus first appears.

Aphids, flea beetles, spider mites and cabbage loopers are common pest ailments for mint. You should apply a natural pesticide to prevent further infestation and damage.

Seed Harvest:

Harvesting can begin once the blooms start turning brown and dry and the heads are completely dry. Very gently crush them between your hands and carefully fan away the debris.

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Growing Mint Hydroponically:

Hydroponics is a way of growing plants without soil and is replaced with a special mixture and nutrient water system. The water system supplies the roots with needed nutrients regularly.

You can purchase hydroponic kits at your local gardening center that specializes in hydroponic gardening or online. For those with limited space, these systems are ideal. They take up less room than other gardening venues and produce healthy produce. Due to their versatility, they can be used both indoors and outdoors. As mint loves water and requires plenty of it, this is the perfect plant for hydroponic systems. Mint is also extremely easy to grow making it ideal for the beginner as maintenance is light once its been planted.

What you need to grow mint hydroponically:

Getting Up and Running:

Place the soilless growing medium into the growing kit and follow the directions that came with the kit. Each kit can vary, thereby needing a particular medium. Sand, perlite and peat are only a few soil-less mixtures available.

Next, prepare the nutrient solution and water mixture, then add it to the kit. The brand and strength of the nutrient solution can vary as different solutions require different nutrient ratios. Again, follow the directions supplied with the kit.

Place the mint plants into the kit. Although it is best to purchase seedlings that have been rooted in soilless mixtures, do not remove the planting medium from the roots of the plants. Place the mint plants in separate containers as ideally each plant should be separate.

Ideally, the kit should be placed in full sun. You can place the mints outside during the summer months and then in cooler weather move them inside. Place the hydroponic system under a grow lamp for approximately 12 to 16 hours daily for ideal growth.

Summary:

Hydroponic systems are an excellent alternative to outdoor gardening. You can enjoy numerous herbs and vegetables year round without the hard labor entailed with a garden.

1 Comments | Posted in Fruits & Vegetable Gardening By Charles R. Sword

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