Category Archives: Gardening Techniques

How To Harvest Basil To Increase Yields

Many people wait to harvest their basil plants until they are large. Waiting to harvest will give you more at one time, but harvesting early and often increases growth and allows your plant to produce much more overall.

When Should Basil Be Harvested?

Basil can be harvested at just about any time. Instead of harvesting a whole basil plant at one time, it’s best to harvest on as needed basis. The first several harvests start off small, so we typically use them as garnishments. Over time you will be able to harvest enough to make things like pesto.

How To Harvest Basil To Promote Growth

Aquaponic Basil Plant

The before and after of a pruned basil plant.

When it comes to basil, harvesting and pruning are going to be pretty much the same thing.  First, allow your plant to produce at least 2 sets of leaves. Next, clip the plants stem just above the 2nd set. I typically allow my basil to grow a little so I can at least have a small harvest. Below are some pictures of a basil I’ve started in an easy to build mason jar aquaponic herb garden.

Cutting the stem this way will cause the sets of leaves to shoot out like they are the new tops of the plants. Allow them to grow and cut those as well, repeating the process over and over again.

When it comes to harvesting the actual leaves of the basil, you can either pinch them or use clippers to clip them away from the stem.

With each leaf you clip or shoot that you top off, it will produce more new growth from your basil. Be cautious not to over harvest.  To prevent the plant from dying after harvesting or pruning, leave about a 3rd of the plant growth, so the plant can create energy for new growth.

How To Use Rapid Rooter Plugs To A Clone Plant

In addition to using Rapid Rooter plugs for seed germination, they are also great to use for starting clones. Rapid Rooter plugs provide the great water/ air ratio to promote rooting from the cutting. Rapid Rooter is versatile, they can be transplanted both in hydroponic systems and into the dirt.  Here’s how easy it is to use Rapid Rooter plugs to clone a plant.

What You Need To Clone A Plant Using Rapid Rooter Plugs

Using Rapid Rooter To Clone Plants

Before you start you will need to gather a few supplies:
A clipping of the plant you want to clone
Clean razor blade
Rapid Rooter Plugs
Rooting gel
A tray to hold your cubes/ clones (buying a tray made to hold Rapid Rooter cubes will save you from a headache)

 Steps To Cloning Plant Using Rapid Rooter Plugs

Before starting,  soak your Rapid Rooter cubes in distilled water to rehydrate them. Some soak them up to 24 hours; I typically only soak them for about an hour and have had no issues. After soaking, place the cubes in the tray you will be using to hold your clones.

Next, you need to take the cuttings from the plant you want to clone. Cuttings should have a stem of at least 2 inches and have a few leaves. Remove any leaves from the bottom of the stem leaving a couple of inches of stem bare. Cut the very bottom of the stem at a 45-degree angle.Preparing hydroponic cloneAfter preparing your cutting, it’s time to dip it in some rooting hormone. I don’t recommend dipping the clones directly into your jar of rooting hormone.  Put some rooting gel in a separate container that you will use to dip your cuttings into to prevent contaminating for future clones. I use a plastic spoon and dip some out on the end. Take your cutting and coat the stem in rooting hormone.

Using Rooting Hormone To Clone Plant

After coating, place cutting directly into the hole in the Rapid Rooter cube. Press the stem down into the cube so it stands straight up.

Placing Clone In Rapid Rooter Plug

Now take your clone and place it into your Rapid Rooter tray and place it somewhere where it will get low-intensity light. The Rapid Rooter plugs need to be kept moist by keeping about a 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of the tray.

Clone In Rapid Rooter Plug

After a few weeks, you should notice roots showing out of the bottom of the Rapid Rooter plug. When roots start forming outside of the Rapid Rooter plugs they are ready to be transplanted into your hydroponic system.

How To Transplant A Plant From Dirt To Hydroponics

I am not a patient person, it’s something I’m working on. I don’t always like to wait on germinating seeds and growing seedlings to start my hydroponic garden. To cut down the time I have to wait, I often purchase plans from the garden store then transplant them into my hydroponic system. It’s an easy process that cuts down time and ensures your starting with a strong healthy plant. Here’s how to transplant a dirt plant into a hydroponic system.

What You Need To Transplant A Dirt Plant To Hydroponics

A plant, I will be using a tomato

Container to discard dirt

Water to rinse root system

Hydroponic system or net pots with grow medium

Steps To Transplanting Plant Into A Hydroponic System

Before starting, have your hydroponic system or net pots ready with the grow medium that you’re using. Gather your supplies into 1 area. Transplanting can be messy so I recommend doing this project outside or put something down on the surface you’re using.

Plants that have not been watered recently work best. Dry dirt is easier to remove from the root system. Remove the plant from the pot or container that it’s in. Placing the plant over a container, gently start breaking up the dirt with your hand. Careful not to damage the root system too much. Continue until most of the dirt is removed from the root system.

After removing most of the dirt, dip the plant’s root system into some water to rinse away the rest of the dirt. The cleaner the better, you want the least amount of dirt as possible making it into your hydroponic system. If you’re using drip systems or small hoses, small particles will clog them.  It’s sometimes next to impossible to get off all the dirt off the roots and a small amount won’t affect the hydroponic bucket this plant is going in.

Place the plant’s roots in the hydroponic system or net pot and cover with your grow medium. Now I just hook up the airstone, plug it in and it’s ready to grow.  For more of a visual check out the video below.

 

How To Use Rapid Rooter Plugs To Germinate Seeds

Rapid Rooter Plugs and TrayI’ve tried several different methods of germinating seeds for my hydroponic gardens. My preferred method is using rapid rooter plugs made by General Hydroponics. They are easy to use, have a great germination success rate and can be used in all of my different types of systems.

What Are Rapid Rooter Plugs Made Of?

Rapid Rooter cubes are derived from composted materials. I’ve bought some derived from peat moss and some from tree bark. The plugs are formed in a way that creates optimal water to air ratio which promotes excellent root growth.

How Do You Use Rapid Rooter To Germinate Seeds?

The first thing to do is soak the Rapid Rooter plugs in distilled water. Some people soak them up to 24 hours; I typically soak them for about an hour and have had no issues.

After soaking, place the plugs in into the grow tray.

Place a few seeds in the center hole of each plug. Using more than 1 seed increases the chances of successful germination for each plug.

If using a tray made for rapid rooter plugs then you need to fill the tray with about a quarter-inch of water to keep the plugs moist. The holes in the bottom of where the plug goes to allow the plugs to wick up moisture.

Cover the tray with a dome to keep in moisture and warmth. If you don’t have a done you can cover the tray with saran wrap.

If the type of seeds you want to germinate require a warmer environment, then use a seedling heat mat underneath the tray to maintain a warmer temperature.

When seeds sprout, place the grow tray under a low-intensity light for seedlings.

Keep Rapid Rooter Plugs moist by adding water to the tray.

When roots appear out of the plugs, they’re ready to be transplanted. They can be transplanted into pretty much any grow medium and in any hydroponic system.


How To Use A Seedling Heat Mat For Germination & Cloning

Warmth is a requirement when it comes to germinating seeds. When gardening indoors or out of season, it is often outside of the desired temperature range needed to start the germination process. Using a seedling heat mat, you can replicate the warming of spring that sends seeds popping to the sky.

What Is A Seedling Heat Mat?

A seedling heat mat is an electric mat that is placed under your seed or cutting tray.  It will typically warm the root area to anywhere between 10-20 degrees above the room temperature.

How Do You Use A Seedling Heat Mat For Seed Germination & Cloning?

  • Start off by finding a stable surface. Make sure you place the mat somewhere away from water and hydroponic reservoirs. Water and electricity do not mix. Avoid placing on a cold surface such as a concrete floor. This will direct the heat more towards the colder surface and less towards your seed or cutting tray.
  • Place your clone or seed try on the seedling heat mat and plug it in. The heating mat will heat up 10-20 degrees on its own and stay in that range. There are also outlet adapters you can purchase that monitor the temperature then will automatically shut on and off to stay in the desired temperature range.
  • Place a dome over your seedlings or cuttings. This will help to retain moisture, raising the humidity, increasing the success of germination and health of root production.
  • Remove tray from heat pad when roots begin touching tray. Be careful not to overheat the roots and damage the plant.


Cut And Come Again Hydroponic Lettuce Harvesting

Cut And Come Again Hydroponic Lettuce HarvestingWhen it comes to harvesting lettuce, there are a few different methods you can use. One of the more popular methods of harvesting lettuce for the at home hydroponic gardener is the cut and come again method.

About The Cut And Come Again Method

Instead of harvesting the whole plant, larger leaves of the lettuce are harvested while the smaller leaves are allowed to grow longer. The process can be repeated several times to get multiple harvests out of the lettuce plant. Using the cut and come again method is often more efficient than growing from seed after each harvest. Another benefit to the cut and come again method is that it can reduce waste. If you allow your whole garden to grow the full amount of time and harvest all at once, you may not be able to eat it all before it spoils.

How Do You Know When Hydroponic Lettuce Is Ready For Harvest?

One of the great things about lettuce is you can harvest it when you want to. Whenever there’s enough leaf growth to supply the amount you need, you can harvest it. How many plants you have in your garden can be a factor. Harvesting a few smaller plants can equal the harvest of a single plant that has grown longer.

How Many Times Can You “Cut And Come Again”?

Using cut and come again you can get several harvests out of each plant. You can keep coming back until the plant starts to bolt, at that point the lettuce will begin tasting bitter.

How To Harvest Hydroponic Lettuce Using Cut And Come Again Method

This is a 2 x 3 ft flood and drain system I have set up in the corner of the garage. The lettuce had been growing for roughly a months time.

3 Basics Of Hydroponic Algae Growth

hydroponic algae growthAlgae growth is actually made up of several different types of plant-like organisms.  Since there are many different types of algae growth, its appearance in your hydroponic system can take a few different forms. Algae may be slimy, bubbly, fury or stringy and may appear as different colors including green, brown, red, and black. Since algae thrive in the same conditions as plants, a hydroponic garden is an optimum environment for algae growth. Here are three things you want to know about that algae growth in your hydroponic system.

How Does Hydroponic Algae Growth Start?

Algae in your hydroponic garden start from microscopic spores that are transported through the air. There are steps you can take to reduce the levels of contamination, but it’s hard to prevent algae spores from reaching your system. Since algae are plant-like, your hydroponic system can be the best environment for algae growth. Warmer temperatures, nutrients, water and light is what algae need to grow. Light reaching hydroponic rich water starts the growth of algae. Once is starts it spread can reproduce rather quickly.

Is Algae Growth Harmful To A Hydroponic Garden?

A small amount of algae growth is not harmful to you hydroponic system or garden. Almost every hydroponic system has some sort of hydroponic growth at one point or the other. Often times treating your hydroponic system for algae growth can wait until after you harvest your crop. When algae is abundantly growing is when it can become an issue. Large amounts of algae can clog up your system. Clogged pipes can lead to overflow or a blockage to the pump can cause to stop working. Besides wear and tear on your system, algae can deprive your plants of oxygen. Algae will steal the oxygen from the plant’s root system, affecting respiration, causing your plants to weaken.

How Do You Get Rid of Algae In Your Hydroponic System?

The best way to stop algae growth is taking away at least one element it needs to grow. By removing its source of light or reducing the amount of nutrients exposed to light, algae will not be able to grow. Finding something that will rid your system of algae and not harm your plants is a challenge. Since algae are plant-like, often what is harmful to algae is harmful to your garden. Grapefruit seed extract is used to by municipalities to treat drinking water and in studies has shown to be effective at removing algae while not harming your garden. There will always be some algae growth when hydroponic gardening, it;s just about containing it so it doesn’t take over your garden.