The Kratky Hydroponic Method: A Simple & Effective Hydroponic Technique

When I first heard about this new method of growing from a friend, I thought he said it was called the “Cracky” method. After hearing his explanation of how it worked, I thought my friend was actually on CRACK! I was more than skeptical- I was incredulous. After some research my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to try this “revolutionary” new method of hydroponic growing. The style of growing was developed by B.A. Kratky at the University of Hawaii. His method contradicts traditional hydroponic theory on multiple levels: no active movement of water, no aeration of the reservoir, no change-out of nutrient solution. It is best for growing leafy greens, such as the lettuce shown here, and it has not been proven suitable for growing fruiting or flowering crops. All I can tell you is that although contradictory to my years of education and training, I cannot argue with the results in front of me…

Kratky Hydroponic System 1 Week After Planting

Kratky Hydroponic System 1 Week After Planting

Kratky Hydroponic System 2 Weeks After Planting

Kratky Hydroponic System 2 Weeks After Planting

Kratky Hydroponic System 3 Weeks After Planting

Kratky Hydroponic System 3 Weeks After Planting

Kratky Hydroponic System 4 Weeks After Planting

Kratky Hydroponic System 4 Weeks After Planting

Kratky Hydroponic System 5 Weeks After Planting

Kratky Hydroponic System 5 Weeks After Planting Ready to EAT!

The basic idea behind the Kratky method, as it has been dubbed, is that the plants start with their roots submerged in a mixture of water and fertilizer as seedlings. The growing container should be well sealed to minimize moisture lost to evaporation. The roots will then grow longer into the water as the water/fertilizer mixture is absorbed by the plants. As the water level goes down, the plant will make aerial roots able to absorb the necessary oxygen from the airspace between the top of the water and the top of the container. By the time the water is gone, you should have harvested your lettuce and can start again. No pH adjusting, no adding more fertilizer, no topping off the water/fertilizer mixture. I admit I am shocked, but I swear it works. Grow some in a Kratky Method Hydroponic System and see for yourself.

Bake Your Ale Off: Beer Bread

Beer Bread with Chevre and Radish

Beer Bread with Chevre and Radish

I’ll admit it, I’m afraid of bread. And no, I’m not a no-carb fanatic who only eats tacos made with lettuce leaves and pizza made with cauliflower (yes, that’s a thing). I love to eat bread; it’s the making of the bread that scares me. Baking in general tends to not be my thing. It just seems so…severe. Measurements and timing must be exact or everything is ruined!!! Ugh, no thanks. Chill out, baking, let’s relax and have some fun!

Enter beer bread. Yes, you read that right. BEER. BREAD. Two of the greatest things on the planet, together, creating an even greater thing. This bread is so easy to make; even I have the patience for it. There’s no yeast involved, no kneading or waiting for the precious baby dough to rise. You just mix together a few ingredients, throw ’em in the oven, wait 40 minutes or so, and then you have glorious, glorious beer bread.

Sift, pour, mix, done.

Sift, pour, mix, done.

The type of beer you use will affect a few things with this bread. One, the flavor. I typically make this with a light, easy-drinker without too many overpowering flavors, like Miller High Life or Yuengling Lager. The bread comes out with a subtle beer flavor, but it mostly just tastes like bread. Awesome bread. If you want a more distinctively flavored beer bread, you can use a more distinctively flavored beer, like a Guinness or maybe a spiced beer around the holidays. Do you homebrew? Well now you can drink and eat your yeasty creations. Just keep in mind that the heavier the beer, the longer the baking time will be. For this loaf, I used Bell’s Oberon, a wheat ale, and it lent such a nice, bright, almost citrusy flavor to the bread. So great for Spring with some chevre and sliced radishes from the farmers’ market.

Beer Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 Tablespoons organic cane sugar
  • One 12 oz can or bottle of beer (any beer)
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Sift well with fork, or sift through a fine mesh sieve. Pour in beer, stir until a stiff batter is formed, but don’t over mix (best to just use your hands). Scrape dough into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Melt butter and brush/pour across top of dough. This is optional, but it really adds to the savory crunch of the crust.
  4. Bake for about 40 or so minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Bake time will vary with beer type.

Feel free to experiment with different types of beer. This bread is also very receptive to add-ins, like herbs, garlic, and cheese. Throw in about a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary, and your house will soon smell like…the best thing ever. The final product is great for toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade croutons…the list goes on. So crack open a few cold ones and get baking.

An Element Too Good To Pass Up: The Benefits of Silicon to Your Garden

Si on Periodic table

Si on Periodic table

Would you use a product that would increase your harvest weight by as much as eighty percent? What if it also provided increased tolerance to environmental stressors such as drought and high temperatures, provided resistance to insect attacks, and additionally had been proven to protect your crop from powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fulginea), root rot (Fusarium oxysporum), damping off (Pythium), and grey mold (botrytis cinerea)? Now, what if I told you this product is real, that it is available, and that the above list of accolades does not even scratch the surface of what it has been proven to do?

This miracle product happens to be the second most abundant element on the surface of the earth: silicon. Although not regarded as one of the 16 essential nutrients that plants must have to grow, silicon may prove to be the best addition to your fertilizer regimen you can make. Plants have certainly been shown to grow in hydroponic solution devoid of silicon, but when the same plants are grown with silicon, tissue analysis has shown that silicon accounts for as much as 10% of the dry weight of the plant. Everyone wants bigger harvests, and using silicon could be the key. A study conducted by the University of Florida found that silicon responsive plants had “dry weight increases (which)…ranged from 6-80% depending on the species” (Chen et al, 2000).

So how does this “non-essential” element have such a huge impact on so many facets of your plants’ existence? Silicon performs its multitude of functions in two ways: by the polymerization of silicic acid leading to the formation of solid amorphous, hydrated silica, and by being instrumental in the formation of organic defense compounds (Epstein, 2009). To simplify, silicon is actively transported into the plant similarly to macro nutrients like potassium. From there it moves up the xylem and is distributed out to the growing shoots. There, the silicon forms larger polymer chains (polymerization) which allows plants to deposit silicon in the form of solid amorphous (non crystalline), hydrated silica which is then incorporated into the plant’s cell walls, thereby armoring the plant’s cells against rasping and sucking insects. If you are growing leafy greens think how much better the texture of the leaves will be when every one of the millions of plant cells has thicker cell walls from the added silicon.

Additionally, silicon is deposited in the trichomes of plants, according to Epstein; it “is the silica in trichomes that lends leaves and awns (stiff bristle or hair-like appendages in plants) the roughness and the toughness that impede the penetration of herbivores and pathogens through the cell walls. It acts as a physical barrier.”

The other mode by which silicon benefits your plants is in its ability to promote the synthesis of organic defense compounds. When a plant is under attack by insects or pathogens it sends out chemical messages which trigger the plant’s natural defenses. A study conducted on cucumbers yielded conclusive proof the plants were protected from fungal pathogens by the presence of silicon in the hydroponic solution (Cherif et al, 1992).

Another benefit of the use of silicon is that it balances the nutrient absorption of your plants. Silicon can balance nutrient elements in plant tissue through the suppression of Al, Mn, and Na, and by mediating the uptake of other elements like P, Mg, K, Fe, Cu, and Zn (Chen et al, 2000). When used with peat or bark based soil/soilless mixes, silicon prevents the over-acidification of the mix, which can lead to pH induced nutrient lockout, as well as inhibiting the absorption of toxic elements like aluminum. When anthuriums were grown in soil with available aluminum the tissue tested had 150 PPM of aluminum, while the plants grown in the same soil but fed silicon tested at only 41 PPM.

One bit of advice when introducing silicon additives into your feeding program: silicon products must be the first thing added to a fresh reservoir of water, even before base nutrients. By their inherent chemical properties silicon additives are alkali, and because most fertilizers are acidic they must be diluted before they are added to a hydroponic reservoir or any water fertilizer mixture. This will allow for the concentrated alkali silicon solution to diffuse, thus preventing localized chemical reactions from causing the formation of undesirable nutrient precipitates.

Silicon can be a cure, a booster, a medicine, and a messenger. It can counteract damage to your plants from extreme temperatures or prevent the absorption of toxins that would otherwise destroy your plants. It can send insects to more inviting hosts, and it can increase the weight of your harvest. Silicon truly is a multipurpose beneficial element that should be in every gardener’s toolbox. Think of it as the best and cheapest plant insurance you can buy!

Hydroponic Fertilizer Experiment Update #2

Fertilizer Experiment Update

Fertilizer Experiment Update
APTUS & Heavy 16 on Left / GH Flora Duo on Right

Time for another update! We started our experiment testing Heavy 16 fertilizers and APTUS additives versus General Hydroponics’ Flora Duo a little more than 2 months ago. We are growing super hot peppers called Trinidad Scorpions, and they have really taken off!

To refresh your memory, or if you’re just joining us for the first time, the experiment is set up with separate drip to waste reservoirs, feeding individual plants in the same 4′ x 4′ Botanicare grow tray. All of the plants are being lit by a single 400 watt High Pressure Sodium Hortilux SUPER HPS bulb. Here are some numbers for all of you keeping track:

Fertilizer Experiment Metrics

Fertilizer Experiment Metrics

And now for some more pictures:

All Plants in the Experiment

All Plants in the Experiment

GH Plants

GH Plants

Heavy 16 & APTUS Plants

Heavy 16 & APTUS Plants

Monster Branching on GH Plant

Monster Branching on GH Plant

Monster Branching on Heavy 16 / APTUS Plant

Monster Branching on Heavy 16 / APTUS Plant

Atlantis Hydroponics in Moving Pictures

Our friends over at greenbookpages.com made us this awesome video featuring all five of our retail locations! It also highlights our excellent selection of General Hydroponics products.

If you’re new to our blog, here’s a little background on our company:

Atlantis Hydroponics™ opened its first store in 1998, with the drive to help make hydroponics the future of horticulture. We pride ourselves in providing knowledge and the best available products to our customers. Carefully chosen and tested equipment and nutrients ensure our customers have maximum results with their plants. We deal in practical, environmentally conscious methods, mastering how to garden effectively.

Teaching earth-friendly practices also translates directly to the community. Atlantis has participated in a number of science days, youth-oriented programs, grade school education, and even art exhibits. Check out our Community Outreach pages to learn more about the exciting things going on at Atlantis!

Orchid of the Week: Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum in flower

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum in flower

This is Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, a species native to Borneo and found only on remote locations of Mount Kinabalu. This slipper orchid is sometimes called the “King of all orchids”; its large size (up to 1 foot across) and majestic, bold coloration make it a true wonder to behold. There is an interesting story to how this particular species came into cultivation. The story goes that it was originally collected back in 1887 and brought into cultivation in Europe. The original location of where the plants were collected was falsified by the plant collector Sander & Sons, who gave the location of New Guinea in order to keep rival collectors from getting hold of the plant. For the next 60 years the plant’s true location remained a mystery. Then quite by accident a population of this beautiful slipper orchid was found at the base of Mt. Kinabalu. This orchid has been line bred for improved size and color, and a good specimen of this species can easily command thousands of dollars per growth. Although it is not easy or fast to grow the beauty of it when it does flower is well worth the cost and the time. I recommend them to anyone who loves slipper orchids! To learn more about orchids and orchid growing contact the American Orchid Society or your local Orchid Society.

Required Light: In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have it in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but not midday. Under artificial lights like T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 16” underneath at least two 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 60° F – 70° F. Daytime temperatures should be kept at or below 85°F to avoid problems.

Humidity: Best kept at 60% RH or higher.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, 1-2 times a week or more under normal conditions. More watering is generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment. Clean water is a must for this orchid so rain water is a great choice or a Reverse Osmosis water filter may be necessary depending on your water quality.

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ¼ strength every other week. I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots just starting to emerge from the newest growth(s.) I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Viastone. Also I prefer plastic pots as they will not dry out as fast allowing the roots to stay comfortably moist.

Hydroponic Fodder: Growing Grains to Feed Our Furry Friends

Deer Eating Barley Fodder

Deer Eating Barley Fodder

I was walking through my local pet store recently and noticed they were selling a small pot of grass for cats at what can only be described as an outrageous price. Is growing grass for pets making someone- or lots of someones- rich? This got me thinking about a hydroponic technique that is gaining traction worldwide: hydroponic fodder production of livestock feed. If hydroponically growing crops is such an efficient method of producing food for humans, then is it also viable for growing food for our pets and livestock?

Barley Fodder 1 Day After Soaking

Barley Fodder One Day After Soaking

Growing fodder is the practice of sprouting cereal grains and then feeding the sprouted grains to animals. The process is fast, only taking about 7-8 days, and has demonstrated impressive results such as a 41% increase in beef cattle weight compared to those fed traditional food stocks. Fodder can be used to feed horses, deer, cattle, pigs, poultry, alpaca, sheep and goats, as well as dogs and cats to a lesser degree. Fodder has been shown to have 23 times more vitamin A than carrots, 22 times more vitamin B than lettuce, and 14 times more vitamin C than citrus fruits according to Howard Campion, a fodder system manufacturer.

Barley Fodder 2 Day After Soaking

Barley Fodder Two Days After Soaking

Sprouting grains for human consumption dates back centuries in Asian countries. Fodder production for animals has been in practice as early as the 1860s when European dairy farmers began sprouting cereal grasses to feed dairy cows in the winter. Currently there are countless farmers worldwide supplementing their livestock feed with fresh grown fodder. Fodder has the benefit of sprouting with very little water consumption, making it dependable in times when drought would normally reduce hay and feed production. A 10 meter by 13 meter building outfitted with fodder growing systems can produce as much food for livestock as 298 acres of grassland.

Fodder production is a simple process as long as you provide the correct environmental conditions as well as a sanitary growing environment. The ambient air temperature needs to be maintained between 63-75 degrees Fahrenheit; the ideal humidity range is from 40 -80%; the water temperature must be kept between 53 -75 degrees Fahrenheit; and the pH of the water should be between 6.2 and 6.4. The general procedure for growing fodder is to take a high quality cereal grain (alfalfa, barley, millet, oat, red wheat, ryegrass, or sorghum) and soak them in a solution of water and a sterilizing agent like the food grade hydrogen peroxide ViaOxy for 24-48 hours. The soaked grains are then laid evenly in flat bottomed growing troughs or channels that allow for complete drainage and irrigated for roughly 2 minutes every four hours. Within 7 days the fodder is mature and ready to be fed to your animals.
The growth rate is pretty amazing, as seen in these pictures.

Barley Fodder 4 Days After Soaking

Barley Fodder Four Days After Soaking

Dr. Dave’s Quick Tip: How to Improve Sugar Content, Brix, and the Flavor of Your Harvest

Strawberry with sugar

Follow these tips for a harvest sweeter than this strawberry!
photo coutesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The devil is in the details, or so the saying goes, and harvesting your plant is no exception. You take so much time to meticulously fertilize your plants; pain-staking attention is paid to pH and PPM, but many gardeners get so excited around harvest time that they do not take the correct measures to ensure that they get the best harvest possible from all of their hard work. Here are two tips about harvesting your plants that will ensure that your fruits are as sweet and delicious as they can be:

1. Always harvest in the late afternoon (or slightly before the lights go out for you indoor growers). This is because plants make less energy during the Kreb cycle (a chemical process that takes place at night); as such they utilize some of their stored starch and sugar reserves, making the morning (or lights on) the lowest Brix/Sugar content time of the day.

2. Do not keep your planting media saturated for a few days before harvest. Scientific studies have shown that extended periods of precipitation (moisture in the growing medium) provide so much moisture to the plants that the Sugar/Brix level can become diluted. I am NOT telling you to allow your plants to become bone dry, but try to water sparingly during the days preceding harvest.

Try these tips for the sweetest fruit, and check back soon for more tips to make your garden great!

Gai Pad Krapow: Real Bangkok Style Thai Basil Chicken

Gai Pad Krapow

Gai Pad Krapow
Photo credit: avlxyz / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

This delectable recipe comes to us from Greg Richter at PurGro, the makers of the 1K4 Digital Ballast and the GroBot Evolution. Aside from spending his time designing cutting-edge environmental controllers and electronics, Greg is also an accomplished pilot, farmer, beekeeper, and chef. His business requires frequent travel around the globe, and the last time he was in Thailand he convinced a street vendor to teach him to make Gai Pad Krapow or Thai Basil Chicken. The following recipe is the “Bangkok Suk’vit Soi (11th Street) quick and dirty method”…not the haute approach that some elegant restaurants might use.

Gai Pad Krapow

4 cups fresh organic Thai basil; Italian basil or Genovese basil may also be used, but if using Holy basil (Thai hot basil) use only 2 cups
4 cloves garlic
6 green chili peppers
4 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar or lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1.5 lbs free range chicken (deboned) *thighs work the best
3 organically grown shallots
Oil for frying

Mix the fish sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a bowl and place to the side. Place the basil, garlic, chilies, shallots, and chicken into a food processor and using the pulse setting chop the ingredients until they are a fine chunky mush…if it looks like soup then you over-chopped.

Heat oil in a wok until the oil is almost smoking. Stir fry the chicken mixture, adding just enough sauce to keep it moist while cooking. When chicken is almost done cooking add the remainder of the sauce and simmer for 3 minutes or until sauce thickens a bit. Serve over rice or rice noodles.

Bangkok

Bangkok at Sunset
The Home of this Authentic Dish

Hydroponic Fertilizer Experiment Update

Aptus Experiment week 4

Heavy 16 and Aptus vs GH Flora Duo Experiment WEEK 4
Flora Duo plants  in the Foreground, Heavy 16/Aptus plants in the back

We started our experiment (which all of you voted for) about a month ago: testing Heavy 16 fertilizers and APTUS additives versus General Hydroponics’ Flora Duo. Although super hot peppers (like the Trinidad Scorpion) are fun to grow, they do not grow quickly for the first few weeks. At four weeks in, these young pepper plants are growing vigorously, but it is too close to call…

The experiment is set up with separate drip to waste reservoirs, feeding individual plants in the same 4′ x 4′ Botanicare grow tray. All of the plants are being lit by a single 400 watt High Pressure Sodium Hortilux SUPER HPS bulb. Check back soon for more results.

Heavy 16 and Aptus Experiment

Heavy 16 and Aptus on Left, GH Flora Duo on Right—Top View