2009 Garden Design

This page contains pictures and design information for my 2009 garden; a combination hydroponics and container garden.

In previous years I built a portable greenhouse outdoors and within it, set up different hydroponics systems. This year, due to a combination of life events, I was only able to set up these small ebb/flow systems on my back deck; one with 11 plants and the other with one tomato plant.

My 2009 garden may be small but, as such, easily maintainable.

ebb and flow system,2009 garden My ebb/flow system contains several containers (11) each holding a perforated plastic cup. And in each cup is a plant anchored in pea stone.

Each plant container is connected by PVC plastic piping with an input for nutrient solution and an overflow pipe with a tube leading back to the nutrient solution.

The nutrient solution is in a plastic storage container underneath the system.

The pump is a submersible type so sits in the nutrient solution. It is on a timer and plugged into an electrical source. When the timer switches on the pump will pump solution into the PVC piping and will rise up through the plastic cups with the plants until reaching an overflow pipe on level with the base of the plants.

ebb and flow system,2009 garden Then the solution drains back into the nutrient solution container to be recycled. The pump turns off after a specific time limit - anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

During the day I extend the pump cycle to 30 minutes and at night, 15 minutes.

The tomato is in a large, square, plastic flower pot filled with pea stone. I drilled a hole in the bottom of the pot on the side of it and another hole near the top right where the level of the pea stone will be.

The one main drawback of my 2009 garden is that there is no cover. Being outside, everytime it rains the rain water will filter down through the pea stone and dilute the nutrient solution.

I rationalized this by hoping that the amount of rain would merely replace water that was lost through plant use and evaporation. In the picture above you can see an orange elastic 'bungee' wrapped around a pipe. This held a patio umbrella I used at times when it rained - not effective at all, by the way.

cucumbers,hydroponics,2009 garden My theory was washed away when we proceeded to get several months worth of rain starting shortly after I set up the system and lasting over a month.

To fix this I watched the water level in the nutrient solution container and for every additional gallon added by rain I added a small amount of hydroponics fertilizer.

In addition I replaced nutrient water weekly rather than every 2 weeks.

Pictured here are some pickling cucumbers I decided to plant and they are doing rather well. Since the system is not enclosed in a greenhouse I decided to plant cucumbers and see how they grew in the system (cucumbers are not the best pick to grow in a greenhouse because they need insects for pollination - I learned this the hard way).

basil,hydroponics,2009 garden Here is a picture of one of my basil plants. I grew this from seed which I started indoors, mid-winter, in February.

Basil is one of my favorite garden herbs. Not only does it grow fairly easily but does extremely well in a hydroponics system. This picture was taken in mid-July, about 4 weeks after the summer solstice.

I have already harvested the plant once by clipping it down leaving 2 sets of leaves on the stem.

It is called 'Sweet Basil' (Ocimum basilicum) and I still have some seeds left that I would be willing to trade for different seeds if anyone is interested - sorry but USA only; sending organic products out of the country is illegal. Contact me if interested.

parsley,hydroponics,2009 garden Here is closeup of a parsley plant; another plant that seems to have been made for a hydroponics garden.

The variety is 'Extra Curled Dwarf' and this plant has already been harvested at least 3 times.

For parsley, once a stem grows large enough to fall over I simply cut the stem and harvest. If you look closely you can see the stem on the left beginning to fall over. It should be ready for harvest in another week or so.

I also grew this from seed and have some seeds left over I'd be willing to trade if anyone is interested.

pepper,hydroponics,2009 garden This is one of 5 pepper plants. Two I grew from seed but both turned out to be very small and sickly for some reason and the other 3 were purchased as small plants from a local nursery.

Pictured here is sweet, yellow frying pepper that I purchased as a small plant. Generally peppers thrive in hydroponics systems but not this year.

These peppers are the remnants of a vicious aphid attack that took a lot of effort to eradicate. The aphids are now gone and the plants are recovering slowly. Next year I will react sooner and be more careful.

Aphid Repellent (2009 Garden)

After a little experimentation here is what I came up with:

  • About 1 cup fresh wild mint leaves that I crushed, covered with water and let sit in the sun for 6 hours to make a sun tea,
  • 1 ounce of bleach,
  • A squirt of body wash with lavender,
  • About 1 ounce of Neem oil.
I added all ingredients to the mint sun tea I prepared then strained it through cheese cloth into a spray bottle.

I added water to fill the spray bottle and applied to the plant leaves, top and bottom, with a fine mist.

When the spray became half empty I topped up with water. After this was gone I prepared a new batch.

I realized that I had aphids when the leaves on my peppers drooped and the new growth started turning black.

Then I noticed that the marigolds I bought from a local nursery had the same symptoms but worse. I checked and found them to be infested with aphids.

Apparently they were infected at the nursery and I brought them home. Aphids are one of the most destructive garden pests known and can be identified by the waxy residue they leave on leaves.

And to look at them they are extremely small, light-bodied insects.

I needed to get rid of the aphids fast before all my plants became infected but I hesitated using any knd of harsh chemical.

When a pesticide label says 'extreme danger' and can cause birth defects, I am not about to spray my plants with it where droplets will fall to the base of the plant and enter the nutrient solution.

I looked at all the organic repellents that can be made at home and devised my own recipe. After daily sprayings for 3 or 4 days and 3 cycles of these sprayings, the aphids were gone.

So the repellent I made was effective. I now have this spray made up and waiting in case I need it and I now spray at the slightest hint of insect attack.

Here are some pictures taken on July 10.

hydroponics,flood and drain,2009 garden You can see that the plants are still small but growing fast. Here in Northeastern Connecticut in the USA we have had the wettest July since they began keeping records over 100 years ago. No sun means little growth...

In addition to all the rain, my pepper plants barely survived a viscious aphid attack and are just recovering.

But the cucumber plants seem to be thriving.

garden tomatoes,patio tomatoes,2009 garden My patio tomato, pictured here, is growing rather fast. It was originally a separate container system - I planted it into a container, attached the input and drain tubes and manually watered it then let it drain to recycle the nutrient solution.

Later I attached it to the ebb/flow system used with the rest of the plants.

These next set of pictures were taken on August 6...

ebb and flow hydroponics,2009 garden The basil has 'taken off' and is ready for a quick harvest. We have actually had some sunny days this past week; I forgot what a sunny day was like...

cucumbers,peppers,basil,2009 garden The peppers have fully recovered from the aphid attack and the cucumbers have grown over 2 feet longer than last picture.

tomatoes,tomato,patio tom,2009 garden And my patio tomato plant, beautiful in all respects; healthy, lush foliage, large and many flowers...one would think this is the precursor for many tomatoes. But there have been no tomatoes yet. There have been many blooms all of which either fall off or never make a tomato.

And the size...it is 4 feet (1.2 meters) high but is supposed to grow to 2 feet (.6 meters). What gives? Maybe the lack of sun this summer causes the blooms to drop of maybe it's getting too much nitrogen or too little phosphorous.

I will have to figure this one out...

As it turns out I did not have time to figure it out. The gigantic tomato plant finally started producing baby tomatoes around Sept 1 but the plant had contracted the blight. It had to be destroyed.

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