Sustainable Living :: Home Grown Ponics

Ever since I took my systems engineering students on a tour of the hydroponics lab at EPCOT a few years ago, I have been absolutely fascinated by the idea of sustainable home hydroponics. And as hydroponics evolves, it’s becoming easier than ever to bring home!

Hydroponics, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, is a method of growing plants without soil but with mineral nutrients in water. There are a number of different ways to do this, from adding nutrients manually to sustaining the plants with beneficial bacteria and fish waste.

Disney’s hydroponics gardens at EPCOT are grown a number of different ways – bag culture, aeroponics, sand culture, and nutrient film are the primary means. Sand culture was started to show that plants could be grown in desert regions, and the others were produced to make the most use of small spaces, urban spaces, or those with bad soil.

Elon Musk may put people on Mars, but it’s Disney who will have them farming there, I think.

If you’re interested in checking out the Disney gardens yourself, you can see them in the “Living With The Land” boat tour ride, or you can take the “Behind the Seeds” Tour at EPCOT to see everything up close and hear the backstory from Disney’s horticulturists.

You’d better believe this crazy plant lady has done all of those things.

Ever since, the image of fish and plant life sustaining each other has been imprinted in my mind, and I’ve been wanting to somehow incorporate this into our house as a way of expanding some of our ideas on sustainable home gardening. In the back of my mind, I’m envisioning a beautiful indoor aquarium coupled with a harvestable terrarium, full of ripe tomatoes, squash, herbs, and even dwarf fruit trees. Come on, designing friends – let’s make this happen!

Even though we’re hoping to be in our current house – and jobs! – for a while, we know this isn’t our end point. We don’t want to install anything permanent that the house’s future owners would have to take out, especially if it involved rehoming {or worse solutions} our aquarium residents! We also figured it would be a good idea to learn more about hydroponics on a small scale before we started building a larger system.

We found our answer with Home Grown Ponics.

Home Grown Ponics specializes in products for your aquaponic or hydroponic garden, or for your home pond. We purchased a complete kit water garden kit from Back to the Roots with tank, natural grow stones, organic aquaponic seeds, natural beneficial bacteria, and dechlorination solution. All we had to do was set it up and furnish the water and the fish. All too easy.

Meet Norman.

Norman is our Betta. They’re native to South Asia and live in fresh water lakes, usually among the mangrove roots. Norman lives alone because we’re worried that if we gave him friends, he would eat them {his species is also known as the Siamese Fighting Fish}, so don’t feel sorry for him. He eats a couple square meals a day and poops out enough nutrients to fuel a very nice little herb garden.

We’ve taken his grow stones through a couple cycles so far – we’ve grown radish sprouts, wheat grass, basil, and alfalfa sprouts so far – and we’re excited to try some new options this time around and see how they work. This time, we’re planting basil, arugula, and cilantro!

We’ll start this journey with a little bit of maintenance on Norman’s tank. Though Bettas like murky lake water, we want him to be healthy, so we try to keep his tank filtered and free of gunk. We also periodically clean off fake leaf beds, which we often find him sleeping on {along with our filter}. We replenish his water regularly, using tap water we’ve hit with some of Home Grown Ponics’ D-KLOR dechlorination formula and have let sit for about 12 hours so we ensure it reaches room temperature.

Next, we’ll prep our grow stones. These are just porous stones that hold the Zym-Bac bacteria and seeds well for growing. We clean them off between iterations and then drizzle them with a healthy helping of Zym-Bac. A couple good hand-washings later {even thought the Zym-Bac is harmless to fish and people, I take no chances} and we sprinkle our seeds over the stones.

And…that’s it. That’s all you have to do to set up a Home Grown Ponics garden.

It doesn’t take too long for the seeds to start sprouting, and it’s a lot of fun to watch your garden grow!

Here’s where we were on Day 3…

Baby sprouts! At this stage, it’s hard to see what is what. All sprouts look about the same at this point – a little stem and a pair of leaves popping up. And…some even started sprouting in the tank. Plants are such resilient, amazing things!

And on Day 7…

We’ve got a regular little garden growing up here!

The garden grows very well with the window light here. We’ve considered getting a sun lamp for the winter months, but we didn’t need one last winter when we grew our first crops. We’ll have to see what kind of light needs whatever we’re growing during that period needs.

We’ve found our garden needs to be periodically refreshed as the seeds do run their course, but fortunately, the seeds and the kits at Home Grown Ponics are relatively inexpensive. They definitely beat having to buy fresh herbs at the store, or even herb plants, and it lets you grow your plants in just about any environment as long as you have the light they need. How cool is that?

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored in the least. We bought the Back to the Roots & Home Grown Ponics kit after doing our own research and wanting to explore the world of hydroponics, and we love it.

How about you guys? Have you dabbled at all in hydroponics? What kinds of seeds have you grown or would you want to grow?


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