Hydroponic’s for the home gardener

Here is a new product for those of you interested in hydroponics. I know we have a few clients that use hydroponic techniques with our seeds. This is not a system that we use, however the feedback that I have received has been good.

On my personal quest to make a difference in this life, I have been seeking ways to be more self-sufficient and to reduce my carbon footprint, and that of my family. The Lord has guided all this, in my opinion, as I have inadvertently ended up on paths that in the past, I’ve had no interest. It all started with me working for a waste management company, and then starting my own waste management company. From there I have seen a need in various arena, be it environmental, social etc.

We started a sports programme for the local community, whereby we have built an indoor skate-park for the youth to make use of, keeping them off the streets and out of trouble. The park is free, and open to anyone who follows the rules.

In addition to this, we have also initiated a reward system with staff at our waste company, where by selected staff are supplied with the necessary containers, seeds and knowledge to grow their own vegetables at home.

We also saw the need to reduce our carbon footprint on a personal level, by recycling as much as possible, be it, home, work, composting, vermicomposting etc. We started growing our own greens, trial and error, and also built a chicken coop for 4 chickens to provide for our daily eggs. This eventually led me to aqua-ponics and then hydroponics. I moved from aqua to hydroponics as I made a careless error of disconnecting my greenhouse power this year when we went to the Midmar for the mile. I though I was switching off the Mac and printers etc. but lo and behold, it was all power to the greenhouse. We returned 4 days later to dead plants, dead fish and the most awful smell. After paranoidly flushing the fish tank /reservoir, I changed over to hydroponics. My then systems were NFT made from 110mm drain pipes and ebb and flow system made from 210lt plastic drums cut in half.

To my amazement, 6mnths later, and the earthworms I had living in the hydroball grow medium in the aquaponics system are still alive in the now hydroponics system. This is all good, as they digest the old root systems in the grow media.

The hydro-patch hydroponic system
The hydro-patch hydroponic system

But through all of this, with a keen sense of enjoyment, I was quite frustrated, as one could not purchase a complete hydroponics active system in SA, at a reasonable rate. Just recently I sourced a supplier, but their system, as good as it seems, is based on NFT with a shallow grow bed, and in my opinion, would not be adequate for big root crops, like tomatoes, cucumbers etc. I found a niche and wanted to fill it. So out of that, I have considered many avenues and ideas and concepts, and settled on the “Hydro-Patch”. This is a recirculating top drip system, based on Hollands commercial greenhouse technology. I started designing and sourcing, trial and error and finally had what I was after. A reasonably priced, aesthetically acceptable, versatile hydroponic system that could be used in small or large spaces, indoors or outdoors, summer or winter. The unit is a 1m2, 9 pot system, but the limitations are down to the purchasers imagination. We can custom make them in 18 and 27 pot systems, with standardized frames for staking vining crops, or to cover with plastic to use as a mini greenhouse to extend the growing season. Should the budget be limited, we have cost effective ideas to build the frames, which are freely given on request.

I feel that we have successfully built a versatile product for a niche market, that will enable people to contribute towards a better tomorrow. The advantage of hydroponics are endless, and yes, sometimes it is fun to get your hands dirty, but we can still get all dirty by growing potatoes, carrots etc in soil. Yes it can be grown in hydroponics too, but why only have your cake, when you can eat it too?

Should you be interested in the unit, or accessories, watch for our upcoming web site or find us on Face book, under Hydro Patch.

I can also be contacted on 082 903 6068 / 011 664 7581



Matthew and Daniels veggie patch

This year I have help 3 friends start veggie gardens, Mike and family were the first and as promised (by him) here is the first instalment of how his garden grew.

My efforts to show my four year old (Matt) and his 18 month old brother (Daniel) where their food comes from has turned into quite an obsession for their dad…

In February, we moved from a townhouse to an old house on a relatively big stand (1500m²).  A while after we moved in, Sean and his family came for a visit.  Sean took one look at the dark corner of the garden, and said chop out these trees, and we can build a fantastic vegetable garden.

The dark corner....
The dark corner....

So, dad put on his lumber jack shirt, headed off to Springbok hire to hire a chainsaw, and the some trees were turned into firewood, which would later be traded for seed.

Part of the wood used to trade for our seed.
Part of the wood used to trade for our seed.

I was quite proud of my efforts, until Sean arrived and informed me that vegetables need at least 8 hours of sunshine per day, and that more chopping was needed.  My wife, who loves the trees, was not overly impressed, but, the trees came down, and the firewood pile grew substantially.

10:00 am and still one more tree to take down.
10:00 am and still one more tree to take down.

Many bags of compost later, the rows were dug out, and planting commenced.  As it was fairly early in the season (23 July 2011), we only planted the frost hardy seeds.  Sean split the rows into areas, and seed was sewn.  We put in:

  • Peas
  • Asparagus (3 year old)
  • Beetroot
  • Radish
  • Carrots (2 varieties)
  • Lettuce (2 varieties)
  • Broccoli

Note to self – do not sew a whole bag of lettuce seed in 3 lines of 1 meter long…

The plan is to cultivate seedlings for Tomatoes, Peppers, Marrows, Cucumber, and plant these after the September cold snap.

So the seed is planted, watered regularly, and…  Nothing.  The boys expected to see something overnight, and after a week (and some rather cold weather), Matt thought dad was telling fibs, and that vegetables do indeed come from Woolworths.

But then, a few days later, some green started to protrude from the soil, first the lettuce, then the peas, and the rest followed soon after.   There was much excitement, and dad does not tell fibs.  Dad was a little worried about the asparagus, but even these came up eventually.

Bird-proofing the veggies. Two kinds of lettuce in the foreground.
Bird-proofing the veggies. Two kinds of lettuce in the foreground.

Next thing, the birds arrived, and decided that they liked the taste of the broccoli shoots, so these were quickly covered with some netting, framed with some discarded curtain rails (aluminium no less, so no rusting).  Why they didn’t go for the lettuce is still beyond me, there’s so much of it after the whole bag of seed was sewn that I’m constantly thinning it out.

An old pool fence was hacked to pieces, and the bars used to make uprights for the wire for the peas to climb up.  Amazing things those peas, they cling onto that builders wire, and the following day, they’ve made 5 to 6 loops around the wire.

Potatoes were planted into hessian bags.  2 seed potatoes per bag, where the intention is to add compost as they grow, and just roll the bags up as the plants get taller.  To date, there’s no sign of the potatoes, but Sean says give it a week after I’ve given up on them, and they should show…  I was just as impatient with the asparagus.

Seed potatoes have been planted into very cool hessian coffee bags. I think a few more would be in order.
Seed potatoes have been planted into very cool hessian coffee bags. I think a few more would be in order.

Last weekend Matt and I built a compost heap, so now the kitchen peels, cuttings, mom’s flowers and anything else that can compost are being added to the heap.

I’ve been looking for some rectangular planters to build a border around the patch, and today finally found something suitable at the right price.  So hopefully this weekend, we can plant some Strawberries into these planters, and get the tomatoes, peppers, etc into the remaining rows.

Mom’s been planting herbs, these need to find a space in the garden though, so some shelves are needed on the walls.  Dad also has a mission to make some hanging pots by recycling 2L cold drink bottles and some fishing gut, and using these to plant seedlings.

All of these plants need water too, so we’re looking for a suitable container to harvest rainwater when the rain finally arrives, probably a 1500 to 2000 litre tank that I’ll direct a downpipe into from the gutter.

So far, it’s been a very rewarding experience.  We’ve not yet eaten much out of the garden, but it’s been a great way to spend time with Matt, building something together and watching it grow.  Daniel loves to pull stuff up, so let’s hope the carrots and radishes grow soon, so he can harvest.

Looking forward to salad from our little veggie patch…