Kratky Hydroponic Lavewa and Matador Spinach – Update: Week 1

For a long time now I have been trying to grow spinach, and its led me on quite a learning journey. I discovered that Kuwait is typically too hot for spinach to germinate, yet some varieties will still grow in the typical climate-controlled rooms. This is when I learned How to Speed Up Seed Germination With Stratification and why its so helpful; its the process of exposing your seeds to an artificial frost to stimulate germination. Some plants require frost in order to even germinate – like strawberries. Other plants like spinach germinate better at low temperatures, but require warmer temperatures for the seedlings to grow.

With a slight doubt in my heart I attempted the stratifying experiment just over two weeks ago using MIGardener’s method of stratifying seeds in your fridge.

And it worked! Within a few days my seeds started to grow their first roots! I couldn’t believe it. Within a week of starting the stratification process I had already transplanted my spinach seeds into their kratky buckets. Weeks of trying to get spinach seeds to germinate directly… and I could have just done this very simple step with 100% success rate.

It now means that I can theoretically grow spinach throughout the year (assuming my grow room doesn’t get too hot in the peak of summer).

It’s been one week, so how are the little seedlings faring?

Growing Lavewa Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1
Growing Lavewa Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1

Not too bad actually! The larger spinach seedlings (middle row, left) was some of the first to germinate and thus were planted a few days earlier than their brethren so he is slightly larger. Most still have their grown domes on to help maintain a humid environment and encourage that early growth.

Growing Matador Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1
Growing Matador Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1

Out of all the spinach seeds that I planted after stratifying, I lost one (perhaps transplanting him a little too early into a too warm environment). It wasn’t a particular problem as I stratified more seeds than net cups, so I had a few extra seeds that germinated to replace the lost baby.

For a while we may have had the grow lights too close; some of the very tips of the leaves show tip-burn from excess heat. We’ve since raised the light by a couple inches.

Growing Lavewa Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1
Growing Lavewa Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1

A close up shows that the largest of the spinach seems to be growing quite well. He’s put out his first true leaves, and is growing his second set. And I just love how his cotyledon leaves (the long thing ones) stick up a bit like rabbit ears or antenna! So cute!

Have you grown spinach in hydroponics? How well did they grow for you? Have you tried stratifying any seeds? Let me know in the comments below.

Growing Nero Toscana Kale in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 2

I love kale. Offer me any leafy green and chances are I will pick kale. So I am obviously quite excited that my kale is growing.

Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 2
Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 2

I have a bit of a a dust problem in my grow room, but we’ve been having a couple days of dust storms in Kuwait. We are moving towards winter, so hopefully the dust will reduce over the coming month or two.

Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 2
Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 2

The kale are still kind of spindly; you can see them sort of falling over with the weight of their leaves. I suspect in the coming week the stems are going to firm up a lot as the leaves start to collect more energy from the lights.

Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 2
Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 2

This week saw the kale starting to grow their first real leaves. They have even started growing their second sets of leaves. I have noticed that once plants start to put out their “real” leaves the plants tend to suddenly go through a huge growth spurt.

Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 2
Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 2

Have you grown kale hydroponically? How fast did yours grow?

How to Speed Up Seed Germination With Stratification

I’ve been having trouble getting my spinach to germinate. This prompted research Seed Germination Temperatures. I learnt that it was just way too hot in Kuwait for spinach to germinate at the moment. Furthermore some seeds need to be exposed to frost, or low temperatures, to germinate. Yet many countries doesn’t experience frost… and thats when you should “stratify” your seeds.

Stratification is essentially emulating frost temperatures with modern technology such as fridges and freezers. It’s a great option if you live in countries that just don’t get cold enough to otherwise germinate the plants, yet not so hot that the plants can’t grow as seedlings.

Seeds that take 2-3 weeks to germinate will often germinate faster when stratified first. Too slow of a process could mean that the seeds don’t get the ideal moisture from the soil (if growing hydroponically this usually isn’t an issue), and reduces the risk of growing mould and other diseases (can be an issue when growing hydroponically).

Here is a great video from YouTuber MIGardener that talks about how and why to stratify your seeds.

I attempted the technique that MIGardener teaches (video above), and it worked! I was about ready to give up after 3 attempts to get my spinach to germinate had failed.

My grow room is now reaching around 26°C (78°F) during the day; when the temperature is at 77°F rates drop to about 30% and can take a week or longer. Using the stratification technique allowed me to grow the seeds earlier than normal (whilst it was still too warm for the seeds to normally germinate), and gave me a 100% success rate!

Have you tried statifying any seeds? What is your success or failure stories for seed germination? Share with me in the comments below.

Growing Bok Choy in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1

Bak Choy has more names than I realised; depending upon where you live you might call it pak choy, sui bok choy, Chinese cabbage or even “soup spoon” for the shape of it’s leaves. I grew up calling it by it’s most common name of Bok Choy.

Can you grow bok choy in hydroponics? One week ago I planted some bok choy seeds into my Kratky net cups to see just how successful I could grow. The first hurdle was to see if they would germinate.

Growing Bok Choy in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1
Growing Bok Choy in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1

I only have the one photo for this post, sorry. It was really hard to get my camera to focus on the bok choy: the stem and green leaves are so very similar in hue, and unfortunately almost the exact same hue as the rock wool.

Growing San Marzano Tomatoes in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 3

I wouldn’t have believed it a month ago when you said I could grow tomatoes so easily in Kuwait’s hot desert weather; but here I am, just growing tomatoes. Of course I cheated a little by growing them inside the house, in a climate controlled area… and then I removed the soil and decided to grow them hydroponically.

And they are still growing!

My little plant babies are now three weeks old, and wow have they grown. This was them only one week ago:

Their stems had just started to turn brownish tinged close to the cloning collars. They both also had two new branches.

And this is them now, at three weeks old:

I just can’t believe how fast they are growing. I can turn my grow lights off at night, then when I re-enter in the morning they have grown an entire branch! No joking, I have seen an entire baby branch just pop up in the space of a few hours.

I have preemptively placed their first trellis support bars. Since we are using custom painted Ikea Ivar cabinets to hold our plants, we bought the bottle rack as a DIY trellis. This provides some basic support for the plants, and lets me tie them in place. We can also easily raise or lower the bottle rack as needed, and even add more as the tomatoes grow in height.

San Marzano Tomato Week 3, In Kratky Hydroponics
San Marzano Tomato Week 3, In Kratky Hydroponics

This is the weaker of the two tomatoes; he isn’t growing as fast. He now has four branches, two of which are fairly large. I noticed that once the dominate grower had put out one or two smaller branches, he had substantial increase in growth speed. I expect this one would probably grow much faster in the coming week.

The dominate grower is outpacing him pretty fast; he has a total of nine little branches all emerging. He’s also about 2″ (5cm) taller than his sibling. His centre branch is just touching the trellis bars, so hopefully in the next few days he will be resting against it and can be supported with the tie.

San Marzano Tomato Week 3, In Kratky Hydroponics
San Marzano Tomato Week 3, In Kratky Hydroponics

Both tomato plants seem to be developing some good root structures. I couldn’t lift the buckets out too high as the trellis bars are now in the way, but you can see the roots extend much further down into the bucket and nutrient water. The roots are nice and white, which is a sign of plant health when it comes to hydroponics.

San Marzano Tomato Week 3, In Kratky Hydroponics
San Marzano Tomato Week 3, In Kratky Hydroponics

Have you grown tomatoes hydroponically, or maybe traditionally in soil? Do you have any tips to share with a first-time grower?

Growing San Marzano Tomatoes in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 2

One week ago I transplanted San Marzano tomatoes into a Kratky hydroponic container, and we were left wondering if they survived. Here is it in Week 1:

San Marzano Transplanted into Kratky, Week 1
San Marzano Transplanted into Kratky, Week 1

I’m glad to say that not only did they survive, they have started growing wonderfully!

San Marzano Tomato Seedling Week 2, In Kratky Hydrponics
San Marzano Tomato Seedling Week 2, In Kratky Hydrponics

The two tiny specks of leaves became much larger, and we now have four to five tiny new leaves beginning to grow on each section. The original leaves have definitely turned into stems, and hopefully they will eventually become branches.

San Marzano Tomato Seedling Week 2, In Kratky Hydrponics
San Marzano Tomato Seedling Week 2, In Kratky Hydrponics

The trunk of the tomato (can it be called a trunk yet?) is about three times the thickness than when I transplanted it. The fine fuzz on it has also thickened up and become much more apparent. I don’t know enough about botany to explain what this section does – if you know please let me know in the comments!

San Marzano Tomato Seedling Week 2, In Kratky Hydroponics
San Marzano Tomato Seedling Week 2, In Kratky Hydroponics

I’m not brave enough to lift the lid and look under. The water level was filled right to the brim of the container, and I mean right to the point of overflowing. I’m worried that if I lift it I will not only introduce light to the system, I may disturb the seedling as well. Maybe next week we can check out if there is growth.

Have you grown any tomatoes in hydroponics? I’d love to know your success (and failure) stories.

Transplanting Seedlings for Hydroponics Tips

A lot of people use hydroponic machines to start seedlings. Some people will start seedlings to transplant outdoors, and others will start seedings to transplant to larger containers. This post proves that I’m no exception: I just transplanted my San Marzano seedlings into their final Kratky hydroponic home.

Each method of transplanting has its own risks, as discussed below. By far the biggest risk of all is killing your innocent-baby plant. But if you follow the tips listed below, you will minimise the risk of being a plant slaughterer.

Also know that not all plants should be transplanted as some plants can’t handle root disturbance well, like spinach. You should only ever transplant healthy plants.

From Hydroponics to Soil

This is one of the most common methods to grow your plants; starting your delicate seedlings indoors and then planting in your garden when they are old enough to fend for themselves.

You should only transplant once roots have emerged from the bottom of the grow medium. If you wait too long then you risk stressing your plants.

Use grow medium that can be planted outdoors; trying to remove the plant from grow medium can be quite damaging to the roots. I tried separating my lettuce seedlings from the grow medium, and they definitely experienced shock.

Help your plants grow new roots, fast, by using root growth hormones. Whilst I haven’t used hormones on my own plants I have read online people recommending SUPERthrive Plant Vitamin Solution and HydroDynamics Clonex Rooting Gel.

Keep your soil well watered for a few days. You want the soil slightly damp, but not holding so much water that root or mould will grow. If your soil is well draining then consider watering a couple times a day.

You can also add a diluted nutrient solution to your water to help the plant get any extra energy it might need to grow new leaves and roots. This can be the same nutrients that your seedlings were growing in. Don’t give them full strength nutrients yet, as too much can actually harm your plants.

From Soil to Hydroponics

It is possible to transplant from soil to hydroponics, though many hydroponic growers like to keep their grow areas sterilised. Introducing dirt grown plants into a grow room can also bring the risk of unwanted bugs and diseases, potentially harming other plants (or even loosing all your crops!). I have personally lost entire crops from an exposure of an aphid infected plant, and so now I will only grow new plants from seeds.

Let your plant’s soil dry out prior to transplanting; dry soil is much easier to clean any dirt from the roots than wet. Once you have removed as much dirt as possible, then submerged the roots into a bucket of water and rinse any remaining residue. The roots need to be as clean as possible; dirt will contain bugs, algae, and can even damage some hydroponic pump systems.

Place your plant into a net pot and gently pull any long roots through the net pot holes. If the roots are fragile and just break, it’s better to keep them inside the net pot than risk damaging them. cover thoroughly with grow medium like clay pebbles. You need to ensure that no light can enter into your water reservoir.

Depending upon your hydroponic setup, make sure that air is still getting to the roots. Many people will use an air-stone to oxygenate your plant roots. If you are doing the kratky method then you should only submerge the lower roots and net pot, keeping at least half above the waterline to avoid drowning the plant.

Finally, your plant is going to go into shock, potentially a lot. It may look like you’ve killed the plant, with lots of leaves falling off or browning. Give it time and in most cases the plant will recover, anywhere from two days to a couple weeks. You may lose the original leaves as the plant will often abandon preserving those to focus on more important root growth.

From Hydroponics to Hydroponics

This will often be the easiest way to transplant seedlings, if you have planned out your plant growth before hand. The time to transplant is when the roots begin to emerge. Hydroponic roots are very fragile, so if they extend beyond the net cup then they are almost guaranteed to break.

If you know that your plant will need transplanting, try starting the seedlings in the final grow media such as rock wool. Simply transplant the entire cup or simply lift out the plant from one cup and transfer contents to a larger cup, adding more clay pebbles to block out any light.

Don’t make my mistake and wait too long: I transplanted some lettuce from peat moss (started in my Aerogarden) to cloning collars. The process or removing the lettuce seedlings from the Aerogarden net cups and washing out the peat moss caused them to mostly lose their fine roots. They looked dead for the first few days. It took them nearly a week to recover and start showing new growth.

Have you transplanted plants before? Share some of your tips in the comments below.

Transplanting San Marzano Tomatoes into Kratky Hydroponics

So far in my hydroponic journey I have been starting my seeds in my Aerogarden Bounty; it has the highest rate of success. There is just something this machine does better than I can, which is also a reason why I recommend anyone interested in hydroponics without the scary setup look at the Aerogarden product range.

On the 1st August 2019 I planted some San Marzano tomato seeds in my Aerogarden. It’s been a week (a bit longer by the time I got around to writing this article, but photos taken on date) and it’s time to transplant my tomatoes into their final home. Exciting!

When I previously transplanted some lettuce between the Aerogarden and Kratky setup, it didn’t go as well as I hoped: my poor plants suffered a lot of shock. I since learnt that I had let the roots get too large, and the transplanting process really hurt the plants (by ripping the roots right off!).

After learning from all my recent plant murder attempts, I am transplanting the tomatoes the moment the roots emerged; one week after planting the seedlings!

Here are the tomatoes just prior to transplanting. The seedling wearing his seed pod as a hat is so cute!

My kratky container is the Klämtare Box With Lid from Ikea. It’s a great option as the plastic they use is food-safe. It’s also large enough for two tomato plants.

I used a 3″ hole saw to drill into the lid, since I was using a 3″ net cup. You could always buy a hole saw kit with several sized pieces (I bought one of these kits as well). I also chose to transplant from the peat moss to a cloning collar, though this was a personal choice. Underneath the cloning collar was clay pebbles; it is recommended to add some grow medium underneath the collar in case you ever need to remove it, as it provides significant support to the plant and sudden removal could mean the plant falls over!

San Marzano Transplanted into Kratky, Week 1
San Marzano Transplanted into Kratky, Week 1

Fingers crossed that the seedlings survive now. I’ve only transplanted once or twice, and they have all survived, but taken a bit of stress in the process.

Have you transplanted tomatoes, or any other plants? Do you have any tips to share?

Growing Nero Toscana Kale in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1

It’s been one week since I planted my kale seeds in my Kratky hydroponic container, and its time to see how they have grown! The variety is Nero Toscana.

Nero Toscana Kale, Image Courtesy of Botanical Interets
Nero Toscana Kale, Image Courtesy of Botanical Interets

Please excuse the dusty lid; whilst my plants are growing inside, we still get quite a lot of dust from dust storms, and just general air. I also noticed that my paint hadn’t fully cured and was slightly sticky, thus catching all those little dust particles.

Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

4 out of 5 of my Nero Toscana kale plants sprouted, and have grown enough to remove the little grow dome (salvaged from some used Aerogarden Bounty pods).

Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

One net cup did not sprout anything at all, even though I planted three seeds in each cup. In itself I would consider this just bad luck, but in the Swiss Chard bucket beside this one the same outer cup didn’t grow there either.

Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

The rock wool medium is wet, so the seed should be getting enough moisture to germinate. Perhaps there is too little light reaching these outer cups? I have switched the outer cup with an inner cup in the hopes that it gets the light needed for a slightly later blooming, but so far nothing.

Do you have any idea why just one cup might not germinate? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Growing Swiss Chard in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1

Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Image Courtesy of Botanical Interests
Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Image Courtesy of Botanical Interests

It’s been one week since I planted my Swiss Chard seeds in my Kratky hydroponic container, and its time to see how they have grown! The variety is Bright Lights.

Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

Please excuse the dusty lid; whilst my plants are growing inside, we still get quite a lot of dust from dust storms, and just general air. I also noticed that my paint hadn’t fully cured and was slightly sticky, thus catching all those little dust particles.

Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

4 out of 5 of my Bright Lights Swiss Chard plants sprouted, and have grown enough to remove the little grow dome (salvaged from some used Aerogarden Bounty pods).

Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

One net cup did not sprout anything at all, even though I planted three seeds in each cup. In itself I would consider this just bad luck, but in the kale bucket beside this one the same outer cup didn’t grow there either.

The rock wool medium is wet, so the seed should be getting enough moisture to germinate. Perhaps there is too little light reaching these outer cups? I have switched the outer cup with an inner cup in the hopes that it gets the light needed for a slightly later blooming, but so far nothing.

Do you have any idea why just one cup might not germinate? Please share your ideas in the comments below.