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 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.

Growing Lettuce with Kratky Hydroponics. Update – Week 3!

Three weeks ago we germinated some deer tongue lettuce in our Aerogarden Bounty – who doesn’t love lettuce? About two weeks later, I needed the Aerogarden to start some more seedlings. So I transplanted from the Aerogarden to a kratky container.

At first they were really unhappy, and I expected them to die. Not only was there the stress of transplanting, but I moved them from Jiffy 36mm Peat Pellets to cloning collars! Double damage to the life bar (video gamer speak).

Day One Transplant of Lettuce
Day One Transplant of Lettuce

Don’t they just look sad?? Well, thankfully they have perked up so much since then!

Week 3 Deer Tongue Kratky Lettuce
Week 3 Deer Tongue Kratky Lettuce

For some reason one of the lettuces recovered faster than the others, and this gave him a significant growth spurt. The front lettuce are all slightly larger than the ones at the back and I am unsure why; they should be getting about the same amount of light, temperature and nutrients.

Week 3 Deer Tongue Kratky Lettuce
Week 3 Deer Tongue Kratky Lettuce

Even the mason jar lettuce has significantly picked up after nearly dying from a lack of light!

Week 3 Deer Tongue Kratky Lettuce
Week 3 Deer Tongue Kratky Lettuce

I’m curious, what plants have you transplanted successfully? Do you regularly start seeds elsewhere and then transplant, or do you start seeds in their final (and only) growing location?

Transplanting From An Aerogarden To a Kratky Bucket

I needed to make space in my Aerogarden Bounty to plant some new seedlings, so rather than kill the entire crop I decided to try and save them by transplanting to my Kratky container.

Transplanting from the Aerogarden Bounty can be quite difficult; the fine roots of the hydroponic lettuce wrap around the plastic support bars, and unfortunately rip easily when removing from the cups.

I was also using the Jiffy 36mm Peat Pellets which have a very fine mesh wrapping, and removing this mesh would rip any remaining small roots. Normally you wouldn’t have to remove the mesh, or even seperate the lettuce from the peat pellets, however I wanted to try out my new cloning collars.

By the time that the lettuce was removed from the Aerogarden Bounty container and the Jiffy had been removed and all peat washed off, only the major roots of the lettuce were left. The poor plants were definitely going to go into shock, and may not survive at all.

Day One

Day One of Lettuce Transplant
Day One of Lettuce Transplant

Ouch. It doesn’t look like the lettuce is going to survive; I think I pulled off too many roots and shocked the plants way too much.

Since the roots are so short now I have the water level half way up the net cups. This leaves very little space for any air roots to grow, especially given the size of the lettuce already.

Day Two

Day Two of Lettuce Transplant
Day Two of Lettuce Transplate

They still look bad, but thankfully at close inspection they seem to be recovering slowly. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but they are a little perkier than on Day One. You can see the centre back lettuce sticking one of his leaves straight up now, compared to yesterday’s droop.

The lettuce at the front right seems to be the last to start recovering; none of his leaves are currently stiffening up again.

Day Three

Day Three of Lettuce Transplant
Day Three of Lettuce Transplant

I pulled off some of the biggest leaves that did not look to be recovering (and ate them); I want the plant focusing on fresh growth of roots and new healthy leaves rather than saving pre-existing leaves.

The lettuce are definitely recovering by this point; the centres are much more perky and green.

Generally you shouldn’t expose the Kratky nutrient solution and roots to light, but I couldn’t resist a quick look to see how the roots were recovering.

Day Three Roots on Lettuce Transplant
Day Three Roots on Lettuce Transplant

The roots are all slightly brownish, with several potential reasons: firstly the nutrient solution is a brownish tinge and could be discolouring the roots, or secondly there could be root rot developing. If the roots turn dark brown or black and become slimy then I have root rot.

The lettuce that seems to be recovering the most are on the left side of the container, which is reflected in their root development; these two lettuce have already grown roots beyond their net cups! Surprising how fast they grow!

You can’t see it in the photo, and its hard to see in person even, but some of the roots have started to develop a white fuzz. Here is an example of a reddit user with the white fuzz on their roots. This is not mold and is actually a sign the plant is “healthy” (or in this case recovering) as it helps with nutrient absorption. The roots are expanding their surface area and will either develop longer roots from these points, or remain fuzzy.

I’ll keep an eye on the lettuce and post an update in a few days. Fingers crossed they will fully recover. Until then, have you had any transplant success or failures?

Expected Grow Times of Kratky Hydroponic Plants

I’d like to figure out how fast I can expect my plants to grow. Most seed packets and websites tell you how fast seeds grow assuming you are using soil, But hydroponics can grow up to 50% faster!

I doubt very much that my first hydroponic plants will grow 50% faster, however that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t expect to start harvesting from roughly that time onwards. You rarely need to wait until the plant reaches full maturity before you can harvest; just pull off leaves as needed and let the plant keep growing. I added “Potential Maturity” to the table below, but realistically that’s when I suspect I may be able to get my first harvest.

Earlier in the week I announced that we were hoping to grow the following vegetables and fruits in our Kratky hydroponic tubs:

  • Amaranth, Red Leaf
  • Basil, Purple Petra
  • Cucumber, Lemon Cucumber
  • Lettuce, New Red Fire
  • Lettuce, Red Sails
  • Spinach, Matador
  • Spinach, Lavewa
  • Swiss Chard, Bright Lights
  • Tomato, San Marzano

All of our seeds were purchased from Sustainable Organic Q8, and appear to have been imported from Botanical Interests. You can read more about my search from seeds in the post Where to buy organic seeds in Kuwait.

Days To MaturityPotential Maturity
Amaranth, Red Leaf90-11045-60
Basil, Purple Petra45-5523-28
Cucumber, Lemon6532
Lettuce, New Red Fire5527
Lettuce, Red Sails4523
Spinach, Matador28-4814-24
Spinach, Lavewa28-4514-24
Swiss Chard, Bright Lights5226
Tomato, San Marzano80-9040-45

I’d really to have some plants growing, or even harvestable, by late September/early October. Thats approximately 50-60 days from now. We have space for 2 large plants, along with at least 3 smaller plants and maximum of 5 plants.

San Marzano Tomato Artwork, Courtesy of Botanical Interests
San Marzano Tomato Artwork, Courtesy of Botanical Interests

The San Marzano Tomatoes are planned as a permanent setup, so these will take priority in one of the largest plant spaces. This tomato plant will be approximately 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8m) in height!

Lemon Cucumber Artwork, Courtesy of Botanical Interests
Lemon Cucumber Artwork, Courtesy of Botanical Interests

Whilst not quite as large as the tomatoes, the Lemon Cucumbers will stand about 3-4 feet (0.9-1.2m) in height. This will fill my second large grow area.

There are debates online about which spinach is “better”; matador apparently grows better in many conditions, but the Lavewa looks prettier and is slightly tastier. We want to test both of these spinaches side by side. They grow at the same rate, so we will test both the Lavewa Spinach and the Matador Spinach together.

Amaranth Artwork, Courtesy of Botanical Interests
Amaranth Artwork, Courtesy of Botanical Interests

I want to stagger the harvesting of my plants; I don’t want all my fresh leaf plants to mature at the same time, and then go one to two months with little food. So I have decided that I will start the Amaranth as well for this first hydroponic growth cycle. Granted, with its growth speed, I may be able to grow two batches of spinach by the time it reaches full maturity.

If I can fit anymore plants in my grow area I will add the Swiss Chard and the New Red Fire Lettuce.

What about you?

What are you growing this season? Did you calculate how long it takes to grow? Did you have to plan around seasons and temperature outdoors? Let me know what you’re growing!

Do I need grow lights? Update – Week 2

Read about the first week of growth in the post Do I Need Grow Lights? Update – Week 1.

It’s been two weeks since I transplanted my Deer Tongue Lettuce seedlings from the Aerogarden Bounty to my makeshift Kratky containers. The seeds were started in the Aerogarden on 17th July, so they are now only 18 days old. I started this experiment to test how the lettuce would grow under the light conditions of different rooms; my laundry, my pantry and my kitchen.

In the post Do I Need Grow Lights?, started just after transplanting my lettuce, I actually measured my light more scientifically. Spoiler alert, it was then that I discovered that my rooms were below the ideal levels for plant growth and that I would in fact need to purchase some grow lights.

Since my grow lights haven’t yet arrived, I decided to just let the lettuce sit in those rooms. Sometimes the amount of light to maintain is much less than the amount of light needed to create fresh growth. Even if the plants don’t get enough light in those rooms to actively grow, they may be acceptable places to store plants (if necessary) for a few days before I can completely harvest them.

Week 2 Kratky Lettuce Compared
From left to right: pantry, laundry, kitchen.

The lettuce didn’t really grow during this last week; the lettuce in the pantry being the exception. Compare this to last week:

Week 1 Kratky Lettuce Compared
Week 1 Kratky Lettuce Compared. Left to right: pantry, laundry and kitchen.

The pantry lettuce definitely grew a bit between week 1 and 2, although not as apparent in the photos. The leaves became wider and greener.

The laundry lettuce stayed mostly the same size. Its leaves did start to droop and curl slightly. This area is now being converted into a more permanent grow area including a couple nice grow lights!

The kitchen lettuce had started to die due to the lack of light. It struggled the most, which reflects our light readings that we got in the post Do I Need A Grow Light? The light was just so minimal in this area that the plant couldn’t even maintain it’s size, let alone grow! This area may be okay to store a plant in for a couple days, especially if the plant is destined to be eaten (why harvest all at once if I can pick the leaves off fresh over a couple days), but I won’t be trying to grow anymore in this area.

Despite hearing success stories online, I was a little skeptical if this method would actually work. But…

Photo of Lettuce Roots Growing
Photo of Lettuce Roots Growing

Seeing is believing! Roots emerged from the bottom of the DIY net cup, and quite proficiently. I was honestly quite surprised by the amount of root growth – only two weeks ago there were no roots at all touching the inside of the DIY net cup!

The End Of An Era

This experiment, the total of two grueling weeks, is now over. I’m moving what’s left of the lettuce to live under my new grow light; it’s now an experiment to see if I can get it to survive and recover.

Where to buy organic seeds in Kuwait

Don’t want to read? Here’s a quick list of links:

After researching a bit, and probably jumping into the water too fast when it comes to buying products like grow lights, I have purchased some seeds to grow in my Krakty hydroponic room setup.

Buying seeds was a specific hassle in Kuwait; the very few and limited stores that sold seeds only sold the very common varieties. Think Beefsteak tomatoes; the probably most common tomato you can find at any supermarket. Since such tomatoes are so easy to buy, I want to grow something more unique.

In fact, we even found a nursery selling seeds with the giant warning label on the back: “Warning. Treated with poison. Do not consume or grow food products from these.” What?!

In the end we found a company called Sustainable Organic Q8 that seems to import from reliable producers.

They delivered within 48 hours. We have been very happy with the brand of seeds that Sustainable Organic Q8 sells; which is Botanical Interest. They contain a lot of seeds in the pack, and they so far have a really high germination rate (for me its 100%).

Update – 24th August 2019: We found another Kuwait website selling seeds called My Organic World, though the website is all in Arabic (use Chrome web browser for auto-translate to browse in English). We bought from them, and they delivered within 24 hours! Unfortunately they sold brands Sperli and Kiepenkerl which consensus online says they can be quite expensive compared to competitors. One of the packs we bought only had 5 seeds in it! Not a reflection of My Organic World, but the seed producers themselves.

Update – 31st August 2019: Another Kuwaiti website selling seeds called PlantNMore. though the website is all in Arabic (use Chrome web browser for auto-translate to browse in English). I haven’t bought from this company yet.

Do you know anywhere else in Kuwait to buy seeds? Please let us know in the comments.