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

Kale isn’t the cheapest of green leaf vegetables since its harder to find at the shops, and I’m honestly surprised that it isn’t more easily available; it was so incredibly easy to grow, its so high in nutrition, and its delicious! My local shops in Kuwait sells it for 3KD/500grams. Thats US$20/kg r AU$30/kg!! To think that I have had multiple kilograms of produce come off my small bucket… Selling kale is like a get rich quick scheme!

Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 8
Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 8

I’ve been so happy with our kale plants. We’ve made smoothies and kale chips and salads, and without a doubt we are going to be making more in the future.

Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 8
Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 8

And it’s been growing really well; the leaves are absolutely massive! As you can see, each leave is about the length of my entire hand and forearm.

Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 8
Nero Toscana Kale Grown In Kratky Container, Week 8

As the leaves get older, they get wider.

I’m not sure how much longer this particular plant will last; I am probably going to harvest the entire plant and start some seedlings fresh again. Kale will survive for roughly two years per plant, but as you harvest it will grow taller and taller. Unfortunately for me I have a limited height on my shelves, and when plants get too large they have been be harvested and replanted.

The biggest question is… will I plant only one box, or multiple boxes of kale? Is there ever a problem of too much kale?

Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 5

Here is another crop that seems to be growing faster than I can possibly eat; my Edible Red Leaf Amaranth.

Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 5
Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 5

Until a few weeks ago I don’t think I have ever eaten Amaranth. Supposedly it goes great in stir-fries and sautés, but I haven’t tried it like that yet; instead I have been eating them fresh as a lettuce substitute. The leaves have the same texture of a very tender lettuce leaf, like a baby lettuce leaf, with a very subtle spinach taste. The older leaves do tend to get a bit more crispy with a slightly stronger spinach taste. They are super delicious! So good that I have been picking leaves off every time I walk past just to nibble on.

Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 5
Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 5

The leaves are about the same size of many lettuces, if not even larger. I tend to harvest when they get to be about the size of my hand… but they have definitely grown much larger if you leave them.

It’s growing so well that even when I make a cutting new sprouts are starting to emerge from the cut sites. On top of that its growing taller daily!

Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 5
Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 5

The amaranth is a very prolific grower. A lettuce just grows taller, so a cut-and-come continual harvest can be matched. This amaranth is easily putting out two to three times the amount of leaves…

I have five plants growing, and its out-growing how much my husband and I can eat (even when we are picking at it every day and having green smoothies just to try and not be wasteful…). I think I am going to be giving away some cuttings over the next couple weeks…. If you want a plant that grows well, then I really suggest growing your own amaranth.

Have you grown amaranth? Was it for the leaves or the seeds or the grains? Let me know in the comments below!

Growing Swiss Chard in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 5

First impressions upon seeing my Swiss Chard this week you might think “they look kind of pathetic”, but don’t be so judgemental! These poor Swiss Chard have been harvested, and harvested… and harvested – to the point where if I didn’t like Swiss Chard as much as I do I would probably be sick of it.

Those droopy leaves you see are just the older leaves that are needing to be harvested. I also did accidentally let my water get a bit too low for a day or two, so I suspect those leaves were partially sacrificed in order to preserve the younger growth.

Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 5
Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 5

I stopped weighing how much produce we were getting after about 1kg of leaves… yeah, thats a lot. Most people will only use 1 cup of greens in their usual salad, which is 75g or 2.6oz. That comes out to about 18 salads… We were eating it in everything – salad, green smoothies for breakfast and lunch, just by itself… and we have a surplus!

Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 5
Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 5

It’s also still growing. Even from the sections that I cut the Swiss chard is beginning to put out new leaves. It’s like a never ending plant of deliciousness…

Swiss Chard takes about 30-60 days to reach maturity when growing in traditional soil gardens. I’d say my plant definitely reached maturity last week at 30 days old, but the continuous growth will let me keep harvesting from it for at least another few weeks.

I suspect that I will probably do a final harvest in about a week and start a new batch, at least in one bucket (I currently have 1.5 buckets of Swiss Chard growing, a total of 7 plants). In the future I would space the plants a bit more, with 3 plants per bucket rather than 5. They did survive and grow fine, but they were just a bit too crowded. It all just depends upon how large you let the leaves get before harvesting.

Growing San Marzano Tomatoes in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 6

I just realised that I forgot to write a post for last week, oops. Sorry about that. Guess the jump of growth between the last post and this one is going to be significant. This post is going to be big (not just plant growth), but because I discuss edema, flowers and fruiting too.

Lets look back at week 4 growth:

San Marzano Tomato 1 Month, In Kratky Hydroponics
San Marzano Tomato 1 Month, In Kratky Hydroponics

I was so proud of how big they were growing… and how fast – each day seemed to produce another branch, another leaf, or another inch or two of height… little did I know that the plants would keep growing at such a speed, even two weeks later. I have created a monster; a gorgeous, hopefully soon to eat yummy, monster:

San Marzano Tomato 6 Weeks Old, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics
San Marzano Tomato 6 Weeks Old, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics

Its getting huge! We have two of the trellis supports already installed, and tonight I will be putting in the third. Thats a trellis each week…

The Curious Case of Edema

Would you believe that I have actually been cutting branches off? We’ve actually been having a problem with how fast this plant is growing. So fast that it’s actually becoming a serious problem and risk, for the plant itself.

Edema on San Marzano Tomato Plant Leaves
Edema on San Marzano Tomato Plant Leaves

See those little green spots on the tomato leaves? That’s edema. Its what happens when the plant is absorbing too much liquid… Is that even possible in a hydroponic system? Yeah it is. Edema causes the cellular structure on the leaves to swell up as they absorb moere and more liquid, to the point that they will rupture, often killing that leaf. Often you will also see crusty spots on the leaves from dried sap and water.

In mild cases its not usually an issue, but more and more of our tomato branches were becoming effected. It tends to effect the lower branches or leaves first, slowly effecting more of the plant if the environment remains unchanged.

There are a couple reasons why it can happen:

  • There isn’t enough airflow around the plant and the plant isn’t transpiring enough (sort of like you getting hot and sweaty without a cool wind). This can also happen if the plant leaves is too dense and thick, restricting airflow around inner branches. This is the most common reason.
  • The nutrients are unbalanced; the plant is sucking up too much liquid to try and get enough of one or more nutrients.
  • The water is too warm whilst the leaves are cooler, causing the plant to activate drinking mode. Sort of like when a plant is growing in a hot region – when it rains the upper plant becomes cool and signals to the roots that fresh water is being supplied.

I will write a blog post covering edema bit more and ways to resolve this. It affects all plants, not just tomatoes.

In our situation, the foliage was becoming too dense. The constant but small airflow that we had in the room wasn’t reaching the inner branches and leaves, so the plant wasn’t able to lose the excess liquids through sweating.

Over Dense Foliage on San Marzano Tomato, Week 6 Growth in Kratky Hydroponics
Over Dense Foliage on San Marzano Tomato, Week 6 Growth in Kratky Hydroponics

For now our solution was to maintain a slightly more average temperature in the grow room rather than cooler at night and warmer during the day. We are still researching the ideal fan for our grow room as some people have had issues with the common oscillating fans causing leaf burn due to overexposure of wind.

Fruitful Endeavours

Flowers on San Marzano Tomatoes at 6 Weeks, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics
Flowers on San Marzano Tomatoes at 6 Weeks, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics

It’s not all bad news; our “hard work” is paying off. The tomato plant is only 6 weeks old, and yet we have been getting flowers now for nearly two weeks!

Flowers on San Marzano Tomatoes at 6 Weeks, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics
Flowers on San Marzano Tomatoes at 6 Weeks, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics

San Marzano are an indeterminate tomato plant variety, meaning they will continuous flower, fruit and grow indefinitely as long as the environment is ideal. So it makes sense that not all the flowers are opening at once. I did a count of the flower buds that I could see – both opened and unopened. There was over 35 flower buds!

Flowers on San Marzano Tomatoes at 6 Weeks, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics
Flowers on San Marzano Tomatoes at 6 Weeks, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics

The average San Marzano tomato weighs around 120-140grams (4.2-5oz). Assuming all 35 flowers produce tomatoes, thats a minimum of 4.2kg (9.2lbs) of tomatoes! I’m so glad that I have bought some canning equipment so I can bottle up these delicious tomatoes.

Have you preserved your home-grown or store bought tomatoes? Whats your favourite way to use tomatoes? Mine is definitely pizza sauce. Let me know in the comments below.

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics – Update Week 3

Three weeks ago I got some Jalapeño seeds as a present from a friend; thank you friend! My husband is a big fan of Jalapeño poppers recipes; I’ve only tried them once and enjoyed them a fair bit too. Biggest issue was finding jalapeños large enough to easily stuff. So it makes sense that we planted some Jalapeño pepper seeds into some rock wool to grow our own (hopefully large peppers).

It’s now time to do the three week update!

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 3 Growth
Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 3 Growth

The peppers are taking off! I wanted to say that they haven’t grown that much, but looking back at week two they were only little seedlings:

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 2
Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 2

The week three jalapeños have clearly grown much larger leaves, and are now growing their third and fourth true leaves.

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 3 Growth
Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 3 Growth

I am concerned about the size of the bucket that I am growing it in – ideally I would have only one or two plants in this sized bucket long term, and I am growing five! I think that I will give some seedlings away to family (to plant traditionally in soil) and keep one or two for myself.

Have you grown Jalapeño peppers before? How long did yours take to fruit? How big were the peppers? Let me know in the comments below.

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics – Update Week 2

I’m not a huge Jalapeño fan, but my husband is. I think I made his day when I told him that I had planted some jalapeño seeds for him.

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 2
Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 2

I think he’s a bit disheartened, as many new gardeners are, that they aren’t growing faster. He’s been checking them daily and when you see something so often its hard to see the changes. That’s why I love posting my weekly updates – I get to see and compare to photos a week ago. In this case these plants didn’t even exist two weeks ago!

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 2
Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 2

These seedlings have all put out their first true leaves, and in a couple cases they have started to grow their second sets of true leaves as well.

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 2

As with all the other plants I have grown hydroponically so far, once the seedlings start producing a couple of their first leaves they go through a very sudden growth spurt. I expect that these jalapeño seedlings won’t look so small and vulnerable within one or two weeks.

Since it’s the first time growing jalapeño’s, I am unsure just how big they will get. I have them distanced only about 2-3″ apart from each other, so they are quite close. I expect that I am probably going to have to transplant some else where – luckily the weather is getting cooler in Kuwait so I can probably place in the soil. It’s currently (at time of writing) 48°C (119°F) outdoors… umm it is getting cooler, right?

Have you grown jalapeño’s or peppers? I’d love to hear about your growing stories in the comments below!

Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 3

It’s been three weeks since I planted my Amaranth seeds. I’ve watched them germinate and grow. And I have loved every minute of it.

Edible Red Leaf Amaranth Grown In Kratky Hydroponics Container, Week 3
Edible Red Leaf Amaranth Grown In Kratky Hydroponics Container, Week 3

The amaranth is getting quite big. This week saw the leaves doubling in size. Compare this to week 2 (they were under a different grow light in the following photo).

Edible Red Leaf Amaranth Grown In Kratky Hydroponics Container, Week 2
Edible Red Leaf Amaranth Grown In Kratky Hydroponics Container, Week 2

The largest leaves are now about the size of my palm. A bit too small to start harvesting if you want to do a continual harvesting method. Maybe next week.

Edible Red Leaf Amaranth Grown In Kratky Hydroponics Container, Week 3
Edible Red Leaf Amaranth Grown In Kratky Hydroponics Container, Week 3

I love the colors that are developing on the leaves. The red is a lot less red than I expected; from the top the leaves look like a dark purple or burgundy hue. When you view them from underneath however, they are a very vivid blood red.

Edible Red Leaf Amaranth Grown In Kratky Hydroponics Container, Week 3
Edible Red Leaf Amaranth Grown In Kratky Hydroponics Container, Week 3

Have you grown amaranth before? Did you eat it in salads, or prefer to use it medicinally? Let me know in the comments below.

Growing Lemon Cucumbers in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Month 1

Yep, lemon cucumbers. You did read that right. They look like lemons, but they taste like cucumbers. Why? Because I can. Why not?

Lemon Cucumbers, Photo Courtesy of Burpee
Lemon Cucumbers, Photo Courtesy of Burpee

Strangely enough this is one of the plants I am most excited about. I mention it to everyone – its definitely a talking point. Yet for some reason I haven’t really been tracking the growth progress. So now that the plant has reached one month old, it’s time to make a blog post about it.

Growing Lemon Cucumbers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 4 Growth
Growing Lemon Cucumbers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 4 Growth

I started these lemon cucumbers in my Aerogarden Bounty, and transplanted them to their Kratky buckets somewhere 2 weeks old. In reflection, I think this was a mistake. I waited too long and they had developed too many roots that I lost in the transplant process. The plant went into shock, and it took a long time for roots to re-grow and then for any more visible growth (leaves) to start showing. For two weeks they seemed to be dormant – only I could see root development and knew something was happening.

Growing Lemon Cucumbers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 4 Growth
Growing Lemon Cucumbers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 4 Growth

In the last week that the cucumber plant has started to visibly grow, and in that time it has really taken off! In that time its gone from a seedling with two leaves to… well this baby monster.

Growing Lemon Cucumbers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 4 Growth
Growing Lemon Cucumbers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 4 Growth

Between his upper two branches a small tendril, or maybe a new branch, is starting to grow.

Growing Lemon Cucumbers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 4 Growth
Growing Lemon Cucumbers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 4 Growth

If you look closely under the top leaf you might see a circular spiral. That’s a tendril, getting ready to grab onto a support for the plant to grow! After all, cucumbers tend to be rather like a vine. I’m going to have to add their trellis in, probably tonight. I don’t want them to grow outwards and flop over my floor, but rather train it to grow upwards onto the trellis.

Have you grown cucumbers before? Have you any tips to share with me? Let me know in the comments below.

Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 4

Amaranth is another plant that I have been very excited to try; I don’t think I have eaten it before. (Hang on, aren’t I excited about all my plants? Yes, yes I am.)…

Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 4
Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 4

My Amaranth is now at the stage where I really need to start harvesting it. Since it was my first time growing it I wanted to see just how large Amaranth would grow, and the problem is that it’s now growing too big for my buckets. The leaves are now starting to fight each other for space and crowd out the younger emerging leaves.

Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 4
Growing Edible Red Leaf Amaranth in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 4

The leaves are no laughing matter – they are absolutely massive! I didn’t expect them to get this large, honestly. In the above picture I was stretching my fingers out as wide as possible, and you could just see my fingertips. No wonder they are starting to get crowded.

Have you grown Amaranth before? Whats your favourite way to eat it? Let me know in the comments below.

Growing Swiss Chard in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 4

I don’t think I have ever really eaten Swiss Chard before, at least not in my adult life enough to really remember what it tastes like. Tonight’s harvest is going to be great! Its certainly grown enough to give us a gorgeously large harvest.

Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 4
Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 4

The Swiss Chard is now so large that they are overflowing the container! They are just begging me to eat them.. The larger leaves are now fighting for space, and are really crowding out some of the smaller leaves.

As I expected when planting my seeds, I have packed too many plants too close together. The photo above is five Swiss Chard plants into one Ikea Sockerbit bucket. Next time I would definitely plant only three per bucket.

Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 4
Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 4

As you can see, the plants are fighting too much for space; their stems and leaves are pushing so much on their neighbours that they are actually pushing the net cups up and out of their holes. Light wasn’t getting into the bucket, but it is a sign that I should harvest.

You can see the gorgeous stem colors in the above photo – thats one of the beautiful features of the Bright Light variety; its stem colors range from greenish-yellow to purple-red.

Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 4
Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 4

The leaves on the plants I am growing are absolutely massive! I cannot believe their size. In this photo I am spreading out my fingertips as wide as possible, and you can’t even see my fingers! The leaves are bigger than my head! No wonder they are fighting for space.

The size of the leaves shows that its a completely viable crop to grow indoors, which I am so grateful for as Kuwait’s weather really wouldn’t allow these to be grown for the very majority of the year outdoors.

Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 4
Bright Lights Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 4

Since I am growing indoors hydroponically, the leaves are absolutely pristine. No exposure to pests or bugs, and limited exposure to dust. The leaves have incredibly glossy shine, and are impossibly green. I haven’t seen lettuce or any other vegetables sold in stores locally with the green shades that my plants are producing. All the plants I have eaten are amazingly crispy, and what I could only describe as juicy. It’s just phenomenal.

Have you grown Swiss Chard before? What’s your favourite variety, or color stem? Let me know in the comments below!