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.

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.

Seed Germination Temperatures

A bit over a week ago I planted some spinach seeds, and sadly they didn’t germinate. I began a bit of research as to why. Despite my spinach varieties being hardy to warm weather, they still need cooler soil to germinate! The adult growth stage can handle warmer temperatures but the seedlings are too vulnerable still.

I began to wonder what I could grow with my current temperatures. It’ll also be handy to know the minimum temperatures for when the seasons change.

Whilst my plants aren’t being planted in soil, instead hydroponic is usually planted in rock wool or peat moss, the germination temperature should theoretically remain the same.

Optimal °FOptimal °C
Amaranth, Red Leaf68-7520-24
Basil, Purple Petra65–8518-30
Basil, Genovese70 – 9021 – 32
Broccoli45 -85 7-29
Cucumber, Lemon70–9021-32
Kale, Nero Toscana 65–8518-30
Lettuce, Little Gem (Romaine)40-755 – 24
Lettuce, New Red Fire60–7016-21
Lettuce, Red Sails60–7016-21
Lettuce, Red Salad Bowl50-7210-22
Pepper, Cayenne65-9518-35
Pepper, Jalapeño 65-9518-35
Spinach, Matador50–7510-24
Spinach, Lavewa50–7510-24
Spring Onion68-7720-25
Swiss Chard, Bright Lights75–9024-32
Swiss Chard, Lyon50 – 7510 – 24
Taisai, Pak Choy50- 8010 – 27
Tomato, Marmande VR60 – 7015 – 20
Tomato (Cherry), Supersweet 100 FT75 -9021-32
Tomato, Sam Marzano70–9021-32

I measured my Aerogarden water and it’s hitting a maximum of 85°F (30°C)! No wonder my spinach never sprouted, its ideal temperature is 50-75°F (10-24°C). Its just way too hot for them.

I’ll have to wait a while for the weather to get a bit cooler before I can sprout spinach; in the meantime I can try growing some Bright Lights Swiss Chard and Nero Toscana Kale.

Kratky Hydroponic Lavewa and Matador Spinach – Update: Week 1

On the 1st August 2019 I planted several spinach seeds in Jiffy 36mm Peat Pellets. Just after planting I discovered my new grow light arrived faulty, so my plans changed; rather than waste the seeds and peat pellets I started my Aerogarden Bounty; in that batch were three Lavewa Spinach and three Matador Spinach pods.

I also happened to start some San Moranzo Tomatoes. The tomatoes both sprouted three days ago, but so far not a single spinach sprout has emerged!

According to Botanical Interests (the seed supplier) both spinach varieties can take 5-10 day to emerge. So there is still hope. Fingers crossed.

Once replacement grow light arrives I will transplant any seedlings to the Kratky buckets, their final home.

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!

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.