Saturday, October 1, 2011

Oct. 1 ... 1,000% No

Very cute, right? A nice little tray of seedlings popping up in their hydroponic home. Before I get to the part about wanting to poke my eyes out with a bamboo skewer, I'll talk about how the AeroGarden seedling tray worked. At first, I was amazed. Most of my seedlings sprouted within a day or two, instead of the usual three to four days (I took this shot just a few days after planting, not today), and they grew faster than I'd ever seen seedlings grow. Within no time at all, I had a bushy little garden of seedlings going and I was starting to think I was pretty smart.

Then our power went out yesterday and it forced me to transplant all the seedlings into soil today. And that turned out to be a good thing.

As Mark pointed out on the previous blog post, roots that grow in water are not actually the same as roots that grow in soil. They are, in fact, structurally different. Incidentally, this is why it's better to start cuttings in moist soil rather than a vase of pure water. Because when you transplant the cutting into soil, the plant will go into shock.

See, I knew this when I decided to start in water, but I thought it couldn't be that bad, right? I mean, how bad can the shock be?

It turns out pretty bad. Bad enough that I can't bear to even post a picture of the results. I've got trays right now of droopy, sad seedlings. I'm pretty sure the greens won't make it, but I've got my fingers crossed and hoping the tomatoes and peppers will. I staked up the little buddies and buried them deep, hoping their stems will sprout new roots. Now it's just a waiting game.

Will I try this again? One thousand percent no. The only way I'll start in water again is if I plan to grow the tomatoes in water their whole lives. And I'll never use the AeroGarden for seedlings again. They grow too close together and their roots get all tangled, so when it's time to move them, you have to rip off most of the roots. I'm sorry to harsh on AeroGarden like this ... it's a nifty product if you want to grow some herbs on your desktop ... but it's ill suited for serious seedling production.

Anyway, I'm sticking from now on with my traditional seedling method: fiber pots; a seedling mix of composted peat, perlite and worm castings; and regular fluorescent lights. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

As for the season itself, I think we're getting underway. The temps are supposed to drop tomorrow, so it should start feeling like fall. I'd say it's time to plant tomatoes outside any time—my trays of seedlings are already outside, in dappled sunlight.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear Jon. Power loss is the main reason I moved away from hydroponics but now a friend of mine got me looking at aquaponics again.

    Will these go in traditional containers or an Earthbox? EB is closer to hydroponics than to traditional gardening. I've been thinking about starting tomato transplants really low, only a few inches above the reservoir, and building soil up as they grow. This way they'd have a hydroponic start and be able to build a large root mass along the stem.