When it comes to hydroponics, the imagination of the uninitiated person usually draws complex industrial plants with tomatoes. In fact, this method is perfectly scaled to the size of a compact gadget that will fit even on a window – it is called the VegeBox T-Box, and now we will tell about it.
Where did hydroponics go?
For the first time hydroponics in the modern sense, as the cultivation of plants in aqueous solution, described the English philosopher Francis Bacon in his treatise Sylva sylvarum ("Natural history"). The book was published in 1627 and popularized further studies of the technique. The next milestone was the work of William Frederica Gurike, a doctor from Berkeley. In the first half of the 20th century, he grew seven-meter-high tomato bushes in mineral solution, and he also introduced the term “hydroponics”. The word came up with the American biologist William Satchell.
Then and now: the experiments of Frederick Guericke with tomatoes were a sensation at the beginning of the 20th century, and at the beginning of the 21st they turned into an ordinary phenomenon
Further events developed quickly, in the 30s the first successful application of the hydroponic method was accounted for – thanks to Pan American Airlines. On the rocky atoll, Wake had her gas station, and there they set up a small hydroponic farm to grow vegetables for the passengers of the planes. Delivery of the same vegetables would be expensive, and it was impossible to grow them in local soil. Nowadays, hydroponics is used everywhere.
The main and most important feature of hydroponics is that plants get all the nutrients from an aqueous solution. They can be planted in an inert porous substrate like coconut fiber or vermiculite, but water plays a major role. There are active and passive hydroponic systems. In the active nutrient solution is fed to the roots – sprayer, for example. In passive systems, the solution remains relatively static.
A separate problem is the aeration of the roots, because plants can not do without oxygen. In the soil, air is naturally present in the spaces between its particles, and water must be saturated with oxygen. The solution is aerated with pumps and pumps, or they leave a large gap above the water so that the roots themselves receive oxygen (see Kratky Method). According to the last principle, and implemented Vegebox T-Box.
As a rule, active systems are more convenient for large farms that grow many plants at once. So the composition of the solution is regulated in the same container and then goes to a lot of “beds”. Passives are ideal for home installation – easy and convenient.
What is Vegebox?
Our hero, Vegebox T-Box, can be partially classified as gadgets, which are called "smart gardens". They float regularly on crowdfunding platforms. It all started with Click and Grow, which consolidated the characteristic form factor: a water tank plus a backlit stand. Sometimes the bracket is moved to the middle (Veritable), but usually companies repeat the characteristic U-shape. In T-Box, it is just that, only the lamp moves on a hinge, which is not found everywhere.
A “cartridge” or pre-seeded substrate block is the basis of a typical smart garden a la Click and Grow. In this sense, the system vaguely resembles a coffee machine with capsules. The supply of nutrients in the "capsule" is designed to grow these same seeds, and then it must be replaced with a new one. Convenient, but restricts the grower, as does the caps coffee maker. The motivation is the same – the sale of consumables.
In another corner of the ring, there are complex devices, from home boxes to solid hydroponic installations. In addition to light and water, you get additional sensors, pumps, filters, and high energy costs. This is like an expensive coffee machine with a dozen modes of grinding and different modes of making coffee drinks (of which an ordinary person uses a couple).
Vegebox T-Box was somewhere in the middle between the two extremes. The gadget looks like a smart garden, but it works without a harvested substrate: this is real, serious hydroponics. That is, you will have to pour nutrients into the water yourself, and germinate the seeds.
Let's say a secret: in general, Vegebox manufacturers are engaged in integrated gardening and hydroponic systems. T-Box for them, rather, a project for the soul, so it is made conscientiously and competently.
The basic details are the same as those of a smart garden: a 24-watt phytolamp and a water tank. There is no pump, as the system is passive. The tank is covered on top of the "landing plate" – a lid with holes for plants. There are nine seats, but in fact it is better to use eight, and cover the ninth with a plug. Through it is convenient to add nutrient solution.
Included are nine mesh pots or planting baskets in which to germinate sprouted plants. Just like the "big" hydroponics! The substrate for the seeds are special planting sponges. Sponge included 15 pieces, new ones can be purchased separately.
In addition, in the box with hydroponics are power supply, germination container, measuring cup and seed tweezers. To run hydroponics, you need seeds, nutrients, and some magical "chemistry." But first things first.
Work with the T-Box starts with the germination container. A planting sponge is placed in it, and seeds are laid in a sponge with tweezers. The whole structure is filled with water so that the seeds are wet, but not drowned. Soaked seeds should be left to germinate in the shade, in a cool place.
Germination usually takes from one day to several days. Seed germination depends on what you are going to plant. Lettuce and greens like basil and parsley sprout quickly. Hard-shelled seeds, such as strawberries, geraniums and nasturtiums, may require additional treatment: stratification or scarification. The first implies imitation of winter and spring (the seeds are kept on snow or in the refrigerator), the second is mechanical, thermal or chemical damage to the shell. Certainly, the seeds will sprout without it. What really matters is the date the seed is collected. Hydroponics is not magical and will not bring back seed that has expired.
The seeds that have been hired are moved under the T-Box fitolamp for five to seven days. The expected result – the roots of one and a half centimeters in length, protruding from the sponge. It's boring to wait, but the lamp has an automatic mode of operation, and it turns itself on and off. Duration of daylight hours is 14 hours, 10 hours a smart garden "resting." The lamp on time is set when the T-Box is powered on.
When the sprouts are strong, the sponge is divided into separate pieces and each is placed in its own seed basket. Baskets are inserted into the slots on the tank lid, and the tank will have to be filled with nutrient solution.
Nutrient solution: how it works
The basis of the solution is ordinary tap water. According to Vegebox, absolutely any kind of water is suitable – well, plumbing, rainwater and technical, it does not need to be defended and processed. Unless, of course, you decide to grow South American carnivorous plants in hydroponics: they need only distilled water.
Vegebox offers a ready-made “chemistry” line for its hydroponics, but nothing prevents the owner from experimenting with other means – there would be a desire. Another thing is that this is a difficult and complex topic; and the presence of both a ready-made solution and a field for experimentation allows using the T-Box and the corrosive geek and the person who completely forgot school chemistry.
For hydroponics, the most important characteristic of water is hydrogen index, pH, a measure of the activity of hydrogen ions in solution. Recall that pH is a measure of the content of hydrogen ions (H +) and hydroxide ions (OH-). When more than the first, the water is acidic, and if more than the second, then the water is alkaline. The pH scale is from 0 to 14 and is logarithmic. At zero pH, the solution contains ten times more hydrogen ions than hydroxide ions.
Plants can assimilate various nutrients from a solution only at a certain pH. Why? The easiest way to explain is iron. Without iron there is no photosynthesis, so it is vitally important for the plant. In water, iron is present in two forms: soluble bivalent Fe2 + and oxidized trivalent Fe3 +. The first plants are able to absorb, and the second is not. When there are many hydroxide ions in water, bivalent iron reacts with them, becomes trivalent and ceases to be available to the plant. Being a highly reactive element, iron instantly changes from one form to another. So a plant in a high pH solution will suffer from iron deficiency, even if it is iron itself in water.
Some hydroponic enthusiasts are trying to cope with the problem by throwing rusted pieces of iron into the tank. For the reasons listed above, this approach does not work.
Plants deal with the problem of iron deficiency, extracting special organic molecules from the roots – chelating agents. They capture trivalent iron as biological “mites”, and make it digestible. In the same form, iron is often sold as fertilizer. Some types of plants oxidize the surface of the roots. However, they cannot struggle endlessly with the environment, so it is best to provide them with conditions in which it is convenient for them to absorb nutrients.
Availability of elements depending on pH
There is a certain zone of acidity in which almost all the elements needed by the plant are more or less accessible. To lower and raise the pH to target values, acid and alkali are added to the water, respectively. Vegebox has its own, selected types of both for hydroponics, pH Up and pH Down. In theory, you can change the pH of anything, pour at least the electrolyte from the car battery and pour the soda with spoons; in practice, it harms plants and beneficial microorganisms in water. Non-horticultural household substances can affect another important indicator: the conductivity of the solution.
The conductivity of the solution (electrical conductivity, EC) expresses, as it is easy to guess, the ability of a fluid to transmit electricity. The value is measured in siemens per meter, and in the case of hydroponics – in Millimensimens per centimeter. The more ions in the solution, the better its conductivity. Most of the nutrients in hydroponic water will be found precisely in the form of ions. Consequently, electrical conductivity indicates the nutrient content of water.
However, not all nutrients are the same. The same chelating agents mentioned above reduce the conductivity of the solution. Such a solution with a similar conductivity will have a higher concentration and osmotic pressure, and the plant will feel it.
Different plants differ from each other. For each there is a zone with preferred pH and electrical conductivity. Young sprouts can be accidentally burned with a large amount of salt, which is why a complete germinator with a T-Box for them exists, where you need to pour only clean water. Salad prefers water less saturated with electrolytes, and basil easily copes with large amounts of salts. However, different types of plants can coexist in the same hydroponic system if their needs are properly balanced. On average, the EC value should be in the range of 1 to 2.5 milli-names, plus the original electrical conductivity of the water.
The last question is the total mineralization of water and its hardness. These are two different parameters. Anyone who has ever used a kettle has come across stiffness: the scale that forms in it consists of calcium and magnesium salts (CaCO3 and MgCO3). Total mineralization (TDS, total dissolved solids) shows the total content of all dissolved substances in water, including inorganic and organic matter. Thus, the total mineralization includes hardness, but not identical with it (in addition, it is also customary to separate the alkalinity of water. Calcium and magnesium salts are divided into two ions in solution, the metallic part gives rigidity, and carbonate – alkalinity).
The units of measure for hardness and mineralization vary in different countries. The most common American unit is ppm (parts per million) – 1 part of the substance per million parts of water.
The device salimeter is used to measure salinity. In fact, he measures the electrical resistance of the solution (EC) and drives it through a formula sewn into the firmware (which differs from manufacturer to manufacturer), and then gives an approximate particle content in water. How many particles are exactly in the water – they will say only in the laboratory.
It is important to know the content of particles in water, since it must be taken into account when adding nutrients to the solution (harder water, less fertilizer). Water in which too much salt is dissolved (> 150 ppm) is unfavorable for plants; moreover, when hydroponics has mechanical parts or tubes, they become clogged in hard water. Fortunately, T-Box has no moving parts, so there is no problem.
As a rule, alkaline water will be more rigid, acid – soft. But this is not always the case.
In the case of home cultivation of lettuce on the windowsill, it is enough to focus on well-known figures. For hydroponics, it is desirable to have water with a pH of 5.4–7 and a salt content of 1500–2500 ppm. How to achieve such values and not get lost in the calculations?
In the case of Vegebox, everything is already calculated and thought out for the user. As mentioned above, the brand produces ready-made solutions "pH Up" and "pH Down", as well as liquid fertilizers, two separate – A and B.
Vegebox two-component fertilizers are a standard cocktail of nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and calcium. For the first time everything is poured in the following sequence:
– liter of clean water
– 4–5 milliliters of Vegebox A fertilizer
– litere of water
– 400 milliliters of water with 0.2 milliliter of Vegebox pH Down
– 4–5 milliliters of Vegebox B fertilizer.
To pour the desired amount of chemicals, you can use the complete measuring cup or a syringe from the pharmacy. All substances must be dissolved separately, consistently, and well stirred. By the way, you just can not take and pour the concentrates into the solution, otherwise the nutrients will fall out in the form of sediment.
If your water does not deviate to too extreme pH and salt content, then the focus will work without any testers. It turns out suitable for most edible plants nutrient solution.
Filled and planted! What's next?
Further care of the plant is topping up the nutrients in the solution. It is time to top up when the level of the nutrient solution drops 2–3 centimeters below the edge of the planting basket. The formula for the additional nutrient solution will be approximately as follows: 1 liter of water, 3 milliliters of Vegebox A concentrate, 3 milliliters of Vegebox B concentrate and, if necessary, 0.3 milliliters of pH Down.
To make it easier to top up with a new solution, the developers of Vegebox advise to leave the ninth landing nest free. It is enough to put in it a cap, to open and add new liquid.
Through the same nest, if desired, you can take water to measure its pH. The vital activity of plants will naturally force the indicator to “walk”. In principle, there is nothing terrible in this, since changing it back and forth makes it more accessible, then some other nutrients. When “flying in normal mode” for one cycle of growing plants, it will be sufficient to refill the solution once or twice.
The frequency of topping will depend on the plants chosen and the conditions in which they are placed. Mainly temperature is important. The ideal temperature range of the solution itself is 20–25. According to Vegebox representatives, you don’t need to do anything with the temperature of the water itself, it’s enough not to pour boiling water into hydroponics.
In winter, it is necessary to put the Vegebox away from batteries and heaters (which is useful for all plants in general, including those that grow in pots). The hydroponic lamp perfectly replaces natural sunlight and it will be much better to maintain plant life than the dim winter sun.
The growth cycle of a plant in a T-Box from seed to ready-to-use specimen will be 28–45 days, depending on the species. Growth occurs naturally, but faster than in a pot with earth. Shallots, mint, basil, salads, and other spicy and medicinal herbs feel especially good in this type of hydroponics. It is from the green and it is worth starting garden experiments.
According to Vegebox representatives, a bunch of lettuce, similar in size to those sold in supermarkets, can grow in one planting cell in 21-25 days. This is the perfect situation. In practice, the yield mainly depends on the number of seeds in the seat and on the variety.
Tomatoes and strawberries grow in the T-Box too, but they are more difficult to care for. Most of the plants are good because they really want to live and, in principle, bear the burden and deprivation of life with a person. Do you want to start right away with tomatoes – start.
After harvesting and before planting new plants, the tank can be washed with cold water without detergent. The manufacturer advises to do this no more than once every 3-4 months. В растворе не могут завестись ни грибки, ни плесень (в отличие от горшка), так что если не пересаживать в T-Box растения из грунта, установка остается чистой.
Помимо T-Box у бренда есть еще одна примечательная «домашняя ферма»: H-Box. Это крупная установка на 12 посадочных мест, которая работает по тому же принципу, что и T-Box. Отличает H-Box форма — это почти замкнутое пространство, коробка без передней стенки. Фитолампа встроена в крышку и работает в автоматическом режиме, 14 часов света и 10 часов «сна». В одну ферму комфортно помещаются любые овощные культуры, небольшая земляничная поляна или даже арбуз. Соединив несколько ферм H-Box можно получить целый «шкаф» для выращивания домашней зелени. Подробности смотрите в нашем видео:
Вы можете приобрести Vegebox T-Box, а также другие фермы бренда в нашем интернет-магазине. До 31.05.2019 г. на всю продукцию Vegebox действует скидка 15% по промокоду VEGEHABR.