There are many hydroponic systems. In this post I will be outlining the Ebb and Flow System. This system entails having a flood table, a pump, a nutrient solution reservoir, tubing and an air stone if you want to add extra O2. How it works is you connect the tubing to the pump that is placed in the reservoir. Then you connect the other end of the tubing to the flood table where the plants sit. Using a timer place the plants in the flood table so that they can receive water. Also you will need a return line to send excess water to the reservoir. You will need to gauge your plants water needs to know how to long to leave on the pump. The air stone is placed in the water to increase the dissolved oxygen in the water. Again the air stone is not 100% needed in this method and I have seen mixed reviews on the need for one using Ebb and Flow. This is the method that I use and I love it because it is very easy to clean and has minimal moving parts. Make sure to use proper sanitation techniques to prevent disease.
When seeding a 10×20 in tray it is important to know how much seed to use. Too much seed can increase disease pressure and also increase waste. Your microgreens will not be able to grow appropriately. This can be a very expensive mistake. Seeding not enough is a waste of space and you will not get the yields you are looking for. So how much do you need to seed then?
I like to think of it by weight. That allows for you to track just how much you are using and also helps when attempting to decide around how much seed you need to purchase. Seed your trays with about 15 to 25 grams of seed evenly across the tray. If you find that this suggestion is too much or too little then reduce or increase in 3-5 gram increments. To give you an idea of how much a gram is, there are rough 453.5 grams in a pound. The amount you seed will vary by seed type. So just experiment until you find a happy medium.
If you have decided to do an indoor grow then getting grow lights should be a number one priority. Obviously plants need light to grow and without light you will not be successful growing microgreens. There several classes of lights.
These are the types of lights we use. Fluorescent lights are cheap and they have a good light spectrum if using the proper bulb. We use daylight spectrum light bulbs in our operation. The bulbs last long which is also good for your wallet. These lights have low heat which is good, but selecting the right bulb is important so that your microgreens are getting what they need.
These have a good light spectrum and they are good for both vegetative and flowering plants. The downside is the lights have a shorter life and also generate a lot of heat. It is important to have fans to cool these lights so they do not generate too much heat in your set up.
LED lights are low heat, very energy efficient and blue/red lights can be combined to get the full light spectrum. The lights themselves are also small so they are great for mounting and set ups with constrained space. The big downside with LED lights is they are expensive. If you are trying to start a side business with this and dont have a ton of extra capital then it may be good to start with another type and graduate into these lights as you get more money.
All three lights listed above are good choices and have their pros and cons. Your nearest hardware store will also have the lights needed and obviously there are also many websites that sell grow lights that you can go to. If you have a hydroponics store they will also have all kinds of grow lights as well.
This will be a fairly brief post. We will be discuss the decision to have either an indoor or an outdoor growing operation. Both have their advantages and disadvantages the grower needs to decide what they need.
At McCormick Growers we have decided to do an indoor growing operation. The main reason is because of the ability to control the climate and grow year round. That is the huge advantage especially for those who live in a place where the winter cools the surroundings markedly. If you decide to do an indoor grow there are some things to consider. First do you have a place to keep your greens in the sun or do you need grow lights. We use grow lights and have a grow tent where we control the climate for our greens. The more controls you choose to have the more money you will spend. If you are serious about growing it is a good investment especially if you want to sell to customers.
An outdoor grow is good because it is lower cost than an indoor provided you already the the land to grow. That is the major advantage of an outdoor grow. If you live in the right climate it also requires less maintenance and the elements can be your ally(sunlight, rain, wind etc). The disadvantage is you can have less control over the environment. It also can restrict your growing season if you are in certain parts of the world.
You can also mix them in some ways by having a greenhouse. The benefit there is you don’t need to necessarily have grow lights because the sun is available. You also have the indoor benefits of all seasons and the climate control options. This is the direction we will go in as we gain capital and space. The best bet is to decide how you would like to do it and execute.
As a part of what we would like to deliver on our site not only access to buy our products but to teach you how to do it yourself. We realize that not everyone has interest in doing so and for those people please order from us :). For those who are interested in growing their own microgreens we would like to be a place to share information on how to do it. Lets get down to business.
When you want to start an operation the first question that is important to consider is how would you like to grow your microgreens. The options lie in weather you would like to do a traditional grow using soil and water or if you are interested in hydroponics or aquaponics. All ways are acceptable but it is worth doing the research. When using a soil based growing operation the nutrients are in the soil and you need to just sow the seeds and water. In the case of microgreens that would be about it since they are going to be ready to harvest pretty quickly.
If you choose hydroponics then you will need to get a growing medium and nutrient solution. The growing medium is what the microgreens grow in and the nutrient solution is mixed with water and delivered to the roots. Hydroponics can be more expensive to start because you generally will need a pump of some kind to efficiently deliver the solution unless you use a wicking type method or you manually deliver the nutrient solution by hand. You will more than likely need grow lights and/or other climate controls. The advantage of hydroponics is that they are more water efficient than soil operations because you deliver to the roots you don’t need to use as much water. McCormick Growers is currently a hydroponic operation because we feel it is more sustainable.
Aquaponics is similar to hydroponics except for the nutrient solution you use the excretions from fish to feed the plants. The plants recycle the water and any excess goes back to the fish and it cleans their water. It is a very cool process and is a way to not only grow greens but fish as well. You of course need to have the fish food and some pumps to get the water to the plant roots but the rest is taken care of. We will graduate to this type of growing once we get more space for our operation. In our next blog post we will discuss indoor vs outdoor growing. Have a great night and happy growing!