Hydro Unit
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Sunday, April 20, 2008

I've got........a Plan!

With the recent warm weather and rain, and some plants that have spent the winter growing indoors, I guess it's about time to start working on the balcony again. Last year was my first experiment with this stuff, and it worked fairly well for a first attempt at growing things. I did a few things wrong-ish though, and I wanted to make a few changes to do it a bit better this year.

One of the things I did last year was that I overcrowded the plants a bit - the windowbox planters just had too many vines growing in not enough soil. This year, I'm replacing the windowboxes on the short side of the balcony with 12-inch buckets, which will only have two vines in each of them. The vines that I grew inside on my windowsill this winter did fine with two sharing a 7-1/2" pot, and I had to constantly trim them back, so I'm thinking that two in a 12-incher, and plenty of room to grow, will probably work out pretty well. I'll build another twine trellis for them to climb on, since that worked out pretty well last year. The old windowboxes are moving over to the long side of the balcony, where I'll have more morning glories climbing on the railing, but no twine trellis up above.

Through trades, spare seeds from last year, and new purchases at the hardware store this year, I have even more different varieties of morning glory than I had last year. I'm also trying to keep the pots somewhat organized, so figuring out what goes where took a little bit of planning and shuffling. I think I ended up with a pretty good mix while still maintaining a decent amount of foliage coverage on the end where I'm trying to grow a wall.

The plants for this year:
  • Star of Yelta
  • Candy Pink
  • Cardinal Climber
  • Giant White Moonflower
  • Ivy-Leaved Morning Glory
  • Picotee Blue
  • Picotee Red
  • Cypress Vine
  • Flying Saucers
  • Mt. Fuji Tall
  • Shimmer Light Blue
  • Yohjiro
  • Mt. Fuji Murasaki
  • Pearly Gates
  • ...and one unknown
I've also got some mixed-color convolvulus and a couple of spider plants that will be growing in hanging baskets over the long end of the balcony. I'm sure that keeping the morning glories from trying to climb up the spiders and convolvulus will probably be a challenge, but I'm sure I'll figure something out.

Based on last year's success at generating shade, I think this year will be even better, and I'll end up with my balcony being mostly enclosed by foliage, while still leaving plenty of room for a chair and table. It should be a nice spot to sit and relax.


After "planting" them in mid-January, my tomatoes are starting to ripen now, and I picked my first batch of them last night. Okay, so it isn't exactly the Happy Valley Produce Co-op, but fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes in the middle of April are pretty yummy, regardless. As you can see from the photo, I still have plenty more to come.

So far, the tomato plants have been relatively low-maintenance. They've grown very compactly, and I've had to trim out a few dead leaves that weren't getting enough light, but for the most part, maintenance consists entirely of keeping the reservoir topped up every couple of days and adding a couple of nutrient tablets every other week when the unit starts flashing its lights at me.

Googling around, there seem to be plenty of people who like to disparage the various AeroGarden units. Most of them seem to be the types who are really into the large-scale hydroponic production systems, and/or the people who sell parts and supplies to those large-scale types. the general opinion seems to be that there's no way that anyone could possibly be satisfied with a relatively tiny, countertop-sized unit that requires only a little bit of water, electricity, and minimal input from the user. As the saying goes, "it takes all types." For someone like me, living in a third-floor apartment with limited space, my little AeroGarden unit is just about right.