Accidental Hydroponic Success...Now Needs Support

by Penny

I bought 5 long curly willow branches at Costco as a decorative idea in March. I placed them in tap water. My hope was that they would look good for several weeks and maybe have foilage. Now it is June and I have enjoyed watching a mass of roots accumulate and wonderful leaves pop out. Not knowing anything, I made an effort to add water in such a way that it created bubbles. That's it.

I can tell the branches need something more now...some of the thin branches are drying up, and now some of the leaves are getting brown and dropping off...I don't see any new growth coming...Can you recommend the right nutrients or some simple way for me to maintain this arrangement...that is what it really is...a stunning, large, four- five foot branch arrangement that came to life! I am worried it might have run its course? It is sitting in a large glass vase that holds about 1/2 gallon of water. I am living in a loft that gives it great non-direct light during the day only. I think I was lucky! I would appreciate your suggestion, Jason.

Answer: Penny- Very interesting post! Your experiment has grown a mass of roots and (at first) some new leaves- this tells me that your willow cuttings have not "run their course", as you were thinking. The cuttings have become accustomed to the lighting conditions provided; however, the plants are now starving for a little food.

Any regular plant food should do. I recommend something balanced, unless you have more specific information as to their requirements. A fertilizer such as 3-3-2, 8-6-6, or 12-12-12 would all be just fine to use. I suggest using a 50% strength nutrient solution, and change it with plain water every other water change. In addition to the major nutrients, try to add a little liquid seaweed. This will provide secondary nutrients, trace nutrients, as well as much needed plant hormones. Hope this helps you out Penny, and Happy Growing!

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Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 24 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people...

Epic Nutrient Change

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible....and in the last 24 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol)...

Homemade Cloner

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-Sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 24 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! If you can master the technique, I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients...

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This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 24 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

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Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!

The Same System/ 10 Weeks Later!

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