Onto the great outdoors and the dinner table.
I have had my Growcraft garden up for about 4 months now, and I can say, without a doubt, it’s been a great experience. This will be my last entry for this little 2-part series, but I have some fun interactive things in store for the Growcraft that I think you guys will really like. But more on that at the end of the article.
What’s Happened Since Last Time
Plant Roll Call: 3 Spinaches, 2 Rosemarys, 4 Cilantros, 1 Thai Basil, 1 Dill, 2 Cucumbers, 2 Cantaloupes, 2 Catnips,
While my crops started slow due to a frigid basement, life has found a way and flourished. Kidding aside, the colder temps (60 °F with lights on and 50 °F with them off) did seem to slow growth, but once spring set in and temps mostly stayed about 70 °F, a lot of growth started happening fast. So fast that my tent overfilled with plants. But thankfully the last frost was just around the corner, and it had been long enough for some of the crops to make their way to their final destination. My stomach!
Besides the addition of more plants, the biggest thing to happen was the removal of one of the Deep Water Culture (DWC) setups – DWC #1. With dozens of plants across multiple gardens, my mornings are usually spent gardening. The crops in DWC #1 starting having issues and that was hurting my main goals, so I needed to take a course of action.
GOAL #1 – My biggest goal with the Growcraft garden was to do a lot, but not to the point where it seemed unachievable to a newcomer. As such, keeping me out of the Growcraft’s garden as much as possible was a priority — a success as I think the cat spends more time in it. *P.S. no need to worry about the cat, she’s too busy trying to eat the plants to look up at the lights and it’s dimmed 90% of the time she’s around it.
Life just wasn’t happening in DWC #1, and besides adding to my limited gardening time, it was taking up usable space. While my thyme put out new roots after its transplant from an Aerogarden, it eventually died and the plant literally decapitated itself. The cilantro in it looked like it was going to die as it kept putting out dying new leaves, so I put it in potting soil just to see. However, it did start turning itself around before being removed from DWC #1. Both rosemary plants in the deep water culture system stayed healthy, but growth was painfully slow. With just the two left, it felt asinine giving them so much container space after removing the thyme and cilantro. The problem with DWC #1 had to be solved in the simplest way possible, however! Thankfully, my secondary goals for this garden made it all very easy.
GOAL #2 – A minor goal with the Growcraft was testing the success of reusing potting soil. Reusing soil has gone strikingly well. I knew it was doable, but I didn’t think it would go this well. I don’t really flush my crops, so there is some chance for the reused soil to have salt buildups. However, for ease and simplicity, I didn’t want to flush that salt out unless I saw a problem, and I only did once. In fact, there were often enough nutrients left in the old potting soil that I could mostly get away with running clean water for the most part. Not having to mix nutes as often is a big-time, work, and money saver, making reused potting soil the beginner-friendly idea I hoped it would be.
GOAL #3 – The other secondary goal that helped me achieve my main goal was one that many gardeners have in mind. That’s getting a head start by starting plants up early indoors when the weather is cold then moving them outside when appropriate. Growing outdoors has always been easier, more cost-effective, and less time-consuming for me, and it’s like that for many gardeners. Especially for those new to the hobby. With both reused soil going splendidly well and with outside gardening on the horizon, I decided to combine the two to solve my DWC #1 problem. I took my newly healthy cilantro, along with the smallest rosemary and my mint, and placed them all in a nice big pot together where they will live outside when ready. I transferred my larger rosemary into DWC #2 with the spinaches before finally placing it in soil for the summer. The spinaches made their way to the dinner table.
Mistakes I Made
I knew with starting up so much at once that I would do something I should have known better about. The net pot white caps with tiny openings for the deep water culture systems were the thing. I’m just shaking my head, thinking about how dumb buying those were. It seems obvious now that they would let light in, obvious they’d prevent some lower stems from escaping. Oh well, this is supposed to be a beginner’s garden. As well, it also shows how even when you’ve been gardening for years, you can still make simple gardening errors. The solution was simple enough, though. My advice is to skip caps for net pots and use clay pellets instead.
I’ve made a few mistakes with the reused soil. Mostly, I’ve run into some over-fertilizing due to underestimating the nutrient amount already present in the soil. Beyond that, once dialed back, all the plants seem to be getting a well-balanced diet.
In non-Growcraft gardening mistakes, as you can see in the picture above, I had a large container of carrots sprouts hanging outside the tent thanks to multiple lovely cold snaps forcing them inside. On the bright side, that gave me a chance to tidy up and reconfigure things, which was needed thanks to my lovely neighbor the squirrel. Though, the cat may have eaten one or two when inside. But with gardening, it’s good to learn fast that you’ll come across many “you’re damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t” situations.
Biggest Takeaways And On To The Future
My Biggest Takeaway – Running this garden alongside a few others seemed daunting, and a lot didn’t go as planned. However, the stress and work were minimal when rolling with the punches. I own much of that thanks to the Growcraft X1. I have had no issues with the light, and all of my plants really seem to grow well under it. I have a lot of different crops at different heights and life stages but haven’t seen a sign of light burn due to too much light or stretching due to a lack.
The X1 handles a 2X4 filled with 12+ small and/or young crops easily.
Last, while I had a lot of success reusing potting soil and found it easier to maintain vs. hydro, hydro appears to be the clear winner on the yield front. Both my hydro spinaches grew larger leaves, and their rooting systems, along with the hydro cilantro, were immense. Not surprising, but exciting to witness nonetheless.
On to the Future – With summer on the way, the plants are finally heading and hopefully staying outside. Besides getting some spicy peppers up in the tent, I don’t really have anything else in mind. So, I’m thinking about opening the tent up to you. Is there something you want to see me grow with the Growcraft? Do you want to see them grown in a certain way? Now, I’m not promising I’ll do every idea, but if something seems pretty doable, I’m up for it. And I won’t be attached to the plants, so if we want to see an experiment where we overfeed one plant and underfeed the other, I’m totally game.
Last, as you can see in the picture above, the next time I will be growing with the Growcraft I will be using the new Growcraft ULTRA. I assure you the improvements are fantastic and the new board looks incredible!