Making the decision to practice home hydroponics or indoor gardening will most likely involve some sort of expectation of costs. While it is true that indoor home hydroponic gardening will typically use less water than the same crop grown outdoors, there are still some additional costs to consider. If you are fortunate you will be able to receive some light from the sun via a window, however in many indoor gardening scenarios you may rely entirely on artificial light. Running fans or air pumps is also an additional electrical cost. The water in the hydroponics system will also probably need to be cycled through the system with some sort of electric pump. Finally you will need to feed your plants more than plain water and will therefore need to add some type of hydroponic fertilizer.
What are Typical Costs of an Indoor Home Garden?
There are many factors that will go into determining the costs of a home hydroponics system. Electricity rates can vary widely depending on where a person lives. Fresh water costs also can vary widely depending on location. We will examine a scenario where the gardening is done indoors in the same general area that people are living, hence the term home hydroponics. The home hydro system that we use is a decent size system for home use and can simultaneously grow 33 heads of lettuce while replacements are being grown in the starter unit. This is a family sized configuration for regular salads with dinner for the family. This setup is gone into greater detail in previous posts as the SFT / DFT Build #1 and an eBook with plans, drawings, and parts list is also available Here. In our location with our size indoor home hydroponics system the costs are less than a dollar a day which includes everything from electricity to nutrients and water.
The Costs of Our Fully Indoors All-Season Garden.
Fully indoors in this scenario really means fully indoors and not in a greenhouse for example. If you are fortunate enough to have a sun room or home greenhouse you may use less electricity on supplemental lighting which is great because electricity will most likely be the largest expense. In our home hydro setup we take advantage of the most efficient indoor lighting available. We use induction lighting over the main unit and LED grow lighting over the seedling unit. We have also minimized costs by using General Hydroponics MaxiGro powder nutrient that is perfect for lettuce or salad greens. So here is a rundown of the power consumption of this setup at a low 8.7 p/kwh:
iGrow induction light – 200w , $7.30 a month +
Water pump – 16w , $0.93 a month
Nutrients – $10.40 a month (nutrient change every 2 weeks)
Air pump – 18w , $1.13 a month
GH Rainforest Vortex – 12w , $0.75 a month
LED UFO Grow Light – 90w , $3.29 a month +
What is Food Security Worth to You?
Clearly growing your own salad greens in your own home is not going to happen for free but the price you pay may be worth it when you consider the benefits. There is the benefit of knowing exactly what went into the plants ( we often add additional trace minerals ) as well as what was or rather what was Not sprayed on the plants. If you keep your grow area and plants clean and in good health you should never have to spray anything on your plants and if you do ever have to apply anything you get to decide what gets used. In the end with a little work you have a perpetual garden growing anywhere in your home providing you with healthy salads and leafy greens which is even more enjoyable in the off-season.
We love hydroponics and we love cats, so it is only natural that we would try and combine the two into a hydroponic cat toy. We decided to do a very simple project using the Aerogarden model 3 hydroponic system. Aerogardens are available in several different models and the model 3 is the least expensive and most simple of their products. There is a catnip seed pod kit officially available for Aerogarden but we made use of the “grow anything” Aerogarden kit which allows one to plant any seed they want in an Aerogarden. The last key ingredient was catnip seeds. Combine all of this and we end up with a super awesome hydroponic cat toy!
Why a Hydroponic Cat Toy?
A cat toy made using an Aerogarden 3 makes a lot of sense for several reasons. The unit is lightweight and self-contained meaning that you can place this hydroponic feline toy anywhere you like, even away from windows and in dark locations. Plants that are grown hydroponically do require occasional water and nutrients to be added but other than that the Aerogarden is automated and will turn the lights on and off all on its own. Hydroponically grown plants tend to grow much faster than soil grown plants which is perfect if your cat is constantly chewing on the catnip. If your cat lives entirely indoors they definitely may enjoy having a nice catnip plant on their level. The only thing you may want to consider is whether the cat is a “cord chewer” so the cord may need to be covered but this would apply to any electronics you may have in the home.
Growing the Catnip Hydroponically
The catnip that you start from seed in the unit should sprout in under a week. By two weeks of growing the catnip should be several inches tall. Until the catnip has several branches and is more than several inches tall it may need to be protected from the cats. Once the catnip reaches a good size, usually after 3 weeks the plant will probably be big enough that having cats eat it won’t stop it from continuing to grow. This all depends on how much your cat loves catnip. Once the catnip is about a month old it will probably need the cats to eat it or it will need to be trimmed in order to keep it from getting too large for the Aerogarden model 3 container (it will bump the light). This is perfect because now you can trim the tops and start drying the catnip leaves that can later be sprinkled on cat toys or simply given to the cat.
Other Hydroponic Cat Toy Ideas
The Aerogarden 3 is a great choice for a hydroponic indoor cat garden because of it’s simple configuration and low cost. The other larger Aerogarden models would work even better for growing catnip because they can adjust to accommodate taller plants. If the catnip is allowed to grow taller it will be possible to harvest more seed from the catnip and the catnip flower buds are also popular with the cats. Aerogarden does offer a seed pod kit for the larger Aerogardens but you could also purchase that kit and use it in an Aerogarden 3 , it is just not recommended because catnip can grow quite large. Hopefully this idea can breathe new life into what you are able to do with your Aerogarden and keep the cat happy at the same time.
It was not long ago that I was designing a home hydroponics system that utilized PVC pipe tubes connected to PVC reducers. I thought this design was considered NFT (nutrient film technique) but after a few searches on the web I noticed a few others calling their similar systems DFT or Deep Flow Technique. I went with this terminology when naming the DFT Hydroponics build #1. Because I used PVC reducers in my design there is always standing water inside the tubes, much more than just a “film”. This kept causing me to ask the question, “what should this type of design be called?”
Shallow Flow Technique ( SFT )
Further research into the DFT hydroponics yielded another type of design where the flow was in fact, Deep. Although some of the deep flow technique hydroponic builds I came across only had a few inches of water like my design, there were other designs where the flow was a deep channel more than a foot deep often utilizing a raft system above. It became obvious that different hydroponics system can blend into one another however I believe a specific name yields more intelligent results for future discussions on hydroponics. Enter SFT hydroponics, or shallow flow technique. A SFT hydroponics build would be a system where the nutrient flow is greater than a film but not technically very deep. SFT hydroponics would perfectly describe a system such as the DFT Hydroponics Build #1 we showcased on this site. SFT hydroponics would involve many of the designs that incorporate PVC tubes connected to reducers that cause the water level inside the tubes to be an inch or more deep.
Why Shallow Flow Technique (SFT) ?
Some of the benefits of utilizing a SFT hydro design are that it works very well with PVC plumbing fittings. PVC is easy to work with and widely available. So why not use nutrient film technique (NFT) when growing using PVC? The benefit of SFT hydroponics is that because there is a decent amount of water in the tubes and surrounding the roots at all times there is a certain amount of added safety in the event of a pump or power failure. In a NFT system the roots would run the risk of drying out much faster than if there was a decent sized yet shallow amount of water in the tubes. These reasons make Shallow Flow Technique Hydroponics (SFT) a natural choice for any home or hobby hydroponics DIY enthusiast.
DFT Hydroponics Build #1
One of the earliest DIY hydroponics builds we did on this site was the DFT Hydroponics Build #1. We cataloged the process of design, parts used, and the overall build process complete with scale drawings and many photos and turned it into an inexpensive eBook for anyone interested in building their own. It is precisely this type of system that lends itself perfectly to the newer and more accurate description of Shallow Flow Technique hydroponics. For more information check out the earlier posts on DFT hydroponics category or view this updated post.