Growing vegetables without soil

Growing vegetables without soil

Ever tried growing your own vegetable without soil.. in a snap?
This is the enticing poser of the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB), the country’s national breeding center for all crops (except rice).
Yes, you can grow vegetables without soil.

What is SNAP hydroponics?

The idea of growing plants without soil is no longer new. Many small or big time farmers in Europe and the United states or even in our country are already practicing it.

Hydroponics per see is the science of growing plants without soil while SNAP hydroponics is a low-cost simple system developed primarily for household and vegetable growers. Researchers from IPB said that this technology is suited mainly for urban setting but it can be expanded to commercial scale for high-value and traditionally grown vegetable crops.

SNAP hydroponics versus soil grown vegetables

No soil means no weeds or soil borne pests and diseases. Plants maintain the best and most favourable nutrient and moisture levels in this type of hydroponics system. Healthier, fast-growing and disease-free plants are being produced. The basic idea here is that the root systems stay smaller on hydroponically gronwn plants so the plant can concentrate its growth energy on producing plant mass, rather than roots. This can result in up to 30% faster growth. Likewise, it allows the vegetable grower to save garden space as he’ll have more plants per square foot of the allotted space. Furthermore, hydroponically grown plants never get root bound, so they do not need to be re-potted. The produce has a longer shelf life than soil-grown produce. Hydroponics is clean, so it adapts easily to indoor culture, but may also be used outdoors and in greenhouses.

What are the basic SNAP requirements?

The basic idea behind the SNAP hydroponics is simple and easy to follow. It is basically a begineer-friendly method of farming. It does not need electricity and other hard to acquire equipment or high system maintenance. To be able to set up your very own SNAP hydroponics garden basic requirements include: plenty of sunlight, clean water, snap fertilizer, growing container and a growing area. All these for a simple, low-cost and yet high quality produce.

Starting a SNAP

The process involves seven stages: seeding production, holding cup preparation, seedling plugs production, growing container preparation, nutrient solution preparation, SNAP vegetable maintenance and harvesting.

During seedling production, the seeds are sown in sterilized coconut coir-sand mixture until germinated. It is advised that nutrient solution be used instead of water 3 days after germination and ready for pricking. The seedlings are pricked and placed individually in a holding cup or plug, seven days after the seeds are sown.
Before pricking, the holding cup must first be well-placed. To do so, a one inch hole is needed at the bottom of each cups. Then it is patched from the inside with a garden net. The cup is filled with coir dust with 1-2 cm thick making it ready for the next stage.

During the third stage, seedling plugs are placed in plastic trays and watered with nutrient solution. This is maintained at least one-fourth inch deep for seven days to ensure that the bottom of the cup is always immersed. The roots starts to grow from its netted bottom. If the roots are 2-3 cm the plugs may now be transferred to growing containers.

The fourth stage includes preparing the growing container. This could be any of the following: discarded styropor fruit boxes, wide mouthed jars, water buckets or pail, or any other container that can hold at least three litres of nutrient solution. The pots are then covered securely and dug with six holes which serve as hold of the seedling plugs.

The fifth stage is preparing the nutrient solution. The SNAP fertilizer is mixed with clean tap or rainwater and stored in aplastic drum . A pH of 6.0 required before pouring the solution into the growing container.

The next stage is maintenance . This is done by making sure that the bottom of the plug touches the solution surface until the roots are long enough. The solution is replenished to a maintaining level once or twice a week. It is not advise to add solution a week before harvest.

The last stage is harvesting which depends on the type of vegetables planted.

Source: BAR TODAY April June 2001, Rita Dela Cruz
For more information please contact Dr. Rodel G. Maghirang, Vegetable RDE Network Team Leader, Vegetable Crops Division, Institute of Plant Breeding , College of Agriculture UPLB

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