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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

DIY Mason Jar: Non-Circulating Hydroponics (AKA the Kratky method)

While looking around online for unique ways of growing herbs in the kitchen, I came across a very popular method of growing herbs in mason jars full of soil.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but the idea of dirt and the bugs it brings in the kitchen didn't seem pleasant to me. Although I probably am biased. It seems every time I try growing soil plants indoors, I end up having battles with gnats, white flies, and other various pests that come in from the outdoor garden.

Never one to give up easily, I continued my search. This lead me to what people call the Kratky method of hydroponics. With this method, there is no circulation of the water and no need to introduce oxygen to the water. The entire idea is sort of a "Set it, and forget it!" kind of growing.

That's when I decided to combine these ideas! All of the elegance of a mason jar, with the benefits of not having to grow in soil! PERFECT!! Here's how I did it...


  • Minimum requirements:
    • Wide mouth mason jar
    • 3 inch net pot
    • 1 inch rockwool cube
    • Hydroton clay pellets
    • Spray paint (not pictured)
    • Plastic grocery bag (not pictured)
    • Herb seeds of your choice 
    • Hydroponic nutrients of your choice (not pictured)


  • How to:

1. Start off by washing your mason jar and hydroton. The mason jar can take a trip through the dishwasher, and the hydroton should be rinsed under the tap with a colander
2. Remove the metal lid from your mason jar, but keep the band handy
3. Test fit your net pot so you are sure you have a good fit (the metal band should still screw onto the jar, clamping the net pot in place)
4. Wrap the metal band in the plastic grocery bag and screw it onto the jar
5. Paint the jar with your spray paint. You will need multiple coats! The best way to know when you are done is to remove the lid and look into the jar while holding it up to a light source. If you see light coming through, add more paint! 
6. Unscrew the metal band, remove the plastic bag, and put the band back on
7. Plant your seeds in the rockwool cube and wait for them to sprout
8. Once your seeds have sprouted and you have roots coming out of the bottom of the cube, carefully cut away the plastic around the cube
9. Put your net pot into the top of the jar, and fill it with either filtered or reverse osmosis water until it is about 1/4 an inch above the bottom of the net pot. (This is also when you will want to add your nutrient solution to the water. Be careful to not overfeed your seedling! Too much nitrogen can kill it!)
10. Put a layer of hydroton pellets, 1 pellet deep, at the bottom of your net pot. Put in your rockwool cube (seedling up!), and fill in the sides and top with more hydroton (do not cover your seedling)
11. Seat your net pot back into the jar and screw the metal band on to secure it in place
12. Place your mason jar in a spot where it will get plenty of light
13. Enjoy watching your plant grow! Be sure to check the water level once a week or so as the plant grows so it doesn't dry up. When the water level gets low, fill the jar up about 3/4 of the way full. Do not fill it up all the way to the net pot, because you will drown your plant!

Remember to be creative! Perhaps you could throw a layer of chalkboard paint on the jar. Or maybe you paint the name of the plant using some paint pens.



You could scratch some paint off, or use a piece of painters tape and take it off after painting the jar to give yourself windows into the jar. This gives you an awesome view of your plants roots as they grow, and lets you see the water level more easily. But it can also lead to algae buildup on the roots so be careful.






Here's a chocolate mint plant that's currently doing very well in this setup:



Let me know what you think in the comments section! If you start growing your own mason jar herbs I'd love to see!!













30 comments:

  1. I feel like after reading this I am stuck on steps 5-7 because I do not quite understand the purpose of the plastic bag and where your seedling is sprouting while the plastic bag sits in your container... I really would love to do this project so if you can help me understand I would really appreicate it.

    Thanks so much
    Sara

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The plastic bag is for masking so that you don't glue your lid to the jar and you can get a neat result. Remember, you don't want the paint either inside the jar or on the threads of the neck where the lid would go. It will also leave a neater looking result.

      Delete
  2. This is to protect the cover and the neck from spray paint. Gives you a clean look

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is to protect the cover and the neck from spray paint. Gives you a clean look

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, looks like the plastic bag gets removed after spray-painting, that wasn't in the steps.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I apologize about missing that step! Yes, cadnima and Emily are correct; the plastic bag gets removed after painting the jar. I will update the steps to include this.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am going to try making one of these. I am new to this and was wondering what type of hydroponic nutrient you use?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am a fan of General Hydroponics MaxiGro. It's very easy to use, and the results I get are always fantastic. If you decide to use this nutrient, please be careful as it is very strong! Overfeeding can cause nitrogen burn, which can be lethal to young plants.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Why do you paint the jar? Is it to keep the water clean?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Why do you paint the jar? Is it to keep the water clean?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Painting the jar black keeps light out of the jar, to inhibit algae growth.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Can you please sign me up for your newsletter.
    My email address is.

    jethropaulraymergreen@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. What is that little basket thing called ? I tried googling hydroton & I get reference to the "food" used in hydroponics & not the little basket thing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tony,

      The little baskets are called 'net pots' and they are made of plastic. They are not expensive, and you can find them online. I once saw a video where someone re-purposed yogurt cups - creative! Good luck!

      ASES Teacher

      Delete
  13. Thank you for the reply, I'll check out the local garden supply store

    ReplyDelete
  14. do you change the nutrient water at any point? an What EC/PPM levels do you use considering you are suppose to give half nuts to seedlings and then increase as you go

    ReplyDelete
  15. Can you use coco coir or something other than rockwool? I would love to do this, but have read controversial information about the safety of rockwool...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can use perlite or coco coir or anything you come up with. I have gotten them started and then wrapped in a 1" pool noodle segment. That keeps it water tight outside to protect from rain. Kratky is great! Check out you tube.

      Delete
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