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Many people have asked whether
'Rob Smith'
actually practises that which he preaches!
The answer is a very definite 'YES'
All these photos taken at Robs home in
The Bay of Plenty - New Zealand

Toms1
Toms2

Tomato variety is
'Taupo' in NFT

Tomatoes in abundance
Grown in NFT
@ 35CF - 6.3Ph

Note concrete floor
Painted with acrylic gloss 'vivid white'

BucketToms
Apple2

Here is a simple and very rewarding hobby method of growing a 'bush' type tomato. You need a strong UV protected bucket - a good media - this one uses 'Hydroton'. A good support structure is required since when fully grown can be very heavy.
Continuously top irrigated with a dripper.

Babaco

My early days of hydroponics saw me growing every plant I could fit in my home garden - here we see a nectarine and apple in media tubs

Apples1

This native of South America - the 'babaco' grows like a weed in hydroponics - a great fruit and grows well in frost free areas

The apple crop got so heavy I had to prop up the branch - I no longer grow these types of plants - I proved to myself it could be done - however many plants including these, grow very well in the soil - I use hydroponic growing when it provides an advantage over growing conventionally in the soil

Lettuce
Basil

Lettuce will grow well in media beds, but I always grow mine in purposemade lettuce gropots in NFT gullies because the underside of the lettuce stays much cleaner and in better condition due to the enhanced air flow

Most people grow the conventional basil - This miniature variety grows extremely well in this lettuce gropot in NFT - The leaves have a very high potency and a plant this size would be sufficient basil to make at least two gallons of tomato and basil soup.

Beans1
Radish

Radish grow very well and stay very clean in my 'Hydroton' filled flood and drain garden.

I really disliked beans when I was a kid and even as an adult I certainly did not go out of my way to put them on my plate - then I discovered 'hydroponic' beans and I can assure you that they are totally different both in texture and flavour 'and' you don't need too many plants to get a good feed. Now I never say 'no'

Beans3
Beans2
Cab2
Cab1

Brassica's just love NFT - I grow mine at 16CF 6.3pH and other than white cabbage butterfly they need absolutely no attention from nursery plant to harvest.
Size can be a problem when they grow to the size of the one my granddaughter is holding - I warn, you may have to source a variety that is manageable when fully grown.

Cuc1
Cuc2

Curcubits are a very popular crop and will grow in almost any system - Above standard type slicing cucumbers are growing in a 'Hydroton' filled 20 litre plastic pail and on the right 'Telegraph' cucumbers are growing in a 6"x 3" NFT gully

Onion1
Onion2

I Grow Onions, Shallots and Spring Onions in 'Hydroton' expanded clay in both flood and drain and top irrigated gardens - both systems work well. I found NFT to be far too much trouble for this type of crop - the same would apply to other root crops.- the trick is to keep new plants going in to maintain a year round supply.

Pot2
Pot1

To grow hydroponic potatoes you can use any design that gives you some depth to the bed - One very good way is to use a rectangular garden base and then to make timber frames that can be stacked on top of each other as the plants grow, to allow the bed to get to several feet deep. Here I am using a 44 gall PVC drum cut in half and top irrigated. Again I am using 'Hydroton' as the media.

Pop3
Pot4

Make sure that the bed is located where it will receive as much light as possible and get a reasonable air flow through the leaf canopy

With care you can harvest very selectively, taking only those tubers that have grown to an acceptable size - the others can be recovered to grow on.

Pot5

I do not suggest that hydroponics is the most cost effective way of growing potatoes - I don't think we will ever compete with the traditional commercial soil grown products. Having said this I can assure you that providing you do not get the plants frosted, you can grow 'new' potatoes year round and as can be seen they look pretty good and believe me their taste is second to none.

Rasp2
Rasp1

Last year I decided to try two new hybrid fruits - Raspberry and Blackberry. To date the Blackberries are nothing to write about but then the plant is relatively young. On the other hand the Raspberries went mad as soon as I put them into my 'Shade house' flood and drain garden - Only problem has been some small caterpillars that were fixed with Neem oil - Prolific, continuous fruiting for three to four months - beautiful 'clean' high flavoured and very sweet fruit. grown at 16CF 6.3 pH

Flower4
Flower2

These geraniums have been in these 'wick' gardens for several years - a good hack back once every few months and new growth shoots out. The reservoir trays are topped up every time my flood and drain gardens are irrigated with any overflow simply returning to the main nutrient holding tank


Flowers in hydroponics not only last longer with the complete and balanced diet 'but' I would contend that the blooms last longer and compared with my previous 'soil' grown plants have colour that at times is just stunning!
 

Floral carpet roses just love hydroponics. These are in a 'paint sealed' concrete barrel and to the right a variegated pelargonium, both top drip irrigated

Flower7
Flower7
Flower7

This is a 6ft x 3ft fibreglass bed which is about 10" deep, It is a flood and drain garden and is planted with a range of rose varieties into roading metal (roading aggregate) I have sunk it right down so that the top is level with the surrounding pavers.

Flower8

Here I have turned 6" x 3" NFT gully on its side - cut slots in the top edge at regular intervals (don't cut the whole top out or you will lose the strength in the gully) The gullies are simply supplied with nutrient at one end and are then allowed to drain back to the tank from the other. they are irrigated for about 6 minutes, three time a day. At the top are Antirrhinums and below tuberous begonias

Flower8

I do not have a large home site and as such decided some years ago to do away with any lawns so that the maximum use of the area for plants could be made - the whole area is floored with bricks, slates or pavers and that allows plenty of places for pots of patio plants. I also have a number of hanging baskets. All these were traditional soil/potting mix filled with water irrigation controlled by a timer. One day I mused that it would be nice to get the same performance out of the soil grown plants as I was getting from the hydroponic gardens. I then discovered the German auto watering system called 'Blumat' valves. The conical terracotta tube is filled with water and then screwed into the top valve section to form an airtight seal. The unit is pushed well down into the media and as the media dries out, by osmosis it pulls the water from inside the cone and in so doing opens the valve to allow water (or in my case nutrient) to flow into the media - as the media gets wetter the liquid flows back into the cone eventually turning off the valve once equilibrium is attained. Now all my pots and baskets are on this 'run to waste' system - if set up properly any nutrient loses are negligeable. The system has allowed me to have the most amazing displays but more importantly the longevity of the plants when properly and regularly fed is truly amazing.

Flower5
Flower3

With modern microtube and pavers it is quite easy to get nutrient supply to almost anywhere and providing you run on a 'to waste' principle then return drains which are always a problem don't even exist.
Here I have marigolds in pots and more begonias in a hanging basket

Flower5
Flower6

This large (600mm - 24" ) basket has Begonias, petunias and lobelia in it - the supply to the Blumat' valve can be seen running down the RH chain

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Hydroponic Developments - 7 Smiths Road - Tauranga - New Zealand - Ph +64 7 5769651

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