We have moved…

kiat thanee mansionand at the same time,  had to dismantle our Hydropronics system…
This is our new environment, a great location, very quiet, nice garden but zero space to install our hydroponics system… After 10 years at the same location and a fantastic balcony where we grew all sorts of vegetable and fruits, from herbs, salads, tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, it was very sad to realise it would not work here for lack of space and sun availability… what a thrill to be able to walk to your balcony, which we called our salad bar and enjoy fresh goodies from our natural soilless garden… We need to rethink how we could rebuild it here but the constraints are tough and it will take time, money and thinking…



progress in 2014…

healthy stems

Healthy Stems

I have finally managed to fine tune the design of my black boxes to get more air in the nutrient and less humidity in the pods, resulting in better seedlings.
The main difference you can see here is that the stem remains very healthy while in the previous crops, it would shrink and the salad would not grow properly. I think I now have the system to maintain the pod out of water and let the seeds push their roots in the box down in the nutrient.

Salads were growing fine but we still need to find a better mix for the nutrient and probably better storage. I think the heat affects the quality of the nutrient.

healthy stems2

Another issue is that I also had lots of precipitation in the solution which ended up clogging my pump or the fine pipes feeding the nutrient. This is still an issue that I need to resolve.

I wish I could visit a proper industrial system and talk to the guys who design them instead of reinventing the wheel…

Various crops…

kinokoTwo weeks ago we tried a mushroom kit, japanese mushroom called Kinoko.
Within one week we had what you see on the picture on the left, and after 10 days  what you see underneath.

And this morning I bravely decided to cook them for breakfast, shallot, garlic, butter, salt and pepper… Absolutely delicious!


our crop on the balcony
tomatoes2014-03-23 09.11.09










Our Salad bar now in full bloom…

beautiful salads readyThe Salad bar.

We are now back in full production with all sorts of salads available for any meal, probably we will have to give some away, it is all growing now very fast.

The rocket is absolutely great, very strong taste and smell. Same goes for the mizuma, both my favorite. A real pleasure any time of the day.





Our first cucumber

Our first cucumber.

Today we had our first cucumber from this crop. Lots of flowers ready to turn into nice cucumber and next to it a plant of Gherkins from Belgian seeds. We also have a tomato plant growing nicely, this year we selected medium size fruits.

More later on…

seed in the new CondoBox now successful

seedboxnice Mizuna…

Now that the main heat has dissipated, it is time to re-launch the gardening project. If you read the previous post you will see that I have modified the design of my latest condobox to avoid direct contact from the seeding pod to the water containing the nutrient. This is now much more successful, in the previous attempts the bottom of the pod was constantly soaking water and the stem of the recently germinated seeds was being damaged.

Next week I will start the main production section with 300 pods in the long gulleys.

I also have a new design of my DFT boxes and will show this in the next post in a few weeks. We are getting ready for feeding on salad grown at home, at every single meal…

new seedlings transferred to the new CondoBoxes

I have regularly noticed that some of my seedlings, despite growing very well, as soon as they are transferred to the main system, deteriorate and die. The stem which had started to grow well suddenly becomes very thin, dark in color and nutrient does not reach the top of the plant and it dies. I have done some research on this topic and found only one reference on a soil growing medium where there were 2 possible explanations:

  1. a fungus developing on weak plants
  2. an excess of humidity

I think the number 2 is going to be my target for testing, before attempting to kill any fungus, I will try to regulate the water a bit better.

Where could the problem be?

My CondoBox

CondoboxI have designed the following box with a level of nutrient that sits in the bottom, and a pump to move it up to the upper part, and an overflow tube where I can regulate the height to maintain a constant level in the upper part. I also have a floating device to indicate the level of nutrient left in the lower part, and a stone generating air in the liquid.

I try to regulate the level of water so that it touches the bottom of the pod with the seed in the permalite, and I come to think that this might be the problem as too much water might be sucked in the permalite. It is not really a problem if the plant is already bigger but it seems to be affecting it when it is in the very young state.

My next experiment will consist of moving the level of the nutrient a notch under the pod so that it does not touch but the plant will hopefully sense the water underneath and grow the roots into it. I will of course maintain some humidity in the top part by either regularly spraying the permalite or also by covering the plant with a translucid cover to keep the moisture trapped inside. I will report on my experiment end of november.

nettoyage de printemps…

NFT cleanupThe NFT

In fact it is more a clean up after monsoon, the heat wave is over, temperature are getting better and salad can grow again…

FIrst we cleaned up the long NFT and the pipes and pumps. The system has not been used for 2 months, it was too hot and the salads were all dying.

Impossible to grow anything with these temperature, at least I should have cooled the nutrient but that is too complex, so wait and see was the decision… So we embarked on a big clean up and realised that the pump was already heavily clogged and needed some attention. Also the nutrient system that runs through the small feeders was starting to block as well and a few lines were only feb half way, so I must find another way to make sure the film of Nutrient will remain constant.

Hydroponics 1  Hydroponics 3Blue box new design

I have also redesigned the system with the blue boxes to make their maintenance much easier.

The previous design was great but prevented me to access the pump area and as a result the small pump would easily clog up. Now, I have removed the inner tank and have separated the pump and the nutrient reserve from the boxes themselves, and this makes the whole thing much easier.

So I have only one pump for 3 boxes, on food and PH level to measure, one pump easy to access to clean regularly and if I want to I can easily clean each box individually.

Hydroponics 2The Nutrient Tank.

You can see here the termination from the return flow of the 3 boxes, and due to a lack of connectors, I have not been able to succesfully linked the boxes together and use only one main pipe as a return flow.

Disaster strikes the Cucumbers…

nasty little beasts sucking up the sap of our plants

Cucumber leaves dying

An invasion from Aphids.

We were too busy for about a week and each night came too late to be able to check our plants. We checked the level of water in the nutrient tank, which in our opinion is the most important part, then mesure the PH and the level of Nutrient and rectify. We also at general aspect of the plant but we have no light spots on the balcony that would allow us to check each plant.

As a result, it is only Saturday morning that we saw the damage done to our plants, and one full Cucumber plant out of 6 was really looking bad. As soon as we could see closer we realised that this was probably an insect so we called in our team of analysts (our daughter) with their sophisticated equipment (her school microscope) and set up to examine the leaves very closely.


Our Scientist at Work!

She proceeded to put a white spot on the glass under the objectif of the microscope, started to tune it up and screamed moving back from the instrument…

It turns out that the attack was so bad that in the next 2 days, it was already too late and the 6 plants were so badly infected that they all died…

The ugly looking thing was wriggling all its legs and it was absolutely horrifying…
Taking my iphone and placing it on top of the microscope, I could capture the following pictures.



ugly wriggly thingo


Moving all legs!

End of Year – Tomato progress


in 3 weeks their size has doubled


We have now cut the tip of the plants to stop their growth and let them focus on producing fruits. Let’s wait to see when we will be able to collect our first tomatoes

Tomato flower

over 30 flowers and counting