The following blog is from our Lincoln Park Middle School students Akshaj and Ryan:
Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in liquid with added nutrients but without soil. You can plant over four times the amount of crops in the same area than traditional methods using soil. This can benefit people who live in an urban environment or any situation where land space is limited to enjoy fresh picked fruits and vegetables.
At Lincoln Park Middle School, we experimented with a type of hydroponics in a device called Tower Garden. We experienced many triumphs and failures with our plants. The tower was erected in only one class. Next, the seeds were germinated in the soaked rockwool starter cubes and covered with vermiculite in separate bowls filled with water. After one to three weeks and healthy seedlings, we transferred the plants to the tower garden ready to grow further. Before adding the plants, we tested the pH of the water and added nutrients. If you don’t have the right pH, you can change it with the included bases and acids. In little to no time they grew well. Our tower garden is now full of young plant life. But not all was good, some of our kale died early on due to the pump timer not working correctly and the eggplants didn’t grow at all. Other plant tower owners have had similar difficulties with eggplants. We started out with tomatoes, kale, and eggplants, and then replaced the few dead kale plants and failed eggplants with beets.
For maintenance, we will need to add nutrients every time we top up the water or every other time during summer months. The water needs to be at least half full all the time and as the plants grow larger they will use the water and nutrients faster. Once flowers bloom, hand pollination is needed with a paintbrush as there are no natural ways in the classroom to pollinate. We will also need to buy or build a cage for the plants as they get bigger to support the weight of the vegetables. Other plant tower owners have had their plants break due to inadequate support. We look forward to our first harvest from hydroponics.
In conclusion, this project is great for the STEM classroom. Through this project, students are able to learn about the process behind this technology that could very well power agriculture in the future.
About the Grantee
The Lincoln Park Health Department provides opportunities for people to make the right choices about their health. We accomplish this by partnering with local businesses, schools and organizations.