Kratky method

The Kratky system has earned its nomenclature courtesy, Dr. B.A. Kratky, a seasoned horticulturist who introduced non-circulating hydroponics. Read more to learn about this.

kratky systemIf you glance at the above picture and come to the conclusion that this is yet another plant décor session, then think twice. Have you ever come across the term ‘Kratky system’, or was there a passing mention of it in one of your recent gatherings? If not, here’s a chance for you to delve into the ingenious ‘Kratky system’ and maybe try it out as part of a new adventure.

What is the Kratky System?

The Kratky system is a technique that allows you to grow hydroponically without electricity, pumps, or wicks of any kind! This system does not require air pumps or water circulation pumps. It uses standing water and does not inculcate the principle of aeration. To top that, you don’t even have to change the water in the reservoir or add nutrients after the initial setup. As a result, it has been dubbed “Hands-free hydroponics” by several enthusiasts.

How the Kratky System works?

In a traditional hydroponics setup, one would place a netted pot with growing medium in a reservoir of nutrient solution. The net pots are placed such that it doesn’t touch the surface of the solution. An airstone (aquarium bubblers) would then be placed in the reservoir to create bubbles that pop at the surface, hitting the growing media, thus, ensuring that the growing media is wet. Eventually, as the roots grow, they’ll touch the water surface and start growing rapidly.

In the Kratky system, the net pots are placed into the reservoir and the reservoir is filled with a properly conditioned nutrient solution, making sure to cover the bottom third of the netted pot. Why? Your plants will need water when they are young and this technique will ensure that the media will not dry out while the roots are still small.

kratky system
A week after setup of Kratky System

The water levels will keep decreasing as the plant grows, but, the roots of the plants would by then have descended below the growing media and into the reservoir space filled with the nutrient solution.

kratky system
5 weeks from the initial setup.

This amazing technique is a culmination of a marriage between physics, chemistry and botany. When the plant absorbs nutrients, there is an expansion of air space. This expanding air system allows the part of the root system to breathe. This air space develops and descends down into the nutrient solution and it oxygenates the root of the plants. This enclosed space contrary to conventional beliefs provides a humid ambience inundated with nutrients.

Points to remember when trying the Kratky System

Here are a few things to take into consideration to make sure you have a successful setup.

1. Good for Leafy Greens Only- This system is designed to enable a simple, one-time initial setup that does not provide for increased nutrient and water requirements. Thus, this system is excellent for growing leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, etc. Fruiting plants such as tomatoes, melons etc. require large amounts of water that cannot be accounted for.

2. Water Quality- Most plants do not like hard water and water with too many unwanted salts and particulate matter. To start off with, it’s best to use high quality reverse osmosis or filtered water to get the ppm as low as possible and to avoid the concentration of dangerous salts.

3. Pests- Seal the reservoir and make provisions for some air to flow in and out as well. This is to prevent pests such as mosquitoes taking shelter in your still nutrient solution setup.

4. pH levels- Keep a pH pen at hand, to ensure that the pH levels are optimal. In time you will get the hang of preparing your nutrient solutions to perfection.

5. Prevent light into the reservoir- Make a mental note that in the Kratky system, the container should be such that it prevents entry of light otherwise there’s a chance that algae may form and eat up the nutrients meant for your beloved plants.

Go forth then, and create your own Kratky system setup by converting unused plastic containers or arranging IBC tanks in a series. If you have comprehended the principles of the Kratky system, then get creative and come up with your own unique design.

Here’s some quick advice: Start growing lettuce in a tub filled with a nutrient solution by methodically shaping holes out of Styrofoam.

Cheers to the many different forms of gardening!

Happy Gardening'
September 16, 2014

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