Hydroponic Mint

I love Mint but boy it can take over very quickly. I have planted mint in a couple of places in the garden and of course the place you want it to grow, it wont as there is either not enough water or it’s just too hot in summer. To solve this we have decided to give hydroponics a go and figure at least the mint will be confined to a container of some description instead of choking out the Asparagus and if it is too hot we can move it.

The 2IC has tried a few different Hydroponic systems over the years with mixed results and as mentioned previously we need things as automated as possible to have a chance of success. After a bit of research, he has decided the Kratky Method is the way to go and you can read more about it HERE or watch some videos about it HERE.

You will need:

  • Mint plant with established root mass
  • bucket with lid
  • small net pot
  • planting medium (we used Perlite)
  • Hydroponic nutrient mix of choice

For our Hydroponic nutrient solution we used Autopot Systems High Performance Complete Plant Food Part A and Part B mixed together as per instructions. As you get into the world of Hydroponics you will find that there are all sorts of additives you can put into your mix to improve your results and that’s where it starts getting complicated. We like to keep it simple and this product is a complete all round, general purpose Hydroponic solution. Autopot Systems also provide Hydroponic systems for home gardeners right up to commercial systems. We have the 8 pot kit and have grown with reasonable success tomato, chillis, cucumbers, strawberries and spinach.

Now back to the mint! We used an old bucket we had in the shed which had previously housed a paint render mix. To help prevent algae a dark bucket is best. You can paint your bucket like we have to block excess light. You need to cut a hole in the lid of your bucket so the pot will sit flush in the lid.

We dug our mint straight out of the garden and gently washed excess dirt from the roots.

Gently pull some of roots through the mesh of the pot. The general idea is that the roots of the mint will grow down into the water in the bucket but there will be an air gap around the pot with the water starting at the bottom of the pot.

Fill your pot with your potting medium. We chose Perlite as it will help keep the root mass moist as well as stable in the pot. Clay balls or grow blocks would work too.

Now you need to prepare your Hydroponic nutrient mix according to your container size and packet instructions. Fill your bucket so that when you place your pot in the lid the bottom of the pot rests just in the water. (It is easier to do this step before you pot your plant if you don’t have a spare pot the same size.)

Using the solution from your bucket, water your potted plant to wet the Perlite.

Assemble your bucket and you are pretty much done. Place your bucket in a shady spot that does get some sun and preferably near the kitchen so you can harvest your Mint easily.

As your plant consumes nutrient you can top your bucket back up. Generally when you have about 10% left top up to no more than 75% of the original nutrient level that you started with. The reason for this is that plants need oxygen around their roots to survive as well and the humidity in your bucket between the water level and lid allows the finer roots to pick up oxygen. Overfilling would more than likely drown the plant, though Mint is pretty bulletproof.

There are lots of varieties of Mint and this technique should work well with all of them. We have also grown lettuce and spinach like this and are thinking about what other plants this would work with.

Once you have your Mint growing, trimming it regularly will encourage new growth quite quickly. So what do you do with all that Mint? The obvious things like Tzatziki, Cocktails (I have a friend who makes a really good Mohito when she remembers to put the sugar in!), marinades and sauces. Growing up Mint Sauce and roast Lamb were a favourite and you can check out my Mum’s recipe HERE. Need some more ideas on how to use mint? Check out this article –http://www.naturallivingideas.com/21-ways-to-use-mint/

Do you have Mint in your garden? What do you use it for?

Herbs, Herbs, Herbs

We use a lot of herbs! I blame my Thermomix. It really is amazing how much flavour you can pack into your cooking with just a few staples in the garden and trust me “fresh” herbs from the supermarket just don’t compare tastewise! You will always find Parsley, Basil, Shallots/Spring Onions (the name seems to depend on where you live), Rosemary, Thyme and Chives in our garden. We also grow our own Ginger, Garlic, Oregano, Mint, Lemongrass and Chillies.

Like most veggies your herbs will need about 6 hours of sunlight a day and a well draining soil with plenty of organic matter dug in to give them a good start. Seedlings are your best bet for good results but many herbs will grow well from seed or cuttings which helps to keep the cost down. Basil and Rocket grow well from seed and will self seed if left to their own devices. If you are really keen you can collect the seed for your next crop. The best way to plant is to put a line of seed raising mix where you want your basil to grow and sow your seeds into that. For small seeds

Bees love Basil

we have found it useful to mix them in an old herb shaker (with big holes) with some sand and gently shake them where we want to plant them. Gently cover them up and water in. Once your seeds sprout you will need to thin them out so they don’t choke each other out. Both Basil and Rocket have the added bonus of attracting bees into the garden.

Rosemary grows extremely well from cuttings. The trick is to take a cutting that is new growth with very little wood. Strip the lower leaves away and dip the stem with honey (antibacterial and acts as a rooting powder). Pot your cuttings in a good quality potting mix and water well. When you see roots coming out the bottom of the pot you need to decide if you are going to plant in the garden or get a bigger pot!

Lemongrass

We have also grown some herbs from supermarket produce. Lemongrass usually still has some root mass on when you buy it. Put it in a glass of water and wait for the roots to develop (usually about a week) then plant in a pot or the garden. If you choose the garden it can take over so keep on eye on it! Ginger that is sprouting can be planted out just below the soil surface and in a shaded spot. It does well in a large pot too. Organic Garlic can be planted out but you need to be aware that some varieties will not do well in Qld and you are better off buying some Garlic bulbs for planting from a reputable supplier (I recommend Green Harvest). Much of the cheaper supermarket Garlic is sprayed with an anti sprouting agent so even if it does sprout it wont grow particularly well so again better to enhance your chances with some bulbs from a reputable supplier.

Shallots/Spring Onions, the name seems to depend on where you live. I’m talking about the long green ones. These grow easily from seed but seedlings will give a faster result. These plants are the gift that keeps on giving too – when you harvest, cut them off at ground level and they will grow back. We love them in salads, soups and pasta dishes. You can also slice and store them in a snap lock bag in the freezer so they are ready to use. Cut chives store well like this too.

I started this post talking about using herbs in cooking so only fair I share a recipe. Click on the link for my Herb and Mustard Marinade for Roasts.

Do you grow your own herbs? How do you use them?