Hydroponics is an exciting new trend in home and industrial agriculture. It also has a reputation for being bulky, high-maintenance, and incredibly expensive. The Kratky Method aims to change that.
Since its development, the Kratky Method has taken off as one of the most popular hydroponics systems around. But if you’re just now discovering this unique growing method, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Here are the Kratky Method Hydroponics basics you should know before trying out this system for yourself:
What Is Kratky Method Hydroponics?
The Kratky Method — named after University of Hawaii researcher Bernard Kratky — is a passive hydroponics system popular for its easy setup and minimal upkeep.
What is “passive” hydroponics?
Most hydroponics setups rely on electricity to circulate and aerate the water. Not only do these systems consume a lot of power, but they also require a ton of maintenance and big upfront investment to get started. The Kratky Method is unique because it doesn’t need any of this.
Each Kratky Method Hydroponics system is completely self-contained. Once the system is set up, it doesn’t need to be touched until the plants reach maturity.
How does Kratky Method Hydroponics work?
This hydroponics system features net pots suspended over water. As each plant grows, the water level depletes to create a gap full of moist air. The plant’s roots can utilize this air pocket to increase its oxygen intake. Kratky System Hydroponics is completely soilless. Instead, plants are stabilized with a sterile medium like rock wool.
What grows best with Kratky System Hydroponics?
Not all plant species will thrive in a Kratky Method Hydroponics system — even those that do well in other hydroponics setups. Salad greens, like lettuce and spinach, are an excellent choice for this growing method. Leafy herbs also work quite well.
Many tomato and pepper varieties do surprisingly well when grown using the Kratky Method. Keep in mind that these plants will need larger containers than lettuce and herbs. Use a modified bucket setup instead of regular net pots.
Can I convert my soil plants over to Kratky System Hydroponics? Or Kratky System Hydroponics to soil?
The question of transferring soil-grown plants to hydroponics or vice-versa is often asked by home gardeners, but this practice is extremely common in the commercial plant world! Most plants that end up in hydroponics systems started out in soil.
Once the seedlings are big enough, the roots are washed to remove the soil and the plant is transferred to a hydroponics system. As long as the roots are completely clean, this process yields great results. You can also transfer hydroponics-grown plants into the soil. This process may put the plant into a kind of shock, just like transplanting from a pot to the ground. With time, it will adjust to its new home and flourish once again.
What are the potential uses of Kratky System Hydroponics?
One of the biggest downsides of the Kratky Method is its inability to efficiently scale into larger operations. Very few industrial agriculturists utilize this method. With that said, this system works great for small at-home hydroponics gardens.
Kratky System Hydroponics for the Home Gardener
There are many types of Kratky Method Hydroponics setups available to home gardeners. While some of these setups are sold pre-made, the vast majority are DIYed with household items. Interested in trying out hydroponic gardening yourself? You could have one of these Kratky Method systems up and running in an afternoon:
The Mason Jar/Bucket Method
Converting a mason jar into a Kratky Method Hydroponics system is remarkably easy. All you need are a few simple supplies and a seedling to start the growing process. This setup can be used to grow leafy greens or herbs on a windowsill or kitchen counter. Keep things simple with a single jar or start up multiple plants for an indoor garden. The Bucket Method is essentially a scaled-up version of The Mason Jar Method. This upgraded setup works well for large plants, like tomatoes and peppers, grown outdoors.
- Very easy to DIY
- Takes up very little space
- Minimal risk of disease spreading between plants
- Only accommodates one plant per system
What You’ll Need
- 3-inch net pot OR 8- or 10-inch net pot
- Mason jar OR 5-gallon plastic bucket
- Sterile medium
Setup and Maintenance
- Place a seedling or small plant into the net pot, using a sterile medium like rock wool or coconut fiber to stabilize the roots.
- Fill the mason jar or bucket with water until it touches the plant’s roots — it may submerge part of the net pot at first.
- Add fertilizer to the water according to the manufacturer’s guidelines to create a nutrient solution.
- Monitor the nutrient solution level, adding more water and fertilizer as needed to ensure the plant’s roots are always touching the solution.
The Pallet Method
If you plan to grow several plants at once using the Kratky Method, then setting up multiple individual systems can be a hassle. The Pallet Method is a streamlined option that accommodates many plants in a single system.
- Accommodates many plants at once
- Easy to DIY
- Takes up space
- Disease can quickly spread between plants
- Plants with shorter roots may not get enough nutrient solution
What You’ll Need
- Container with plastic lid (like a large storage tote)
- Net pots
- Sterile medium
Setup and Maintenance
- Measure and cut holes in the plastic lid to hold your net pots — you can cut as many holes as will reasonably fit.
- Place seedlings in net pots, using your chosen sterile medium to support the roots.
- Fill the container with water until every plants’ roots are partially submerged.
- Mix in fertilizer to form a nutrient solution, following the manufacturer’s directions.
- Maintain the nutrient solution level so that every plants’ roots are partially submerged.
Hydroponics Has Never Been Easier
The Kratky Method is ideal for anyone wanting to try out hydroponics to grow everyday vegetables like leafy greens and herbs. If nothing else, this system is a great gateway to more advanced hydroponics setups and techniques. Compared to other hydroponics systems, the Kratky Method really shines in terms of DIY.
The initial setup is easy and affordable, and upkeep is minimal. You never need to worry about a power source (or the associated expense). No hydroponics system is perfect. But for the average home gardener, the Kratky Method comes pretty close.