Though the Kratky method indeed takes most of the work out of growing an herb garden, maintaining an herb garden still remains a lot of work. Herbs are exceptionally delicate, and it is important to fully understand what it takes to grow them and keep them healthy all year round.
The Kratky Method might be proven to be a passive and effective way to grow your herbs without stress, but it does not account for little inconsistencies like temperature rises and falls, nutrient levels and adequate sunlight. This passive method makes sure that watering is the least of your worries; as a gardener, it’s your job to worry about just about everything else.
What is the Kratky Method?
The Kratky method is a next-gen hydroponic technique of cultivating plants that allows you to give your plants most of the water they need once. Watering (or refilling the reservoir) is very minimal after that – if at all – especially when you compare it to standard “pot and soil” growing.
With this method, seedlings are suspended in a mason jar or some container filled with nutrient-rich water. The plants are usually placed in a net cup filled with a suitable growth medium, and as they grow, the roots reach down and consume the water in the jars or container. By the time the water has been completely absorbed, the plants are usually ready for harvest.
This method is named after A.B. Kratky, the genius researcher who first publicized this fascinating method of hydroponics in 2009. Since then, it has been adapted for mass and small scale gardening and farming. This method especially thrives with leafy greens, some vegetables and herbs.
How to Take Care of your Kratky Indoor Herb Garden
1. Make sure you have a great indoor light source
Grow lights are great and all, but nothing quite compares to the real thing. If you have the chance and the resources, you should expose your indoor herb garden to sunshine from a southern window.
Most people think east or western windows will provide consistent sunlight to growing plants, but it is actually southern facing windows. Since the sun travels in a slight southern arc across the sky, it’s only natural that a southern facing window receives the most sunlight throughout the day.
If you don’t have access to a great southern window, you should consider getting a great LED grow light for your plant. They produce more of the sun’s light spectrum, and they last considerably longer than fluorescent and other popular types of grow light. On the other hand, if you don’t want to go full on LED, a T5 lighting setup will do just fine.
A great grow light complimenting a Krakty set placed close to a window should ensure that your plant gets sufficient sunlight all day round.
2. Get the temperature right
When you garden indoors, it is so much easier to control and maintain the temperature appropriate for your herb garden.
In case you didn’t know, most herbs prefer a warmer temperature and thrive more in the 65-70°F range. Basil, for example, will start to lose its color twenty-four hours after a sudden temperature drop.
Certain herbs go through a weird dormant period where they prefer cooler temperatures, but that doesn’t usually last too long. In most cases, a warm 70 degrees plus should do for most herbs.
The old saying, “too much of anything is bad,” holds true when cultivating something as delicate as herbs. When the leaves of herbs are pressed against a window for too long, they eventually burn and wither. This could affect the overall quality and health of the herb, so this is something you should watch out for when you are setting them up against a window.
3. Choose the right amount of water when utilizing the Kratky method
The Kratky method looks and sounds incredibly simple, but there is a lot of chemistry and detail that typically goes unmentioned when most people recommend it. There are specific nutrients (I recommend Fox Farm Grow Big Solution) that need to be added in the right amount to the right quantity of water. Herbs, in general, consume moderate amounts of water and should readily mature in a small jar filled with water.
The words ‘jar’ and ‘water’ are very ambiguous, and unless the quantities are specified, it can be challenging to know what sizes and quantities are just right. What we recommend is using a 1 qt wide-mouth mason jar filled with water. The amount of water needed by different herbs might differ, but it should be uniform for most herbs. We do recommend that you follow the instructions of whatever nutrient solution you decide to go with!
You should also make sure the pH level of your water is appropriate. We recommend buying spring water with a pH of about 6, just be safe. You can use General Hydroponics pH Up and Down kits to help regulate the pH of your water before you mix in the minerals you intend to use.
4. Get the right nutrients
Mixing in the right amount of nutrients is a mandatory part of setting up and taking care of your hydroponics farm.
Accidents could occur, and you might have to mix nutrient water at a moment’s notice, so it’s important to understand the order and the appropriate quantities before you start mixing. Again, follow the directions of whichever nutrient solution you decide to go with.
Does this sound really complicated?
If this seems too complicated or tasking, you should consider getting a complete AeroGarden set or a Click and Grow set. They come ready-made with a built LED light, a container for the water, ready to mix nutrients, and a seed input system. They are perfect for anyone who wants a genuinely passive indoor garden.
Tools Needed for an Indoor Herb Garden
The great thing about indoor herb gardens is that they are small and easy to work with. Of course, you still might not want to get dirt under your fingernails so it is a good idea to buy some tools to help maintain your plants. Although your herb garden is small, it is still a garden and you may have to perform certain messy tasks.
Tools make everything easier from potting to harvesting your herbs. Here is a list of the most popular, and handy tools:
- Fork – A mini fork is useful for digging up plants for transplanting without damaging the roots too much.
- Trowel – A trowel is a small hand spade which is probably the handiest potting tool you can use. It makes it easy to place soil into your pots as well as dig plants out of tubs.
- Secateurs – Small secateurs can be used for pruning jobs if your herbs get too tall and leggy, and also harvesting so you don’t have to use your good scissors.
- Misting sprayer – Air conditioning is very drying and takes all the moisture out of the air that plants need. A mister can be used to spray your herbs every day and keep them healthy.
Here are a few extra tools that you might find convenient:
- PH meter – If you are doing a lot of potting, these meters can tell you if the soil is the right PH to keep your herbs healthy.
- Moisture meter – Most potted herbs die of too much or too little water. These meters are cheap to buy and quickly tell you how moist your soil is just by poking the spike into the dirt.
- Water spikes – These are hollow spikes made of porous terra cotta which you fill with water. The water slowly seeps through them out into the soil and waters your plants. These are good for all pot and tubs, and are especially handy for when you go on vacation.
And a couple you may not think of:
- Pencil – Use a pencil when you are potting to push soil around your plants roots and fill in the air spaces
- Fingers – Your fingers are probably the most sensitive moisture tester you have. Poke a finger into the soil about an inch or so and if the soil feels moist you know you don’t have to water for the next couple of days.
- Watering mat – If you are going on vacation, placing your pots on a watering mat on a tray will keep them watered for a couple of weeks. The mat is made of material that soaks up water and it seeps into the bottom of the pots as your plants use it up.
Indoor gardening, in some ways, is just as complicated as outdoor gardening. It can be just as challenging, but this article aims to simplify the process and teach you how to maintain a healthy garden all year round.