Hydroponic Basil: Day 1 – Time to Try Again

So my previous attempt at hydroponic herbs (and my first attempt at growing hydroponic anything) was not far off a pretty big failure. By the end, I had severe algae growth, the herbs hadn’t been able to properly photosynthesise or take in oxygen, and my reservoir was largely unregulated. It’s time to do better. I’ll be taking on basil, a plant which I’ve seen good evidence to suggest can go very right indeed in a hydroponic setup, so I’ve got something to aim at!

The last of the previous dill, ready for eating

The last of the previous dill, ready for eating

I intend to keep much better logs of what I’m doing and ask the good people of the internet (I’m looking at you, /r/hydro) for as much help and advice as I can get out of them along the way. Without further ado, let’s begin.

I’m growing from seed; I received a bag of Sweet Genovese basil seeds, so the first step is to get them germinated. I’m using small (roughly 1x1x2 inch) Rockwool cubes as the growth medium, and submerged them for a few hours in a warm solution of Formulex nutrients (in a ratio of 25ml Formulex to 5l water) before starting.

The Rockwool cubes soaking in some nutrient solution

The Rockwool cubes soaking in some nutrient solution

From there, I used a small screw to open up the holes in the top of the cubes a little (since they tend to close up in both packaging and the soaking and handling), and sprinkled a couple (3 to 5) seeds into each hole. As for the conditions I’ll be looking to raise the seeds in:

  • Container I’m using a pretty standard plastic unheated propagator with a clear lid.
  • Light I’ll be doing my best to keep the propagator covered with a light cloth of some form which will block out the majority of the light (hopefully it’ll also regulate the temperature a little too).
  • Temperature The Weekend Gardener recommends a germination temperature of around 21C (70F) for basil, so in the absence of proper thermostatic control I’ll be regularly measuring the temperature in the propagator and attempting to keep it in the correct area of my wildly temperature-varying flat.
The cubes after sowing, reading to be covered

The cubes after sowing, reading to be covered

I’ll be keeping the cubes moist with a spray of the same concentration of Formulex solution now and again. Hopefully this’ll make for pretty good growing conditions! I’ll check in again in a little while to update on how they’re going – the next step of things will be when we start to get some small leaves.


11 thoughts on “Hydroponic Basil: Day 1 – Time to Try Again

  1. Pingback: Hydroponic Basil: Day 10 – Seedlings Appearing | Dev. Grow. Make.
  2. Hello,

    about your previous project, how often were you changing the water under the plants? I mean completely not just by adding the missing part of water.


      • I’ve never measured the water ‘straight’ as it were, but I recently took a pH measurement of the water/nutrient mixture I’m using to water the seedlings, and that read a slightly acidic 6.2. What’s TDS?

      • Do you know which types of LED you have in that lamp? Describe the color spectrum if possible.
        Usually these plants are growing higher when looking for light source but if this is the case, why do you have also shorter plants? Where are these smaller plants located? Is there any sunlight on these (when placed near to the window) or only the LED light?
        However, my experience is that if the plant is still standing and won’t lie down after the first leaves, there won’t be any problems.

      • Not sure of the exact frequency spectra, visibly they’re a 50/50 mix of red and blue. I have a few shorter plants that to my eye appear healthier, but many have grown taller. They’re pretty randomly distributed around the propagator, no obvious lack / focus of light since they only receive the artificial source.

        I’ve attempted to make sure they get the most of the grow lights by lining their surroundings with foil to reflect as much as possible back onto them.
        I’m thinking the lack of proper growth from the start might be that they’re being underwatered – I do so quite frequently but their rock wool cubes are often feeling a bit dry to the touch when I come back.

      • TDS stands for total dissolved solids, with the help of that you could check the mineral content of the water

      • Aha, I see. Is either acidity or TDS a useful indicator of whether or not I have the correct level of added nutrients present? I find myself worrying about the amount I add being too little / much!

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