Hydroponic Spinach

Self watering planter sitting on windowsill

Every work day morning I make a green smoothie with spinach, soy milk, bananas, strawberries, chia seeds and flax seeds. For the past few weeks while we’ve been staying in the house to hopefully slow the spread of the Coronavirus I’ve been using blocks of frozen spinach for our smoothies. Since spinach should be pretty easy to grow, in this first post, I wanted to show you the very basics of what you need to get started in hydroponics using something called coco coir in a self watering planter to grow spinach. In a future post, I’ll show you another growing technique that requires a little less investment up front and uses only water.

Coco Coir is a byproduct of coconut production. It’s basically just coconut husks. Here’s the one I bought: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MRVCCXY.

Above it what it looks like. It comes with five or so blocks and should last you a while since you can re-use it after growing your plants. To use coco coir, you just add water to a bucket (I bought these 5 gallon buckets from Amazon but you could use any container you have sitting around: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A1LUFK8), place the brick inside and wait for it to absorb the moisture. Once it does you can break it apart and use it like you would soil.

I also bought some perlite to add some space in the coco coir. This helps with water drainage and keeps the coco coir from compacting after repeated water and drying cycles. This is important as loose soil helps the roots receive some air and also gives them easier access through the soil. Here’s the one I bought: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LZDOLRI. The perlite bag is pretty dusty so it’s a good idea to rince the perlite before you handle it a lot.

This is the self watering planter I bought: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KCTJJ12. I planted the spinach seeds two inches apart with 2 seeds per hole to make sure at least one sprouted. I bought the seeds from Home Depot, but you should be able to get them from Amazon as well.

The coco coir has no nutrients in it like regular soil does, so you’ll need some nutrients to feed your plants. The simplest I found is the General Hydroponics Maxigro. This is a two pack that also comes with Maxibloom in case you want to grow flowering plants like tomatoes or peppers: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01GLV51NC. I used one of the 5 gallon buckets I mentioned above and added 4 gallons of water and 1 teaspoon of Maxigro per gallon of water. This way I don’t have to mix up the nutrient solution each time I need to water the plants. I can just take a little from the 5 gallon bucket and dilute as needed for younger plants.

If you have a window that gets a lot of light, that’s all you need for under $100. Once everything is delivered, hydrate the coco coir (I used about 1/3 nutrient mix at 1 teaspoon per gallon with 2/3 regular water. I’m not sure if this is necessary or helpful to the plants but I decided to try it as an experiment), mix in some of the perlite, plant your seeds according to the seed packet instructions, and water the soil as needed to keep it moist.

Stay tuned, I’ll update date you on how the spinach seeds are doing in a week or so!

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