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Natural Perspectives: Setting up a hydroponics system

May 20, 2010|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray

This weekend Vic and I visited a new kind of gardening store in Huntington Beach, Surf City Hydroponics, on the northeast corner of Warner Avenue and Gothard Street. I don't think I've ever been so lost in a store dedicated to growing plants, or so amazed at how big plants can grow in so short a time.

Hydroponic gardening is growing plants without soil. The plants are rooted in a grow medium such as rockwool and flushed periodically with recirculating, nutrient-filled water.

Florescent lights provide the sunlight substitute that the plants need to thrive. And because the lights can be left on around the clock, the plants really take off.

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Store owners Dave and Laurie Churchill are only too happy to show customers how they can set up a hydroponics system at home. They can walk you through the many choices of systems, depending on what it is that you want to grow.

Choices range from a simple and inexpensive setup like Emily's Kitchen, which will allow you to grow herbs and salad greens on the kitchen counter, to mini-rooms with reflectors, high-intensity lamps and cooling fans that can be set up in the garage. You can choose a system that will give you an early start on homegrown pepper or tomato seedlings, or pick one that will let you grow greens year-round. The choice is yours.

The lighting systems they offer will provide the plants with the energy input that they need to photosynthesize. That's the conversion of carbon dioxide to sugars, starches and cellulose. Giving the plants light around the clock gives them a jump-start in life. But plants need a period of darkness to flower properly. Timers can adjust the light cycle if you're growing the plants indoors to the flower stage.

The options of nutrient solutions and organic pest controls that they offered for sale at Surf City Hydroponics were staggering. You really need to visit the store to see all that is available. You'll be amazed at the array of trays, tubes, timers and pumps. You can get a preview by visiting www.surfcityhydroponics.com. The Churchills plan to offer classes soon to help customers learn more about this different way of gardening.

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