MartyInLA
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Thinking of Growing Hydroponic Corn

I was reading a hydroponics book by Richard Nicholls... he says hydroponic gardening is much more efficient than conventional gardening, provided you want to raise plenty of vegetables. My jaw dropped when I read the part about a million barrels of oil a week being required to make the fertilizer used on conventional soil-grown crops!

After reading much of the book, I was sold... there just happens to be a hydroponics supply store about a mile from my home, and they carry all sorts of nutrient mixes and aggregates, not to mention tubs and fancy water-circulation systems. It seems like everyone who tries hydroponics uses it for growing tomatoes... but I want to use it for growing corn.

At this point, I'm thinking of buying a big tub, a small electric water pump, and maybe a small electric submersible heater, along with an aggregate such as pea gravel or maybe those red clay balls they sell at the hydroponics store... am wondering if it's possible to grow corn in winter, in on my patio, here in Los Angeles? Anyother posters have experience with hydroponics?
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cynthia_h
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Re: Thinking of growing hydroponic corn...

MartyInLA wrote:I was reading a hydroponics book by Richard Nicholls... he says hydroponic gardening is much more efficient than conventional gardening, provided you want to raise plenty of vegetables. My jaw dropped when I read the part about a million barrels of oil a week being required to make the fertilizer used on conventional soil-grown crops!
Does Mr. Nicholls also provide an energy-consumption comparison for hydroponics vs. organic gardening?

Fertilizer I've purchased while gardening organically (approx. 1981-1996 and 2008): 0

Petroleum products/byproducts consumed in growing my veggies: unknown, but limited to the gasoline needed to drive to the (also organic-methods) nursery for starter plants, so ... :?:

Energy/money consumed to build, distribute, store (brick & mortar), take home, and keep "alive" hydroponic equipment: unknown, but in northern California, 1 KWH costs $0.0116 or so for the first X percent of your bill, then it grows in tiers until it can cost $0.30 or more KWH. If you're running a *large* operation, => $$$.

Energy/money consumed to build my raised beds last year: $50 all told, including filling the beds, because I got most of my materials from Freecycle and had generated the compost myself. So => $50

Plus...paying for the space needed to house the hydroponic equipment for *large* amounts of veggies. $$$

Plus...paying for the *lighting* needed to make corn/maize happy, or tomatoes, or... $$$

Why not grow outside, with the bounteous sunlight available in southern California, and become a partner with Mother Nature? :?:

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MartyInLA
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Yes, but I also use a solar panel with a 12 volt system (it already runs my ham radio station), so the whole kilowatt-hour issue goes out the window.

Besides, when they were getting ready to build the 405 only 2 houses away from mine, who knows what toxins may still be lurking in the dirt they used to fill in the lot where my yard is? I've dug up plenty of weird objects back there. :shock:

And... hydroponic corn might taste just as good as other home-grown! :P
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Kisal
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JMO, but I think if hydroponics produced "plenty of vegetables," we wouldn't see fields of veggies growing on all the big commercial operations as we drive around the countryside. [img]https://bestsmileys.com/clueless/4.gif[/img]

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Big agribusiness farms only remain thatway because they make money for the corporations that run them. Hydroponic farming requires much more starting capital, if one is to stick with it and make it pay handsomely.
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rootsy
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MartyInLA wrote:Big agribusiness farms only remain thatway because they make money for the corporations that run them. Hydroponic farming requires much more starting capital, if one is to stick with it and make it pay handsomely.
Some pretty large hydroponic operations in Canada... Plenty of tomatoes and peppers come out of Canada during the winter months...

Problem with growing corn this way is that the plant is very tall and needs a sturdy anchor for the roots (ie soil).

Plus growing only a "few" plants will yield poor pollination since the plants are self and cross pollinating without the use of insects... Also... corn doesn't pollinate well above about 85 F...

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love11
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i think its a good idea to grow corn i would use one of thos tubs that you can have 6 slots for 6 corn stalks. Maby try organic hydro nutes.

fox farms big grow and big bloom work great all organic hydro nutes.

serial_killer
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Corn is going to be hard! The local hydro store, where I frequent at least once a week just to talk and learn and share my knowledge with the very friendly staff, has just finished up their 4th attempt at corn and did the best so far getting an ear about 1 inch long with about 25 individual kernels.

For some reason corn just doesnt want to be grown hydroponically.
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rainbowgardener
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My jaw dropped when I read the part about a million barrels of oil a week being required to make the fertilizer used on conventional soil-grown crops!

I absolutely agree that we need to change our farming practices and that this is unsustainable.

But I also agree with cynthia. Not one ounce of petroleum based fertilizer has ever gone on my garden. It is completely unnecessary if you use organic methods. And it can be done farm scale not just backyard garden scale. My little city lot does not produce nearly enough food for us to be self sustaining (and I'm not willing to sacrifice the trees, flowers etc for it to produce more), so most of our produce comes from a local CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, which is also totally organic (I know because part of the cost of your produce is some work hours on the farm, so we see exactly how they grow everything)

If you are going to do hydro, corn does not seem like the easiest thing to start with, for the reasons mentioned, height, staking, need for a bunch of plants for pollination, etc.
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You could grow corn quite easily and effectivly by using long thin planters you would typically see on a window sill, using a medium called terra, if you used the long thin planters you could plant many pants together you will need to stake them as they will be top heavy, using terra you can hand feed every other day as terra holds neutrients for a couple of days and it takes away the need for running pumps heater etc, it would be good to see you try this than not do it cus every one says you can't, and if you try it this way it would cost very little. good luck.
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tbaleno
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Just thought I'd resurrect this thread for anyone that is looking for some real word experience with hydroponic corn.

I did grow corn in my basement. The only issue I had was mentioned above. Pollination. I only grew 4 stalks. So there wasn't enough to pollinate.

If you go around and look at corn farms you will notice that corn isn't pollinated very well around the edges of the fields. So you would need to plant a fair amount of corn, or when the pollen is forming save it in a bag for when the corn starts growing.

You need pollen for the tassels on the corn. Each tassel represents one kernel of corn. If a tassel on the corn doesn't get pollen it will not produce that kernel and you will have an empty spot on the corn cob.

I did this around may of last year.
I used a 5 gallon bucket with holes in it to allow drainage filled with hydroton put inside another 5 gallon bucket with an air stone in it. The reason for the two buckets was because I wanted a way to drain the waste water to prevent salt build up. But if you had a drain valve or something in the bucket you could probably use that as well to allow you to flush the system.

The plants grew to the point where there was pollen and cob, but alas, not at the same time. That is why you need a bunch of plants. The more plants you have the more likely that you will have female and male flowers at the same time.

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rainbowgardener
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thanks very much for the real-world experience. Very interesting! Did you stake/ support the corn to keep it from getting top heavy? Even growing in the ground corn has been known to fall over sometimes (though indoors wind wouldn't be an issue! :) )
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tbaleno
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Nope, no staking. One thing to look for also is the hight it grows to. I think mine was about 6' or so,

Green_Mike
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try this

I have read many articles on the internet about growing corn Hydroponically, I found most of them by simply typing in growing corn hydroponically. Something I would suggest if you haven't already. Most of them say that corn grows quite well using hydroponics, A system you can try is this:
materials needed:
2 containers used for reservoirs to hold grow solution at least over 20 gallons
5 gallon buckets- one per plant
piping or tubing
water pump
air bubbler
aquarium water heater

Place one reservoir (A) elevated at least 2 feet off the ground, then place the 5 gallon buckets in a straight row(to make it easier)6 or 8 inches apart. connect each bucket to one another roughly 2- 4 inches from the bottom with piping or tubing. connect the last bucket to the second reservoir (B). Then place pump in reservoir B and a tube running from it to reservoir A. the heater and bubbler can go in either reservoir. The water from reservoir A will gravity feed into the buckets, then flow through one another to reservoir B then get pumped back to reservoir A. Add water as needed and never add more solution then what the instructions say. You can use any grow medium(used to hold roots) you like and growing solution ( the liquid). You should stay away from using limestone gravel as this can harm the plant and change the PH. For growing solution, i have made plenty of manure tea for use on my outdoor garden and it does wonders. plus it doesn't cost anything for me to make. Stake the plants by placing a small dowel rod at least 3 feet long in the buckets before adding plants and tie to stalks once they reach over 2 feet, tie it to the rod then go around the stalk and tie it to rod again. leave room for stalks to grow, but not enough to make plants fall over. Also starting seeds in a small container of potting soil the traditional way until they are at least 6 inches tall is definitely recommened, then place in grow buckets.

I have used a system similar to raise several plants such has tomatoes, peppers, cosmos (a flower) and others. Of course i used smaller containers then 5 gallon buckets.

To ensure pollination, since corn relies on the wind, you can set up a fan or hand pollination.

Hope this works, let me know
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tbaleno
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Thats really good info. A few things I disagree with though. I didn't need a heater. I don't think you need one if where you are growing is room temperature. Also, one plant for each 5 gallon bucket seems to be conservative. I had 4 plants in a 5 gallon bucket and didn't have a problem. Also, I didn't have a problem with starting the seeds. I just put each of them in a rockwoll cube and placed them in the bucket just deep enough in hydroton where I could have a layer of hydroton on top. I also didn't have to stake my plants, but the cobs never filled up due to the polination issues I mentioned earlier.

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