One of the things I missed on the road was having a garden. Not that I’m much of a gardener. The only things I’ve produced with any consistency are cherry tomatoes and insect pests. Still, it’s fun to try.
RV living makes gardening a challenge because most RV parks just don’t have the room and any garden plot would be abandoned at the end of the season. That leaves container gardening and that works, except the soil sometimes attracts insects and carrying the pots into your RV means bringing those bugs in with it, not to mention pots of dirt are heavy.
Science To The Rescue
Today you can have an RV garden that rivals anything that can be produced in the ground or in pots. Once it’s set up, you never have to water it. In fact, you have to keep it from getting rained on which means keeping it in your screen room or under the canopy. You want to do that anyway because it keeps bugs, rabbits, deer and squirrels away from your produce. I have mine set up on a folding table that most campers already carry.
The Kratky Method
Professor B.A. Kratky is a botanist and professor emeritus in Hawaii. The Kratky method of non-circulating hydroponics is changing the entire world of hydroponic gardening. It requires no soil, no watering, no pumps or complicated science. Basically you take any plant, rinse the dirt off the roots, and suspend it in an inexpensive nutrient solution. The only other job is making sure your plants get enough light and, as I mentioned before, The plants take up the nutrient solution and create heads pace for air circulation. You rarely have to add more nutrient solution before the plants mature.
No Complicated Equipment
When you say the word “hydroponics” people will roll their eyes thinking of pumps and plumbing, grow lights and a lot complicated mixing of chemicals. You can forget all that. All you need is a nutrient mix, I use the Masterblend system. a container and something to suspend the plant in the nutrient solution. I use 3 inch net cups, which are around $0.30 each in bulk and clay pellets, but I’ve seen people use slices of a pool noodle or rockwool cubes and those work just great. For the container I’ve used empty coffee creamer jugs, 2 gallon food safe buckets I buy at Lowes for $4.00, even beer and soda cans. The only tools you need are something to drill a hole in the bucket lid and a kitchen scale to weigh the nutrient chemicals.
If you’re at a nice RV park, you don’t want a trashy looking hydroponic garden that junks up your site. I buy plastic containers at Lowes that hold six gallons of nutrient solution and are big enough to accommodate six net pots. They’re around $8.00 and look nice. The containers I use have lids that seal, so I can transport them either in the camper or truck bed without worrying about the solution sloshing out. If you’re worried about spills, put the containers in the shower or sink. The nutrient solution is not going to hurt your tanks or plumbing.
What Can You Grow
Due to the limitations of travel, you’ll be a little limited as to what you can grow. If you’re going to be somewhere for an extended time, like an entire winter season, then you can grow just about anything.
I use my containers mostly for different types of lettuce and salad greens. It takes less than 45 days from planting to harvest size growth. Other garden plants in my hydroponic collection are green pepper, mustard greens, Swiss chard and pok choy. I’ve just started some peas but haven’t transferred them to a bucket.
The absolute best thing about non-circulating hydroponics is that your plants are completely mobile. Move them around outside to suit the terrain and light. Move them inside at night if it gets cold and back outside once the sun warms things up a bit. Put the buckets in the sink or shower while you’re traveling. Our shower has a skylight and the plants could basically live there.
Sure, you could do the same thing with pots full of soil but it’s heavy, messy and, as I mentioned above, dirt attracts bugs.
What Can Go Wrong?
Not much. Since you have to keep your buckets covered, your plants may not get enough light. In that case you might need a supplemental grow light. Mine are outside in a shady backyard and are doing just fine. The other thing to watch is having a dark colored container in direct sunlight. That can heat the water to the point it kills the roots. Here in our 9b growing area, I’ll have to wrap aluminum foil around my containers in the summer. You don’t have to add nutrient media unless it gets very low, then you can add a little more but don’t keep topping it off. The roots need airspace at the top for oxygen exchange.
Along with this are several great videos on how to get started. You’ll be amazed at how simple growing greens can be and how easily portable your hydroponic setup can be on the road. Safely growing in your screen room, you can thumb your nose at bugs, deer and other pests.