Gardening is rewarding. Maybe this is why gardeners can become a bit crazy. However, this crazy is one that plants seem to understand.
Just when you begin to think gardening techniques have reached their highest level, along comes another new and innovative DIY way to grow healthy, organic plants, herbs, and vegetables within a small space. I am always struck by the creativity of those with both a bright mind and a green thumb, as they are able to take small areas and create intricate systems for growing. From my own experience, the two do not always go hand in hand.
Before we get into this latest method, however, let’s do a quick recap of some of the ways that growing indoors has evolved over the years. These changes aren’t necessarily in chronological order but more my memory of their evolution.
Hydroponics was one of the first steps taken in the direction of earth-less growing. Hydro is Latin for water, and Ponos means labor. The water does the work in these systems. With hydroponics, the roots of your plants are grown in a liquid nutrient solution without the need for an inert medium such as soil. This type of system is useful for small spaces, and it allows for the use of a lot of nutrients. In fact, each nutrient is easier to uptake in a water environment. However, the close proximity of water and electricity can be alarming.
Aeroponics was the next DIY evolution in growing systems. With Aeroponics, the roots of a given plant are suspended in the air and sprayed with a nutrient-rich solution without the soil or standing water. The nutrient absorption rate is higher in aeroponics setups, and it requires less water than hydroponics. However, a broken water sprinkler can destroy the entire system.
Aquaponics was the next exciting grow advancement for the indoor gardener. With this method, your plants grow in an upper chamber while fish grow in an aquarium sitting below.
For the sake of time and space, I’ll give the Reader’s Digest version. A small aquarium motor pumps the water from the fish tank up into the plant chamber through a series of PVC pipes where the plants clean the water and extract the nutrients before returning it to the fish tank in a continuous cycle.
In this classic symbiotic relationship, the fish super-fertilize the plants or vegetables while they, in turn, provide the fish with clean water. In this system, both fish and vegetables can be grown for hobby or consumption. However, the water can exhaust its supply of oxygen if the filters in the tank stop working properly. Furthermore, inaccurate pH levels prevent plants from consuming the nutrient solution and stunt fish growth.
If set up correctly, you can practically grow your own fish sandwich if you know how to bake bread.
What could they possibly think of next?
This latest method of growing organically in a controlled environment is aptly named, fogponics. The name sounds like a 1950s horror flick, “Fogponics…they came from the fog.”
Although this method has been around a few years, there are still many gardeners unfamiliar with this nouveau style of growing indoors. If you are the type that loves gardening and discovering cool new ways to grow, then you’re in for a treat.
Fogponics in a Nutshell
I think of fogponics as a sort of Aeroponics 2.0. The next step in the growing process. With this method, the roots of the plant are suspended in a fog chamber. These roots uptake water and nutrients through a seemingly magical process created by an electric fog maker. Moreover, when properly set up, a fogponic system can produce an appreciable plant size and yield with not much water or nutrient solution.
Before we get too far, it is not my intention to give super specific instructions on how to construct your fog chamber but merely introduce you to the concept of fog and impart a general understanding of what it is and how it works. Particular fogponic specifications may vary with individual needs, including nutrient choice, water selection, and system parameters.
Additionally, there are many fogponic styles and types from which to choose and plenty of specific information about fogponic systems available online. You can even find instructional videos on YouTube to help you construct your own fogponics chamber.
First, you’ll need a few items.
DIY Fogponics - The Basic Items You Will Need
You'll Need a Plastic Crate
It all begins with the fogponic chamber. You’ll need a dark plastic crate with a sturdy lid. If you don’t have or can’t find a dark crate, you can always paint it black. The reasoning behind painting it is you don’t want any light penetrating the crate and affecting the roots. This crate will serve as the growing chamber for your roots. Next, you’ll need to cut out enough circles of the proper size in the lid of the crate to support and hold the net cups for your plants.
For argument’s sake, we’ll cut six holes in this lid and insert six cups with plants in them. An additional hole is required to insert the small electric fogger.
The Magical Fog Maker
You can purchase electric foggers, or mist makers, online. They make a single-node, three-node, and a five-node fogger system to my knowledge.
What they do is, by vibrating at an unimaginable 2 MHz or 2 million times per second, they transform water into 100% humidity or fog. This fog creates water for the roots of your plants, and it also generates a cloud of nutrient mist that your plants will absorb. Each nutrient in this cloud is effectively pulled in through the fog water medium. Unlike traditional watering, fog has the capability of transferring a nutrient concoction directly into the roots with ease. All you have to do is add the nutrients. Pretty cool, huh?
While you can purchase electric foggers made expressly for a fogponic system, they can come with a hefty price tag. Alternatively, you can buy regular foggers with LEDs for a third of that cost. Since these lower-cost models come with LED lights, all you have to do is paint over the lights with some black paint to prevent root light contamination. The paint used for model cars or airplanes works well for this coverup.
These fogponics foggers can quit working suddenly when left on constantly. This occurrence can be hazardous and even life-threatening to some plants if turned off for even half a day. The danger is severe damage to the roots of your plants through dehydration. In this fogponic system, fog means water. Without fog, your plants have no water or nutrients. Without water and nutrients, your plants will die.
I highly recommended that you incorporate an electronic timer into your system that allows you to regulate the amount of time the fogger is on and off. Purchasing this instrument for your system will nearly double the lifespan of the mister and reduce the risk of a fogger malfunction.
This implementation is something to think about if you plan on being gone for a few days, and you are incapable of overseeing your fogponics setup.
As you can see below, the box shown here consumes only about $1 of electricity per month, running 24/7.
When done correctly, you can expect greater yields and less energy usage when you utilize fogponics systems. Moreover, you can enjoy utilizing a small grow system that will make you the envy of traditional growers everywhere…even your hydro friends!
So if you’re looking for something fun, productive, and cool in the gardening world, give fogponics a try. These fog-based systems will improve your plants, their roots, and your growing in general.
When your friends ask where those monster plants came from you can always tell them, “They came from the fog.”