"Uh-oh," Mommy said. "Look at these." Mommy turned the milkweed leaf over to reveal a perfectly ordered arrangement of tiny orange elliptical beads. "What is it, Mommy?" Shiloh wondered. "I don't know, but I know that they do not belong to the monarch butterfly." Mommy turned on her phone and searched for images of milkweed pests. Mommy scrolled through images while Shiloh looked on. "There they are!" they exclaimed. This is what they saw.
Mommy and Shiloh discovered that those eggs were from the Milkweed Leaf Beetle. This bug looks sort of like a giant ladybug, but it doesn't have circle spots. Just as their name indicates, these bugs claim milkweed as their primary food source for their larva. And they are some ugly looking larva. Mommy noticed these beetles hanging out on the milkweed plants a couple of weeks earlier. They were mating. Now they were laying eggs. Can you spot the Milkweed Leaf Beetle in these two pictures?
Unfortunately, we don't have enough milkweed to share with the Milkweed Leaf Beetle larvae if we want to raise Monarch butterflies, so Mommy removed the eggs and fed them to our quail. She left the beetle because it doesn't seem to do any damage to the plant. It's the larvae that greedily eat up many leaves.
Milkweed has many pests that want to eat it. We are watching our milkweed plants carefully. We keep them by the front door, so we can inspect them whenever we come or go from the house. We are guarding our milkweed for the Monarch butterflies. They will come from afar in late summer to lay eggs on the milkweed. We want to make sure there will be leaves available to the newborn caterpillars to eat when they arrive.
Protecting our milkweed plants from pests reminds me of a warning Jesus gave in Matthew 24:42-44: "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (NKJV). Jesus is coming back to this earth very soon. He wants us to watch and wait for Him. But, we must be careful. The devil wants to steal our hearts away from Jesus. Guard your heart with prayer, Bible study, and obedience. When you find the devil planting the greedy eggs of covetousness, pluck them out right away. Our sweet Jesus is worth the wait!
I used to be nervous about trying hydroponics because there were piping, air tubes, pumps, and chemicals. Though I studied engineering in college and had a jack-of-all-trades dad, I have never felt comfortable taking on projects that involved hand tools and equipment that might need maintenance. But living in a townhouse with a gravel yard and an almost completely shaded deck has sent me searching for ways to garden indoors. So I bought a grow light system and a soil-less microgreens growing kit about a year ago, and well, now I'm hooked and ready to at least put my toe into hydroponic territory. Enter Kratky.
So this professor Kratky over in the paradise state of Hawaii developed a passive hydroponic set-up that allows the roots of the plants to follow their nutrient solution down as they soak it up. There is no need for air pumps, tubing, or circulation (Yay!!). The roots adapt to the situation differentiating into air roots (near top) and food/water roots (below). You try to give the plants a big enough solution reservoir to last the growing season. But if that isn't possible, just refill it, but not all the way, so the air roots don't drown.
I started a lettuce mix from seed in coco coir pellets. After a week and a half or two weeks, I transplanted them to their permanent home - a 10 gallon tote with net pots inserted into 2-inch drilled holes. The tote was filled with 7 gallons of nutrient solution using General Hydroponics Maxigrow formula. 7 gallons of water brought the nutrient solution high enough to just go over the bottom of the net cup. It turned out to be more than enough solution to support my plants for their 8 week growing cycle that included 4 weekly harvests starting at week 5 from seed. The tote was placed under my JumpStart grow light system that had 4 T5 bulbs in it. The lights were on 12 hours a day.
Below are pictures documenting the grow cycle.
Since I had my growlights on a timer, this was by far the EASIEST gardening experiment I have done, and it was amazingly productive. I literally just had to keep reminding myself, "Don't do anything to the lettuce," until week 5 when I got to start harvesting the bounty. I forgot to weigh my harvest, but each week I got two large picnic bowls (Dollar Tree) piled high with lettuce 4 weeks straight. Those bowls easily fed me and my husband each 2 meal-size plates of salad a week.
Here is the wonderful weekly Asian-inspired salad I enjoyed.
Have you experimented with the Kratky hydroponic growing method yet? If so, what have you successfully grown?
Hi, I'm Inga, a Seventh-day Adventist homeschooling mom. This is a heritage blog. I am trying to document the memories and knowledge I want to pass down to my children and theirs. Most posts are told in story format, so my children and their children can enjoy reading about our special times together.