For my first review, I decided to do a new product that I had never used before, the Salad Box. However, after setting it up at my house, I decided to make it a permanent fixture in my kitchen and build a custom enclosure for it as well.
The Salad Box is a passive wick hydroponic system. This means that the only electricity required is for supplemental lighting (if not in direct sunlight). It can be used to grow a variety of leafy greens and herbs, but cannot grow large, flowering plants. It is a simple system perfect for salad lovers, and easy to use.
How It Works:
The primary reservoir is filled first (up to the top of the secondary reservoir's support). Then, the lid/cover is placed on top, with the secondary reservoir, flipped over, fitting perfectly in the remaining space. It's important to note that the secondary reservoir works just like the water jug on a water cooler; it keeps the primary reservoir full and at the same level (only adding water when the level in the primary reservoir is lower than the input nozzle/cap of the secondary.) Rockwool or another inert growing media is used for seeding. Once the seedlings are ready to be transplanted, you wrap the media in the reusable wicks and place them in the net cups. The wicks are longer than most grow media, and sit in the water (your media may or may not touch the water); this allows for even moisture distribution for your plants.
(a list of materials is at the end of this post)
First, I seeded into Grodan 1.5" A-OK Cubes. 2 plugs were seeded with romaine (about 5 seeds each), and 6 plugs were seeded with a mix of red russian kale, cressida, purple kohlrabi, ruby streaks mustard greens, arugula, red pac choi.
Once wrapped in the wick, I placed the plugs in the system.
The system fit perfectly on my kitchen counter, under the cabinets. I mounted 2 18" T5 lights to the underside of the cabinet. This should provide more than enough light for the greens, at a good height.
Now, This worked perfectly for the most part. The only issue I had was that in the morning (upon waking) and at night, the light was quite intense and hurt the eyes. However, the perfect fit and placement of the system in my kitchen made me reluctant to move it. So, I decided to build an enclosure for it to limit some of the light out of the box, and make it a permanent fixture under my cabinet.
I started by lining the wall with some leftover poly-wall I had laying around. This provides an easy to clean surface with added light diffusion (my walls are flat off-white). Then, I built a box around the unit using standard trim. I chose the trim that was wide enough to attach hinges and brackets to, and could easily mount plexiglass to.
I then removed the frame, and painted it white. After cutting the plexiglass to fit, I applied a 2-way mirror finish to it. This provides 2 benefits; it reflects light back into the box (intensifying the lights for the plants), and reduces the light that comes out of the box (saving my eyes before I have coffee). I mounted a fan, out of an old laptop, to the side piece of plexiglass for air circulation. I also mounted a handle and a Mondi Thermo-Hygrometer to the front. I then attached the plexiglass to the frame, and reinstalled the box under the cabinet.
All done! Lights On!
Lights Off! Mirror finish on the outside!
I absolutely love it! I did, however, make a small adjustment to the system. When checking my nutrient solution, I noticed a film on the surface of the water. This isn't a big deal, but wanted to make sure that valuable nutrients were staying in solution, so I added a tiny 40 GPH water pump for water circulation. I placed it on the side of the corner of the primary reservoir to cause a circular current.
Small aerators are often used for circulation in hydroponics, but will not work for this applications because of the secondary reservoir. If air bubbles travel up into the secondary reservoir, it will force the water out of it, flooding the system. So, I chose to go with the water pump.
I've been able to harvest a large bowl of baby greens once a week since the plants reached appropriate size. By choosing to just cut off the largest (yet still small) leaves, I haven't had to re-seed in weeks!
I recommend anyone who loves salad, has a little extra space, and loves to grow things, try this system! This, by far, is the easiest system I've used. It is also one of the least expensive complete systems I've seen, and it comes with sample nutrients that should last for quite a while
List of Materials for Build:
- Salad Box
- Mondi Hygrometer
- Two T5 Growlights
- 40 GPH Water Pump
- Old Laptop Fan
- Two Pieces of Trim
- 2-way Mirror Finish
- Hardware (hinges, brackets, etc.)
I hope you enjoyed reading about this build as much as I did building it.
Keep it Green,