I’ve had my eye on one of these since last year some time. I dropped some heavy hints before Christmas and was a lucky boy. It’s supplied by Greenhouse Sensations, the same folks that supply Vitopod if you’re familiar with that.
The Hydropod is intended to overcome a few issues often experienced by a typical gardener when attempting to propagate by cuttings.
- There is no soil or cuttings compost, so no risk of contamination.
- There is no risk of drying out as the stem is continuously sprayed by a fine mist.
- There is no risk of moisture loss through the leaves as the lid provides a nice humid environment.
The design exploits aeroponics, a concept which first came on the scene in the early 1900s, but was not developed commercially until the 1980s. Fun fact, the first commercially available unit was called the Genesis Machine, named after a gadget in Star Trek II – Wrath of Khan. That was a great movie. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. Totes emosh.
Anyway, where was I? Unlike hydroponics which relies on a liquid nutrient base for rooting instead of soil, in aeroponics just a fine mist is provided. The roots (eventually), stem and crown of the plant are all exposed to the air, meaning that the roots have easy access to the oxygen they need for development. At one time the supplier recommended using some nutrients with the water, but on testing they found it made no difference to the rooting – just water is used now. When I have rooted cuttings ready to pot on, I’ll feed from that point as normal.
The unit is made up of a reservoir tank, a tray of foam disks into which the cuttings are inserted, and a clear lid. The vital bit of kit is the pump and spray unit. The pump is attached to the bottom of the tank with sucker pads and the spray unit fits to the pump. The tank is a decent size, it took two large watering cans to fill it to the maximum level. When the pump is operating, a fine mist is sprayed out which continuously coats the stems of the cuttings.
It does require a continuous supply of electricity but the pump has a low power rating, it doesn’t draw much juice, maybe a penny or two a day to run. The optimium operating temperature is 18-20 deg. It is possible to buy a heater for the tank, basically an aquarium heater, but I haven’t bothered. I have the unit sitting in my heated bench which should provide a bit of warmth. In fact my main worry is it getting too hot over the summer. A bit of shade cloth should help.
The foam disks hold the individual cuttings. They each have a slit on one radius which grips the stem.
Regular readers will be unsurprised to find I have been greedy and gone for a 40-disk unit. As you can see, it is perfectly possible to double up, two per foam disk, thus having up to 80 cuttings rooting away. Judging by the reviews and some chats I’ve had on twitter, the results are pretty good, much more reliable and quicker than the usual methods. That sounds like a challenge right there – perhaps I should be running a trial.
The supplier says that it can be used for all types of cuttings, even hardwood. I’m a bit sceptical about that, but I plan to give it a try later in the year. For right now I am just keen to see whether and how quickly things root in this contraption. At the moment I have the following cuttings in there, just taken in the last few days:
I’m excited to see how this lot do. And remember kids, there’s no such thing as too many plants!
I’ll be back in a few weeks with an update, hopefully roots will be involved…