I have always enjoyed bringing up the topic of Jethro Tull with others. Their response to my question on whether they knew of Jethro Tull is usually the same: A British Rock Band, which is true.
What they don’t know is the origin of the name:
Jethro Tull was a 17th century British agriculturalist (now called agronomist) who invented the breaking plow and seed drill. His approach fostered in the introduction of horses to use these new pieces of equipment, and he is considered to be the father of the agricultural revolution in England. It was his held belief that by tilling the soil, air (oxygen and nitrogen) was added to it thus facilitating the growth of the plant. This theory was held in contempt for centuries, and yet has recently gained much traction and respect in the agricultural community.
What does this have to do with hydroponics you might say? Well, the addition of air to the liquid fertilizer solution adds an extra kick start to the growth of hydroponic plants. Or, as much as things change, some standards remain and apply across all lines of agronomy.
When we started down this road, my wife’s trepidation about going into hydroponics was always met with laughter by me. I told her that farming is farming. Its basis is in growing a crop. You plant and germinate the seed, nurture it with irrigation and fertilizer, keep weeds, diseases and insects at bay, and if you are lucky (and good at farming), you have a crop to harvest. This was never said in arrogance. Farming is one part science, two parts art, three parts dedication, and four parts luck. Hydroponics take away the issues of too much rainfall or not enough. Greenhouses remove the majority of issues that the environment brings to farming, ie. insects and diseases. What I kept telling Pam was that it should be easier than row crop farming because it minimizes the issues that reduce yield.
What my thought process did not register was that I had to play demi god every day when it came to making sure that the fertilizer addition was correct, that the water’s pH was within bounds, and of course there were always leaks to attend to. In short, farming hydroponics in the greenhouse gave me a renewed appreciation of God, and the everlasting continuum of life. When you are in complete control, you realize your limited empowerment, and are constantly reminded of how truly human you are.
I love the opportunity that this type of farming presents. Yet, I am also well aware that my mistakes can and do have cataclysmic results. One day I was changing the on and off sequences for the pump; I set the starting time at 5am and the shut off time at 6. However, I didn’t put pm, so instead of the system operating for 13 hours a day, it only operated for 1 hour. When I entered the greenhouse on the second day after this change every one of the plants were drooping. I immediately rehydrated the system for one hour and found my error. I tell my friends that every day I enter the greenhouse expecting the worse. This type of farming is much akin to dairy farming, ie. there are no days off, and new problems ongoing.
I thank Jethro for his contribution by playing his offspring’s music in the greenhouse.
I hope the plants appreciate the music as much as I do.