My Soju Bottle Garden: Hydroponics from Seed to Harvest ?

Soju bottle hydroponics

Chuseok is tomorrow and because it’s a harvest festival, I thought I’d share about my own little planting project for the occasion – my soju bottle garden!

During the initial lockdown phase of the pandemic, we drank a lot of soju. I make different kinds of fruit extracts (청) using Korean preservation methods, so we made a lot of soju cocktails and flavored soju drinks to taste test. It’s delicious! But this is a story for another time.

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of “late-night research” on hydroponics which mostly involve binge-watching YouTube videos when I’m having trouble sleeping. I learned that for a plant to thrive it really only needs four things: sunlight, water, oxygen, and nutrients.

Looking at the crates of empty soju bottles at home, I had the crazy idea that, actually, soju bottles might work for a small passive hydroponic project using the Kratky method.

For me, it was important that this project didn’t have a lot of expenses. I only paid for seeds which were less than a dollar (50 Php) per pack and hydroponic nutrients which were around 10 dollars (500 Php) for 500 ml and goes a long, long way. I think the recommended mix was 2.5 ml per 1 liter of water. Everything else were things I already had at home.

As I’ve learned, soju bottles are not the best vessels for growing plants hydroponically because it’s better to have a wide container to give the roots space to grow. You also need to keep refilling the nutrient solution and pouring the correct amount to avoid damaging the air roots. It’s also better if the containers are opaque because of algae growth. I didn’t bother spray painting or covering the bottles with newspaper because I was already refilling and replacing the nutrient solution often which helped quell the algae.

There was a lot of trial and error (mostly a lot of error). I also used several workarounds such as using dishwashing sponges and foam flooring that I cut into smaller pieces to hold my plants instead of net cups, clay, etc.

In the end, it worked! Obviously if I had used better lighting instead of just setting them by the windows and used better containers, etc., my yield would have been better, but it is a fun project and very visually pleasing. And because I was using the Kratky method, I didn’t need to be very hands-on with the plants after installing the seedlings into the bottles.

See photos of the seed to harvest process below!

Germinating seeds using the paper towel method

Germinating from seeds using the paper towel method.

soju bottle plants

After letting the seedlings grow in sponges on a tray for a bit, I transferred them to soju bottles.

soju bottle hydroponics
Pasta made with home grown spinach

Okay, so spinach shrinks a LOT! But, it was still pretty amazing to eat something that I grew from scratch…from seed in my soju bottle garden.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful Chuseok holiday. May it be filled with family, health, happiness, amazing food, and a bountiful harvest!

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