I re-seeded the Bionic Hydroponics a few days ago. In the past I had simply rolled something that looked like a joint out of grass seed and cheese cloth, so that the grass seed wouldn’t get washed down the tube. In preparation for the Triennial, I am experimenting with a hydroponic growing medium called “Sure To Grow”. It looks, feels, and acts a lot like pillow batting, except it is “inert, sterile, and pH neutral,” along with some other properties that are important for growing plants.

I bought some cubes of Sure To Grow from the local hydroponic supply store, tore them up in to small bits and pieces, and embedded grass seeds within them. Technically, the system is no longer a true Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) system (as a true NFT system does not rely on an artificial growing medium), but using STG will enable the plant growth in several important ways. First, it gives the roots something to hold on to; in the past the roots grew into a tangled system and held on to each other, the sides of the tubes, and the cheesecloth. Next, the main reason I am interested in using STG, is to make the transportation of the plants a lot easier: I saturated a cube of Sure To Grow in water on Friday at 4:30 pm, and it is still moist.

Plants grown in a true NFT system, with no growing medium being used, are incredibly tricky to transport. Some species can die within 15 minutes or so if their roots dry out because the water isn’t flowing. Grass seed is probably a bit more hardy than that, but regardless; when I took the sculpture to Seattle I had the plants sitting on the passenger seat, with the water pump plugged into an inverter. It looks like the sure to grow will be able to sustain the plants for about two days, which will make building the crate a lot easier.

In order to brush up on crate design, I downloaded the ol’ “Forest Service Wood Crate Design Manual”. When I was working as a preparator at the Yellowstone Art Museum, the curator gave me this design manual on my first day; it was a little bit overwhelming at 134 pages. Since using STG will sustain moisture around the plant roots for around two days, I am moving away from a design that will require electrical power during transportation toward a design that will simply need to be plugged in once it arrives at the museum or other venue.

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