Ryan and I have had a couple of spaced out days – we went to visit the Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank and came home via the National Space Centre in Leicester. Of the two, the Space Centre is more interesting for adults, but both destinations suffer from being a popular choice for school trips.

Our route home was disrupted by the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and we diverted via Milton Keynes. So we stopped in at Ikea there to pick up one of their hydroponic kits, which are not in stock closer to home. We were able to get most of what we needed, but my new Ikea hydroponic kit is missing a vital component. It’s the VÄXER cultivation insert set, a plastic tray that holds the water, and the plastic mesh ‘buckets’ that hold the plants and the pumice growing media. The lady we asked in Ikea said there’s a problem with the supplier, and it’s going to be at least a couple of weeks before they’re back in stock.


We bought two of the VÄXER nursery and sprout box with lid in the meantime. They’re designed to hold little plugs of rockwool, to grow seedlings suspended in a pool of water. When the seedlings are big enough they get transplanted into the mesh buckets and set out under the grow lights. But the nursery boxes fit into the support frame, so they can support my little seedlings under the grow lights until we can get them their bigger buckets to grow into.

Ryan has interrogated the Ikea website thoroughly, and knows that there are 36 VÄXER cultivation inserts in the country; none of them is very close to us. 28 of them are in Exeter, where they clearly have little interest in hydroponics. It’s not a product that can be ordered online, it has to be bought in a store, so we have to wait for it to come back into stock. And we’ll have to keep checking, because the Ikea website has no function to notify you when things are in stock.

Ikea nursery gardens

While we wait, we have sowed an army of seeds in our two nursery boxes. The instructions tell you to fill the tray to the brim with lukewarm water, and soak the rockwool inserts for a few minutes. Then you fish them out, pop each one into a hole in the lid, and sow seeds into each one. To avoid splashing water everywhere, and to sow the seeds in comfort, next time we will soak the inserts, set them up and sow the seeds, and then fill the trays and pop their seedy lids on in situ.

We sowed one nursery box, each of which holds 50 seedlings, with salad plants:

  1. Lettuce: Salad bowl (green)
  2. Mizuna
  3. Pak choi: Tri-coloured Mix F1
  4. Vietnamese watercress: Hong’s
  5. Kale: KX-1
  6. Purslane: Golden
  7. Chop suey greens (shungiku)
  8. Spinach: red veined F1
  9. Wild rocket: Dragon’s tongue
  10. Rocket (arugula)

And the other with herbs:

  1. Basil: cinnamon
  2. Tarragon: Russian
  3. Peppermint: black
  4. Basil: lemon
  5. Stevia
  6. Coriander (cilantro): Confetti
  7. Basil: Red-leaved
  8. Oregano: True Greek
  9. Korean mint
  10. Lime basil: Mrs Burns

Most of the seeds were tiny, and fiddly to sow, and some of them were less than fresh, so we put several seeds in most of the rockwool inserts. While that might sound expensive in terms of seed, I am a bit of a seedaholic and have a gargantuan seed box full of things that I rarely get around to sowing (because there’s no room in the garden for more plants), so we thought we would experiment and give some of them a chance to grow, and see which ones work best.

Soaked basil seeds
Soaked basil seeds

Almost immediately, the basil seeds swelled up and developed a gel coating, so they look like birds eggs in tiny nests. Theoretically I knew that they did this, but if you sow the seeds in soil then you don’t see it.

In fact, in Southeast Asia, it’s common to make basil seed drinks (for which you’d need organic basil seeds, or seeds sold for sprouting, to ensure they’re not coated in nasty chemicals). Seeds are stirred into sweetened water or fruit juice and swell up like frogspawn, and apparently it makes a nice drink. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you’re growing basil it would be worth letting it go to seed so that you can collect some….

First leaves
First leaves

We set the hydroponicum up on Saturday morning. By Sunday morning, the brassica seeds were growing their first root (radicle). By this morning they had sprouted their first leaves… as have the lettuce seeds. There’s also signs of growth from the golden purslane, chop suey greens and Russian tarragon. It’s interesting to watch the early stages of germination, which would normally be hidden under the soil.

Meanwhile, in the AeroGarden Sprout, the basil seeds were the first to germinate (in 4 days), the dill came in second (6 days), and we’re still waiting for the curly parsley….

1st, 2nd and still waiting for 3rd…

(* This post is not sponsored. I have provided links to seeds that you can buy online, in case you can’t get to a garden centre. I may earn a small commission if you click the links and make a purchase.)