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Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing: Grow your own

This week’s Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing takes a look at the HomeGrow on May street, a hydroponic garden supply store. 

THUNDER BAY -- Last year saw a huge increase in the number of gardeners. If you are frustrated with Thunder Bay’s short summers and want to take your growing to the next level, one Thunder Bay store has everything you need to up your game.

Jim and Bobbie Widders started The HomeGrow on May Street in April 2019 as a one-stop-shop for indoor growing. Their specialty is hydroponic equipment for cultivating plants in water instead of soil.

Jim got into hydroponics in the 90s, helping friends who grew marijuana at home. As a mechanic, he loved finding solutions for problems, and eventually perfected a system. He figures he’s made just about every mistake you can make, and learned from them. “I’ve flooded my basement, electrocuted myself, backed into a bulb and burned my back, I know it all,” he says. “When things became legal, I thought, why don’t I use these systems and the knowledge I gained for everyone in Thunder Bay.”

The Widders say hydroponics takes the guesswork out of growing, and eliminates most problems associated with indoor plants. Without soil, there are no pests such as mites and gnats. If you fertilize according to the schedule laid out by the fertilizer, your plants will never be nutrient deficient.

“With hydroponics there’s no over or under-watering,” Jim says. The water is fertilized, circulated and oxygenated, and part of the roots are exposed to air, so the plant’s oxygen and nutrition needs are fully met.

Although The HomeGrow started as a store for people who want to grow marijuana at home, the pandemic-triggered gardening craze brought many more people to the business. “People are growing vegetables indoors,” Bobbie says. “I have someone growing squash indoors right now.”

Jim is confident he can give advice for any budget and setup. “You can start with one pail, with just water in it, for $50.” He sells water pumps, air pumps, fans, air filters and every kind of light you could need. There are meters for measuring fertilizer levels, meters for pH levels, fertilizers and enzymes to help keep your water clean.

For more traditional growers, he stocks soilless potting mix, perlite, worm castings and sheep manure. For those who want to grow in their backyard, the HomeGrow sells a soil test kit, which you can use to send samples to a lab to make sure your soil is safe for growing food.

“People want to grow and they’re on Amazon and the internet and getting all kinds of ideas. We want to help them because we have 25 years of experience. We can help them spend their money right,” Bobbie says.