Eventually we intend to enclose the area in a material like Solexx to create a hot house for tomatoes. For now, it'll be the test bed for me to try out various hydroponic setups. First up, a very basic system consisting of components which should be easy to find locally in most communities.
Simply a rubber tub, 1/4" aquarium air line, a few zip ties and net pots. Optimally the tub used will be durable enough to last for many years, don't need them ending up in a landfill after one season of use... I used 2" net pots, spaced 1" apart, with this particular container that allowed for 15 pots. Growing mediums are another subject entirely, but I'll say I've had my best results with rockwool thus far. In the front of this photo you see the lines I marked as level indicators in 5 liter increments. The aquarium line in this case is acting as a water level indicator—gotta love siphons!
The air line comes in through a hole conveniently leftover from the casting of the tub. With many tubs you'll need to drill your own hole and probably seal it with silicone or something similar.
Transplanted rosemary. First time I've attempted a transplant, so we'll see how this goes. Two weeks later, it still appears to be thriving!
Here you can see the aerator line—the black line under water near the back. It is very flexible and 4' long, wrapping around the bottom of the tub in a coil.
Distribution manifold: I/M quick disconnect to 1/4" brass nipples, T's, etc. to allow multiple valves to provide outputs of various pressure. Not all aerator lines are created equal, so this allows me to closely match those which flow at a similar rate. Going to have to investigate flow consistency of aerator rocks vs. rubber line.
And here's the heart of the system! 120PSI compressor with an 8 gallon tank. I'll have to take some new shots, I've now got an extra 5 gallon tank added to the system to allow me to disconnect the compressor if I need to use it for any of its previous duties. With the system running at 100PSI, each tub uses less than a gallon of air an hour. At some point I intend to get all geeky and take some precise measurements. For now, ballparks will have to suffice.
Moved the basil, spinach and peppers inside before they get used to living outdoors. Gotta do some product testing for Greener Life Products' LED growing lights, anyways!
Front row spinach, middle and back are basil, save for a couple on the right which are chili peppers.
90 Watt LED "UFO" light, only red and blue light (hence the purple hue) so energy isn't wasted on green which just gets reflected by green plants!
Next step, make some lights which include switched green LEDs for two purposes. First, so the fixture can produce a "normal" white color for use in kitchens, living rooms, etc., where the purple hues may be undesirable while the room is occupied! And on the more technical end, it could also be useful when force flowering plants but you still need to see, although I'll have to look into that a bit more in depth...
Casting some "natural" light on the subject (camera flash is daylight balanced, does that count as natural?) The light is suspended from the ceiling by nylon rope so I can easily adjust the height. Quick and inexpensive! Note the black walls...my photo studio is being invaded and re-purposed once again!
2006-10-04 - Pardon the clutter in the corner, this room serves many purposes—including overflow storage. It is also my photo studio for light painting, hence the black walls and covered windows for light control. The blue hose is the air line coming in from the window, going to the distribution manifold (look for detailed pictures earlier in this album). This goes out to the compressor and extra tank. After coming in the window, it first heads up to the ceiling and back down. I'm actually looping everything over the wire rope lines I, conveniently, already had run across the ceiling for hanging backdrops—remember, this is (was?) my photo studio.
2009-10-06 - Moved everything to a smaller tub which uses half the water. The tub is painted black, as you can see from the one on top, it was translucent. Conveniently enough, having an extra tub creates a nice little mini-greenhouse.
2009-10-07 - Got the room cleaned up today, so it is no longer overflow storage, just simply an indoor green house! Got some parts on the way to let me hook together more of the wire shelving that I've got. I have 4 two foot fluorescent fixtures to put to use, so I'll get a third Deep Water Culture grower setup with that. Unfortunately, I'll have to get more lights before I expand any further! I intend to use more LED fixtures to create a unique custom vertical ebb & flow system...I'll have to get something sketched up to show my plans! The project involves pumping from the reservoir to a top flood tray, then using a siphon to drain into the next tray down, and so on until draining back into the reservoir. Just gotta see what I can do to improve system density—going up!
2009-10-09 - Progress of the spinach and basil is moving along decently now that I've got the pH under control. Definitely a key factor! The growth rate is now enough to tell distinct differences throughout the day, quite the treat for someone as detail oriented as I am. I've now got some Bibb lettuce seeds in the row on the right. I really should get the tripod setup and get some decent shots...
2009-10-17 - Everything is really starting to take off now! Unfortunately, during a week long vacation, the reservoirs got quite...nasty. The rockwool had a nice layer of what I assume to be green algae on it. I'll have to look into it a bit more and track down exactly what I had growing... Pulled out all the pieces of rockwool which had it, but I'm guessing it is just going to grow back again at this point. Tomorrow we're going to snag some more posts for the shelving so we can start expanding the setup!
2009-10-19 - Go big or go home! Snagged a six 4'x18" shelf wire shelving unit from Costco ($90); four extra posts from The Container Store ($30 on sale); short tubs to be used as flood trays and 50L tub for a reservoir from Wal-mart ($4 each). Tomorrow I'll be tracking down a water pump to feed the system and more net pots and rockwool grow cubes. Time to get some larger plants going—tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, etc. Also some beans and peas.
2009-10-19 - And here's the existing system, moved, with the shelving expanded to provide even more growing space. Oh, and some storage, of course. You can never have too much storage space.
2009-10-19 - From the doorway.
2009-10-19 - The stacked ebb & flow system, in working order! Just needs a couple of tweaks and some fine tuning. I'll soon shoot a video to show how it all works.
2009-10-19 - The water pump sits in the reservoir on the floor and pumps up to the top trays at a height of about 5'. It is an EcoPlus 396 GPH, 6'3" head pump (~$25). Takes about 3 minutes to fill the top trays with 5L of nutrient solution, each. The next photos explain how the water gets to the bottom trays.
2009-10-19 - Photo of the inside of a tray. Two hoses are responsible for getting water from one tray to the next. The first hose rests on the bottom of the tray and exits the tray at a height of 5L. When more than 5L of solution is pumped into the tray, the water level exceeds the height where the siphon hose exits the tray, gravity takes over and siphons the water to the next tray—this is the same way a toilet works when it flushes. The second hose simply enters the tray a short distance and acts as an overflow. These two hoses are present in both the top and bottom trays, with the bottom simply dumping back into the reservoir.
2009-10-19 - The two hoses exit and extend to the tray below.
2009-10-19 - Here you can see the siphon and overflow hoses dropping down into the bottom tray, along with the reservoir below.
2009-10-21 - Just a quick shot to provide a progress report. They're moving along, unfortunately I learned a lesson on proper water levels the hard way as I awoke to find wilted basil this morning! As the roots were moving along nicely I decided to cut the water level I used when I changed the nutrient out, but going down to only 5L in this container was simply too little to keep these guys happy! Added another 3L or so and they immediately perked up again.
2009-10-24 - The basil is taking root! Haah!
2009-10-24 - I moved the basil and spinach from the 4x4 DWC unit to the 4x9 unit and spread them out. I've decided that the DWC setup just isn't what I'm looking for to take a crop all the way through harvest. I'll likely keep them for starting plants before being moved to the ebb & flow system.
2009-10-26 - Just another progress report. Over in the two right hand columns are the Bibb lettuce starts. I've also got two Iceberg lettuce starts in front of the spinach.
2009-10-29 - ZOMG! The spinach got some sort of fungus (or so it seems from my limited research), so I've trimmed off all the affected foliage and have my fingers crossed that my keeping the humidity too high was the culprit for the fungal growth. In other news, the basil is plugging right along and the lettuce, both the Bibb on the right and the Iceberg in the front are seemingly healthy as well! The ebb & flow setup has nearly everything I've got in it sprouting, I'll soon post photos of that setup, too.
2009-10-30 - Just checkin' in.
2009-10-31 - The "Happy Halloween" progress report shot!
2009-10-31 - As promised I will now start taking shots of the ebb & flow system now that everything is getting off to a good start. As can be seen, I've already got some yellowing foliage, so I've ordered up a TDS/EC meter so I can monitor my nutrient levels properly. And although the good 'ole chemical method of testing pH is working fine, I'm planning on putting together my own microcontroller based meter (prolly use an Arduino) so I can just have realtime logging of pH.
2009-10-31 - Tomatoes are up and running, but the peppers seem to be finicky about germinating.
2009-10-31 - Got one Green Bean that has taken off ahead of the others, although the cube just to the left is about to take off too. The Basil and Peas were planted about a week later, so it'll be a while before they show their leafy heads.
2009-11-03 - Thinned/"Harvested" a few of the basil. They were quite tasty on a ham & turkey sandwich.
2009-11-04 - And the final tub makes its first appearance now that the lettuce is visible!
2009-11-05 - Uh, oh, salt buildup!
2009-11-05 - Algae attack!
2009-11-08 - Algae has certainly become the biggest problem...
2009-11-08 - Time to get the pea onto a guide wire...
2009-11-08 - This time I remembered to take a photo of the fungus on the spinach before I disposed of it. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there's any hope for these few plants, so I have disposed of them in hopes that the new spinach starts will take off—sans fungus.
2009-11-09 - Spinach has been sacrificed. pH meter arrived today. Had a pH of 2.3 in this grower! Wow!
2009-11-10 - Under the grow lights, which don't have any green LEDs, the algae is ominously deep black in color. Hoorah for physics.
2009-11-17 - Moved the lower grow trays to the adjacent rack and moved its middle shelf up, so now the larger plants have room to grow. Also added two more lights, so now each tray has two lights above it.
2009-11-21 - Time to try out a new setup. This time I'll be making my own "waterfarm" style grower. For the reservoirs I've recycled some cat litter tubs. This is the inner reservoir with plenty of small holes drilled through it for drainage to the outer reservoir. The large hole is for the air lift tubing. More on that in the following photos.
2009-11-21 - Here's the air lift system. One of these days I'll take a video showing everything in action...you know, like the one I said I'd take of the siphon system. In the mean time, here's a link to a site with some good info on air lift systems, along with a video showing one in action. http://teamsuperforest.org/superforest/?p=4392
Mine consists of two lengths of 1/2" tubing, the vertical piece is 17" and the drip hoop, connected to the vertical by a T, is 34" around. The hoop just has a bunch of holes poked in it to allow water to drip out and air to escape, so the lift can work. The beauty of physics in action is provided by the air line, which is run into the bottom of the vertical tube using a 90 degree adapter. Photo of that follows.
2009-11-21 - The import business end of the air lift. This end is what you see disappearing into the bottom reservoir in the previous photo. Air in, water up and out. A key thing to note about air lifts is that they really can't move water very high. If you're not having much luck, try increasing the water level in your reservoir, then the air doesn't have to lift water as far. Also, decreasing the diameter of your tubing can help a lot, but that also decreases volume of water. I'm fairly well set since my air source can provide as much as 120psi if I need it. Your average aquarium pump is under 5psi. Depending on your needs, you may need to consider jumping to a compressor like I did.
2009-11-21 - And here's one of the cherry tomato plants moved into the newly completed grower. Eventually I'll have to take some measurements and determine what volume of air I am using to see how energy efficient this type of system is. I'm dubious that it is very efficient, however I am actually quite pleased with the volume of water provided. I am able to keep the air volume down to about what I'm running through the air stones in the other systems.