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How do you top off your nutrients?


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Old 06-20-2009, 12:44 AM
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Default How do you top off your nutrients?

I'm new to hydroponics, and I have spent the entire evening, with no luck, searching the web for an answer to my question. I have built my own flood and drain system for tomatoes and peppers. I have a 45 gal reservoir and four 5 gal buckets and four 3.5 gal buckets. The plants are growing great and looking very healthy. I have run my nutrients for about three weeks. The lady at the local hydro store says to change them every 2 weeks. (But she is also the lady who sells the stuff). I have also seen that same comment (2 weeks) on this forum as well.

Today I got an ec tester and the reading for my nutrients was 1450. It should be higher for tomatoes. My question is how do I know how to mix my nutrients, so I can top off my system, so I won't burn/kill my plants? Is there any formulas that would help me calculate how I should mix my nutrients so I can top off my system and get my ec up to about 2400?

Thanks in advance.

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Old 06-20-2009, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by jalayo View Post
I'm new to hydroponics, and I have spent the entire evening, with no luck, searching the web for an answer to my question. I have built my own flood and drain system for tomatoes and peppers. I have a 45 gal reservoir and four 5 gal buckets and four 3.5 gal buckets. The plants are growing great and looking very healthy. I have run my nutrients for about three weeks. The lady at the local hydro store says to change them every 2 weeks. (But she is also the lady who sells the stuff). I have also seen that same comment (2 weeks) on this forum as well.

Today I got an ec tester and the reading for my nutrients was 1450. It should be higher for tomatoes. My question is how do I know how to mix my nutrients, so I can top off my system, so I won't burn/kill my plants? Is there any formulas that would help me calculate how I should mix my nutrients so I can top off my system and get my ec up to about 2400?

Thanks in advance.
Well that is a good question, but has no good answer that I know of. I am not real familiar with the term "EC" meter but I am assuming that it stands for Electronic Conductivity and that would mean that it works on the same principal as the "PPM" meters (parts per million). It measures the level of electricity between two points to give a reading. There in lies the flaw in the answer to your question. Because the nutrients are made up of many elements (all of witch conduct electricity) it cant tell you exactly which ones to add. Plants drink up nutrients but they don't drink them up evenly. That is the plants will take up the elements they need at the time and leave others, depending on the plant type and phase of growing they are in.

Other than a $100,000 dollar lab machine I don't know of anything that can break it down and tell you exactly what is in the solution and to what concentration it exists. But that wont really help you anyway because Hydroponics nutrients come already mixed rather than in there individual elements. So you wouldn't be able to just add the ones you needed and not the others anyway.

Though with some attention to detail by checking the ppm/ec level along with pH levels daily, as well as keeping an eye on how the plants look, the meters can be very helpful. Also keeping an eye on how the plants respond when you change the nutrients is important. I would suggest keeping a log with all this information as well as any other changes that might affect the plants. I don't have any meters myself but I check the pH level daily. I have noticed that when the nutrient solution is getting old the pH level starts to do some funny things, the pH also seems to be unstable when the nutrient temp gets to high.

I have had some conflicting information on this but it is my understanding that the more volume of water/nutrient solution per plant the slower it tends to go out of balance in general. I have read that Strawberry's need .5 litters per plant minimum. That would be for ten plants you would need 5 litters of nutrient solution minimum to feed them. With that you would probably want to change the solution once a week. Now say you were using 5 gallons of nutrient solution to feed ten strawberry plants, that is 4 times the minimum amount of solution. The math would suggest that the solution would go out of balance 4 times slower thus lasting longer. You would probably be fine at letting that go for 2 weeks. The ppm/ec meter can tell you just how fast the plants are absorbing the nutrients. I would expect the numbers to drop slower with the larger amount of nutrient solution. Even though it wont tell you what elements are being adsorbed by the plants, because of the larger volume of solution there is more elements overall to go around. Some plants are heavier feeders than others also.

I wouldn't go so far as to say, that simply a larger reservoir means that you don't need to change it because there are any number of things that can go wrong with the nutrients. But it is a factor in the equation. I have read about people who never change the nutrients but just add to what they already have, and I have also read about people who swear by changing the nutrients every week. Only careful observation will give you the best information. If you wanted to try just adding to what is already there I would just slowly add a little at a time, make sure that it is mixed well (Run it through a feeding cycle). Then test and see where it is at and keep doing it tell the ppm/ec numbers are in the right range. If it gets to high just dilute it by adding more water but pay attention to the plants for the best information on if that is working. If you have any doubts then just change the nutrient solution.

P.S. Some plants have different nutrient requirements as well as pH requirements. So growing plants with different requirements in the same nutrient solution can be a problem, though if your plants are looking healthy they probably play well together and will be fine.
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Old 06-20-2009, 08:43 AM
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Default Wow. Great answer.

Thanks for the answer. I'm still not sure what I'll do. I have to top off about 5 gals of solution. I think I'll mix it a little strong and see where things stand. If it is low I'll add more. If it is high I'll add water. I guess I'm still in the experimental stage, and learning. Thanks again.
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Old 07-23-2009, 12:53 PM
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I have a 20 litre tank and I do it like this.

Get home from work and fill back to the top with plain water. After a couple of hours test the ec. It can sometimes be down as low as 0.7ec. I normally aim for about 1.1ec and I know how much nutrient to add to get to that.

1ml micro, 1ml grow, 1ml bloom takes it up by 0.1 ec.

So in the case of it being 0.7 I add 4ml of each to get it to 1.1.

I repeat every day normally.

Then every couple of days I check the ph but wait a few hours after nutrient is added to allow the buffers to stabilise. Then 0.5ml of ph up gets me from 5.8 to my desired 6.0 - Rain water by the way.

Chris
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:44 PM
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If you check the EC/PPM/TDS everyday and watch what changes you can better judge how strong to make it. If the level goes up as the water goes down you will need less nutes, the plants are using more water than nutes. If the nutes go down as the water goes down you have have to increase the nutes. They should go down at about the same level. I am using GH FloraNova and growing Spinach and keep the nutes at about 950-1000 PPM, and check it often. Lately the PPM has been going up, so I will add just water.
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Old 01-19-2010, 05:49 AM
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Default when to dump nutes

i have a growtronix system so its easy to program a pump to flush the system. Not that a timer doesnt work just as well. I have my nutrient flush pump come on every 24 hours and remove either 1 gallon or a half gallon cant remeber what it is right off. But i never flush completly just keep the nutrients at the right PPM and my ph is usually always right at 7 so i dont mess with it. the plants are happy why mess with a good thing. also i ahvebeen doing this same thing for years so its not just dumb luck it works. I'm have been building asystem for years now with tweaks here and there and finally i think i'm about to a point where i can flip the growtronix on and close the door for a whole grow cycle if it were all the same plants.

Unfortunaltly I have so many things growing it would be a jungle in a few weeks.

Also i use 3 part GH and water quality is perfect through RO system

Between evaproization through foilage and dumping a bit of nute everyday i seem to be doing just fine. my system auto fills with water so it kinda hands off for that.

also I feed the plants about once a week but no real set scedule. I have gone a couple weeks with out even walking into the grow room before. usually after that long it takes 2 or 3 days for the leaves to green back out if there are plants fruiting. but usuaully once a weekend i dump in some nutes.

another thing i do that most say is bad is i add seeds clones plants from dirt pots with the roots washed off in the sink and i just plop them right in some clay pellets and set a dripper on them. i use what ever the current feeding schedule if the what ever plant is fruiting and i usually use the GH numbers on the barrels.
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Old 01-19-2010, 05:52 PM
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Can you post pictures of the policies for this?
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Old 01-19-2010, 07:00 PM
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Default policies

yeah i can do some screen prints from that computer and post them here for sure. its night time right now in the plant kingdom so when the sun rises over the dehumidifier just high enough to see the speakers and the birds start sing through the bose system i'll send those over. actaully its tuesday and its all metallica for the most part. Mondays they listen to NPR,

I like to keep them in fear of global warming, this way they apreciate what they really have here. nothing spends more time on global warming than 18 hours of NPR. besides if my plants could vote they would be in favor of co2 prodcuing coal plants that keep the lights on. My venus flytrap is defiantly right of the middle. Not a tree hugger in this group.
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Old 01-21-2010, 09:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watercatwn6535nd View Post
also I feed the plants about once a week but no real set scedule...
Maybe I'm being overly dense here, but I don't get what you mean by this. Do you simply mean that you add/adjust/replenish/or otherwise refresh the nutrient mix in your reservoir once a week? Or are you implying that you run just plain RO water through your system and only give the plants nutrients once a week?
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Old 01-22-2010, 12:13 AM
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Default nutes and flush

I haev my system set up to dump my nute solution for 30 seconds every day at the same time. I dont remember if its a half gallon or a full gallon. my system auto refills with fresh water. i then once a week when i get a chance do a quik ppm and ph check and adjust the nutes to what ever ppm i currently am running fro the entire system. usuaully am feeding for fruiting so the ppm is on the higher side.

i do so many different plants usually i will run 18 hour days or even 20 to keep some plants vegging when there new. then i'll hit the room with some 10 or 12 hour days to force some flowering some times even turn the hydro drippers off just to get there attention for the night cycles.

After i see some flowering i go back to longer days to increase the yeilds. thhis way i can introduce new crops any time i want and be vegging and flowering at the same time. garbage bag can really make a differnce to by puting it over a plant to simulate the end of summer.

I just never actaully dump the whole system and it stays very happy. You need really good water to start with. i dont think i have ever had a nutreint lock out before. my system has good flow to. i think driiping is a bad idea on systems and drip rings are for just a week or when the plants new. after that i just run the lines open ended no gph controllers. and i only have a couple gallons at most in my tanks so the hydro is always splashing or running through the clay pellets into the water.

also a stable system has to have black containers. if there not black spray painting the outside really helps.

I'm guessing my nutreint costs are 1/4 of what is recommended on the bottle for the GH schedule. i've run both ways. following directions and doing it this way and the plants seeem to yeild the same thing.

I will say i bet i have the healthest septic tank in the country. had the top off a while back and the system looked perfect and its been many yaers since it has been pumped maybe 20 at least 17. i know its all in the food i send to it every day.
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Old 01-22-2010, 11:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watercatwn6535nd View Post
I haev my system set up to dump my nute solution for 30 seconds every day at the same time. I dont remember if its a half gallon or a full gallon.
I guess I'm still having trouble picturing this. You only cycle a gallon of water for 30 seconds once a day? Are the buckets acting like a DWC for the remainder of the time? I'm probably not understanding what you mean by "bump my nute solution".
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Old 01-23-2010, 01:28 AM
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Default cycle time

My system i net pots in 5 gallon buckets with drip feeders runnning 24 hours a day. my system is fully automated so when i need to dump or flush my nutrients out i have a pump that is just for that. My growtronix turns that pump on every day for 30 seconds and dumps some of my resevior out. then the system is connected to a water supply so it autmaticlly refills what was dumped out with fresh water. then i come allong and add nutrient manually once a week or depending on whats fruiting at the time.

if you put in watercatwn6535nd in the search feild at you tube i have posted a few videos of my grow room that might hep you visualize the system.

My point was i never get rid of all the fluid in the resevoir and i have very healthy plants and my nute bill is probbaly a quarter of most of yours. a lot of product is dump donw the drain.

i would challenge every one to run there system tell they actaully see the plant lock out a nutrient. thats almost impossible unless you have really bad water to start with. but then you can have idea of how long your plants take to eat whats in theer and you can tell by inspecting the plant what it is defiecient on so you can then take your ppm reading and know that its probably just the nutreints your plant is currently not in need of.

this is more difficult to explain than i may be able to get across. lets just say the longer you grow the better you know your plants and the cheaper it is to raise them.
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Old 01-23-2010, 01:56 AM
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Quote:
My growtronix turns that pump on every day for 30 seconds and dumps some of my resevior out. then the system is connected to a water supply so it autmaticlly refills what was dumped out with fresh water. then i come allong and add nutrient manually once a week or depending on whats fruiting at the time.
The way I understand it, is that he has one reservoir with nutrient solution in it (I don't know how many gallons). The pump is running 24/7 supplying this nutrient solution to the plants via the open ended drip hose with the single stream of nutrient solution coming out pointed at the main root ball.

The growtronix system is connected to a valve that opens automatically each day for 30 seconds dumping one gallon of this nutrient solution out and into the sewer system (septic tank I think actually). Now that the water level is low in the reservoir, I assume there is a float valve that allows fresh water to take the place of the nutrient solution that was dumped out. This dilutes the nutrient solution, but then once a week he adds some nutrients to the nutrient solution because of the fresh plain water that is added each day. Basically he is taking 7 gallons of used nutrient solution out, and adding 7 gallons of new nutrient solution back each week to the reservoir.

This is an interesting concept and I know that a lot of nutrients get wasted by dumping out the reservoir regular. I do know that some people don't dump them at all but just add new nutrients to the reservoir. Though that is something that takes a watchful eye to know how the plants are responding. As I said somewhere in this forum before, observation is the key to learning.

Perhaps instead of dumping the whole reservoir, maybe only dump half then replace the half with fresh nutrient solution. Or maybe only replacing 75% of the reservoir to start with, then see how the plants respond. If OK, then replace only 50% the next time. If OK, then maybe try replacing only 25% the next, but observation is the key. Also size of the reservoir will play a part, I don't think it would be as much of a problem in larger reservoirs (like 50 gallons and up) but smaller ones (like 5 or 15 gallons) will be affected more. And if there's anything wrong with the nutrient solution or root diseases, then I would certainly change the whole thing.

I would still want to clean the pump and reservoir out. You can always put the nutrients in another container while you do this. Smaller reservoirs also might have a problem with stable pH levels because of the stabilizers in the old nutrients being older. By the time my nutrients start getting to the 2 week stage the pH level starts to need fixing almost daily, on a 8-10 gallon reservoir. You you may want to use a little stronger solution when only replacing a portion of the nutrients also. Only hands on observation can tell you how your plants are responding.
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Old 01-23-2010, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watercatwn6535nd View Post
My system i net pots in 5 gallon buckets with drip feeders runnning 24 hours a day. my system is fully automated so when i need to dump or flush my nutrients out i have a pump that is just for that. My growtronix turns that pump on every day for 30 seconds and dumps some of my resevior out. then the system is connected to a water supply so it autmaticlly refills what was dumped out with fresh water. then i come allong and add nutrient manually once a week or depending on whats fruiting at the time.
I'm seeing it better now. I think the part I was missing is that I never noticed you mention the part about the drip feeders running 24 hours a day. That was probably the part of the puzzle I was missing...I can picture the system now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by watercatwn6535nd View Post
My point was i never get rid of all the fluid in the resevoir and i have very healthy plants and my nute bill is probbaly a quarter of most of yours. a lot of product is dump donw the drain.
Yeah, but this will be heavily dependent on reservoir size and nutrient strength. Assuming you do dump a single gallon at a time when you do this, over the course of 2 weeks it would be 14 gallons you are replacing. I do a full nutrient change every 2 weeks, but in my systems I only use 12 gallons of nutrient fluid. Assuming we use the same nutrients and mix at the same ratio to result in the same ppm readings, you'd actually be spending more than I. So I don't think it's necessarily just the method that saves the money more so than it would be factors associated with the design of the entire system, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by watercatwn6535nd View Post
i would challenge every one to run there system tell they actaully see the plant lock out a nutrient. thats almost impossible unless you have really bad water to start with. but then you can have idea of how long your plants take to eat whats in theer and you can tell by inspecting the plant what it is defiecient on so you can then take your ppm reading and know that its probably just the nutreints your plant is currently not in need of.
Good advice if you are smart enough about plants to know what to look for....but, alas, I am not, hehe. Yet anyways. Experience and testing will get me there eventually I guess.
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Old 01-23-2010, 02:55 PM
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I am probably the worst when it comes to changing the solution out. I don't have a set plan, but I do watch my plants, and when they look like a change I change it.
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Old 03-31-2010, 11:33 AM
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I take a much easier route and have had great success. I have been using hydroponics indoors for lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs for a couple of years. I use one ebb and flow for the growing stage using the instructions on the GH 3 part for growing, and another ebb and flow for blooming the tomatoes and peppers with the GH blooming ratios.

I usually add a gallon of water with bloom nute ratios every 2 days to the 5 gallon bloom reservoir and a gallon of the grow ratios every 5 days to the 5 gallon grow reservoir. I completely change the solutions every 3-4 weeks.

No meters, no testing and everything grows really well.
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Old 04-06-2010, 09:52 AM
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Default topping off nutrients

Hi,

We have had great success with the 50% method,
explained here:

MAINTAINING HYDROPONICS NUTRIENTS : THE RESERVOIR

This saves on solution, there is no reason to replace the vat every week or two... too expensive!

Good luck
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Old 05-20-2010, 11:04 AM
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Default 50% Method

Hi,
No, you do NOT have to change the solution every two weeks, what a waste that would be.

Try the 50% top-off method described here:

MAINTAINING HYDROPONICS NUTRIENTS : THE RESERVOIR

Has worked well for us with flood and drain as well as top drip.
Good luck!
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Old 05-23-2010, 08:30 AM
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I disagree. You may not HAVE to change it out, but I feel you should. You have no way of knowing exactly what the solution content is. Is there more nitrogen? More calcium? Enough of either? Enough magnesium? It doesn't matter if your EC is 1.8 if you don't know what content is making it 1.8. Not all elements have the same level of conductivity. EC is only a guide that is useful when you do regular changes. Nutrients need to be somewhat balanced in order for optimum uptake. That isn't to say they won't uptake at all. Thing is, most people that think their plants are doing great probably don't realize how much greater they could be doing if they only fed the plants better. I've learned this from trial and error. My error being greatest when I let others convince me that regular changes are unnecessary. I've run side by side experiments using GH Flora series nutes. Regular changes definitely produce much greater yields and require a lot less daily maintenance of pH.

I think some people get it in their minds that if their hydro plants look like garden plants, then they are doing great. Well, they are doing okay. Hydro plants should look better and produce more than the soil garden.

Keep in mind it isn't just about what nutes aren't in there. Toxic salt build up can occur. It might not kill the plant, but it can reduce yield by reducing uptake of nutes and water. It's easy to see when your plants start looking a little crappy and we get questions on other forums "Why am I getting BER" or "Why do my leaves have yellow between the veins" and such. And the results of the problem are usually not seen immediately, as is rarely the case with toxicity or deficiency. People misunderstand that just because they made a change this week and the problem arose this week then it must be due to the change. Not so. The problem could just now be evident from the previous reservoir imbalance. Another problem that can occur from toxicity and deficiency is greater susceptibility to disease. Plants can fight off a lot when fed well. Just like us, if they aren't they can get sick easier.

One last point: there is a reason the formulas are fairly precise. There is a reason that when people make their own nutrients it is important to make sure you maintain some precision. This haphazard way of things completely contradicts this. I don't do hydro so my plants can do okay. I do it for several reasons, but the main is for the challenge of growing the best my plants can possibly offer. Just as our bodies do best when fed right, so do my plants. How much money are you wasting feeding plants that could be producing better? Is it more of a waste to change the solution regularly or to risk deficiency or toxicity and get less yield?
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Old 05-24-2010, 09:29 PM
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Default nutreint tank res.

If you disagree what is it you disagree with? my award winning plants? I don't think many people on this forum have growing issues, but holey smokes we all grow differently.

Also with out knowing everything about some ones grow as well as there initial water quality. Its hard to judge and when they tell you they are having excellent quality grows its hard to convince them there not?

But just take my system for instance (if you wish to save any money growing) The initial water is RO clean, i mean perfect! Then my system holds about 50 gallons of hydro. in one bucket i have a drip feed pump (fairly big?), drain to waist or flush pump, as well as a cheapo wall mart dual air stone air pump.

Also you need to know if they use dehumidifiers and room temperatures plus is the air being exchanged or is aco2 being used by burner or tank

Aeration is a huge key to high quality hydro. must extend the life of a tank of nutrients by 50% maybe? or more. then when you factor in that i dump 1 gallon of hydro ( which is pumped into my storage bucket for my out side plants) every day. this gives me in a 30 day period a 30 gallon flush on a 50 gallon system.

Now i top off my nutes at what ever rate they require. a daily testing in PPM with my pen meter indicates about 250 PPM using GH at its blooming formula on its bottle. running about 1500 to 1800ppm hydro base load.

So here is the deal. The plants will uptake what they need for the most part. If you are washing some hydro daily out and always adding the exact amount back in they have eaten there is a great chance that since they look perfect and taste terrific (cuke in hand as we speak eating, 18" long 1 3/4" around perfect flavor) that they are.

So its not that the tank is not being flushed its simply not being dumped all at one time. I have done the once a week dump and the two week dumps before with virtually no difference. when your computer is doing it is not tough to try and then verify.

Now we that said i have a second system of about the same size that has auto filler for water level and i drain it every few weeks i top it off randomly at best. these plants always look perfect some times I'll see a leaf color change and remember to run a ppm or flush.

Now how about this i have another system that i run almost all water in with almost no food and the plants plants produce miniature fruits with decent flavor. but every system has to have mixing or blending pumps and aeration and be sealed from light. Let light in and algae will grow and you will lose your control unless you have large tanks with lots of aeration.

Or i like this i just moved 9 vf 100 cherry tomatoes to my front yard from my main green room. with just garden hose water and some cheap terrible top soil i brought home in the dump truck there doing just fine. so to say a system wont work is odd at best. I'm always more interested in what didn't work. I mean what did you finally do to kill the pant off completely. Because that is the real tricky part. its easy to grow a plant but to kill it takes some one special.

By the way i am putting in a aquaponics system as we speak. just dug the hole for a 2000 gallon tank. hoping to go with lettuces and such with rainbow trout as they are native hear. Its just a few feet from the BBQ to keep it all really fresh. If any one is interested in bio filters used in hydro i have been looking into a system called the Skippy filter. just Google it. The new yard lake is 14' by 13' and about 3.5' deep. not to big but a lot of work i did by hand. with a 20 ft long stream that feeds into it. I'll post picts soon of it.


Last edited by watercatwn6535nd; 05-24-2010 at 09:32 PM. Reason: forgot some info
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