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New guys take on a DWC, with pics.


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Old 02-23-2011, 10:51 PM
PaulF PaulF is offline
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Default New guys take on a DWC, with pics.

Hi Everyone-

For the last 6 months or so hydroponics has had me fascinated. About 6 weeks ago I started gathering up parts and pieces to do my own indoor hydroponic vegetable garden. I made the mistake of mentioning to the fellows at work I was interested in hydroponics and all I got was a bunch of flak about being a pot farmer, sheesh. I just want fresh veggies year round.

I live very far North in the US and our growing season here is pretty short. So if you have a bad garden you are kind of sunk for the entire Fall and Winter season. I thought it would be fun to try and do a hydro grow before the Spring plant comes along just to see what happens!

I tried to do this on a shoestring budget and so far I am into the whole project for about $200. I think my setup could be replicated for probably half of that but I splurged on a few things.

Anyway onto my pics.

After a lot of reading I decided that a deep water culture looked like the easiest and cheapest method, and probably most important it looked simple. So I bought a pair of 20 gallon storage totes, some 4 inch plastic pots, a bag of vermiculite, and a bag of perlite which I mixed as my growing medium. I brought all that home and made my DWC tubs. I then scoured E-Bay and found a guy selling 400 Watt metal halide Hi-Bay light fixtures he had salvaged from a warehouse somewhere, he was selling them for $50 shipped. As a bonus they had already been converted to 110 Volts. I put a $2.49 plug on the stub of cord that extended from the ballast. I know a lot of people bad mouth the hi-bay fixture for hydro gardening. For me it looks like it will work pretty good. The reflector seems to focus the light very nicely on my two tubs, and for fifty bucks with bulb, ballast, reflector, and shipped to my door it was hard to beat.



I had a couple of old mirrors that I had been holding onto from a home remodeling project I had done several years ago and I thought they might help with the light situation. Look at how much more light is being reflected onto those pots in relation to the pic above, pretty amazing!



Another $60 spent at my local Lowe's got me two sheets of Dow Tuff-R foil backed foam insulation and some door hardware in the form of hinges and a latch. Yep, that is duct tape holding the two pieces together. What can I say, it works. Not pictured is the opposite side of the Tuff-R which has a super reflective foil surface on it. The grow area is 4'X4'.



A view inside my little grow room. Notice now that the DWC tubs are simply flooded with brilliant MH light. You can also see my thermometer/hygrometer. I am a little worried that the basement is a bit too cold. With the hi-bay light off the temp will drop to around 52 F, after about 2 hours of light run time the temp will reach 65 F. Any input on how this will work for growing veggies? In the left of the photo on the floor you can see my little dual port air pump, it is ridiculously loud and will either get sealed in a box and surrounded with foam, or thrown out, its incessant buzzing is very annoying. In the mirror on the back wall you call clearly see the two barbed fittings I siliconed in as drains for the DWC tubs. The MH light is on a heavy duty timer and set to run 16 on, 8 off right now.



Here is a shot of the two DWC drain tubes running out to a pair of shut off valves and terminating right over a convenient floor drain. This spot in my basement was picked for this very reason.



And finally a picture from this afternoon. My cucumber seedlings are ready to be transplanted tomorrow. Today I made up 16 gallons of nutrient solution with General Hydroponics nutrients in the form of Flora-Gro, Flora-Bloom, and Flora-Micro. I used the GH test kit to adjust the PH to right at 6.0. And here is my DWC tub full of water and bubbling. I can hardly wait to get those seedlings in there tomorrow and see what happens!



I still have lettuce, two varieties of peppers, and Roma tomatoes in seedling stage. The cukes are just so far ahead of the others they need to be transplanted. So I am going to give a shot.

I will try to update this thread weekly with grow progress!

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Old 02-24-2011, 12:12 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello PaulF,
You did a great job on a budget. As for the temp that might be a bit cold. 52 with the lights off (night time) shouldn't be much of a problem, although 65 when the lights are on (daytime) will probably be a bit cold for everything other than the lettuce. Especially the peppers that I believe are a warm weather plant, and prefer temps 80 degrees (F) or above. You might experience slow growth, and/or a lack of flowers/fruit on them.

Also I would wonder about the water temp, temps below about 65 degrees (F) will also add to slow growth. You can use a fish tank heater to help keep the water temp's in check. Just get one that has a adjustable thermostat and try not to set it above 72 degrees. Also make sure it stays submerged in the water, but not in contact with the plastic tubs. Water temps above 75-78 can add heat stress to the plant, above 80 can cause the plant to stop or abort fruiting.

Personally I think you will find that cucumber and tomato plants will be to big for that space. What is that black tube looking thing the bubbles are coming out of? Does it stay down at the bottom of the tub without weights?
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:50 PM
ralphkaz ralphkaz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
What is that black tube looking thing the bubbles are coming out of? Does it stay down at the bottom of the tub without weights?
I believe its one of these:
36" Permeable Flexible Air Stone - EZ Hydroponics & Organics

On another note - do the totes need to be so deep? seems like you will have a hard time getting the lids on with how they are bulging out. Also - perhaps to help the temps you could add some insulation over the concrete walls (behind the mirrors)? otherwise GREAT JOB! I'm getting ready to start my first DIY hydro setup and I love seeing pics of others projects!

Last edited by ralphkaz; 02-24-2011 at 04:59 PM.
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Old 02-24-2011, 10:50 PM
PaulF PaulF is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
Hello PaulF,
You did a great job on a budget. As for the temp that might be a bit cold. 52 with the lights off (night time) shouldn't be much of a problem, although 65 when the lights are on (daytime) will probably be a bit cold for everything other than the lettuce. Especially the peppers that I believe are a warm weather plant, and prefer temps 80 degrees (F) or above. You might experience slow growth, and/or a lack of flowers/fruit on them.

Also I would wonder about the water temp, temps below about 65 degrees (F) will also add to slow growth. You can use a fish tank heater to help keep the water temp's in check. Just get one that has a adjustable thermostat and try not to set it above 72 degrees. Also make sure it stays submerged in the water, but not in contact with the plastic tubs. Water temps above 75-78 can add heat stress to the plant, above 80 can cause the plant to stop or abort fruiting.

Personally I think you will find that cucumber and tomato plants will be to big for that space. What is that black tube looking thing the bubbles are coming out of? Does it stay down at the bottom of the tub without weights?
Thanks for the advice GpsFrontier! I really appreciate it. I am thinking that maybe a little space heater might benefit greatly. Home Depot sells an oil filled space heater for about $40 that I think would be quite safe in my little grow room. I think if I set it for 72 degrees F it wouldn't have to work very hard at all to keep that room warm.

I thought the 4'X4' room would be quite big enough but now I am not so sure. I am afraid the tomatoes and cukes are going to get huge!

Your question about the black tube in the bottom of the bucket is answered below!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphkaz View Post
I believe its one of these:
36" Permeable Flexible Air Stone - EZ Hydroponics & Organics

On another note - do the totes need to be so deep? seems like you will have a hard time getting the lids on with how they are bulging out. Also - perhaps to help the temps you could add some insulation over the concrete walls (behind the mirrors)? otherwise GREAT JOB! I'm getting ready to start my first DIY hydro setup and I love seeing pics of others projects!
You are spot on ralphkaz, that is the very same flexible air tube that currently sits at the bottom of my DWC tubs. And to answer GpsFrontier's question, yes they do stay submerged without any weight on them. I'm not so sure that an air stone wouldn't be better though. They don't seem to put out a massive amount of bubbles but they do work decently. So I guess I really can't complain.

As far as the depth on the totes go, I bought 20 gallon totes for my project. I did this because everything I read online said that once your plants really get to rocking and rolling they will eat up nutrients FAST and you will go nuts chasing your Ph. So the idea is that with a huge nutrient reservoir you can go a couple of weeks before you flush and refill them. Hence the reason I plumbed in the drains. As far as the reservoirs bowing, for right now once the tops are snapped on they hold their shape. Once I have established a good root system I plan on reducing the nutrient level. Right now the nutrient solution comes right up and the bottom half inch of the pots is submerged. But once the roots are established I plan on reducing that so they can get more oxygen. In other words the roots will be exposed to open air before they get submerged in the nutrient solution.


Early this morning I transplanted some of my cuke seedlings. I took them from the seed starter trays and very carefully rinsed all the peat off the roots. I was shocked at how large the root system was for something I planted from seed less than two weeks ago. I then planted them in my DWC pots and gave them a light shot of weak nutrients. Within two hours the leaves were deeply curled, obviously from the shock of transplant. Two hours after that the leaves had straightened out and they were looking healthy again. By late evening they appeared to have grown a lot since this morning! We will see what tomorrow brings.

Here is a pic from early this morning just after the transplant took place. I think they look great. I should have taken a picture before the MH light shut off because I swear they grew noticably over the day.

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Old 02-25-2011, 04:09 PM
halfway halfway is offline
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Excellent!
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Old 02-26-2011, 10:10 PM
biloyp biloyp is offline
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Your cucs will want to spread out and your tomatoes will want to grow up and out. To me it seems that you may not have enough space but keep going with it and see what happens. As for pollinating, I believe both need some help from bees or maybe shaking them might help (not sure). I am gonna grow lettuce and pepper since peppers are self pollinating and lettuce don't flower. I am going to try and grow lettuce and peppers fro now and maybe jump into tomatoes later. I would say keep going with what you have, keep good records and post so we can all learn and contribute to the world of hydroponics!
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Old 02-27-2011, 09:09 PM
halfway halfway is offline
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Paul, do you intend on supplementing with HPS for red spectrum when it comes time to flower and fruit those maters and cukes? I am interested in seeing your solution.

The lighting system is what is preventing me from moving to flowering veggies because of initial expense and continuing expense. You caught a great deal on the light setup, so that puts you well ahead of the curve. Adding the red spectrum (to me) seems to be the challenge.

Great setup!
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Old 02-27-2011, 10:01 PM
PaulF PaulF is offline
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Originally Posted by biloyp View Post
Your cucs will want to spread out and your tomatoes will want to grow up and out. To me it seems that you may not have enough space but keep going with it and see what happens. As for pollinating, I believe both need some help from bees or maybe shaking them might help (not sure). I am gonna grow lettuce and pepper since peppers are self pollinating and lettuce don't flower. I am going to try and grow lettuce and peppers fro now and maybe jump into tomatoes later. I would say keep going with what you have, keep good records and post so we can all learn and contribute to the world of hydroponics!
Hey biloyp-

I'm with you, I think the cukes and tomatoes are going to need a lot more space. But for the time being I'm going to do as you suggest and just keep on going with what I have. Pollination of the tomatoes will be handled with a little oscillating fan mounted on the wall, from what I have read they are very easy to pollinate. The cukes I will pollinate by hand by taking male flowers and dabbing them on the female flowers, should I even make it that far! I will hopefully keep this post updated with progress as I go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by halfway View Post
Paul, do you intend on supplementing with HPS for red spectrum when it comes time to flower and fruit those maters and cukes? I am interested in seeing your solution.

The lighting system is what is preventing me from moving to flowering veggies because of initial expense and continuing expense. You caught a great deal on the light setup, so that puts you well ahead of the curve. Adding the red spectrum (to me) seems to be the challenge.

Great setup!

As much as I would love to supplement with HPS I am trying to keep the budget on the shoestring level. I know there are HPS conversion bulbs available that will work in a MH fixture but I am just going to stick with the MH bulb as the conversion bulbs cost more than I paid for the entire MH fixture shipped to my door!

Keep an eye on E-Bay if you are interested in doing an indoor HID setup. There are a bunch of hi-bay fixtures on there right now for the same amount I paid for mine. My biggest concern is what it will do to my electric bill. The lights are designed around a 220 volt power source. So I am assuming that the amp draw is going to go up being fed from a 110 volt feed. Therefore I assume the 400 watt bulb is probably drawing the same as say maybe a 600 watt bulb, although that is only a guess at best! But even at 400 watts running 16 hours a day I am sure there will be a significant jump in my monthly bill.

Don't underestimate the lowly MH light for your entire veggie grow from start to finish. There are A LOT of documented grows out there that used MH from start to finish and have had great results. Admittedly they are for marijuana but the principles are still pretty much the same. I'm not in this at all for pot growth but I have to say, the folks that have documented their marijuana grows online have helped me a lot with ideas and tips!

Judging by what I see online, if people put as much effort into growing vegetables in their closets as they do growing pot I think a lot of grocery stores would have no need for a produce section!
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Old 02-27-2011, 10:46 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Quote:
My biggest concern is what it will do to my electric bill. The lights are designed around a 220 volt power source. So I am assuming that the amp draw is going to go up being fed from a 110 volt feed.
You can tell exactly what the light is costing you with a kill a watt meter, they come in all diffract models, as well as with different features, and price ranges. But they will all tell you how much a particular appliance is costing to run, and I have seen them at Lowe's and Home Depot for under $20 (possibly even less on eBay).
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Old 03-03-2011, 04:43 PM
PaulF PaulF is offline
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1 Week In

My first weekly update. It works, I shouldn't be surprised but it is actually working!

So far so good. With the light on a 16 hour cycle the grow room makes it almost to 70 degrees during the day. Not overly warm but better than I had initially thought.

Check out the growth on my cukes! They are rockin'! Surprisingly there are NO roots coming out of the bottoms of the pots yet. I am a little surprised at that to be honest but the plants are definitely growing well. My other seedlings are still a ways off from being ready to transplant so it's just gonna be the cukes for a bit longer. I'll be anxious to see how they look in another week.

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Old 03-06-2011, 10:14 PM
biloyp biloyp is offline
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Hey Paul,

Yeah you are correct about the current draw concerning the 400 watt @ 110 vac and the 600 @ 220 vac. They are about the same so the power savings won;t be so great. But I have seen a T5 HO (High output) floursc, fixtures online wfor about $175. To that is a bit much. On that same site, you can purchase T5 Blue or Red Spectrim lamps for a decent price. So if you are electrically inclined, buying the parts necc. it is possible to build your own. I am thinking of doing this but for now, I want to get my DWC, lettuce and leafy green system gong first. But when I do build my own T5 light fixture, I will be willing to share how to do it.

Anyways, I spent some time getting my supplies together for my first ever DWC system. I initially went on Amazon.com and found everything I needed to start. Net cups, propagation material, Nutrients, PH/TDS meter, heat mat, growing medium etc. Anyways, the total came to about $120. But the shipping was about $60 alone. So I shopped around and ordered from 4 different sites and got everything I needed for under $100 and shipping way under the $60.

So my lesson learned was to definitely shop around for your supplies. When my supplies arrive, I will post more and some pics as well. Take care and Happy Hydroponic'ing.
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Old 03-10-2011, 06:35 PM
PaulF PaulF is offline
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hey biloyp-

Thanks for the encouragement! Please do post pics when you get started. For me a lot of this is a guessing game so it is always good to see others peoples arrangements.

Today makes two weeks on from my planting and things are going pretty good. I am implementing some big changes for next week though!

1: I ordered an el-cheapo E-Bay LED panel. It supposedly is equivalent to a 250W HPS but draws only 14 watts. It will help with the tremendous amount of electricity that the MH is currently drawing and do away with the annoying 60 cycle hum that is so prevalent in my house. Even being housed behind the TUFF-R, which admittedly does do a good job of muffling the hum, it is still annoying. So we will see if these LED panels actually work.

2: I ordered a 1500 Watt space heater to go in the grow room. I am thinking of putting the heater on the same timer the grow light is currently on. And I think keeping the room at a constant 75 degrees F during the light on cycle should be very easy to do for not much cost. The whole grow room is only 16 Sq Ft! An added benefit is that the space heater has a blower in it to help stir the air in there.

And I thought I would post up the pictures of week 0, week 1, and week 2. There is some definite growth happening but STILL no roots out the bottom of the pots! I can see a root system going in one of the pots but it has yet to acutally leave pot and extend down into the nutrients, although the bottoms of the pots are submerged so the roots are by default bathed in the solution. My tomato seedling have great second leaves and are getting rather spindly so I think they will be planted over the weekend. I can't wait.

Zero week. (Anyone who has been through USAF basic training will be familiar zero week. )



Week one.



And week two. Definite good growth since last week.


Last edited by PaulF; 03-10-2011 at 06:43 PM.
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:32 PM
biloyp biloyp is offline
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Default Looking good!e

1500 watt space heater @ 110 vac is about 12 amps. Just make sure your timer can handle that much current plus whatever else you have going through your timer. If you can run it off of 220v then the current draw will be about half that.

An LED panel that draws 14 watts, to me that sounds like a lot for LED's. Are these the real bright ones cuz not all LED's are the same. But if they work for you then go for it. BUt now you have a space heater drawing a fair amount of current and LED lamps drawing a good amount. To me that is a lot of current. Just plz be careful of the heat buildup through your timer.

Your plants are looking pretty good. I was thinking about your cucs and how they will want to crawl up a little but definitely out. I used an old screen door or trellis to let them crawl on.

If I can get a bit of time between a bedroom renovation and work, I can't wait to get started on building my DWC and also propagating for outside planting as well.

Well keep up the good work and again plz be careful with the heat buildup.

P.S. Not sure what Zero week is but I am an retired Coastie and might it be similar to your last week in boot camp?
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Old 03-17-2011, 10:25 PM
PaulF PaulF is offline
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Big changes for this week!

My electric bill showed up and the 400W metal halide light only increased my electric bill by $15.00. So I guess it wasn't all that bad. But sadly the light developed a very annoying habit of shutting off on its own anytime there was a power draw somewhere else in the house, i.e. fridge coming on, power tool being run, etc. etc. etc. I think it is an undercurrent issue. These lights really are designed to be run on 220 VAC not 110. So I guess I decided to redo my lighting at just the right time.

I did my first nutrient change. My tote had popped open on one side due to the water making it bow out. I left it like that for 3 days. It turns out 3 days is more than enough time for algae to start growing like mad! So I ended up draining the reservoir and spending about 20 minutes wiping every square inch of the interior that had green algae all over. I mixed fresh nutrient solution and bumped up the strength according to the General Hydroponics directions. It seems to be working awesome! I also secured the top of the tote with some clothespins, low tech, but it works.

My LED panel that I bought on E-Bay showed up. I was pretty underwhelmed. They claim it produces as much light as a 250W HPS bulb. I'm thinking probably not. Here is how it looked in the finished install. It just didn't seem to produce enough light to put it anywhere else. This was probably $33.00 thrown away but who knows, maybe it will work out great.



I decided I was going to need A LOT more light to replace the MH fixture. So I built a very low tech CFL fixture. I used a piece of 6" air duct style pipe I bought at Lowes. I put two bulb sockets in it. I bought 100W CFL bulbs, one in the 6500K range and one in the 3500K range. I thought it was a pretty clever way to cover the full spectrum of light to be honest! It only took about 20 minutes to put together and cost a bit under $30.00. Here are the parts sitting on my table.



And here is the finished light hanging in my grow room. It provides an astonishing amount of illumination! In the first picture you can clearly see the two different colored bulbs. Notice in both pics you can see my little ceramic space heater. This has helped out a lot I think. Also notice my seedlings sitting under the light. They are waiting to be transplanted.





And finally a grow update. I planted the tomatoes two days ago and they have shown growth already, I'm impressed! The cukes are really starting to roll now. I hope this keeps going this well!



To close out this weeks update I'll tell you that the flexible air stones I bought suck. They get clogged up with something, I'm not sure what and need to be wiped off every few days or they start putting out almost no air. I may just drop the air hose in the reservoir and let it bubble like that.
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Old 03-18-2011, 12:22 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Sorry to hear the LED panel wasn't what was expected. They often tell you that they put out enough light to replace a specific wattage MH or HPS, but I have never herd anyone who has bought one agree. They always wind up needing to spend more money on lighting to compensate. I like the way you built your cfl lighting, although to be honest, I don't think that is going to be enough light output for much more than small seedlings. When using Florescent (cfl included), it isn't the the replacement wattage that matters, it's the actual wattage.

In other words you may have 2 cfl bulbs that replace 100 watt regular bulbs, but their actual wattage is probably something like 20 watts each. For a total of 40 watts. So in comparison if they were placed close enough to the plants (because with florescent the light intensity drops much quicker than with HID) they would be similar to a 40 watt MH bulb (not a 200 watt MH/HPS bulb). I have a brand new package of cfl's in front of me and they are 60 watt replacement bulbs, but use only 15 watts. So I would have something like an equivalent to a 30 watt MH. That wouldn't be able to grow much of anything other than to provide some light for seedlings.

I had a similar problem with with the first air stones/tubes I bought. They were the straight round ones that looked neat, but like yours they quickly clogged and I couldn't clean them out. So in the trash they went. Though I haven't had any problems or issues with the regular square stone ones. You really should use a air stone because it defuses large air bubbles into tiny ones. A bunch of tiny air bubbles is a lot better in a water culture system. There's a lot more surface area of air bubbles, and that's needed for the oxygen molecules to be absorbed by the water. I got mine at wal-mart in the pet supply's (next to the fish tanks), and ran about $1.60 each ($2.50 for the large ones). But they sell them any ware they sell pet supply's for fish.
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Old 03-18-2011, 09:24 AM
Twilly Twilly is offline
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Was the MH bulb new? If not, the turning off issue was probably caused by the bulb going bad. New bulbs are around 30 bucks.
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Old 03-18-2011, 02:55 PM
ProZachJ ProZachJ is offline
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Some LED manufactures make crazy claims about their product and it gives LEDs a bad reputation. Truth is you need about 360W of LED to effectively grow in a 4x4 area. Main advantages are the bushy growth and lack of heat.
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Old 03-18-2011, 02:58 PM
ProZachJ ProZachJ is offline
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A lot of LED manufactures make outrageous claims about their lights. It puts LEDs in a bad light all together and it's a shame because used correctly you really can get great results from LEDs. A 45W panel is just bearly enough light to grow 1 pepper plant and actually get peppers. For a 4x4 grow space I have found 4 UFOs (360W) to be the ideal amount of lights. I have grown strawberries, cucubmers, cherry tomatoes, all sorts of peppers, and many more things with this setup.
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Old 03-21-2011, 08:37 PM
cedarswamp cedarswamp is offline
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"But sadly the light developed a very annoying habit of shutting off on its own anytime there was a power draw somewhere else in the house"


Did that annoying habit show up about the same time the 1500 watt heater did? 1500 watt heater, 400 watt MH I think you're approaching the limit of safety on a 20 amp circuit. What else were you running on that circuit? Air pump, basement lights ect?


I'm a plumber not an electrician, but I"m pretty sure I'm right on this, please check with someone.
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Old 03-24-2011, 06:11 PM
PaulF PaulF is offline
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Not a whole lot to report this week.

I am still slogging along with the crappy air snakes but I am planning on ordering some good air stones this week as well as some net pots and some rock wool so I can get my other DWC tub up and running. I don't think my growing medium or standard pots are the best choices.

But having said that, the growth these are now showing is amazing. I can't believe in one week how much they have changed. The LED and the two CFL's are apparently working exceptionally well. The space heater is probably contributing quite a bit as well.

The tomatoes are all showing good root systems out the bottoms of the pots and have easily doubled in size after a little over a week. The cukes are actually starting to overlap each other. It is awesome!

More to come next week when I swap out the nutrients again and move up to the aggressive growth stage with the GH nutrients. I don't know how it could get a whole lot more aggressive than it is right now but we will see!


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