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New drain pipe NFT/EF lettuce system


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  #1  
Old 05-23-2011, 09:55 PM
Kerbouchard Kerbouchard is offline
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Default New drain pipe NFT/EF lettuce system

Though we've never communicated directly, GPSFrontier has been a huge inspiration and help as I finalized this system, so thank you, GPSFrontier! This thread provided the final bits of info I needed: http://www.hydroponicsonline.com/for...rd-system.html

I'm using General Hydroponics Flora Series nutrients in a 30 gallon tub filled to 20 gallons. I have a 185gph EcoPlus pump on a timer, and will be adding the air bubbler in the next few days. Each tube handles 13 plants at 8" apart, though I still have to populate the second tube. I started four kinds of lettuce in a Rapid Rooter 50 tray (about three times, since I kept killing them somehow). I still need to mount the timer and air pump under some sort of waterproof cover.

I flood/drain from one end with black Dig tubing off the pump, and overflow on the opposite end. The overflow height is adjustable, since the caps are non-permanent, sealed with a rubber band around the tube, and the overflow is off-set from the cap center.

I have a cheap HM Digital TDS-EZ meter and a simple GH pH test kit.

So far the plants haven't died, which is far better than my overall luck with the starts, but it hasn't even been a week yet.




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Old 05-25-2011, 04:52 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Thanks again Kerbouchard, Nice looking setup you have their yourself. After my issue about taking it apart to clean after the grow, I had thought about using some sort of rubber gasket, but just never really found something that would work reliably. I really like the idea of using a rubber band as the gasket, I'll be remembering that one for next time. Looks like you will be eating a lot of salads.

I'm not sure why your starts would die off. But a few things that would do it are incorrect temperatures, water-logging the roots, roots drying out, seedlings not getting enough light once they sprout. One thing that helps seedlings grow faster is high humidity, like using a clear plastic dome to hold in humidity, as well as let light in. Or if you were using a nutrient solution to water them it may have been to strong. I just use straight water until they have the first set of leaves, then only about 1/4 strength for the next week or so, and then increase it to about 1/2 strength.

P.S.
I'm not sure if you plan to, but if you start seedlings a few weeks before you plan to harvest, that you'll have a replacement plant/seedling already as soon as you harvest, cutting time between harvests. I look forward to seeing how your plants do.
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Old 05-26-2011, 01:55 AM
Kerbouchard Kerbouchard is offline
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Thanks, GpsFrontier. Another thought I had is that I had started them too early. I don't have lights, and it seems that the sun overslept this spring here in the PacNW. The smaller starts in the tubes outside seem to be much shorter but have larger, thicker leaves than some of the original starts from inside.

Great idea about rotating crops. I'll plan to do that, for sure! I also need to update my watering timer based on one of your other posts, with an on/off cycle of 30 mins through the day. But the clouds have to show some mercy!
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:41 PM
Kerbouchard Kerbouchard is offline
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So the system has been running now for about two weeks. About a week ago I finished the second tube with 13 more lettuce starts and mounted the air pump and timer with a cover. I've had to replace a few starts so far, most likely because of the temperature and lack of sun here in the Northwest this year.

I'm also a bit more confident with the nutrient and pH adjustments. The TDS meter seems to be working just fine, and I think the pH test kit is helping me stay in the right 5.5-6.5 range. It's nice to see some noticeable growth now, too, with our recent warmth and sun. Here are a few of the plants so far:


About two weeks in the system


About two weeks in the system


About a week in the system

Last edited by Kerbouchard; 06-16-2011 at 03:18 PM. Reason: Updated image links
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Old 06-16-2011, 03:30 PM
Kerbouchard Kerbouchard is offline
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It's getting a bit warmer in the NW, but the sun is still hiding out. Some days it seems the plants grow substantially, others it's like there's no change.

The oldest plants have been in for about three weeks now, and I have about 11 at two weeks and one I started from seed directly in the system. Roots look good, solution pH seems more stable, TDS is decreasing a bit each day as expected. I haven't changed out the solution yet, but may in the next week or two.

This is really a lot of fun, and it's so satisfying seeing these results!


Nutrient tank


Buttercrisp, about two weeks


Red leaf, about three weeks


Romaine, about three weeks
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Old 06-16-2011, 06:10 PM
fintuckyfarms fintuckyfarms is offline
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Looks good!!! I'm really excited to see your system as I am just geting ready to start creating mine. I also planted buttercrisp and romaine so it is good to see what they should look like in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the pictures! Here on the southeast side of the state, we have had two days in a row of sun The whole first cutting of has was rained out so those of you needing hay this year buy early as it is going to be in short supply and very high in price!
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Old 06-21-2011, 05:49 PM
Kerbouchard Kerbouchard is offline
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Thanks, fintuckyfarms! I'm having a lot of fun! Yours are really looking great, too!

So I finally put a little effort in on determining age on some of these. I've not been all that consistent, but am now trying to include number of days based on my initial pics the day they were added. I also double-checked the seed packages and slots in the system to get the names more precise.


Lettuce on the right is mostly 30 days in the system


Buttercruch, 30 days in


Oak Leaf, 30 days in

So far I only have two real issues:
1. A couple of the plants are a bit wilted. The leaves aren't firm as they should be. Roots are white, nutrient TDS, pH, and temp seem fine. Right now I'm thinking the two bubbler hoses need an airstone, since they're producing pretty large bubbles. Also, I haven't flushed and re-mixed new solution yet, and it's been about 30 days.

2. I have a critter of some sort. We have a lot of banana slugs here (crazy huge), but no slime trails so I'm thinking they haven't found the lettuce yet. The chew marks look to be from a small rodent, but my tubes are raised about three feet off the ground. Not sure if field mice or shrews would do this. Only one plant affected so far:

Something's eating on this one
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Old 06-21-2011, 07:29 PM
fintuckyfarms fintuckyfarms is offline
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They all look yummie! Thanks for posting picts, it just gets me more excited to get going on my system and and the way some of the plants are growing, we are running out of time. Could it be birds eating the lettuce?
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Old 06-21-2011, 07:54 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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They look good, makes me want a nice salad. Which ones are limp? I also notice you have seedlings in the same system with the 30 day plants. The nutrient strength may be to strong for the seedlings, or weak for the larger plants. I don't know how much volume of water (nutrient solution) your using for plants, but 4 weeks is the max length of time I have ever gone between changes myself. I was about 3/4 gallons of nutrient solution per plant. But when they got to be about the size of your 30 day plants, I upped the nutrient strength from about 1/2 strength, to about 3/4 strength, and changed the nutrients about every 2 weeks. Though all my plants were the same size. regardless, your plants look pretty healthy from the pictures.
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Old 06-29-2011, 12:19 PM
Kerbouchard Kerbouchard is offline
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It ended up that only one plant was affected by going limp. It was the last plant near the overflow in the more mature tube, and has since been removed. Roots looked the same as all the others, nothing else seemed unusual. Even the plant right next to it was fine.

I finally did a full nutrient replacement (20 gallons) and cleaned out the reservoir and pump. Flow rate is higher now as a result of the pump cleaning.

Yes, there is a mixture of young and mature plants in the same system. So far they seem okay, but it makes me wonder how to properly handle rotation. If I start some new ones now to help insure a continual harvest, it sounds like I should have two systems: one with 1/2 to 3/4 strength nutrients, and one with full.

All of the plants look amazingly healthy right now. No colored edges on the leaves, full heads, etc. on all 25 remaining. But the roots are looking a bit more brown than I would have expected. This seemed to start about ten days ago. Everything else seems fine: strong leaves, no signs of mold or algae, reservoir is clear (smells "organic"), temp of the solution remains cool to the touch (never close to warm). I started adding a bit of hydrogen peroxide (3% with H2O2 and purified water) two days ago even though I have an air pump rated for 20-60 gallons. Any other thoughts, or am I over-fretting?


Roots are a little discolored, not sure why yet

Everything else looks great, and we're starting to pull leaves off to eat!


Oak Leaf, 36 days


Buttercrunch, 36 days


Lots of green!
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Old 06-29-2011, 10:01 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello Kerbouchard,
I'm nit really sure what to make of the brownish roots at this point. It could be nothing, or the beginning of something. The nutrients themselves have a tendency to tint/color the older roots. Though I'm not sure what organic smells like, so I'm a little confused there. But if the roots don't feel slimy, and the foliage is nice and healthy, I would be leaning toward nothing to worry about yet. From the pics they all looks real good to eat. Even that Oak Leaf one looks like it has a nice deep red color to it.

As for rotating crop, I would build a small water culture system for the seedlings until they get big enough to put in the main system (pictures attached). Using just a short flat storage tote with a lid, an air pump, and air stones work nicely. Use the same baskets you use for the main system, so you don't hurt the roots when you transplant. But place them as close as you can in the water culture system to make use of as much space as you can. It wont matter that they are so close, you'll be transplanting them before plant size becomes a problem.
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  #12  
Old 07-13-2011, 05:51 PM
socaldan socaldan is offline
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Default Drain pipe - set up question

Does your pipe sag?

I am fixing to build a system and I have narrowed it down to the drain pipe - but it seems that its flexibility may be a problem. You have some good stands (and thanks for the great photos) and I am wondering how that is working out. And, would saw horses do?

dan
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Old 07-14-2011, 01:40 AM
Freshwater Freshwater is offline
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Hey Kerbouchard,

Love your system, looks like it's doing great. I may have missed it but what does the "EF" stand for in the title of this thread? I am familiar with NFT, is it just a different name?

I am going back and forth with what I want to do with my NFT system. Thinking about Sure-to-grow channel, but your larger (what 4") pots appear to be working really well. I am running 2" pots in 3 inch pipe currently.

Keep up the great work!


Todd
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Old 11-24-2011, 09:55 PM
rikyjaks rikyjaks is offline
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Nice plant for decoration of my house...

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