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Design help! Pics of empty room.


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Old 10-14-2012, 09:56 PM
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Default Design help! Pics of empty room.

So I have a basement with a 10' x 9' x 6'tall portion that I am going to use for a vegetable garden. I am thinking strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, basil and whatever else you think is a good idea for the space avail. I have two 400w lights with hoods, fan, filter. Other items I will need are easily available and I am going to build, not purchase, the systems themselves.

There are two pre-existing shop lights in the room that can be lowered or actually moved with a great deal of ease. The home was built by my grandfather in law, who is an electrician, and really wants to help with the room. So as far as technical aspects, I am good.

The room has a double step with about 6" - 10" of shelf clearence. I thought tube ebb and flow along the perimeter would be a good option. I am a big fan of reservoir feeding and would like to minimize the amount of standalone nutrient changes I have to do. (I understand different plants will have different nute requirements, so a large reservoir for the room is not possible.) Also willing to do a small tilapia tank in the room. Interested in compost teas as opposed to purchasing nutrients. All ideas and thoughts are welcome. I am a novice in experience but have a good grasp of most hydro-concepts. I have built several systems for herb gardens.

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Old 10-15-2012, 07:04 AM
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Well my first thought is I understand your goals, but I think you want to bite off more than you can chew at this point (given your space). Have you ever grown raspberry's before, or researched how to grow them? How many raspberries you can expect from a full size plant (8 foot tall, 4-5 foot wide)? Because beyond the small space you have to work with, I can think of other issues. Second, is how many strawberry plants are you planning to grow? And how many berry's a week are you hoping for? It's true strawberry plants grow many berry's at the same time, but they all ripen at different times. So if your growing them for a family, you'll likely need well over 100 strawberry plants in order to make one strawberry shortcake for each person in the family each week. Not that it cant be done, but is it worth it with that space? And do you have a system in mind to grow the amount of strawberry plants it will take to make it worth it without taking up all the space? I can think of other plants you could grow (and/or rotate) in much less space that would save you money at the grocery store too.

Given your space requirements of 6 feet high, and that needs to include the hydroponic system, lights, as well as the space between the lights and plant foliage, I wouldn't consider any plants that will grow taller than 3 feet max. And given the your space requirements of less than a 10x10 room, I wouldn't consider many large plants like tomato's, squash, raspberries, just one-two 3x3 foot plant max etc.. And keep in mind that plant foliage/leaves will block light to other smaller plants, as well as the lower leaves on a larger plant. So your not going to just be dealing with vertical space issues, but light distribution issues as well.

If it were me, I would take into consideration the strengths of the space I have to work with, and try to maximum them. As well as think about what I like to eat on a regular basis, that will save me money at the store. But you need to consider how big the plant's will get when their full grown (both foliage, as well as root mass). Also not just nutrient requirements, but also temp, humidity and air circulation needs as well. Even how you will maneuver through the space to do maintenance.

P.S.
Quote:
Also willing to do a small tilapia tank in the room
Where is the room for it? If your considering aquaponics, I would suggest researching how many fish you would need in rotation, as well as how you'll need to take care of them first. What you'll need to do to keep "biofilters" healthy. Not to mention how your going to keep track of the nutrient contents in your water (PPM/TDS/EC meters are useless).
Quote:
Interested in compost teas as opposed to purchasing nutrients
Compost teas are not a replacement for a complete nutrient solution. Their just an additive/enhancement to a complete nutrient solution. Not to mention very difficult for a novice without experience in both hydroponics, as well as making their own compost tea's, and/or making their own nutrients to have success. You will spend quite a lot of time, and have many disappointments before you have success. If you are considering "aquaponics" (I assume because you mention growing fish), simply put it isn't easy without a true understanding of everything involved. And again, you'll spend quite a lot of time, as well as have many disappointments before you have any success. Bottom line, I understand your goals, but i would recommend sticking to hydroponic nutrients for now if you want success.
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Old 10-15-2012, 01:55 PM
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Thanks, GPS Frontier. I had thought of several of the points you brought up about height restrictions and the production quantities of certain items like raspberries and tomatoes. I think the question I have now is, what is the best bang for buck? We do a lot of juicing with a high quality juicer. We actually live on green juice and fruit juice alone fairly often. Eating rice/beans/avocado bowls in times of hunger. Common juicing items are kale, spinach, basil, cucumber, celery, wheatgrass, beets, etc. Some of which are not good hydroponic plants I can assume. We also sprout and eat a lot of sprouts.

After posting this I talked with my wife and actually decided berries and tomatoes were a good idea. We thought maybe sprouts, wheatgrass, kale, basil, collard greens, basil, cilantro, lemon balm (and a host of other herbs that we tincture) are probably a better bet.

So, WHAT WOULD YOU GROW!? LOL. We live in Nevada and have a decent yard. We will most likely do some tomatoes and what nots outside. We also have a lot of grass and can't rip it up, rental.

My only problem with a full medicinal herb garden is the different soil requirements for most of them and I am sure that translates into different hydroponic requirements. Also interested in some sources for different hydroponic requirements for different plants. It seems cannibas is the only well documented plant I can find.
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:39 AM
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Hello goliath07,
I don't know what part of Nevada you live in, and/or what the climate will be like for you this winter. But if you have a big yard, have you considered building a hoop house/high tunnel type greenhouse? It's basically just a PVC or wood frame with 6mil plastic covering it. You wouldn't even need to take up the grass, just build it right on the grass and take it with you when you leave. You can build it big enough for the hydroponic systems to grow the tomato's, raspberry's and strawberry's in, or build separate ones for each. They will be much easier to keep the plants warm in during winter. Here are a few links to some to give you some ideas.

How to build My 50 Dollar Greenhouse » The Door Garden
FREE plans of PVC pipe structures, greenhouse, cold frame, furniture fittings
http://www.pvcplans.com/ArchGrnHouse.pdf
M170 High Tunnel Tomato Production | University of Missouri Extension

The only plants that don't work well in hydroponics that I know of are mushrooms. You just need to take into consideration the size of the full grown plant, as well as other considerations like water consumption, root mass, lighting, water delivery, temp and humidly etc.. Then decide on the number of plants you want to grow, the type of system that best fits their needs, and build the system to fit those needs and the space you have to work with. You can even grow full grown trees hydroponically if you waqnted to, they do that at Epcot.

It sounds like your wanting to grow crops to be more self sufficient, as well as not needing to spend so much money buying produce/food. If so, and it were me, I would start by doing a few things.

1. Make a list of all the crops/produce that you use the most of, as well as the quantities you go through. Then you can see how much your spending on it each week. As well as need to grow.
2. Once you have a list of all the produce you use/want to grow, then prioritize the list of crops in terms of money spent on each.
3. Then take the prioritized list of crops and sort them into size categories of small, medium, and large plants.
4. Make a list of how many plants you would need to grow in order to make enough produce for you.
5. Then in your case I would also sort them into "above ground" or "root" crops because you want to grow celery and beats. And what the heck, because you plan so many varieties, I would also sort them into bush plants or vine plants, because you can make use of the space differently if their vine plants.

Once you know which plants will save you the most money, as well as how many you need to grow to make it worth it, you can I take stock of all the available space you have to work with, and work out what will fit best where. Draw it out on paper making it sure it's to scale. I generally use blank paper, and make my own graph paper out of it. I make mine so each 1/2 centimeter equals one square foot. I attached an example of one I did. Once you have the space drawn out to scale on graph paper, just make copies of it so you don't need to do it again.

Now you can draw the systems and plants in the space to see what fits best where. Of coarse draw them out to scale too, if a tomato plant is a bush variety and grows to 4 feet tall, it will be about 4 feet wide as well. So in the scale drawing each of them will take up at least 4 square feet. Smaller plants will take up less space. But if you know how many plants you need to grow, how big they get, you know about how much space it will take up. And you can place them in different spots, as well as make adjustments without spending a penny to visualize it. The only thing is you need to be realistic in your layout, because if not, what happens in reality wont be what your drawing showed. If not you'll wind up with problems like overcrowding, plants not getting enough lighting or uneven lighting. As well as not having room to maneuver around your crops to do regular maintenance, fix problems and harvest your crops.

Once you know the best place to put your plants, just design the hydroponic system to best fit the space your going to put them. In the case of vine plants like cucumber that you want to grow, it's a large plant, but it's a vine. You could create a trough drip system, or use a series of buckets along a wall for the roots. Then build a trellis along the vertical wall for the vine to grow on. I would expect the foliage and trellis to take up 2-3 feet from the wall. So in my drawing of the space I would make it show cucumber plants growing 4 feet out from along the wall.

Quote:
I think the question I have now is, what is the best bang for buck?
The simple answer is high value crops like tomatoes, peppers, strawberry's cucumbers etc. are generally what commercial growers grow hydroponically because they can produce the largest profits overall. Except for lettuce which isn't a high value crop, but the fast turnover rate for the space (going from seed to sale in 6 weeks), makes it a valuable crop. What's the best bang for the buck for you won't be the same for me. That's why you should make the list of the produce you use, and how much you use and spend on each.

For instance you may go through a lot of cucumbers, but not me. I wouldn't consider growing cilantro because I don't use much, and it's cheep at the store. On the other hand you may use it every day and go through $10 a week on it. It's a fast growing plant, and regenerates when you cut some to use. So just two to four plants (depending on how much you use) in a system that is probably growing other herb plants as well would be a good idea ("bang for the buck"" for you. Another example is tomato's are expensive at the store, and I use them every week. "But what's the best bang for the buck?" How many tomato plants to grow? And how much money do I have invested in the system growing it? If I could grow another crop as well like cucumbers and/or melons in the same system too, all using the same pump and reservoir. That's better bang for the buck than growing three crops in three separate systems, and using three pumps, three timers, and three reservoir. That's three crops for the price of one. But only useful if I actually use the produce, and have the space/place to grow the plants to full size. That's where matching plant sizes, as well as what can be grown together (similar plant types)in the same system is a better bang for the buck.

Witch brings me to another point, that is don't worry too much about what each crops nutrient needs are. Your not trying to sell perfect plants at the market. What is important is growing similar plants in the same system. If your growing tomatoes you'll want to grow other continuously fruiting plants with it like melons, cucumbers, strawberry's, peppers etc. If your growing a non flowering crop like lettuce, than it can be paired with other non flowering plants. But if you tried to grow both fruiting and non fruiting plants in the same system, then one crop will suffer more. Because you would need to mix the nutrients basically for either a fruiting crop or a vegetative crop. But on the other hand you may not even notice a difference if they were similar size plants, and you tried mixing the nutrients in the middle (typical for continuously fruiting plants).

Also typically you'll want to grow the same size crops that were started at the same time together for best results as well. Example: even in a system that is only growing tomato's, larger tomato plants will need a full strength nutrient solution, and smaller can tomato plants can do fine on 1/2-1/3 strength nutrient solution. Also larger tomato plants will will use the water and nutrients faster than the smaller ones will, making reservoir size more important. So growing them using the same reservoir could be a problem, if you mix it light it wont be strong enough for the large tomatoes, and if you mix it full strength it might be to strong for the small plants until they get big enough. Same as even though strawberry's are continuously fruiting, tomato plants are much larger, and use the nutrients and water in the reservoir at different rates. So unless the reservoir is large enough, and/or you change the nutrient solution often enough that could be a problem.

Think about it this way, you don't want to buy a different hydroponic nutrient for every crop. You should be able to grow everything fine with just two nutrient types. One for continuously fruiting plants, and one for vegetative plants. Jr peters has a nutrient for herbs that I'm sure will be fine for all your herbs, as well as likely the kale and other non fruiting plants. It's the "Jack’s Professional 16-4-17 Hydro FeED," I have some myself for growing my herbs. Here is a link to the page, they have nutrients for fruiting plants as well.

Buy Hydroponics - J. R. Peters Inc. Fertilizer Products And Services

Another economical nutrient I like and have had great success using on both fruiting plants as well as non fruiting plants is the verti-grow nutrients, specifically the "SKU#: FCombo":
The Verti-Gro Hydroponic Fertilizers and Nutrients - Organic and Hydroponic Growing for Commercial and Hobby Growers

And if you get both parts (fertilizer and calcium nitrate) in the 25 lb quantity's, it's even more ergonomically. Costing about $120 total (with shipping), and making about 5000 gallons of full strength nutrient solution. That comes out to about 2.5 cents per gallon of nutrient solution.

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