Alpha 1 System (or my first try at a system)
So, originally this was going to be a basement aquaponics system... but I've since figured that it's probably worth giving hydroponics a shot first, and avoiding having to keep live things other than plants down there just yet... It's planned to be an NFT system for greens (herbs, strawberries, lettuce, etc...) and then possibly some buckets, or drip system additions, for vine / tree plants (things like tomatoes and peppers). Here's what I've done so far. As it's winter here in colorado, the plan is to have this in the basement (nearly 2000 sq ft that I don't use at the moment anyway), which actually has access to water, and access to drainage. I have received approval from the misses to turn the 3rd garage into a grow room if I really get into this. So, without further ado, here's the overall plan:
The NFT Tubes:
These are suspended (wooden frame) 4" PVC with 3" (or maybe 2", still deciding) net pots (and holes) every 6 - 10 inches (giving me 10 - 6 plants), having the net pots filled with hydrotron or rockwool, where it makes sense. Each of the 4" PVC tubes are 5 ft long, and have a 90 degree bend at one end into a T, flowing back to a sump/holding tank. On the other side, i'm planning on having the pump feed into a return line with T's which reduce to 1/4", or even 1/8" and have 2 running to each PVC tube, ended with PVC caps, through feed tubes, still not sure how I'm going to do that part, yet...
The wooden frame currently has been created using sawhorse kits from HomeDepot, and treated lumber, with some pieces used to stabilize the entire thing. They're 4' tall legs, and 10' long tops for the sawhorses. Currently they're holding the weight just fine, and from calculations, should continue to do so! Both sets are at equal height, but depending on how much flow is required, I may create an incline of somewhere between 1/4" to 1/2" to aid drainage, although I doubt it'll be a problem.
In case anyone's wondering, the tubes were 10ft for around 20 dollars, but I had to shrink them to 5ft to fit them in the car (so HD was nice enough to cut them in half for me) and the price for the 90 degree + T (about 9 dollars + 1ft of 4" PVC (2x 6" tubes)) is cheaper than a cap + 3/4" drain bulk head (12+, depending on how you do the return line), so I just went with the 90+T as it's less likely to actually clog, and it'll be easier to keep flow free... All T's angle drain the same direction, which should also help with some flow.
The Sump/Storage Tank:
I'm thinking perhaps the best option may be to actually use a 50 gallon plastic tank, or tote, and add another layer of overflow protection. In this tank I'll have the pump(s), and oxygenation / heat...
I'm torn on lighting, originally I was going to just go ahead and use some T8 Shop lights, and I may still do so because of their pricing, but T5's are certainly tempting. Timers will be used, and should be able to be chained from one fixture to another, or even direct wired if required (I've ample power on the board downstairs). I have pulley things that'll pull down, and up, and lock as needed. I'm currently thinking about mixing both 6500k, and 2700k bulbs, but may swap out depending on what I'm growing.
My local hydroponics store hooked me up with a bunch of stuff to get a good seed burst going, and should be ordering my first set of seeds tonight! It's just a standard rockwool plug + cover tray, nothing spectacular yet... I've considered doing an aeroponics starter system, but that'll have to come later.
- 2 layers of NFT, one upper, and one lower
I've also considered putting a lower level of NFT in place under the current, but that would mean that I'd have to only grow small coverage plants above, and possibly supplement lighting in the lower levels. Another option would be to use the lower levels for younger plants.
- Grow Room?
So as I'm going to use the basement for real stuff at some point, i'm really torn about this, but I could go ahead and build simply a frame with plastic to increase light, and increase resilience against water spillage... Perhaps a walled plastic tarp style floor?
I'll post pictures next of what's been completed so far.
Last edited by neogenix; 11-22-2012 at 02:45 AM.
Alpha 1 system
In response to your 11/22 post, your ideas for a system sound real good. It's similar to my system except for a few things. I don't know anything about indoor growing so I have no advice on grow lights and other factors but to me your description of your stand, PVC tubes for plants, pump and tank are why I think NFT system is easiest and most beginner friendly. I don't know anything except NFT system and have had success with it.
I use 12 foot long aluminum troughs 12 inches in width because I always thought 4"PVC or more would not be enough for tomato root mass.
You mentioned using hydroten or net pots in the PVC tubes. To me, an NFT system doesn't need any type of medium in your tubes or trough except the initial seed started plugs. I start my seeds in 1 1/4 oasis cubes placed in plastic 10-20 flat trays. I cut slits in the bottom of plastic trays, put the seeded oasis cubes in it and leave it in troughs. Sprouts occur in 4-6 days and after 15-17 days I take the strongest plants and transplant them directly to the troughs spaced 1 foot apart.
I have a plastic top piece that covers my troughs and when I look under it, the root masses cover my entire trough. I don't cover my nutrien reservoir so I have to strain algae every day. I don't think the algae has deadly effects on my plants however it's probably not good for them and competes for oxygen. You mentioned an overflow pipe which is what I have with a ball valve to adjust flow. I have my overflow pipe and drain setup so the water has a nice drop into my tank providng more oxygenation.
I have a hanna combo tester which I use to measure PH, EC and water temp every day.
In a few days I am getting ready for a small setup, I'll post pics from seeding to transplanting. I am only planting 4 plants but they are indeterminate tomato plants which I have never tried before so it should be interesting.