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-   -   New setup for my tomato's (http://www.hydroponicsonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1521)

GpsFrontier 02-14-2010 11:07 PM

New setup for my tomato's
19 Attachment(s)
Well this is actually a continuation of another thread, but I thought I would start a new one sense it is a new start for my tomato's. It is basically the same setup with a couple of modifications. The geothermal reservoir is the biggest one. It is going to get too warm to keep the nutrient s outside soon, so I built the geothermal reservoir to keep them cool. Basically it consists of a 32 gallon trash can that's permanently in the ground. With a removable 20 gallon trash can inside of it, and buffer between them. The buffer water is to allow better transfer of heat from the nutrient solution (in the 20 gallon trash can) and the ground, but still allow the nutrient reservoir to be easily removable for maintenance.

First I had to dig the hole, that was a real feat. It took me 4 days, and I still wanted it 6 inches deeper. But I ran into 2 rocks I just couldn't get out, so I settled for 30 inches instead of 36 inches deep. Once I had it dug I sifted the unearthed soil to get the rocks out to back fill it with. That way it wouldn't damage the reservoir as it settled back down. The pile of dirt next to the wall behind the hole is the sifted soil. The dirt in the 5 gallon bucket is the sifted soil before I put it on the pile. The green bucket next to it is the rocks that I got out of just that one 5 gallon bucket of sifted soil. The hand scoop I already had from metal detecting. I was going to get a spaghetti strainer from the dollar store before I remembered I had it.

I had to cut the handles off the 20 gallon reservoir so that it would fit nicely inside the larger one. Then I cut two circles of 2 inch thick Styrofoam, one for each trash can. this keeps the heat out from above ground. Then I made a handle for each Styrofoam insert to easily take them out. To make all the holes line up for the over flow tube, I simply places the 2 Styrofoam inserts in place, then the trash can lid. I took a thin metal rod, heated one end and then stuck it straight down through all 3. That way I knew that they would all line up. Then I just made each just large enough for the tube to go through.

The blue things around the over flow tube is just a home made washer, made out of a small piece of thin insulating foam that I already had, and a rubber band to hold it in place. That way I can set it in place, then put the trash can lid on top without needing 3 hands. The blue insulation foam around the 2 gallon buckets I already had (the same I used on the over flow tube). The pipe insulation on the P.V.C. tubing, I also already had. I will also be putting pipe insulation on the black 1/2 inch vinyl tubing from the pump to the P.V.C. in the future. That's basically the new setup.

P.S. I will still be finishing the reservoir off by placing something like bender board (for garden edges, only 12 inches wide) in the ground around the trash can. Three to four inches deep, and about 8 inches above ground. Then I will place a mound of dirt all around the outside of it. That will be a 8 inch high mound of dirt all around the reservoir. This will keep rain water from overflowing into the reservoir and flooding it. I will also be placing a flat board over the top of it, this will help keep it cool, and the warm air and rain out. As well as adding a few inches of depth to the system.

The large trash can was $10
The small trash can was $12
The Styrofoam sheet was $6
Digging the hole, Priceless

txice 02-18-2010 10:34 AM

Nice setup. I bet that hole was fun to dig...

GpsFrontier 02-18-2010 04:11 PM


I bet that hole was fun to dig...
I got my exercise, that's for sure. It took 4 days, and I already had the hole started from the way the system was before. I kept filling the hole with water overnight to soften up the soil. The farther down I got, the harder it got. I couldn't swing the pick anymore past about half way down, without making the hole wider. And it's kind of hard to dig a hole with a shovel when you are standing on top of where you want to dig. I dug most of the bottom part with hand tools. But that was difficult (besides the obvious) because I couldn't get down on my hands and knees, and the hole was not wide enough to bend down from a standing position without my head being in the way. So I had to bend over while stand in the hole, resting my head on the side of the hole opening. While stretching down to dig rock with small hand trowels and picks. I even broke one hand pick, and bent a hand trowel. But ya, I had a good time.

txice 02-18-2010 05:18 PM

Makes me tired just reading about it...

GpsFrontier 03-17-2010 09:07 PM

11 Attachment(s)
Well it's been a month for these tomato's now. The weather up until the last 4-5 days has been cold, cloudy and even rain. But despite the weather the tomato's have been able to grow. The chicken wire around the buckets is for the benefit of the rabbits (mischievous little buggers). I haven't changed the nutrient solution yet. I started with 9 gallons in the reservoir for the first 2 weeks. But because the plants were still relatively small and the capacity of the reservoir, I just added 6 new fresh gallons of nutrient solution to the reservoir. For a total of 15 gallons in it right now.

I have checked the pH about twice a week, but other when mixing the nutrients the pH has remained stable at about 6.0. The water temp in the reservoir seems to stay right around the low 60's, time will tell how it does in the summer. I will need to add more pipe insulation to the PVC tubing, as well as the black vinyl tubing (possibly even the buckets) before it starts to get hot. Or the nutrient solution temp will rise to much from simply flowing through the system. The weather is starting to warm significantly. By this weekend it will be almost 90 degrees. Also, the forecast for the next 10 days says it should be sunny, and in the mid to upper 80's. Should be perfect weather for the tomato's.

widespreadpanic 05-11-2010 11:44 AM

Awesome stuff
I love what you've done. What is the temperature of your reservoir? I thought about burying mine until I found a cheap aquarium chiller. I also like the way you insulated the pipes. TOO cool. Keep us updated with more pics.

GpsFrontier 05-11-2010 06:45 PM

3 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by widespreadpanic (Post 4751)
I love what you've done. What is the temperature of your reservoir? I thought about burying mine until I found a cheap aquarium chiller. I also like the way you insulated the pipes. TOO cool. Keep us updated with more pics.

Thanks, The temp of the nutrient solution remains constant at about 76 degrees. That's a little higher than I want (68-72), but as I mentioned earlier in this thread, I ran into a rock that I just couldn't dig out. So the hole is only 30 inches deep instead of the 36 inches that I originally planed. I have checked the temp of the buffer water (the water between both trash cans), This water does not run through the system, it stays underground 24/7. The temp of the nutrient solution and the buffer water are always the same. This tells me that the nutrient solution is not really heating up as it flows through the system, at least not yet. It will get 30 degrees warmer before the summer is over, to at least 125 degrees.

I actually have not finished it quite yet, plan to build up the top portion about 6 to 8 inches, hopefully that will make up for not being able to go deep enough. I attached some images of the way I plan to finish it off. All the above ground tubing should be covered with pipe insulation to help keep it from heating up as it flows through the system. Although I need to redo it all. The tubing is 3/4 inch tubing but the pipe insulation is 1/2 inch, it's just what I had on hand. I plan to get some 3/4 inch insulation within a few weeks. I have not taken new pictures yet, I've been meaning to but I will tonight or tomorrow then post them.

GpsFrontier 05-15-2010 02:51 AM

5 Attachment(s)
I got busy the last couple of days but here are the pictures I said I would post. As you can see I added some pipe insulation (still not 3/4 inch) although the fill line is 1/2 inch and fits perfectly (that's what is laying on the ground). I have still had problems with insects and have gone to a different product (NEEM). I have noticed the leaves starting to come back, but I know the plants are stunted because they were infested. Also If I had it to do over again I would use 5 gallon buckets instead of the 2 gallon ones, all lessons learned. These 4 plants drink about 3 gallons per day right now, so I need to replace this daily, or the nutrient solution becomes concentrated. It's a 15-20 gallon reservoir, so it needs daily checking. Also As you can see the plants are growing more to one side than the other, this is because the tree is now blocking much of the direct sunlight.

joe.jr317 05-18-2010 10:33 AM

Now that is one unique setup! Would painting the lid help at all in deflecting some light?

GpsFrontier 05-18-2010 06:13 PM


Originally Posted by joe.jr317 (Post 4813)
Now that is one unique setup! Would painting the lid help at all in deflecting some light?

I think you are referring to the trashcan lid (reservoir). I could paint it, but when the reservoir setup is finished it will be completely covered. If you are referring to the cover once it is finished, I probably will paint it white. The tree blocks it from sun most of the day, but it gets 3-4 hours of sunlight in the afternoon.

smurf 05-29-2010 02:46 AM

Whats the temp of the water underground now?

GpsFrontier 05-29-2010 04:18 AM


Originally Posted by smurf (Post 4897)
Whats the temp of the water underground now?

Well, I don't check it daily, but the temp has never strayed from the original 76-78 degrees that it first tested at. Also I was not able to go as deep as I wanted, I was 6 inches short from the 3 feet (36 inches) goal because of rock in our soil. I still have not finished the top part yet, but hope to soon. I also plan to make 2 more, one for melons, and one for peppers. But I will probably just make the hole longer and fit both in the same hole (about 2 feet apart). I may even go with a larger reservoir, and run more than one system from it. But I am running out of time to decide, the melon plants are getting big.

watercatwn6535nd 06-25-2010 02:41 AM

Now that looks like a fun project. i can teach you how to make a digging tool out of a empty roll of toilet paper and stick of dynamite.

GpsFrontier 06-25-2010 02:49 AM


Originally Posted by watercatwn6535nd (Post 4996)
Now that looks like a fun project. i can teach you how to make a digging tool out of a empty roll of toilet paper and stick of dynamite.

Hey that sounds like it would work, although I'm not sure I would be able to scrounge up a empty toilet paper roll.

rabHydro 06-28-2010 03:08 PM

What is the blue tape in the pictures?

GpsFrontier 06-28-2010 07:20 PM


Originally Posted by rabHydro (Post 5024)
What is the blue tape in the pictures?

I think the blue tape that you are referring to is what is around the 2 gallon buckets. That is not actually tape, it's rolled foam insulation. I warped what I had around the buckets to help protect against heat in the root zone from our 120+ degree temps. What I need to do is use 3/4 inch flat Styrofoam insulation on the bottom, and top to bottom rolled foam insulation on the sides. They use the rolled foam insulation in building some block walls if I remember that right. It comes in 4 and 6 inch widths rolls. Although you can also get rolled foam insulation as a floor or carpet underlayment, and even as packing supply's. The flat sheet Styrofoam can be found in the home insulation department at any home improvement store.

rabHydro 06-29-2010 07:33 AM

The blue tape I was referring to is strung all over the PVC structure, is it to support the plants? May I should call it ribbon.

GpsFrontier 06-29-2010 08:01 AM


Originally Posted by rabHydro (Post 5034)
The blue tape I was referring to is strung all over the PVC structure, is it to support the plants? May I should call it ribbon.

OK that it's actually (green) stretchy tape, perhaps the color is off in the pictures (no problem). You can find that in any nursery, it's used to tie plants to trellises, posts etc. But it stretches so it wont choke the stem as it grows. It also comes as a twine that does not stretch. I have learned that the weight of the plants are not supported well with the stretch tape over distances of about 2-3 feet. I supplemented that weight with regular twine later. And yes it's there to support the plants, it does however add some support to the overall structure. But long story short I never finished the structure the way I wanted, it would of had more support from the pvc tubing the way I had planed. But it always had the plan to use the green stretch tape to tie the plants to (like what's in the picture). In the future I would probably use twine to complete the open spaces for structure, but use the green stretch tape to tie the stems to the twine.

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