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-   -   Hydro garden Dutch Bucket / NFT Update (http://www.hydroponicsonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2002)

Freshwater 05-23-2011 07:13 PM

Hydro garden Dutch Bucket / NFT Update
Hey all,

Seeing as I have been getting more active here on the forum, I thought I would update you on how my system is running. Going through the pictures, I swear I could throw in one from last year and no one would notice they almost look the same...Awesome!

I've mentioned a couple of times that I have some experience with nutrients and water parameters prior to getting into hydroponics, and I'll give you a little idea here.

I took allot more care in starting my seeds this year in January. Indoors under T5HO lights specifically for growing plants underwater. One of my other wallet draining hobbies is freshwater planted fish tanks, or Aquascaping. It is hydroponic growing to the max! Yet I don't think I ever realized it.

In a high tech, high light planted tank we monitor water nutrients, add macro, and mirco nutrients usually in individual compounds like Kno3/Kh2P04/K2S04/CSM+B/Iron Chelate. basically mixing our own nutrient. Fill a tank up with R.O. water, place a small sun on top, add rare and exotic plants and fish then see what happens...lol I even have a 15 lb. Co2 tank that runs into a Co2 reactor that dissolves Co2 (a carbon source) into the water column.

Imagine growing plants inside your reservoir... kinda like that. Generally no oxygen added, no bubblers, no air pumps/stones. The high lighting and high Co2 levels make the plants photosynthesize and produce oxygen at a very fast rate...the water can...at time, almost appear to boil with oxygen coming off the plants (called "pearling"). It's fun, add poison gas to your fish tank, and rely on the plants to produce the oxygen to keep your fish alive.

and that's how I got into hydro...kinda...

I really wanted to get a good head start this year on my seedlings. Learned a bunch last year, learned a bunch this year...and next year will be different again!

This is my first attempt at growing my seedlings indoor with artificial light. I used two 5 gallon DWC systems I made with cheap 7 dollar Tupperware containers. Next year I will probably keep the light closer the seedlings. I figured with the wattage, bulbs, parabolic reflectors I would be more than enough light...ahem...ok so they got a little leggy towards the end.

So here are my babies inside this March, Growing under 98 watts total. 2x Giesmann AquaFlora and 2x ATI 10K light bulbs.


Biggest change this year is the suspension system, I went with the Reelenz support thingies Reelenz, Each [TOM1010|Each] - $1.30 : Hydroponic Supplies and Greenhouse Equipment for the Professional Grower, by CropKing Inc. They work great, every time I click them they release 3 inches of line out. effectively lower the plant slowly. If done once a week, that is a foot of lowering a month. I had trouble layering my vines last year, hopefully this will help me out.

Running 20 heirloom tomato plants this year, ordered online. Supposed to be award winners from Tomato fest, and other highly recommended verities.






Getting ready to go into the NFT!

I have yet to switch over to my Flowering Nutrient yet, I know... I know it's time but I was waiting on these little mother suckers!


Live and learn right? I think I am going to pull these little pepper plants and put them on there own Reservoir, maybe make another little system in the yard, thinking of something else to put in there place, started at the same time as the rest of the plants, should have started them November December I think.

What nutrient do I run?

I changed things around this year, I got hit by powdery mildew late season last year, and ended up pulling the plants early December due to this. (Had to listen to my Pops one up me as we ate tomatoes from his garden on Christmas! and he's a soil grower!!)

Vegetative Nutrient - SuperNatural Brand "Gro Aqua" 11-6-16 (same as last year)

Flowering Nutrient - General Hydroponics "FloraMato 10-6-18 (same as last year)

with...(new this year)

Botanicare - Silica Blast (per the label - Silicate helps strengthen plant tissue to help flourish in adverse environmental conditions such as heat, drought, and frost.) I am running this this year to help fortify my plants against pests and disease.


MaxiCrop - Liquid Seaweed 0-0-1 (only played with this a little last year)

and H2o2...(ran this last year)

Very happy, very healthy plants.

Water schedule, recirculating system... from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. the pumps turn on on the hour for 3 minutes.

Media - Pearlite

Can't wait for the mater's to be ready, already enjoying the Squash, Zucchini, Snap Peas, Cucumbers and all the leafy greens have been running year round.


T'Mater 05-23-2011 07:34 PM

Man i didn't see those spools when i bought mine. I have to manually undo mine not push a button. I feel cheated.

So for your mater's you only feed them for 3min's every hour? Man i'm waaay over watering mine then. Wonder why they haven't shown any sign's of it tho....

How old do you let your mater plant's get before you start over?

Can't wait till i've got my bug's worked and and can start dabbling in other things. When i showed my wife your set up she was very jealous.

Freshwater 05-24-2011 12:21 PM


Originally Posted by T'Mater (Post 7208)

So for your mater's you only feed them for 3min's every hour? Man i'm waaay over watering mine then. Wonder why they haven't shown any sign's of it tho....

How old do you let your mater plant's get before you start over?

Hey T'Mater,

It all depends on your media, I know you mentioned you are running Sure-to-grow, but is it Loose fill, Hail or what? I went with Pearlite because that's what the commercial growers run. I tried to emulate them as much as possible. They water every 30 minutes, or on the half hour during daylight hours. The cost difference in the timer to control that many on/off "events" was about 200 bucks more than the $15 I spent.

Your media might be different, pearlite drains fast, retains some moisture, but allows me to regularly supply the roots with nutrient, and most important aeration... and then there is that little buffer in the Dutch/Bato Bucket that keeps you from running too dry.

Last year I ran Coco, pearlite, and expanded clay, and could hardly water 3 times a day. Now I water 14 times a day, more nutrient exposure for the plant, more aeration for the roots, and more turnovers for the bato res.

Oh, and I could get away with watering one minute an hour if I wanted, but I like to turn over the bato res, often. Also helps to keep my main reservoir happy. The bato's filled with pearlite act as a huge biological filter. The more nutrient I run through them the healthier my main reservoir. I probably turn over my main res. 3-6 times a day depending on the volume (full 35 gallons).

I was hoping to run my tomato plants year round...last year I got hit by powdery mildew. But in a perfect world through winter (i.e. pull them in march/April and set new plants out for the spring).

I re-enforced the top of my support trellis so I can put green house plastic up when the weather gets nasty. Also keeps my support wires taught, last your I lost about a foot and a half of growing space from the 2x3's bowing in.


GpsFrontier 05-25-2011 04:52 AM

Hey Freshwater,
You have some nice looking plants there, and those cherry tomatoes really look good. I want to do a system similar to your bato bucket setup with 2-3 different level rows of all types of peppers. I'm not really sure how the pulleys help though. Seems like if you lowered the plants it would damage them, but I don't see how you would be able to lower the buckets anyway because their sitting on a fixed bench.

Freshwater 05-25-2011 02:39 PM


Originally Posted by GpsFrontier (Post 7234)
I want to do a system similar to your bato bucket setup with 2-3 different level rows of all types of peppers. I'm not really sure how the pulleys help though. Seems like if you lowered the plants it would damage them,

Hey GPS,

For pepper plants they are just static lines. As you mentioned, pepper plant stems are way to brittle to be lowered effectively. Though I hear you can if you do it really slowly...(inch a week?). I don't think it is actually necessary to lower peppers.

Tomatoes on the other hand grow much longer, are rather flexible, and last year I didn't have room for 10-14 foot tall plants:D ...and only approx. 5 feet of the top of the tomato is in "production" at any time, from what I have read.

FYI, the Bato buckets are pretty dang cheap too...Bato Bucket with 2 Elbows, Each [BAT0001|Each] - $6.50 : Hydroponic Supplies and Greenhouse Equipment for the Professional Grower, by CropKing Inc.


T'Mater 05-25-2011 10:44 PM

THe plant's were transplanted into 6x6 Sure To Grow blocks, and then i filled the rest of the bucket with hail.

Have another ? for you, do you just not get much rain or ?, i'm asking, cause i am curious as to how you keep from flooding your system with rain water. As you seen the weather forecast for around Nixa,Mo we've had a ton of rain, enough that i think it would have flooded my dutch bucket's and holding tank.

Freshwater 05-29-2011 10:15 AM

Woke up this morning to rain!! What the heck...it's Memorial weekend! BBq's and sunshine!!!

Oh well, guess I'll just put some pic's up I took yesterday.

Fruit is setting really nicely -



Cherri's are almost ready....one more week?



I can almost taste the plumbs -


Can't wait to try these..."Carbon"



The rest of the garden is doing great too...




Switching over to vegetative nutrient today...lol

Happy Memorial Day to all our troops!


T'Mater 05-30-2011 08:11 PM

Wow, i am soooo jealous, your garden is looking AWESOME!!!!!!!

Freshwater 07-05-2011 11:21 AM

4th of July Update -
I received a P.M. from a new member asking me to show how the drip return to res. system works...


I hope you can help....I have checked out your system and others who have built dutch bucket systems, but no one seems to explains the details of how the pump system works. I plan on having the nutrient drain back to the reservoir. So how do I do that with the pump
system? I understand the pump can be set on a timer so send nutrient to the buckets, but how to get the drained water back to the reservoir?

Thanks for your help,

With the "Bato / Dutch Bucket" drip system that T'Mater and myself run, there is a small built in drain system that you can mount onto a 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe. The drain system has a siphon elbow that mounts inside on the bottom, pulling nutrient from the bottom of the built in 1/2 gallon reservoir in the bottom of the bucket. You simply mount your PVC pipe, mark the location you want your buckets at, then drill a 3/4-1" hole on a center-line. The buckets rest on the pipe, with a 3/4" nipple that goes into the PVC pipe.


One end is capped off, and the pipe slopes down slightly to allow drainage, the other end has a small manifold to bring both pipes together...

The black tubing is for the NFT system not the drip... The drain pipe then goes to the right back to the reservoir.


Past the small R.O. unit, and back into my new 45 gallon reservoir. (Up from the old 32 gallon that's on the right...figured I was only getting 28 gallons or so out of it.)



Notice how the return lines, air lines, Electrical... all enter at the very top of the res. allowing for maximum amount of nutrient I can hold. I'm guessing 43-44 gallons.

I used the idea I got from reading GPS's post on building your res. into the ground. Keeps it cool in the summer, and buffers it in the winter.

I run two pumps, one for the upper tier, one for the lower tier. Watering schedule is dependent on your type of media you grow in, as well as weather conditions. I run Pearlite, which gives me very good drainage and maximizes how often I can give the plants nutrient.

Last year I ran Pearlite, Coco, and clay pellets, and could only water 3 times a day...the media retained too much moisture.

Now I water 14 times a day, one the hour from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for 3 minutes a cycle. Only during daylight hour. The plants do not get nutrient after dark. This maximizes the amount of fresh nutrient the roots are receiving, as well as the amount of air the roots receive.

Bonus with this type of system, built in 1/2 gallon reservoir in the base of the Bato buckets, if you have a pump fail...or accidentally turn off your timer (just saying it could happen :o) the plants will not lack nutrient. I did this on a hot day, and didn't catch it until the next morning. I found no stress to any of the plants. No nutrient for 24 hours = no problem.

The 1/2 gallon internal res. is turned over every "on" cycle, the main res. is turned over 3-6 times a day. The pumps put out roughly about 15-20 gallons per run. I need a minimum 10 gallons in the res. to run a full "on" cycle. (Due to it being a return system.)

Timers for this type of system are expensive, thought I was going to need a 200 dollar timer until I found these HB800RCL -- Intermatic, Inc. Online Store

Hope that helps,

T'Mater...feel free to add anything if I missed something.


Freshwater 07-06-2011 10:37 AM

4th of July Update - Tomatoes -
I've found the need to protect the garden from ground vermin, and birds this year! Guess the word got out that I have good eats!











Freshwater 07-06-2011 10:44 AM

4th of July Update - NFT -
...and the NFT is doing well too...





My garden fresh produce hutch, nice to have a small garden stand in my kitchen!


Pre-fireworks sampler (left to right) Black Krim, Cherries, Green Zebra, Julia Child, Black Plum, Paul Robeson

Freshwater 07-07-2011 12:09 AM

July 6th harvest -

The birds got through the netting...I decided to pull just a few of the ripe ones!


and later packed away in their perfect tomato cabinet ...


T'Mater 07-09-2011 12:23 AM

Man that is sooo colorfull.

Do you do your own pollinating or let nature do it? I've got what i thought were sweat bee's hitting my flower's now. I still hit all the blooms with an electric tooth brush just to make sure.

GpsFrontier 07-09-2011 04:57 AM

Ya, lots of good yummy looking tomato's. Those dark red ones look especially yummy. I may try some of those type myself in the future.

crad 07-09-2011 09:20 AM

FW those look good next question is how did they taste and is that pepper jack on them?

Freshwater 07-09-2011 10:53 PM

Thanks Guy's,

It's been a ton of fun, and this season has been easier on me. Hopefully next year will be a breeze...


Originally Posted by T'Mater (Post 7556)

Do you do your own pollinating or let nature do it?

Na, I have to "rape" the flowers (or so I have heard it put). Morning or evening I shake, and/or flick the blossoms to pollinate.

Hey GPS, I highly recommend some dark red heirloom tomatoes. Especially if you have never had them from your own garden...they just taste better... My favorite are the Black Krim, but I am still waiting for my first "Carbon" variety.


Originally Posted by crad (Post 7559)
FW those look good next question is how did they taste and is that pepper jack on them?

It's Mozzarella, Basil, Salt/pepper, olive oil... or a Caprese Salad

Insalata Caprese - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

T'Mater 07-31-2011 01:19 AM

Hey Fresh, how's the garden going? Do you grow any beefsteak tomatoes? That's what i'm growing, and man i finally have a ton of green ones, just waiting for them to get a bit bigger and finally rippen. Was just curious how long it usually takes? (ya i know i'm being impatient again, but it seem's like when i ask a ? from being impatient, with in the week things start answering for themself LOL)

Give us some updated pic's if you find some time. Guess i should get off my butt and show everyone my system.

Freshwater 09-07-2011 11:07 AM

...Keeps going on strong...
Hey all,

Just finish a big trim, and lowering of the plants. Excuse the mess, I just took a couple quick snaps with the insta-matic while I was working.

The garden is still producing great tomatoes. The biggest challenge is keeping the vines organized. Last year was a disaster, this year is better. One of these seasons I will get it figured out. The plants range from around 7 feet to 10-11 feet right now. Last year I started to run into trouble at 12+ feet, but I think that was more due to powdery mildew than length. I also got a 2 month jump on this seasons grow.

I've pulled 2 plants out, and broke one of the "Carbon" plants at about 4 feet from the bato, believe it or not it shot out a new shoot and looks to be recovering. I've allowed new sites/plants to sprout up at the bottom of some stems 12" or less from the base. Most are within a few inches. I've also cloned a dozen or so "new" plants and have planted them at the base of the adults. Once these "new" plants get started I will slowly cut back the full grown plant to allow the babies to take over.

Christmas or bust!!! That's the goal, last year I only made it to December 5th. We will see...





See some new growth here ... bottom photo

I am still getting hit by birds and rodents...I am winning but have prob. lost 50 or so this season...pisses me off, but have yet to be without...I've started pulling them a few days early to maximize my harvest.

T'Mater 09-07-2011 01:32 PM

Man that is awesome, I can NOT wait till next year!!!!

I was actually thinking about getting some sort of hook set up, kind of like something you'd wrap your water hose around. And just keep wrapping my vines around it.

jamromhem 09-08-2011 02:32 PM

Wrapping the vines is a wonderful way to help control indeterminates. I am probably going to have my maters set a little low in a bucket and then run the vines around the bucket and burry in medium to promote some extra root growth, then wrap them around the buckets. (using 5gal buckets)

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