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Stan 07-13-2011 10:46 PM

My System
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I built this outdoor aeroponic system using some ideas from a Youtube video. I'm using an 8ft 5X5 fencing post with 11 large 3 inch net pots. I'm growing 10 tomato plants along with 1 watermelon plant. Each plant is separated 8 1/2 inches. Inside I have a 1/2 inch PVC piping with360 degree micro sprayers. I have the sprayers set on a timer 15 on 15 off.

For the reservoir I'm using a cooler which holds 15 gallons of water and nutrients. The tomato plants are around 15 inches tall. I have to add around 1 - 2 gallons of water/nutrients per day depending on the heat. Soon I will have to buy a 150qt cooler when the tomato plants start to get bigger, live and learn right! So far the cooler has worked pretty well with keeping the water temps at a cool level. It has been in the mid 90's for the last 3 days so I add 4 bottles of frozen water around 10 AM and again around 8 PM and it keeps the water temps between 65 - 70 degrees. The plants are doing fine so far.

I will keep everyone up to date to see how this system works or fails.

crad 07-14-2011 02:30 PM

I like the cooler and I was actually thinking of it how does it work? amazing it looks just like the one we were thinking off from menards.

Stan 07-14-2011 10:51 PM

Crad, I'll take some pics over the weekend of how I set up the cooler as a reservoir. It does keep the water cooler for a much longer period of time during those steaming hot days as long as you put in 4 frozen water bottles early and late in the day.

Stan 07-16-2011 05:13 PM

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Did a reservoir change today and took some pictures.

In picture 1 I disconnect the water return(left) and the water pump(right) line from the top of the cooler. They remove very easily.

In picture 2 you are looking at the underside of the cooler top. The drain(left) and the water pump feed(right). I bought the grey connection from the electrical department at Lowes. They screw together making them a tight fit.

In picture 3 looking inside the reservoir you can see how the water pump connects to the lid of the cooler and the air line.

In picture 4 I carved out 2 sections so the water pump and air line fits flush and the lid closes snug.

When I buy a 150qt cooler I will set up everything the same.

I also hook up screens to the water pump lines along with the return lines. I clean them out when I do a reservoir change.

Will take more pictures as the tomato plants continue to grow.

GpsFrontier 07-16-2011 06:59 PM

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The ice chest as a reservoir is a good idea, however unless you find some used ones at a garage sale or something, they aren't cheep. Especially the bigger they are. Because of the summer heat we have here, I came up with a design to build what I call a cooling box. Witch is really nothing more than a big custom made ice chest. My original concept was for it to house two 32 gallon trash cans as reservoirs (inside the cooling box). But the idea is easily customized to anything you want. You can use it with the water directly in it, with or without the bottom drain, and even make it any size you want. I even have plans to use the design as a large walk in refrigerator for harvested produce storage, and a small window AC unit for the cooling source. I also have plans to make some smaller ones for transporting produce to the farmers market. Cooling them either with dry ice, or a thermoelectric heat sinks, like they use in the coolers that plug into your cars cigarette lighter.

Anyhow I posted pictures of the cooling box I had in mind. The one in the drawings was designed to easily hold two 32 gallon trash cans, and cost of materials I estimated to be around $80. OSB board generally runs about $8 a sheet (4x8), and the 2 inch thick Styrofoam runs a little under $20 a sheet here (4x8). The side support 1x2's run about $0.94 for a 8 foot piece. You can even use 2x3's that run $1.84 here. I have the whole design and building instructions in a PDF file, but I cant post PDF's in this forum. My design also calls for using foamboard adhesive to glue the Styrofoam to the OSB, and water proofing the seams using foamboard adhesive and silicone. Water proofing the flat inside surface can be done using many different materials, but I like rolled vinyl sheeting the best so far (price wise) anyway.

Stan 07-17-2011 02:44 PM

GpsFrontier, that is just an amazing idea.:cool: I might have to check out the local Lowes and see if they have all the materials needed if I can't find a used cooler or 1 that someone has thrown out in the next week or 2. I now have to add between 2 -3 gallons of water to my reservoir per day as the plants are really starting to take off. At this rate I will have to refill the reservoir daily in another month so it's either build or find.

crad 07-17-2011 04:01 PM

my are drinking 4 gals a day right now.

GpsFrontier 07-17-2011 06:58 PM

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Your Lowe's should have everything, ours does. Well with exception of the rolled vinyl sheets. I can get that at ACE hardware, they sell it in 3 different thicknesses, cut to order (and sold by the yard). But again here many materials can be used, as long as it's water proof, flat, and can be glued to the Styrofoam. They also sell at Lowe's and Home Depot rolls of the 6ml thick plastic (both clear and black). It's similar to a plastic drop cloth but much thicker, and sold in larger rolls. I believe it will be in the home insulation department. I plan to use the 100 foot by 20 foot clear 6ml roll as a covering for a planed greenhouse. However I would use the black for inside a cooling box, it wont show stains and glue spots through it.

Another perfect material for this is called FST or FDS board (I think). It's what they use as shower walls (even commercial kitchen walls, inside walk in refrigerators etc.), and it's very durable and easy to clean. But it isn't cheep, runs about $30 to $35 for a 4x8 sheet. Another almost as durable but less expensive option is using a pond liner. It's a very thick black plastic sheet that's very durable, and comes in various sizes. It's usually found in the nursery department, and is the base for man made ponds and waterfalls in peoples backyards. They dig the hole, then spread and form the liner to the whole size.

The 2 inch Styrofoam sheets will be in the home insulation section at Lowe's, Home Depot etc.. Also I forgot I had the picture of the foamboard adhesive, that should be with all the other adhesives like liquid nails. But some of the solvents in those will dissolve Styrofoam, the foamboard adhesive is designed for gluing Styrofoam to wood frames, and other construction materials.

Ya, it can be amazing how much water the plants drink, especially the bigger they get. We don't really get to see/measure that when growing in soil.

Stan 07-17-2011 11:41 PM

^^^Again thanks for all the suggestions and help.:cool:^^^
Now at least I have a few options. I will have to take a look at the local Lowes just to make sure I can get all the supplies if I'm unable to get a cheap 150qt cooler. My wife is going to kill me for taking up another hobby to go along with fishing and guitar playing.:D

Stan 07-25-2011 03:56 PM

added photos
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Just an update my plants are growing incredibly fast and are looking healthy considering the extreme heat we had last week. I have lots of tomato's starting to form. I also have flowers on the lone watermelon plant. I started to tie up the tomato plants which are now 28 inches tall to a 1/4 inch line going from 1 end to the other. I'm still using the same cooler but again will have to go larger sooner or later. Here's some pictures.

GpsFrontier 07-25-2011 05:27 PM

Those tomato plants look real nice!!! Although they are very close together. Do you plan to prune them to just one or two mane stems?

Stan 07-25-2011 06:30 PM

Even though it looks like a bush all of the tomato's are being grown off the main stem. I pluck off the suckers every other day or when they pop up. The leaf branches are long and big. They are all about 8 1/2 inches apart from 1 another.

Stan 08-03-2011 02:08 PM

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The tomato plants are now 35+ inches tall and the watermelon plant is just to long to measure. Lot's of tomato's on the plants and more flowers on top. I'm wondering if I'm going to have to take every other tomato plant out as the roots have gotten so big I can't even pull the pots out to check them. I can only hope they won't suffocate one another. I will build the same system with less tomato plants in each PVC fencing post. This 11 plant site will be used for strawberries next year. Here are the pictures.

GpsFrontier 08-03-2011 07:25 PM

It's OK if the root systems have grown large and together, that's normal. If I remember correctly your system is a flood and drain system. So unless the roots are growing into the feed or overflow lines, you shouldn't have any flooding/watering cycle issues. If they are, just clean them out. But if you try to pull some of the plants out of the tube now, you wont be able to without cutting the roots off. That will leave the plant's dead root mass in the tube. The dead and decaying root mass will feed pathogens and fungi that can cause root disease for the living plants.

Stan 08-03-2011 08:43 PM

GpsFrontier, again thanks for the help. I will leave the plants as they are. I'm using 360 degree sprayers to spray the roots. It's probably working more like a flood and drain now with the roots being so big and long. The water is draining perfectly just as it did when I started because of the type of drain I'm using. When I'm finished with this grow and am ready to take everything apart I will take more detailed pictures of everything I'm using.

Stan 08-09-2011 03:04 PM

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Just an update on my plants. The tomato plants are 44+ inches tall and all look healthy. I have lots of big tomatoes on the lower end of the plants along with smaller ones starting to form higher up. The watermelons I had forming last week dried up and died but new ones have formed and are larger. Not sure why the others died. I now have to add 6 gallons of water per day. I'm keeping the water temps between 67 - 79 degrees by adding frozen bottles of ice into the reservoir on those hot days. Here are the pictures I took today.

Stan 08-27-2011 03:23 PM

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Figured I would update you before we get slammed by Hurricane Irene today. Took these pictures yesterday during the calm before the storm. Not sure what will be left come Monday.

The tomato plants are now 5' 6" tall. The very large tomatoes on the bottom are just starting to ripen and change color. I had to tie them up as the stems were starting to split because of the weight. Still have lots more tomatoes growing mid plant and more ready to start on top. I now have 4 watermelons growing 2 are almost the size of footballs and 2 just larger than a baseball. The plant is stretching out all over the place. Still the plants are using approx 4 - 6 gallons per day depending on how hot it is.

jamromhem 08-27-2011 03:29 PM

The plants are looking great. I am guessing by your wording you are thinking they might not make it through the storm?

I hope the plants survive the storm and come out ok. I don't know if building a wind wall from some plywood would be feasible if you think it will be that damaging to the plants/system.

Stan 08-27-2011 04:27 PM

I was thinking about putting up plywood but then it might bring down my awning. Just going to have to ride it out and hope it won't damage the plants that much.

GpsFrontier 08-27-2011 07:23 PM

Good luck with the hurricane!!! Being I'm in AZ, I don't really keep up with what's happening on the east cost, but I have herd a few bits and pieces about it, and it sounds like it's going to be a big one.

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