Thread: hydro systems
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Old 12-19-2010, 04:45 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Lake Havasu AZ.
Posts: 1,855

Hello Andy,
I know what you mean by things coming up, there always seems to be something that gets in the way of me being able to get what I want to accomplish done. Five inch net pots seems to big for me, is that tall or wide? Usually net pots are measured in width, and five inch wide is not what I would go with. That's not really big enough to put more than one plant in without crowding them. I usually use 3 inch net pots myself, I got a bag of 100 of them for about $25. But you could probably even use 2 inch net pots for strawberry's, possibly even 1 1/2 inch, but I wouldn't go any smaller than that. The strawberry's in the thread of the ones I grew, were 3 inch net pots, spaced 5 inches apart (that is 5 inches from the edge of one pot to the edge of the other). I found that to be a pretty good spacing, but regular trimming of old dead or dying leaves is important. Strawberry's need good air circulation between plants, or trapped humidity on the leaves and growing medium can lead to plant disease.

Going with a water culture system for your first one is a really good way to get started. It's a simple design, that is real cheap to build, as well as easy to expand on. And most plants do well in them like strawberries and lettuces. Short wide plants, rather than taller plants that would tip over when they get tall. One thing I don't want to forget to mention is don't get suckered into buying a pH meter. PPM, TDS or EC meters can be useful but not needed at your level. I still have not gotten a PPM, TDS or EC meter yet myself. Like I mentioned they can be useful, but they all have a specific limitation that they don't tell you about at the store. So you really need to know how they work and what they actually do with relation to checking your nutrients before deciding if you want to spend the money on one.

pH on the other hand is something you will need to test often, I would recommend daily. At least until you get good at guessing when and how much it changes. Also unusual pH swings can be signs to look for. But like I mentioned don't get suckered into buying the expensive meters now. Instead get the Ph test drops kit by General Hydroponics, I added the link so you can see what I am talking about, but just about everybody sells them. The drops are probably more accurate than the meters because you don't need to calibrate them, worry if they are malfunctioning, you don't need any calibration fluid etc. all that can give you false readings. And the drops are less than $8. Once you read the directions I can explain how to make them last even longer than they would if you go exactly by the directions (and still be accurate). One bottle of pH drops last me more than 6 months with multiple systems going at the same time. Just the calibration fluid needed for the meters will cost more than that.

If your growing inside and the air temp is set at 70 degrees, the water temp will be right about the same. As long as your lights are not so close, or put out so much heat that they heat them up a lot. They will probably heat them up a little but I wouldn't expect a problem. If so just a thin sheet of insulation (Styrofoam) should take care of it.

As for pollinating the strawberry's, again I have not re-read the articles I posted lately to be sure. But if I'm not mistaken they wont pollinate by using a fan to circulate air currents. But there are options, as long as you don't have so many plants that hand pollinating will be too labor intensive, that may work for you. One strawberry plant will probably give you about one pound of fruit over a 4 month season. So using that as a guide, you can probably figure out how many plants you'll want (I have some links for that too). If that means that you will have too many plants for regular hand pollinating. There are flys, if where you plan to grow is separate from the house (you don't want them to get in the house). I'm not positive about melons needing incests to pollinate, but that info is in those links that I posted in the thread about melons I'm sure (again I haven't re-read them lately). Hand pollinating those is possible, but if I am not mistaken they have both male and female flowers on the same plant, So you'll want to know witch is witch. If you still cant find that info in those links, I can see if I can find it for you when I have time.

As for how much of the net pot should be submerged, has variables. But the best advice I can give is, design it in a way that it's not hard to adjust (using spacers, inserts, another sheet of thinner Styrofoam as a spacer etc.). Type of growing medium (how much water it wicks up), is probably the biggest factor. But if it's adjustable, trial and error will tell you the best spot for your plants and setup. The lettuces plants I grew in a water culture were in 3 inch baskets, using coco chips for a growing medium and I tried to keep only the bottom 3/4 inch or less submerged. The baskets were in a fixed position on the lid of the container, all I needed to do to adjust it was either add or take out some water.

I start all my seeds by putting them on a wet paper towel, in a small Tupperware container with a lid to hold in moisture. I try to keep it in an area that is about 80-85 degrees. That keeps them warm moist and the lid keeps it humid inside. I attached some pic's of some seeds I'm starting right now, and here is a link to my High Tech Seed Germination System. Although you wont want to start strawberry's from seeds. Most variety's need to be winterized before they will bear fruit. That is they grow only foliage the first year, then go dormant during winter, and start growing fruit the second year.

It's to bad that your local hydroponics store employees are rude, I don't give people like that my business either. I live in Lake Havasu AZ, and it's not a big town so we don't even have a hydroponics store here. Nearest one that I know of is in Las Vegas NV, about 3 1/2 hour drive away (one way). Kingman and Bullhead city are only about 1 1/2 hours away but I don't think they have one in those towns either. Anyhow anything I need from a hydroponics supply store I get online. I have learned that most company's like General Hydroponics will usually get back to you quickly if you e-mail them questions, and pictures always help explain problems also. So that could be another source of information for you, just copy and paste the same question into e-mails to 3 or 4 different places. You don't need to buy anything, and you might get some useful info out of it. Just be aware that they most likely will only be familiar with their own products, and wont want to give any advice/recommendations on someone else products. So if they recommend something it will only be their own products. But it's still a good way to see if they all agree that it's the same problem, and one may have more knowledge than another one.

P.S. It is nice and cold in northern Minnesota right now. Ever take a day trip into Canada? I can see why growing outside right now is out of the question without a heated greenhouse. I have the opposite problem here in AZ. It's a nice 60 degrees outside here right now at 2:40am, and I even have the sliding glass doors open. But summer time can get down right brutal, I don't care if it is a dry heat. Sorry, now that I look over my post, I guess I have a tenancy to write books.
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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 12-19-2010 at 06:59 AM.
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