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Old 06-19-2014, 10:56 AM
MontyJ MontyJ is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 13

Originally Posted by Stan View Post
That's a very nice setup. Can you post more pics? I might try that to grow watermelon and cantelope for next year.
Ok, some more pics.

1 - Return feed plumbing details. I could have put the thru-wall fittings on the bottom of the bucket for more complete drainage, but wanted the option to put the buckets on a flat surface with no 'edge' if needed.

2 - 6-net pot lid layout. I also have 3 x 3.5" pots and now 1 x 6" in the lid. Noob mistakes had me leaving plants in the small pots too long; I could not transplant to larger pots w/o damaging roots. Now I put the seedlings directly in the larger net pots. Tomatoes need 6" or larger, can use the 3.5" for lettuce.

3 - Early layout w/o trellis supports. We get some very high winds in this location, so I put large rocks in the buckets (sterilized, of course!) to keep them from blowing off the foundation. With the trellis setup I now have, I am going to get rid of the rocks; they are a huge heat 'collector' I can do w/o!

4 - Example of the lettuce crops I was getting during 80-85F temps. Now that I am in the 95-100F days, it is too much for lettuce.

5 - A test of green onions in a 3.5" net pot. I had to 'double up' on the pots to reduce the perlite media from dropping into the return line. I do have 'filters' on the thru-wall connectors on the inside, but they stop the larger clay pellets only.

6 - An overall view of the layout with tomato trellis supports added.

7 - Equipment used and Peltier test. I also use the Altronics 50 event timer board. So I can do 2 events/hour for 24 hours. Also have a temp controller (sensor went out the other day, so have a new one on order) to monitor the nute and chiller temps. The tubing out the lid of the reservoir is the feed supply via submersible pump. The return line is plumbed to the normal drain port of the cooler on the bottom far end (not shown).

8 - Here is the current internal plumbing of my mini-fridge chiller experiment. The tubing is very thin-walled 1/2" tube. I realize it is not as good a heat transfer as stainless steel or titanium, but that stuff is expensive! There is about 50' of the tubing coiled up in that 5 gal water jug, which is then filled with water. The other water jugs are to help stabilize the temps. I can of course put frozen water bottles in to help the cooling process. The compressor on this puppy runs full time, which is not good. Not sure if I should modify the freezer compartment/coil/sensor...

9 - Bucket wrap and trellis support details. Every other bucket has the pvc pipe support. It is attached to the bucket using a coat hanger at the top and bottom of the bucket. Since I cannot do any drilling or other mods to the old water fountain itself, I have to make everything self-supporting...portable if you will. The whole thing, once you get more than a few buckets, is surprisingly sturdy.

10 - Trellis details. PVC pipe is relatively (to wood) cheap here. I use 1" pipe with some angle adapters at the top and simply bolt the thing together. No glue used as I need to be able to take it apart easily.

Lots of noob mistakes made:

- Used too small of net pots and did not transfer the plants soon enough as they got bigger.
- Did not (initially) drain the buckets fast enough. I had one tomato plant develop root rot and it had to be destroyed, system cleaned, etc.
- Did not get the right nutes for the very hard water here. I am going to have to get a RO system and then treat with extra calcium, magnesium supplements.

I am a proponent of OJT (on the job training...old Air Force habit, LoL), or learn by doing. I was told I would "burn" the lettuce if I tried to grow it along with nute levels aimed at tomatoes. Well, I throttled back the PPM to the lower range for tomatoes, and my lettuce did not go up in flames! I realize it is a 'compromise' setup, trying to grow a variety of things in a single system. But it can be done. I don't get maximum tomato yield, of course. But my goal was to walk out my door and be able to pick lettuce, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers as a minimum for a great salad. I can do that, except in summer the lettuce isn't going to happen with this setup.

I am testing with some cucumbers and butternut squash. The leaves and vines and blooms are going crazy, but yet to get any veggies on them. I did plant them late.

It is an experiment on a compromise setup. So far I am encouraged, given I have not solved my summer heat problem, and have some serious water problems. I do not flush the system as often as I should, and I go against the rules by adding fresh nutes to older nutes. It ain't by the book, but I need to learn the hard way!

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