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Can anyone help me guage my progress?


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  #1  
Old 11-23-2009, 02:25 PM
txice txice is offline
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Default Can anyone help me guage my progress?

First time poster here and pretty new to the hydroponics/indoor gardening thing. Heck...fairly new to gardening in general. Can't really explain what sparked the interest, but a friend of mine at work and myself got interested in growing some hot pepper plants and ended up ordering some various seeds from the internet. Without going into too much back story, seeds arrived and were planted. Actually started the seeds out in regular soil and little jiffy strips. Started doing some internet research and ended up getting turned onto the hydroponic "stuff". We were both instantly hooked on the idea. We like challenges and we decided to try out hand at some "home grown hydroponics" so to speak. We both ended up trying our hand at a DIY aeroponic/dwc hybrid type system (rubbermaid tote with about 5 gallons of solution in the bottom, spray bar with little spray heads sprinkling nutrient solution on the roots with air stone hooked to pump sitting in the solution).

I've had my sprouts in this system now for just a tad over 1 week now and I haven't managed to kill anything just yet. So I guess I'm at least headed in the right direction, but I honestly don't really know what to look for. A lot of the information I was able to find online about the various types of peppers I am growing indicate "maturity" times of 60-80 days (some simply listed as >80 days), but I don't know what this means in context. That's 80 days from what?? The time the seed is sown? Seems awfully fast to me, especially based on what I've seen thus far. However, I'm fairly un-educated in this area hence why I am turning to the community here in hopes that some of the more experienced growers out there can maybe tell me if I'm going down the right road.

I'll attach some pics here (or at least try) for reference. If I'm doing this correctly, the first image should just be a general overall shot of the system. That pic was taken the first day after the system was set up and the seedlings transplanted from their jiffy strips. At that stage in the game I am right at 21 days from when the seeds were initially sown. The next picture is taken after the seedlings had been in the system for about 3 days. I decided to start taking more "up close" photos to sort of catalog the process (as indicated in the picture we are now at 24 days from when seeds were sown). And the last picture was from the set taken last night. As seen in the picture we are now at 29 days from when seeds were planted. As you can see, there seems to be some fairly substantial growth in that 5 day period...but is this expected progress? Am I doing better than would be expected at essentially 30 days from planting the seeds...or is my plant development lagging behind? Any insights on that aspect? The plants appear to be health and growing, but I don't know well enough where I should be to know if I need to be looking at changing something. And sorry for the long winded post.

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Last edited by txice; 11-24-2009 at 02:42 PM.
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  #2  
Old 11-24-2009, 06:48 PM
KevinL KevinL is offline
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First...thats a nice clean looking setup, maybe some pictures of the inside would be nice.
Also...how is the root development? a good way to determine your plants/systems sucess.
Peppers start slow.., they like warmer temps and LOTS of light.
Tell us/me more about the rest of your setup etc so we/I might be able to help you out if need be.
I have done peppers both in a Ron's System, and Soil and personally, I like the soil grows for peppers better. Plus, I can get so much product from my soil grow that I can dehydrate or freeze them and have peppers all year long.
But...I've had success with the Hydro-peppers also.
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Old 11-24-2009, 07:15 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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First I would like to say that I like your setup. Though I do have one concern. You mentioned that these were peppers, as a starter box it seems fine but the plant look to be only about 2 or 3 inches apart. As the plants mature this will be a huge problem. You may want to find out how big the plants get when full grown. You will probably need them to be between 2-3 feet apart depending on the type. I had the bell peppers that I grew (the plants in the upside down 2 litter bottles are peppers) set at 3 feet apart, that gave the plants 1 1/2 feet growing room on both sides.

I beleve the days to maturity are from when they sprout. Plants in Hydroponics generally grow much faster than in soil, but there are many factors that will influence it (light, nutrients, pH, temp, humidity, type of system, ventilation etc.). When transplanted into the system you probably wont see much of anything in the way of progress for the first week as the plants are just getting used to there new environment. Though it looks like the plants are growing. Just to let you know, you want the nutrient solution temperature to be continuously between 68 and 72 degree. If the roots are white they are probably healthy, but if they are discolored there is something wrong. Also If the pH level of the nutrient solution is either to high or low the plants wont be able to take up the nutrients they need properly.
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Old 11-24-2009, 08:02 PM
txice txice is offline
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Thanks for the responses. I'm going to try and make a single post to address both of your replies. To start off I will say that I know this setup won't be ideal for "the long haul". I fully intend to migrate the plants out into different system(s) where I will allow them to grow to maturity. This initial setup was only intended to be a "cloner" type box of sorts and not what I had intended for them to live in to maturity. This is just my initial attempt to "test the hydroponic waters" so to speak and I didn't want to build multiple systems with grow room just yet.

I've added a few more pics here to try and show the inside of the setup and tried to capture the roots. The pictures aren't very good quality (taken with my iPhone) so apologies for that. Some details about the setup to go along with the picture: I'm using an Eco185 pump in this setup. As you can see there is a pvc pipe running down the center of the tub with 8 spray heads on it. I was told by the guy at the hydro store I bought the pump/sprayers from that the spray heads are actually the replacement heads for the EzClone system. Not quite as easy to spot, but there is an air stone at the bottom of the tub there. Running around the top of the tub I have some weather stripping to help with leaks. That, so far, has been my biggest issue. Though I don't have any spots that just flow water...if I don't manage to set the lid back on "just right"....I'll get a fairly steady drip leak in various places. I'll have to wiggle the lid a bit and try to adjust it just so to get them to stop. I'm trying to brain storm various ways to eliminate this issue for any potential future builds.

I don't know if these pics of the roots show you want you wanted to see. Again, I don't know what to gauge this against so I don't know if they "look good" or not. I know they are supposed to be more on the white side and that brown = bad. I can't say that the roots are a pristine pure white, but they aren't brown either. I can tell they've developed quite a bit since I initially put the seedlings in the system.

As for running the system, I am currently using a Technoflora "starter kit" for my nutrients, following their "recipies" on the instruction kit for the mixture. I don't have an EC meter or anything like that, just a TDS meter and a liquid drop pH test kit. The nutrient mix I use comes out to be about 1100 ppm. I am monitoring the pH on a daily basis and keep it as close to 6.0 as I can. The temp of the nutrient solution is becoming a concern to me. During the first week I ran the system I had the pump going on a 15 minute on/45 minute off cycle. The nutrient solution stayed in the low 70's range. After my first nutrient change this past weekend, I decided to try the pump on constantly during the entire light cycle (16 hours). I've noticed the temp in the solution creeping up (measuring almost 78 F just a bit ago). I'm guessing the pump running steadily has a lot to do with that. I don't necessarily want to invest in a chiller at this point, so I may have to think about going back on some sort of an on/off cycle with the pump. As far as lights...fairly low tech on that at the moment. I just have a couple of 4' T8 shop lights (2 bulbs per light) with some 5k bulbs in them that I hang just a few inches above the top of the seedlings. Better lighting is also something I am brainstorming for future builds. The guy at the local hydroponics store is really pushing HPS lights, but the heat output and cooling issues are a concern to me at this point. I'm told, however, that the T8 shoplight idea is fine for the stage my plants are in at the moment....so I have a little bit to figure that part out as well. Need to look into the "grow smell" too...heh. Doing this in a spare room in our house and it's fairly potent when you first walk into the room. Had to isolate it in a room I could close off though....cats apparently like to nibble on seedlings .

Hopefully I addressed both of your posts/questions, and thanks again for taking the time to reply.
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Last edited by txice; 11-24-2009 at 08:08 PM.
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  #5  
Old 11-25-2009, 07:21 AM
KevinL KevinL is offline
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Well, you have definitely built a successful rooter/cloner thats for sure. Congrats! LOL!
Yes, the heat would be caused by the pump as submersible pumps do that.
you could probably do multiple short cycles and keep that problem down..but as a cloner/rooter, you've already have what you need for the time you've run it.
The roots like nice and healthy, definitely time to move them to a bigger unit as mentioned previously.
For the purpose of Rooting like this, the T8 will work great, but before to long they will start to get very streched out trying to get more light unless you keep the room very cool (50-55) and the lights Very close to the plants if not Right on them.
If your going to attempt to finish them indoors, I too would recommend HPS lighting as peppers like LOTS of light and Warmth, and Florescence don't have the penetrating power to get light all the way down and around your plants to do them justice.

Now..as far as the problem with your lid leaking..you might want to check into containers that the lids drop down a little more..so you don't have water running all the way to the edge of the lid. More of a Sunken area. Not sure thats a good explanation LOL.
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Old 11-25-2009, 12:33 PM
txice txice is offline
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Thanks . Guess I'm not a total failure for my first try at hydroponics...hehe.

I was thinking I'd need to go back to an on/off cycle to try and curb the heat issue. I had only gone to the "always on" approach because I always heard a lot of people saying that the constant on/off cycles will significantly shorten the life of the pumps. But...I guess if it comes down to a choice of having to replace a $30 pump every so often vs. killing all my plants though...heh.

Yeah, I know what you mean about the lid. I've been trying to find different containers that are better suited to be adapted to this sort of application. Nothing at our local Walmart/Target stores yet, but I'm keeping my eye out. I've seen a few designs where folks use containers where the lids actually bubble upwards when placed normally on the container...and they simply flip them upside down and set them down in the container that way. Like you said, essentially causes the lid to drop down more and wouldn't allow the water a way to get up and over the lip of the container.

As far as moving these guys to their more permanent sites...would you recommend I go straight into a 3" pot or so (which seems to be what the average is folks use to take their plants to maturity in a mix aero/hyrdo system like I have)...or do I need to go in steps? Like maybe to a 1" or 2" pot first...then move to the 3" later?
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Old 11-25-2009, 12:33 PM
txice txice is offline
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Hrmm...double posted somehow. Sorry about that...disregard this one
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Old 11-25-2009, 06:02 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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I haven't built a cloner like that or at all but I was thinking that maybe doing something like some how attaching a skirt around the edge of the inside of the lid might work. It would need to be secure, maybe using a hot glue gun. Silicone is waterproof but I don't think it would be strong enough to hold long. Another option might be making a new lid out of Styrofoam sheets, used for insulation and found at hardware stores. Making it so it drops down inside the container. I have found that a soldering iron works great to custom form it, and it also seals the edges so you don't get the little white balls all over the place. Or maybe even hot gluing the Styrofoam to the inside of the lid as the skirt could work, if it doesn't melt it before it cools. Though it might be simpler and less frustrating to find another container as you mentioned.
Quote:
As far as moving these guys to their more permanent sites...would you recommend I go straight into a 3" pot or so (which seems to be what the average is folks use to take their plants to maturity in a mix aero/hyrdo system like I have)...or do I need to go in steps? Like maybe to a 1" or 2" pot first...then move to the 3" later?
Going directly to the 3 in pots should be fine as long as the roots get the moisture they need. If you use smaller pots and the roots grow through before you get them into the larger ones you will need to trim the roots to transplant it again.

P.S. I do have a plan for a simple inexpensive chiller that should do fine for that size (5 gallon reservoir). If you are interested let me know.
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Old 11-25-2009, 09:12 PM
txice txice is offline
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I'd also thought about a skirt idea like you mentioned. Haven't figured out a good way to attach it to the lid yet though. My best idea on that so far was gorilla tape and a thick plastic garbage bag...heh. Something like a silicone caulk was next on the list. I would prefer to not have to employ such methods and simply get a container that was more leak resistant itself though. Time is quickly running out though. I'm not sure what happened, but I think a few of my plants hit a "growth spurt" last night. When I went to check on the system earlier today several of my plants looked to have grown tremendously overnight some how. Their leaves had expanded and were covering parts of their neighboring plants, which they had not done the previous day. Wow!

So it would seem I need to accelerate my plans to build additional systems. I would indeed be very interested in hearing your plans for a chiller.

I also need to make a decision on the lighting. That's the one area I'm still a bit dodgey with at the moment. I'm a data kind of guy and, though I appreciate any and all advice I can get, I also like to know the "whys" behind the advice. And I'm still not comfortable with the "whys" on the lighting. A full spectrum, high quality HPS bulb seems to be the most recommended option, but I'm not sure what my final configuration for my setup will look like plus some other factors I still need to research. Guess a quick question on this though. I hear alot that HPS bulbs have deeper "penetration"...why exactly is that? Is it simply because they are HID bulbs and the light eminating from the bulb istelf is sooooo much brighter than the light that would eminate from a flourscent? Is it the color range since HPS bulbs seem to favor the red end of the spectrum? A combination? From a shere "intensity" perspective, is a 400W HPS hanging a few feet above the plant area really better than say an 8x54w T5 fixture that can hang only a few inches above the plant area? Still a pretty confusing area for me but one I need to figure out rather quickly it would seem....my peppers have decided to start moving at a pace I wasn't quite ready for....heh.
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Old 11-26-2009, 12:36 PM
txice txice is offline
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I think I need to make some adjustments...after checking on the plants this morning I began to take a closer look at my seedlings (not sure it's still appropriate to keep calling them that at this stage..but oh well). The first tip off was that I noticed one of my Charleston plants had "tipped over". I was actually expecting this at some point. His leaves were getting awfully big, but his stem was still pretty leggy and skinny. I knew he was going to become top heavy at some point. I got a toothpick and stuck it in the plug next to him to try and help prop him up a bit. I'm thinking this is primarily due to too little light? Isn't that what usually makes plants "leggy"? Them stretching out trying to get closer to the light source?

Anyway, after putting a temporary fix on this guy I started to take a closer look at the rest of the plants. I actually started to notice some stuff with a few of them that has me a bit concerned. I've again posted a couple of pics to try and illustrate what I'm trying to explain.

First pic is of the Charleston I previously mentioned. You should be able to see the yellow toothpick running along side the stem . Not an ideal solution I know, but didn't have much else on hand at the moment. However, if you can see on the leaf on the left side of the picture, there are some yellow spots developing (sorry, I know the pics are a tad fuzzy...stupid iPhone again ). I noticed this exhibited on the cotyledons quite some time ago, but I wasn't concerned about it because it is my understanding that these initial set of leaves will eventually just die off and wilt away after the "true leaves" begin to develop. However, I'm thinking the yellow on the true leaves isn't a good sign.

The second pic is one of my Thai Sun plants. You can see similar developments. The true leaf on the left showing signs of yellowing.

The last pic is of one of my Bolivian Rainbows. And I actually don't know if I should be concerned about these guys or not. Notice the discoloration in the true leaves. I'm actually thinking this is expected though. Any experience with Bolivian Rainbows? Pictures of these plants I've seen shows these plants usually have darker colored leaves with a mix of dark and lighter green like this. So I'm not necessarily thinking these guys are sick, but thought I'd throw that out there as well in case anyone has experience with this particular pepper and can tell me if this is "expected development" for this type of pepper.

I've also cut my pump time back and put it back on a 15 minutes on/45 minutes off cycle. This should help reduce the nutrient solution temp a few degrees hopefully, but I'm maybe also hopeing part of my problem was maybe that the plants were getting too much water.
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Old 11-26-2009, 05:30 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Quote:
So it would seem I need to accelerate my plans to build additional systems.
It looks like you have about 28 plants to grow. I am not sure what your plans are for a permanent home for them is, but I have an idea on that if you needed some ideas. I grew peppers last summer and they did well in that system, but I have some improvements to it. I plan to grow 20-30 Bell and Hatch (big Jim) peppers also in the near future and will be designing the same system I have in mind for them.
Quote:
I would indeed be very interested in hearing your plans for a chiller.
Well I haven't tried it yet or even built it yet, but it's quite simple. I came up with the idea last summer when I was having problems with the heat with my peppers and strawberry's. It probably would have helped for the peppers (10 gallon reservoir) but I don't think it would have helped the strawberry's (32 gallon reservoir). My plants were outside and the nutrient temp was getting upwards to 90-95 degrees. But I don't think yours is getting anywhere near that because it's inside, so I think it should work fine for you.

The idea is using a ice chest, you should be able to get an inexpensive Styrofoam one at Walmart (thicker is better), Target etc., The last time I was at Walmart they had them for about $3.98 in the camping department. Then get the same tubing that goes from the water pump to misters, except get a long piece like 20 feet. Place the Styrofoam ice chest next to the growing chamber and connect the long piece of tubing between the pump and misters. Then coil up the excess and place it in the Styrofoam ice chest. Cut a notch for the tube in the Styrofoam so you can place the lid on it. Then fill the ice chest with ice water. As the nutrients pump through the coils in the ice water, it cools them down. If you want you can use metal coils like copper for better heat transfer, but it's more expensive and I don't think you will need it.

I am not sure the tubing that you are using but my pumps use 1/2 inch inside diameter tubing. I use black tubing because it's light proof. Home Depot does not sell this tubing by the foot just 20 foot pieces for about $9. But Lowe's does sell it by the foot, just not in black. That's OK, because it will be dark inside the ice chest and you don't need black tubing there, so you can use the clear tubing. The Lowe's here sells the clear 1/2 in tubing for about $.25 a foot so 20 feet should only cost about $5 or $6.

I don't know how often you will need to add ice to the ice water, because I have not tested this design yet. A lot will depend on how hot the nutrient temp actually is and how much heat transfer. But if you have ever been camping for the weekend with an ice chest usually there is still ice in it when you get home, but you are not running warmer water through it either. Though as the nutrients cool down and stay that way there will be less heat transfer and probably need less ice.

But anyway, that's one idea I have for cooling nutrients down. The other one wont work for you as you are growing inside. It also requires much more work, a bit more expense, and is really for a much larger system. You would also need to be the homeowner (I don't know if that aplys), because it requires some lite construction and digging. Basically using Geothermal energy to cool them down.
Quote:
I also need to make a decision on the lighting.
I am sorry I don't have any experience with using Fluorescent and artificial lighting. All my plants are grown in the free sunlight here in AZ. We get over 300 days of it a year. I don't know if it helps you or is even up to date and accurate, but someone left a link The Fluorescent Lighting Energy Savings and Product Comparisons in another thread that might be of some help to you.

I also have some ideas on bringing natural lighting inside. It requires some permanent construction and initial expense, but cost's nothing to run. The costs depend on what room you are wanting to light, how far away it is from the best source of sunlight, and how big an area you want to light.
Quote:
I was actually expecting this at some point. His leaves were getting awfully big, but his stem was still pretty leggy and skinny. I knew he was going to become top heavy at some point. I got a toothpick and stuck it in the plug next to him to try and help prop him up a bit. I'm thinking this is primarily due to too little light? Isn't that what usually makes plants "leggy"?
Yes, this certainly does sound like a lighting problem. It's stretching because the light source is inattiquite.
Quote:
I actually started to notice some stuff with a few of them that has me a bit concerned. I've again posted a couple of pics to try and illustrate what I'm trying to explain.
I don't have any experience with these verities of peppers but one thing you may want to look at is the color of the roots. Are they white or turning brown. If there is a problem with your plants it could be a number of things like pH, nutrients, nutrient temp, lighting, air temp and or humidity. Again I am not familiar with those verities of peppers but peppers usually like well ventilated dry warm claimants and lots of good lighting. Also as you mentioned it could be that the roots were suffocating with too much water. Also there might not be enough oxygen in the nutrient solution, especially if the nutrient temp is too warm. The water looses more oxygen molecules the warmer it gets.
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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 11-27-2009 at 05:35 AM.
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Old 11-27-2009, 07:25 PM
KevinL KevinL is offline
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What I did for cooling was I kept freezer ziplock bags full of frozen water in the freezer, and I would drop them into the reservoir (bags still sealed) as needed, that seemed to help a lot in a pinch.
the cooling system your talking about building, I remember kids in the frats used to have instant beer coolers like that, they had coils of tubing throughout the inside of the cooler, and filled it with ice. I'm sure it would work well for Nutrient fluid, maybe even if you could use the thinnest walled tubing possible, and as much as possible for the most amount of exposure.

Lighting...sigh...will always be an issue. Each type has it's pro's and Con's.
You might be able to get a lot of lumen from florescence over all, but the studies I've read say it just isn't a strong enough light source to penetrate through the plant. I always tell people, buy the most you can afford because if you buy 1 Flor-fixture, then another, then another..but the time you've spent enough to buy a 400watt hps, you would have been better off buying the 400 watt to begin with. Of course, depending on your layout.
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Old 11-30-2009, 10:56 AM
txice txice is offline
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Well I've been AWOL for a little bit working on some new systems. I did purchase a ballast/light setup. Not the biggest or best system, but hopefully it will work. I got a 400W ballast with a fairly basic "bat wing" reflector. I got both a full spectrum MH bulb and a HPS buld for flowering. The ballast is switchable and can accomodate both types of bulbs. Putting the finishing touches on the new systems and getting ready to transfer some of the larger seedlings over. Once I get everything finished I'll be posting the new setups in the systems forum.

I'm going to have to monitor the temp in the room now with this new light in there to see what the heat does.

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