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First attempt at hydro

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Old 01-25-2013, 02:19 AM
firsttimer firsttimer is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 2
Default First attempt at hydro

Hi guys, I'm trying to put together a plan for my first hydro setup and would like some help please.

It's an outdoor setup on my balcony. It's north facing (the best way to face here in the southern hemisphere) so there is plenty of sun. I've grown herbs in pots here before with no problems so light/warmth isn't an issue.

From some basic reading I want to go with the drip system method. My basic understanding is this:
- a few times a day, a pump pumps water up to the plants, which dribbles out a pipe near the plants. The dribbling happens for about 15 min, 3-4 times a day.
- excess water is fed back into the reservoir (thanks to gravity, mostly) for reuse
- I'm not sure how oxygen is fed to the plants. Some people have an air pump that just pumps air into the pots directly, others seem to have an air pump that pumps air into the reservoir (like a fish tank).

Some dimensions first:
- area for pots = 5 foot long, 1 foot wide, 1 foot high (havent bought pots yet)
- reservoir is kept underneath pots - distance from bottom of reservoir to top of pots = 3 feet

Desired plants:
- basic herbs (parsely, chives)
- some vegetables (cherry tomatoes, lettuce)

My concerns:
- how strong a pump do I need? Never used water pumps before so not sure what unit of measurement describes their pumping ability
- we hit record temperatures last week (115deg fahrenheit) so I'm concerned about heat stress on the pump. I assume underwater pumps are used, but in an opaque container (to keep out algae) this means the water temp will probably be way higher than the air temp
- how do i fix oxygenation? do i have an airpump pumping directly into the pots? (if so, for how long, and how often?) or do i have an airpump pumping air into the reservoir (if so, for how long and how often?) or is there a way i can get around it? Ideally i'd like to keep electronic devices to a minimum (less things that can break = good in my books)

My ideas:
- I want the reservoir underneath the middle of the pots. This way the water is pumped vertically up to the middle of the pots, and the strength of the water is evenly delivered left and right to the pots. Also with this I want to splits the pots into left/right for seasonal plants and year-round so I can have a tap on the drip pipes and turn off one side for a week while I re-plant new plants. For this to work there will need to be multiple separate pots
- Not sure what grow materials (the stuff you put your plants in) are available at my local stores so I'll have to wing it a bit and see what I can get. Same goes for fertiliser.
- I'll be buying seedlings (store-bought, planted in soil) and getting rid of the dirt before planting them. I don't think my local gardeners sell them in the rockwool stuff (or whatever it's called) that I can plant directly

Things to do:
- work out best ph level for my plants
- research fertiliser/ph additives/testers available for me

Hope all that makes sense... can anyone offer any insight here? Happy to draw a diagram if necessary. The system won't get any bigger - I only have finite space so no need to worry about growth.

FYI Im still doing some reading, I dont feel like i'm ready to buy a ton of stuff down the shops later

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Old 01-27-2013, 12:34 AM
Mattm Mattm is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Florida Keys
Posts: 16

Sounds like your water temp will be your biggest obstacle. When my reservoir tank gets over 90 degrees it's game over. No oxygen. Maybe someone else on forum can give you more feedback, I don't even try to grow from June until mid September because of sun and scorching heat. Chillers are an option I've never tried.
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Old 01-27-2013, 01:22 AM
firsttimer firsttimer is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 2

Thanks for the reply.

Is lack of oxygen the biggest problem (as opposed to heat stress on the pump) at high temps? If so then could an airpump be a solution here (even if I'm trying to minimise electrical components)?

I read in another thread someone puts frozen bottles of water in the reservoir in the morning on predicted hot days to keep temps down but it's a pretty primitive solution with varying results (depending on temps).

There are probably big gaps in my knowledge so I appreciate the patience
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Old 01-27-2013, 05:09 AM
Mattm Mattm is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Florida Keys
Posts: 16

I use a 90 watt danner mag drive pump, I run it continuously with my system(NFT) And have almost no increase in my electric bill, for what you are describing, a 35 watt mag drive would be way more than enough. They are cheap and will run forever.
As for 115 temp, that's pretty hot, I've tried frozen water bottles but they don't work for me. My reservoir is a 100 gallon which is probably why. I think frozen bottles would work on a smaller tank. For the setup you described, I would think a 20 gallon or less would be more than enough. I grow tomatoes and the general rule of thumb for tank size is 2.5 gallons or 2.5 liters per plant, can't remember right now but I'll check my book and let you know. This site has a ton of good info on what kind of system you might want to use.
My info might not correspond to your setup as I have an NFT and things I do might not be helpful for other than NFT.
Either way, you can't go wrong with Basil and herbs as they grow great in hydro systems.

There are a lot more knowledgeable members of the forum who can get you dialed in to the right kind of system. Also, a pretty good book, by Howard resh, hydroponic food production.
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Old 01-28-2013, 08:34 PM
fintuckyfarms fintuckyfarms is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Southeast Washington State - Right on the line of growing zones 6b & 7a
Posts: 347

You don't need to worry about the "size" of the pump but rather the max head height. I should be two feet (IMHO) above the top of your system so 3' system needs 5' max head height for enough pressure. You will find 5' max head height in a variety of pump "sizes" so just go for the most afordable one.
To maxamize you space, think about a verticle growing (not with pipes verticle but stacked horizonal) you should be able to stack several 4 to 6 inch pvc pipes that will grow most plants (except maybe tomatoes) on a simple shelf type system. This type of system will also give you more options in regards to keeping your plants cool enough. This type of system can utilize both NTF, flood and drain and drip. I think a NTF system will keep your roots cooler in warm temps and you will have better success.
Your reservoir needs to be as big as you can possibly go; I use a 50 gal barrel. Maybe under the deck? If you could mostly bury it and cover it with some insulating hard foam (the kind with reflective foil on one side) that will go a long way to keeping your nutes cool. I also just freeze gallon milk jugs and put one in about mid-day and that seems to keep them cool in 100+ degree heat.
There are thousands of pictures out there on the world wide web and on this site to give you some ideas.

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