Hi all! Firstly I’d like to express my deep appreciation to all those who have shared their ideas on this site. I love that the basic ideas can be adapted and applied to whatever circumstances you find yourself in. In my case, living in a 1 room box apartment in Japan, it is impractical for me to sacrifice my precious room space. Also, having only one sliding door/window and irregular sleeping habits I think my use of the curtain would have hampered plant growth. However, I had an unused area on my balcony which as you will see, I have converted into a productive outdoor vertical farm.
My area is hit by a number of typhoons each year and living on the 11th floor, my first concern was for my structures stability and resilience to strong winds. I have hopefully solved this issue by constructing a wooden frame around my air conditioner and gas heater unit. Though the structures strength is still yet to be tested m(x~x)m fingers crossed
After completing the wooden frame I added a small waterproof housing for my timer and 2 watt pump. I think that as my design is for outdoors it is especially important to keep these parts dry. I then set up my first column to test the power of the pump and understand how much water and at what rate it could be pumped. My pots are hooked at the top onto the wooden posts and then have a zip tie around the neck of the bottle at the bottom. This seems to be a very cheap and secure way to attach the pots to the posts.
I bought some pre-grown cucumber, egg plant, green pepper and parsley plant for 59yen each. After one week of watching the loop work successfully, I decided to be more ambitious, germinating some green beans and lettuce and mixed herb seeds in my closet while I contructed a second column with six pots using a separate reservoir but using the same pump. This was where I encountered my first problem. Many of you seem to have had issues with pumping water up two pipes because the air/water chooses one pipe over the other thereby not feeding the columns equally. Eventually I decided it would be more effective to pump the water to the top in one pipe and split it at the top. This appears to have solved the problem though I am yet to determine whether the volumes of water being split are equal or not. This can be done easily by collecting the output from the two outlets in 2 measuring cups over a set period of time. Lately I just haven’t had the time to do this.
I also decided that there is no need to have 2 reservoirs at the bottom so I have taken one reservoir out and replaced it with an extra pot in which I have planted a strawberry plant. When doing this, I made sure that the reservoir was lower than the lowest pots of both columns. This is just common sense I guess.
I had trouble finding the clay balls that most people seem to be using. I think this is because most things can grow rapidly outside here so there is no culture of hydroponic growing. I was at my garden store looking for possible alternatives for root support that would retain nutrients and allow water to flow down, when I came across sphagnum moss. The explanation of what it does seemed to suit hydroponic growing perfectly. Though I am a little concerned because no one else seems to use it. I can foresee a possible issue with root rot but at the moment all of my plants seem to be growing healthily.
I would welcome any comments or advice, especially about any experiences using sphagnum moss.