My garden setup so far – feedback appreciated

10:18 pm in posts with pitcures!, Projects in Process, Seeking Advice by Edward

My current setup

So I’ve decided to go with a relatively big leap in getting started.  I had a vision for how and where I would have my windowfarm set up and decided to just got for it.  I got a 7′ x 7′ x 2′ wire shelving unit rated for over 3,ooo pounds per shelf (for future expansion into aquaponics).  I got 2 4′ grow lights (2 4′ bulbs each), Sunblaster 42 if I remember correctly.  I also got a pair of 2′ x 1′ x 6″ dirt planters for plants that cannot go into the columns and for excess successful starts.  On either side of the shelf, I placed reflective liners to send some stray light back to the plants.  As you can tell in the picture, I also went for 8 columns of the windowfarms on top of it all.

The plants this time are just starting out still, with one survivor from a previous (Frankenstein-type) setup prior to having the shelving and most of the rest of the stuff.  For plants I have red salad bowl lettuce, bloomsdale spinach, lacinto kale, sugar daddy peas (in the dirt planters), green bell peppers, and genovese basil.  The spinach and peppers seem to be having a harder time with things so far, but I’m trying to see how they do in the long run.  The kale just got planted as well, so I’m waiting to see how many starts are successful.

The pumps are running on an every 2 hours schedule and I am using the Botanicare CNS 17 nutrient solution (only this, so far).  The lights are on for approximately 12 hours a day, but sometimes longer since I have a few days a week where I’m gone for longer than that.  I ordered an outlet timer for the lights since I needed one that specifically had the grounded outlet.

Here are the problems I am having so far:

  • Mildew starting to form on some (but not all) of the grow plugs.  Not sure how big of a deal this is or how to fix it yet.
  • Casualties (mostly from the spinach starts right now).
  • Slow growth.  This might be just a perception, or unreasonable expectation on my part, but I had the understanding things would grow faster than normal in a hydroponics setup, but maybe it’s not as significant as I had expected.

I would appreciate any advice anyone might have on improving my chances of successfully pulling this setup off, help with the problems I am having, potentially better plants to use, or just opinions/encouragement.  Also, any help in gauging reasonable exceptions from production from this setup would be greatly appreciated.  I would prefer to harvest only as needed from each plant without killing it off until it needs to be replanted.