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6:14 am in Completed Window Farms, Getting Started, How-Tos, International, made from scratch (without a kit), Materials and Resources, Plants, posts with pitcures! by Maj Martinsen

Hey everybody, I finally finished my first window farm (WF). It consists of an air lift and 2 rows of plant containers, with 5 containers in each row.

I put together a DIY guide, see it here (pdf).
I also made a Danish version of the guide (pdf), which includes prices and where to get the parts in Denmark.

I started figuring out how to build a WF, from scratch, about 3 months ago. I live in Denmark so buying a kit was out of the question. It took me a while to understand how the system was supposed to work, and then another while to figure out how I was going to build one myself. I had no experience working with the stuff needed to do this. Stuff like air pumps, tubes, and valves so it was all very confusing to begin with. I didn’t know anything about growing hydroponically either but ever since I saw the TED talk with Britta Riley, about a year ago, I have been interested in the project.

Now my WF is finally up and running and the plants grow bigger every day. So I want to thank this lovely community and the people behind the WF project for teaching me. It has been a lot of fun, and a little infuriating from time to time, when something just wouldn’t work the way I wanted it to.

I went through a couple of test systems, all of the air lift type, before landing on the one I am using now. At first I tried anchoring a tube on the bottom of a big water reservoir, but even though I knew this worked for others, I never managed to make it stable. The air from the pump kept flowing back into the reservoir, instead of lifting the water upwards. I then tried putting a small reservoir at the end of the row of plant containers. This worked very well; the reservoir had a tube in the bottom that went into a U-bend, which prevented air back flow to the reservoir. Unfortunately this setup forced me to reduce the number of plant containers I could have in a row, and I had to add water to the reservoir often, which was annoying. My current setup looks like this:

I put the reservoir, the air pump, and the U-bend below a shelf at my windowsill. There is a small gap between the shelf and the windowsill, where the tubes can get from below to above the shelf.

For reservoir I am using a 10 l (2.6 gallons) water container with a tap that is big enough for 2 tubes to fit into it. I made a plug of silicone sealant around the ends of the 2 tubes, to make a water tight fit (see info. box 1 on the sketch). To make sure the plug stays in place I wrapped some duct tape around the joint.

After leaving the tap of the water container each of the 2 tubes goes into a U-bend. *The U-bend needs to be at least 30 cm (12 inches) from top to bottom to prevent air back flow. (Thank you, Brian White, for sharing this information, the diagram you made really helped me a lot: http://our.windowfarms.org/files/2012/04/contest-with-u-April-7th.jpg)

After the U-bend there is a t-joint, where the water meets the air from the pump. I put a check valve on each of the 2 tubes leading the air to the t-joint, to prevent water reaching the pump (see info. Box 2 on the sketch).

In an effort to decrease the amount of plastic in my WF, and because I thought it would look good, I tried using coconut shells as plant containers. I hollowed out 10 coconut shells, cleaned them, and coated them on the inside with mineral oil to prevent them from absorbing water. I made a braided rope and nets for them to hang in. It looked really good but unfortunately the shells cracked. I think it happened because the shells I got were very old and dried out. I bought them all the same place but later on I tried with a shell bought at another place and it did not react the same way as the others. So I still think it could work with coconut shells, but I grew too impatient and my seedlings grew too big for me to do it all again with other coconuts. I turned to the well known plastic bottle instead, and I am very satisfied with the result.

I reused the rope I used to hang the coconut shells from but had to find another way to attach the new plant containers to the rope. I ended up with a kind of button on system which allows each plant container to be removed without dismantling the entire row. This highly modular system has the advantage that I don’t need net pots in the containers. I couldn’t find any net pots that would fit so I had to do without. If I do get my hands on some good net pots I will use them, though.

So I wanted to use coconut shells as plant containers, partly, because I wanted to reduce materials that could leak toxins into the water and plants. About this I have now come to think that the plant containers are actually the least important part. Most of the time, the water is in the reservoir or the tubes, so it’s more important that these parts don’t contain anything that will leak into the water. As the water drips into a plant container it goes straight through the clay pebbles and into another tube. Most of the clay pebbles that come into contact with the container are dry, as the water runs through the center part. I therefore don’t think the plastic bottles will be able to leak anything into the water, and if it does it will be minimal, compared to the reservoir and tubes.

These are the things I used to make my WF:

1    Air pump: Sera air 275 R plus. It has 2 outlets, a power regulator, and it comes with 2 check  valves

2    Water container with tap: 10 l (2.6 gallons). (It has the glass and fork symbol, which     means it’s intended for food contact; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_safe_symbol)

3    Tube: 4/6 mm (0.15 inches/0.23 inches). I used about 6 m in total (19.6 feet)

4    Tube close up: It has the glass and fork symbol too.

5    T-joint and check valve: I used 2 of each.

6    Water bottle: 2 l (0.5 gallons). I used 10 of these.

7    Twine: 2 mm. (0.08 inches). I used about 10 m in total (32.8 feet).

8    Hooks: I used 7 in total (2 for each row, 2 for the water container, and 1 for the pump)

9    Spray paint: 1 can

10  Buttons: About 1 cm in diameter (0.4 inches). I used 40 of these.

11   Wire: 0.3 mm (0.01 inches). I used about 2 m in total (6.5 feet).

12  Power drill

13  Drill bit (4 mm – 0.15 inches) and screw bit (6 mm – 0.23 inches).

14  Hobby knife

15  Scissors

16  Belt punch

17  Duct tape

18  Silicone sealant

19  Clay pebbles (Leca): I used about 5 l in total (1.3 gallons).

20  Nutrients: Biosevia grow and Biosevia bloom

21  PH test kit (I didn’t use this to make the WF but it’s good to have afterwards)

22  Seeds, soil, egg shells, and egg tray.

23  Planted seeds in egg shells. This is how I grew my seedlings.

The essentials for making an air lift type WF: air pump, water container, tubes, valves and t-joints, grow medium, and nutrients.
The rest (tools, plant containers, plants) can be improvised.

After making the plant containers and assembling the system I transplanted the seedlings into the WF by carefully uprooting them, cleaning the soil from the roots, and putting them into the clay pebbles. The seedlings I have transplanted have all survived, it’s been about 2 weeks now. I also tried transplanting some cuttings from grown plants into the WF. One cutting was from a tomato plant and the others were from a basil plant. The tomato plant cutting had been growing in soil for a while and had become rather large. I thought it had grown too big to survive the transplantation and for a couple of hours it looked like it would die. Then it suddenly started getting better and the next day it was definitely on the mend. After 2 days it was back to normal. (The bend on the stem is caused by the way it has been growing before being put in the WF).

1 hour after transplantation

The next day it looks better

2 days later it's back to normal

The basil cuttings (3 in total) had different reactions: the first had grown pretty big in soil but it had no problem adjusting to the new environment. The second had not developed roots yet and for a long time, after putting it in the WF, it looked like it was dead. All the leaves fell of but I just let it be and now it has developed new leaves and looks like it will survive. The third already looked rather droopy when I put it in the WF and like the second one it dropped its leaves and looked like it was dying, but now it has developed new leaves too.

Besides tomato and basil I am growing chives, thyme, chili, and lettuce.
Row 1, from the top: chili, basil, thyme, chives, and tomato.
Row 2, from the top: chili, basil, thyme, lettuce, and chili again.Later I want to grow more lettuce and some strawberries, cilantro, mint, and pepper.

I don’t have a timer on my system at the moment but I will probably invest in one later on.

Pdf guide (English)
Pdf guide (Danish)

Thanks for reading and happy window farming.
Maj

 

cure for new droopy plants?

2:51 pm in Nutrients, Nutrition, Plants, posts with pitcures!, questions, Uncategorized by Dustyn Roberts

I got my baby plants Friday, opened the box up to let them breathe, then set up the Windowfarm Saturday night.  I know it hasn’t even been 24 hours but the plants are droopy and I’m afraid they won’t make it.  I just moved (to Philadelphia) and can’t find the pH test strips, but do have the nutrients and started with 10ml and a full pot of water.  The window faces south but since it’s the ground floor of a townhouse it doesn’t get a whole lot of light.  Any thoughts/advice?  Thanks!

by Karl

2nd Windowfarm attempt

9:45 pm in Completed Window Farms, made from scratch (without a kit), Plants, Projects in Process by Karl

After creating my first bottle farm over a year ago I was toying with the idea of something that looked a little nicer in the front window. I decided on making a shelving unit with clay pots and with a little tinkering came up with this. 
Done

One of the challenges I had was how to create a 3 lift system out of my existing two port air pump.  While browsing the pet store I found a 3 port manifold and decided to give it a try and what do you know with some fiddling the thing works.

We’ve planted parsely, chives, oregano, basil, coriander, mint and sage. Ill try to post updates with progress.
Happy Growing

by Pieter

tips & tricks on growing plants in my new Window Farm

12:54 pm in Completed Window Farms, Getting Started, International, made from scratch (without a kit), Nutrients, Nutrition, Plants, posts with pitcures!, questions, Seeking Advice, Starting Seeds by Pieter

Hello Everyone,

My name is Pieter and i’m an Architect living in Antwerp Belgium.

Last year i’ve build a 2 string 8 bottle windowfarm and have been experimenting with it since than.

the system works great so i started trying to grow some plants, i’ve tried with seedlings grown on cottenwool and with full grown soil plants, but all they did was die.. I used different types of nutrients, (not specific for hydroculture, so maybe thats the problem) the timer i use is set on a quarter per 1.5 hour.

After killing a lot of plants finaly ONE tomato plant didnt die, and grow quiet big.. but thats before the winter, now its dead as well..

now the wetter is getting better i want to make a fresh start and could use some help with my farm!

what are the tips on good nutrition, which plants go well with one and other, what frequency do i need to put the timer on, etc etc

can someone here help me with that?

 

thanks!

 

by burt

Seeding directly into the window farm

9:26 am in Plants, Projects in Process, R&D-I-Y, Starting Seeds by burt

I had lots of trouble with seedlings, and especially the part where you don’t kill them. I tried some (not all) of the rituals involving paper towels, rock wool, sand, coconut hair, etc. The seedlings need attention about twice every day, just to check the humidity. If the soil/medium dries out for a couple of hours, the seedlings die. Given the fact that i’m often away for a day or so, this caused a lot of infant plant mortality.

Then one day i had some unoccupied pots in the farm and some of the seed packages come with LOTS (hundreds?) of seeds, so i just threw a couple of seeds in the farm directly. What did i have to lose, right?

We’ve been told to give the little plants pure water without nutrients (or they’ll “burn” – anybody else ever thought that sounded strange?), they need some structure to attach to etcetera. Turns out we’ve been lied to (or i/my plants have been very lucky)! ;->

I had basil, chives and hemp (not the smokey kind), grow like weed (eh…) by planting them directly in the clay pellets in the window farm. Granted the chives didn’t live very long, but neither did the ones i sprouted in my “seedling school” and transplanted later. I just filled the cups with clay pellets, up to 1 cm under the upper edge, threw in some seeds and then fill the last cm with clay pellets.

Perhaps there’s stuff i’m not taking into account (one of the reasons for me to report here), but i do think it brings these advantages:

  • no growplugs needed,
  • no growplugs, soil or dirt in the farm (which started looking really gross/muhsy after a while)
  • no extra attention required for the seedlings, the windowfarm will auto-water
  • no painfull transplantation (even being very carefull when moving little plants into the farm, i’m sure they hate being moved!)
  • speculating here, but i think the plants adjust to hydro quicker when they ‘grow up’ in hydro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Jeremy

Week 5 update…

10:03 am in Being a good member of this community, Completed Window Farms, Education, energy consumption, environmental impact, Featured Post, made from scratch (without a kit), Nutrients, Plants, posts with pitcures!, Windowfarms Project News by Jeremy




Here’s a pic of week 5. I use my phone’s camera so I couldn’t capture everything. I bought a new air pump with four outlets because I plan to build another grow container and put it on the other side of my windowsill. Making sure to have it elevated higher than the reservoir this time because my last pump had backlogged. I’d like to use all glass if I can…but most likely I’d have to get it cut the way I need it. Any suggestions? I’m thinking of a small glass fish tank for the reservoir. Adding another 15 watt solar panel to my Goal Zero Escape 150 will help with the addition to capture more battery power. Questions? Comments?

If you’d like to power your window farm via solar I suggest going with Goal Zero. Their kits are affordable and definitely work.

by Jeremy

Update

1:53 am in Completed Window Farms, Plants, posts with pitcures! by Jeremy

I got a new reservoir so I can repaint and clean the first one. First time trying New Zealand spinach. I also changed my illustration so it has a right angle air tube connector.

http://www.atroxen.com/gallery3/index.php/jeremy/ECO

by josefa

Plants grew well, now not growing and sad

4:09 pm in Completed Window Farms, International, Nutrients, Plants, Seeking Advice by josefa

Hello all,

I started my windowfarm three weeks ago with four strawberry plants. I transplanted them (had to cut the roots) and for two weeks three of them grew very well (one flower even blossomed). By the third week, however, one of the plants became very week and the other two stopped growing (the third is just as stuck in its growth as when I planted it three weeks ago).

For the other pots I started seedlings. I transplanted a few to see how they would react and although they are alive (cherry tomatoes and zucchini) they have also stopped growing. The seedlings that I kept in soil continue growing.

The plants receive water every hour for 15 minutes. I change the water every week and add 6mL of nutrients (picture of components below) which is the suggested dosage (it says to double the dosage for plants that are need more). The plants don’t receive much sunshine (it’s almost always cloudy in Paris, but when they do it comes from the west for a couple of hours each day). Temperature is around 22 degrees C.

Do any of you have suggestions as to what may be going on and how I can revitalise the plants? Any suggestions about what plants would grow well?

by Jaclyn

Here’s to a sporadic harvest…

3:33 pm in Completed Window Farms, energy consumption, made from scratch (without a kit), Plants, posts with pitcures!, questions, Seeking Advice, Uncategorized by Jaclyn

 

Hello you beautiful people,

This is an update to my first post found here:

http://our.windowfarms.org/2013/01/03/heres-to-a-blooming-project/

I have had lots of success with my first set of crops off of my window farm, and lots of “oppurtunities for growth” (ha!).

The vast majority of luck I have had has actually been with my pepper plants! I have taken a first harvest off my cayenne pepper, which was so bountiful that all of the peppers I could not manage to use for cooking I am now drying so I can grind them into my own homemade cayenne pepper spice.

 

Also, I was pleasantly surprised when my first pepper plant (whose seeds came from a mixed bell pepper grab bag) turned out to be purple! Huzzah!

The thing I am really enjoying about my pepper plants is that  even though they are usually very difficult to grow in Canada because of the limited growing season, an indoor garden growing season is limitless, so you can give them as much time as they need. Also, they are productive yet compact, which is means they don’t over take other plants in my system. I am having the opposite of the experience with my tomatoes. They have managed to take over the entirety of the window and the productivity to space ratio just really is not cutting it! I planted mainly small tomato varieties, since I was nervous about how much weight my system could hold. For my next round of small tomatos I will have to do some more pruning. I did sucker all of my current tomato plants, but I really plan to discourage them from getting so tall next time.

 

Another issue I am wondering if anyone else is experiencing, is that a lot of my tomatoes have succumb to blossom rot (black spots on the bottom of the tomatoes). I ripped out a gigantic yellow pear tomato plant because all of the 20 tomatoes it was growing developed black spots on the bottom! Does anyone else have any experience with this issue?

 

I have finally gotten around to upgrading my air lift system to a t-valve setup, which I have been really enjoying. I now only have to fill up my reservoirs every 4 or 5 days, as opposed to every day and a half. Which is great that I don’t have to worry about my plants when I head up to the mountains for a long weekend!

 

My other crops which have been moderately successful have been beans and peas. However, both of these plants only produced a small serving of fruit each, which was great for a snack, but not terribly effective as a serving of vegetables with a meal. Even so I have planted more of both peas and green beans, since they are so quick to grow. Also, the snap peas in particular are incredibly tasty.

I am learning that for the most part, my window farm is an awesome project that I really enjoy, but only very specific crops actually yield a really useable harvest. Which is totally fine, as long as you look at your project as an awesome hobby, not a substitute for grocery shopping.

 

My new crops that I am currently sprouting include dwarf kale, brandywine tomatoes, black beauty eggplants and edamame beans! I am extremely excited about the eggplant, since they are genetically similar to peppers, I am hoping that they will behave in a similar manner to the peppers in the system. Also, I am hoping the brandywine tomatoes will give me a little more bang for my buck with growing space, because they are supposed to be huge! The packet says 12 to 20 oz., so fingers crossed!

Also, if any one is wondering if power bills have been effected at all by my aquarium pump and three grow lights, it has not! My power bill still ranges between $65 and $70 dollars a month, and I think it is alot more dependent on how much I use my clothes dryer, than keeping my grow lights on.

 

I would love to hear any input about the blossom rot issues, tomato pruning tips, and what varieties of plants others are having lots of success with!

Happy Urban Gardening :)

by Jeremy

February 2013 (arugula, buttercrunch, tatsoi) solar powered window farm.

11:47 am in Being a good member of this community, Completed Window Farms, Curriculum Proposals, Education, electronic components, energy consumption, environmental impact, Featured Post, Getting Started, Help the project by testing this, How-Tos, International, made from scratch (without a kit), Materials and Resources, Nutrients, Plants, posts with pitcures!, Seeking Advice, Starting Seeds, Windowfarms Project News by Jeremy

It’s been almost a year since I lasted posted on here. Now I’m back with a little video update below. I bought a new air pump because my last one back siphoned due to the fact I didn’t have it elevated higher than my reservoir…oops! The new one has four air outlets, so I’m thinking of setting up a horizontal system on the other side of my window sill.

I’m open to any advice or comments! Here’s the video update link…

http://j-memory.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/mov015.mov