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Getting caught up with the updates

5:58 pm in Completed Window Farms, posts with pitcures!, Version 3.0 Modular Airlift Columns by BionicMel

Hello everyone.

I have posted a bunch of updates on my blog for all that are interested. There have been some problems with my window farm, mostly pH/nutrient lockout issues and algae.

There are still a few weeks to be posted, but I am slowly getting caught up.

Here are the links to the individual posts:

Week 3.1 - Planting the new column: http://melissawindowfarm.blogspot.com/2011/03/week-31-planting-new-column.html
Week 4 – Holy cow a BEAN!: http://melissawindowfarm.blogspot.com/2011/03/week-4-holy-cow-bean.html
Week 5 – Problems starting to manifest: http://melissawindowfarm.blogspot.com/2011/03/week-5-problems-starting-to-manifest.html
Week 6 – Bountiful Beans: http://melissawindowfarm.blogspot.com/2011/03/week-6-bountiful-beans.html
Week 7 – Attack of the algae!: http://melissawindowfarm.blogspot.com/2011/03/week-7-attack-of-algae.html

This gets me caught up to March 4. I have been taking pictures every weekend of my progress.

</shameless self promotion>

Ha ha, anyway, let me know what you think.

Thanks!!!

-Melissa

Cleaning time, Sad Beans

2:46 pm in Completed Window Farms by funkisockmunki

I noticed that the bean plant’s leaves started to look pretty bad. Something is definitely wrong and it doesn’t appear to be pest damage, so I’m assuming either too much or too little nutrients (too much is more likely) or too much water.

After testing, it seems like the pH was a bit low (5.5-6), and the water was probably running too frequently. One bean rotted off and died. I cut the total watering time per day in half, spaced farther apart and the starting sponges are still staying damp all day. Hopefully this helps the plants improve. I might have to cut back on the watering even more on colder/damper days.

I also took the vertical hoses down and cleaned them, washed out the bottom bottles and added new water, and a weaker nutrient solution. I need to be more vigilant about refreshing the water… but can no longer get the bottom caps off the reservoir bottles! I torqued at the lids trying to get them off for what seemed like an hour while the water dribbled out slowly. Finally had to remove the cap and chain support and force the bottom bottle off (didn’t twist off like it twisted on). The result, got it clean, but flaked off a ton of the paint. Lame.

Photos of the Beans:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mookmonkey/5489671051/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mookmonkey/5503582238/

Update on my crude “sailboat” windowfarm

3:07 pm in made from scratch (without a kit), Materials and Resources, Plants, posts with pitcures!, Projects in Process by Louise from Quebec

This is the windowfarm I made, very fast with materials on hand, too excited with the project to take my time and work diligently. So it looks awkward and I’m growingly fund of it, because it looks like a big sail on a child’s boat.

I discovered two structural defects after the construction (apart from it’s lack of symetry – which is only an aesthetic issue), and one missing component.

1. If you look closely at the two upper bottles, you will notice that I cut two windows in each bottles and I positionned them one behind the other to face the window pane. A 90 degree turn would have been necessary in order to position them sideways. The result ? One plant is placed behind the other and I’ll have to force it to make a detour to get out through its back window.

As I’m not willing to remove my treillis, it’ll have to stay like this, though.

2. Speaking of the treillis, which is made of three wooden dowels about two and a half foot long, and some bits of yarn, I first pierced holes in two of the bottles so my dowel would get through the bottle right along the diameter’s line. This is a mistake, as I realized as soon as I put the dripping system back on.

Each drop just landed directly over the dowel, soaking it and exploding in small droplets. So I had to modify the holes in the bottles in order to push the dowels aside and allow the droplets to fall where they were intended to.

3. Finally, the missing components are simply the bottle caps. Perforated right in their middle, they would direct the droplets to make them fall in the middle of the next bottle. Right now, a small amount of water is splashing  a little bit on the outer sides of the second and third bottle. As I didn ‘t have the bottle caps to begin with, no regrets there, but they would have been handy.

The plants growing in there are (from bottle to top) one Blue Lake climbing bean (germination date : January 27th) and one Trionfo Violet climbing bean (February 5th), two Jewel Mixed nasturtiums in the middle bottle (February 7th) and two tomato plants up there, one Christmas Grape cultivar and one Yellow Pearshaped (February 5th).

The beans are real giants (I expect them to reach 6 foot high or more – I will have to train them down at one point), and the tomatoes are more compact training varieties of an undeterminated habit (e.g. they produce a succession of fruits over a long period of time instead of one main harvest).

The nasturtiums are supposed to grow “only” 16in. high. By the way, nasturtiums are interesting edible plants because you can eat their young leaves and stems as well as their flowers and their seeds (when  harvested from the plant while still fresh). All these parts have a peppery taste and the seeds may be used as a good (and economical) substitute to capers, fresh or pickled.

by britta

Kinds of plants you can grow in a windowfarm

11:20 pm in Getting Started, Help the project by testing this, Plants, Starting Seeds by britta

You can grow anything but root vegetables.

Here is a list of plants we have grown in windowfarms using supplemental lighting from CFL bulbs:

Fruiting Plants
Okra, cherry tomatoes, scallop squash, small cucumbers, beans, strawberries, peppers, peas, japanese eggplant.

Leafy Greens
Arugula, bok choy, brocolli rabe, kale, chard, radicchio, watercress, chives, various microgreens, and many varieties of lettuce.

Herbs
Rosemary, cilantro, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, mint, and sage.

Edible Flowers
Nasturtium, violets, and marigolds.

We have had varying degrees of success with each depending on the particular microclimate of the window, the amount of natural sunlight available, the drip rate, the type of nutrients, our ability to fight pests, the source of the seeds, and the particular variety of each species.

You can actually grow some pretty big, productive plants even though the containers are small because plants growing in hydroponic systems grow differently from dirt plants. Instead of growing large long roots that have to grow far from the plant to find new water and nutrients in the soil, plants grow more compact rootballs that grow a lot of root hairs for more surface area to absorb more of the water and nutrients you are sending directly to the roots.

Check out how big and healthy some of the plants in this early system were.

Many more varieties of plants are certainly possible but we need your help testing what works because we can only grow so much ourselves. We need you to try out different plants and techniques and share your knowledge about what works. The goal is to get the most nutrients and the most variety for the carbon footprint of the systems.

As we refine the website, we will create ways that you can track and share your results. In the meantime, please focus on getting your system ready and working well and in the meantime, just please be sure to make posts and tag them well. We strongly encourage new users to start with the simple 3-plant airlift system (there are some chronic problems with the reservoir system so we are moving away from it).

by silox

Video: Progress and 2nd Tower

6:00 am in Completed Window Farms, electronic components, energy consumption, Getting Started, Materials and Resources, Plants, Projects in Process by silox

This video was taken more recently on March 30th, 2010:

silox – 1st Week Progress and 2nd Vertical Plant Tower w/ New Plants – March 30th, 2010

This is an update after the 1st week of growing in the 1st vertical plant tower and after building/planting in the 2nd vertical tower of our hydroponic window farm.

We have learned a few things just in the 1st week of setting up, planting and running our hydroponic window farm that I would like to share with you.

*  Mentioned it in my last post, but I cannot stress enough, water quality is VERY IMPORTANT.  The first couple of days I used our city tap water to power the 1st vertical plant tower(before my first video/blog until 3/22/2010).  This was also before I purchased a simple PH testing kit.  The electronic ones are nice, but I stuck with the manual method using a small container and drops to gauge the PH for costs reasons, plus I don’t think I’ll have to use it that often due to the reservoir sizes and the water I use now.  I tested the PH of the city tap water I was using and it was over 7 which is not good. Aside from an unbalance PH, the city tap water also contains chlorine, flouride, other chemicals and various minerals.  Even though water can be naturally dechlorinated by letting it sit 24-48hrs in an uncovered bucket, you still have to worry about all of the other nasty stuff and the PH of the water.  Now, I could go through the trouble of filtering my water which I may do in some form or fashion in the future, but I find it easier and cheaper to purchase RO(Reverse Osmosis) water locally from 1 of the 2 sources less than a mile away which I did and I can happily say I’m now using it.  Right out of the gate, the PH was perfect and no impurities whatsoever.  An unbalanced PH can cause the plants to stop uptaking some or all nutrients in order to protect itself(from what I’ve read), same with all of the other chemicals inside the water.  We do have some indoor AC units that collect several gallons of condensation daily in collection containers when they are working hard all day to cool down the apartment, so we will probably look into using that water instead when the time comes to keep them on.  We are also considering purchasing an atmospheric water generator such as an Ecoloblue which also collects water from the atmosphere/humidity in the air, but also filters it afterwards which allows it to be used for drinking/cooking etc(7-8 gallons a day!) and the hydro reservoirs.

* Adequate lighting is also very important to keep the plants photosynthesizing which equals produce!  I think it’s probably safe to say that most window farms will probably not have 100% of the needed light to produce as quickly or as much as most people desire, but I could be wrong here.  That is certainly the situation in our setup and while we try to use the natural sunlight when it’s available for a few hours a day, we’ve supplemented to make up for the lack of desired light.  We added a 4ft 54W florescent bulb complete with reflector to our window farm and attached to the sliding glass door facing the vertical plant towers.  We reshaped the reflector to open up and allow for light to be casted almost 180 degrees towards the side of the plants which I believe really helps the light be as efficient as possible and keeping unwanted light from shining out of our window towards the neighbors.  You can tell the plants really are reaching to grow towards the light, so much that I’m going to need to move the vertical plant tower back just a hair to keep them from touching it, hehe.  I have the light on a timer for 12hr on/12hr off(6:30am to 6:30pm).

* Attaching the wooden dowels that support all of the plant containers on the vertical plant tower to the reservior for extra support sounded like a good idea at first, but presented some logistical maintenance problems later on.  We corrected this by mounting a aluminum L bracket (the kind designed to hold up a simple shelf) to the top of the window area so they wooden dowels can held straight up via a hook driven into the top of the dowel and inserted into a hole on the end of the L bracket.  All of the weight of the plants/dowel is resting on the floor via the bottom of the wooden dowel and the hook/L bracket assembly is to keep it from tipping over.  This allows for us to easily move or rotate the vertical plant tower and remove the reservior for water maintenance(water replacment and cleaning).  This will also allow me to move the vertical plant towers back some from the light as I mentioned above with a simple modification or two.

* We are using the caps that came with the bottles and recreated the holes in them to be smaller directly in the middle of the cap.  The plan does not call for these caps AFAIK.  Why did I use them?  To keep water from splashing out of the containers onto the floor.  Without the caps or using caps with large holes in them allows for water to flow unevenly which results in droplets that are thrown out the container and that adds up quickly over a few days.  I recut the caps to use a smaller hole(5mm) and this seems to work very well.

Recap of plants we have growing, locations and dates planted

Plants on 1st vertical tower(far left) from top to bottom – planted on 20100321:
1. Butterleaf Lettuce
2. Green Beans
3. Strawberries
4. Jalapenos

Plants on 2nd vertical tower(middle or right) from top to bottom – planted on 20100330:
1. Brussel Sprouts
2. Cauliflower
3. Broccoli
4. Eggplant

I thought it would be interesting to do a little math on the cost to run the light and pump.  With my current setup(1x 54W florescent light and 1x Petco 9904 pump), assuming a 30day month and $0.15/KWh power rate, it costs a mere approximate of $3.50 a month to run the light 12hrs a day and the pump non-stop.  Not bad!! :D

Our future plan is to put a 3 vertical plant tower in the same window on the far right.  In order to do so, we will need to purchase another 4ft 54W florescent light w/ reflector(lights can be daisy-chained together out of the box), another air pump and 4 more 1.5L Ozarka water bottles.  We pre-purchased all of the other materials with the expectations of creating at least 3 vertical plant towers total.

Will try to post an update in about a week’s time.  Happy window farming!

by silox

Video: Silox’s 1st Tower

5:06 am in Completed Window Farms, Getting Started, Materials and Resources, Plants, Projects in Process by silox

To avoid confusion, this video was taken on Sunday, March 21st, 2010 and was just now uploaded.

silox – Initial Setup and 1st Vertical Plant Tower – March 21st, 2010

The initial setup and after planting in the 1st vertical tower of our hydroponic window farm. Our hydroponic window farm is located in our apartment sliding glass door area somewhere in Texas :) We are very excited to see how our hydroponic window farm turns out and learn from our experiences. We want to use our knowledge we gain from this to setup a much a larger aquaponics setup(aquaculture + hydroponics) down the road when we move into a house.

This configuration is based from the 3-container, air lift instructions found on windowfarms.org.  We tried to get away with 5 containers, but that seemed to be too high for the water to make it(tried 1 and 2 air tubes).  We settled for 4 per tower(1 more than what the plan calls for).  We also tried getting away with just one air pump tube to power this vertical plant tower, but ended up using two like the plans call for.  I think you might be able to get away with using just one if you were to buy separate, better quality one-way air valves instead of using the ones that came with the Petco pump as each one certainly seems to provide different amounts of air resistance (tested by blowing through each one before installation).

What we are using:
- Petco 9904 Air Pump(4 air outlets and kit includes one-way air valves)
- 1 Gallon or more reservior(8L or about 2 gallons in my case)
- Various surgical type tubing, but most importantly reinforced tubing for bringing water from the reservior to the top to prevent kinking in the line
- Wooden dowel to attach 1.5L plastic water bottles to
- Sports ball air needles (1 for each air line coming from Petco air pump)
- 3″ net cups for plants
- Hydroton(or equivalent) expanded clay pellets for growing medium
- 4ft 54W flourescent light bulb w/ ballast and reflector(reshaped to redirect near 180 degrees on one side)
- Timer for light to keep it on 8-12hrs(depends on cycle of plants and natural light availability)
- Water(Qualtify makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE). Get Reverse Osmosis water if at all possible or something equivalent. Make sure PH is right(between 5.5 and 6.5) and it’s pure.
- Botanicare Pure Blend Pro Grow Nutrients(Organic) for all vegitation phases of growth
- Botanicare Pure Blend Pro Bloom(Organic) for fruiting of plants(haven’t used yet and may not be necessary, so we’ll see)

Plants on 1st vertical tower(far left) from top to bottom:
1. Butterleaf Lettuce
2. Green Beans
3. Strawberries
4. Jalapenos

We will try to post an update once a week for now until we at least harvest most of these vegetables to show trials and tribulations to get to that point(we are hopeful we will make it that far, lol)

by britta

Plants in our portable system at Eyebeam

7:30 pm in Plants by britta

 

Moveable hanging windowfarm we made for demos

Moveable hanging windowfarm we made for demos

These plants were all started from seed in February. The lettuce loved the cool early spring. Look at how bushy that blackseeded simpson got (mid left). There are also cucumber (the yellow flowers at top left), okra (maple-looking leaves mid right) , green beans (top right) kale (bottom right) and cherry tomatoes (bottom left), jalepenos, and Japanese Eggplant (bottom right big leaves) in this system. The cherry tomatoes,  jalepenos, and okra are just now ripe in early August. Beans keep coming- super tasty, crunchy, and sweet. The lettuce went to seed and started tasting better about after about 2 months of churning out georgeous new leaves constantly when we picked them.  Aphids and a weekend when I left the pump off (OOPS!) killed the eggplant. The cucumbers were a real mystery. Like Marilyn and James Dean, they died a young tragic death after a short, but full life. Read their sad story here. Someone else please try cucumbers!