This video was taken more recently on 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
Plants on 2nd vertical tower(middle or right) from top to bottom – planted on 20100330:
1. Brussel Sprouts
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!!
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!