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by Nick

New Windowfarm and Airlift solution

1:35 pm in Completed Window Farms, Getting Started, How-Tos, made from scratch (without a kit), Materials and Resources, posts with pitcures!, Projects in Process, pumps, R&D-I-Y, Version 2.0 airlift system, Water flow by Nick

Starting from Scratch-ish

A few days ago I started building my first window farm.  Bottle plant holders are the only recycled part of this system – everything else I was able to gather from a local commercial center.

I generally followed the instructions to create a Version 2.0 Windowfarm.  It is a fairly simple process that filled me with new ideas for my next column.

Below is the windowfarm after the first afternoon.

Bottle tower and Reservoir-base

Airlift Issues

I ran into a problem with the airlift, which I understand is common so I’m posting my solution. The airpump was blowing bubbles back into the reservoir.  I had seen different recommendations on the airlift (t-joint, needle, each with variations) so I tested different models with no success, proving the airlift design wasn’t to blame.  Additionally, I found that I got the best results using the t-joint setup.

I began thinking of other potential causes… I had bought the recommended Petco air pump but without the adjustable dial, so maybe I was feeding too much air pressure into the system… I tested different air pressures by squeezing the hose and running the pump, all eventually bubbled back into the reservoir.

Solution

I was able to resolve the issue by attaching 1-way valves to both the air and water lines feeding into the airlift.  The non-adjustable pump works fine.

Additionally, the t-valve is positioned ~1.5 feet below the bottom of the reservoir to create pressure and feed water down the tubing.  Below is a picture of the exchange.

Water & Air exchange at the t-valve

It works quite well now.  After the initial gush of water, it pumps out ~2ml every 2-3 seconds, which seems enough by sight.

 

A Work in Progress

Finding solutions and innovations while building my window farm was one of the most rewarding and exciting parts of this project – always spurring on new ideas for my next column.

Currently, I am using the petco pump w/o knob to feed 4 planters.  I would suggest changing the recommendation for the pump type to be less specific..

I created a tube-in-cap drain for each planter by drilling a hole in the center of each cap using scissors.  Wrap the end of a 2-3 inch section of tubing in plumbers tape and twist it snug into the cap hole (the cap drains best when the tubing is nearly flush with the inside of the cap).  I then secured the outside cap/tube joint with duck tape and screwed it onto the bottom of the planter.

 

Cap-tube drain

I created a simple silencer by connecting a section of 1/4″ ID tubing to the end of the feed tube.

 Simple Silencer

Below are pictures of my first column now.

 

 

 Crash course column

After I completed the column, I grabbed some small plants I found at the park and unrooted a small vine that has been growing as a potted plant through fall and winter in the same window as the windowfarm now sits.  I know the vine grows in the micro-local limate of the windowsill already and anything in the dog park has to be pretty hardy.  I’m treating this column as a crash course of windowfarming to learn the basics and work out the kinks before I move on to something more serious.

 

Note on Syphons

 

I did not cut a hole in the bottom of my reservoir, instead opting to maintain the bottle structure and use a syphon to feed the water to the air-water exchange and up to the plants.  As I am sure ya’ll have experienced how unwieldy the tubing can be, which creates complications for maintaining water suction necessary for a syphon.  To solve this, I used a small binder clip and two screws to create an anchor for the tubing.  First I clipped the clip on to the end of the tubing going into the reservoir, then I placed a screw into each wire “butterfly wing” of the clip, and dropped them into the water.

Below is a picture of my raised anchor in the reservoir.

Syphon Anchor

Thanks for checking out my grow-op.

 

Please feel free to comment, I welcome your feedback, questions, and support.

by Tia

New “ghetto farm” windowfarm.

4:27 pm in Getting Started, made from scratch (without a kit), Materials and Resources, posts with pitcures!, Projects in Process by Tia

Hello fellow windowfarmers!

I finally completed my first single-string, 3 container attempt at a windowfarm, and it’s .. well, it’s very basic and Frankenstein-y, so I’ve taken to calling it my ‘ghetto farm’. I started with one set of components and am basically upgrading as I go along. It’s a T-joint airlift, because I wanted something fairly simple. (HA!) My duplex has a central furnace, not forced air, so the big picture window I can use in the spring/summer is in a room that is far too cold in the winter months – and of course, I get the bee in my bonnet to start this project in December… So, the first thing I needed to do was find a way to hang the windowfarm above the heater at a position where the plastic bottles/tubing won’t melt and the plants won’t cook, and then get a source of light. Due to my seasonal affective disorder, every bulb in my house is a 100w full spectrum, but I’ve found with plants in dirt, the ceiling bulbs are too far away, so I purchased a SunBlaze narrow footprint light for this purpose.

The plants right now are from the few packets of seeds I had available that weren’t flowers or root vegetables – spring lettuce mix and Alpine strawberries of the Mignonette variety. They were started in rockwool, in the net cups with hydroton, sitting in a water + fish nutrient bath with the light right above the container. See second picture below – you can see the container with the new baby plants in it on the shelf. The lettuce sprouted and is growing but not terribly well – hoping the new nutrients will help. The Alpine strawberries sprouted so fast you could almost see the growth minute by minute. Because I fail at math as well as physics, I started two more net cups of strawberries so will have to set up a second string of containers next. I think window farm strings are like potato crisps and cats – it’s not possible to have just one. I also found more last-season herb seeds at the hardware store, so I can try my hand at heirloom basil, peas and beans. We’ll see how that goes.

Materials:
Modular wire cube shelving like these   ($25)
Topfin Air 1000 air pump from PetSmart. It has two output nozzles, but I have one blocked off by a piece of tubing with a knot on the end. There’s no way to change the air pressure, and a new pump has been ordered and should be waiting for me when I get home tonight. (already had, but website lists for ~$10)
25′ of 1/4″ vinyl tubing from the hardware store (this does not fit standard aquarium equipment like t-joints. Will eventually be replaced.) ($2.50)
8′ of black pvc tubing from the petstore (I already had this, unused, from a Betta setup, wound up cutting it into 2″ pieces and using it as connectors because it fits perfectly inside the vinyl tubing. Website lists it as ~$5)
Metal T-joint ($1)
Discard A Stones – air filter stones, but I really wanted the plastic part. The white filter stone is not attached in the package. The picture lies. :P ($2)
3-1.5L Evian water bottles, because they’re the only kind that had any curvature in the center to hold the pots. ($1.25ea/$3.75 total)
3-3″ mesh pots. ($1ea/$3 total)
Rockwool cubes to start plants in. (Way more than I need – $10)
Hydroton (Way more than I need – $6)
Chrome duct tape (because more reflective surfaces for light = good thing, right?) ($1.50)
Velcro ties (aren’t long enough, going to be replaced with 12″ zip ties this week – they hold it but not as securely as I’d like.)
1.5gal Brita water dispenser like this one  – mine is not electronic and I’ve taken the white plastic insert out of it completely, so it holds more than the “1.13″ gallons it claims. (already had – $25 if you had to buy one)
SunBlaze T5 21″ (need a longer one, will probably replace with 2-48″) ($25)
Zoo Med AquaSun 24 hour timer. ($15)
Started with Lilly Miller Alaska Fish Fertilizer, because it was the only ‘non burning’ fertilizer I could find locally. (I’ve ordered Botanicare CNS17, and Botanicare SeaPlex, which should hopefully arrive tonight. The Alaska stiiiiiinks.) ($10)
1-silicon potholder I bought at the dollar store, cut up into small squares and placed under the plastic connecters of the wire cube to prevent melting. (not pictured, it was added after the first set of pictures) ($1)

Total potential cost: $144.75 – I had many of the parts already, so didn’t pay that out of pocket for this setup but it is probably about that when I factor in the cost of the replacement parts I’ve ordered.

The Setup:
I have the cubes configured in a 2-wide, 3-tall setup. On top of the heater, it puts my top container at about 6′ from the floor. The air pump sits on the water reservoir, on a table to the left of the heater, about level with the bottom of the cubes.
I cut the front hole in all three Evian bottles before I cut the hole in the bottom for the cap to fit in – don’t do this. It makes the plastic much harder to work with. I wound up cutting the top container opening too high, resulting in water spitting out the front from the air lift. This was fixed by putting a cheap plastic sandwich baggie over the top and tucking the ends into the hydroton, which works as a splash guard. I’ll probably end up replacing this bottle and using it as the middle or bottom container when we set up the second string. Drilling into the caps was super easy and I accomplished that with a pen knife. The bottom container’s cap was fit with the clear vinyl tubing, which was originally attached to the black aquarium tubing and set in the bucket, but now it’s all just the clear vinyl and feeds back into the top of the water dispenser.
Bottom half of bottles were wrapped with chrome duct tape, mostly because oooh shiny but also because I thought having more reflective surfaces would be a good thing, since I’ll be using grow lights this winter.
Stacked them and velcroed to the center line of the cube unit. Found out that the velcro wasn’t nearly long enough, so there’s two per unit for top and bottom with nothing supporting the middle container but pressure of the other two containers and gravity. This will be rectified as soon as my long zip ties arrive. It’s stable, but not as stable as I’d like.
The vinyl tubing was run and leak tested and boy, howdy, did it leak. It’s just slightly too big for all of the aquarium fittings, so I scrounged up my old black airline tubing and imped it all together, which made it watertight. I wanted the clear tubing so I could see any problems with water pressure when starting out, so I could correct it before replacing with the black tubing.

The original reservoir had the bottom tube running into a 2gal bucket sitting on the floor. This worked for about 2 hours and then lost pressure to the point where the water only made it halfway up the tubing. Because I fail at physics and apparently didn’t grasp that the water supply should have, y’know, pressure.

After much more reading on here, I was intrigued by Lincoln Jones’ post detailing his use of a water dispenser. We went to the store and purchased a 1.5gal container of water with a dispenser spigot, took it home, and aquarium-caulked tubing into the spigot. Failure – it kept leaking, no matter how much caulk was globbed into it. There was no way to thread the tubing through the dispenser, and the second time it dumped water all over my floor, I was hard pressed to not take it outside and see how far I could drop kick it.

Then I recalled that I had an old Brita dispenser sitting on top of the kitchen pantry. The white plastic insert lifted right out, leaving me with a clear dispenser much like the one in Lincoln’s picture. The top of the spigot also unscrewed, joy of joys.

Took one of the plastic bits from the Discard A Stone set, and cut one prong off it. Using aquarium caulk, I glued it into a 8″ piece of vinyl tubing. When it dried, I dropped it into the spigot, and then screwed the spigot top back on to see if it fit. It did. I now had a spigot I could turn on and off. Unscrewed the top of the spigot, put more aquarium caulk down the spigot, let it dry, checked the seal to make sure it was water tight – and it was, yay for that. Screwed the spigot top back on a final time, and then filled it with water to check that the seal was still water tight – and it was. We were in business.

Used a piece of the black aquarium hose to connect the 8″ from the dispenser to the water supply hose of the airlift, which is about 7′ of hose coiled on the floor. The air pump is sitting on top of the water dispenser to ensure it was higher than the water supply. This works, but is obviously not the most ideal setup. Due to the electrical outlet and lack of extension cord, it’s my only option at the moment.

Turned the spigot on and let water run down into the water supply side of the hose. Then turned on the air pump. I was very glad I had a drip shield on the top container, because the pressure sent the bubbles of water spitting out at force. It is, in fact, giving my plants too much water. I’ve purchased a new pump with adjustable air flow (should be waiting for me when I get home today), and purchased a timer.

The problem with the timer is, when the water starts up again, it bubbles back into the reservoir. We’re going to try a longer length of tubing on the floor because I suspect the airlift is less high than the water supply hose at this point. So for now, the timer isn’t being used. The light is still in its horizontal placement over the baby plants, but the plan is to buy longer SunBlazes and put them vertically on either side of the containers, held to the wire cubes with zip ties. The nice thing about the SunBlazes is that they come with a connector to daisy chain, so they only require one electrical outlet. I have absolutely no information about water pH or nutrient content or anything at this point – this was the ‘can I get it running?’ stage. The next stage is ‘can I keep the plants alive in it?’

Even with the high water output – it works. Of course, in the process, I’ve replaced a bunch of parts and already started enough plants that I have to start a second string of containers. So there will be an update to this post shortly, which will contain better pictures of the reservoir setup. Below are the camera pictures I took of the very first setup, which as mentioned only worked for about 2 hours.

But part of the fun of DIY is tinkering, right? Right.

Image of the top planter with its baggie splash hood

First two planters, containing lettuce, with the baby plant tray and light behind on the left. Light is not on. It is about 1.5″ wide. There’s no velcro on the middle planter because I ran out of velcro ties. Zip ties arriving (hopefully) tonight.

This was the first reservoir attempt, which failed utterly. The airline tubing wouldn’t stay in the bottom, even when I had it wound through a tupperware container full of rocks and a jar candle sitting on it. It was also not set up to put any water pressure into the tubing. This has since been fixed. It worked for about 2 hours and then lost pressure completely. We’ve redone the reservoir entirely – this is just a picture so you can all cringe at my completely horrible first attempt. I fail at physics.

 

-T

by Bill

Comments on Parts

6:34 pm in Being a good member of this community, Getting Started, made from scratch (without a kit), Materials and Resources, Projects in Process, pumps, Version 3.0 Modular Airlift Columns by Bill

Hi everybody,

I’ve just about finished construction on a 2-column windowfarm, and I am just waiting for my seedlings to get big enough to put them in.  I’ll post some pictures when it’s up and running.  Anyway, I have some comments and reflections on the “official” instructions and parts list.

So, I followed the instructions pretty closely except for on two points: first, my windowfarm is suspended from a free-standing frame on casters (which doesn’t really affect anything), and I used a t-joint for the airlift system.  The t-joint (a.k.a. t-valve) design is really simple and easy to install and use, whereas I found the method(s) outlined in the instructions to be really complicated and, frankly, intimidating.  The fact that the size of the check valve included with the air pump determines some of the other parts is pretty inconvenient.  Anyway, I hope the instructions are changed soon to include this more user-friendly design.

Speaking of the t-joint design, there are some issues that I ran into with parts.  Mainly, I bought a t-joint off the Petco shelf with all three openings the same small diameter.  It’s made for three of the standard 1/4″ OD tubes that come with the air pump.  The problem is that this makes a bottleneck for the flow of water.  At least I think it’s a problem.  Brian White say’s that the airlift tube should have an ID of 1/4″ for optimal performance, and he seems to have done his research.  I ran the 1/4″ OD aquarium tubing from the reservoir bottle to the t-joint, and from the t-joint up to the bottom of the 3/8” OD 1/4” ID rigid tubing from the parts list (McMaster.com #9245K17).  It works, but maybe it would be better if I had bought a wider t-joint and used wider tubing.

Speaking of things that could work better, there’s the Petco pump (#9902).  It’s not adjustable, as far as I can tell.  I guess I can add a little adjustable valve in the airline, but if I throttle it that way I’ll be wasting energy.  I think an adjustable pump should be recommended.

Then there’s the tubing.   Two kinds of tubing on the parts list reference McMaster part numbers, but the 3/8” ID flexible vinyl tubing for some reason does not.  Now, McMaster has a ridiculously extensive selection of tubing, so we should be able to find one that works.  I used #5103K36 (Chemical-resistant Clear Tygon Tubing, 3/8″ Id, 1/2″ Od, 1/16″ Wall Thk).  It was okay for joining the two long pieces of rigid tubing, but it was not flexible enough for the top, to curve down into the top bottle.  Technically speaking, the “bend radius” is too big.  Maybe #5231K185 (Clear PVC Tubing Chemical, 3/8″ ID, 1/2″ OD, 1/16″ Wall Thickness) would be better.

Chains.  I think the ball/bead chain is a good way to go, and McMaster was a convenient way to order it.  Weirdly, though, the part number on the parts list (#3606T16) turns out to be stainless steel chain, whereas in the instructions photos it looks like they’re using plastic.  It’s not important, but what’s up with that?  I also ordered the specified couplings (#3606T41).  They are listed in the McMaster catalog as being the same size as the chain, but for some reason the chain does not fit through the center hole.  I had to widen the hole.  I’m not sure what to suggest here.

I think that’s everything.  I don’t mean to complain; I think the design is great and I really appreciate having access to it, but I want to help make it better and easier for windowfarmers who come after me.  I hope this post is the right way to give this feedback.  Sorry it’s so long and boring!

 

Sincerely,

Bill

Some New Pictures

9:40 am in made from scratch (without a kit), posts with pitcures!, Version 3.0 Modular Airlift Columns by Marc Parchow

So, The building phase is now done with and everything is working.
I’m now growing some seeds to put in my very own windowfarm.
Here are some pictures. Enjoy

Yours,

Marc

windowfarm view
windowfarm viewwindowfarm view

 

Check out some new Pictures here:

From windowfarm
From windowfarm

Oh, and this is the first salad I got from my windowfarm.

From windowfarm

I find that this sistem uses lots of energy and water to produce little food – I eat a lot of salad. It’s worth it though. I’m proud to sometimes eat my own produce.

Why not put some substrate into the planter, below the net cup?

3:56 pm in Getting Started, questions, Seeking Advice by Lynn Dolson

I am setting up my Kickstarter columns tomorrow. Seeds are germinated, column is attached to the sill and I am ready to go! Would it be beneficial or detrimental to add a little substrate (clay pellets, or grodan cubes) loosely into the planter, below the net cup, to allow for a moister environment, and more room for root mass, if there is still plenty of space for air for the roots? OR might it make it too moist and encourage rot?

I appreciate any wisdom here!

Thank you,
Lynn

second attempt on completed 4 column Windowfarm

8:22 pm in Being a good member of this community, Completed Window Farms, Getting Started, made from scratch (without a kit), posts with pitcures! by Arelys Fernandez

I have finally completed my windowfarm, and transferred my baby plants! So far it was neat watching the plants grow from seeds. I hope they bear fruit. I have 2 spinach plants, 2 different tomatoe plants, 3brocolli plants, and 3 mint plants, and 1 lettuce plant! I used the air T-lift system to get the water pumped to the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Kickoff : V3 + Citrus Tree Hydroponic?

11:45 am in Getting Started, made from scratch (without a kit), Nutrients, posts with pitcures!, questions, Seeking Advice, Version 3.0 Modular Airlift Columns by Jessamyn Hodge

(First post as member!)

No under construction pictures, yet, but pictures of the space I have to work with. The plan is to work with the narrow window set on the far left to start.

Window Farm Target Area, Boston MA

Window Farm/Hydroponic Target Area

Microclimate/setup notes:

  • There is a curtain rod that never gets used above the windows – I can use this to suspend the columns from.
  • It gets full LIGHT for 80% of the day or more – there is no obstruction as we look over a harbour (Boston where the cruise ships dock/seaport) and we are the tallest point we can see.
  • I can’t use the wider section because these are french doors that open to a balcony and the other small window area is a dedicated cat-viewing/perch area. (I’m amazed there wasn’t a cat there when I took this picture)
Materials:
  • I already have full spectrum CFLs, conveniently, which partially factored into doing the second setup.
  • I have two red and two blue LED grow lights from LED Wholesalers (12W, PAR38), already.
  • The curtain rod above the windows wil be used for suspension. (I can hang from it and I’m about 130# – I wouldn’t want to do kipping pullups repeatedly on it, but is more than stable for this)
Plant selection for the vertical window garden:
  • Catnip
  • Spearmint
  • Assorted kitchen herbs (chervil, thyme, lemon thyme, etc.) Rationale: Anything that comes in a plastic blister pack that has to be transported. I never use the entirety of these, they are $4USD per. Between plastic, the waste, the cost this is an ongoing pet peeve of mine.
  • Specifically  NOT doing: Parsley, Cilantro, Basil. (These come in bulk and local)
Citrus Trees:
  • I have 15 citrus trees (there are some in another room and some out of frame) and most aren’t doing too well (kaffir lime and calomondin orange are thriving, however). They used to be on the roofdeck of my previous place for the late spring->early fall and thrived. Wintering was always hit-miss, but this move was particularly bad. They’ve been yellowing leaves and have dropped between 50%->80% of their foliage. I suspect it is because this condo is so much moister/the soil doesn’t dry out fast enough and I’m seeing root rot. I’ve repotted them in fresh soil, but this has had very limited success.
  • I’m looking at doing hydroponic citrus trees (marginally related to this community?) in the windows. Some of the trees have successfully fruited in the past. Since I’m acquiring the hydroton (per the materials sheet) for the columnar setup
  • Advice needed:  ANY  experience anyone has doing this would be appreciated. I’m looking for setup thoughts (I’ve sketched out PVC exoskeletons for light rigging and water feeding on one end, to simple drip hoses on the other), nutrient thoughts (looking at Hoagland solutions as suggested by a few blogs – is there something better? One area I don’t have interest in is formulating my own nutrients for citrus trees)
Well, that’s it for now. This weekend will be materials gathering and whatnot until the hydroton and mesh cups arrive. Also, none of my friends that I’ve asked used disposable water bottles. Hah. Finding the water bottles is turning into the annoying part!

The 1pcs Farm

8:04 am in Getting Started, How-Tos, made from scratch (without a kit), Plants, Seeking Advice by Georg Huber

Hi everybody,

I am working on a beautiful WF for a while now. It works pritty well with nice and stabel growth. I planted strawberry and pepper (and some more…)

What I am surprised about is the fact, that both plants have plenty of blossoms, however, both have only one single fruit. The other blossoms wilt and after that nothing happens. If anything happens, there are very small fruits which hardly grow.

What happens here? What can I do for more harvest?

Regards
Georg

Guilty: Killed a Strawberry?

2:15 pm in Getting Started, How-Tos, Plants, questions, Seeking Advice by Georg Huber

Hi together,

yesterday I bought a small strawberry plant. I shook off all soil and put it into a cup, filled with expanded clay.

First the plant looked very well, especially this morning. During the day it went worse. Now the plant looks as below:

Does anyone know what I did wrong? I am thinking about too much water, maybe wrong ph-level (I didn’t check the actual level)?

Please help me from being guilty killing a strawberry plant.

Regards,
Georg

by Karen

New windowfarm in Finland!

3:07 pm in Completed Window Farms, made from scratch (without a kit), Plants, posts with pitcures!, Version 2.0 airlift system, Version 3.0 Modular Airlift Columns, Water flow by Karen

Hey Fellow-windowfarmers!

I’d like to share some pictures of the design and progress of our first ever windowfarm where we are growing peas, mini tomatoes and cayenne peppers :) So far, so good! More updates will follow as our plants grow.

As you will see, the basic set-up of the windowfarm includes; an airlift system using a pump, a nice green hose, a t-joint, two valves, a plastic white cereal container as a reservoir (3.5 litres capacity), 3 plastic white plant pots, two chains by which to suspend the pots from the curtain rail, plastic white tubing to allow the water & nutrients to drain down through each pot and some bbq skewers placed horizontally to keep the white tubing stable and to give the plants something to grab onto! Please feel to add your comments, feedbacks and tips!

Photos

 

 

 

 

 

Very special thanks goes to my boyfriend Dmitry for his engineering, design and building contributions. It is our windowfarm and I couldnt have done it without him :) .