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My First Build!

3:03 am in made from scratch (without a kit), Other Cool Urban Ag. Stuff, Outside Farms, posts with pitcures! by Peter Boden

I just came across this site after watching the presentation on TED.  From what I’ve seen, this place and the ideas here are fantastic.

I wanted to share a system I build and have been using successfully.  Having seen the systems on this site, mine looks huge and clunky!

I live in Las Vegas, Nevada, which as most know, is very hot and dry throughout 9 months of the year.  I have a small yard, but no usable soil for growing a garden.  I don’t know much about gardening, but its something I’ve wanted to try.  My goal is to have a year round system that I can use to produce herbs, lettuce and other greens.

My system is a free standing, recirculating pump based system.  It has a reservoir full of nutrient solution that gets pumped up to a system of PVC pipes.  The water flows through the top pipe and then down to then lower pipe, and so on, until draining back into the reservoir.

Each pipe contains four grow sites, spaced about a foot apart.  Each grow site has a net pot filled with clay pellets.

My Hydroponic System

My Hydroponic System

Before planting, I had started some beans, lettuce, tomatos, green onions and peas inside in a growth medium that I could easily transfer to the netpots.  You can see these small starts already planted in the photo above.  Below is a photo taken several weeks later.   I had since put a “green closet” (small green house) around the structure to help control temperature and filter out some of the intense sun.  The green house is made out of PVC pipe, made rigid with wood bracing and covered in 7 mil painters plastic.  In the photo below, you can see that the tomato plants are taking off, peas are doing ok and the onions and lettuce are still slow to get going.

Progress!

Progress!

All of my starts did not take off.  My beans did not survive at all, and all but one lettuce plant died.  I attribute this to planting too soon, before the starts had developed good roots.

Here’s a shot of the root system for one of the tomato plants:

Roots

Tomato Plant Roots

These roots actually started to become an issue.  They started to grow so much that they would block the pipes and cause water to back up in the system.  A little bit of a “hair cut” fixed that (for a little while…)

It's a jungle in there!

It's a jungle in there!

The above photo was taken just a week ago.  The tomato plants by far had grown the most.  So much, that I had to remove a few plants do to their roots blocking up the pipes, and to allow for the other plants to get more light.  I have since added string support for the plants to cling on to.

We’ve been using the green onions and lettuce to make salads for 6 (two adults and 4 kids) several nights now. Below is photo of one of those plants, which we’ve been cutting leaves off of for a while.  They just keep growing back…

Lettuce

Lettuce

 

Below is shot that shows how dense the roots get on the tomato plants.  This is a pot I removed to thin out the garden.

Dense roots!

Dense roots!

 

All in all its been a good experiment, and I can’t wait to build my next system, refining my ideas.  Hopefully the information on this site and its users can help me out.

 

Pete

 

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)