I was just reading about this man’s invention to get light into houses without electricity and realized that it has the potential to be utilized in hydroponics if someone built just the right system. It’d take a bit of modification from his design for any given garden, but it seems like a great way to save on electricity for lighting.
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In an effort to build a pump-free system, we put together a wicking system that can fit in a window. Yay no electricity! (At least until I add lights). We’re new to hydroponic gardening (pretty new to growing anything anywhere actually), so we’re making it up as we go, but this is what we’ve got…
Basically it is a couple of PVC pipes sealed at the ends, with a bunch of holes in them for the plants. You can kind of see on the top one that we cut a hole in the end and put in clear plastic so we can see the water level. There is a drain in each pipe which you can see is attached to piping making it easier to drain when its time to switch out the water. It will also make it easier to convert to some kind of flow system if this bombs. There is about an inch of standing water in the pipes. So far, only the top pipe has nutrients as those are already sprouted.
The materials cost about $70 without doing any shopping around (not including the stuff from the hydroponics store…nutrients and the grow medium). I’m pretty sure that’s cheaper than most everything else I’ve seen on here. Right now it will hold 17 plants. The top has 11 spots for things like herbs and greens and the bottom holds 6 for things that need more room, like peas. Adding up to 22 more should be easy…just waiting to see if it will work before I spring for the investment! We made sure to space them so that the holes line up with the one above, so if we need to go with a drip system later it will be an easy fix.
The seeds are sitting in yogurt cups with this stuff we got at the hydroponic store. No idea what it is. The guy who worked there said it would work and shouldn’t decompose and throw off my water. We found these silly Trix yogurts are actually a really great size and don’t have a glued on label, so I’m eating neon colored yogurt now. I put nylon rope into the material, cut a hole in the bottom of the cup, and the rope hangs into the water. The wicking works beautifully. The top of the spongy material stuff is always damp. Two weeks in and there’s some growth.
Arugula is shown. It took off after about a week even in my chilly sunroom (it rarely tops 60 degrees, low to mid 50′s are more normal.) I’m also seeing signs of life in the sugar snap peas I put in about 8 days ago, but pretty much just huge roots. They haven’t popped above the surface yet. Other things seem like they will need to wait for warmer weather (i.e. the basil, and the tomato).
SO, my question to you experienced folks is this: what to do about lights?? I want to stay very inexpensive because I don’t even know if this wicking business is going to work. Despite my south facing window, I know I need something because it IS January, and I DO live in Minnesota (our days are sunny and getting longer every day, but its still only about 9 hours of daylight). My boyfriend thinks we can do a string of LED Christmas lights and tuck them into a smaller PVC pipe cut in half and lined with foil. Thoughts? Ideas?
Did I miss something else that is going to make me fall on my face here?
10:16 pm in Completed Window Farms, Getting Started, How-Tos, made from scratch (without a kit), Materials and Resources, Other Cool Urban Ag. Stuff, Plants, posts with pitcures!, Projects in Process, R&D-I-Y, Seeking Advice, Starting Seeds by Jesse Liberty
My Skylight T-valve windowfarm.
Those version 3.0 designs are way too complicated. I wanted to make something as simple as I possibly could using minimal materials. This is what I have come up with:
February 26th, 2013 Update
Moved, Settled in, Got windowfarm back up, new plants started, images and new stuff will come soon, as I finalize my new design…
APRIL 5th, 2012 Update
Ghost chiles are fruiting!, and Jalapenos ready for stuffing and wrapping in bacon
MARCH 8th, 2012 Update !
COSTS TOOLS & WHATNOT one|two|three|four
The Jana water bottles seem to be perfect, it is a Croatian brand of spring water. I like the water, they are 1.99 a bottle, but you can find used arrowhead 1.5L bottles fairly easily.
($0-10[$40, for 4 columns]) Bottles can cost anywhere from free to $10/tower.
- ($0) Suspended with a hook and shoestrings, you can use anything, this doesn’t need to cost anything, spend here only if you feel like trying something fancy.
- ($10) Airline tubing is 10cents a foot. I bought a $10 Roll of it, plenty to spare.
- ($3.50) T valves are a 50 cents each x7
- ($2.00) flow valves are a 50 cents each x4
- ($10-20) the pump was pretty darn cheap, repurposed from fish tank… 3watt, super cheap, and costs about 20-80 cents a year to run on the timing i have.
- ($8.00) 3″ net pots were 50cents each x16
- ($30.00) 2x Timers were $15 each, 24 hours of 15min intervals for water.
TOTAL FOR SETUP: $113.50 for 4 towers
Additional costs(& ongoing expenses); nutrition, lights, paint if you don’t have it, electricity is about 25-75cents a year for the air pump, lights are costlier.
Seeds I’ve Started (for windowfarms or my garden outside):
http://store.myorganicseeds.com/ <— Hot Peppers !
http://seedrack.com <–Cool and interesting plants
Oregon Sugar Pod Peas – Pisum sativum
PEPPERS – Capsicum
SUPER HOTS 300,000 to 2million Schoville Heat Units
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion – Capsicum chinense
Sunrise Scorpion – Capsicum chinense
7 Pot, Barrackapore variety – Capsicum chinense
Habanero – Capsicum chinense
Bhut Jolokia – interspecific hybrid (mostly C. chinense with some C. frutescens genes)
Low – Medium Heats (6,000 – 100,000 SHU)
Marbles – Capsicum annuum
Black Pearl – Capsicum annuum
Jalapeno – Capsicum annuum
TOMATOES – Solanum lycopersicum
Rouge d’Hiver Lettuce –
Dwarf Blue Curled Kale – Brassica oleracea
Purple Basil – Ocimum basilicum
Cilantro – Coriandrum sativum
Sage – Salvia officinalis
Oregano – Origanum vulgare
Thyme – Thymus vulgaris
Chamomile -Matricaria recutita
I was thinking about ways to increase the sunlight that my plants got and I came across these cheap and effective curtains that not only reflect the light back at the plants, but hey also keep your house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Let me know what you think. http://www.wdrake.com/WalterDrake/Shopping/ProductDetail.aspx?CollectionID=DC0000359&ICMP=Search&SourceCode=20620000000&mr:trackingCode=487DF7A7-CDB9-DE11-93DB-0019B9C043EB&mr:referralID=NA
I took some more pictures of my farm as it’s evolved. The reservoir, airlift and lighting are the biggest changes. I also included some detailed shots of materials I’ve used.
I have quite some experience with my farm so far which I’d like to share. As you can see from the picture, it grew. I now have 8 containers made from 2l fanta bottles with net pots in them. The reservoir is made from an Ikea container named Rationell. They make it from recyled plastic bottles. It has a lid that closes perfectly and blocks out any light. The airlift tubes are wrapped around a net pot and sunk into the reservoir by a stone i put into the net pot. I have strawberries, peppers, cherry tomatoes and beans growing, the 2 remaining containers will get more tomatoes and another sort of beans. After experimenting with wine bottles and using a mixture of techniques taken from @eloinen and @jamesnutter, I went back to plastic bottles, but keeping the 2mm steel cables for suspending the bottles. In my opinion, it looks beautiful and is incredibly sturdy. With the wine bottles, it all wasn’t holding together very well and I experienced quite some leakage. I had some ph problems with my old setup, but it all seems fine now.
I have my pump on a day timer. It runs for 15 minutes every 2 hours. It has a break between 1am and 7am. For the end and the start of the cycle, I let the pump run for 30 minutes.
I have two individual t-joint airlifts installed. What I noticed is that they take a while before they start performing well when installed for the first time or after changing the water in the reservoir (i.e. they come out of the water). I guess this is due to air in wrong parts of the hoses. In the beginning, I always fiddled around with the installation because I thought something was wrong. However my finding is to just let it run for an hour or so and see if it sorts itself out.
Water exit on top
You may see on the pics that they’re not identical on the 2 columns. Actually this was unintended but proves as a good solution for my pepper. It doesn’t like to much water, and the short end shoots most of the water on the bottles wall, making it flow down directly to the next bottle while only a few drops now and then actually get into the container.
Water and nutrients
I’m running my farm on some bought nutrients which seem to work fine. I change the water about every week to 10 days, checking the pH every now and then. It’s usually between 7.2 and 7.8. Once, I had it hitting 8, don’t know why and after a water change it never happened again.
Fortunately, we don’t have chlorine in tap water here in Switzerland, so no need to air it out first.
On my to-do list:
- Adding lighting. I ordered a 20W solar kit with a battery, charger, alternating-current converter and a bunch of red-and-blue LED growing bulbs which should arrive any day now. I want my garden to be independent from the power grid. It is quite an investment and I will have to grow a lot of veggies for a return on investment. But for me, it makes no sense having to buy a lot of electricity to grow plants.
- Starting a worm-tea manufacturing process.
Edit: I put a lot of info in the pic’s descriptions, but don’t know why it’s not displaying. Anyone know what went wrong?
I am currently setting up my first windowfarm, and only have North facing windows. Does anyone have suggestions of plants that have done well in low light conditions? OR, is it necessary for me to add lamps?
Thanks! I’m really excited to get started!
Unfortunately, I have absolutely no experience in electrical work, which the instructions in the 3.0 MAMA incorrectly assumes for those hanging lights. Granted, I had no experience with airpumps and plumbing, but those were very well explained. I just wish the electrical components also were explained so well (video tutorial or careful diagrams). Furthermore, I could not find anything called a “pin socket” at Lowes.
So If you are like me and completely hopeless with electrical wiring, Here is an alternative.
1. Depending on how many plants you have, select that many extension cords, lights and sockets with plug-ins.
2. Plug the sockets into the ends of each extension cord and space them vertically as you please.
3. Tie off the slack of each extension cord and tie the cords together at intervals with lock ties (or string if you don’t have any lock ties on hand)
4. Guide the cords with hooks to keep them out of the way of the farm. (Because my farm is leaning against my fridge, I have the lights climbing up the fridge and then go through some rings on top of the fridge, which I keep in place with magnetic tape.)
5. Plug in all the extension cords into a circuit breaker. I actually only had three lights and I found a special outdoor plug that had three outlets, so I used that instead.
It is probably not the most efficient set up, but until I come up with something else, this will work splendidly!
So I have been mulling on how to get my grow lights to work. I definitely need some hanging growlights because I just don’t have the window space in my small condo (well I do, but that window NEVER gets any sun). I have stared at the directions for the pin sockets on the 3.0 Beta instructions, but I am still lost. I couldn’t even find anything on youtube to give me more information. So could someone give me the lighting for dummies instructions on how to make those cool hanging lights in the 3.0 MAMA instructions.
If this is in the wrong space, let me know, and I’ll publish further steps of construction somewhere else.
I had a productive weekend, and things worked the way they should have. I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but there you go. That’s doing things for the first time for you. You learn all sorts of stuff about unrealistic expectations. Read the rest of this entry →