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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.
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. ($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.
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.
Well after a couple of years, I decided to remove the strawberries from the windowfarm. The crowns on them were getting very long and not sure how much longer they would survive. The crowns were growing pretty far out of the netpot. I took the plants out and broke them up and took some picture. Besides, I was getting a bit tired of them and want to try some new things.
As an experiment on how long plants will live in a WF, I would say they could live a long time. It kind of makes you rethink the meanings of annuals and perenials. I always thought berries die back in the fall like they do outside, but that is not the case inside.
In the beginning, the plants actually were in the middle of each netpot. Make sure you see the original post. As you can see, the crowns have grown 3-4 inches long. They were no longer very securly rooted.
Here are a couple of the crowns. There are the more woody portion of the plant. New growth forms on the end of them.
This chunk of the plant was taken off of the woody portion. The new leaves grow out of the center. New roots grow near the base of the newer growth. The older leaves form around the outside of the plant and eventually die. The older leaves I would cut off. As this cycle of new leaves and old leaves progresses the crown grows in length.
Strawberries need to be hand pollinated when indoor. Below is what they look like when you neglect them. The fruit gets deformed.
So long my berry…..
Follow this link below to see the entire history of these plants:
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?
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.
Of the three original plants, two are still alive. The one plant I had in the yogart container, I had taken out to put in the new born that I highlighted in the last post. However, it since has died. I have had an ongoing problem with spidermites and it did not make it. That time, I had gotten real busy at work and neglected the plants for a number of weeks and I was not able to save it.
For the spidermites, I take the plants out of the WF and rinse them off under running water to knock as many of as possible. After that, I spray them with a soap and neem oil mixture. I repeat this procedure every few days til I see no more signs of them.
The berries have not fruited in many months now and finally have done so ago these last few months. Here are some pictures to highlight various stages of ripening. In the picture below is a poorly polinated berry. Without polination the berries either do not develope at all or are very deformed like this one below. I did not see them start flowering so this is what happens. The rest of the berries in the picture I polinated by hand and you will see that they look normal.
Here you will see the newly opened flower. To the right of it, is a newly polinated flower. Within a day of a good polination all the white petals fall off. The picture also shows a good progression from the small berry to the larger berry.
The first few berries of the plant are larger with the ones following being progressively smaller.
For the cat lovers out there…. Here are two of our four cats sunning themselves in the window with the plants. In general, they don’t bother the plants at all. The jalepeno that has some branches that hang down, they will nip at some times, but nothing serious.
So as they say, here are the fruits of my labor. The above pictures produced this bowl of berries and a couple of larger ones that had ripened earlier and that I ate. So overall, it was about a dozen berries of various sizes.
P.S. As the berries were ripening, I had another ourbreak of spidermites and have been fending them off again. It had been about 3 months since the last sign of them.
5/26/2012 As an example of strawberries producing multiple harvests a year, here are a couple more berries a little over a month later on the same little crown.
February 10, 2012
I was in desperate search of more information for Plants I could grow, and I found quite a measure of information. I will just post all the plants I found information on, but not all of them can be grown hydroponically (like root plants). I hope I will be able to add even more information in time (please help gather more information which I can add) and it would be great to add a section ‘tested by window farms’ or something to verify the information.
Hope you want to help and have fun researching and using this information.
1. Electro-conductivity (EC) or Conductivity factor (cF) can be expressed as either millisiemens (mS), cF or parts per million (PPM) 1 mS(/cm?) = 10cF = 700ppm 2. The pH and electro~conductivity values specified here are given as a broad range. It should be noted that specific plant requirements will vary according to regional climatic conditions, and from season to season within that region. 3. As a general rule, plants will have a higher nutrient requirement during cooler months, and a lower requirement In the hottest months. Therefore, a stronger nutrient solution should be maintained during winter, With a weaker solution during summer when plants take up and transpire more water than nutrients. 4. KNOW YOUR CROP. Plant EC or cF may vary according to the stage of growth. For example, cucumber prefer cF 20 when establishing, and cF 25 after the first harvest. Between and 7 weeks after first harvest, the optimum cF is 17. 5. For easy growing reference, plants that share broad groupings of low (L), medium (M) or high (H) can be grown together using the same nutrient electro- conductivity, providing middle ground cF and ph are adopted. 6. The nutrient solution should be discarded at regular intervals. Should there be a requirement to flush the growing bed, the system should be flushed with fresh nutrients (run-to-waste) rather than water to avoid starving or stressing the plant.
The Column ‘Light’ is for the Day- / Night ratio needed (or helpful) for flowering
‘Water’ should someday contain Tipps how much Water (preferred in drip her minute or something) or just low, medium and a general description of that range here.
‘Sun’ will say how much sun/ Shadow the Plant likes
‘Tested’ If tested by someone in the commentary and maybe how hard it is to do it (in planing)
‘Groups’ (L,M,H) as described above, ‘Nutritions needed’ would be a suggestion of Nutrition Solution and other Tipps
Something in brackets (9) means a maximum or minimum not the optimal, something in brackets (?) with a question mark means that the sources said different things or suggested for example that they used the same EC as for the Strawberries. So it is not born out of a sure source.
|Plant||Pflanze||ph||CF (CF/10= EC)||PPM||Light||Water||Sun||Groups (L, M, H)Nutritions needet…|
I came here just in the right time to see cool mods like the t-valve technique (thanks @gaiatechnician), and the way of splitting airlift (credits goes to @kenokazaki) allowing two columns to be watered using only one reservoir and airlift. Read the rest of this entry →
January 19, 2012
As an addition to Brittas Light Blog-Post, I want to share with you what I researched.
This Blog is about Photoperiodism, an phenomenon which we can use to influence our Plants if we want to. But there exist many other means to influence Plants like Temperature, Color of the Light, intesity of Light, Nutritions, Ph,…
Photoperiodism is about the length of the light and dark period in 24h. With the length of uninterrupted darkness as a critical Part.
Short-day Plants (SD) need fewer than a certain number of hours of light in 24 hours to maintain or induce a special effect.
Long-day Plants (LD) need more than a certain number of hours of Light.
Intermediate-day Plants (ID) need more than … hours of light but less then … .
Day-neutral Plants (DN) are indifferent to the length of light for the effect you want.
Temperature can influence a Plants category. And some Plants need short days for a time before they become Long-day Plants (and the other way Round). Some need their special Light periode or they wont flower (or somthing)(absolute Effect) and some just benefit from their Light period and flower more (quantitative/qualitativ Effect).
We want to influence Flowering
For that effect I have found some Tables of Plants and their categories:q= quantitative/qualitativ Effect (means if you change the lightning to the preferred form you can get more flowers or a better effect, but the Plant doesn’t necessarily need the lighting length to flower) a= absolute Effect (needs the lightning or it won’t flower. -> all Flowers that have nothing else added (probably) lT= low Temperature, hT= high Temperature
If nothing noteted behind they are probably absolute (or not) but it definitly has an effect. The Latin names are from the Book and the explanation is from wikipedia and can be falsly interpreted by me.
Allium cepa (lT<8° for sev. weeks otherwise DN, q?) – Onion – ger: Zwiebel
Amarantus caudatus/graecizans (q?) – Grain alternative, vegetable
Read the rest of this entry →
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