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karen_pease

Hydro tips for first time?

Karen Pease
12 years ago

I have lots of experience growing plants indoors under lights, but none with hydro itself. I'd be interested in thoughts from all of you with more experience.

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Setup:

The frame is 1x6 boards, attached via notches, in a ladder arrangement, 9'x1.5'. Over this is laid thick plastic sheeting, forming multiple (5) pools. Pools can be connected with tubing, allowing nutrient exchange, or left independent. Inside the pools float thick styrofoam panels with holes designed to fit PVC pots. The pots are water permeable at the bottom, gas permeable via side vents, and filled with loose-fill vermiculite insulation (not horticultural vermiculite -- it's granular and more like perlite). Only the bottom of the pots is in the water, to allow the nutrients to wick up, and since the foam floats, it keeps the same level of water contact. The surface of the pools is nearly covered by the floating foam, and the border is covered by opaque plastic sheeting, to keep algae down.

Suspended over the whole setup is 440W of fluorescent tube lighting (at home I mainly use LED, but this is mainly for lettuce and similar, and in my experience, lettuce responds poorly to LED). I could work in another 220W if I need to. The lights are hung from the ceiling with adjustable knots so that they can be raised and lowered in order to keep the bulbs just over the plants. Fluorescent was chosen over HPS or MH due to the shape of the setup and the fact that it will be in an office environment (as decoration, as a source of greenery, and as a source of lunch snacks)

All parts are bought and are in various stages of assembly.

The nutrients are all purchased as individual chemicals, not a pre-made formulation, so that every detail can be adjusted. I have a pH meter, EC meter, nitrate test strips, and phosphate test strips, and plan to try to keep the solution balanced as long as possible rather than doing frequent flushes.

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Questions:

* First off, any glaring problems with my setup?

* I plan to grow lettuce, spinach, carrots, dwarf tomatoes, sweet peppers, various leafy herbs, and possibly some berries. How can I tell what pH and balance of nutrients are needed for each type of plant in each stage of growth?

* The minor nutrients -- copper, zinc, manganese, etc -- are their levels kept low (as per the various hydroponic formulations) simply because not much of them is needed, or because of the risk of overdosing the plant? Since such small quantities are needed, if there was little risk of "overdose", I'd add more so that I wouldn't have to worry about them; otherwise, I'll need to slowly add more over time.

* Silicon source -- sodium silicate or a soluble silicate clay? I can't find an affordable source of potassium silicate.

* Anything else I should know about or be prepared for?

Thanks!

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