RacetruckRon
RacetruckRon Dork
11/10/22 9:11 p.m.

Toyman's aquaculture thread and fall weather really setting in got me to finish up my basement hydroponics setup.  I know there's quite a few of y'all that are into gardening and this is just gardening with a little more science in my basement.  If anyone else has any hydroponics stuff I'd love to see it.

I have pretty decent green thumb, it wasn't necessarily beat into me but I've been around commercial horticulture my entire life. My grandpa started growing orchids in his basement years ago when he was a banker, he ended up quitting at the bank and started a garden center 50 years ago.  He retired a couple years ago and my dad took the place over, it is now one of the top 100 garden centers in the country.  I basically grew up there, I started working there when I was 12 because "family agricultural business" gets around some child labor laws but that's how I was able to afford my first car.  We grew mostly annuals and perennials from plugs or clippings, not a lot of stuff from seed but I picked up a lot of background knowledge from my dad over the years.  More recently I've been watching a lot of hydroponics stuff on youtube especially with the way grocery prices are going.

I've been hovering at the edge of this rabbit hole for a couple years, I wanted to setup hydroponics in my first house but was short on money.  We talked about doing it in SC but had no basement and a very long grow season for our outdoor garden.  This started with the wife saying "I'm going to miss having a garden all year" when we moved back to Wisconsin.  To which I replied with something along the lines of "how hard could basement hydroponics be?"

That's a lot of words here's some pictures for you guys.  I have maybe $400 into this setup at this point although I did have some of the plumbing leftover from a drip irrigation system I setup at our SC house and a bit of scrap wood from a chicken coop I built recently.

The growtent is 4' deep 8' wide and almost 7' tall.  It has 2 1200w grow lights that were $70 a piece and a few leftover 4ft long 5000k Barrina shop lights.  I also have a few of these barrina lights ziptied to a storage rack for seed starting.

I am running two different systems with separate reservoirs in the same tent.  I have a NFT system, nutrient film transfer, that is made up of 3"x4" PVC rain gutter from Home Depot and some 3d printed ABS endcaps I designed.  This style system is supposed to be very effective at growing leafy greens and herbs: lettuce, arugula, spinach, bok choy, etc.  The pump on this system runs continuously with nutrient and oxygen rich water feeds the roots.

The other system is a flood and drain or Dutch Bucket system.  This system is commonly used for tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.  The pump will run periodically on this setup, I have an outlet timer set to run this pump for 1 minute every 45 minutes right now.  This timing will probably change as I get this system figured out.  The buckets are filled with a mixture of coarse perlite and vermiculite which helps support the plants and creates a very airy "soil" for the roots to grow.  It creates a very nice balance of oxygen and water for the roots while keeping them moist but not waterlogged.  I saved a couple plants from our small garden we planted at the in-laws place this May before our first hard frost.  They have been hanging out in the basement for a couple weeks under the grow lights.  Now they actually have a chance, I rinsed all of the soil off of the roots and got them their respective systems.

I also have some seedlings going in some Oasis Horticubes, or fancy florists foam with a small seed pocket.  This is a nice alternative to the commonly used rockwool which is basically cube of spun gypsum fibers.  Rockwool is kinda nasty stuff and is really only used because it's cheap.  I should have a couple varieties of tomato, cucumber, cayenne pepper, lettuce, spinach and arugula seedlings ready to go in a week or two.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
11/10/22 9:45 p.m.

I've tried it a few times- mostly a drip tower style.  It worked well, but I wanted it to work all on it's own- via a small solar panel in the greenhouse.  Got some greens out of it.

I'm leaning toward a different system that changes the water once a day- to save power.  Maybe I'll put it together next year- this year was a scramble to move all of my gardening.

My other 'hybrid' system is a rain gutter grow system, where I have 28 buckets growing.  I like the system as it's totally passive- fed from a few rain barrels.  Being in a greenhouse that isn't exactly sunny- I'm still (after 5 years) learning what to grow in there.

jgrewe
jgrewe Dork
11/10/22 10:08 p.m.

My nephew is into this on a pretty large scale. He started a company called Lettuce Tree Farms in Cleveland and sells micro greens to restaurants in NE Ohio. He has three shipping containers under cover and grows lettuce in 15'tall PVC pipes with special cups that attach to holes in the pipe. He was running a watering huge trough full of fish for natural fertilizer in the water. I'm sure I can get you some pictures if you are interested.

Check out their website https://www.lettucetreefarms.com/

 

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
11/11/22 8:42 a.m.

Oh man, my oldest son started doing this a few years ago. I will try to upload some pictures, but it went like this:

- He bought a bunch of tomato and basil seeds, planted them in his bedroom into some tiny pill things and had them there for a few weeks.
- He then 3D printed a tower thingie and had me buy a homer bucket, a pump and some lights along with these little basket where the plants would sit and programmable sockets.
- The whole contraption moved to the garage
- Plants got huge and pump kept running low from evaporation -> new pump bought by me.
- New pump kept making noises which turned into me taking over caring duties.
- Mold started taking over the plants next to my cars.
- Trashed the whole thing ... he still has not noticed 2 years later.

I have to say, done properly and looking after it its fun. I just did not have the time or patience.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
11/11/22 8:46 a.m.

Following.  I've messed with this before.  Kratky method, then planned to go dutch bucket.  

 

Out of curiosity, have you done any math on electrical usage vs. yield?  That was the main deterrent for me for indoors.  I'm thinking of trying dutch bucket outdoors at some point though.

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
11/11/22 8:58 a.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

I can tell you the LED light was rated at 1000 watts and the pump was rated at 25 Watts. 

I can find out for sure, but I would say the lights were on for probably 10 hours a day and the pump 12 hours. 

Toyman!
Toyman! MegaDork
11/11/22 9:02 a.m.

Awesome! Thanks for posting this. 

I tinkered with an NFT and a drip system close to 30 years ago. 

Please keep this up to date. I'd love to see how it grows. 

 

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
11/11/22 9:03 a.m.

Some pictures. Whenever I opened the garage door at night it looked like I was running a rave from outside. 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
11/11/22 9:04 a.m.
Slippery said:

In reply to ProDarwin :

I can tell you the LED light was rated at 1000 watts and the pump was rated at 25 Watts. 

I can find out for sure, but I would say the lights were on for probably 10 hours a day and the pump 12 hours. 

yeah, rough math is thats like $1/day?  $30 a month in electrical alone.  $30 buys a reasonable amount of produce from the store.

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
11/11/22 9:14 a.m.
ProDarwin said:
Slippery said:

In reply to ProDarwin :

I can tell you the LED light was rated at 1000 watts and the pump was rated at 25 Watts. 

I can find out for sure, but I would say the lights were on for probably 10 hours a day and the pump 12 hours. 

yeah, rough math is thats like $1/day?  $30 a month in electrical alone.  $30 buys a reasonable amount of produce from the store.

You are probably not doing this to save money. 

My goal was to have my son experiment and learn something new. I accomplished that, he probably did it to learn how to grow weed in the future lol. 

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
11/11/22 9:18 a.m.

Some of the supplies in case someone wants to recreate the setup. I can also ask my son where he got the models for the tower.

RacetruckRon
RacetruckRon Dork
11/11/22 9:52 a.m.
Slippery said:
ProDarwin said:
Slippery said:

In reply to ProDarwin :

I can tell you the LED light was rated at 1000 watts and the pump was rated at 25 Watts. 

I can find out for sure, but I would say the lights were on for probably 10 hours a day and the pump 12 hours. 

yeah, rough math is thats like $1/day?  $30 a month in electrical alone.  $30 buys a reasonable amount of produce from the store.

You are probably not doing this to save money. 

My goal was to have my son experiment and learn something new. I accomplished that, he probably did it to learn how to grow weed in the future lol. 

This is kinda where I'm at.  It's a hobby right now that should allow me not to worry about lettuce recalls.  If it continues to be successful I'll work on yield/$ improvements in the future.

RacetruckRon
RacetruckRon Dork
11/17/22 2:13 p.m.

Little update a week later.  I had to add a couple more feedlines to my NFT system as the flow rate started to decrease.  This is probably my fault for introducing sediment from plants that were originally in potting soil into the system, oh well.  My habanero peppers are getting happier, their leaves are greening back up and new, very dark green leaves are developing rapidly.

The greens in the NFT channels are adjusting well.  I pulled these out of potting soil, rinsed the roots and stuck them in coco husk/peat pucks I had.  The kale is especially happy.

Seedlings in the Oasis cubes are doing quite well, hoping to have first true leaves in a couple days.  I need to come up with a better "nursery" of sorts in the grow tent to allow these to get a bit bigger before they go into one of the systems

ShawnG
ShawnG MegaDork
11/17/22 5:26 p.m.

This is great, thanks for sharing.

As I was painting the grow house today, I was wondering if a small hydroponic setup to give us some fresh greens over winter would be viable.

I'd be using sunlight plus extending the day length with grow lights.

How often does the pump on these sytems need to run?

 

 

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
11/18/22 11:46 a.m.

In reply to RacetruckRon :

Keep an eye put for mold. For some reason I was fighting it all the time and its what made me give it up. 

RacetruckRon
RacetruckRon Dork
11/18/22 12:20 p.m.

In reply to ShawnG :

My bucket system runs for 2 minutes every 30 minutes, still playing with timing intervals. The NFT system is runs continuously and the lights are on 8am-10pm.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
11/21/22 7:00 p.m.

ok, I'm thinking of trying this now https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3405964  

This would still use natural light.  By the back patio door in winter, then move onto the deck in the summer.

I know lettuce and herbs work well in these, but I see some people suggesting you can grow tomatoes and peppers.  How?  Every tomato or pepper plant I had this year is like the size of this whole assembly and would easily topple it if hung off one side.

How do you handle having to clean the reservoir and whatnot every so often?  Do you pump the solution out into another bucket and just swap?  I wouldn't want to have to dismantle everything every few weeks - is that what people end up doing?

My kratky method stuff was only moderately successful, I'm hoping this will be better.  Am I fooling myself?

ShawnG
ShawnG MegaDork
11/21/22 8:55 p.m.

I went looking for nutrient solutions on my local suppliers website. What a waste of time. They have everything if I want to grow weed.

If I change $28 nutrient solution every two weeks like they recommend, I'm growing the most expensive lettuce ever.

I think I'll stick with potting soil. 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
11/21/22 9:24 p.m.
ShawnG said:

I went looking for nutrient solutions on my local suppliers website. What a waste of time. They have everything if I want to grow weed.

If I change $28 nutrient solution every two weeks like they recommend, I'm growing the most expensive lettuce ever.

I think I'll stick with potting soil. 

I dont think that's a remotely accurate representation of cost.  It takes like 60 grams of MasterBlend to make 25 gallons of nutrient solution.  Thats less than $1.  I think you could make this common mix for like $3.  https://www.tool-rank.com/tool-blog/editorial/masterblend-hydroponic-fertilizer-calculator-for-any-container-size-201610071988/

I don't think you throw out the solution (or I hope not), you just remove it and clean the container, then add it back in.  Looking for confirmation here.

The beauty of hydroponics is that you are only feeding the plants exactly what they consume.  Its a lot cheaper than potting soil.  But might not be cheaper than composting if you are tossing out scrap anyway.  But then you need to account for the difference in yields, etc.  I'd guess from a nutrient standpoint, hydroponics is probably the most yield.  From a water standpoint it could be a win or loss depending on your setup.  From a lighting standpoint, obviously natrual light is the cheapest - but that is what I am trying to use.

 

 

ShawnG
ShawnG MegaDork
11/21/22 10:22 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

I'll drop in and check it out next time I'm in town. The information they had was pretty unclear online. 

 

GIRTHQUAKE
GIRTHQUAKE SuperDork
11/21/22 10:42 p.m.

Really thinking about doing similar because a local reseller store has gotten me a lot of parts I could use for this- even just got seed pods for this use!

 

Great obligatory video.

RacetruckRon
RacetruckRon Dork
12/2/22 11:14 a.m.

My spinach and mizuna I transplanted from soil did not like the changes I made to some light settings and a slight change in the nutrient mix.  However I had some lettuce seedlings ready to go in so it all worked out. The habenero plants have some little peppers forming and the tomato and cucumber seedlings are adjusting well to the bucket system.  I'm getting some algae buildup on top of the reservoirs that will be fixed by more direct drainage channels but it isn't a priority right now.

Salad will be ready soon, this has been in here only about 6 days.

 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
12/2/22 12:54 p.m.

Most examples I have seen of dutch bucket method involve keeping lid over the top (with a hole for the plant in the center), so you dont get any algae

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