hydroguy
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Starts for Outdoors

The herbs and leaf lettuce both have their own systems now so I can use the twin flood tables to start some outdoor plants. I put up a couple pics in a post here at HG in the seed starting section but I didn't really want to bother those good folks with the details that hydroponic growers might want to watch along with me.

This grow is going to be a learning experiment for me as I'm trying out a couple new things: fluorescent T-5's and a new starter medium called Sure-to-Grow. The systems used are identical 2x2 flood trays with seperate resv's. Pots are all 5.5" and the substrate is Hydroton. Equal number of plants were placed in each system spaced out as randomly as possible. 2 seeds were placed in each cube. Point to all this is I'm trying to make it as close to a side by side trial as possible while keeping all other variables equal.

The lights will be from an 8 bulb T-5 unit from Hydrofarm rated at 192 watts and a 400 watt Metal Halide air-cooled system also from Hydrofarm. The starter mediums I'm useing is the tried and true rockwool from Grodan and the new product called Sure-To-Grow, both of which are 1.5" cubes.

Planted seeds on Feb. 14th, some plants are up on the 20th.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0220110627-01.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0214111924-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0220110635-02.jpg[/img]

hydroguy

hydroguy
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Eric asked a couple questions in the seed starting forum and I thought I might be able to answer a bit more indepth here.

How long do the seedling sit in the water / nutrient solution?
The rockwool and STG both have excellent water retention capabilities. I run the pump once a day for just a few minutes currently to keep the cubes moist. Flood cycle of 15 minutes, 5 x's daily during lights on period will start after germination is completed. There are no nutrients added yet, just plain tap water. Seeds contain enough nutrients to germinate and grow until their first set of leaves. Water is Ph balanced to 6.0

Are you using a pump with a timer?
Everything about any and all my systems is controlled with timers whenever possible. Humans are the weakest link LOL. If it's supposed to operate at a set time be it fans, pumps, lights or whatever you can bet there is a timer hooked to it.

Are there any nutrients in the rock wool?
Rockwool and STG are both inert materials, they offer nothing more than moisture and a place for the roots to establish themselves.

Are you heating the water?
No and there really isn't a need to. There is no flood cycle yet so the seeds are under humidity domes where the temps are in the mid 80's. Resv's are off the floor slightly so water temp is real close to room temp of 70.

hydroguy

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Halfway
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Great timing hydroguy...it is THAT time of the year!!

I'm getting ready to cut a video for the blog on germination methods for both soil raided beds and containers and hydro systems.

Good info, thanks!
Zone 4a.

hydroguy
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Location: Midwest, USA

Halfway wrote:Great timing hydroguy...it is THAT time of the year!!

I'm getting ready to cut a video for the blog on germination methods for both soil raided beds and containers and hydro systems.

Good info, thanks!
Good looking video Halfway!

The germination for this project is just about over with only one variety of pepper still to emerge completely. It's been a real learning experience for me with the Sure-To-Grow. Since it was my first time useing it I treated it just like I have all ways used rockwool, flood the tray and fill the pots with hydroton to the point that the bottom of the cubes just does sit in the water. Then I place the cubes in and fill the remainder with hydroton. Seeds planted directly into the cubes.

That method has worked successfully for me for years with rockwool but it is NOT how you treat the STG. STG does not wick moisture up from the bottom like rockwool, it has to have some form of top watering until the roots reach the flood level. I soaked every cube when the seeds were placed in them and then flooded the systems once daily for the first 10 days, humidity domes were in place and unvented so I thought there was enough moisture, but there obviously wasn't for the STG. Most all the seeds did germinate in the STG but about 40-50% died or more accurately dried up.

The plants that did survive in the STG (the fastest to germinate) are markedly smaller plants than those growing in the rockwool. These plants spent the majority of the energy developing roots to find water.

Another thing about the STG is that the seeds are exposed to light. Makes it cool to watch but I like the rockwool where it has a deeper hole to plant the seeds. I'm not saying that STG isn't a good product or anything like that, its just you can not treat it like rockwool. I have a good amount of it laying around and will use it again for other crops, I'll just not treat it like rockwool.

Lesson learned.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0223111516-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0223111519-01.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0223111521-01.jpg[/img]

hydroguy

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Halfway
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Outstanding lesson learned on the STG. That should save someone some pain.

I am sticking with rockwool for now. I am still learning some it's properties as well.

Thanks for the complement on the video. It is hard to keep the time reasonable while getting across the points.
Zone 4a.

hydroguy
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Germination trial is over between the rockwool and STG. 32 of 32 rockwool cubes have plants growing so thats 100%. The STG comes in at 47% with plants growing in 15 of the 32 cubes. When I use the STG again I will definitely top water the cubes until the roots reach the flood plane. Every single STG cube I pulled out today was dry as a bone except for the bottom 1/4" which was below flood level. This stuff has zero wicking capability.

I combined varieties that were growing under the same light source so not to alter the outcome of the ongoing experiment of T-5 vrs HID. The plant loss was basically equal under each light so I ended up with 4 pots in each system to plant some more seeds. Added a total of 4 tomato pots and 4 Basil pots. These seeds will not be under a humidity dome but they are in rockwool so moisture will not be an issue hopefully.

Other thing I did for these seedlings was to cover the rockwool with more hydroton to prevent the start of algae. Algae is inevitable if the rockwool is exposed to light so I wait until the seedlings are tall enough to top off each container. Since this is ebb & flow the top layer of rocks stays dry and algae will not be an issue now.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0228110720-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0228110916-01-1.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0228110945-00-1.jpg[/img]

hydroguy

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I did learn one thing new this week with the T-5's, they can burn a plants leaves! I've had plants grow up and touch fluorescent bulbs in the past but this was a first for me since it is my first time running T-5's. I had heard they get warm and now I know first had. The Heritage tomato is a fast growing plant and before I knew it one of them got into the bulbs and toasted some leaves. Nothing that major but lesson learned.

I may have started these just a bit early as they are taking off fast now. Pics to follow are at 20 days planted and compared to the pics at 14 days they are gonna get huge in the next month before I can plant them outside.

It's hard to tell in the pics but the floro plants (left) are a darker green than those grown under the HID (right). Heigth is 15-20% shorter but plant developement is very similar. PPM's are equal in both resvs. at 340 and the Ph is holding at 5.9. So far the T-5's are impressing me.

fluorescent----------------------------------------HID
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0306111540-00.jpg[/img]

fluorescent
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0306111541-00.jpg[/img]

HID
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0306111541-01.jpg[/img]

hydroguy

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Trial between the fluorescent T-5's and the HID is over and I honestly can't say there is a clear winner as there are advantages to both light systems. The reason I had to end this trial at only 25 days was the because of the tomatos, they had grown so much in both systems that they were either blocking the light from the HID to the other plants or in the case of the floro the light had to raised so high that it was causing the other plants to stretch. Nutrient levels also had an impact on the decision to stop the trial. Tomatos are heavy feeders and they had begun to show discoloration in the lower leaves, a clear sign they need a higher level of nutrients.

Plants grown under the HID were larger, this is evident in both the peppers and tomatos. If speed in growth is the goal than the HID wins, but not by much. There is a clear difference in leaf color as the plants under the floro is a darker richer green with the same variety and same nutrient level.

25 day
fluorecent-------------------------HID
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0310111709-00.jpg[/img]

Tomato
fluorescent------------------------HID
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0310111716-00.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0310111716-01.jpg[/img]

Pepper
Fluorsecent------------------------HID
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0310111724-00.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0310111724-01.jpg[/img]

If some one asked me which light to purchase to start plants under I would have to say at this point I'd go with T-5 fluorescents. Based on initial costs, maintenance and operating costs T-5's are a solid investment. At this point I can't say how well they would take plants to flower but for growing your own starter plants these lights work and work well.

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I'm glad to see the STG / Rockwool explanations and the work on the MH and T5's.

I've not used MH's but I've seen them in use. I have used T5's and think if growth is near identical, the T5's are at least easier to move and change.

I think the temperature of the T5's are a major consideration too.

I'm so happy to finally see some STG vs Rockwool stuff. I have not used STG but have been thinking about it. I would have treated it like rockwool to be disappointed. Now I'll know a better way to handle it. I'll probably just stick with Rockwool.

Great Thread!
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hydroguy
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Hydroponics wrote:I'm glad to see the STG / Rockwool explanations and the work on the MH and T5's.

I've not used MH's but I've seen them in use. I have used T5's and think if growth is near identical, the T5's are at least easier to move and change.

I think the temperature of the T5's are a major consideration too.

I'm so happy to finally see some STG vs Rockwool stuff. I have not used STG but have been thinking about it. I would have treated it like rockwool to be disappointed. Now I'll know a better way to handle it. I'll probably just stick with Rockwool.

Great Thread!
Glad you stopped by Hydroponics and thanks. I am really likeing the T-5's, can't say they replace an HID for all uses but they sure are worth the investment. I do enjoy my little hobby, learn something new on every grow. Thing I learned on this starter plant project is that tomatos grow freaking fast!!

So fast in fact that I had to toss most all of these out of the system and start over with some new seeds. Day 29 and as you can see from the pics that follow there is no way I could possibly keep these in the tray for another 4 weeks. These things are ready to be transplanted today and in my area that just isn't a possibility.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0315111754-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0315111743-00.jpg[/img]

These aren't the "perfect" plants that nature could grow in a greenhouse as they are a bit leggy but they would work fine when transplanted. Grown under a mix of either MH or Floro, haven't kept track since they were combined a week ago under the floro's.

New tomato seeds were planted last night. Last year I got things planted on the 12th of April outside so that should give me plenty of time to get a new batch of plants going. The timing for the peppers was right on target. They will be fine at 8 weeks old when they go outside.

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Holy cow, 29 days!!! You are right...I could never start them or maintain them waiting for the last frost date.

What is your new calculation, about 4-5 weeks ahead of last frost?
Zone 4a.

hydroguy
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4 - 5 weeks for the tomatos. Turning down the nutrients just caused them to canabalize themselves in search of what they needed to grow. So for tomatos its full on with the feed and lights and 30 days will give you some fine transplants.

6 - 8 weeks is gonna work well for the peppers. In general they are slower to germinate, especially the hot varieties. And turning down the nutes is possible to some extent to slow their growth. If I had pushed the nutes to the peppers they too could go out earlier.

hydroguy
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These plants, especially the tomatos, are insane to grow in hydro. The peppers were started about right but the maters are another thing. There's 5 little ones growing over in the herb system and will be fine I hope, at 2 weeks germinated now. Since the first set had to be tossed I was really counting on the second set to get to the garden. They had outgrown the system yesterday and something had to give.

With the new knowledge about mater suckers I learned here at HG, I topped all the tomatos and will be depending on 2 or 3 suckers from each plant to grow. There were blooms forming on the tops of these and had way outgrown the sytem they are in.

Peppers have stopped vertical growth for the most part and are in full bloom, ok, maybe these were started a bit too early aswell. I popped some basils and they had to be topped too. Not a big deal with them as this will give me a nicer bush when they finally get outside.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0401111803-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0401111814-01.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0401111814-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0401111808-01.jpg[/img]

Another thing I learned this week is that T-5 bulbs will burn plant leaves. Read somewhere the other day bulb temp is around 110 degree and one of the pepper varities got away from me and into the bulb. Scorched it, not ever happened with any other floro bulb I've ran.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Starter%20Plants/0401111805-00.jpg[/img]

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Ouch that looked like a bad light burn on that plant.

Those tomatoes look great.

What type of grow tent do you have around the system? I know one manufacturer was having problems with the reflective paint poisoning the plants, but I think they fixed it. HydroHut maybe?

I was just wondering which one you were using Hydroguy because it looks like it is working pretty well. I made one out of Black and White poly and PVC once and it worked well with a zipper door, but it wasn't high quality or anything.
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