newleaf150
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

Outdoor RDWC Tomatoes, Cukes and Peppers - rig & grow lo

Greetings! I am starting this thread to document my current outdoor grow: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and a random string bean plant.

My rig is DIY with the exception of the shelf it sits on. That's from Costco ;)

As for the rig: three 27-gal grow tubs sit above 27 and 45 gal linked reservoirs. A 600gph pond pump pulls nutrient solution from the 45-gal reservoir up to a DIY distribution manifold feeding all 3 grow tubs. They in turn overflow back to the 27-gal reservoir, which flows to its larger 45-gal brother to complete the recirculating circuit :)

The technical name for this rig is Recirculating Deep Water Culture (RDWC). This method of hydroponic cultivation involves plants in net pots of media with nearly all the roots hanging in nutrient solution which is circulated by a pump.

The roots - and thus plants - survive and prosper thanks to heavy aeration of the nutrient solution in all reservoirs. Without the added oxygen, roots suspended in any liquid will quickly suffocate and die. With aeration (think aquarium airstones and pumps writ large), roots can constantly pull nutrients from the recirculating nutrient solution with plenty of oxygen to enable them to operate at their best.

Build pictures and further explanations will follow. Rig was just plumbed and put together today. This is a 4th generation design. My goal in posting this is to enable interested parties to replicate what I have done, and to show why one might be interested in trying it <grin>. Last year's (last-generation) rig yielded 60+lbs of Tomatoes from ONE plant and countless jars of pickles (cucumbers) from four plants. I'm really hoping this year's new and improved rig and trellis will trounce last season's numbers!

Details re: seeds and varieties to follow, pics too. Questions and comments are encouraged and welcomed!

-Newleaf150

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Halfway
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Joined: Sun Nov 08, 2009 2:48 pm
Location: Northern Rockies

Can't wait to see the design!!
Zone 4a.

newleaf150
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

Halfway wrote:Can't wait to see the design!!
Thank you Halfway! I am sure looking forward to sharing the design and grow. Unfortunately, I am also discovering that the forum's functionality is a bit more foreign to me than I'd like :? Please bear with me while I get my bearings :oops:

newleaf150
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Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

Test post of first build pic

Here is the foundation of my system: an industrial rack from Costco. More to come if this post works :)

[img]https://img706.imageshack.us/img706/3175/gen008.jpg[/img]

newleaf150
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

Indoor starters

Here is my regular DWC starter system. It consists of 6 - 2.8L buckets re-purposed from their original function as frozen margarita dispensers ;) The lids are cut to accept 5" net pots filled with rock wool cubes.

The inverted orange bucket in the background holds my air pump. It will move to the rig when the plants do. The pump is connected to a 6-position manifold. Air lines run from this to each bucket and are attached to a hydroponics air-stone. I am hoping these will be better than the big-box store blue aquarium stones. Hydroponic nutrients destroy those very rapidly. The pump is an online auction find, 20-watt if I remember correctly. Lower-end commercial pump, something like $50.

When the time comes, the seedlings will be pulled from the lids of the margarita buckets and slid into the lid of the outdoor rig's grow buckets. More on those later 8)

[img]https://img690.imageshack.us/img690/7088/gen007.jpg[/img]

Here we have the rig coming together. Pictured are the primary and return reservoirs. Grow tubs will go on the next shelf up.

[img]https://img84.imageshack.us/img84/4185/gen014.jpg[/img]

Here we have a mock-up of the grow tub and reservoir placement. These will all be plumbed together as we move through the build.

[img]https://img189.imageshack.us/img189/8978/gen016.jpg[/img]

newleaf150
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Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

On to the build!

Trimming a just-drilled hole in a grow tub. This will accommodate a bulkhead fitting when cleaned up. It's important to get the holes nice and smooth and clean so the bulkhead fittings can seal well.

[img]https://img543.imageshack.us/img543/5308/gen002.jpg[/img]

Tightening a bulkhead fitting on what will become the nutrient return reservoir.

[img]https://img39.imageshack.us/img39/8439/gen005.jpg[/img]

This is the hose I'm going with this season. It came from a local hydroponics shop. Last season I went with cheap irrigation line from a big-box store. It worked but leaked.

This stuff is clear - normally a REALLY bad thing as nutrient solution and light are tailor-made to grow huge quantities of algae and ruin the whole crop. In this case, however, I am told that the color of the hose blocks 1 of the 2 light spectra required to grow algae. In other words, it should be effectively black to algae, but still allow me to peek inside :)

[img]https://img705.imageshack.us/img705/1048/gen006.jpg[/img]

Drilling a hole for a drain in the back of the main reservoir. Props to my (partially pictured) lovely wife for her ongoing able assistance!

[img]https://img263.imageshack.us/img263/7088/gen007.jpg[/img]

More drilling. The hole closest to the top of the main reservoir is slightly smaller - 1" dia to allow a piece of hose to pass through above the waterline. This hose will be connected to a 600gph pump and will feed the 3 grow tubs.

The lower hole and the one being drilled are slightly larger - maybe 1.25", to accommodate bulkhead fittings.

[img]https://img52.imageshack.us/img52/6930/gen010.jpg[/img]

Main reservoir ready for installation and plumbing!

[img]https://img231.imageshack.us/img231/5517/gen012.jpg[/img]

Nutrient return reservoir also ready for plumbing! The 3 holes across the top of the reservoir will be above the waterline and pass hoses from each grow tub. These will constantly overflow as solution is pumped into the tubs. From the return reservoir, the pictured bulkhead fittings will lead to the main reservoir.

[img]https://img7.imageshack.us/img7/7115/gen013.jpg[/img]

Next up, we'll put the whole thing together!

newleaf150
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Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

Putting the pieces together

So first off, let me apologize for the massive upload :) I've been meaning to do this for some time now. Finally got it done and now need to catch my thread up to reality. At that point, of course, the updates will slow to a more normal level :shock:

...and on to the build!

2 grow tubs. Note the bulkhead connector. This will connect to a hose which will be routed through the wire shelf and across to the nutrient return reservoir. The height of the bulkhead connector on the tub is important for reasons we'll cover later.

[img]https://img64.imageshack.us/img64/610/gen015.jpg[/img]

The other grow tubs (total of 3 - middle one pictured twice) with bulkhead connectors in place on the 2nd (middle) of 3 shelves. Yes, I know this is a strange setup; bear with me and the method to my madness will become clear :twisted:

[img]https://img717.imageshack.us/img717/8978/gen016.jpg[/img]

Hoses attached and plumbed into the return reservoir. It's starting to come together!

[img]https://img689.imageshack.us/img689/6277/gen017.jpg[/img]

Here we have the whole rig with the nutrient return plumbing in place. Note the hose behind and above the middle grow tub: this is the nutrient delivery line from the pump in the primary reservoir. Connections are all in the back and difficult to image, but there will be some shots.

[img]https://img827.imageshack.us/img827/762/gen019.jpg[/img]

View from under the grow tubs looking up at the return line routing. It'll be cleaned up and secured a bit better, but this is the general idea.

[img]https://img850.imageshack.us/img850/8959/gen020.jpg[/img]

...and here is a shot from the back. In the foreground top, the nutrient delivery line emerges from the primary reservoir. Below that are the 2 reservoir balancing lines which let the levels remain equal across the 2 reservoirs. In the background, we can see the return lines entering the return reservoir, with the 2 equalization lines going in below that.

Why not 1 big reservoir? There are reasons, but let's get the thing together before hitting the functionality issues.

[img]https://img828.imageshack.us/img828/3131/gen022.jpg[/img]

Same shot from the other side.

[img]https://img809.imageshack.us/img809/9458/gen023.jpg[/img]

Shot of the rig being filled with (for now) straight water. Surprisingly, I have had excellent results using my standard tap water. Please note that I understand this is unusual - most growers prefer Reverse Osmosis water for excellent reasons. I have been fortunate enough not to need it.

Note the nutrient delivery line now tied down on the top of the center grow tub and attached to a very simple DIY distribution manifold. More on this later.

[img]https://img852.imageshack.us/img852/553/gen024.jpg[/img]

Close-up of nutrient return lines doing their thing. Whee!

[img]https://img859.imageshack.us/img859/2046/gen025.jpg[/img]

Interior of the primary reservoir. The white object on the right is a filter bag which contains my pump. Note the ugly hole for the pump's electrical cord. This will be cleaned up and sealed shortly :oops:

[img]https://img219.imageshack.us/img219/8786/gen026.jpg[/img]

A closer shot of the grow tubs with the nutrient delivery line and manifold. This is stupid-simple: the delivery line runs across the middle grow tub, terminating in a 'Tee' fitting that routes nutrient solution to each of the side tubs.

For the actual delivery, I simply drilled holes in the supply line and installed drip irrigation taps and lines. The lines got poked through holes in the lids of the tubs to hang beneath. They'll eventually be routed to spray on the underside of my mesh pots to directly feed the roots from beneath :-()

[img]https://img641.imageshack.us/img641/3238/gen027.jpg[/img]

That's it for now, and we're nearly up to date. I have a few more pics to be pulled from the camera, will get to that at some point. A bit tired now for some reason :lol:

Thank you for reviewing my build/grow log to date! I hope you're finding this informative and enjoyable. Please feel free to ask any questions or make any observations you like. I will do my best to keep current with answers.

If it hasn't already been made blindingly obvious, I am NOT a professional at this. I started reading a few years ago and built my first rig 3 seasons ago. Since then, I've been perfecting my design and learning quite a bit. I'll outline my reasons and thinking as time goes on. For now, I'm just focusing on getting the thing up and running.

We (my Wife and I) were hoping to have the thing fully built and plants in this weekend. Unfortunately, we've been derailed by the weather, which has turned unseasonably cold and very wet for the past few days, so the build has gone more slowly than I'd like. On the happy side, our seedlings are all safe and happy inside...more current pics of them to come.

Thanks, all! More to come.

newleaf150
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

Plants moved to the outdoor rig!

Got busy with my lovely wife yesterday and finished the drip line routing, cut holes for the net pots and airlines. Our plants were all transferred to the outdor rig yesterday afternoon; last night was their first night outside.

Added Grow nutes at approx. 20% recommended strength, root development stuff at approx half recommended strength.

Pics to come ASAP...have to get them off the camera yet. :D

Not counting tweaks, the outdoor rig is now fully built and operating as designed! Just have to wait for the seedlings to grow, then I can show you why I love trelises B-)
See my grow: outdoor RDWC hydro Tomatoes, Cukes and Peppers!

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/v ... hp?t=35746

newleaf150
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

More pics - plants installed!

This is the completed rig with plants in place. Note the tomato on the back left. The other seedlings aren't easily visible from this angle.

[img]https://img683.imageshack.us/img683/5079/gen034.jpg[/img]

Better angle of the grow area of the rig with the under-lid nutrient distribution system partially installed. More on this to come momentarily.

[img]https://img844.imageshack.us/img844/7489/gen033.jpg[/img]

This mess will be trimmed and attached to the lid of the container with zip-ties. Spaghetti is drip-irrigation lines from a big-box store. No restrictors installed. Above the lid, the drip lines plug into the 3/4" feed line via taps available alongside the line.

[img]https://img577.imageshack.us/img577/610/gen015.jpg[/img]

Plotting the location of the net pots on the lids of the grow buckets. Blue case holds Xacto knives. Easy to break the blades. Template made by my wife. Worked perfectly :)

[img]https://img819.imageshack.us/img819/7115/gen013.jpg[/img]

The Plan with already-cut holes in the background.

[img]https://img163.imageshack.us/img163/6277/gen017.jpg[/img]

The whole point of the under-lid distribution system: delivery of streams of nutrient solution to the bottom of the mesh pot to help hold down algae growth in the media on top.

[img]https://img10.imageshack.us/img10/8959/gen020.jpg[/img]

A shot of the under-lid setup. Note the extra lines - I tried to spread extras around to even out the flow into the tubs.

[img]https://img820.imageshack.us/img820/2046/gen025.jpg[/img]

The rig from the right side. Note the inverted black bucket - this incredibly high-tech device houses my 20-watt air pump. It's connected to a 6-position manifold. Air lines are not yet attached.

The bucket is attached to the rig by the simple expedient of zip-ties. The air pump MUST remain above the level of the nutrient solution. If it does not and the power goes out, solution will siphon back into the pump, potentially draining the reservoirs and ruining the grow. The bucket simply holds the pump suspended inside (zip-ties) and protects it from rain.

[img]https://img859.imageshack.us/img859/3238/gen027.jpg[/img]

Here's the pump inside the bucket, obviously shooting from underneath the inverted bucket. Note the air manifold and zip-ties holding the pump suspended. This helps cut down on vibration. Vibration = noise.

[img]https://img718.imageshack.us/img718/6475/gen028.jpg[/img]

Nutrient distribution system done. Note little black dots - tops of zip-tie loops holding the drip lines to the tub lids.

[img]https://img155.imageshack.us/img155/3215/gen030.jpg[/img]

So when we put the seedlings into the rig, the weatherman was claiming a week's worth of sunshine and warm temps. That was Monday. Tuesday dawned with heavy clouds and rain/slush mix. Forecast now claiming temps in the 40-50-degree range and rain/snow/hail. Fortunately, this season, the rack we used has a 3rd shelf. This and a spare King-sized sheet makes dandy protection from rain and, especially, hail. I've nearly lost seedlings to poorly-times hail storms in past seasons.

[img]https://img804.imageshack.us/img804/4152/gen039.jpg[/img]

Seedlings hiding under their sheet. It will hopefully come off tomorrow morning, when the forecast is calling for sun <fingers crossed>.

[img]https://img844.imageshack.us/img844/871/gen040.jpg[/img]

That brings us to the present. Thank you for following my rig build-out and the grow to come.

FYI, there IS a reason I am growing my plants so high off the ground - I will be utilizing a trellis to train them horizontal, with the veggies hanging beneath the canopy. That has NOT been built yet. Will be covered in detail then.

Feel free to fire off the questions!
See my grow: outdoor RDWC hydro Tomatoes, Cukes and Peppers!

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/v ... hp?t=35746

newleaf150
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

A couple shots of last year's rig 8)

This pic was taken late-season last season when the tomato plant was not doing so well. Please note that ALL the growth visible in the foreground is 1 single plant. Its stem was significantly larger than my thumb.

Note the tree stump in the background. This was removed prior to setting up this year's rig, enabling a MUCH better orientation of the rig and (future) trellis.

[img]https://img62.imageshack.us/img62/3474/hydro20101010101823aa.jpg[/img]

A shot from the underside of the rig before the major blushing started 8) These babies came out mostly in the 1-lb range. The biggest of the batch (not pictured) was 22oz.

[img]https://img838.imageshack.us/img838/8751/hydro20101003094639aa.jpg[/img]

Standard-size tennis ball for scale. These were right in the medium size range relative to what we got from the plant.

[img]https://img829.imageshack.us/img829/3908/hydro20100911130437aa.jpg[/img]

Some of last year's tomato harvest. We got approx. 60lbs of usable tomatoes from 1 plant. That leaves the other half of the rig out entirely - we grew pickling cucumbers as well. Got enough from 4 plants to keep my wife busy pickling 12 weekends in a row. I will post the varieties - last season was all heritage seeds. This season is last year's heritage seeds with more modern hybrids - will be 1 plant of each. Also a couple varieties of peppers 8)

Note that ALL the bloody tomatoes have splits on them - not bad enough to ruin the fruit, but annoys the heck out of me. This year's rig has been designed to hopefully resolve this problem. More on that later :)

[img]https://img15.imageshack.us/img15/5439/hydro20101017092157aa.jpg[/img]

Here's last season's MONSTA. That's a standard-sized slice of bread...sorta visible back there <GRIN>. This was the 22-ozer. I'm happy to note that the taste was reportedly exquisite in spite of the size. Usually as the tomato gets bigger, taste reportedly drops off. I wouldn't know <sigh>.

[img]https://img219.imageshack.us/img219/8083/hydro20101022185621aa.jpg[/img]

My hope is that this season's rig will utterly trounce anything I saw last year 8)[/list]
See my grow: outdoor RDWC hydro Tomatoes, Cukes and Peppers!

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/v ... hp?t=35746

NYStan
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:32 pm

Very nice system! I have a question for you. How high do the reservoir water temps get during July and August?

newleaf150
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

Summertime reservoir temps

NYStan wrote:Very nice system! I have a question for you. How high do the reservoir water temps get during July and August?
Hey, NYStan, thanks for your interest! I'm afraid the answer to your question is a bit ambiguous: I don't know exactly how hot/cold my reservoirs get at any time. Why? Because I've never used a meter to measure the temp :shock: or anything else!

I actually got into this with the express purpose of finding out if all the expensive meters and so forth are needed, or if someone could 'fly by the seat of their pants' with hydroponics and succeed.

As it happens, you definitely can grow hydroponically without meters. The trick (for me, at least) seems to be frequent (weekly) partial reservoir changes, lots of aeration, keeping nute loads low-medium, and some luck. Also watch the plants closely.

That said, I've also re-thought my initial position and am planning to start adding meters (temp, pH, TDS) as soon as funding permits. When I am able to start gathering data, I'll post it here. Will try for some high/low numbers re: outside temps, too.

I can tell you that my nutrient solution has always stayed 'cold to the touch' regardless of the time of year or amount of sunlight on black plastic. My second season, especially, the whole rig just sat naked in the full sun for the whole grow. I have pics if you wanna see 'em 8) NO temperature issues with the nutrient solution or the plants. I made other mistakes and had other problems, but nothing temp-related that I can tell. I have no idea why this is the case and am only recently realizing just how unusual it is or seems to be. I haven't found much at all about other people doing hydroponics outdoors.

Theories? Sure. I think the heavy aeration of the solution contributes via evaporation, kind of like a reverse waterfall. Also, the solution may get 'charged' at night when temps regularly drop into the 60's, sometimes lower. The constant circulation may play a role, too, but to be fair, that role could be as a heating agent: I've always used in-reservoir pumps, which are known to bleed heat into the solution during operation. I don't use timers, so mine runs 24/7. Hasn't been a problem for me so far. I hope I'm not jinxing myself by admitting this :wink:. Will it be the same for you? There's really only one way to find out, and you can totally do it on the cheap!

I started my first season with three 5-gallon buckets, and I insulated the heck out of them, only to find that it seemed to make no difference whatsoever. I ended up pulling all the insulation and it made no apparent difference (measuring by sticking my hand in the solution, remember) in the solution temp. Went through most of the summer with no insulation on any of them.

I'd love to be able to explain this better, but I lack the data and expertise to interpret it. I'm certainly open to ideas, and would dearly love to see if it works in other parts of the country. Anyone wanna try?
See my grow: outdoor RDWC hydro Tomatoes, Cukes and Peppers!

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/v ... hp?t=35746

newleaf150
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

A note on cost

In looking through others' grows here and in other forums, I'm seeing a huge and understandable emphasis on system cost vs. production. One of my favorite examples is a member who doesn't want to grow a '$10 head of lettuce'. It goes without saying that such a view makes good financial sense.

My own approach has been a bit different - not better or worse - I feel it's worth expanding on, though, as it is VERY different in some respects.

I am the type of person who learns best by doing. I started small outside because that was the cheapest option, but my system has certainly morphed and upped $$ since then. We (the lovely wife and I) haven't tallied up the cost of the present rig as yet, but putting it together has not been cheap by any means. It's also brand-new this season with the exception of the air pump...which I plan to change soon :lol:

So, did I get my money's worth out of last season's system? In pure financial terms, I seriously doubt it, and don't mind a bit if it was a total loss. We did get a fair return, though: we pulled 60-lbs of good tomatoes off the rig, along with a stupid number of pickling cucumbers. We sold or gave away 30+ jars of homemade, homegrown hydroponic pickles and still had quite a few left over for the wife to enjoy! Last season's rig was also by far the most successful one I've built/run. It was tweaked from the previous season's total re-design.

This season, I feel I've found the winning formula and I'm looking to establish something more permanent. I used higher-quality tubs, which should last for several seasons. Only a few $ more expensive than the cheap ones. Also better-quality hose (LOVE it!), bulkhead fittings, rack, etc.

In fact, when it comes to the rack, I'm hoping that with minor maintenance at the beginning/end of the season, this bad-boy will last for years. Maintenance of the rack? Yea, sounds weird. Think outdoors, metal and rain: it WILL rust. Trick will be to locate the rust, sand it away and paint it. This should be very small-scale - no plans to re-paint the whole rack at all - just touch up damage to the existing weatherproof finish.

Ultimately, I am spending money in part to gain experience in outdoor DIY hydroponics. I am learning to build rigs that work for me, and produce wonderfully. Eventually, I will be able to teach others how to grow their own food in quantities enough to make a difference.

Why? **I REALLY don't want to start a political discussion.** Suffice it to say the price of food has been rising at a shocking rate in the past few years. I don't feel standard industrial agriculture methodology is sustainable in any sense of the term, and guarantees continued rises in the price of food and ecological damage. There are other reasons, but again, I am NOT looking to start a political discussion :roll: It's not what the forum is about. Just presenting facts and my personal interpretation of where they are likely to lead. If you disagree, great! Let's take it to another thread, though, K?

The point is, I am planning for significant future increases in food prices and hoping to recoup my build costs in savings provided by my harvests, this season and for at least 3-5 more going forward. While there will certainly be maintenance and tub replacement costs, I hope these will be outweighed by the relative value of the produce the system produces. Following that, of course, I should be able to show how I can save money through a few seasons by spending a few hundred on a rig :o

All this will happen (current plans) on an 8x8-foot trellis - the most I can get my wife to agree to doing in the back yard :o Last season's trellis was smaller and stunned me with its output...hopefully this year I'll get to document a similar amazing event for all of you!

In closing, I'm approaching this whole build/grow from a more long-term standpoint. I have in the past and will DEFINITELY be paying a LOT for my produce this season, but over time, the experience I have gained and the quality equipment I've put together should tell and save long-term money. I don't expect the pay-off to be this season or next, but it will come with seasons...in theory :wink:

There's always up-scaling, too. With the ability to do a larger trellis, for example, the same underlying rig can produce far more vegetables up to a certain point. What is that point? I have no idea. I hope to explore the question in seasons to come. I am still definitely in the research and learning phase!

Do you have feedback? Please feel free to let me know! I'm happy to answer any and all questions or criticism that I can address. If I don't know the answer, I'm not afraid to say so. Also not afraid of criticism. I've never claimed to be an expert - I'm learning by doing and researching. Having a great time doing it, too!
See my grow: outdoor RDWC hydro Tomatoes, Cukes and Peppers!

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/v ... hp?t=35746

hydrolifeCA
Cool Member
Posts: 75
Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:05 pm
Location: Central America

I want to chime in too... I grow hydroponic lettuce. On my second round now.

Out of round one total cost (nutrients, ph Down (natural) and electricity) results in an average cost of $1.90 for a head of lettuce.

In the super market I can buy it for 0.90 cents.

So what does this mean? Hydroponics is an outstanding, beautiful, amazing hobby which can produce edible results.

If you DESIGN and manage your system you can COMPLETELY and NATURALLY grow anything. I use natural ph Down (Vinegar), Natural substrate (corn husk coir) and natural nutrients.

No pesticides, chemicals, etc. I would like to think my lettuce is healthier and yes it tastes better than store purchased.

So... are you going to save money? no, probably not.

Is it worth it? WITHOUT A DOUBT!

Grow for passion' nothing more and nothing less.

hydroguy
Senior Member
Posts: 221
Joined: Thu May 13, 2010 3:02 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

I've been watching your thread with great interest and I must say it is quite impressive newleaf150.

We share very similar ideals on many levels, others I might disagree but like you said that's for another forum. :wink: The idea of quality components for a system I couldn't agree more. I've gone cheap and then had to replace so the old saying of "you get what you pay for" has been true atleast for me over the years I've been water farming. Take the T-5 light systems I picked up this winter, if I put the costs of those systems on one cycle of produce then it makes no sense to grow a $100 head head of lettuce but if I spread that cost over several years of production then the costs is very much justified.

Growing hydroponicaly without meters or testing equipment just raises the possibility of failure. Can it be done, sure, lots of folks do. It's like insurance to me. I've spent all this $ and time on my systems so why not protect my investment. Another way to look at the use and costs of meters is maximize my investment. If I'm going to put this much into something I want to make it produce to its fullest potential. Knowing what's happening in my resv. only makes sense IMHO.

And one last thing on this beautiful Sunday morning before I head off to church, you stated earlier that you would explain more about the use of all those feed tubes going into your upper tubes. I've been curious about that since I first saw them. Not being critical but it seems a bit overkill and your goals could be accomplished with a larger air pump. I've not ventured oudoors with a system so I'm just asking and trying to learn something from your hard work.

Thanks for taking the time to post your efforts,

hydroguy

newleaf150
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

hydrolifeCA wrote:I want to chime in too... I grow hydroponic lettuce. On my second round now.

Out of round one total cost (nutrients, ph Down (natural) and electricity) results in an average cost of $1.90 for a head of lettuce.

In the super market I can buy it for 0.90 cents.

So what does this mean? Hydroponics is an outstanding, beautiful, amazing hobby which can produce edible results.

If you DESIGN and manage your system you can COMPLETELY and NATURALLY grow anything. I use natural ph Down (Vinegar), Natural substrate (corn husk coir) and natural nutrients.

No pesticides, chemicals, etc. I would like to think my lettuce is healthier and yes it tastes better than store purchased.

So... are you going to save money? no, probably not.

Is it worth it? WITHOUT A DOUBT!

Grow for passion' nothing more and nothing less.
Hydrolife,

Thanks for chiming in! I agree with you on the less tangible rewards of growing hydroponically. I have really enjoyed designing, putting together and operating this and my previous systems. I hope your grows continue to be successful and rewarding on a whole variety of levels :D
See my grow: outdoor RDWC hydro Tomatoes, Cukes and Peppers!

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newleaf150
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

Answers soon!

Hydroguy,

Thanks for the support, feedback and great questions! I'm afraid I don't have time to address them properly right now, but that will change. Will be back to you ASAP. I have some new pics, too :)
See my grow: outdoor RDWC hydro Tomatoes, Cukes and Peppers!

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/v ... hp?t=35746

newleaf150
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 3:43 am
Location: Denver area, Colorado

Hydroguy's questions

Hydroguy: hey, long time, my bad. Lots of real life going on, not much time to attend to the *important* things....<snicker>...
hydroguy wrote:I've been watching your thread with great interest and I must say it is quite impressive newleaf150.

We seem to share very similar ideals on many levels, others I might disagree but like you said that's for another forum. :wink: The idea of quality components for a system I couldn't agree more. I've gone cheap and then had to replace so the old saying of "you get what you pay for" has been true at least for me over the years I've been water farming. Take the T-5 light systems I picked up this winter, if I put the costs of those systems on one cycle of produce then it makes no sense to grow a $100 head head of lettuce but if I spread that cost over several years of production then the costs is very much justified.
First off, thank you for your interest and support, Hydroguy! Thank you even more for turning away from the temptation to go political!

The idea of a multi-season investment' is hugely critical to this rig <grin>. More to come....
hydroguy wrote:Growing hydroponicaly without meters or testing equipment just raises the possibility of failure. Can it be done, sure, lots of folks do. It's like insurance to me. I've spent all this $ and time on my systems so why not protect my investment. Another way to look at the use and costs of meters is maximize my investment. If I'm going to put this much into something I want to make it produce to its fullest potential. Knowing what's happening in my resv. only makes sense IMHO.
LMFAO - Seriously, NOT LAUGHING AT YOU! It's just that you may as well have been in my head for the above chain of logic. You are totally right, BUT - what we have to keep in mind is that this system literally started 3 seasons ago as some 5-gal buckets and assorted stuff...back then, it made good sense to save $$ by not buying instruments. I was also seriously interested to see whether I could do hydroponic cultivation 'by the seat of my pants' or not.

I am pretty satisfied at this point that I can indeed grow hydroponically without expensive meters and so forth. I am also satisfied that to continue to do so on the scale I'm working with is quite dumb and a waste of good money. This season's rig has cost...let's say a few hundred bucks. I'll get several seasons' use out of it <knocking on wood>, but I and the lovely wife are still in for a pretty significant amount of cash. At this point, I'm totally in on meters.

While I can do without, I would much rather maximize my plants' growth potential by having at least some vague clue about what is happening in the nutrient solution. In short, I am, once again, in complete agreement with ya, Hydroguy...awaiting $$ for meter-implementation <grin>.
hydroguy wrote:And one last thing on this beautiful Sunday morning before I head off to church, you stated earlier that you would explain more about the use of all those feed tubes going into your upper tubes. I've been curious about that since I first saw them. Not being critical but it seems a bit overkill and your goals could be accomplished with a larger air pump. I've not ventured oudoors with a system so I'm just asking and trying to learn something from your hard work.

Thanks for taking the time to post your efforts,

hydroguy
Thank you for taking the time to pay attention and ask insightful questions! Sorry it's taken me so long to answer you.

In any case, the deal on the the huge number of tubes is this: I am looking to agitate and circulate my nutrient solution as much as possible. I am also looking to set things up once and run them that way through the season.

Basically, my experience in past seasons has led me to want to put a widely distributed spread of solution into my grow buckets. At the moment, I have 2-3 lines running into each net pot with multiple others running into the solution itself.

I will end up (I hope) with solution constantly running down the plants' main roots, and into the reservoir at widely separated points. This will hopefully help to keep the whole tub turned over/agitated more efficiently, thereby keeping 'dead zones' in the huge root structures to (hopefully) come to a minimum.

Ultimately, my philosophy in this is that more turnover is better. Since I have the remote reservoirs, I need to turn my nutrient solution over, and frequently. The more the solution flows past the roots, the greater their opportunity to uptake it and make the plant bigger :D

The secondary philosophy is low-maintenance. It takes me literally less than 2 minutes to check the rig in the morning, another 2 minutes in the afternoon. If I need to do something to it, like add water/nutrients, I'm in for 5-10 minutes.

My relatively enormous system capacity means I can leave the rig running unsupervised for days on end without a problem. Previously, this has helped with the 'fly by the seat of your pants' idea relative to meters and such. It is also quite useful for loading the system with nutrients (utilizing meters) and buffering pH and other changes. Larger reservoirs tend to be more stable than smaller ones.

I should still be able to leave it unsupervised for 4-5 days at need, maybe even longer depending on the stage of growth.

Thanks again for your interest and questions! If I've failed to address anything, feel free to ask.

Thanks again!
See my grow: outdoor RDWC hydro Tomatoes, Cukes and Peppers!

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/v ... hp?t=35746

TCHarris32
Full Member
Posts: 56
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2011 6:46 pm
Location: Indy

Newleaf, any updates here? I'm really wanting to do an outdoor grow next spring and I'd like to know what you guys ended up with. Thanks.
Newbie to gardening. Please pardon the ignorance.

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