Tom James
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Joined: Thu May 21, 2015 11:23 pm

Advice on new set up


I'd like to ask for some advice regarding the hydroponic system I've just built in my living room. I've attached a photo, and here is a breakdown of everything.


Indoor living room balcony window in London, facing due East. Good sun until mid afternoon and I've added 6 x 64000K 30watt CFL bulbs to boost light. Currently, the lights turn on at 3am and off at 8am, where Mother Nature takes over (at least for the summer).


12cm IKEA plant pots in modified IKEA plant pot stand with net pots inside, filled with clay pebbles.


There are two low tanks with a water pump in each, plumbed in to two top tanks. I did this to allow two variations of nutrients to be used. Each top tank then flows into 6 pots and back into the low tanks through black aquarium tubing. When the pump activates, about 3 litres move from the low tanks into the top tanks in 30 seconds. With all valves open, it takes 4 minutes for the water to drain through all the pots. This happens every hour but is obviously controllable. Also, each column of 3 pots has a flow controller above it, so I could have a drier column if needed.


I'm currently using vegetative growth solution, mixed as per instruction, with ph down to bring it to about 6. I don't have a EC meter yet, one is on order.

After a week of planting, the tomatoes, mint, sage and chives are doing ok, but the basil, parsley, rocket and spinach have stalled.

My questions are....

1) How often should I water? Should I group some dry-loving plants together and reduce the water to that column? If so, which plants?

2) How long shall I have the lights on?

3) What would you recommend I plant? Culinary herbs and salad would be my choice, but pretty flowers wouldn't go a miss.

Any other hints or tips. 

I'm asking this because although I'm pleased with the build of it, and confident it'll work (it also looks really beautiful) I have ZERO gardening experience! So any advice would be gratefully received


Thanks for reading.
Home hydroponic
Home hydroponic

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Super Green Thumb
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Re: Advice on new set up

OK... I'm responding mainly to bump it, so more people will see and hopefully respond. I'm the opposite of you - know pretty much about gardening and more or less nothing about hydroponics. But it's a very interesting set up, I've not seen anything like it.

As a gardener, I'm thinking the difficulty with this will be the lighting. East facing window probably gets 7-8 hours of light a day, but that is not the same as 7-8 hrs of light in a garden. The light is more indirect, filtered, and only from one side. Supplemental lighting is needed, but I don't think your little compact fluoros scattered around are going to be enough. What you really need is fluorescent tubes that would go across each level of plants just a few inches above them. But then you would need plants of similar heights in each level.

Salad greens should do well in this, since they don't need as much light as some other things. The tomato plants at the bottom are already showing the effects of not enough light -- getting stretch with long internodal spaces.

Terrific use of a balcony window to grow food! Keep us posted re how it is working!
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Aqua Jon
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Joined: Thu May 21, 2015 12:33 am
Location: Southern California :: Zone 10a

Re: Advice on new set up

I am doing something similar, in that it is a hydroponics set up with clay medium, but it is a flood and drain system outdoors with basil. That said, I also have a freshwater aquarium that has about 4 cubic feet of aquatic plants growing under much less light than you have (52 watts but the light diffuses through water differently). Assuming submersed plants are quite different I would still imagine your lighting configuration would be enough. Time always reveals these things however.

I have read that each plant has a Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) range that defines optimal growth. Most ranges overlap and some do not.