Growing Red Leaf Lettuce Hydroponically

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Since our very first produce bounty in mid May, we’ve been harvesting lettuce every week.  It has been very exciting and gratifying to see the crops grow so well in the Gen. II CGS. While we’ve been mostly growing Butter Lettuce (bib lettuce), a few weeks back we planted a Red Leaf variety and were rewarded with an awesome harvest last week. Red leaf is a type of loose-leaf lettuce, with delicate leaves, despite its crunchy stem in the middle. Similar to Green Leaf, but with
maroon pigment deposited on the edges and the leaves themselves, this loose leaf variety likes to sprawl a bit while it’s growing and thus requires some “dressing up” before it can hit the shelves. To help with that, we’ve created a new branding look for this lettuce – an Alaska grown twist tie with a custom flag that shows variety, growing methods and its origin. Think of it as nifty outfit for its debut at the stores that also helps collect all the leaves in one awesome bunch. As always, you can find this beautiful variety at Bell’s Nursery and select Carrs/Safeway stores in Anchorage, Alaska.

Our goal is to demonstrate to our future clients the simplicity behind growing fresh and nutritious produce hydroponically, here in Alaska and around the world. We’ve already researched the type and quantity of nutrients and water you will need, the seed varieties, the proper growing medium, the time from seeding to harvesting, the best LED lights, the right temperature and airflow, all to optimize the growing environment and to take the guess work out of hydroponic farming. The key thing is consistency. Consistency is the secret behind being able to harvest mouthwatering greens week in and out, which is the principle behind growing produce in the CGS.

So what are the steps to perfectly grown produce, each and every time?

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Step 1. Take seedlings from the starting area and transfer to finishing trays. Each seedling comes in a Rockwool cube – not dirt, no mess and easy to handle.

Step 2. Put trays with new seeds in the starting racks, where sprouting begins

Step 3. Harvest in due time. We can customize a schedule that fits your needs. We harvest every week.

Step 4. Top off nutrients, pH buffer and water

Step 5. (OPTIONAL) Depending on your “personality”, you can talk to your plants or perhaps play some music. What kind of music? Play something you enjoy, which will make your harvesting time that much more exciting.

———Repeat steps 1-4 ——

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 12.42.22 PMThe CGS does the rest! 

So how difficult was it to grow this Red Leaf? As “difficult” as it was growing Butterhead, which just loves being in the water!

per 100 grams:

Over 100% of your DV of Vitamin A ( 7493 IU, 150%) and Vitamin K (140 mcg, 175%) ! As it turns out, red leaf is also a good source of iron (1.2mg, 7%), folate (36 mcg, 9%), manganese (o.2 mg, 10%) and not to mention a concentrated source of phytonutrients. This is a very low calorie food with a low glycemic load and high fullness factor.

If you pair this lettuce with another food that’s complementary to red leaf’s nutritional profile, you will reap great benefits from your meal.  For example, to round out another fat soluble vitamin and add a great protein source, pair Red Leaf with wild caught Sockeye Alaskan salmon, which has good levels of vitamin D (not to mention a host of other benefits). Need more iron? Try a Red Leaf and spinach salad with some chickpeas or beans. (loads of iron there). For heme iron, go with high quality beef liver. For vitamin C, you can’t go wrong with Kiwis or Kale. Just one cup gives you 164 mg or 273% DV and 80.4 mg or 134% respectively.

As always, to your health!

The team at VHH

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Mar 22, Starting Seedlings for Organic Gardening

gardening calendar If you wish to do some organic gardening this year, my first suggestion would be to get a calendar. So many activities need to take place within certain dates, all in relation to the date of the last frost in your area. A calendar helps you to have an organized plan of action, will help you recall when certain things happened, and will keep you from missing important steps.

The first step in any organic garden is to start seeds. It is a good idea to start early- certain plants (like tomatoes and peppers) do best when grown indoors for 6 to 8 weeks before being moved outdoors. A more complete list of plants and seed starting times can be found on another page.

Determine the last frost date for your area. This is the date you will be transplanting most of your seedlings outdoors. Now count back 6 to 8 weeks on your calendar and mark a date- this is when you should start tomatoes and peppers. If it is too late in the season to start your seeds this early, do not panic! Even plants started outdoors will grow, they will simply be smaller and produce less.

equipment for starting seeds

To start seeds indoors you will need seed starting trays, seed starting soil mix, a fluorescent light or two, a small oscillating fan, and a seed starting/transplanting fertilizer. Seed starting trays often come with a humidity dome to help keep the soil moist while the seeds germinate. They often also include little white plastic tags used to label your seedlings.

Using a commercially available seed starting mix will prevent most problems with weeds and seedling disease. Pre-moisten the soil and fill the seed trays to the top. If the soil drips when squeezed, you have it a little too wet. Add your seeds as directed on the seed package. Correctly label each seed section, add the humidity dome, and record on your calendar what seeds you have started today.

Most seeds will germinate at room temperature, and most seeds will sprout in 7 to 14 days. After the first sprouts appear, position the fluorescent light a couple of inches above the humidity dome. The fluorescent light should be kept on 18 to 24 hours a day. After all of the seeds have sprouted, you can remove the humidity dome. Always keep the seedlings within 12 inches from the light.

an oscillating fan for seedlings

Plants breath through tiny holes in their leaves and depend on air movement to exchange gasses. An oscillating fan placed a couple feet back will accomplish this, and will also help thicken the stems to support more weight.

When the seedlings are 14 days old or so, they are ready for some plant food. I have lots of information on fertilizer on my organic gardening home page if you would like a better understanding, but here are the basics…

All fertilizers are made of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (also written N-P-K). All fertilizers display 3 numbers which represent the ratio of these three nutrients and the strength of the fertilizer. You don’t want to burn your new seedlings, so all three numbers should be small (less than 20).

Your new seedlings will be using lots of Phosphorus to grow new roots, so the middle number (P) should be the highest of the three numbers. You should fertilize your seedlings every two weeks until you plant them outdoors. Writing the date you first feed them on your calendar will help you keep a good schedule.

When you begin fertilizing your seedlings, it is also a good time to thin them out to one plant per container.

After 4 to 6 weeks your seedlings should be several inches tall and may be ready for a bigger container- however, transplanting is not always necessary. If your seedlings show no signs of stress (dead spots or discoloration) you may decide to plant them from the seed trays directly into your organic garden.

To keep costs down, I use cheap 4 oz plastic disposable cups. With scissors, cut small slivers from the bottom of the cup for drainage (in case of over-watering).

Fill the cups with about one inch of pre-moistened soil. Carefully pop the seedlings out of the seed tray and place them in the cups. Add pre-moistened soil around the sides of the seedlings and gently firm the soil.

With a permanent marker correctly label each cup for future reference. This will be the only time you need to transplant your seedlings before being placed in your organic garden.

seedling cold frame-

Seedlings indoors are kept rather comfortable. Outdoors the wind is stronger, the nights are colder, and the sun is much brighter. These are enough to kill young plants moved directly into the garden. You can greatly increase your success rate by providing your transplants with some “in between” conditions for a week before planting them in your garden.

One common way of doing this is to place the plants in a cold frame. Another idea is to move the plants outdoors for a couple of hours each day, giving them more and more exposure each day. Finally, you could place them directly into your organic garden, mulch well, and use some kind of crop cover.

While you are still caring for your seedlings indoors, it is a good time to begin preparing your organic garden bed. In this way, as you arrive at the transplant dates written on your calendar, the seedlings can be moved into the garden outdoors with little effort.

Leave the Organic Gardening Seedling page and
Go to the Garden Bed Preparation page

Check out the Seed Starting Date Cheat Sheet

Dirt Cheap organic and hydroponic gardening suppliesFind out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason’s Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 20 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients….and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden….but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people.

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn’t have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible….and in the last 20 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason’s Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks….and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients….I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas….like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Make a year's worth of compost in one week!What is colloidal humus? Make the world's best compost

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill….and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients.

One final solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants is concerned. Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle, you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system!

Click Here to learn more!

This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 20 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!

This is where my advice ends for people growing in water. But some of you out there are in love with soil gardening and organic gardening, and rightly so! It’s a pro-human activity. It is pro-conservation. It is pro-life. It nurtures and promotes life at all levels, from the micro-organisms to beneficial insects, to healthy humans. It’s natural. it’s spiritual. Gardening is written deeply into our DNA, like how you feel watching a bonfire or sitting by the ocean or next to a river.

My friend John at Food4Wealth has more than 20 years experience organic gardening, so he reminds me a lot of myself. He knows organic gardening like I know hydroponic gardening, and over the years he has learned just about every trick there is to organic gardening. He knows what makes the plants grow, and he knows how to do it with as little effort as humanly possible. His garden never needs digging, naturally repels pests, has no weeds, always produces more than his family is able to eat, produces vegetables everyday all year round, and….only requires 8 HOURS of light, easy effort PER YEAR!

Low effort organic gardening!

Years and years of experience and results can’t be argued with….the Food4Wealth gardening strategy is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work….specifically for organic gardeners who love soil gardening. THIS is the most efficient and productive way to do organic gardening, period! And combined with the ability to make a years’ worth of colloidal humus compost in just one week (see World’s Best Compost), this overall organic soil gardening strategy is just unstoppable- foolproof, low cost, and low effort!

Learn about high yield organic gardening
If you've found this site helpful at all, I would really appreciate it

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Feb 16, My Most Successful Homemade Hydroponics System

My most successful homemade hydroponics system was the result of many years of trial and error. A good design eliminates many of the potential problems with using a hydroponic system and simplifies its day to day use. In the end success depends not only on a good hydroponic system design, but also on how you use it (good hydroponic gardening technique).

Below I describe my homemade system, along with design changes I’ve made over time and why. Next I discuss construction tips and a couple small problems that still exist with the system. Finally, I share my experience on proper hydroponic gardening technique to help you get the best results from your homemade hydroponic system.

Shown here, a design made from 4 inch PVC, with a plant spacing of 10 inches

Tools- power drill, 2 3/4 inch hole saw, hack saw or sawsall, soldering iron, tape measure, marker, and chalk line.

Materials- four 10 FT lengths of 4 inch PVC pipe, eight 4 inch PVC elbows, PVC primer, PVC glue, 30 gallon plastic storage tote with lid, 240-380 gallon per hour hydroponic pump, four feet black hydroponic pump hose, two or three fish aquarium air pumps with 6 inch air stones, forty 16 OZ plastic beverage cups (disposable kind), 20 liter bag of expanded clay pellets, two sawhorses, and duct tape.

This homemade hydroponic system is 3 1/2 FT X 8 ft. Fully loaded it can hold 36 plants. Plants are added to the system when they are about 6 inches tall. The system itself holds about 15 gallons of water and the nutrient reservoir holds another 15-20 gallons, for a total of 30-35 gallons of nutrient solution (slightly less than 1 gallon per plant).

First, cut the four PVC pipes into 7 FT 6 inch lengths. When cutting PVC it is important to make our cuts nice and straight, otherwise one side of the pipe will be longer than the other (this could cause problems later). With your fingers or a thin piece of metal, scrape off any burred PVC from the cut so you have a nice clean edge.

Next, cut three 6 inch pieces making sure the cuts are straight and cleaning the edges. These pieces will be used to make u-turns out of the PVC elbows.

The purple primer is great, because you KNOW when something has been primed. It is a good idea to use BOTH primer and glue when trying to make a water-tight seal

When a piece of PVC is glued into a fitting, it needs to be held in place for several seconds (it tends to pop back out). Before gluing PVC, make sure all PVC burrs have been cleaned from the cut pieces. Clean the inside of the fitting AND the end of the pipe with PVC primer. Go around 3 or 4 times on each. Next, apply glue to both the fitting AND to the end of the pipe. Go around 3 or 4 times on each, making sure you haven’t missed any spots. The glue should cover 1 1/2 inches on the end of the pipe. Twist the pieces a little as you push them together to smear shut any air bubbles.

Immediately after pushing each u-turn together, set it upright on a flat surface (open ends down) to make sure it sits perfectly flat. If not, adjust the piece while the glue is still wet. Make sure to hold the piece in place for several seconds before letting it go. Make 3 u-turns this way.

Once the u-turn pieces are sufficiently dry (a few minutes), I recommend gluing together the rest of the system BEFORE cutting the holes for the plants. First, locate a large, flat area upon which to work. The area must be large enough to fit the entire system. Your finished homemade hydroponic system will only be as flat and level as your work area.

Glue an elbow to one of the long pipes, following the gluing guidelines above. This will be where water enters the system (see the diagram). Glue the other end of this pipe into one of the u-turns, making sure the elbow is facing up and the u-turn is lying flat on the ground. Into the other end of this u-turn, glue another long pipe. To the other end of this pipe glue another u-turn, making sure it is sitting flat on the ground when finished.

Into the other end of this u-turn glue another long piece. On the other end of this pipe glue the final u-turn, making sure it is sitting flat on the ground when finished. Into the other side of this u-turn glue your final long piece. On the other end of this piece push on, but DO NOT GLUE, your final 90* elbow. For now, this elbow should point up in the air and will keep your final long piece level as it dries.

Use a marker or a chalk line to mark the top-center of the PVC pipe before you begin marking out individual plant holes

I recommend letting your system dry overnight before trying to cut the holes for the plants. It is important to make each hole precisely at the top of the PVC tube- a little off center to either side and THAT will be the spot your homemade hydroponic system is likely to leak. It is helpful to use a chalk line (and a friend) to snap a line down the very top center of each tube, or to mark it with a permanent marker before you begin marking out the plant holes.

Then, with a marker or pencil, measure 3 1/2 inches in from the elbow (at either end of a long pipe) and mark it with a dot over the center line. Next, measure every 10 inches along the pipe (starting from the first dot) placing dots for each plant hole. Each long pipe should end up with 9 dots. Drilling a pilot hole into each dot with a small drill bit (i.e. 1/8 inch) will prevent the hole saw bit from “walking”.

Use a 2 3/4 inch hole saw with a 1/4 inch guide drill bit and begin cutting out the plant holes. Be sure to keep the disc shaped pieces of PVC…they come in handy later to level your homemade hydroponic system! Once all of the holes are cut, take a thin piece of metal (like a short sawsall blade) and clean the PVC burrs from each hole. This is actually very important– these little pieces of PVC will clog your water pump and burn it out! Before you move the system and finish cleaning it, you will want to reinforce it…

Be sure to re-inforce your homemade hydroponic system BEFORE you attempt to move it

The long pipes of the system make great levers- if moved up or down, left or right too much from their resting position, it can crack the system at the u-turn joint. Measure the distance between your long pipes. Cut three sections of PVC to this length. Wedge these sections in between your long pipes (at opposite ends of the u-joints) and duct tape them in place. Make sure the duct tape runs in between plant holes rather than covering them. This will splint your long pipes into relatively safe positions.

Once the homemade hydroponic system has been reinforced to prevent breaking, it’s time to clean it well and flush it out a couple of times. Lift the system off of the ground and set it on a couple of sawhorses. Place the reservoir at the end of the system to catch the rinse water. Use a hose with a good spray nozzle to shoot water and PVC burr debris from each pipe. A new toilet brush also comes in handy for this. Start at one end and work your way from hole to hole through the entire system. Rinse several times, making sure you have gotten all of the PVC bits out.

A soldering iron was used to make these homemade netted pots. Plastic fumes are very toxic. If you try this, make sure it is in a well ventillated area!

Netted pots are made from the 16 OZ cups by burning small (1/4 inch) holes with a soldering iron in the bottoms and sides. Be sure to work in a well ventilated area- plastic smoke is toxic. If this is overly concerning to you, consider purchasing netted pots from your local hydroponic gardening store or from an online distributor.

It is important these holes are not visible when you place the cups into your homemade hydroponic system. Before making the holes, place the cups into your system to see how deeply they sit. If you need to, mark them with a marker while they sit in the system. Also, the holes should not be large enough to let clay pellets slip through once the cups are filled. When finished, each 2 3/4 inch plant hole will receive one homemade netted pot.

the bottom design ends up having an interesting feature....as the water level drops, the overflow is more quickly reduced

The water level within the system needs to be kept as high as possible without causing any leaks. To do this, a dam is constructed at the end of the system just before the water pours back into the reservoir. Simply find a piece of thin plastic, such as a milk jug. Using a scrap piece of 4 inch PVC, trace a circle on the plastic and cut it out.

Cut a flat side off of the circle representing the height you would like to keep the water level inside the pipes. Cut two slits into this flat side, giving you a flap you can bend down to fine tune the water level. Now wedge it into place using the last 90* elbow to test things out. This last elbow remains unglued to facilitate water changes in your homemade hydroponic system. Instead of gluing the elbow, simply coat it with a thin layer of Vaseline.

Pay careful attention to how much water your nutrient reservoir can hold when your water pump is shut off (simulating a power outage or equipment failure)

Attach a 24-30 inch piece of PVC to this elbow to carry water from the homemade hydroponic system back to the nutrient reservoir. Rather than pointing straight down, this pipe should be made to run at an angle to prevent splashing and the sound of falling water. The end of this pipe should be underwater inside the nutrient reservoir. Cut notches in the side of the reservoir lid to accommodate the water pump line and PVC return.

The reservoir should have at least one air bubbler in it, to keep the nutrient solution well oxygenated. This is important, as the roots will be growing in standing water.

Fill the system with water and fill the reservoir about 1/3 full of water. Turn on the hydroponic pump and wait until there is just as much water returning to the system as there is being pumped into the system. Ideally, the water level should be 1/4 inch or less below the edge of each plant hole. Using the PVC discs (saved from cutting out the plant holes) level the system, raising sections until the water level is the same distance below each plant hole. If the water level needs to come up or down on the entire system, simply adjust the dam.

There are alternatives to using clay pellets, such as perlite, vermiculite, pumice, or rockwool

Presoak the expanded clay pellets overnight. If they are brand new, soak and rinse them several times before using. Take the 16 OZ cups (with holes) and place one in each plant hole. Add enough clay pellets to each cup to just make it above the water level in the cup. Jiggle them around with your finger to settle them. The top layer of pellets should be 1/2 in the water and 1/2 out.

Take 6 inch clones or seedlings and place one in each cup, adding presoaked clay pellets to each cup as you go to completely cover the roots and any cloning medium (i.e. rubber dirt plug or rockwool). Once plants are in the homemade hydroponic system, it is important to add the air bubblers!

One of the most important pieces of equipment you should have is a good meter for testing the strength and/or pH or your nutrient solution

Turn the water pump off to add nutrients to the reservoir. Bring the nutrient strength up to the level you have established in your feeding plan. Turn the pump back on (very important). Check the nutrient strength/pH again in an hour as your nutrient solution will become diluted with the plain water from inside the system. In an hour, check and adjust the nutrient solution one final time. Afterward, place the lid on the nutrient reservoir and follow the regular routine for maintaining a nutrient solution.

A light mover is not required to produce excellent results, but it is the most efficient way to use a grow light

Finally, I hang the lights and fans. I have found a 1000 watt light on a very short light mover to be perfect for this garden. Along one 8 foot side and the two 4 foot sides I hang reflective material. In the center of the other 8 foot side, I position a 12 inch oscillating fan on a stand (at plant height) and hang a 400 cubic foot per minute centrifugal fan, which I use to push cool air into the garden area.

Clones and seedlings grow easily under regular 4 FT fluorescent lights

While you could start seeds in this homemade hydroponic system and grow them start to finish, it is much more efficient to start seedlings in a smaller area under regular fluorescent lights and transplant them into this system when you are ready to flower them. By using this garden as a flowering area, you can start another batch of clones or seedlings under your fluorescent lights and have them ready to go in as your last crop finishes up.

Once you have 6 inch tall seedlings or clones with roots, put them into the system and grow them vegetatively for one week (just long enough to get situated). If any of these plants die, remove the plant and it’s roots but leave the cup and clay pellets in the plant hole. Then, cut the light cycle to 12 hours on/12 hours off using a digital timer and allow them to flower.

This homemade hydroponic system is prone to leaks because the water level in the system needs to be kept close to the spilling point in order to give the plants’ roots enough area in which to grow. Also, half way through flowering, the volume of the root mass in the system became a small problem. The hydroponic pump placed 360 gallons per hour into the system; however, because of all the roots, the water could no longer flow through the system at 360 GPH… so the water slowly backed up and began to leak out.

To solve this, I put a “T” in the water pump line. I left one side in the nutrient reservoir (recirculating the nutrient solution) and fed the other side of the “T” into the homemade hydroponic system. This cut the GPH running through the system to 180 GPH, stopped the leaking, and caused no ill effects to the plants.

Because of these issues, I suggest running this homemade hydroponic system on an unfinished basement floor with a drain (or perhaps in a garage with a gravel floor). You could also figure out some way to contain the small leaks, like strategically placing a plastic sheet under the system to funnel leaks back to the reservoir. Better yet, read about my next homemade hydroponic system…a re-design of this system that eliminates the problem with leaks altogether.

A lack of drip/spray emitters make this system reliable and easy to maintain. The pump is a low pressure pump, eliminating any risk of catastrophic failure like bursting pipes (which spray everywhere until the reservoir is empty, putting your lights and electrical equipment at risk and posing a fire hazard). A leak in this system is not likely to spray (just drip) and it would be nearly impossible to empty the whole system.

This system design minimizes light exposure to the nutrient solution, which prevents algae, which prevents fungus gnats, which prevents root damage. In the event of a power failure, the standing water in this homemade hydroponic system will prevent damage to your roots/plants for quite some time. Finally, it is relatively easy to check, adjust, and change the nutrient solution in this system.

Choose a design for your homemade system

How to grow Hydro
(how to maintain your hydroponic nutrient solution)

Hydroponic System Construction Tips

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Growing Hot Peppers Indoors

Winter is still upon us, but this has no bearing on your ability to grow delicious hot peppers in the comfort of your own home. Whether you are growing indoors from sprout to harvest, or simply starting off your seeds for the outdoor season, both can be accomplished with great success.

In part one of this series I will discuss the best methods used for sprouting your pepper seeds. Although it is possible to sprout your seeds in soil, we will be focusing on the hydroponic methods in order to take advantage of the many benefits of hydroponic growing. These benefits include increased growth rates, faster maturity and fruit production as well as increased yields.

The first step in sprouting pepper seeds is to give them a presoak. This means you should soak your seeds in water overnight to kick start the germination process. A shot glass or similar device works well for this practice. Remember to separate seeds based on variety in order to be able to identify which plant is which down the road.

The next step is to prepare your growing medium. Jiffy 7 propagation plugs are best suited to soil or soilless growing as they have fine particles which can become loose and clog or soil active hydroponic systems. Rockwool starter plugs can be easily transplanted to either soil, soilless or hydroponic gardens making them the most versatile. Both of these types of growing media require a presoak before they are ready to receive the seed. Using your pH tester and your pH Down, set the pH of your water to 6.5 for the Jiffy 7 method or 5.5 for the Rockwool method. Do this by first testing the pH of your water and then adding a few drops of pH down and retesting until your pH is in the correct range. Be sure to stir the solution well before taking your adjusted pH readings.  Once your pH is set to the correct level, it is time to soak your media. 10 seconds is sufficient for Rockwool and the Jiffy 7’s will require more time to expand since they come in compressed form. Once your media is soaked it can be transferred to your propagation tray. The Jiffy 7’s will require some shaping and removal of excess water before they are placed in your propagation tray. Propagation media should be moist but not soggy or else your seeds may rot.

Now that your tray is full of propagation media, it’s time to insert your presoaked seeds. Best practice is to place three seeds per propagation plug. If your seeds are far more valuable than the cost of the propagation media, you may elect to plant only one seed per plug. Seeds should be planted at a depth of 1/4? and tamped gently to ensure coverage. Sometimes it is necessary to tear off a small piece of Rockwool from the edge of the cube to cover the seed. Once seeds are planted and tamped, they are ready to be sealed in their propagation dome to establish a warm humid environment to aid in germination. A Seedling Heat Mat can help speed up the germination process, however, be sure that the media does not dry out due to the added heat (ideal seed temperature for germination is 80-85 Degrees Fahrenheit).Ensure that there is no standing water in the bottom of your tray and then the propagation tray/dome can now be placed in a sunny location or under a grow lamp to speed up the propagation process.

peppers-at-nightfluoros

A general rule of thumb is that a single T5grow lamp can be sufficient to sprout seeds, however, multiple lamps will produce better growth once germination has occurred.

Suggestion: Coloured small paper clips make for excellent plant identifiers. Other low cost items can be used as well, just be sure that they do not absorb moisture such as wood or paper or they will be prone to grow mould while sealed in your propagation dome.

Note: some pepper seeds can take up to 4+ weeks to germinate.

Once your peppers sprout and begin to grow, the strongest of the three seeds should be left to live, and the weaker plants culled from each propagation plug. This can be achieved by simply clipping the weaker plants with a pair of scissors at the base. It is not recommended to grow more than one plant per plug as they will compete for resources for the rest of their lives. Also at the time of germination, the vents on the propagation dome should be progressively opened each day to slowly expose the seedlings to the less humid atmosphere. Once the first set of true leaves appear (not the first set of rounded leaves called cotyledons) it is time to apply your fertilizer at 1/4 strength. For DNF Gro this means 1.5 ml of part A and 1.5 ml of Part B to one litre of H2O. Only water once plugs become dry and light weight, however do not wait too long for your delicate sprouts to wilt or the damage may be irreversible.

Congratulations, if you made it this far then you are well on your way to producing a healthy pepper harvest!

Stay tuned for the next installment which will focus on the lighting and growth methods available to grow these sprouts to the size required for an abundant harvest!

If you require additional information on seeds and germination click the links below:

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May 1, Hydroponics Growing Systems Explained One by One

Each of the hydroponics growing systems has its own way of supporting the plants. Plants require food, water, and Oxygen for the roots to keep them from drowning. You can scroll down the page to see how each system works, one by one, or you can use the menu below to jump to any system. The main types of hydroponics growing systems are…

 

People often do not realize that hand watering can be one of the simplest hydroponics growing systems, but hydroponics boils down to this…the food is in the water.

If you mix perlite, vermiculite, and coconut coir (all nutrient free) and use this to grow your plants in a container garden, you will HAVE TO add some plant food in the water when you hand water. By definition, this is an example of hydroponic gardening. A 50/50 mix of perlite/vermiculite would work just as well.

Coconut coir and vermiculite retain quite a bit of water. By using more of them in the soilless mix, the containers will stay moist between hand-waterings (every day or two). Sphagnum peat is the base of many commercial potting soils and can be used as a substitute for this purpose also.

Because of its simplicity, this is obviously an easy home method. This is one of the hydroponics growing systems that will easily support organics. No matter what type of system you choose, you will need to learn some hydroponics feeding tips.

In a DWC system, the plants are grown directly in nutrient solution, which is kept Oxygenated with an air bubbler.

The deep water culture method, also known as the reservoir method, is one of the easiest of all the true hydroponics growing systems. A container holds about two inches of nutrient solution. Several plant containers sit down in the nutrient solution. An aquarium air pump constantly bubbles in the nutrient solution, keeping the plants roots from drowning.

Often, small holes are made around the bottom 2 inches of the plant pots, allowing the roots to grow out into the nutrient solution. As in the example above, an effort is usually made to keep light from getting to the nutrient solution. Wherever there is light and nutrients, algae will grow. Algae eat the nutrients you are trying to feed to your plants, and when pieces of algae die they attract fungus gnats. Fungus gnats lead to many other problems.

Because of its simple design and simple function, the reservoir method is a good choice for homemade hydroponics. Since there are no drip or spray emitters to clog, it is also a good choice for organic hydroponics growing systems.

This system is well suited for volcanic lava chips media, or else a mixture of one part vermiculite to 5 parts expanded clay pellets. As with any hydroponics growing system, you will want to brush up on your hydroponics feeding tips before beginning.

Water pumps flood the grow media, which absorb the nutrient solution. Clay pellets need to soad for much longer than perlite or rockwool.

In the flood and drain method, the plants sit in their own container separate from the nutrient reservoir. From time to time, a pump will kick on. The nutrient solution from the reservoir floods the upper container for a while, soaking the plant roots and the grow medium. The pumps than turn off, and the solution drains back into the reservoir.

Your choice of grow media determines how often and how long you flood the container for. Fast draining, clay pellets may be flooded for a half hour 4 times a day, while the slower draining rockwool can be watered less. This system is also well suited for growing in straight perlite or lava chips.

The parts and function of this hydroponics growing system are pretty basic, making it another good option for a homemade hydroponics system. With a good water pump, you can also use this method for organic hydroponics. It is always a good idea to have a filter before the pump in any system. Of course, you will make any hydroponics growing system work its best with the right hydroponics feeding tips.

You can use a drip system with any media....clay pellets will need more water, while mediums like vermiculite or rockwool require less water

With the drip hydroponics growing system, the plants are again in their own tray, separate from the nutrient reservoir. A pump pushes nutrient solution through many small tubes, which feed each plant from the top. Different emitters can be placed on the end of each tube to make the drip slower or faster.

Once again, a faster draining medium (like clay pellets) will need faster dripping emitters (or more of them per plant). Slower draining media (like rockwool) would use slower dripping emitters. The standard media for drip systems is rockwool, although clay pellets and lava chips are also sometimes used. Straight perlite should work well in this system also, although I’ve never tried it myself.

The flow rate can sometimes be difficult to control in a drip system, and the emitters are famous for clogging. These problems are often worse when you try to make your own drip system. There is a learning curve. You will probably spend a little money and have a poorly working system your first try, if you try to build a homemade drip system (I know this from personal experience).

Furthermore, organic nutrients are full of small particles that ALWAYS seem to mess up and clog the drip emitters. If you are trying to do organic hydroponics, this is not the system for you….unless you are able to make some clever modifications to the system to address these problems.

Homemade NFT channels can be made very cheaply from 4 inch PVC, gutters, or square PVC fence posts.

In this hydroponics growing system, plants are placed in a tray or gutter separate from the nutrient reservoir. One end of the tray is lower than the other, to encourage the flow of water. A pump delivers a steady flow of water at one end, creating a constant stream of nutrient solution in the bottom of the tray.

Capillary mat is a material that sucks up excess water and slowly releases it back to the plants in between watering cycles.

In order to make sure the water flowing through the bottom of the tray is nice and even, a layer of absorbent material (called capillary mat) is placed in the bottom. No capillary mat is needed if the nutrient solution level in the pipes are kept deep enough. The system would be operating as a deep water culture at that point (or a combination of DWC and other techniques).

NFT is another method that is both easy for the homemade hydroponics do-it-yourselfer and also a good choice for organic hydroponics growing systems. Once again the parts, the design, and the function are all simple. In a pure NFT system or a NFT-DWC hybrid system there are no drip or spray emitters to clog.

A cheap drip system can be used in a lot of different ways in a homemade hydroponic system.

There is one thing to consider, however. You must start with plants that have a root system large enough to hang down into the nutrient solution. Otherwise, you need to top feed the plants with a drip system until their roots grow long enough. NFT systems are very often used in combination with drip systems. With a little capillary mat and a cheap drip system, you can make a very affordable and effective hybrid NFT system.

It doesn’t matter what type of media you start your plants in. Once they are in place in the system, the roots will be growing right in the water! This system, when the proper hydroponics feeding tips are followed, works very nicely.

Nylon rope, felt, coconut coir, vermiculite, and other grow media all draw moisture up like a wick.

In wick hydroponic growing systems, the plants are again in their own container, separate from the nutrient reservoir. Pieces of absorbent material (usually nylon rope) are buried partially in each plant container. The other end of the rope is allowed to dangle in the nutrient solution. The absorbent material pulls the nutrient solution from the reservoir up into the growing medium. Another way to do it is to allow the bottom 1/2 inch of a container to dip into the nutrient solution, and be sure to use an absorbent media in the bottom of the plant container.

4 1/2 inch containers are just about perfect for growing small plants. Square containers are often easier to use in a homemade system (compared to round pots).

The system is easy to make as a homemade hydroponics system, and will support organic hydroponics without any problems, but there are a couple of things to consider. Sometimes it is difficult to get the right moisture level in a wick system. You will have to experiment a little with more absorbent growing mediums (vermiculite/coconut coir). Also, I have seen the wicks suck up less and less water over time (especially when using organics).

If you want to give this method a try, I suggest a 50/50 mix of perlite/vermiculite. Perlite and coconut coir would work as well. Altogether, I think other systems are just as easy to use, and produce better results.

Homemade aeroponic system reservoir

In these hydroponics growing systems, a large container like this contains several gallons of nutrient solution in the bottom. A pump pushes nutrient solution through spray heads that constantly soak every inch inside the container with a fine mist of nutrient solution.

Roots grown directly in air, sprayed constantly or frequently with nutrient solution.

As you can see, there really is no growing medium in this method. The plants roots hang down into the container and grow mostly in air, except for the few that grow long enough to make it into the nutrient solution in the bottom. The pump used is a high-pressure pump, and the spray emitters are made specially to deliver a very fine, highly oxygenated spray.

It is often very hard to assemble individual parts into a well-working system, and the individual parts can be expensive as well. Also, the fine-spray emitters will instantly clog if you try to use anything except high quality hydroponic fertilizers (no organics).

If maintained properly, an aeroponic system will give you the maximum performance (results) of any hydroponic system.

Of all the hydroponics growing systems, this is the most difficult to master and the most temperamental. PH changes and nutrient imbalances occur more quickly because of the increased absorption rates and high levels of Oxygenation. Furthermore, with no grow media to protect the roots, the plants react negatively to these changes much more quickly.

More recently, some innovative gardeners have begun to push this new area. Systems are beginning to pop up that are much simpler and that do not rely on pumps. Check out this homemade aeroponics cloner, for example. Aeroponics does offer faster growth rates, which continues to drive the demand for it. The newest example of this innovation is this homemade aeroponics system #1 that uses no spray nozzles, and this other homemade aeroponics system #2 that is even easier to make!

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Sep 14, How Plant Growth is Affected by Temperature

high temperature leaf burns

The ideal temperature range for plant growth without CO2 supplementation is 70-75 degrees. Temperature is probably the factor that causes the most problems in an indoor garden. When the temperature in a garden climbs higher than 85 degrees, plant growth damage can happen quickly. As far as temperature is concerned, you have the following factors working against you when you begin to improve your garden area…

the more watts you add to an area
the more enclosed you make the area
the less adequate your exhaust system is
the smaller the area is
The worse your heat problems get!

The general idea for controlling heat is to exhaust the hottest air out of the area and, at the same time, introduce cool, fresh air in to replace the exhausted air. This source of cool air is critical. Plant growth slows in hot, humid conditions, and your ability to control the temperature in the garden area is only as good as your source of cool, fresh air.

Indoor/Outdoor Garden Thermometer The most important thing is that you know the temperature in the hot spot of your garden area. This is usually directly under the center of your grow light, at the tops of your plants. The plant growth in this area is the most vulnerable to damage from high temperatures in the garden. For this, every indoor gardener should have an indoor/outdoor thermometer (the kind with a cord and remote probe).

Here are four strategies you can use to help reduce the temperatures in the plant growth zone of your indoor garden area…

1. Open the grow area to allow air circulation with a larger volume of air
2. Keep the grow light exhaust and the garden area exhaust as two separate systems
3. Increase the size and number of exhauste fans for the area
4. Add air conditioning

Larger volumes of air act as a buffer against temperature increases. A garden grown in a small closet with a 400 watt light, an oscillating fan for circulation, and no exhaust fan will have a problem with high temperatures.

On the other hand, the same 400 watt light placed in the corner of a large bedroom, with the same oscillating fan, may operate without any problems of high temperature (especially in winter months).

Let’s say you had a 600 watt light in a high quality reflector that had nice big 6 inch vent holes thru it and glass in the bottom. Let’s say you placed this light in a completely enclosed 4 foot square box. You could duct air in from a window, through the enclosed light, and exhaust it back out the same window.

With the light efficiently cooled, far less heat ends up in the grow box and the temperature inside rises much more slowly. This means you can run an exhaust fan that kicks on and off as it is needed. Now you can run an exhaust out from the grow box and run it on a thermostat.

Once you no longer have to exhaust continuously to control the heat, you will be in a much better position to use carbon dioxide to try to maximize your plant growth.

The exhaust from a grow box should always be somewhere near the top of the box (because heat rises). This makes it only natural to make the fresh air intakes lower to the ground, around the bottom of the grow box or grow chamber.

Again, your ability to control the temperature will only as good as your source of cool, fresh replacement air.

If the air temp outside is 70 degrees, than you should be able to get the temperature in your garden area down to 75 degrees….if your exhaust fans are good enough, that is. Box fans and oscillating fans are needed in the garden to circulate the air and to help all the plant growth breathe properly, but as exhaust fans they suck! They do not move nearly enough air.

There are two types of fans used (efficiently) to exhaust indoor garden areas. They are…

squirrel cage and centrifugal fans

The main difference is that centrifugal fans are quieter, more powerful, and more efficient than squirrel cage fans. They are also more expensive. However, if you plan on using a carbon filter, have to get a centrifugal fan….squirrel cage fans just don’t have what it takes when it comes to pulling air in volume through a carbon filter.

As a general rule, the CFM rating of your exhaust fan should be able to exhaust the square foot volume of your garden area in 5 minutes or less to be ok. Practical experience has shown me it usually takes even more than that to control temperatures in a garden, especially when no air conditioning is used.

Get more information on garden exhaust fans here.

Air conditioning is the final solution when it comes to controlling indoor garden temperatures. With AC, you are always guaranteed a quality source of fresh, adjustable cold air. Gardeners that use air conditioning do not exhaust their gardens continuously.

The strategy for using air conditioning is usually to run the lights on a separate exhaust system from the garden area. Whenever the temperature gets too warm, the garden exhaust fan kicks on at one end of the area while the air conditioner operating at the other end acts as the fresh air intake.

Gardens using carbon dioxide to maximize plant growth would then release CO2 once the exhaust fan(s) shut off.

It is generally accepted that gardens can be ran at higher temperatures when using CO2 supplementation to maximize plant growth. While this is true, it is important to understand that this is only the case when all other growth influencing factors are kept in their ideal ranges. The ideal temperature range for the indoor garden is 70-75 degrees. With the addition of CO2 you can run your garden up to 10 degrees warmer without seeing any negative effects.

The other place where temperature is a concern is in your nutrient reservoir. In the plant growth and oxygen page, I describe how the uptake of nutrients (in the root zone) only occurs in the presence of oxygen. The fact is, water looses it’s ability to hold dissolved oxygen as it warms up.

If the nutrient solution gets too warm, your plants will not be able to take up any nutrients (and therefor they will not grow). Worse yet, the nutrient solution will begin to favor a number of pathogenic micro-organisms at a warmer temperature….nasty things like fusarium and pythium. The ideal temperature for your nutrient solution is 65 to 70*F. If your garden is in the basement, keeping the nutrient reservoir on the concrete floor will usually keep it at an ideal temperature.

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Dirt Cheap organic and hydroponic gardening suppliesFind out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason’s Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 20 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients….and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden….but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people.

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn’t have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible….and in the last 20 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason’s Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks….and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients….I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas….like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Make a year's worth of compost in one week!What is colloidal humus? Make the world's best compost

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill….and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients.

One final solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants is concerned. Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle, you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system!

Click Here to learn more!

This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 20 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!

This is where my advice ends for people growing in water. But some of you out there are in love with soil gardening and organic gardening, and rightly so! It’s a pro-human activity. It is pro-conservation. It is pro-life. It nurtures and promotes life at all levels, from the micro-organisms to beneficial insects, to healthy humans. It’s natural. it’s spiritual. Gardening is written deeply into our DNA, like how you feel watching a bonfire or sitting by the ocean or next to a river.

My friend John at Food4Wealth has more than 20 years experience organic gardening, so he reminds me a lot of myself. He knows organic gardening like I know hydroponic gardening, and over the years he has learned just about every trick there is to organic gardening. He knows what makes the plants grow, and he knows how to do it with as little effort as humanly possible. His garden never needs digging, naturally repels pests, has no weeds, always produces more than his family is able to eat, produces vegetables everyday all year round, and….only requires 8 HOURS of light, easy effort PER YEAR!

Low effort organic gardening!

Years and years of experience and results can’t be argued with….the Food4Wealth gardening strategy is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work….specifically for organic gardeners who love soil gardening. THIS is the most efficient and productive way to do organic gardening, period! And combined with the ability to make a years’ worth of colloidal humus compost in just one week (see World’s Best Compost), this overall organic soil gardening strategy is just unstoppable- foolproof, low cost, and low effort!

Learn about high yield organic gardening
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Drip System Problems and Maintenance

Drip systems are one of the biggest time savers in any garden. They are also easy to design and install and are relatively inexpensive. Once set up, plants are fed regularly and precisely on the schedule you choose. In my own gardens I have found that not only do drip systems save me a whole lot of time but they have also saved my garden from sure death when life gets busy and I don’t have time to spend with my plants. Another great thing about a drip system is that they have relatively few problems. But when they do the results can be devastating. In this article we will review some simple steps on how to identify the common problems with a drip system and general maintenance of the drip system that will help insure healthy plants and a full harvest.

The most common problem with drip systems is clogging. Dirt is the enemy. The smallest contaminants can lead to many problems to your drip system. To avoid this there are many things you can do to help prevent clogging:

Use a “Y” Filter or inline filter (for ½” vinyl hose) before any drippers – using an inline filter catches large sediment before reaching the drippers resulting in less clogging. Occasionally check the filter and clean as necessary with a hose and brush. “Y” filters have 100 micron screens which are recommended for best control. Inline filters have 150 micron screens.

Use a water pump that has a mesh filter. If not use a pump bag – Most fountain and aquarium style pumps have an internal mesh filter which catches dirt and other large pieces of sediment. Anything that gets through should get caught in your inline filter.

Try not to run thick organic nutrients through your drip system – In general, organic nutrients are thicker and stickier than inorganic nutrients. One great way to grow organic with drippers is to brew nutrient teas which done properly shuold leave little or no sediment.

Flush your feed lines regularly – Simply open up the end of your feed line and turn on your water to wash out any sediment or particles in the line. This should be done at the beginning of the grow season, when setting up a new drip system or adding more drippers and at the end of the grow season or any time you fear dirt has got into your lines.

Use a salt leaching solution in your reservoir – Some products can be added to your reservoir and run through your drippers with the nutrient solution. These products break down salts as they accumulate as hard water deposits or unused excess salt from synthetic fertilizers. Popular salt reduction solutions are SM-90 by Nutrilife and Drip Clean by House and Garden.

So you made all the necessary precautions when you set up your drip system and that is very important. But you should still check your system periodically for clogging and other problems. We suggest doing a walk over at least twice a month. Here’s what to check for:

Check each dripper for clogging – Drippers clogging up are the number one problem with drip systems. Check each drip site with the system on. If a dripper is not working replace it. If a dripper seems slow, put a cup underneath it and another cup under a working dripper for 5 minutes and compare. If the slow dripper is in fact not fully functioning, replace with a new one.

Check and clean mesh micron filter – Hopefully you are using a filter at the beginning of your feed line to catch particles. Check and clean the filter at least once a month.

Look for kinks in the feed lines – If you’re using vinyl hose or hard drip line, a bent or kinked feed line can reduce pressure to an entire length of drip sites. Straighten feed tube for max pressure.

Top off nutrient solution reservoir – Allowing your stock reservoir to get too low can increase salt build-up, cause more sediment than usual to flow through the pump and/or cause your pump run dry causing complete pump failure.

Check the first dripper and last dripper for even water output – Again, get two cups and put the first dripper and last dripper into a cup for 5 minutes. Compare total water volume output. If the last dripper is slow you may need a pressure regulator if you have high pressure or a larger water pump if you have low pressure (for indoor gardening).

Even though this article concentrated on ways to prevent and fix problems with your drip system, there is actually very little to worry about. Drip systems hold up well and generally have few issues. A few last things we recommend when building a drip system are:

Use a timer and adjust water time regularly according to plant size and temperature changes.

Do not overwater. Time your first watering until you see about 10-15% run-off from your pots or containers. Plants in the ground can be heavily soaked but make sure not to water again until the soil has properly dried out.

Do not extend feed lines more than 150 feet.

When using pond or aquarium water pumps, use as large a diameter feed line as possible for max head pressure.

Make your life easy and build a drip system. If you need help just go down to your local garden or hydroponic store. The sales staff should be able to help you buy all the parts you will and need and give you instruction on how to set it up. If they can’t do that, find a new store. If you live near a Gardening Unlimited hydroponic store stop by or give them a call. They will be happy to get you growing the right way.

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