I have a 7 pod aero garden unit -- it has served me well
I would like to go a step further with hydroponics-
where do I begin?
good website recommendations would be appreciated.
What do you want to grow? different plants sometimes do better in different systems. just google "hydroponic system types" to get a feel for what choices you have. the basics you'll see most often discussed here are:
deep water culture(DWC)
ebb n flo (EnF)
nutrient film technique(NFT)
Growing tomatoes in a DWC system is a relatively easy and rewarding way to really get you feet wet and learn. then you can expand from there depending on what you want to grow.
Feel free to email me if you'd like to discuss it further.
My email address is in my profile.
Have you looked at buying a tower garden? We have just ordered two units. We have outgrown our aero garden and think that this would be the next logical step.
Here is a link that might be useful: Tower Garden
Why buy any commercially made hydro system at all? Building your own system is so easy to do, and wont cost you two arms and a leg. Commercially made systems are so ridiculously priced it isn't funny. All you need to know how and why each of the 6 types of hydroponic system works. Then anybody can build their own custom system/s to grow more plants, and for a fraction the price of a commercially made system. Here's a link to a page that explains how each type of system works, as well as the basic parts of any hydroponic system. Hydroponic System types
I would always strongly suggest for anybody to build their own systems. Not only will you understand much more about how and why they work from the beginning, but in doing so be much more successful at the same time because of it. Not to mention save a bundle of money in the process.
I should also add that the first steeps in building your own hydroponic system/s is to decide what plants you wish to grow, how many you wish to grow, how big they will get, and where you will be growing them. Then design the hydroponic system/s with those requirements in mind.
Then there are people like me that don't want to think when it comes to building a complete outdoor hydroponic system from the ground up. Personally, I just wanted to install a hydroponic system, germinate some seeds, turn the automatic nutrient watering system on and then sit back and enjoy the "fruits" of my labor. In my case I studied the hydroponic options for 3 years until I finally bought a Hydrostacker system and I have never yet regreted that decision. Yes, their price is a little steep, but what you get is a COMPLETE system, to include the knowledge of setting one up along with all the parts that go along with that knowledge, from which you can successfully grow a wide variety of vegetables along with strawberries from the same batch of nutrients. Also, if you run into issues, they are there to answer your questions.
Now, once I put the initial system together, I found ways to expand my system cheaper using parts and nutrients I could get from either a local retailer or the internet. But, gaining that initial knowledge of how to successfully set up a COMPLETE system without all the stress was worth the extra upfront bucks. If you go to their web site, make sure to check out their photo gallery.
I'm glad your happy with your purchase barberberryfarm. But when it comes to commercially built hydroponic systems there are two issues, price, and customizability. If your willing to compromise on both counts, great. The manufacture made money. I still don't know why you would spend so much money for something you could have easily built yourself. I can only assume it was because time is money, and you must make more spending your time doing other things.
I'm not sure what happened in those three years that you weren't able understand how to build the system you paid someone else to manufacture for you. But if you were able too, you would have saved thousands of dollars. It's my understanding their systems start at about $2,700. For the price of the size of their starting systems, you could have built the same (COMPLETE SYSTEM) yourself for about $600 if you wanted to spend the time in doing so. Even for large commercial operations, hiring temporary help that can fallow directions is still more cost effective (regardless of the system being built).
Of coarse not everyone's priorities are the same, but people with money to burn have the ability to to not be concerned with the money they spend. I think the best way I can put it is if you have money to burn, then going to a restaurant 7 nights a week for dinner, or having a personal cook is fine and well worth it. But for most of us, knowing how to cook our own dinners has come in very handy, as well as saved us a fortune (a fortune other people have to spend). I don't mean any offense, just trying to show there are different ways to think of things depending on your situation. And that weather you have the money to burn or not, knowing how to do things for yourself "IS" always beneficial.
For a guy like me, even if I had $3,000 to spend on a commercially manufactured system, I would still want to make the most of the money. I would take those same funds and build my own system/s and be able to grow 5 times or more plants with the same money, rather waist it on a manufacture. Taking the time to do it yourself is ALWAYS beneficial, NO MATTER HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE TO SPEND.
If you would have spent the time building systems rather than reading brochures/product claims etc., you would have gained much more knowledge in how to put the them together in the first place (how they work). That's typical, lots of people spend lots of money buying commercially built systems. They get them home and put them together, then realize after a few months how to improve them, and/or their limitations. Then after they see how they work, they build their own systems. Why not start there in the first place?
I'm glad your happy with the satisfaction in knowledge you gained in putting together something someone else made. But there's a big difference in understanding what your doing, and just being able to put something together. Not to mention the craftsmanship. There's a huge difference between getting some wood, and building a dining room table or kitchen cabinets from scratch. Verses just fallowing directions on how to assemble ones you bought from IKEA. The knowledge you gain from building them yourself vastly ought weighs what you gain from building putting together something someone else made/designed (my original point).
There just isn't any comparison in the two when it comes to satisfaction for me. Both will allow you to sit down to dinner at the table weather you really built it yourself, or just fallowed assembly directions. But only one would give me satisfaction, and that isn't putting together something someone else made/designed.
homehydro, I agree with you whole-heartedly. However, for me, I have an 8 acre U-Pick farm and have 2500 thornless blackberry plants, 600+ blueberry plants, 200 muscadine vines and a variety of fruit trees, all of which my wife and I do ALL the work. This includes putting in trellises, an irrigation system, a fruit stand with a bathroom and a pole barn. So, as you can see, the amount of time I have to put into the various facits of farming is divided. Also, providing a quality-engineered farming adventure for my U-Pick customers is very important to me.
As far as money goes, that is also very important to me. But I have found over the years that sometimes it pays to pay for someonelse's engineering design. This was the case of my hydrostacker system. For me, my customers were asking when we were going to grow strawberries? I'd say as soon as I can figure out how to grow them without dealing with the grass and weeds and bending over to pick them. That's when I starting looking into hydroponics. Now mind you, I didn't get into farming until I was in my 50's and have definitely attended the school of hard knocks when it comes to growing fruit in the deep South with all the heat and humidity we have in the summer. When I said I researched using hydroponics for 3 years, actually I meant part time for 3 winters when I wasn't pruning or doing something else on the farm - i.e., it was probably raining or too cold to go outside. But, I didn't have a lot of spare time to tinker around with building a hydroponic system from the ground up, especially one that would work in central Alabama where I live. Also, whatever system I decided on had to be large enough to handle at least 1000 strawberry plants to make it worth my while.
So, after looking at a variety of NFT and vertical stacker recommendations on the web, I zeroed in on the hydrostacker system because it gave me the most flexibility. My hydrostacker system is like a tinker toy set. If you don't like the initial configuration, you can change it around to make it work for you. For example this year because of our hot summers we're not growing strawberries anymore and have reconfigured them to grow a variety of vegetables on 3-planter stackers instead of the original 5-planter stacks, with the planters sitting at the 3-5 foot range which makes for very easy picking. I've also added a 50% shade cloth and spray system to the initial configuration which allows me to control the heat and diverse variety of bugs we have down here. But, all of this wouldn't have ever come to pass if I didn't buy my initial 50 stacker system which I expanded to 132 stacks this winter, mostly from redesigning and buying additional parts at local retailers.
I can see from your handle that you are a home hydro advocate, which is great and you should be proud of what you have accomplished. However, now that I'm almost 60, I thought it was time to bypass the school of hard path and spoil myself a bit and build a system I didn't have to stress over designing and then going all over the place to find the best deal, which a lot of times isn't the best deal in the end. Some of the questions I didn't have to figure out by buying the complete system was: what type of growing medium do I use (eg, coconut fiber, perlite, vermiculite, rock wool, gravel, etc.), what type of water-soluable fertilizer do I use when growing strawberries and tomatoes at the same time (i.e., strawberries need a minimal amount of boron while tomatoes need alot), what type of outdoor planting system do I buy that can handle UV rays since I'm growing them outdoors and with the diversity of crops I want to grow (NFT, vertical stacker, holes cut in a bucket, water trays, etc). These are just a few of the questions I had of which I just didn't have the time and patience to figure. It seems like everyone on the Internet had a different opinion on what was best way to go while my extension folks said I should stick to growing stuff in the ground.
By the way a nine-stacker Hydrostacker automated system that can handle up to 180 plants (including shipping and everything you need to include all the parts, planters, ground cover, pumps, fertilizer, etc) runs around $1600 according to their web site.
I've also included my Facebook Barber Berry Farm Upick link below which has some pictures of the original design and how I'm expanding it this winter to accommodate around 1500 vegetable plants.
Anyway, now you know the rest of my story.
Here is a link that might be useful: My U-Pick Facebook Page
I have been meaning to reply for a while now, but keep putting it off because I wanted to have time to respond the best I can. But even though I'm still way behind on things, I did want to say, given your explanation I do understand where your coming from. Furthermore I looked at the pictures of your business and think it's great. If I lived in the area I would buy food from you to help support it. I really believe in supporting your community, and it dosen't get better than locally grown produce. On the down side I'm sorry to hear your discontinuing the strawberry's. But I guess you know what your able to grow and sell in your area much better than I would here. I just love strawberry's. But I definitely wish you well.
Thanks homehydro for your kind words! Believe me, we tried for two years to grow strawberries. The first season we planted Seascape and they tasted great! We were all excited and ready to press forward when the local June-bearing strawberry farms stopped growing them the end of May. However, once the 90s arrived in early June and, more importantly, the 70 degree evenings with dewpoints commonly ranging in the 60-70s, the strawberries would become soft and unmarketable. This past year we tried Evie-IIs, which were supposidly a much more heat-tollerant strawberry. But, even though they produced more foliage to protect the berries, their taste wasn't as good as the Seascape and they also became soft and unsellable once the heat got here. Good for strawberry syrup on ice cream though!
A fellow hydrostacker grower up in the mountains near Huntsville grew the new Albions last year and had good success with them. However, for us down here in the "lowlands", there is definitely a big demand for home-grown vegetables, so we decided to do a "column left, forward march" and head in that direction. Hopefully, with better results. Time will tell.