Sizing up a reservoir(s) to complete system

Jasol(11)January 28, 2012

Hey guys!

I'm hoping that a few of you can provide some insight to help us finish off our hydroponics system. We have everything ready to go - except for the nute reservoir.

To give you the complete picture... we grow a small quantity of palm seedings for commercial production and sell to local landscapers and nurseries. We wanted to trial a micro experiment using a recirculating, dutch bucket, drip system to see if we can dramatically speed this process up.

At present, it takes on average 4mths for us to turn a sprouted seed into a commercial product at 15-20cm (6") height with profuse vegetation. I�m personally happy with the results, but the temptation to do something radical with a test group is leading me down the hydroponic road. The main 3 characteristics I�m looking for: prolific rooting, mass green vegetation and of course� speed. While I appreciate that any seed is genetically limited in its abilities, I�m curious to how far we can push our product beyond the soil alternative while still remaining cost competitive.

The test bed will consist of 96 palms (most likely a cross selection of Archontophoenix Alexandrae, Veitchia Merrillii and a 3rd undecided). Growing medium will be 100% Hydroton with Metal Halide lighting. Once they reach a commercial height, they will be sold as bare root stock, or transplanted into the standard H40 nursery mix awaiting our next buyer.

I think that'll give you a good idea to work off.

The system we have built consists of 12x 11Ltr (2.5G) Bato Hydro Buckets running a 2x6 formation. I have access to 2x 60ltr (15G) reservoirs that will fit perfectly under the drainage pipe(s) depending on your advice.

The main issue I'm trying to get my head around: 2x reservoirs means twice as many nutes... cost of production doubles, profitability drops. Given that these are seed sprouted stock and only being grown to a small height, what are the odds of us getting away with just the one res?

Having never grown with hydroponics before, I don't know what to expect with drawdown of both nutes and water - especially given that we aren't looking to develop a full grown product. Ideally, IF this works and it produces a crop on par with our soil stock (but at 2-3mths insead of 4)... then it'll be classed as a great success followed by copious amounts of alcohol lol.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts/experience.


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Hello Jasol,
A good general rule of thumb for nutrient reservoir size goes like this;

Small plants like lettuce or strawberry's etc., 1/2 gallon per plant minimum.

Medium size plants like bush peppers, herbs etc., 1 to 1-1/2 gallons per plant minimum.

Large plants like tomato's or melons etc., 2.5 gallons per plant minimum.

I have never grown palms, but going by your maximum size of 20 cm (I guess about 8 inches), they would fall in the category of small plants to me. So 1/2 x96= 48. If I'm not mistaken those bato buckets hold about 1 gallon of water in the bottom each, that would be 11 gallons right there (11 bato buckets). So 2-15 gallon reservoirs (30 gallons) and another 11 gallons in the buckets would be about 41 gallons total (more or less depending on how much is actually kept in the buckets). You would most likely be OK with that, especially if you kept the water level topped off, and changed the nutrient solution at least twice a month (as they bigger).

Though it's always been my experience that a larger reservoir is always better. The larger water volume reduces nutrient fluctuation/concentration as the plants drink the water, and before you can top it back up with fresh plain water (thus back to it's original water level). Also with larger water volumes the nutrient solution dosen't need to be changed as often. I try to double the minimum water volume recommendations myself. But a lot has to do with the environment as well. In a hot dry climate (like mine) the plants will drink up a lot more water than they would in cooler humid environments. So temp and humidity will drastically affect how much water the plants drink daily.

Each grower has different conditions and environments they grow in, so each grower needs to do some trial and error to find out what works the best for them. But Hopefully I was able to give you a good starting point. I would love to see some pictures of your operation (both soil and hydro).

You probably already know this, but small seedlings don't need a fill strength nutrient solution. So starting out with a low strength solution, and increasing it as they get bigger is better for them.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 11:42PM
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And that was exactly the kind of answer I was looking for.

Thanks HH. Will get some pics on here once I get everything up and firing - given that it's summer in Oz, the majority of my traditional palm stock has already gone. Still have around 550 left - a mixed selection of Foxtails, Christmas, Bottles, MacArthur and Alexandra.

Alot is going to boil down to how thirsty the little guys get. If I run on your experience with the lettuce/strawberries, then I should be able to get away with a fortnightly flush for the first four weeks while they are still in their infancy. After that will depend on whether they go ballistic or continue to cruise along under their own steam.

I honestly don't know what to expect - there doesn't seem to be much reported on the net from people who have attempted this with palms before. At the very least, it'll make for an entertaining distraction.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 4:26AM
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