New NFT setup

home_grower(SoCal Z9 S18)February 19, 2014

I have been growing strawberries the last few years in the ground but about half of the berries were getting eaten by bugs before they were ripe enough to pick. Last year I tried in long pots on the ground and they did better, but not as well as I would have liked. I only had a few plants so I didn�t get much production anyway.
About six months ago my wife and I were visiting some friends in Switzerland and the strawberries there tasted so much better than what we get here. I asked around online and it seems like the Mara Des Bios variety was what we were eating. I ordered some seeds but was informed that they would be hard to grow.
Now about a month ago someone just had to post a picture of hydroponically grown strawberries that looked so good I had to keep searching online and see what it would take to make one of my own. There are so many different systems that have been built. I looked here as well as a lot of YouTube videos and kinda came up with what I think will work well for me.
It is using 4" PVC with 3" cups. I have 24 of the Mara Des Bios and 24 White Pine berry bare roots I bought online. I still have 18 holes to fill with herbs and lettuce.
Anyway, I got it up and running last night and got all the bare roots in place. I checked each one later to make sure the roots were getting water.
I will likely change the reservoir to a 55 gallon drum later it was just dark so I put a tote in its place. I plan on adding Maxigrow until they get big then switching to Maxibloom.

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That is very nicely built. I like the white paint on the lumber. What size of a pump are you using? Have you run the system yet to see if the pump heats the reservoir water at all? I have had that problem with larger pumps.

With your herbs and lettuce, you can easily fit an ultra-dwarf tomato plant or two if you want, like Tiny Tim or Bitonto. They don't get much bigger than a strawberry plant at maturity.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 2:53AM
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home_grower(SoCal Z9 S18)

I am using a 256GPH pump and it seems to be doing good so far. I have a 1200GPH pump but I thought it would be overkill so I didn't use it. The water is very cold so I don't think the pump will heat it up. I am more worried about the 100* plus summer in the future.
I noticed when I got home that I lost a couple gallons of water due to dripping on the joints even though I used PVC glue on all but one joint so I could take it apart. I will silicone the ends this weekend to stop it.
I stopped on my way home from work and got a few herbs. After washing out the dirt and splitting them up I almost filled the empty holes. I do have four more to fill. I did not use the lettice since I could see that the roots would be too small to reach the water flow.
I will still grow peppers and tomatoes in pots. I just want to try and grow strawberries that would otherwise be hard to grow in the ground.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 5:51AM
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What a great set up , using the gravity run off I saw something like this a few years ago but not as good as yours congratulations well done..

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:48PM
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home_grower(SoCal Z9 S18)

I am seeing signs of life. The bare roots were pretty brown and looking almost dead a week ago but now four of the 48 are showing signs of life. Hopefully more will wake up in the next week or two. The 3" pots I bought, split and added are all doing great so far.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 4:10AM
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home_grower(SoCal Z9 S18)

It's been 20 days since the last update. The stuff up front is from 3" pots and little six packs of salad from the store. Pretty much everything is growing fast and looks good.

As for the bare root strawberries. 10 of the 48 are growing well. I'm not sure how the rest of them will do. Here are a few of them.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 2:48AM
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First PRETTY SYSTEM. About the strawberry bare roots. Did you just put them into the net pots? Nothing Special? How long until you saw life? Also i buried my reservoir (55 Gallon Drum) to keep it out of the 100' Texas Heat. Seemed to help last year. However we had some hard rains and it rose out of its hole a couple times. I strapped it down but i need to get some drive in stakes you use on Trailer Houses to make sure it doesn't pop out again.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 3:39PM
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home_grower(SoCal Z9 S18)

I received the bare roots earlier than expected so I kept them in the refrigerator for about a week while I built the NFT system. When it was done I cut a hole in the bottom of each of the 3â net pots around 1â so I could pull the roots out enough to reach the water flow. I used small lava rock to stabilize the plants. I did make sure that every one did reach the water flow.

After about a week a couple of the strawberry plants started to show signs of life. Each day I would see another one wake up. I havenâÂÂt seen any of the others do it so IâÂÂm not sure if it was the delay before moving them to the hydro setup or just bad luck. I will keep them there just to see if I get any late bloomers.

If they donâÂÂt do anything soon I will replace them with other plants. The ones I placed from pre-grown pots have done very well. I started this to grow rare strawberries and the ones that are growing show great promise.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 4:25AM
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home_grower(SoCal Z9 S18)

For the reservoir I planned on using a 55 gallon drum. You can see it in the second pic of the first post but to get it running faster I ended up with a 20 gallon tote. To get better water flow I moved it to the outside of the system and raised it up about 18âÂÂ.

I also siliconed all the leaks I had and I am no longer having to top off the water every couple of days.

I think I will eventually switch out the tote to the 55 gallon drum just to have a larger capacity reservoir for when I am away for a vacation.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 4:36AM
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Is there any worry of being oxygen or nutrient depleted as the solution runs down the gradient as they're all connected?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 6:22PM
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home_grower(SoCal Z9 S18)

It seems to be doing great so far. The pump has a venturi valve to bring oxygen into the output. The nutrient goes thru the system and into the reservoir many times a day so I think it will be fine.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 2:19AM
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home_grower(SoCal Z9 S18)

Here is an update. So far this system is working out really well. Some types of strawberries work better than others. I should have kept better track of what I put where.

The fastest growers are the Lettuce. It only takes a few weeks to go from a small 6-in-one container starters to full grown. The different Basel plants and the mint grow like weeds. The best part is nothing is getting eaten by the bus and birds.

I also switched out to the 55 gallon drum. I went out of town for 10 days and it was still half full when I got back.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 2:21AM
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What a great set up , you have truly excelled neat and tidy giving maximum area for growth not a vertical system but space is well utilised allowing optimum results.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 3:45AM
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On the pipe joints, try putting Vaseline on them. Put it on heavy. This is what I am using on my pipe system, works good. Have to wipe the old and re-grease beginning of each season.
Your system looks good. Mine is only two side by side 4" pipes for lettuces and Chinese cabbage, have two systems going. Works good for growing small plants.
Was thinking about trying strawberries next year, planting in the ground and using hydro techniques. Might try to copy cat your system.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 10:03PM
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home_grower(SoCal Z9 S18)

This was an experiment to see how it would work compared to growing in the ground. So far it has surpassed my expectations but there is definitely room for improvement.

There is still a lot of time left this season but I always like to tinker with things.

What I would do different.
Use solid pipe. I used 4â corrugated because that was available. It leaks too much. I did stop it but had to fully glue and silicone all the joints.

Change the drop from 6â to 3â per 10â of pipe. The smaller plants have a harder time growing into the system.

Make a gap in the middle of the system. ItâÂÂs kind of hard to reach the stuff at the top of the system. IâÂÂm trying to figure out how to design it for two tiers with a gap in the middle.

Figure a good way to number the holes so I can keep better track on my computer. That way I can know what works and what doesnâÂÂt. When someone asks âÂÂWow that Strawberry was amazing, what kind is it?â I can know what variety it was.

I viewed a lot of YouTube videos online before I built this mostly for strawberries but I learn more every day. Nothing is ever 100% but with a few changes this system should be great.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 4:16AM
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Great looking system. I was going to question the extreme drop of the tubes but read your last post and see you figured it out. I have run the same system before and ran 1.5" (just enough of keep the flow moving). My tubes were 5' in length which eliminated the sagging tubes at the 5' mark when growing larger plants at maturity. This also kept the flow at an even rate. Great job. I am looking forward to your updates.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 7:24PM
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