Help with my NFT system

photopilotFebruary 2, 2012

I have started designing an NFT system. I am using a number of PVC square tubes to create this system.

I have 2" square tubes I will be drilling holes for 2" baskets into. I have 5" tubes I will be using to place 3.5" baskets into. I was planning on using the smaller tubes to grow lettuce, greens and herbs in and the larger one for tomatoes and peppers. Both baskets seem small to me, so I am asking for opinions here on that issue.

My plan is to start two seeds in each peat cup and then transfer into basket with hydroton, when the season is right. Spend the mean time working on the Hydro garden setup. Any suggestions is greatly appreciated.



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your baskets are just fine. I use 2" pots for everything, including tomatoes. Well I have used 3" before, but only because I had them.
I would not recommend putting the tomatoes in that system. They have huge root systems and will likely clog up your tubes.
you can see how large the roots are in this picture:

and those plants were only a month or so old. Imagine how big the root system will be when they're mature and fruiting.
though you can't see them in that picture. They're in 2" net pots.
Otherwise, I think the other plants will work.
Another thing to watch out for (I assume you're growing outdoors as you mentioned waiting for the season) is nutrient temperature. NFT, since its a thin liquid film tends to pick up a lot of heat. I would recommend, after drilling your holes, putting a reflective coating on the outside surface. I like to attach aluminum foil to mine with spray adhesive.
Make sure you test the system with water and no plants as its easier to tweak that way.
I found that a slope of approximately 1.1/2" over 48" keeps the water going at a decent clip. If it's too low, the roots will hold up the flow and create puddling, somewhat.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 3:21PM
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Thanks for the great info. Based on what you describe for tomato roots, should they be in their own 3 gallon bucket?

I live 2 miles from the coast the summer fog tends to keep it cool most days. I like to say 65 degrees 24/7/365 or within 15 degrees of it. Are the 5" tubes overkill? Even for peppers? If so I will replace them with the 4" which are 1/3 the price and 2' longer. The 5" are 8 feet long and the 2" are 10 feet long. I was going to cut them down to 8', does that seem too long? I plan on making supports along the span. I am starting seeds at the same right now so I have plenty of time to work out the details.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 3:41PM
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The lid in that picture is for a 32 gallon trashcan. I've grown as many as 6 plants in it at one time, but 3-4 works better. for a single tomato, I use a 5 gallon bucket though I usually only have about 3 gallons of liquid in it.
the 4" should work for the peppers. I grew some in 3"x2" downspouts and they didn't clog it up. had them spaced at 8" on center. 8 foot spans will probably work. I ran mine as 4' (maybe 5') because it was easier to handle.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 5:00PM
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Interesting about the using a trash can.
before the roots get long, how did you keep the plant in solution?
I would like to use something like that this coming summer for cucumbers. I had 2 plants that grew tons of cuc's in a flood and drain, but took up lots of room on the trellis, so I was going to give that their own trellis system outside but still use hydro tech. Though of floating raft, but 5 gal buckets or trashcan sounds better.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 10:38PM
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Inside the can, I have a water pump that pumps water up to a 180ð rainbird sprinkler that keeps the nets wet as the roots grow. It also acts to aerate the water so an air pump isn't required..
For support, I stick 10' piece of metal conduit in the ground (3 of them) then lace string wire or similar material around them as needed.
The only thing to pay attention to is, since the trashcan is 32" or so tall, your vines can get pretty tall so have a plan to address it.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 9:48AM
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Thanks. I was going to build a trellis system (about 10" wide and 6' high) to support the cuc's outside. Build on the west side of the greenhouse (it will help shade the greenhouse in late afternoon).

Maybe try the sprinkler system. Did you run it all the time (24-7) or have a timed on/off?

I was thinking about 6 plants (I know don't sound like much, but 2 produced a lot), which should fit inside a 35 gallon trashcan. Train the runners out and up. Put something around the base of the plants to stop rain water from coming in the trashcan.

I mostly use flood / drain and raft systems for my plants now, but I see so much else out there to try.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 9:17PM
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Here is a page I made using the same system except in a 5 gallon bucket so you can at least see what it looks like.

I've run it both ways successfully, but I like using a timer. about 30-45min on and 1.1/2-2 hours off.

My can lid has 4 holes in it but you can easily grow two plants per pot. I suppose you could grow 8, but I've only gone 6.

The trickiest part is probably keeping the lid from leaking because the sprayer will hit right where the lid strikes the can. I put in some vinyl weather stripping then placed bricks on the lid for a little weight.

I have some beautiful soybeans growing in flood and drain two years ago but the table happened to make a perfect height for a late night deer snack. I also grew some peppers and egg plant with an nft hydrid to. I really like the NFT method, though I haven't gotten all my kinks worked out yet.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 10:13AM
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I am going to make this system this spring. Already gathering parts (have pumps and some small plumbing parts on hand). I was thinking that I need to place the tank (35 gal tote) on cinder blocks to get it off the ground and to be able to drain it. I will try to remember to post later when I get it going.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:28AM
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That's what I did too. But that's another 16" or so you get before the bottom of the plant.
You could also run a dry pump(doesn't need submersion) if you set the can on the ground. I did that one year and it worked fine though you then have to power yet another pump.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:51AM
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I have my system up and running. Planted Jackson cukes, a small plump type (makes great pickles in pint jars). Making lots of cucumbers.
Next time (maybe late summer): Put both tubs on the same level and let gravity keep the water the same level. This variety doesn't produce massive vines like some others, so don't need all the support for the vines. Change to a different sprayer system (using a lawn type sprayer heads).

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 8:11PM
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looks good ratherbboating.
I use the lawn type sprinkler heads too.
do you run them on a timer?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 1:46PM
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Yes, it runs 10 minutes every hour with a hydro solution (same as I use for tomatoes). It takes about 10 gallons of water every three days. It leaks a little around the lids, but I did not notice it till I had the plants in it and running. So I just leave it along.
The heat is beginning to take a toll on them.
They get the afternoon sun, next year will move them to the other side of the green house (morning sun). I grew these for pickles, also have a few cukes in the garden for eating fresh later this summer.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:33PM
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For future reference;
To keep the lids from leaking place a piece of vinyl weather stripping around the edge. Then lightly weight the lid. I use a brick or two.
I agree with the morning sun issue. My best plants are on the east side of my house so they get direct sun from about 9:30 until probably 1:30.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 9:57AM
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Looking good! For a quick and easy trellis that will keep you plants off the ground and shade your nutes at the same time, try a 16' livestock panel and arch it over the nute containger (trash can). It will help keep the temp down in the nutes and prevent some insect/disease damage at the same time.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 6:07AM
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