Hydroponic Hanging Watermelon

flyingsteveMarch 5, 2012

Hello and thanks for taking the time to read my post and help with my question! I'm new to the forum and seeking advice on growing hanging watermelon hydroponically. I saw some pictures of hanging fruit and got pretty excited about it but I also want to do it in a hydro system and I'm not sure which approach would be best.

My thoughts were to use something like 6" PVC pipe as the cultivation container and run them around the top of the structure horizontally... So the roots wouldn't have much vertical space at all, but they would have tons of horizontal space to stretch out in. Think this would work, or simply not enough root space? My thoughts are to fill the PVC with hydroton or vermiculite or coco coir, and then do a flood/drain style system. I would bury 3-4 5ga buckets in the ground and then pump the nutrients up when needed. This way the nutrients would stay cool and keep the root zone cool.

Or because of space, would I be better off doing a circulating deep water culture system? I'm just not sure which system would work best in this situation or if the planting method using the 6" pvc pipe would even work for watermelons.

I would also like to do strawberries in the same way, just on a separate structure. The actual structure I want to build would be like the ones you see pictures of at Walt Disney World, (see picture here, http://forum.earthbox.com/index.php?topic=4383.0)

But on a much smaller scale, perhaps 8' long by only 4' wide... Then use the more shaded space below to plant crops that enjoy less sun.

Basically trying to avoid having the vines grow from ground level and up, rather have them start out at the top and grow horizontally across the structure to make a canopy across it and then hang the fruit out beneath.

Thanks in advance!

-Steve

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artwk(5)

I tried growing small heirloom watermelons inside over this winter. I had 7 plants in a 30 gallon ebb&flow tray.

The vines grew very well, but fruit size was disappointing, nothing bigger than a baseball. It may have been lack of light (250 watts of hid and some CFLs). I'm going to blame the lack of root space though.

I've grown small watermelons in 5 gallon dirt pots before, under the sun. Same problem with the small fruit. Don't get me wrong though...the fruit was tasty!

It's my understanding the melons have huge root systems. I think you'd be better off planting them directly in the ground with some kind of drip system.

This is exactly what I will be doing this spring/summer. Going to dig a big hole for each plant, fill it with a perlite/peat mix, and run drippers for each plant. Black plastic mulch and row covers for the spring (I'm in Chicago, need to warm up that soil).

I'm determined to grow some big melons this year.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 6:18PM
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flyingsteve

7 plants is quite a lot for for a 30g system... They do take up a ton of space for the roots, however in a hydroponic system they should take up less, as nutrients/water is readily available. I'm thinking a 5g bucket filled with hydroton and a flood/drain system is the way to go since they like sandy soil with very good drainage. The roots' power to suck up water is insane with melons. I would only do 1 plant per bucket.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:36PM
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artwk(5)

My mistake, I meant the tray I was using was 30 gallons, the reservoir was 60. Each plant was in an 8 inch net pot w/hydroton suspended above the tray.

So 4.3 gallons of root space per plant (most of which was all air). I feel that can't be too different space wise, than a 5 gallon bucket filled with medium.

What type of watermelon do you plan on growing?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 2:48AM
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georgeiii

May I suggest going to Photobucket/ChristianWarlock for ways to grow Watermelons, pumpkins in an SWC. Two five gallon buckets one in the other. There's a lot of after waste with hydroponics. I'm trying Strawberries myself this year. I'm planting mine is Nanny Pods. Pictures are there.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 3:42PM
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flyingsteve

Wow, lots of pics there! Can you explain the SWC system a little bit more please? My strawberries are going to go in to some 4" PVC pipe filled with hydroton and then flood and drain.

There are a lot of different methods that I would like to try but feel that using hydroton and F&D is probably the most fail-proof of the actual hydro systems in terms of growing ease that is. I've looked up and down on the internet for different hydro methods that work well for watermelons and strawberries and everyone has their own opinions and now I'm sick of reading opinions so I've come out with what I think will be a pretty decent F&D system using the 5G buckets and hydroton and I'm just going to trellis the vines, rather than doing the horizontal canopy idea. Need to get a little success and experience under the belt before I try more inventive things.

Bonus for me is that I have some skills in electronics and programming and programmed my own microcontroller to do things like watering cycles or whatever I want to program really.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 4:08PM
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homehydro

flyingsteve
Yes, georgeiii has lots of pictures, but I suggest you take a real, real, real close look at them if your considering anything he boasts about. growers that have been growing hydroponically for a while will be able to see all the misleading details, but new growers will easily be mislead.

The easiest and most full-proof system for large plants like melons would be a drip system in my opinion. Flood and Drain would be my second choice, but only really if just a few plants were grown in the flood and drain system. Simply because plants that size will need much more water to flood the system because of the large amount of root space needed. I wouldn't go with anything less than 5 gallons of root space for melons, and I would want a reservoir that can hold at least 5 gallons of nutrient solution per plant (when they get large).

A few things. First are you set on suspending the root containers? Depending on how high it is, you'll need a heavy pump to flood a suspended system like that. Second a drip system in the same situation would be much easier and cheaper to run. Third, melons are vines that grow quite tall, are you sure you want to suspend the root system? I would just build a trough large enough to accommodate the root system/s. Insert a drain line back to the reservoir, run tubing over the top of the growing media for the drip line (simply poking holes in it, no dippers needed), and build a trellis for the vines to climb up. I don't see a need to support the roots in the air just to have the vines in the air.

I have more thoughts and questions on system design for you, but I'm short on time right now to finish replying. I need to get up real early tomorrow.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 2:56AM
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flyingsteve

Thanks for the thoughts, HomeHydro.

My plan now, which is much more reasonable, is to grow 2 melon vines, each with their own 5G bucket filled with hydroton, then sit (on the ground) them in front of a trellis net and train the vine up the trellis net. The reservoir is going to be a large 15-20G plastic storage bin which will be buried about 3/4 of it's height in the ground next to the 5G buckets. With the hydroton (expanded clay balls) filling the 5G buckets, they should only hold an additional 3-4G of water each tops, so having a 15-20G reservoir is plenty in my opinion. I am going to use a 500gph pump so that I can fill the buckets full in 1 minute. Figuring that it takes 3g to fill a 5g bucket (with hydroton in place), so that would be a 180gph flow rate to achieve a 1 minute fill rate... 500gph pump should easily do the trick.

I'm going to grow some Yellow Doll or other type of small watermelon, 2 vines on the trellis net of 7' high by 8' wide.

Does this sound good?

I'm also doing strawberries, they are going to be set in 4" PVC pipe filled with hydroton and then set about 6' high (next to the melons on trellis net) and do a flood and drain on those as well, but perhaps a drip system would be better for those? What do you think? I plan on doing the same style reservoir system (15g storage bin 3/4 buried) for the strawberries and I would use a 700gph pump to send the water up to flood the pvc pipes.

From what I read, both strawberries and melons like a sandy, well-drained medium so I think that using the hydroton as a medium is an excellent choice.

What do you think?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 10:01AM
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flyingsteve

Oh, when I say that the strawberries are next to the melons on trellis net, I just mean that, picture a trellis net then to the left there is going to be an horizontal platform to hold the PVC pipes horizontally... The berries will not be sharing or using the trellis net in any way.

Just like this basically, http://www.flickr.com/photos/landlearnnsw/4170447750/

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 10:09AM
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