Collabrative testing

TullyamoMay 17, 2014

I have an outdoor hydroponics system consisting of 4inch pvc pipe and 72 3.5" netted pots. I am currently using only 35 of those spots on the system. The spots that are not being used are covered with duct tape (that stuff is amazing). I have a 40gal reservoir, with a 5inch circle bubbler being fed by two air pumps. The pump is pushing out 800 gal per hour which at this time is a bit much so i have tee'd it off with a valve before it comes out of the reservoir. That being said, there is constant movement in the reservoir mixing and bubbling.

The top off on the 40 gal reservoir is about 5 gal every 3 days as it is warming up here quite a bit. It is being topped off with tap water that has set out for nearly a week. The tap after being out a week has a pH of 7.3.

I am in the process of testing a mix of of organic nutrients from a factory that is well established in central Washington state. In collaboration with Oregon State Univ. and Texas A&M, we are working on our end to develop an organic mix that can be used in hydroponics. The mix consist of micronized chicken parts and live bacteria with humic acid.

Now with all that out of the way, I'll mention what I am having issues with. The temps in this area spiked from 60 to 90f in the past week. I have the reservoir wrapped in reflective insulation in hopes to bring the temps of the reservoir down. I've failed miserably at doing this at the temps during the hot part of the day have reached nearly 88f and over night have dropped to 64f. This alone is an issue that I am working on by building a chiller to accommodate such high temps. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to better control temps are welcomed.

Issue number two is the pH balance. There isn't a pH balance in site. In the evening its ~8.15 then I add 3 tbsp of Citric acid and by the morning it is ~6.1. After a warm day again, the pH is back to ~8 in the evening. On the weekends when I am home, I can add mid day and bring it back down to 6 but at the end of the day it is back to 8. Any thoughts on how to correct this would be welcomed. I am almost convinced this is normal and that I neednt be so lazy.

Lastly, on the inside of the pipe, there is a film of sediment almost like moss.... Im certain that is a poor description of what it looks like. I am waiting for the lab to get through diagnosing what the sediment is. Its brown and when on the roots appears slimy. I can take the netted pot out of the system and swish in water and it all comes off revealing a beautiful system of white and dingy white root matrix. This sediment easily comes off the inside of the pipe when touched with a finger. Any suggestions on what this could be would be helpful, although I understand not knowing what is in the nutrients can cause issues when determining this.

Thanks a bunch for reading this quite lengthy post and responding.

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Not all that sure but it sounds a LOT like freshwater brown algae. I have no experience with it in hydroponics but have had it in aquariums a couple times. I doubt if that is helpful on its own but it may give you something to google..

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 9:39PM
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I have completed a hand full of reservoir clean outs as well as cleaning out the pipes. I've heard using peroxide may help and have taken the liberty of using that during my last system clean out. The organic nutrients are perfectly suspended in other test environment, this one though is having a host of problems. The guy from the lab thinks is roots or bacteria or algae. The initial water change results in a dark but clear Amber color with no floating particles. Now, after a week, there's chunks of particulates everywhere.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 10:26PM
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To control your nute temperature, you also need to apply relective insulation to your troughs. They heat up and the water absorbs that heat as it flows past. I wrapped my troughs in aluminum foil and it helped control temperatures very well.
Another benefit is it helps block light tremendously too which may help alleviate your algae problem.
Also, I believe algae feed heavy on nitrogen which may, partially, explain your pH spikes. nitrogen brings the pH down. lose it and pH spikes.
Also you might want to make sure you take pH measurements of nutrient that has cooled to somewhere along the lines of 70 - 75 degrees unless you compensating for the temperature.
ANyway, just my thoughts.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 11:17AM
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The Roots in the dwc level of a couple of my troughs ate nice and white but still have some of the dirt from thestarting media. In this picture the water in the pipe is almost a clear Amber color. The plants are growing well. . At least the lettuce, kale, and chard are. I'm concerned about the strawberry plants though. Specimens have been sent to the lab to determine the algae that was present. I'm resending to see what the nitrogen content is. Would it have made more sense to do a drip system on this with smaller diameter pipe?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 5:14PM
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One way you can help regulate the temperature in your reservoir is to add some space between your reflective insulation. Maybe some 1x's or 2x's.

I buried my reservoir, the ground is a great temperature regulator and if you can add a cover over the reservoir that will also help with the sun beating down on it.

All the best.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 9:28PM
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just add some cheap aluminum foil to those pipes. simply pull out the plants and set in a shallow tray of water (to keep them hydrated) spray a bit of aerosol adhesive to the bottom of each pipe. apply alum. foil and wrap around. a bit more adhesive to stick the other end down. poke out the holes and reinsert the pots. each pipe will take about 5 minutes to cover(unless you are extremely picky: then maybe 10) the absolute cheapest way to reduce your radiant heat gain.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 10:18AM
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