planter_geek(8)June 8, 2008

What is the range in cost of Setting up a Hydroponics system? I know it depends, but I'd like to determine how much it would cost me to see if I am able to do it.

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chuck(Z10,SW FL)

Well, let's make some assumptions first and go from there.
1. you are going to operate your system outside and have bout 20 ft by 20 ft of space to use.
2. You have both electrical power and water conviently available.
3. You are handy with hand tools and know enough about electrical and plumbing to wire up small pumps and glue plastic pipes together.
if the above generaly fits you, a lot of very productive hydro systems can be built for under $100 dollars including the growing medium, pump, valves, pvc piping, hoses, and seeds or small plants from the gardening area of the home improvement center.
One of the easiest systems would be a flood system. Immagine 4 10 gallon tote boxes ( cost 4.99 at walmart or kmart) filled 3/4 full of washed gravel (3.00 at home depot or lowels per bag, 1 bag per tote box) About 20 ft of 1/2 inch pvc pipe ( 2.50 per 10 ft pice ) Small sump pump ( 25 dollars or less) A submersable pond pump could also be used. And an appliance timer, (around 10 bucks at lowels, home depot ) The idea is to turn on the pump for about 10 min every hour. Using a cheap kiddie pool, you set the 10 gal totes on a wooden bench above the pool. The pump is connected to the pvc pipe that goes over the tops of the tote boxes. holes are drilled into the pvc pipe to allow water to spray down into the tote boxes. The tote boxes have holes drilled in them to allow for fast draining back down into the kiddie pool. Simple but effective system suitable for tomatoes, peppers, squash. Next you need to get a water soluable plant food to mix into the water in the kiddie pool. The least expensive I've found is from an outfit called southern ag. their product # 64777 only comes in 25 pound bags, but it only takes about 1 tsp per gal. You also have to add calcium nitrate and epsom salt to complete the mix, but it is by far the cheapest way to go with systems 50 gallons or more. good luck. Other ideas can be found on the link below. chuck

Here is a link that might be useful: more hydro projects

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 3:51PM
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wow chuck, you have some great pics. thanks for sharing the set-up, i am a newbie to hyroponics and the info is quite useful.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 7:33PM
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Hey Chuck,

How do you deal with the tendency to grow algae and other gunk in the pool?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 5:00PM
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That's a good question hydroponica, not sure what's going on with Chuck cause you and I have questions for him. Chuck, I too want to know how you deal with the algae and other gunk in the kiddie pool, and if you have ever done this practice and how successful it was. Be honest cause a lot of time and effort will go into if I choose it, but I am considering it. Also I have having a bit of a hard time visualizing it in my head. That's why I asked if you have any pictures. After that, following your instructions should be a breeze

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 11:02PM
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All the assumptions are correct. It doesn't matter anyways because I'm a Computer Science major college student with Asperger's Syndrome who can figure out those types of things pretty well, and I live with my grandparents. My grandfather is an engineer who works in a very high secured place with very expensive equipment. He taught me how to work on a car. We've had an engine completely torn down part by part, rebuilt, and then put back together. You might of thought it was funny to see the engine lowered into the car with a nylon strap from a tree. He's made a well, done plumbing, always expanding our house, currently porch and roof, so I've got all the help I could ever need, but when I told him about this and printed off the instructions, he too asked for some pictures. I explained the concept of hydroponics and summarized some of the information I got from reading some of the howtohydroponics book. I read about 20 pages in one day, and then I decided that I'd better find out if this is affordable before going any further. Also I believe my grandfather knows pumps well after building a man made pond with his gold fish, lily pads, and tons of frogs that my dog likes. Not only that, but a thousand or 2 $$$ bucks spent on the pump for the well water we get which is some what hard water that I'll be using. We do not have a water softener. I've seen worse water thought. A guy I knew who lived about 2 hours from me with his well was getting his closed stained from the water. We haven't had that problem, and the water has been great for drinking, but it does leave hard mineral deposits in the bath tub after a while. Please reply. I've got a lot of plants still that aren't in the ground even though I've got 5 garden areas and I thought that these plants still in pots would good for getting started on hydroponics and if it works out well, I'm sure I can get more involved in it by next year. Also, where do you put a hydroponics system? All the pictures I saw of them were in greenhouses. If a greenhouse is required, I might as well forget it. The tiny, nothing professional, greenhouse that we have bought off ebay made it through the winter but couldn't handle one of the last storms and the a few of the metal rods broke that were all connected together covered with a transparent green material. I bent the metal back into place, but it may not hold up again after the next severe rain/wind storm. The metal is weaker in those areas.

Thanks Chuck

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 11:19PM
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Just relax, planter geek. Chuck isn't "gone" or unresponsive or anything. He just hasn't gotten around to answering this yet.

Greenhouses aren't required, they're just nice to have.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 1:04PM
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If you cruise around the north carolina cooperative extension site, you can find plans for a simple inexpensive greenhouse made from PVC pipe.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 3:03PM
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chuck(Z10,SW FL)

Hey, got this work week done finally. About algae and gunk. Well luckly I took loads of pictures while working with the system. First, I got some 4X8 sheets of insulation foam about 1/2 inch thick. I cut two half circles that when put into the kiddie pool, covered all the surface area. Then, I used a tin can to press holes into the styrofoam where 32 ounce styrofoam cups sat with the bottoms immersed into the nutrients, There was some algea growth on the styrofoam barrier that floated on the surface, but it didn't amount to much. Inside the nutrient tank (kiddie pool) the discharge rate was around 600 gallons per hour, so the entire volume was changed through the system around three times an hour, or 72 times a day. With that volume flow, algea in the tank was never a problem. What I am going to do this weekend is make a new website with pictures of the construction of the main nutrient tank and the protective styrofoam coverconstruction, and then some shots of these system componets as they looked after around six months operation. I hope that it will give you some perspective on building and operating this multi-platform system. It was a lot of fun to make, and more to operate. I hope to have the site completed by Sunday. chuck

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 8:58PM
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chuck(Z10,SW FL)

OK, I have a couple dozen pictures up showing some of the details of the main nutrient tank as well as other parts of the system. There are a lot of pictures, so it will take a while to load. If you are on a dial-up connection, it may take a very long time. chuck

Here is a link that might be useful: some pictures of the nutrient tank and more.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 11:20PM
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I see. I'd looked at the pictures before but I couldn't tell how well the rafts fit the pool. It looks like there's a pretty decent-sized gap around the edges, which in my thinking would add up to a lot of light leaking through and promoting algae growth.

But as you say, there's a lot of water movement which would help keep it down a bit. If it were me I'd probably get some black plastic, like from an outdoor garbage bag, and make a "skirt" that attaches to the edges of the raft and hangs over the side of the pool, just to be extra paranoid about algae growth.

On the other hand, black absorbs heat so it might make the nutrient solution hotter. So it might be better to have black to block light with something white on top (like a standard kitchen bag or something.) Obviously the standard "white on one side, black on the other side" plastic sheeting commonly used for indoor growing would probably be even better/easier.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 7:20PM
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