My First Hydroponics Foray

chix0rJuly 19, 2010

Hi all! I just built my first hydroponics kit this weekend and it seems to be going really well so far. I have one question, though, because I'm not sure if this is normal for hydroponic tomatos or not. I noticed this morning that the branches on the tomato are curling down a bit and the leaves are curling under a bit. I thought it might be environmental shock since I just transferred them into the pots on Saturday evening, or maybe they're getting too much water and I need to raise the net pots a little? Maybe someone here has some advice. :-)

Here's the specs on my system. It's very simple and completely home-made, so feel free to laugh.

I've got an 18 gallon resevoir (read rubbermaid tub from walmart) that is about 16.5 gallons full, about 3 feet long and 2 feet deep. I put a 10" air stone in it and I'm using a 10-30 gallon aquarium air pump to oxygenate the water. The net pots are home made, about 4.5 inches in diameter. In a former life they were slightly flexible plastic canning jars with screw on tops, but I cut net slots in the lower half of the jars. The net pots are supported by holes in the lide of the container, which are frayed and bent slightly so that they fit snuggly around the lip of the net pots without allowing any light into the tank. I used pea gravel for the growing medium. For the nutrient mix, I got a nursury mix 20-20-20 version of miraclegrow with micronutrients and mixed it up per the instructions on the box (1 tbsp per gallon of water). I made sure the clean almost all the potting soil off the root ball before I set up the tomatos in the pea gravel, and the whole setup is sitting out by my porch where it can get the most sun.

I did the planting on Saturday night, and I didn't notice the curling until this morning. The plants look otherwise very healthy and the stems are very turgid. If anyone has some insight about the curling or other general advice, I'd be obliged. :-)

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your nutrient is most likely too strong. Just from simple math the 20% nitrogen is approximately 750ppm and that is just the nitrogen component. in a typical nutrient formula you're talking probably a combined concentration of 800ppm.
Often the leaves excessively curling is a sign of too much nitrogen. you'll probably want something more along the lines of 1/2 - 1 tsp of your fertilizer plus about the same of epsom salts. Also, miraclegrow isn't really formulated for hydroponics as the nitrogen either needs bacteria to break it down or releases too quickly and can harm the plants.
We won't laugh at your homemade system. porbably 85% of the system presented on this forum are homemade.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 5:13PM
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Do you have a reliable way of checking the pH and the PPM/EC of your solution? If not, you will be like that blind squirrel who may find a nut. Or may starve to death!


    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 6:27PM
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Thanks for the replies!

I changed the resevoir this evening and made up a slightly more than 1/2 tsp per gallon mix. I will change to another fertilizer when I can get one. Any recommendations for a total newb?

A pH meter is on my shopping list as well. :-)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 9:00PM
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For beginner hydroponics, I still believe General Hydroponics 3 part flora series is good.
With more experience and larger systems it gets expensive, but its good when you're just getting your feet wet.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 7:56AM
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I used to recommend the GH 3 part flora series, too. But, I started using their dry Maxigro and Floramato this year. The price is way lower per gallon, you can buy a 1.5lb container for less than $15, and you don't have to measure with anything but a teaspoon. It also buffers 10 times better. I haven't added any ph up or down once to the tomato rez this year. Last year it was every other day sometimes. Of course, the nutrients aren't the only change I made. I also now have a single, much larger rez as opposed to individual 5 gallon buckets for tomatoes. Much better for maintaining ph and temps.

FYI and maybe a non issue in this thread: I switched to Maxibloom for the peppers since the nitrogen seemed so high on Floramato. It's also a dry nutrient. It is much better. So, my 3 commercial favorites have just been narrowed down to GH's Maxigro (all vegetative growth), Maxibloom (peppers and eggplant flowering and fruiting), and Floramato (tomatoes fruiting).

PH Meters: Get the cheap liquid drops. I found some disturbing issues with my Milwaukee pH meter. You don't have to worry about whether or not the drops are calibrated or if your battery is dying or your probe glass is crapping out or you're too close to fluorescent lighting. You don't have to buy storage, cleaning, and calibration solutions ($7 to $10 each). You don't have to worry about what happens if you drop it. I know I sound like a General Hydroponics employee, but I'm not associated at all aside from satisfied customer. Anyway, they make drops that are about $7. They last a really long time. At least one season. More if you have only a couple reservoirs to tend to.

Here is a link that might be useful: PH Drops at bottom of the page at this link

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 10:37AM
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In response to chixors question about your new venture hydro .. Welcome and goodluck. Grizzman is a veteran in this place he usually knows his info. If I may add to his advice .. What a lot of hydro enthusiasts don't know is that when using man made forms or synthetic nutes, you have to understand is that you can never fully recreate motherearth and her balance of microorganisms in the earth they play the biggest role in 'prepping' everything in the kitchen before the plants can absorb it in the correct amounts. Its up to the anaerobic bacteria and pathogens to breakdown all those vital nutrients even the trace elements such as nickel iron and nitrates etc... So anothe words just because just because you pump a bunch of N.P.K to your plant is gonna help much... It can actually harm your plants bc if one nutrient is too abundant it may reduce the roots ability to take up other elements in the solution... And when you add in the fact that there are dozens of trace elements and compounds to consider it can be overwhelming to think about. I hope the last part I didn't lose you buy ask the grizz and he'll probably say the same. Hope you get the kinks out

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 2:24PM
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I totally agree with Grizzman & Joe.jr. The 20-20-20 MG type product probably doesn't contain Magnesium, Calcium, or Sulfur, And utilizes urea and other substances which work organically. I started with the Technaflora starter kit, because it seemed like a good idea at the time(LOL). I Went through it like the space shuttle goes through rocket fuel, and then figured out it was every bit as pricey. For simplicity, cost and results the GH water soluble, dry nutrients are tough to beat. Put the $ that you save by skipping the Ph Meter toward an EC/tds meter. Get The drops.
Good luck,

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 5:58PM
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+10 on using something other than MG, unless you like BER. MG is popular not because it is good, but because it is advertised and better known.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 10:44PM
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I have also started my first foray into Hydroponics. I have been recording my progress here:

I have covered most phases of my project. And actually my seedlings (hot peppers) will be going into my full system this weekend!!

Details: 18 Gal reservoir, flood/drain, net pots, hydroton, Rapid Rooters for seedlings, GH Flora Nova Nutes, SunBlaze Light strips. 15 pots (6.5)

Here is a link that might be useful: My Hydroponics Blog.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 11:27AM
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