Complete Noob -- winging it!

jdkcubedAugust 4, 2010

Hello all. I have recently become interested in Hydroponics and have DIY'd my own Flood/Drain system. I have started completely from scratch so am waiting for my seedlings to be large enough to go into my system.

My flood tray is 18 x 32 x 7

Tote bin for reservoir - 18 gallons plan on using 15

6.5" net pots to hold the hot peppers

15 starter cubes/2 seeds each

Flora Nova Nutrient Series

Sun Blaze 2FT T5 6500K lights for now

Anyway winging it with some advice from my local hydro store (yes we have one...6 minutes away) and they seem knowledgeable but always look for a second viewpoint.

I am keeping a blog of the project, so you can see the how and why of what I have done. Would appreciate any feedback you can offer.


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You are going to need stronger lights once the plants start growing!


    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 11:41AM
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How do you SIZE lights. I don't understand it. I mean this is definitely a learning experience how can Iget by with adequate lighting without spending a bazillion more dollars??

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 12:09PM
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They make charts that will give you the light diffusion as you get further away from the source. I can't remember what they're called, but they are light specific.
If you get that chart then find the lux level at the distance from the plant (the lowest part of the plant)you'll know if you have enough light.
Anybody care to chime it with what his light levels need to be at? I, so far, only grow by the light of the sun.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 1:05PM
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General rule of thumb for fluorescents, HPS, and MH: the light should feel just comfortably warm where the plants are. Not hot, but not imperceptible, either. You should be able to feel the heat, but nothing more than you would feel from being in the sun.

For T5s, this generally means having the tubes inches apart and inches from your plants.

Incandescents are obviously avoided because the balancing point would be having the light feel hot where the plants are instead of just warm, which is bad for the plants. LEDs are a bit trickier, as an optimal amount doesn't feel warm. In my experience for them, the key is ignore the hype that claims that they can replace fluorescents 4:1 or so in terms of power consumption. It's 2:1 *at best*, and you have to make sure you have multiple fixtures to overcome the canopy shading problem. Also, not everything likes LED light. For example, my basil plants grew prolifically under it, but my lettuce had *way* too long of an internode length (I.e., very leggy). Also, you get some weird properties, like red lettuce that doesn't turn red (it was the weirdest thing -- I thought I had planted the wrong kind of lettuce until I moved a fluorescent next to it, and lo and behold, a couple days later it had turned red). My research suggests that it's the complete lack of UV in LEDs that caused that particular issue, since the colors are often chemicals used to protect the plant from UV light.

Anyway, that's my lighting experience; I hope it helps.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 2:00PM
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Oh, and if you're on a budget, don't grow under lights. If you think the fixtures cost a lot, wait until you see your power bill. ;) That's why I like LEDs -- higher up-front cost but lower operating costs in comparison to fluorescent, HPS, and MH. However, the typical red-blue LED fixtures don't work well for all types of plants, and if you use white LEDs to extend the frequency range, you're missing the point, since those rely on a phosphor just like fluorescents and have only a small efficiency advantage over them.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 2:08PM
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A simple guide for growing plants like tomatoes and peppers to maturity - you need a minimum ~2,500 foot candles of light. If you have a light meter that measures lux rather than FC, then it is 10.76 times (~27,000 lux).

I've tried regular fluros, HPS, CFL, LED and MH bulbs and love the MH. A 400-watt can easily cover a 2'x3' area. They are a bit more than the 2'T5 you are looking at but provide 36,000 lumens.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 2:27PM
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I have a few options I can supplement my strips with sunlight. I have a huge front window with eastern exposure (morning sun) so could face my system that way. MH lighting seems daunting?? sites that give a good explanation??

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 11:37PM
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My only purchasing tip for MH, HPS, and Fluorescent: get a good electrical ballast (not magnetic). It'll pay for itself in power consumption and bulb lifespan.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 2:30AM
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I have successfully grown tomatoes for several seasons using only an East southeast facing window for light. I grew them from about mid-late august until February thru late march.
Of course if you live in a more northern latitude, you won't get as long a day, so supplementing would be useful.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 7:38AM
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