NFT System '12

ethnobotanyOctober 19, 2012

Hey guys

Those of you who have been helping me think about how to

build this system, thank you very much.

Here is a list of the parts that I have used to make this


- 2X Vinyl Fence Posts (6' x 4' x 4'')

- 8X Vinyl Fencepost Caps (4'' x 4'')

- Sturdy 27 Gallon Tote

- 291 GPH Submersible Pump (by ponicpumps)

- 3X 1'' I.D. Sch. 40 PVC Pipe, 10'

- 6X 1'' PVC T's

- 6X 1'' PVC 90 degree elbows

- 2X 1'' PVC Caps

- 1/2'' Irrigation Flex Tubing, 50'

- 3X 1/2'' Irrigation T's

- 6X 1/2'' Irrigation 90 degree Elbows

- 12X 2'' Netty Cups

- Silicone, 100% Waterproof

There have been many other items necessary to make this

system such as a fine-toothed Hack Saw to cut the PVC,

an exacto knife to cut tubing, a very expensive circular

drill saw to cut netcup holes, and plenty of other items.

While I set out to make this system myself to save money,

I have quickly figured out that when this thing is finished

I might as well have bought it because it will be not much

off from a reasonably priced system on eBay.

That being said, this has been a very fun project so far

and I will have the satisfaction of saying that I built this

from scratch and without any NFT system plans. If I have any

advice for anyone trying to take upon them the idea of

making a DIY NFT system, I highly advise you to purchase

some plans. It will save you lots of trial and error money.

Anyways, here is the system so far:

Also, I just gotta say this. Those Jillian Michaels weights

are not mine!

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circular saw blades should not be that expensive. Remember all the tools you bought can be reused should you build more systems. your system was expensive because you built your frame out of PVC. It looks nice, but all those connector pieces are expensive. Learn to make fitted cuts and glue it together and the frame is a lot less. use 2x4's and its cheaper still. also, the 4x4 vinyl posts are really expensive(why I don't buy them) as are the caps. my NFT uses 2"x3" vinyl downspout(which is way cheaper)and I've found I don't need to cap the ends. I'll try to get some pictures of it at lunch later. Before I worked out some of my cap issues, I capped them with cup pieces of vinyl blinds glued onto the ends. that stuff is a really cheap source of flat vinyl.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 10:29AM
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vinyl blinds? I picture 1'' wide plastic when I think of blinds.

I just said the heck with it and after spending $15+ on
different tapes, garage door/window insulating strips, etc.
to try and make a temporary waterproof seal, I just went
ahead and siliconed the drainage end caps. As for the intake
I am still trying to temporary seal them.

I know that the vinyl fence posts are more expensive, but
they were easy to cut holes in, provided a flat bottom surface
for the system, and end caps are available that are already reasonably tight fits.

The 1'' 10' PVC pipes are actually only $2.50 ea at Lowes.

Fence Posts = $15.00 ea x2 = $30.00
PVC Pipes = $2.50 ea x3 = $7.50
Connectors = $0.75 ea x8 = $5.00
Tote = $13.00
Pump = $20.00
Silicone = $3.00
Irrigation Tube = $8.00
Irrigation connectors = $10.00
Hole saw = $12.00

Very rough estimate cost: $110

Now, I still need to purchase another air stone and a air
pump. That will run another $15 probably.

Some systems can be purchased for ~$200, but mine was still
cheaper. I really had thought that I would be spending much
less than a hundred on this project, and that's why I am
putting it out there for anyone else getting into the idea
of making a NFT system that they should be prepared to spend
a little cash, and probably more than they will estimate.

Say $25-50 buffering money to be safe.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 12:53PM
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An aeroflow 20 from GH is selling for $360 right now. It's almost the same machine, just with more plant sites that are closer together.

How does the water drain back into the reservoir? I don't see any drain pipes. You're not just letting it fall through the open air, right?

Don't bother with the air stone; it's a waste of time. Spend your efforts making sure that you don't leak and that light does not ever hit your nutrient solution.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 1:27PM
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You're right Eth, I meant vertical blinds. They're 4" wide and you can buy packs of replacement pieces for about $15.
Vinyl downspout runs about $10 for 10ft so you get 4 ~ 5ft pcs for $20. And since they're only 2" deep you don't have to find a way to get the water to the net while the roots are developing. Don't get me wrong. Not everything will grow in them, but I've grown eggplant, snacking peppers, and snowpeas in them.
I notice you only have 3 plant sites per run. why'd you go with 12" spacing vs 8"?
I didn't get home for lunch but I'll post some pics ASAP. But be forewarned, my system is not as pretty as yours. It's made from bits and pieces I've reworked from other systems over the years. But hey! it works.
To me, the most important part of the system is the pump so make sure and buy a decent one. the $30 QP12 I listed on another thread would be great for that system.
@ Cole;
Why not let the water free fall back to the rez?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 4:16PM
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The third picture shows the drain manifold robbie, its
laying on the ground. I just ordered some bulkhead fittings
to use to attach the pipes so that the pipes are flush
against the bottom of the fence post (or nearly flush.)

And it is true, this system was cheaper to build than to
purchase a system from a commercial business, that's for sure!

Grizz, the plant sites were purposefully placed at least
6'' or so away from the drainage holes so that the roots
will be less likely to clog them and cause pooling. That's
why I ended up with only enough room for 3 sites. PLUS, I
only had 12 2'' Netty cups haha xD. But, it may be possible for me
to put an extra hole on two of the channels.

The first grow will be a test to whether I can or not.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 4:32PM
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Why not let the water free fall back to the rez?

Humidity problems create mold on your walls. Light hitting the nutrient solution grows algae, and then the ph dives.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 10:36PM
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A'ight. So here is my contribution to the thread:

In shot A, you can see I adjust the slope with a 1x4 turned on end. simply moving it along the frame adjusts the slope.(to the right is steeper)
in shot B, you can see how I drain the pipes. Basically, It's another piece of downspout with a notch cut in the end so the trough piece sets into it about an inch. two screws hold them together.
in shot C, you see how my input line looks from the outside. bacically for long runs I use 1/2" ø black irrigation pipe. for the bends and short stuff I use 1/2"ø pvc piping.
in shot D, you see the system dumping back into the reservoir. that's a fresh nutrient changes and is 15L of nutrient in an 8 gallon trash can. It is sitting inside of a cooler. The system wasn't perfected this year as I didn't start it until mid august and the temperatures have fallen dramatically. I intend to may a flat lid with insulation board next year next that'll lay across the top to block light, rain, and heat.
in shot E we're looking in the far trough (as seen in A) to show the 90ð bend inside the trough. This is to keep the water flowing away from the end so there is no threat of a leak.
in shot F, you see one of the pepper plants currently growing in the system with a pen for scale. There are a bunch of blooms forming. I just hope they'll have time to fruit before it gets too cold.

Other points of interest: yes I use aluminum foil to cover things with. It blocks out light from the inside and reflects it back onto the plants . Also, it deflects radiant heat to further reduce heat gain to the nutrient.
To connect the black pipe to pvc, I chamfer the ends of the pvc and force it into the black like. the black line is fairly thin and stretches to make a tight clean connection that doesn't leak.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 11:40AM
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Alright, at least I am not the only one with the 1/2''
inlet size.

Grizz, what is your take on pH meters? I am considering
purchasing the HM Digital pH meter for about $75. Does the
extra pH accuracy that you get with a meter improve yield
and plant health than compared with drops? With a larger
reservoir and growing 12 plants with the same system,
do you think that pH will be more important to have a more
accurate reading on than just the drops?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 11:54PM
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I can't really say, ethno. I have only ever used a digital pH meter. Of course when I bought the meter, it cost $30 not $75. I also don't use it much anymore. Over several grows you tend to get a feel for how the nutrients affect your waters pH. My nutrients almost always stay in the range from 5.5 up to 7.0 . While maybe not the ideal 6.0, in that range no nutrients are locked out and it hardly seems worth the effort to adjust the pH level. Of course that is my take. I'm sure others will disagree.
I wonder why anyone would use any inlet size different than 1/2"ø?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:06AM
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I honestly don't know Grizz, cost may be why but other than
that idk.

I am going to go ahead and invest in the pH meter though.
Might as well! The pH drops have worked for me in the past
but the "color" of the indicator is not clear usually.
In my experience if I look at the indicator inside
under artificial lights it may look green, then when I take
it outside and use the sun to look at the indicator, it may
look yellow. That kind of variability is not accurate enough

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 5:52PM
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Look at the margin of error on whatever meter you buy. Some of them are +/-.2 instead of .1 - that's a big difference. Also, buy the calibration solutions and get used to doing the calibration procedure regularly. Use the solution only once, then throw it away. Some companies also sell what looks like a little toothbrush and toothpaste for cleaning the probe. A meter that gives you a bad reading is worse than not having a meter at all.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 9:33PM
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If you hold the test strip right up against (or beside) the comparison chart, it shouldn't matter what light you're in as they'll both appear the same under the same light. At least that's how I do it with chlorine kits.
While a 0.1 swing may be a big difference at the molecular level, I'm not sure how much it affects things globally. What I mean is the difference between 5.8 and 5.9 might be 10 times more free hydrogen ions, but from the plants ability to uptake nutrients, a 0.1 difference is not that much. If you're a fastidious person (which I am in some areas of interest: just not hydro) you can continually monitor and adjust your pH to keep it ideal. But for the average Joe hobbyist hydroponic grower, letting the pH fluctuate a bit isn't going to have dramatic effects on the plants growth.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 8:10AM
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I built an NFT/Deep Water system in the spring using similar materials to what you are using. However, I built a frame out of some cedar that I had to hang the runs from. I also used 1/2" pvc to pump the water to the top run and used flexible tubing to connect each run (painted to match the tan pvc). Here are a couple pics, it works quite well.

Right now I have buttercrunch lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, snap peas, basil, cinnamon basil and mint. As soon as the veggies start to flower/fruit I will have to adjust the nutrients accordingly... will see how this affects the lettuce/herbs.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 4:13PM
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That's a clean lookin' system.
Looks like some of your plants are crowding out others, but it's very attractive.
Do you're troughs hold any amount of liquid in the bottom of them? (are the drains set flush with the bottom of the trough)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 7:19AM
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It was getting a bit crowded in those pics, but the plants don't seem to mind too much.

The runs do hold about an inch of water in them. So, technically it isn't really NFT. More like a mix of NFT and Deep Water Culture.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 4:22PM
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Wow, nice system, thanks for sharing!

What kind of nutrients are you using?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 9:27PM
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I agree, nice work!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 11:33PM
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I have been using the General Hydroponics MaxiGro powder nutrients. Right now, my green beans, tomato and snap peas are beginning to flower, so I will be switching over to the MaxiBloom.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 11:44AM
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