Monthly Archives: April 2014

Hydroponic mistakes I’ve made so far-Part 2

Construction mistake-Not cutting holes the right size…..

Pay attention mistake -Putting the rubber washer on the wrong side.

Check the directions! Mine got wet so I tossed em, figuring it wouldn’t matter whether I put the washer on the reservior side (underneath) or the plant side (on top).

BTW, it goes on top.

So as I’m watching the water trickle out of the garage…….I realized oops. However, I wasn’t about to take the whole system apart so I drilled a few extra drainholes in the reservior lid and that stopped the overflow.

I did eventually swap the washers around when I took the system apart to clean it. No more leaks!

Big oops-Forgetting to test the PH at least every other day

The first week, I tested the water when I mixed up the store bought nutrients. Was fine, so I forgot about. Then a week later when I tested it, the pH was way out of whack, too basic (too high). No wonder the poor plants looked terrible!

Test the pH……..now……..and often :).

Mistake-Not putting the light close enough

The original workshop had the top of the plant container cut down a few inches…….when I did mine, I thought “why cut? You can’t add that back when the plants get too tall!”.

However, the plants need to be within a few inches of the light when using flourescent grow lights. The seedlings were too far away…..so now I had to figure out shims to raise the pots up. And I had to raise the water level in the reservior (which means more nutrients) so it can pump higher. Raising the level in the plant section is just a matter of adding a level to the drain riser, so that’s no problem.

I’m being stubborn and sticking to my no cut theory.

Burn! Noooooooo! Poor leaves……light too close

Flip side of light too far away is light too close. My 5 foot high tomatoe vine, and a recovering hot pepper both ended up with scorched leaves due to growing into the light. Now the light is propped up at one end so the taller plants aren’t underneath it.

And more construction-not checking the pump tubing length.

A month into having the system running, I realized why my ebb and flow was taking forever to fill up…….the tubing was too long going from the pump into the filler stand so it had kinked and severely limited the water flow. Bad for the pump, bad for hydroponics.

Cue up the massive take apart and clean. I ended up making the tubing a bit too short so the pump now sits on a plastic block. First time I cued up the ebb and flow timer, the water came bursting into the plant area like a flood! Great! Now my ebb and flow hydroponic system actually flows instead of trickling!

Not setting it up after a move.

Well, I moved. And I did not bother to set up the hydro system after the move because I was too busy with other things (like fixing the broken stuff). I had switched the surviving plants into soil pots (and about half survived the switch), and figured in the spring I’d set it up and start again. Let’s just say it’s almost summer and I have not. Let’s just say that its two years later and I still haven’t set it up! Once I took it down it was out of sight, out of mind.

I should’ve set it up as soon as I moved in………..

Hydroponic mistakes I’ve made so far-Part 1

Ooops! Or, Ya know, I shouldn’t have done that. Hydroponics missteps.

This is a running log of the mistakes I’ve made in my journey to grow hot peppers, and possibly other stuff, hydroponically. I’ll be honest, I didn’t intend to get into hydroponics-I’ve read about it but upon seeing the equipment costs said ferget it. But after attending a workshop at a local hydroponics store where they had a setup build out of Home Depot type materials, I decided to try it.

I have a lot to learn……and it looks like I’ll be learning it the hard way……. :)

My hydroponic system, a brief overview.

The below mistakes apply to two different systems.

One is a simple passive bucket. Take a three gallon bucket, drill a hole near the rim and insert an airstone, add water, add a basket containing the plant and the media and viola! Hydroponics! It’s a pain to test the water though, you have to pick up the basket to get to the water.

The other is an ebb and flow system, basically one heavy duty plastic rectangle container with the lid on. Another of the same container on top. Holes drilled in the bottom of the top through the reservior lid and a hydroponic ebb and flow fitting kit added (just two standpipes, one for drain, one with a fitting for the water pump). The reserviour has an airstone and a fountain pump hooked to the fittings. Pump on a timer to run for a few minutes several times a day (three right now).

Both systems under the same flourescent grow light, which rests across the top of the ebb and flow system. Didn’t have to figure out a hanging system that way, have a while before the plants outgrow that!

Plant mistake-growing the wrong kind!

I decided to grow some tomatoes from seed to eliminate the “plant used to soil” problem. They were sprouted in jiffy peat pellets, and I made sure to take them out of the pellets before the roots had grown through the mesh. I don’t like the mesh, but the kind without don’t seem to grow the seeds as well. So when the plants were basically two leaves and a stem, I carefully soaked them in a bucket and removed all the peat. I placed them in Turface (the hydroton is just too big at this stage) and added them to the system.

Fast forward two weeks and WOW! These guys are already 6 inches tall! Then I got to thinking. Peppers are only a foot tall…..and if these tomatoes keep growing they’ll outgrow the lights..Oh no! The light of realization dawns.

Cue up finding the seed package and oh boy. Indeterminate tomatoes. For those who don’t know what that means, it means they just keep growing-they’re the vine type. I needed bush tomatoes (determinate). ACK!

So now I have to start all over, assuming I find the seeds I like, and I have to figure out what to do with 6 happy hydroponic tomatoe vines. I’m probably going to set up buckets outside and let them stay hydroponic. I’ve already started putting them in the sun for 15 minutes a day to try and harden them off……..

So….check the variety before planting!!!

Hydroponics mistake-trying to keep the cost down

Most of the mistakes I made and are making as we speak with my hydroponics system stem (haha) directly from trying to keep the costs down. Let’s face it, this hydroponics stuff can get expensive! When I look at what I’m trying to grow ( a few hot peppers right now), I can’t justify dropping $300 on a light system. I could import pounds of peppers for that!

So I admit, my biggest mistake is not just biting the bullet and shelling out the cash. Until the price of peppers goes to $300 a lb though, I’ll keep trying to keep my costs down.

Ok, enough of Part 1. Onto Part 2!