PE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> Peter's indoor vegetable garden

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Offline peter

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2012, 06:42:04 PM »
I'm going to approach the hydroponics information in stages as posts and eventually combine them into a lengthy article.

I am going to include the 'why' hydroponics as well as the 'how'.

I'm going to start with my current situation and why I decided to explore the potential of hydroponics.

In another post sometime I will present the documentation that convinced me that life in the mainstream in large communities is doomed to failure even if we resolve the food issue. All species, not just humans, have a problem with crowds. As soon as individuals are forced into close quarters with lots of other individuals, crime and violence arises. The larger the tight population, the greater the resulting trauma and destruction.

Because of my beliefs I have chosen to live on the fringes of civilization for much of my life. Such a removed lifestyle removes most of the problems associated with urban centers but presents a few different ones. The problem of feeding yourself in very remote places bears similarities with the crisis faced by urban dwellers if the infrastructure that provides them with a constant supply via a very fragile, long, and wasteful supply line ever breaks down. Presently there are nowhere near enough local resources to fill the food gap in urban centers. After only a few days of lack of fresh supply many urban dwellers would starve.

If someone living very remotely depends on the same supply lines as the urban dwellers their survival is even more at risk because in crisis the population centers will be served first. I will describe the setting of my current situation to illustrate this point.

I Currently live in Ocean Falls, British Columbia, Canada  which is a small community of about 30 people on the west coast of north america in very extreme terrain with water access only. The water access is lengthy, costly to cross, and extreme weather often makes it inaccessible for days or weeks at a time.

* All images in this post are previews than can be clicked to see larger high resolution versions.






The winds in these long and narrow inlets are often so fierce even the largest ocean going vessels have to shelter and sit out the storms. There is no airport so only float planes and helicopters have access, both of which are very vulnerable to bad weather.

Fog is also regularly a problem.

First a picture of Cousin's Inlet from just above Ocean Falls without fog...


From the same spot with fog. These fogs often last for days at a time.


There is much to recommend life here....







And there is a virtually unlimited supply of protein available at our doorstep year round, for the taking, in the form of fish, crabs and prawns.






Even the best of ointments often seem to have a fly in them. In Ocean Falls the fly is that the possibility of growing a bountiful outdoor garden is very remote. This is because we are the wettest place in Canada, averaging 15 to 20 feet of rain a year in very steep and rocky terrain. What little soil there is available is quickly leached of nutrients by the constant rain. Lack of light and a short growing season also adds to the problem.

The only local store is open 3 times a week for a couple of hours and has a very limited supply, especially of produce. 



Most locals currently shop over the internet. We mostly buy as a group from a grocery store in Vancouver. We buy once a month and the grocery store delivers to a trucking company that trucks our order along with other goods to Port Hardy at the northern tip of Vancouver Island. There our groceries get put onto a barge to be delivered to Ocean Falls. The barge service is weather dependent and often in the winter is in transit for over a week in very cold weather. The quality, especially of produce is regularly compromised.

The cost is high. Ie.... A 20lb bag of potatoes that costs $3.99 costs us $15.99 when you add 60 cents a pound for freight charges. Frozen is even more expensive per lb and all shipments include the weight of the pallet as part of the cost. It seems the pallets are made of the heaviest wood that can be found and often weigh so much that it takes two people to lift an empty pallet.

I like eating good food, don't have much money and was determined to overcome this problem. That is when I started researching the potential of hydroponics both on the internet and by buying books. I quickly discovered buying hydroponic 'systems' as a functional unit was very expensive and beyond my financial reach. I decided to build my own system from scratch which was only a fraction of the cost and within the reach of almost everyone.

The solution involved a room in my basement and is applicable to homes everywhere even in large urban centers. The room is so full of plants when in production it is impossible to photograph. Below is an early photo when the system was just starting up and is just partially assembled. There have been many modifications made since then as I figured out more efficient ways to grow things.

To get to where I am today, without making all the mistakes, would cost approximately $2,500 if you source the parts yourself and provide all the labour. To keep it in operation cost approximately $65 a month which is far less than it costs me for vegetables. I am currently redoing the system to reduce the operating cost even further and reducing the power usage to the point where even a very small off the grid system, which I could afford by doing the same thing and sourcing the parts myself, could supply all the power input needed.


The next post will start on describing the process, system and results.

« Last Edit: November 27, 2012, 07:01:49 PM by peter »

Offline WHD

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #16 on: November 27, 2012, 08:00:49 PM »
Peter,

I might have underestimated the potential of hydroponics. I think I'd like to set up a winter harvest here. Eagerly awaiting more info. And that is a very beautiful place you live. I hope your neighbors are paying attention.

WHD

Offline peter

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #17 on: November 28, 2012, 11:33:18 AM »
Hydroponics has been massively utilized commercially, even in areas where there is lots of available good soil. The reason for it's adoption is the massive increase in profits it brings by reducing the volumes of land, water, fertilizer, equipment and labour needed to produce a crop. Although the equipment involved seems extensive most of it is relatively inexpensive, long lasting, substantially  less expensive than the equipment needed to plant, maintain, and harvest crops in the ground.

Hydroponics has not been promoted publicly because it has the potential of disrupting the power base of our rulers. The long supply lines in our current food infrastructure and the organization of cropping so that no part of the planet is self sufficient food wise, assures compliance from the masses because they depend on their rulers infrastructure in order to eat. They also need to earn money in order to buy their food in the company store. 

What would happen to this power base if the masses learned to grow their own food inexpensively virtually anywhere?

I am NOT an expert grower and being self taught in most things am a generalist rather than a purist in anything. Much of what I say here goes against the grain of the knowledge generated by commercial hydroponics operations. The reason for this is that I have a fundamentally different need and approach to hydroponics than commercial operations have.

Commercial hydroponics is a very precise science. The amount of information available about the needs of healthy plants is staggering. When using hydroponics to massively monocrop each stage of the growing cycle can be optimized to a very extreme level which increases plant productivity, and profits  massively.

What I am attempting is very different from generating massive monocrops. I am instead attempting to generate a small scale indoor hydroponic garden with a very wide range of crops capable of supplying the variety of produce that is needed to support a single family in a continuous rotation, thereby supplying a constant supply of food.

This attempt is much more complex than monocroping as at any given time within the system there are many different plants with different needs all of which are also present in all stages of growth at any given time. Optimizing growing conditions for particular plants or specific growing cycles is not possible in this situation so one cannot expect the same kind of productivity present in monocroping hydroponically.

Nevertheless my results so far have been very promising and demonstrate such growing methods are viable and worthwhile. The main problem still needing to be resolved is not growing viable plants, but doing so in a continuous manner so that there is always a good selection of harvestable plants available. So far after about a year of continuous operation of the system it has become very difficult to maintain all stages of growth. The amount of growth from mature plants is massive and soon takes all available light and root space. I have restarted the system 3 times trying different methods.

Examples....

The root system from 1 mature cherry tomato plant growing from a 1 inch pot in a horizontal tube.




The root system of two mature tomato plants grown in a tote.


A horizontal tube in my system has 18 growing spots. Image what happens with plants growing in all the slots. The mass of roots becomes very intertwined. The nutrient circulating system is not a closed one and the roots can clog the pipes so that the nutrient overflows. It also becomes impossible to take a plant out of the system to replace it with a young one without destroying the roots of all the plants in the tube.


Not all plants have as massive root systems as tomatoes but anything that grows for an extended period soon mixes its roots with its neighbors.

Parsley is one of my favorite herbs and does very well in hydroponics. It will continue to grow indefinitely given the opportunity.

In a 1 inch pot....


 

I believe the two problems I have identified are surmountable even within a single system within a very limited space. I have shut down the system 3 times and made changes each of which have made a difference.

Now you see what the problems are, keep them in mind as I go back to the start and describe building the system in detail.

This past summer I got together with one of the locals who decided to put the only local greenhouse which was idle into use. I became her helper to get a better idea of what kind of production to expect growing in soil, the associated problems, the amount of expense, and labour involved.



Tomatoes early in the season when there were still frosts. They needed to be covered at night and the greenhouse needed to be opened up each day even on some overcast days because it quickly became very warm.



The greenhouse did not have a system to raise the sides and it was very frustrating and time consuming. Some of the junk from the hoarders house I came into possession of which I didn't throw out became very handy. I think he had taken the clothes lines off all the abandoned houses as I had a whole large box of clothes line parts which I used to rig a series of ropes that quickly and easily raised and lowered the sides.

Peas and cabbages...


About 1/3 of the Potato plants we grew. I ended up with about 150lbs and the other person about 100lbs.


Although I will continue to work in the greenhouse it is no where near as productive or pleasant an undertaking as growing hydroponically.

The biggest problems were a short growing season and crop harvesting. Only one crop a year was possible which was only available for a short period of time, in too large of quantities to be utilized by two people, unless they were preserved in some way.  Only potatoes and squash are easy to store for lengthy periods after harvest IF you have a suitable space.

Got to run....
« Last Edit: November 28, 2012, 09:29:02 PM by peter »

Offline RE

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2012, 05:08:53 PM »
Might it be possible to periodically trim back root systems to keep them from tangling up?

Also, have you ever tried cooking some of those root systems?  I imagine they could be edible and loaded with nutrients.

Shaping up to be a great article

RE
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Offline g

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #19 on: November 28, 2012, 05:41:11 PM »
Might it be possible to periodically trim back root systems to keep them from tangling up?

Also, have you ever tried cooking some of those root systems?  I imagine they could be edible and loaded with nutrients.

Shaping up to be a great article

RE

It certainly is.

What amazes me is how little coverage Hydroponics has gotten by the MSM and even the doom community.
 
Peter is no doubt correct that Monsanto and the big boys are responsible for suppressing it. This should have been much more prevalent throughout the entire world than it currently is.

Why haven't the governments of all the poor and impoverished nations adopted crash programs in Hydroponics to feed their starving people?   :icon_scratch:

Offline peter

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #20 on: November 28, 2012, 05:53:20 PM »
Here's what I started with for my Hydroponics System.


As I mentioned before this house belonged to a hoarder before I got it. It is two level with the top floor above ground and the bottom level half buried. This room is the family room downstairs which is about 11 feet x 22 feet. The photo above was taken after I took about 2/3 of the stuff out of it and you could see the extent of the room.

Cleaning out the place was very difficult because amongst the massive amounts of 'junk' there was also a lot of very handy and valuable stuff, especially in a place like Ocean Falls where everything needs to be barged in. The place was in terrible shape because of burst pipes and neglect since the owner died about 4 years before I got it.

The owner obviously had the intention to restore the place but never got around to it because amongst the junk were virtually all the tools and supplies to put the place back in good shape. Refurbishing the place mostly cost me just my time. Because of the very wet climate here, and every square inch of covered space being packed to the max, I must have moved everything in the house 100's of times to preserve the worthwhile stuff.

The room didn't have an exit to the outdoors and to get anything into it meant going through a labyrinth of corridors and other rooms with the many longer pieces of material that went into the system.There also wasn't water available in the room which was a vital commodity for hydroponics. The first things I did after emptying the room was put in an exterior door, running water and a sink. I also finished the ceiling and walls.


In growing under artificial light you want to recycle the light as much as possible using reflective materials. At first I tried what is acknowledged as the best material, reflective mylar. To get it to work well requires that it is applied flat without wrinkles. They make mylar covered plywood for this purpose but it was too expensive to get it sent to ocean falls. I tried mylar rolls instead and you can see the result wasn't very good. The room also didn't 'feel' very good with mylar on the walls and I wanted a room I enjoyed being in because I was going to be spending a lot of time in it. I did more research and discovered that semi-gloss white paint was almost as effective, something like 85% reflective as opposed to 90% for mylar. I had about 45 gallons of paint amongst the junk, much of it white so I took down the mylar and painted everything white.  The room is now very pleasant and bright.


The abandoned hotel had laundry tubs for the taking so I recycled one and the associated plumbing. There are a number of large abandoned buildings in Ocean Falls that are half fallen down and rotting into the ground. There are still lots of good building materials in them which can be salvaged with some hard work. It is kind of dangerous because the buildings are falling down. All my projects have mostly utilized such materials.

You can see the sink in the photo above. The item to the right of it is going to be the main nutrient reservoir for the system. It is a fiberglass tank I found in the bush and holds about 44 gallons. It had cracks in the bottom and leaked which I fixed. It is raised off the floor because the floor is a concrete slab and I needed space below it for easy drainage. The slab also meant I needed to run all system plumbing across the ceiling to avoid having to constantly step over it. I needed pumps either way so I chose the ceiling alternative. I needed flat workspace so I built a hinged top for the tank attached to the wall so I can both access the tank and have a workspace. A 45 gallon plastic barrel which can be had almost anywhere for the taking or very little would work just as well.


I made a  level gauge (see below) so I could see the nutrient level without opening the lid. I still need to make another level sensor for inside the tank for when the level drops below a certain point. This stops the system from totally draining if there is a plug and over flow. I've had several overflows but only of about 10 gallons or so before I caught them. The volume of nutrient circulated is fairly low so it takes time to drain the whole system. It makes a mess but doesn't do any damage. I am currently making a hole in the slab at the low point of the room to put a sump to automatically pump overflows outside.


Inside the tank is a low volume circulating pump, an aquarium heater (metal) that keeps the nutrient at 65f because plants can tolerate much cooler temperatures if their feet are kept warm, 4 air stones to constantly aerate the solution, and sensors for temperature, PH and EC.


Most of the brains of the room are in this area.

 

The green gadgets on the wall are the readouts for the PH & EC. The blue is a backup that includes nutrient temperature. There are also room hi/low/current temperature and humidity readouts. Also a control for the nutrient heater, and timer for the circulating pump. The nutrient is only circulated for a few minutes every half hour or so. More about this important variable later.


I live without heat and my house hovers between just above freezing to just below for much of the year. The plants want to stay between about 70f and 50f so this room would be warmer than the rest of the house. I decided to utilize the waste heat to make the rest of the house more comfortable. The house had an oil furnace and air ducting in place. Where I sit at my computer for extended periods is just above the outside left corner of the room. There is a duct outlet upstairs right in this area. I vented it to the ceiling of this room and added a switched inline fan to keep my feet warmer while sitting at the computer. It doesn't make much of a difference but it is noticable.

The Bible for Commercial Hydroponic Growers is called "Hydroponic Food Production", by Howard M Resh PhD. http://www.amazon.com/Hydroponic-Food-Production-Definitive-Commercial/dp/093123199X I see it has come down in price, it used to cost over $100.

http://www.howardresh.com/

Mr Resh is a world renowned expert in Hydroponics responsible for much of the early research on the subject. Surprisingly a nephew of Mr. Resh lives in Ocean Falls.

I spent many hours reading this book and many others before deciding on a design for my system. My design ended up utilizing 3 distinct approaches for different purposes.

The first segment is partially constructed in the photo above. The design is similar to one that howard's book illustrates which is used by a number of resorts in tropical locations to grow fresh salad greens for their restaurants. It is ideal for plants that don't spread out much so all tiers can get good light. Nutrient is fed to the top and circulates by gravity around the descending pipes to the bottom.

Because dissolved oxygen is important in the nutrient and a run of almost 200ft of pipe in this 8ft x 7ft unit would mean the plants near the bottom would likely see less oxygen I decided to plumb it in 3 parts. The 9 tiers were broken into 3 segments of 3 tiers, each with their own feed and drain.


Each feed has it's own valve used to regulate the volume of nutrient fed to each level. The circulating system utilizes only a single pump for the feeds for all areas of the system. It is low pressure and depending on the elevation of each section the flow can be quite different. The lower valves are closed more to restrict the flow allowing for more nutrient to reach the higher areas.

All parts of the system drain via gravity to a tote sitting on the floor just to the right in the photo above. The tote has a small pump in it hooked to a magnetic float  level sensor I made out of cheap parts from china. As the tote fills the pump in the sump pumps the nutrient back across the ceiling to the main tank to be reused. The vertical pipe in the photo above to the right of the feed system is the return line. All of the plumbing has unions built into it that allows all components to be easily moved or removed.

The plumbing took many weird fittings. The best supplier of almost any fitting you can imagine can be found here. http://flexpvc.com/

A shipment of the parts (see below). This particular package got lost in the mail for about 4 months. Besides it being expensive, it is often a trial to get things shipped to Ocean Falls. No courier services directly deliver here. We have a post office here which gets mail by float plane once a week on Wednesdays. There is a $30 airstage surcharge on most shipments making a $9.00 charge elsewhere $39 here. The post office is the final delivery agent for most of the courier services for Ocean Falls. This means we can ship things in via courier but because this handoff to canada post is not done regularly by the courier services it often goes astray when employees can't figure out how to deliver items.

I once watched the tracking information for a chair I bought in eastern canada cross canada back and forth about 4 times each time ending up in a different community and then being send back to the originator even though I was constantly in touch with customer service explaining to them what they needed to do. Very frustrating!!!


Discount Hydroponics is a good source of supply for specialized hydroponic gear. http://www.discount-hydro.com/ After figuring out what I needed I bought much of my gear directly from suppliers in China at greatly reduced prices. However some things are only available trough seller like D&H. Ebay and amazon are also good sources. That I could get everything I needed sent to Ocean Falls means it is available anywhere and mostly with free shipping.




The growing pipes are 3 inch PVC sewer pipes. Only the feed is under pressure, the grow pipes are not pressurized and only circulate via gravity. They are mostly assembled without glue using teflon tape as a sealant. This makes it possible to disassemble the system in sections for clean out. One of the fairly expensive changes I made after realizing the root buildup problem was to replace all the 90 degree elbows with Ts to facilitate cleaning without needing to take off the whole end section of pipe, which was glued together as a unit, making the job much easier and quicker. Now the cap on the end of the Ts just twists off for cleaning.

 
One change that wasn't expensive but took a lot of work was to increase the number of growing spots after I realized the system would handle it for many varieties of plants.


Because the nutrient is so readily available in hydroponics, plant spacing can be much closer than in soil, and is only dependent on available light. The A-frame portion of the grow system now has just under 400 growing spots most of which can be utilized at any given time. I keep a 1 in mesh pot with a piece of black garbage bag in it to keep light off the roots and nutrient in unused spots. I estimate this A-frame is equivalent to about 400ft of outdoor garden row space. That represents a lot of plants!

To be continued....
« Last Edit: November 28, 2012, 06:38:58 PM by peter »

Offline peter

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #21 on: November 28, 2012, 07:31:31 PM »
Might it be possible to periodically trim back root systems to keep them from tangling up?

Also, have you ever tried cooking some of those root systems?  I imagine they could be edible and loaded with nutrients.

Shaping up to be a great article

RE

You've noticed one of the bonuses of hydroponic growing. It affects not only the roots but also the leafy vegetation of many varieties of root crops which insects love. Their vegetation is regularly munched on giving them a very unappetizing appearance. They become a palatable part of the plant grown indoors because they are not mutilated. you do have to be careful as some leaf structures of root plants, such as carrots are poisonous in large quantities.

Radishes are a  beneficial example. I have found they are probably the fastest growing crop available taking as little as 3 weeks from starting a seed to having a crop with substantial volume.

Several radish seeds on their 4th day of life  when seeded hydroponically in gravel. (more about gravel later)


Their 3rd week....



* because I mostly use LED lights that produce light in the red and blue spectrum (more about that later) many of the photographs of plants have their vegetation appearing a yellow unhealthy color. This is false color produced by the color distortion of the lights. All the plants are generally a very vibrant green when seen in place. you'll notice this in some photos taken during the day in which the plants glow with health.Example the young broccoli plant below.


Back to the radishes... Radish greens are now my favorite cooked greens. They are like spinach but with a stem that doesn't grow mushy with cooking. The stems continue to stay nice and crunchy.

If you do not harvest the plant for the radish, which you can see grows above ground in my system, they put out an enormous amount of stem and leaves before going to seed all of which is great eating.

The radish below has a stem/vine about 6ft long with many tasty leaves on it as well...


Using the hydrogen peroxide mentioned above in the nutrient solution helps oxidize and remove the dead root mass which tends to discolor them and make them look unappetizing. Yes the roots are often very palatable.

One of the most fascinating aspects of growing hydroponically indoors is trying to grow crops from other areas in the world that we never see because they are not viable outdoors here. Eating becomes an adventure with such plants as well with eating parts of plants we don't normally consume.

There are a number of internet seed suppliers such as jungle seeds http://www.jungleseeds.co.uk/ that will supply you with exotic seeds from around the world.

« Last Edit: November 28, 2012, 07:46:14 PM by peter »

Offline peter

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #22 on: November 28, 2012, 08:06:26 PM »
Might it be possible to periodically trim back root systems to keep them from tangling up?

Also, have you ever tried cooking some of those root systems?  I imagine they could be edible and loaded with nutrients.

Shaping up to be a great article

RE


It certainly is.

What amazes me is how little coverage Hydroponics has gotten by the MSM and even the doom community.
 
Peter is no doubt correct that Monsanto and the big boys are responsible for suppressing it. This should have been much more prevalent throughout the entire world than it currently is.

Why haven't the governments of all the poor and impoverished nations adopted crash programs in Hydroponics to feed their starving people?   :icon_scratch:


If your intent is to kill off most of the human population introducing hydroponics to everyone is NOT the way to do it.

Although my system is fairly technical and expensive to create, the exact same principles can be applied almost anywhere using only what is at hand. Even in a war zone where all you have is rubble you can dig ditches wherever possible or use material like roof tin to create channels and use scrap plastic or bark to line it. A slight slope with a bucket at each end to hold a few gallons of water which you tip every once in a while as needed to feed the plants  with a solution made of plant tea or even human feces tea if nothing else is available, a pocket full of seeds and you will soon have a source of food.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2012, 08:08:15 PM by peter »

Offline RE

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #23 on: November 28, 2012, 09:46:11 PM »
Have you tried growing any perennials like Avocado or Banana Trees?  That would be awesome.

RE
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Offline peter

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2012, 12:03:20 PM »
Have you tried growing any perennials like Avocado or Banana Trees?  That would be awesome.

RE

Many plants we think are annuals are actually perennials in their native climate. Tomatoes are one example.

Look closely at the image below from Mr Resh's site.


Look at the tubes laying on the ground. Those are actually tomato vines, If you follow them they lead back to the building. There is likely a number of years of growth there. It takes a few months from seed to get a producing tomato plant with a well established root system capable of producing fruit. Once established they produce fruit continuously if weather permits. Commercially they have found that rigorous pruning into a single stalk is most productive. The leaves around the tomatoes that are set die off after they are picked but the plant continues to extend setting new leaves and fruit. The stalks are flexible and greenhouses lay them over onto the floor as new growth develops. Much more efficient than always starting new plants.

Hard to pull off in my situation of little space but I am considering attempting to grow a vine in circles between floor and ceiling. not sure how gravity will affect plant internal circulation in such a case.

I had bananas, avocados, mangos, oranges, dates in my yard in Mexico and would love to grow them here but I only have the one heated room and do not have space for large plants. It is certainly doable. The system below sold by Discount Hydroponics would do the trick.

Quote

Product Description

The General Hydroponic MegaFarm (24" x 24" 1 BIG Plant) is the largest drip hydroponic sytem. The MegaFarm is built out of thick high-impact plastic to assure a long service life. The MegaFarm has a unique 20 gallon growing chamber on top of another 20 gallon reservoir, along with a dual drip ring to allow the grower unlimited plant options. The MegaFarm will grow almost any size plant. With its large water capacity and low water requirements, the MegaFarm is simple and efficient. The MegaFarm is one of the only systems out on the market that can grow extra large sized plants, including many varieties of trees.

This system includes a 20 gallon reservoir, 20 gallon growing chamber, dual drip ring, pumping columns, dual output air pump, 1/4" air line, Hydroton grow rocks, and a Pints of Flora Series Nutrients.

Offline peter

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #25 on: November 29, 2012, 12:48:59 PM »
A little aside....

After I lost my place in Mexico and was out on the street, I lived for about 6 years closely in a rural area with the very poorest of Mexicans as my only real friends. Although I soon started working for and associating for work purposes with billionaires, these people were not who I chose to hang out with. I learned a lot from the Mexican poor which is applicable to our lifestyle.

Hydroponics has the potential to turn our society on it's ear but there is one other thing besides self-sufficiency that keeps us locked into the status quo. We have been purposely addicted to, "Bread and Circuses", to assure our enslavement to our master's needs. Hydroponics can take care of the 'bread' but we also need to cut our dependence on 'circuses'.

Poor people in a city environment are very different from poor people in a rural environment. In a city the poor succumb to the violence and crime that close quarters living always breeds just as the more wealthy do and life is very grim. Although the rural poor are also abused by the rulers and have virtually nothing, most are very different because living in wide open spaces without the incessant onslaught of propaganda of all sorts, which is out of control in the cities, and which we are mostly oblivious to because of the massive hits we have taken over the years have desensitized us, has left these people much more satisfied with their lives even though they have nothing by our standards. Such people are the most satisfied, happy and generous people I have been privileged to spend time among.

Life in the hinterlands is changing and is not a bed of roses because the mostly un-policed areas areas have now been taken over by drug gangs that force rural people to work for them. The advent of satellite TV and it's corroding influence is also changing rural life in Mexico.

Consider what would happen if you didn't feel the urge to keep up with the neighbors, or to be constantly entertained, and to be able to grow everything you needed to survive where ever you chose to be.

You wouldn't need to 'earn' a living, you could get by without a motorized vehicle to get you to work and all it entails. You could buy a $100 house somewhere or build something from scratch with just your labour, meaning no mortgage. You could be satisfied without needing the latest and greatest of everything ranging from entertainment to travel. You would have a lot of time in your life to apply directly to making it more worthwhile without the need of 'earning' a better life.

This attitude is what I learned from the poor in Mexico and is what allows me to do so much with very little money. Because I do not need to work for a living I have the time to think and to scrounge and to build. I do not have special circumstances that others don't have that allow me this freedom. It is the result of life choices I have made which changed my priorities in life. Anyone can do the same if they are willing to give up the security and comfort of, "Bread and Circuses", from the emperors. 

Offline Surly1

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #26 on: November 29, 2012, 12:53:09 PM »
Peter,
I have nothing whatsoever to contribute to this thread, but just want you to know that I am following it with rapt attention. This is terrific and extremely important work you are sharing with us.

Thank you.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline peter

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #27 on: November 29, 2012, 04:18:10 PM »
Here's just a few photos of what the A-frame looks like in production...

Freshly planted....


After I finish describing the 3 growing areas I will show you what I put together to start seeds. I can start about 100 plants at a time so it takes a while to fill the 500  or so growing spots. I have tried crop rotation using 1 spot in 3 and then filling the spots in between with the same plants at intervals to assure a continuous supply. This hasn't worked out because of the root intertwining.

RE asked about root pruning to keep them under control. This is not possible because the canopy also quickly intertwines. Trying to remove a plant to prune the roots would do too much damage.

This time around I am going to treat a whole tube as a single crop as a whole tube can be cleaned out without damaging surrounding plants.

To this point I have grown a much wider variety of plants than I will eventually. I have tried a few of in the order of 100's of plant varieties to see how each responds to this type of growing. Some plants thrive but other varieties even within the same species do poorly. Eventually I will narrow it down to a dozen or two varieties of plant at higher volume with just a small section for experimenting. This will make life much easier.

A month or so later....


The middle row is swiss chard bright lights that does extremely well. It gets about twice as large as pictured here and constantly puts up new stalks. A single plant is still going strong after a year. One row with the new tighter spacing, not shown here, means I could probably eat my fill every day of the week. I really like it but give a lot away.

After 2 or 3 months it looks like this....


Even with constant cropping it becomes one mass of greenery. you can no longer even see the tubes. Later I will show photos of the wide variety of plants that can be grown in this section, some of them such as eggplant that will surprise you.



Eggplant blossoms are beautiful...


As the garden matures there are 100's of blossoms of all types and the room smells just like a fragrant outdoor garden.


Almost all the blossoms are edible. We usually eat broccoli before it gets 100's of blossoms because the plant  does not package at all well in this state and has no shelf life. It is a real treat to go down into my basement when I am cooking a meal and take everything I need fresh off the vine in prime shape.

A lot of Asian markets provide produce with blossoms on it as the supply chain is short. Flowering red cabbage is an example that grows very well hydroponically. Productivity is probably second to radishes. The whole plant is edible but the prime part that is sold is shoots which it constantly puts up that are similar to asparagus but have lots of small yellow blossums that taste and smell divine.

A couple of young plants below  (can't remember the chinese name). They don't look very pretty after constant harvesting but they are sure prolific and good eating.


Potatoes also have pretty blossoms in many different colors. The female blossoms create a pod that looks like a cherry tomato. I would guess they are not edible. Potatoes are a relative of tomatoes and are also long lived. In soil the plant is destroyed to harvest the crop. With some ingenuity you can harvest hydroponic potatoes without disturbing the plant. Harvesting the potatoes  regularly extends the plants life as it continues to set new vegetation.

There are some huge potato growing operations in warehouses that are split in half vertically light wise with the leaf structure above the barrier and the roots below. Workers walk around below the plants using green headlights (to not disturb the roots) and carefully pick potatoes like apples. It is hard to get information on this type of growing probably because it is very lucrative. I'll dig up what I found a few years ago and present it at some time. 


The university of Utah has developed dwarf varieties of both wheat and rice for NASA's use in space. From what I could find on productivity figures it appears a small bedroom sized space of either plant cropped continuously would produce about 40 to 60 lbs a year. If I ever run out of things to do I'd like to give this a whirl.

In some places in south america with arid climates some farmers actually grow grass hydroponically to feed their herds. A fairly small machine can continuously put out about 500lbs a day of very nutritious sod.

The second growing area works by the same principle as the a-frame but is small and laid out flat with just a slight slope allowing for the growing of crops that need more room per plant such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choi, kolrabi, peppers and so on.

     


The feed end below. Each tube has it's own valve to control flow. The input should have been in the middle instead of at one end to make for an easier even flow control. Part of the sump tote used for draining the used nutrient and pumping it back to the reservoir can be seen below the tubes.


Not shown in any of these photos, as it was introduced later, is a second feed system for all areas of the system that feeds aeroponically as well. Aeroponics is creating a very fine mist that atomizes nutrient along with the water and feeds the roots by a mist.

The tubes are not full of water, only roughly the bottom quarter flows with liquid intermittently. I created a tote that utilizes the same nutrient, atomizes it, and then distributes it to all areas of the system using an inline fan and a series of tubes. It intermittently fills all the airspace in the tubes and totes with nutrient mist using a separate timer.  The jury is still out on whether it is worth the effort. I still have much to learn. I have photos somewhere of this part of the system which I will find and show later.

The tubes slope just slightly to the drain end. If there was one thing I could do over easily I would increase the size of the drain lines to 1 in from 1/2 inch. The increase is not needed for flow but the 1/2 inch fittings catch debris from roots and growing medium and can clog meaning they need to be watched closely. Switching to gravel helped a lot as it does not float. It would be a major chore to change over now.



In the photo above near the back left you can see some chinese flowering red cabbages I am letting go to seed. Just visible are dozens of pods each holding many seeds. I got many 100's of seeds for future crops.




This area also becomes a jungle after awhile....


The third growing area is 3 rows of 3 totes for plants that have larger root masses and also need lots of air space. Things like tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas, potatoes, vining squash.

There is a lot of detailed information for this area so I will leave it for the next post. Here are just a few photos.





Speaking of jungles.... the fruit is really difficult to see in all the vegetation.







Potato plants....


What they grow in (center 2 right totes) Can you figure out how they are harvested?


There is never a huge amount of any one thing but there is a constant supply of almost everything.



« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 07:13:21 PM by peter »

Offline WHD

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #28 on: December 02, 2012, 10:19:12 AM »
Peter,

I am most fascinated. Enthralled. Thank you so much for this. I can imagine a whole new approach to my arrangement, here in Minneapolis.

Is there any concern about the PVC, releasing in any meaningful way, toxins into the plants, into you? Is there a food-grade pipe, and does it matter? Your plants certainly look healthy.

What would you think about worm juice, as a nutrient source? I'm imagining feeding the plant waste to worms, and then straining their castings. Could it be a closed system?

How do I love the idea, to go underground to grow citrus, avocado and kiwi? If I can do that, as long as I have electrical, and rain falling from the sky I could have a virtual closed system for well more than one, here. Electrical being the wildest of cards, probably. I'm even imagining, underground access to the storm drains. Fun. I bet I could follow the drain all the way to the Mississippi River bank.  :icon_mrgreen:


Offline peter

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Re: Hydroponics NOW!
« Reply #29 on: December 02, 2012, 11:23:26 AM »
Peter,

I am most fascinated. Enthralled. Thank you so much for this. I can imagine a whole new approach to my arrangement, here in Minneapolis.

Is there any concern about the PVC, releasing in any meaningful way, toxins into the plants, into you? Is there a food-grade pipe, and does it matter? Your plants certainly look healthy.

This is the same formulation of PVC now most often used for plumbing water lines both domestically and industrially. The only difference in the sewer pipe is it is thinner than waterline because it is not under pressure. It is sched 20 instead of 40. It is certified for use regarding potable water.

Quote
What would you think about worm juice, as a nutrient source? I'm imagining feeding the plant waste to worms, and then straining their castings. Could it be a closed system?

I am not an expert but would suspect so.

Quote
How do I love the idea, to go underground to grow citrus, avocado and kiwi? If I can do that, as long as I have electrical, and rain falling from the sky I could have a virtual closed system for well more than one, here. Electrical being the wildest of cards, probably. I'm even imagining, underground access to the storm drains. Fun. I bet I could follow the drain all the way to the Mississippi River bank.  :icon_mrgreen:

I haven't got to the lighting yet in this thread but mentioned in another thread the LED lights I use in place of the older powerhog Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium type lights. The main reason I switched to LED's is to attempt to get the power draw down to a level that could be provided for off grid at a reasonable investment level. The LED lights actually run at 12v and each light has a built in power adaptor identical to those on most laptops used to reduce the voltage from 110. Most LED manufacturers produce a 12v version of their lights. Some power is lost in the conversion from 110 so they become even more power efficient. I can convert my lights if needed.

My complete system has a peak draw of 1.5 to 2 kilowatts, or 1500 to 2000 watts, about the same as 1 small portable electric heater. The LEDs put out the equivalent of 12,000 watts of MH or HPS type lights. That is a lot of light as far as plants are concerned. A very small solar or microhydro setup could easily provide the needed power. If you have good available light you could run the system on much less power.

Microhydro is preferable as it does not require battery backup during the night. Some backup is still preferable to allow short period use of tools like a small welder that require more juice than the system can provide online.

One of my next purchases will be a single solar panel that is the building block for most serious solar installations to see how it performs in Ocean Falls. Tracking it's output through all seasons will given me an idea of how many panels I would need. The newer grid connected systems are interesting. You just plug them into a normal outlet in your house. They do not have any storage capability but backfeed the grid reducing your bill by what you feed into the system. you can even earn an income from power companies if you have a large enough system.

I would be satisfied to just have enough capacity to offset my powerbill meaning my system would be virtually free to operate. You can buy a kit with about 3 times the capacity I need for about $9,000. I figure I can put something together for about $2,000. I have a spare set of batteries for my EV that have enough storage to run the system for about a day so I would wire them into the system for backup.

My Electric vehicle and electric powered kayak

The kayak uses 1 of the 8 spare batteries for the EV






   

I'll continue on with my posts about the hydro system tomorrow.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2012, 11:36:02 AM by peter »

 

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