Between trying to find decent produce and at an affordable price, I've become a firm believer in trying to grow as much as I can. Not to mention all the genetic engineering going on with fruit and produce!!! I started two years ago with the traditional dirt and container garden but with the hellish heat we get, even when I watered in the morning the plants would be stressed and dying by the time I got home. To make a long story short, the draught won and I wasted a ton of money on potting supplies and water. A ton of time as well for nothing.

I did a quick experiment in an old aquarium and was suprised at how fast seeds would sprout and grow in an all water enviroment. Thus, the next stage of the experiment, something more full scale.

I started with 2.25" PVC with about a 5° slope from intake to output. Airpump driving two big airstones inside the tub to keep the water aerated. I would add nutrients directly to the tub and let the pump cirulate it. I run the system 24/7.

Hydroponic 2.25 inch setup

Everything was going good, and as you can see things have started to grow after about 15 days.

Hydroponic 2.25 inch sprout 15 days growth

First problem arose, as the plants grew the roots quickly filled up the small pipe. Time for larger pipe. I went with 3" PVC now.

3 inch pipe getting ready to bore holes

Bored 2 inch holes down the length of the pipe spaced centerwise 4 inches apart. Trim away any rough remains from the boring with a razor knife.

Quake USA Alarm Clock Quake USA Alarm Clock

Carefully extracted the plants and placed them in the new piping, which works a lot better. The baskets I bought fit perfectly to the rim, and now there is plenty of room for even the roots of the cucumber and tomato plants.

Quake USA Alarm Clock

The two things that sprouted last were the ones that ended up taking over the enclosure; cucumber and tomato plants. The other plants were suffering by being blocked out and entangled with the cucumber plant. Another problem was I grouped all the plants together. The each have a different feeding requirements and at varying times during their growth stage. I was favoring the feeding pattern of the cucumber and tomato (obviously) so the bean plants that had already grown and began to flower ended up slowly dying and not producing anything.

Second problem when I switched to the larger pipe I grouped the plants with shallower roots toward the end and created a little blackflow to fill up the pipe more. This ended up causing a pocket of stale water which my plants were feeding off of. I noticed it first in the harvested cucumbers a stale taste. There were also problems with leakage which meant expending more water which is something I wanted to minimize. The bean plants grew straight up and hit the top which caused them to burn. Corn was mangled by high winds so they will need minor bracing. Cucumber and Tomato plants definitely need to be separate - cucumber needs a big wire section to grow on.

So from lessons learned I'm moving foward with hopefully the final stage. I have 3 hydro units designed; one for the heavy water drinkers like Watermelon, Cucumber, Tomato, a tub system with sprayers inside which is good for Romaine, Red Leaf, Spinach, corn, and the bean plants. Finally a bucket system that can handle growing things like carrots and potatos which grow underground.

Check back for more on the Hydroponic Experiment.