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Aeroponic All-year Greenhouse on a Budged

in 2015 i Startet a small Greenhouse. When i moved, i upgraded it and now its V3.0 (Summer Version) and still work in progress

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A small Greenhouse for my Balcony to Boost the yieald of my Tomato plants and to grow more Exotic Vegetables in a relatively cold Climate. 2 Solar panels power a Blue High Power LED. 2 12v (7Ah) Batteries hold the energy, to get a longer daycycle for the Plants and to Boost Leaf Production. This helps greens like Salad a lot. 2 Home Built Aeroponics Systems are running for about 3 Months now without big Maintanence. I had to refill the water tank every couple of days during Spring and in Summer i had to get a bigger Tank. 5 Tomato Plants are using 10 Liters of Nutrient Solution Every Day!
I will upload and describe as much Pictures i have taken over the course of 2 years and 3 Greenshouses.
The current Version Will get a big feature Soon and i will talk about future upgrades, such as automation, Climate Control and Energy Management.

My very first Greenhouse.

I startet by digging a hole about 30cm deep in the Ground, because i wanted to use different Soil. The natural "Dirt" in this area had a lot of sand and would hold water pretty bad.

Unfortunatelly, i did the hole Greenhouse in one Weekend and didnt take any Photos. So i give you V1.0

For the Frame i used the cheapest wood i could get at a local Hardware Store. The Outer Layer is Fiberglas reinforced with epoxy.

-Its cheap

-its available

-its a pian to work with

I started with stainless steel Screws, to prevent rusting. But i didnt buy enouth, so i had to use regular iron Screws, wich startet to rust within 2 weeks. not great, but it was suppost to withstand nature for only one Summer.

For Ventilation i could Flip Open the Top part and i left a hole in the side for acces to my plants.

I bought 500 Liters of Growing Soil and placed my Plants. The Bamboo is in a Plastic Container , to prevent it from spreading all over the garden.

Plants from Top to Bottom:

Bamboo

Salbei ceres (german Name)

Chillis

Peppermint

Sugar cane

Waldmeister (german Name)

Tabacco

and some other herbs, i dont have the names anymore. sorry for that.

More Updates from Harvest at the end of 2015 summer comming soon

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  • The Tomatoes are ready for harvest!

    hyperkante08/16/2016 at 20:14 0 comments

    Ok last log was from middle of July.

    since then i had to cut the Tomatoes back a bit.

    First, i wanna take you on a small trip through time with me. We will see The same Tomato on different times of its life.

    The Picture above was taken on 18.July.2016 (pay attention to the left one)

    This is almost a month later: 8.August.2016

    When its ready, you get the final picture.

    New System:

    I wanted to try another way of growing and made a second system for my greenhouse. Its supposed to be a habbitat for small plants and cuttings. So i wanted something, where i can exchange plants fast and easy.

    i started with a standard bucket for 5€. It holds 45 Liter and could possibly hold a couple of fish in the future.

    Next i added this small stand, to raise another bucket over the fish. This way no fish can escape and little light can get into the water tank. Algae are no Problem, but i wanna keep it this way.

    here you see the final system. Water is filled in the lower tank and Clay pebbles are in the upper tank.

    A pump pushes the water up and through 2 water Nozzles in the Silicone tubing.

    On the bottom is a water outlet and the timer is set for 15min water on, 45min water off.

    Some peas and a tomato cuttling are growing happy.

    And finnaly some pictures of my Tomato plants:

    This was taken on 29.July.2016. It really shows, how big 5 Tomato plants can get. And this year was a bad summer (my oppinion). I guess im happy for my first try.

    This was one week ago, 8.August.2016.

    you can see a lot of green tomatoes growing virtually everywhere.

    This is taken, after the top branches of every plant were cut back. This helps the plant concentrate at growing the first tomatoes to the end and stops her from Producing new flowers and little fruits.

    The summer is ending and fruits, that start now, wont get ready before frost will end the life of the Tomato.

    Yesterday (15.August.2016) about half a kilo (440g) of black cherry tomatoes could be harvested (i ate some before)

    Today there were about half of that ready for harvest. I continue to eat them, direct of the plant, as they ripe. Maybe they look a little green and not ready, but i tryed harvesting later. They loose a liitle bit of their sugar and i like the taste better, when they are just ready.

    And untill now i only hat to exchange one of the silicone tubings, because the roots had grown into the nozzles and clogged the tube. took me about half an hour, but i still say: really small maintenance in V3.0

    Next log, i will show you my next system: Deep water culture! no more clogged nozzles!

    also i want to copmete in the automation challenge, but i lack the time to use my Arduino and the sensors i gathered. So i will push automation to a later time. (not forgotten!)

    After the tomatoes are all done, i will restart the system, insulate my greenhouse for the winter and add climate control. thats the plan for the next months. while i wait, i startet to prepare winter harvest (salat, a lot of it)

    I hope you enjoyed the update. I will try to do them more frequently.

    See you next mission

    -aka

  • Freeze Ray V1 aka 100 Watt LED Light

    hyperkante07/14/2016 at 22:55 0 comments

    As promised, today i build another LED light. I named it Freeze Ray, because of the blue LED and because the heatsink got even colder then room temperature.

    So i startet with a big ass Heatsink, i got from the scrapyard.

    I started by drilling 3.2mm holes and drilling an M4 thread into it. Later i used M4 stainless steel srews to mount the LEDs. Also mounts for the Power supply and cooling were added.

    These metal bands have perfectly sized holes for my screws and they can be bend into any shape you like. After these two, i added a third one, going across the top screws, to later mount a second power supply (12V, for cooling Fans).

    The power suplly comes from an old laptop (stripped the case and had it lying around, way overpowered for the one Fan) and the Fan is used too. Thats why i decided to mount them both with zip ties, in case i want to exchange them in the Future.

    This is the Front of the final light.

    In the middle, you see a 60 Watt blue Led 465-470nm, 8€

    outside you see 4 red emitters 10 Watt each 620-625nm, 5€ each

    the 4 red ones are in series, and that string is parallel to the big blue one.

    the first test showed 25.6°C at a roomtemperature of 26.7°C after an hour of running.

    So for everyone, who wants to build something similar: here is the Budged:

    blue led: 8€

    red Leds: 20€

    Led power supply: 27€

    Cooling Fan: about 10€ (free for me)

    Cooling power supply : about 5€ (free for me, but any cheap 12V supply will do)

    Heatsink: no idea (free from scrapyard)

    Total: 70€ (45€ for me)

    Pro tip: never forget thermal paste and there are smal thermal fuses, made for motor overheating. They open the contact at about 60-70°C and would make a great addition to your Led lamp. Just wire them in series at the AC side of your LED power supply and the LEDs go out, when they overheat (maybe Fans will fail). My next Versions will surely have this safety feature.

    see you next mission

    -aka

  • 400 Watt white LED light (Photon Blaster V3)

    hyperkante07/11/2016 at 22:43 0 comments

    Okay as promised: LEDs !!

    ok, maybe not a lot of them, but they are rated for 100Watt power consumption.

    To simulate sunlight during short winter days, i decided to build a LED light for my plants.

    I had 3 big aspects: Price, Efficiency and Cooling (LEDs do get hot!)

    ok first the Budged: a lot of growers use full-spectrum Leds. They have a combination of red,blue, IR, and UV light, specially designed for plants. BUT, they are pretty expensive (about 2-5€ per Watt)

    My chinese electronics shop of trust, sells 100 Watt led chips for under 10€ and they even have cheaper deals. But in case of a failure, it is easier to replace one 10€ led instead of testing hundreds of 1watt leds. And for my design, few big chips are easier to install. ( i allready soldered thousand of leds by hand, getting tired of it... )

    Efficiency: The spectrum of the white leds doesnt have to much of green light (wich is mostly reflected by green plants), but full spectrum LEDs waste almost no Energy.

    That said, i think the Photon Blaster is way better than a High Pressure Sodium Lamp of the same Power, because it radiates way less heat, more Lumen and can be dimmed or pulsed.

    Cooling: Since this isnt my first LED light, not even the first with these 100 Watt chips, i know these chips use some serious Cooling. There are people on the net, building Flashlights with these chips. The cooling is usually to small, but it doesnt matter because the Batteries are dead, before the Flashlight gets hot.

    In my case, the Light will be running at least 16h without cooldown. So the cooling system should be able to hold the chips cool forever. First i tried CPU cooler, because the chips are a similar size than CPUs, but they are a pain to mount. So for this build i went to the local scrapyard and got some massive Aluminium Heatsinks. For future builds i would love to try water cooling, but im still looking for cheap parts.

    ok enough talk, lets build a Light:

    In the picture above you see my big ass heatsink, the LEDs and the LED-Drivers.

    Since im re-using some of the LEDs and Drivers from the Photon Blaster V2 (R.I.P.), they are still wired together. The wiring is super simple: all AC lines together to a Standard EU-Plug and every driver has Positive and Negative Wire clearly marked. Solder them to the LEDs, while not attached to the Heatsink.

    Next i marked all my holes to drill. 3.5mm Holes were Drilled (picture below)

    The Heatsink was quite big and heavy, but i got it clamped down to drill.

    After Drilling, the holes were drilled with a M4 Thread, to hold the Leds later with some stainless steel srews. I decided to tighten the chips with only 2 screws, but i recomend all 4 screws.

    Here you can see how the chips going to get mounted. The Driver have small Heatsinks, that will be pressed against the big one. The two Leds in the middle are warm-white and the outer ones are cold-white.

    The Chips are Mounted. Dont forget Thermal Paste, or your chips are gonna have a short life.

    The LED-Driver are mounted on the side of the Heatsink. I drilled 3.5mm holes for cable ties and also attached holders for the Fans.

    M4 Screws hold a bend piece of Metal in place. Later we will attach the Fans on these holders.

    Here is a view of the Backside with all 4 Drivers in place, a 12V Power Supply (left side) will power 4 Fans.

    The Front view. Dont look directly in the LED light! These chips are spitting 9000 Lumen at you....each!

    The Cooling system consists of 4 80mm Computer Fans. All wired together, simply running on maximum RPM, whenever the Light is on. To hold them together, i used cable ties.

    Here you see the final Photon Blaster V3!

    The Fans are installed and for the first test i had a close look at the Temperature. The Heatsink stays steady at about 36°C after 1 Hour. Longterm Tests will continue.

    With a distance of about 65cm, i measured about 30.000 Lux. I Measured the Sun with about 100.000-150.000 Lux in Summer. Not quite as bright as the Sun, but maybe enouth to fool my plants....

    Read more »

  • V3.0 - The Summer Dress

    hyperkante07/01/2016 at 21:08 0 comments

    The Greenouse was Ugly.

    Thad said, i have to admit the greenhouse was changing the temperature reallllly slow. it takes almost three days to raise 10° C. Still i wanted to change the design and the looks a little.

    The FiberGlas and the Rockwool was removed. In the picture above, the old walls are gone, rockwool still in place and new walls standing loose around. A second Solar Panel was also installed (20W) and connected to my Battery pack of 2x12V, 7Ah (lead acid).

    3mm thick plates of polycarbonate make the new Walls. The Structure is reinforced with some wood.

    More Wood is added, as well as a sliding Door for better access to the plants.

    The front view with the Doors closed and the roof on top.

    The new Design keeps the light inside the Greenhouse and looks better (my opinion)


    Moving plants, that are to big

    While i was building the new home for ma tomatoes, they were growing happy. I used a Rubber Net, to hold the tomatoes down, inside my Winter-home:

    Since my Aeroponics system is connected all together, i had to move all three buckets in one run.

    5 Big Tomatoes, 1 Big Melon and Zero Help. I did all alone. The Result was devastating:

    One Tomato plant broke the stem and didnt recover fast. The others did look better only 2 days later:

    Some bamboo sticks and some wire later: The tomatoes have a strong structure to hold their weight.

    Cheap and easy to build. heres another view:

    Its hard to see, but there is a horizontal running wire every 20-30cm to form something like a ladder for the plants.

    The tomatoes liked their new home and grew big.

    This picture was taken one month after the Tomatoes moved to the Greenhouse (6.June 2016).

    it got pretty hot in the Greenhouse and the Bush is getting bigger and bigger, so i took the top off.

    Above is a close-up of the biggest Tomato fruits and some dead bugs. Taken also on 6.June.2016

    It is a black cherry Tomato, which has dark red, almost purple fruits. Got the Seeds for my Birthday.

    Taken on 14.June 2016. The Tomatoes expand in every direktion. Some of the other plants had to go, only the strongest plants were left in the system. If you look closely, you can see the roots growing out of the Bucket, through the water outlet, into the water Reservoir. Thats a Problem: when the drain gets clogged by roots the system will overflow and every plant will die. So i removed the roots from the drain tube.

    Above you see the First tomatoes on 14.june 2016 still green, not black :D

    Above is a picture from inside my grow container. You can see the roots hanging simple in Air, sprayed with Nutrient solution from the brown water nozzles. The bottom of the container is to wet, thats why the roots are darker down there. A healthy, bright root is desired by a happy plant.

    The rootsystem is the best indicator of plant-Health for every Farmer. To see it direct is a huge benefit.

    In future logs you will see:

    -Auqaponics Prototype, or : Fish poop as fertilizer

    -LEDs, LEDs and even more Leds

    -Big overview of the current state of my Greenhouse

    -Maybe a timelapse video of my tomatoes growing.(allready took hundreds of pictures with my Gopro)

    see you next mission

    aka

  • Preperation is the Mother of a big Harvest

    hyperkante07/01/2016 at 20:04 0 comments

    For the third itteration of my Greenhouse i did a lot of research in aquaponics and automatic growing, because i was bored of watering the plants by hand. My first two designs allways had problems with water leaking out of the water tank. When i used silicone to seal it, the PH of the water dropped and all plants dyed. Silicone is mixed with vinegar, which i forgot at that point.

    So i give you Aeroponics plant Bucket V3.0:

    What you see:

    2 Buckets to hold the plants. Holes were drilled in the Lid, to hold the actual pots.

    The pots have huge holes in them and are pretty cheap. I filled them with clay pebbles to give the root something to hold on to.

    The third bucket is the water reservoir. Inside you see two cheap aquarium pumps. around 5-10 Watt power.

    I used clear silicone tubing for the water flow. The end of the "water inlet" is closed and each bucket has 2 nozzles to spray water on the roots.

    The bottom of each bucket has a 2-3cm thick layer of medium sized rocks (1-3cm).

    This helps silencing the system and acts as a filter for the water.

    In the picture above, you see the water nozzles and the Rocks in the background. I think simple is good.

    The nozzles got clogged pretty often when i startet. The remaining dirt kept clogging the nozzles, so i cleaned the system and now it is running for about 3 Months without clogging.

    I startet some of my plants early in the year, with artifical lightning (Fluorescent tubes and LEDs, about 100Watt) and an Air humidifier. Some went inside the Greenhouse, some on my Window bench.

    With a cycle of 15 minutes Water ON, 15 Minutes Water OFF, and controlled water (PH,Ec,Temp) the growth took really of. The picture above was Taken on 03.April 2016.

    12 Days Later

    (15.April.2016) In the front you see Tomato plants, Nr 3 is a Sugar Melon, Nr.4 is a cucumber. In the background theres a pea growing first fruits.Again 10 Days have passed (25.April 2016) Still growing strong. i exchange the Nutrient solution every Week. (first design was running a month without exchange, for extreme testing)

    As you can see, inside the clear silicone tubing are algae starting to grow. i could have used black tubing and avoid this problem, but i have a small budget and thats just what i had at hand.


    Meanwhile on my Balcony.....

    It is still the same blue led, it has a low wavelength and my camera is making it really purple. Still blue! The plants are growing faster, as temperatures are staying in the positives (still below 10°C at night)


    What you will see in future updates:

    -upgrading my Greenhouse to a improved Summer Version (V3.0)

    -Upgrading my Solar cells, Batteries,LEDs

    -Moving my plants from Bedroom to the Greenhouse

    -First prototype of Aquaponics system (growing fish and plants together)

    -Building a bamboo constuct for the tomatoes to grow on.

    see you next mission

    aka

  • Version 2.0 - Winter is comming

    hyperkante07/01/2016 at 18:42 0 comments

    To summerise the first summer with V1.0: i made the extreme weather even more extreme!

    but all of my plants survived the harsch treatment.

    On sunny days the temperature would rise above 40°C beause i didnt had automatic airration.

    First i tried leaving the top of the greenhouse open during the day (when i was at work).

    The strong wind closed the lid a couple of times: every time my tobacco plant grew out of the greenhouse, the wind would slam the lid down and give the plant a beating :D

    Later i put a brick in the top, to make it heavy enouth to stay open during strong winds.

    That day i came home and saw the lid closed and the brick ontop of my tobacco plant.

    i didnt solve the problem, the plant was just getting beaten even more XD

    BUT STILL: the plants were growing happy and strong.

    in this picture you can see the tobacco plant Flowering. Looking pretty....for a poisonous Plant. hehe

    here you see my "yield".

    i tryed drying the leafs and smoking them. tasted not good. really not good.

    My guess is the drying or fermenting was a faillure because of low temperatures and high humidity. it took weeks to dry.

    at the end of the Summer i put some of the plants in pots and disassembled the greenhouse.


    Building V2.0

    I tryed a new design for the walls. Double Layer Fiberglas to trap air inside, which is used for Thermal insulation.

    The PVC pipe adds streangth to the structure and can be used to hide wires or to let water flow through, for Temperature control.

    The Structure consists of 3 U-shaped PVC Pipes and two Layers of FiberGlas.

    (Sidenote: i build this entire greenhouse in my living room and my design allowed me to get the 70cm greenhouse through a 50cm Door :D i had flexebility in mind)

    With Temperatures going down daily, i decided to use a 3-Layer Poly plate. It blocked UV light, but only in one direction. So i flipped the thing and didnt used that Feature.

    Some cutouts were made and the Structure keeps getting stiffer. With the PVC pipes going over the Top-Plate, the wind cant lift the top.

    Because my first greenhouse was standing on Soil (more likely IN), i used a reinforced plastic sheet to protect the balcony from water and dirt.

    Going with the Insulation Theme, i layed a sheet of Styrofoam on the ground. My Buckets would go ontop of that.

    Three big black containers were insulated with a minimum of 5cm thick Rockwool. Between the containers is also Rockwool stuffed.

    Here you can See the final Growing medium: about 3-5 cm clay correls on the bottom, then Growing soil with perlite and Fertilizer premixed.

    The PVC pipe in the corner helps me to detect water on the bottom of the container. Great tool to prevent root rotting.

    Later i upgradet the front with a piece of Wood, to loose some wiggle. I also burried a Temperature probe.

    A Week later i did the Last upgrade of V2.0- LED's !! yeah, long life the LED! all hail the LED!

    I bought a 5 Watt Solar panel and connected it with a 10 Ampere solar charger from china to a 7 AmpereHour battery.

    This 12Volt Battery is inside the grey, insulated Box and powers the 10 Watt Blue LED.

    Why blue? it is one of the most efficient wavelenghts to energize the plants leafs. i will get deeper into Light Sience and Plant Growing in a future post.


    Winter is HERE !

    I installed 2 Sockets for E27 Light bulbs. I used two 18 Watt Compact Fluorescend Light Bulbs to generate heat. Small power were choosen, because there were no climate control and good insulation. A small heat source would be enouth.

    As you can see in the picture above, it was Bright as F*** and my greenhouse was allready covered in snow. I decided to turn the light complete off and trust in my design.

    After 3 days with temperatures below -20°C my Soil Temperature was still above 3°. The top of the Plants did get some Frost, but the roots never froze.

    With low Temperatures and little light, the peas and ther radish (right side) did grow slow, but they did grow from first of January to March, when the picture above was taken.

    Because the Radish...

    Read more »

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  • 1

    This instruction will show you, how i am building my current version of my Bucket-Aeroponics System.

    Its intended to be simple, work with litte maintenance, and cheap enouth to be build by almost everyone. This is my third version of my Aeroponics systems and it is currently running on my balcony for 3 Months without problems. I only had to make the tank bigger, by simply replacing the tank-bucket with a bigger container (25L).

    How it works:

    The plant grows in a small pot, filled with Clay pebbles. This pot sits in a hole on the lid of the plastic Bucket. A pump is used to spray Nutrient solution through a Nozzle against the pot/the roots hanging out of the pot. After a while the roots of the plants start to grow out of the pot and in mid-air. That way, the roots get a huge amount of Oxygen. It is important to keep the roots moist, thats what the Timer is for: 30minutes Spraying Water on the roots, then 30minutes to Breath (and dry), then again showering. The water flows back in the Tank-bucket and is used again and again. I change the nutrient solution every Week.

    What you need:

    -3 plastic Buckets (10 Liters) with the lid. [3x1.30€+3x0,80€] == 6,30€

    -5Watt water pump (small and silent is what you want) == 15€

    -Timer (minimum cycle time: 30min, less would be better) == 2,50€

    -Water Nozzles (one shop had them for 0,20€ each, the other for 0,90€ each) 0,40€

    -Plastic net pot (i used the small ones, but there are alternatives) 0,25€

    -Clay pebbles (i only need a hand full, but they come in 45L packages) 19€

    -(1-2m) Silicone tubbing 12mm outer diameter (i had it at hand) 10€


    So our Budget for this Project should be about 55€ plus a little for plants, if you have to buy them.

    For one system it it not really cheap, but with one pump you can do up to 4(maybe 5) Systems in a row. The clay pebbles will reach for hundreds of systems. So its really scalable: with a bigger tank and pump, you could easily grow hundreds of plants with little effort.

  • 2

    ok enouth talk, lets build this thing:

    First you take one of your pots, put it in the middle of the lid and make a circle around it. Then we are gonna drill some holes....Because i use these Buckerts for everything (including my trash bin), the lid was placed on top of a bucket, to collect the dirt from drilling. The final step of the hole was done by a good 'ol knife. The pot should fit tight inside the hole, so it cant fall through, when the plant gets big and heavy.

  • 3

    Next we will prepare the water flow. I decided to use this combination of pump and tubing, because they fit without an adapter. Other combinations work also. Clear tubbing isnt the best solution, because algae will grow inside the tubes. you can prevent this by using light blocking tubes or chemicals to reduce algae growth.

    I drilled some 13mm holes at a small offset in the Buckets. The Silicone tube should have a distance of 1-3 cm to the pot. To close, and the roots will grow in the Nozzles and clogg them.

    In the picture below you can see how easy it is to scale it: just use 4-5 Buckets and make a full circle withe the Water tank in the middle.

    Now we have to make sure, the water is not just flowing on the ground, at the end of the tube.

    Just take 2-4 cm of the tube, fold it back and clamp it down with some cable ties. This way the water is forced to go out of our nozzles.

    The bucket needs a drain, to prevent overflowing. Just drill some 12mm holes in the side of the bucket. Make sure they are as close to the bottom as possible. Also the holes should be a little bit smaller than the tube, to make it seal watertight.

    If you have trouble sealing the drain, use silicone sealant and wait a couple of days, before you use the system. (or else the vinegar of the silicone will kill your plants)

    A 3-5cm layer of rocks on the bottom of the grow-bucket can act as a water filter. This prevents dirt from getting in the water tank and clogging the nozzles. Also it silences the noise of the falling water dropplets inside the grow-bucket. All you can hear is the pump running!

    The picture below shows the small plastic nozzles i use for quite a while now. I really like them. cheap , easy to use and work forever.

    You simply drill a 3mm hole in the tube and srew the nozzles in. Then drill them out again and check for silicone pieces in the nozzle. if they are free, back in.

    If they get clogged by dirt, just srew them out, blow backwards in them (i just use my mouth) and they get free pretty easy. I never had to replace a single nozzle. All working fine since the first prototypes.

    That was almost everything:

    We have the Water tank at the bottom, two pots that needs to be filled with clay pebbles and plants and a Timer to keep control.

    I used two more Buckets, filled with rocks, to raise the grow-buckets above the water tank.

    Before you start the system, make sure to clean all 3 buckets from drilling pieces and dirt. That way you wont have clogged nozzles.

    They are really the only thing you have to do maintenance on: Nozzles free? -> all fine

    For the Nutrient Solution i used osmosis water (free from foreign salts) and added a root stimulator and a little fertilizer. PH is 6.0 , EC is 1.0ms.

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