Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lighting Setup for your Indoor Hydroponic Garden

There are many differnet choices when it comes to artificial sunlight for your indoor Hydroponic Garden. I am currently using two standard fluorescent light bulbs that can bought at any store that sells lights. Fluorescent lights are ideal for IHG's as they are extremely energy efficient, generate a lot of light for their size, and do not generate a lot of heat - taking out the possibility of burning your plants. Of course, if you are going to be a serious gardener and grow multiple plants it is a good idea to invest in some specialized grow lights that will generate large amounts of lumens (the measure by which lights are described as far as artificial sunlight is concerned). The more lumens per square foot of garden, the better! It's just like air in you DWC system, you can never have too much. In this post i will present the best kind of light for your money, making your Hydroponic Garden as cost and energy efficient as it can be.

An important way to contain light is to place the gardening system inside a relatively small, enclosed space (like a large closet or specially designer "grow room"). The walls of the "grow room" should be painted matte white, or, preferably lined with reflective materials such as mirrors - aluminum foil is one method that people use, yet it is not a very ideal since it is more of a temporary fix.

Another important factor to consider is the spectrum of the lights which you are buying. As plants naturally grow outdoors where the sunlight changes in many ways (from the length of the day to the spectrum of light emitted), it is necessary to consider theses factors as you purchase lights. For my small indoor garden (consisting of two 5 Gallon DWC systems), i have recently purchased three 8U fluorescent lights - two in the "red" spectrum (2700K) and on in the "blue spectrum" (6500K). It is important to use more light from the blue spectrum during the vegetative phase than it is to use light from the red spectrum. During flowering, both spectrums of light can be used, although more light from the red spectrum will yield better produce for all species of plants.

8U Fluorescent Lights - The Best Option for Energy Efficiency and Growth

After many weeks of research, i have come to the conclusion that high intensity 8U Fluorescent lights are the best option for plant development. They are not too expensive (around $50 per light) and are sold as "self ballasting" lights (meaning that it is not necessary to purchase a separate ballast to run the light). Each bulb produces an incredible 19,500 lumens and does not generate a lot of heat in the process - meaning that you can place the lights as close to the plants as you'd like without having to worry about burning the produce. Placing lights close to plants will encourage extremely fast growth - as much as 3-4" a day in some cases! Posted at left is a picture of these bulbs. Each bulb runs at 250w of energy, saving you a lot of money on your energy bill compared to other forms of artificial lighting.

In conclusion, the 8U Fluorescent lights are definitely the best option for a small, home gardening system. If you are gardening as a hobby or just for the taste of home-grown vegetables, the 8U lights will serve the purpose and not break the bank in the process! Check back for more information on Hydroponic Gardening for the hobbyist and for updates on pictures of my crops.

Hydroponic Gardening for the Beginner

Although i have always been a part-time gardener, i have recently decided to take mother nature into my own hands and try this upcoming method of Hydroponic Gardening. From my research i have found that a plants life cycle is significantly reduced, as it is possible to control the stages of a plants life. With the use of artificial sunlight (there are many different types of lights that work for growing pants, but the simplest and most energy efficient are definitely Fluorescent Lights) it is possible for the gardener to control the length of time it takes for the plant to go through the vegetative and flowering stages. This blog post is a simple introduction to the world of Hydroponic gardening using the simplest of all systems, a DWC (Deep Water Culture) system, built using simple household products. Here is a list of materials that you will need to construct your simple DWC system for under $25!

A standard 5 gallon Bucket with a lid (preferably black, as Algae is prone to grow in buckets that are translucent).
A standard aquarium pump with two air outlets (a 5-15 Gallon size is appropriate, but anything bigger won't do any damage! )

Length of aquarium pump tubing suitable to your setup
Two blue air pump rocks (the plastic blue stones that attach to the tubing from the air pump and evenly disperse the air). Now in the picture displayed is the ideal kind of air-stone to purchase because it sits perfectly in the bottom of the 5 Gal Bucket, though they are slightly more pricy and are not sold at stores such as Walmart, You'll have to visit a specialized store or my good friends at The LA Shop.

One large mesh bucket, or three small mesh buckets (bought from a hydroponic store or from an online dealer)

One bag of Hydrton expanded clay pebbles.

One large or three small blocks of Rockwool (the fluffy medium used to anchor the plants in the Hydroton pebbles and start seedlings)

A set of Hydroponic nutrients (I recommend General Hydroponics's set of "Grow, Micro, and Bloom")

The DWC method of hydroponic Farming is so effective because of its ability to constantly provide the roots of the plants with plenty of Oxygen. The nutrients will be necessary to put in the water of the bucket in which the roots of the plants will be suspended (as hydroponic systems do not require soil as a medium for growth). With all of these materials, follow the instructions below to construct your simple design:

1. Drill either one hole (for the large mesh bucket) or three holes (for the smaller mesh buckets) in the lid of the 5 gallon bucket. make sure that the holes are not so big that the mesh buckets fall through, you want the lip of the mesh bucket to sit snug in the hole.

2. Cut the length of tubing into two equal halfs so they reach from the pump to the bottom of the bucket. Drill two holes as close to the top of the bucket as possible (in the ridge where the lid goes) so they are big enough for the plastic tubing to fit through. Push one end of each tube into air pump and push the other ends through the holes in the bucket. Insert the ends of the tubing that are in the bucket into the blue air stones, but do not turn the pump on yet!

3. Clean out the bucket with warm water and soap and insert the mesh bucket(s) into their holes. Strain and wash the hydroton clay pebbles and put a thin layer into the bucket(s). Place the Rockwool cube into the mesh bucket and then fill the gaps between the rockwool and sides of the mesh bucket with more washed hydroton pebbles. (your seed will be placed into the rockwool cube for germination)

4. Remove the lid and fill the bucket with lukewarm water so that the water level is just above the bottom of the mesh buckets. Plug in the air pump and then add the necessary nutrients (see the table below for a perfect all-around General Hydroponics nutrient solution)

Vegetative Stage (ml per Gallon)
GH "Grow" - 0ml "Micro" - 5ml "Bloom" - 10ml
Flowering Stage
GH "Grow" - 0ml "Micro" - 6ml "Bloom" - 16ml

Here are two pictures of my current DWC system with a pansy flower in it. Amazingly, this plant is only 2 and a half weeks old! So far the magic of the Hydroponic system is pretty amazing. The second picture is a view from the top, showing the mesh buckets and hydroton pebbles. As you can see, i chose to use 3 small mesh buckets to hold more plants for the 5 Gallons of water.

This concludes the tutorial on how to make your DWC bucket system. It is a good idea to run the pump for 24 hours a day, although it is not necessary. just remember, the more oxygen the better!

Check back soon to get more information on Lighting and PH level monitoring.

Google AdSense

Hoorah! Today is a good day. This morning i found that i had been approved by Google AdSense, and therefore, am now making money from my hobby of blogging. This is a great addition to my blog and was not difficult to set up. Simply follow the tips that were in my last post and you should be approved in no time. Good luck and happy bloging!