Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Perking Up!

Memorial Day is for remembering our loved ones fallen in combat in our nation's conflicts and also those who have served in the armed forces, especially those sent in harms way. They used to plant tree, still do I expect, to honor and remember.
I thought I'd put up a picture of the float system today. As you can see if you compare this picture with the one from a couple of posts ago, the plants have grown a bit. I'm still running the system at a CF=19. The next time I fool with it I'll take it up to about 22 or so. There are two pumps in the system. One is driving the central fountain which is there to cause water to drop into the pool and oxygenate the water. The other is just circulating the water to keep it moving. So far it is working well.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Quick Post

Not too much to say. I rototilled a patch about 15'x15' in the back yard and planted all the rest of the stuff a few days ago. The float system is working well. I checked the nutrient level a while ago and it was CF=17 so I added a quarter cup which should bring it up to about CF=19, but was too lazy to check. The tulip tree keeps dropping blooms and these little strips onto the system where they either get into the nutrient and mess up the pumps by getting stuck on the intakes or they settle on the top of the floats. I take them off but I need to come up with a better strategy for this.

I'm still thinking about the support structure for when the plants start to get large. Right now I'm thinking about tapping thin wall conduit into the ground as a post and then using T-fixtures in PVC make a little PVC fence that the plants can grow out to and hang over. I'll show it in a photo when I get a round to actually building it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rototilling and Floating

We have a little baby rototiller we got to do some conventional gardening. I assembled it yesterday and fired it up and tore up some of the back yard to plant some corn and squash and such, mostly the "such" will be the rest of the tomato plants that are currently still in rockwool cubes since I planted ten tomato plants in the float system.

It rained some today, not too much. I checked the system this afternoon and except for the darn tulip tree flowers dropping off and onto the system everything seems to be flourishing. The CF was 17 without adding any nutrient, so all is well. I'll probably take it up to about 20 soon. And take it up higher later. I've usually run at a CF of about 24 when the plants are mature.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 1: OK So Far!

Day 1: Went out to check the system since it rained last night. The CF was 14. CF stands for Conductivity Factor by the way and it is a measurement of the ion content in the water from the hydroponics plant nutrients which are all chemical salts (a salt is just a chemical compound that disassociates in water like common table salt although that would not be a good plant nutrient).

I added a circulation pump to the pool since I don't want to get mosquitoes. A few years back when I ran a tub float system with just aquarium aeration I got little squiggly mosquito larvae wiggling around in the nutrient and that really turned me off. I figure with a robust pump circulating the water that might not be a problem. It was funny though because the circulation caused the floats to start turning too.

I added a quarter cup of white and blue nutrient concentrate to bring the CF up to 16. The plants looked a little beaten down. We're planning to rototill a plot for a conventional garden in the backyard and grow corn, squash, and the rest of the tomato plants that are currently growing on the screened in deck in rockwool cubes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Float System Deployment

Well I've been watching my seedlings grow for some time now and we've had some unseasonably chilly days, although none below freezing, and now it is past the normal time where you risk a freeze so today we deployed the Summer 2010 float system. The idea is simple enough build a simple float system in a kiddie pool and put the plants in it. The kiddie pool is only a little over three feet in diameter, I cut the floats (actually Jessica did the cutting) 34" in diameter and the center region is about six inches in diameter. Because the pool is larger at the top than the bottom the float has a lot of lateral movement when the pool is full.

STEP 1 put down a pad with concrete tiles (we did this because we had the tiles from another project, generally I'd just put it on the ground but this was nicer.).

STEP 2 was to cut the floats out of 4'x2' pieces of 2" thick Styrofoam. That was very easy. We cut them to a diameter of 34", each a 17" radius using a marker and a string as a jury-rig compass. The cut a hole in the center for the waterfall.

That was pretty easy. You can see the pump with the water feature in the center. The idea is to splash some water back into the pool to oxygenate the water. We'll see how well that works by how well the plants thrive.

STEP 3 was to drill holes in the Styrofoam which wasn't too hard but you had to come at it from both sides because the Styrofoam was thicker than the hole cutter. A nail to line it up from the other side solved that problem. So "Vala!" then dropped little plants from my stash in little plastic cups with the bottom mostly cut out so the roots could escape into the nutrient. Then I brought the conductivity up to a CF=14 since the plants are still young. I'll adjust that in future, and here's the finished system.