Hydroponics NOW! (Part 2 of a thread on the Doomstead Diner Forum)

Off the keyboard of Peter

Hydroponics NOW! (Part 2 of a thread on the Doomstead Diner Forum)
Part 1 of article… Here Forum Topic… Here

Peter:

Quote from: RE on November 28, 2012, 06:08:53 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

It is usually impossible to prune the roots in my case because the leaf canopy also quickly becomes intertwined. The edges of the 1 inch holes are also sharp and trying to stuff a large root mass back in causes lots of damage. The roots that get torn off because they are intertwined with other plants will die and rot potentially causing blockages and flooding. A tiny bit of Hydrogen Peroxide added to the nutrient solution helps decompose such material.

Quote from: Golden Oxen on November 28, 2012, 06:41:11 PM
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.

RE:

Have you tried growing any perennials like Avocado or Banana Trees? That would be awesome.
RE

Peter:

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.

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.

Peter:

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.

Surly1:

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.

Peter:

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 blossoms 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.

WHD:

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:

Peter:

WHD: 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.

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.

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 power bill 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

 

 

To be continued in Part 3…. (link will be added once available) Forum Topic… Here

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