Beginner Hydro Growing Pains

by Austen
(Lubbock, TX)

Hello, I love this site and it has inspired me to get started with hydro. Thanks for taking time to answer some of my previous questions but now that I have had a week of ups and down
with my new garden, I have some additional questions.

So far I have built a DWC (lettuce raft) and an ebb and flow setup for tomatoes, my lettuce, black seeded simpson, and my gardener's delight cherry tomatoes have sprouted and are about an inch tall with tiny true leaves starting to form. I have a 400w MH lamp which I dimmed down to 50% and tried out for 2 days. Day one was ok, cuz I came home at lunch and misted the plants. Day 2 I did not mist at lunch, and I came home in the evening to several sad lettuce plants which had been baking and dried out too much even tho they were 22” from the lamp.

Since then I switched to a single 2' grow fluorescent which runs cool and I keep it about 3" away from plants. They are recovering nicely but I need to do something about the heat from that MH lamp.
My thermometer says 81-84 most of the time the MH is on, reaching near 90 tho without room fan on. However, from what I understand, 77 is the optimal temp for many veggies, is this right?

Another problem with the MH is it's super bright! The 11x10' room I have the setup in is lit up like daylight, and this room doubles as my study so it is kinda obnoxious. I understand that plants like tomatoes benefit from having 12 hrs of complete darkness to trigger flowering, and that may be a problem giving them darkness when I have to use the study to... study. So to resolve the light issue I have ordered the grow tent you see here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00H9O6UJ0/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I also traded in my light for a 600w MH with enclosed glass reflector and vent holes
for 6" ducting. I am planning to set up the light with an inline fan sucking air from inside the tent, thru the lamp and out to the study, which I will keep open to the rest of the apartment. With a fan on low, and no MH light, temps in the room will usually stabilize around 77-78, so I'm hoping I can at least cool down the grow tent even if the room stays a bit warmer than normal.

So I have a few questions.

1. My air flow is as follows: Surroundings>grow tent>left side of lamp>right side of lamp>inline fan>surroundings. Fan will be sucking, not blowing (snickers allowed). Will my ducting plan be sufficient to keep my plants around 77-80 F?

2. How soon can I put seedling under my MH dimmed to 300w, and how far should I hang the light above the canopy?

3. My next question is specific to the ebb and flow setup. How do you change the reservoir water when you have 4-6 large plants in a tray sitting on top of the reservoir container? I cannot just remove the tray and sit it down cuz it has plumbing running out the bottom. I could build a small stand for the tray out of pvc, I guess, but I am trying to avoid more expenses. I have already spent enough, lol! Plus then I will have to build one to raise the lettuce raft up too.

So this concludes my novel, thanks so much if you even read this far! I look forward to your helpful comments and opinions.

Kindest Regards
-A.H.

Comments for Beginner Hydro Growing Pains

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Jul 23, 2014
Wow, lotta questions!
by: Stella

Hi Austen,
Glad you're getting started on your new hydro adventure.
Here's my best answers to your questions...

Heat has always been a problem for hydroponics, especially when using HID lamps. You must have good ventilation/exhausting in order to get rid of the heat generated by those hot lamps.

The absolute best way to use HID indoors is to do what you did and buy an encased lamp with duct work and an inline exhaust fan to move the heat out of the grow chamber. If your room temperature is 77-78° and you use a ducted lamp, I would think you should be able to keep your plants comfortable in a 78-82° range without problems. Acceptable range for hydroponics is 65 to 85°. Winter crops like broccoli, onions and lettuce do well in cooler temps, whereas tomatoes, peppers etc. do fine in the warmer range.

You do not need HID for lettuce rafts; you can use fluorescents (preferably T-5s). These can be quite close to the plants, like 3-4", without burning them.

As to why your seedlings dried up, you have to gradually get any seedlings used to a 400 W lamp by gradually lowering the lamp. You have to start out with the lamp 3 or 4 FEET above the plants or you will burn them/dry them out. Then gradually lower them a little bit each day.

As far as timing of the lamps, you keep your light on for 16 to 18 hours during the growth stage and then you drop it to 12 hours on/12 hours off during budding/flowering and fruiting stage.

As far as draining your hydroponic nutrient reservoir, you can buy a cheap battery-operated pump that has tubing to transfer the solution into buckets. They have these on eBay for about $18, they are commonly used to transfer fuel from gas cans, but they work great for hydroponics. (Don't ever use them for gas tho). Or you can do it the old-fashioned way, siphon with a hose. Simon tells you are really cool way to drain your reservoir on this page [look for the yellow KISS box]:
Nutrients

You can read up/refresh your knowledge on HID lamps on this page: HID Lighting

Hope this has helped, Austen, and don't forget to have fun and enjoy your new hobby.

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