Day 47- April 2, 2012

Our water level, pH, and plants are still hanging in there.  I have yet to decide whether or not to pull out some of our smaller growth.  We added some more nutrient solution to our water and checked our pH again. 


The tallest plant comes in at 4.5in.

Day 42 – March 28, 2012

Our peppers growing pretty rapidly. 


Sturdy plants growing taller

 Our plants are still growing.  Our pH was pretty high today (basic) and so we added some pH down solution.  We decided to add some water to our system before leaving it for the weekend.  Our water level has been easily managed because of how deep our system is. 

View from above

As you can see by looking at the picture to the left, two of our plants are growing obviously faster than the other two.  We have yet to figure out why, but are still experimenting with our tubing.  I the water from the tube was pouring more directly into the two smaller plants, while “leaking” into the two larger plants.  So, I backed the rate of water flowing directly into the plants down.

Day 40 – March 26, 2012

Our system has been maintaining a steady pH between 5.5-6.5, which is pretty awesome- we’ve been lucky with that.  Our plants are growing slowly but surely.  On average, peppers can take anywhere between 70-90 days to harvest.  Unfortunately for us, this means they may not be ‘harvestable’ until after the semester ends. 


A healthy pH
 
Richie here is modeling our pH level.  Notice he’s holder the ‘older’ pH testing solution.  We found that using the older of the two available solutions caused a different pH reading every time we tested.  Since then, we have switched to using the newest of the two for a more accurate reading. 

Two leaves growing out of a seed

 We planted a couple different germinated seeds into each support group (the rockwool and our recycled laundry caps) as to not rely on just four plants.  In doing so, we’d be able to remove the weakest of the plants and allow strong growth of the stronger one.  So far, our two adjacent plants are fairing the best. 


Adjacent plants fairing the best

 I am unsure why this is happening, but I suspect differences in rate of flow through the tubing at its different exits.  We will have to experiment with our valves to see if we can find a solution to provide proper nurtrients to all of our plants.

Day 33 – March 19, 2012

We returned from spring break to find our plants growing tall!

We were eager to check our pH and make the necessary adjustments.  Our pH was very low at first, quite acidic.  Because of this, we added a basic substance to bring our pH back up to a neutral 6/7.
Growing tall!

Day 28 – March 14, 2012

As mentioned, we germinated three different sets of seed to insure we planted the first to germinate.  Two of our options were peppers, bell or wax.  The third seeds were cucumbers.  Though the cucumbers were the fastest to germinate, we weren’t sure how our system would support their weight.  As cucumbers grow, they sprawl horizontally. When compared to the horizontal height gained by a pepper plant, our system could not support a cucumber plant.  Not to mention, the weight of a cucumber vs. the weight of a pepper.

Be as it may, whether the seeds planted are wax or bell peppers, we will have to wait until harvest for their variety to be known.  It will be a fun surprise.

Our recycled laundry detergent caps will hold the rockwool holding our plants.  Rockwool is a medium we will be using to support the root system of our plants.  In doing so, soil becomes obsolete.  With our delicate seeds germinated, we wanted to be sure we didn’t interupt their growth by carelessly adding them to our system.  With the use of a pencil, we dug shallowly into the rockwool, making a safe “place holder” for our small plants.  By doing so, we created an environment where the seed will not be carried away by the flow of water.


Small plants safely in their "place holders"

 

Before leaving for Spring Break, we decided to leave our system on campus to insure no damage would be caused by a change in environment. Because our system holds a substantial amount of water, we thought it would be fine to leave behind. We checked and balanced our pH, wished our plants well and called it a day.

Day 20 – March 6, 2012

Our system is just about ready for planting.  Should everything go as planned, we will be planted before spring break.

We placed our system under a metal halide lamp.  This type of light provides the following benefits to our system: they are energy efficient, and provide long-lasting natural light.


Our placement under the lighting system

We turned on our system and loaded it up with water, and approximately 3 gallons can be maintained.  After mixing up our nutrient solution of ____, we poured it into our system to allow it to begin circulating through the tubing and the water pump.  This mixture of nutrients provides many benefits to our drip system, such as: ______.

Day 7 – February 22, 2012

Through the selection of three different types of seeds, we have begun our germinating process.  We decided on growing wax peppers, however are germinating wax peppers, bell peppers, and cucumbers.  The variation allows us to take advantage and plant the fastest to germinate seed.  Germination will take place enclosed in a plastic bag with a moist paper towel and placed in the sun. 


Cucumber seeds Germinating After germination, when the seedlings are large enough to sustain growth, they will be placed into rockwool in our recycled laundry detergent caps within our system. Positioning the tubing for placement of drip
 

The building process of our system has continued to move on steadily.  We have all of our pieces in tact and have since done trial runs for leaks. 


Finding the right Rate of Water

 

After repairing any leaks, we loaded up the system with water to test the rate at which water will flow through the tubing to the plants.  The tubing is equipped with an adjustable rate of water flow valve.

Day 5 – February 20, 2012

We have modified our design to include a water pump, for a hydroponic “drip” system.  After conducting some research we discovered that the vegetables we intend to grow, peppers, will not fair the best in a deep water hydroponic system.  Therefore, we’ve upgraded our system with both a water and an air pump.  Because our design is quite simple and versatile, little will be done to alter it during the construction process.  With the addition of a fifth smaller hole in the center of the piece responsible for holding the plants in place, we are able to run both the tubing and the electric cord up and out through the center. 


Organization of Tubing & Water Filter Trial

Because we have changed the design from a deep water system to a drip system, some other small changes have occured.  Instead of having a ‘float’ (a piece of buoyant material) to rise and fall with the change in water depth, we now have a stationary piece of acyrilic that sits an inch below the top edge.  In doing so, any overflow of water will then return to the reservoir.

Day 1 – February 15, 2012

Through the use of an 8 step technological process, we must design and construct an inexpensive, compact, and portable hydroponic system.  The system must be aesthetically pleasing and capable of producing a fast growing vegetable, ready for harvest in 70 days (10 weeks).


Planning & Measuring

We began the design and construction process.  According to given specifications, we have designed a 9 x 8 1/4 x 12 in. hydroponic deep water system.  The system includes only an air pump for aeration of nutrient water, and allows for minimal maintenance.  Let the constructing begin!