This Instructable is cool for me as I have been doing this for a few years now and love it. Along with a friend (who has years worth of hydro growing experience) we came up with this design which is low in power use, big on growing room and keeps everything clean, tidy and out of the way in your kitchen.
I hope you like it as much as we do.
Step 1: Unit Build
After doing some design work to get the desired growing room, tubs, pumps, fans etc in we tried a smaller unit which didn't work.
We decided to go with the design in the picture which is a design we both came up with for two reasons, it is the same exact size a kitchen unit and contains everything needed.
I went about cutting the panels from 9mm external plywood, I then used a black spray to paint them the desired colour and made the holes for the fans and cabling required.
The door, we decided would be best as a drop in fit so it could be removed to clean and drain and not get in the way.
The cut-out in the front door is actually a viewing panel. We spoke to and worked carefully with a company who supplied a material that allowed just the right part of light spectrum through without being detrimental to the growing. That works for "Whatever" you grow in there ;-)
Step 2: Lighting and Air Movement
Being that this unit is a low power unit it was clear from the start we wanted to use an LED array instead of the usual CFL. Sodium or Plasma were not suitable for this build.
We installed carefully chosen fans to input and exhaust air in to the unit which will run 24hrs a day. The LED array is mounted in a space in the top of the unit which has a cut-out to allow only the light to come through. The LED lamp is an array of 5W LEDs of specific types. Please note that not all grow lamps are made equal. I tried cheap ones, expensive ones and even some strange ones but in the end went with the ones below. Use the LED specs below and compare them to the lamp you are buying for success.
The LED's in the 90W UFO are as follows:
6 x 5w Deep Red leds, 13 x 5w Red leds, 3 x 5w Blue leds, 1 x 5w Orange led, 3 x 5w White leds, 1 x 5w UV led and 1 x IR led at just the right spectrum required for efficient plant growth.
You could also use the new style COB (Chip on-Board) style lamps. The 100w lamp consists of:
Deep Red: 660nm x 28 leds, Orange: 640nm x 16 leds, Violet: 440nm x 8 leds, Blue: 460nm x 4 leds, Light Blue: 470nm x 4 leds, Green: 525nm x 2 leds, Hyper Red: 730nm x 2 leds
The light given off by the new style COB lamps as a much deeper purple and as of yet they appear to be just as effective. This tells me the exact LED requirements is still undecided by manufacturers.
Please ignore the clear tub in the picture, that was testing something specific. (It didn't work lol)
Step 3: Tubs
After buying and trying many different types of growing tub, I settled on a tub that holds 5kg worth a screws. I didn't want to use the typical black buckets as they were too large for my needs so I covered the base of the screw tub with duck tape to stop the UV light affecting the water.
If you use a clear tub to grow in, the UV light allows and encourages algae to grow which if you're not careful can kill your plants in only a few days.
Step 4: Pumps and Wiring and Feed
Now the pumps and wiring involved are also in the top section of the grow unit. Safe to say, there is an air pump mounted in the top section which keeps the water agitated (bubbler system) and I needed to make sure it wasn't too loud as I didn't want to hear it running.
After going through almost a dozen different pumps I ended up using a Hailea ACO-9610, this is a 4 port air pump and I just used some extra small pieces of pipe to shut off the unused outlets. It was placed on small section of anti-vibe foam making sure not to block the air inlet in the pump
For the fans, I wanted to make sure all the fans were adjustable individually so a 4 Fan, 3.5" Bay Panel Fan Adjuster was used. This is powered using the molex in a PC which meant we needed to get molex in there somehow. Back on the internet and I got an external molex power supply. The Fan panel was then plugged in to that and then the fans in to that. That was it, 3 plug sockets were needed in total, one for the lamp, one for the fans and one for the pump.
After trying to keep the fans as small as possible but shifting the right amount of air, 120mm PC fans were used as an inlet and outlet fan. There was also an issue with the top section overheating due to the lamp. This mean a 80mm fan was used in the top section, sucking the hot air out. This worked perfectly. The fans were Arctic F12's and the small one was an Arctic F8. Each one had the temperature sensor removed by me, lovely and quiet and nice and cheap.
There were a couple of extra cables used to the get the fans where I wanted them, cheap fan extension cables for PC's were used and cost less than £2 each.
Now the subject off Hydro feed is a tough one as everyone likes to use their own concoction and brands etc. I used a Hydro Carboload for the tomatoes, Growth Technology for the Grow, Bloom and Silicone. Each feed or make has a different feeding regime but I fed mine once a week (same day every week) whilst doing a water change. When you top up the water throughout the week DO NOT use any feed in the water solution, just top up with pH'd water. The top-up water needs to be pH'd to suit your plants as does all water used in these types of grow set-ups. Ideally too the water should have sat for 2-3 days to allow the chlorine to dissipate.
You can use manual or electronic pH meters to pH your solution, I was lucky enough to borrow an electronic one.
Step 5: Up and Running
As you can see from the pictures, the unit worked beautifully. As I was growing Tomatoes, Chillis and Small Peppers I used 3x50mm net pots and rockwool cubes which were soaked and treated prior to sowing. They all started growing very fast and had beautiful green leaves and healthy roots too.
There is a plastic chop stick on a hole as one of the net pots wanted to move at the start. It was removed later on as the roots took hold.
Step 6: Growing Success
As the growing phase went on, the plants got bigger and bigger and the tomato soon needed to be trimmed. I rotated the tub every few days but as toms grow faster than chilli and pepper I knew it would take over. After trimming the branches the plant started to do what toms do and that was to throw out flowers everywhere!
Before I knew it I had tomatoes growing. This was all within 6 weeks but as I had trimmed it the plant was growing upwards instead of outwards.
Over the years I have grown and tended Bonsai trees and with those, to keep the trees small the roots are trimmed. This isn't something that can be done in this case so the adjustments had to be done to the plant itself. Carefully I may add.
After a few more weeks the tomatoes really came on as you can see in the pictures. Lush little green tomatoes were everywhere. The Chillis and Peppers were not flowering at that time but they were not too far from it.
Step 7: Stuff Was Growing
As you can see, everything started to grow and sprout. The colors were beautiful and deep, the leaves and plants were deep green and healthy and the fruit was all gorgeous.
During this time new flowers were being produced all over the plants but to keep the current flurry healthy I cut them back. I didn't want to ruin my first grow in this unit.
Step 8: Tomatoes Were Ready
The tomatoes were picked and gave me in total 2kg. After I picked them I actually cut the tomato plant down to the base to allow the Chili and Pepper plants to carry on uninterrupted. What actually happened was the tomato plant started to re-grow FAST so I have to keep it short so as not to affect the root system.
Step 9: Chillis and Peppers END
After a couple more weeks, the Chillies and Peppers were ready to pick. I managed to keep the Pepper plant small, I could have left them to get bigger but wanted to start a new grow.
As you can see from the pictures, the colors and amazing and they were so healthy. There was over 1kg of Chillies and Peppers by the time the grow was finished/
I was so happy with how it all ended up, the beautiful fruit and all grown in my own kitchen using LEDs.
I hope you liked my Hydroponics grow and hope you try it yourself.
I have plans to make a much taller version and even a triple bay version with different growing patterns and lighting per bay. Very exciting.