I live in a flat but wanted a way to grow some herbs and plants for cooking. I had a small window box in which i grew a handful of herbs but wanted more and for it to be a bit easier to take care of. because the pots were small they require daily watering but were often neglected.
So I did some research and came across a hydroponic system, there was already a large amount of prototypes being tested and this website was very helpful, check them out!! http://our.windowfarms.org/
After completing I added a few LEDs to suppliment the lack of sun-light in Scotland during the colder months.
If you like the project please vote for me in the contests please. It's at the top right of the screen. Thnaks
Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed
Materials for contruction
- aquarium air pump (I used the EHEIM 200, with 2 separate outlets, for a large garden I would recommend a double outlet pump)
- 4/6mm silicon tubing 10+m length (varies with height of desired garden)
- 7/9mm silicone tubing 1+m length (varies with distance to reservoir)
- one way valve for 4/6mm tubing x4 (get one that is easy to take apart! they clog up after a while and will need to be cleaned)
- T joint connector for 4/6mm tubing x11 (varies with number of layers wanted, add/subtract one for each layer added/reduced)
- T joint connector for 7/9mm tubing x1
- 3mm galvanised steel rope 5m (varies with height of desired garden)
- steel rope clips x10 (2 for each layer wanted, though not neccesary, if on a budget can do with string)
- 4mm steel rope end fitting x4 (again if on a budget steel rope thimble clipswill do)
- screw in hooks x4
- 2 to 10ltr bucket for reservior (I got mine from my local curry restaurant, they typically order ingredients in these buckets and just throw away)
- bucket to hold plants x5 (Igot mine from IKEA they already have hadles to hang them from and are very convinient link: http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/6020208...
- 200x450x17mm ply wood (thick enough to screw the hooks in to)
- 6 and 9 mm drill bits
- shears/metal saw something to cut steel rope
- clay pebbles, growing material
- plant feed for hydroponics
- 10cm diameter plastic pots x15
Step 2: Good Bit of Drilling
- drill three 6mm holes evenly spaced in 4 of the IKEA plant buckets along the wall, so that hey are in line with the plant pots to be placed.
- drill a 9mm hole in the centre along the edge of the other IKEA plant bucket, this is for the return hose to the reservoir
- drill two 6mm holes around the middle of your reservoir bucket
- cut a hole 9+mm wide in the lid of the reservoir
- cut out two sheets of ply wood, one to the dimensions 450x70 and the other to 450x10
- drill a few pilot holes through the ply wood. I made 2 for the narrower piece that is for the base and 10 for the one at the top (a bit of an over kill)
- drill 2 pilot holes in each board for the hooks 400mm apart along the centre line
- screw in 2 of your larger hooks into the wider piece, which will be screwed into the ceiling. and smaller hooks on to the narrower board which will be screwed in at the base. make sure you screw them in as deep as they will go. will make clear why later.
Step 3: Hooking It Up
So now for getting things in place! first off you need to know what length to cut the steel rope to. I did this by using a bit of sting.
- tie a ring at one end of the string and hook it on to the ceiling hook
- then dangle the narrow board off its hook to the other end and tie a knot so the board is a little shy of touching the floor.
- repeat this for the other end too. the string is now the length you need the steel rope to be.from eyelet to eyelet
- this now also allows you to locate where the narrow board will be fastened
- Keeping in mind of the distance that will be added by the steel rope end fittings, cut the rope to 5-10mm shorter than the measured distance.
- NB: when cutting the rope it is easier and cleaner if you first wrap the rope tightly with some electrical tape where you are going to make the cut. it helps in keeping the rope together.
- attach the rope ends to one end of each rope
- feed the IKEA bucket holders on to the rope. (make sure you thread the rope through the hole the same way for them all as shown in the diagram.)
- once you've threaded all the holders on you can now attach the other two rope ends, hook the base (narrow) board to the end of the ropes and fasten it in to place.
- you do not want the rope to be very taut, you can adjust the tautness of the rope by loosening the hooks to the board on the narrow board. this is why we made the rope a little shorter than needed.
- now attach the rope clamps just below the height you want each bucket to rest, the bucket holders will rest on these. use a spirit level to make sure each bucket is perfectly flat.
- do not worry that the plant buckets will be tilting when you put them in. once plants are in them the weight of it will make it more flat. Plus the tilt allows for the water to be properly drained
Step 4: Hose Up
So algae grows EVERYWHERE,, so its important to blacken out all the hoses that will be exposed to sunlight, to prevent algae from blocking them up. you can do this either by painting the hoses of covering them with electrical tape etc.
Creating a tight seal for the hoses
- Cut the ends of the T-joint that corresponds to the hose you want to create a tight seal with
- press the T-joint end into the end of the hose, so then ends are flush
- now feed the hose in to the hose you want to attach the hose to. The section with the T-joint insert now create a seal when pulled in tight.
- for the hoses attached to the bottom of the reservoir and the bottom plant bucket I used some sealant, just to be safe, super glue can also be used.
- for the hoses attached to the IKEA plant buckets try and attach the hose as close to flush as you can.
refer to the diagram for all the hoses that need to be cut. When placing the parts there are a few important heights that need to be considered (Marked in red on the diagram)
- The base of the bottom plant bucket must be above the top of the reservoir
- the air pump must be above the top of the reservoir
- The T-joint that connects the reservoir, pump and the hose to the plants MUST be below the reservoir. This height difference will differ depending on your the min pressure required for your one-way valves and the height of you window garden.
- higher the min pressure for the one-way valves = higher height difference
- greater height difference between the reservoir and the top of the window garden = higher height difference
For my garden the height difference between the base of the reservoir and the top hose is 2.2m and I decreased the back pressure needed for the one way valve by in creasing the slit in the valve with a stanley knife (more explanation in Tweaks section) and I have the T-junction placed about 350mm below the base of the reservoir.
Step 5: Tweeking, Maintenance and Repairs
If your window garden is tall you may need to do some adjustments to make it work properly. first a quick explanation how this system works (refer to figure for ref):
- when the system is set and the pump is off the water in the tubes rests at the level of the reservoir.
- when the pump is turned on, air is pumped pushing the water up towards the plants (remember that there is a one-way valve on the tubes to the reservoir)
- once the air passes the T-junction an air column forms behind the water column and rises towards the plants
- water then flows from the reservoir forming short columns of water and air continuing the process.So there are a few important things to keep in mind to get the system working properly
Here are 2 tricks I have used to make the system work properly.
1. Increasing the flow from the reservoir
you can do this by increasing the slit on the one way valve using a stanley knife
2. Reducing the air pumps flow rate.
Although the pump's flow rate is adjustable, I found it was still a bit too high, so three was no time for the water column to form so it can be pushed up to the plants. I did this by taking the pump apart (look at pictures for ref.) to get access to the valve that controls the flow rate. I then placed a tiny piece of tissue in the valve. this reduced the flow rate enough.
Once a month I give the one-way valves to the reservoir a clean. some dirt can return from the plants and clog up the valves , or if some algae grows in the tubes