Introduction: How to Setup and Run a Hydroponics System

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My  family and I  have a greenhouse,  and each year we usually set up tomatoes and basil,  sometimes other veg like Chiles.
I thought I would share some knowledge on how we do it.
It is remarkably simple !

Step 1: What You Need

You will need:
A fountain pump
Tubing
Big Plastic Pipes long and wide enough to hold plants - we use 4" (100mm) soil pipe
A Large tub - water tank
Clay beads
Plants
Plastic Net pots (Or ones with lots of holes in for the roots to escape out of)
Capillary Matting
pH meter or something of the sort (This is important)
Power socket x2
Nutrients (we use Canna vega and Canna flora)

Step 2: Monting the Pipes

The pipes for the plants can be mounted 2 ways
Either lift them on blocks or mount them with "L" brackets on a wall
Make sure one end is slightly higher than the other this makes sure the water flows correctly. Decide on the lower end first be cause that is where the tub of water and the pump goes.

I mounted the pipes on the L brackets. You need a good "fall" on the pipes - our system falls 50mm in 1.2 metres, 1 in 24

Step 3: Installing the Pump

Get your tank and put it underneath the the lower end of the pipe, then fill it about 3/4 of the way up with CLEAN SOFT water.
Next connect the tubing to your pipes and then lower the pump into the water. Then put the tubing in the higher end of the pipes and test your pump by plugging it in. The water should flow down the pipe into the tub at the end to be pumped round.
then turn it off.

Splashing into the tank is good, it pumps oxygen into the water which nourishes the roots.

Step 4: Laying the Matting

Cut up the capillary matting into widths of just bigger than your Net pots.

This stage allows the roots to hold onto something so that they can absorb the water and nutrients.

Put the matting in at one end then pull it through using your hands through the holes in the pipe until It is all spread out you may have to use multiple sheets. Its nicer done when the pump is off.....

Step 5: Setting Up the PH Meter and Nutrient System

Get your pH meter and insert all the probes into the water make sure they are all in fully or they will stop working.
Plug in the meter. We use a nice wall mounted unit we got on Ebay. It measures electrical conductivity - EC and pH.

If you are using a small hand held pH reader then daily insert and measure the pH.

You want to try and keep the pH around 5.9 and 6.2
If your meter measures conductivity like ours try to keep it around 1.2 mS

When you first activate your pH meter it will read nowhere near that number follow the instructions on the side of the nutrient you use let it flow round for 20 minutes then come back. then add more nutrients if necessary.
Check this daily. Sometimes you may need to add pH UP or pH down  - but be very very careful adding acids and alkalis, for one thing they're corrosive when they're concentrated, anf for another, a little goes a long way ! We add eyedroppers of acid, and it can alter the pH of the whole tank by 1 or 2 units.

Step 6: Filling the Pots and Putting the Plants in Them

We cheat.

We buy ready grown herbs from the local store. We tease the plants out their pots by washing them in water until they come loose from the bunch. .

Then get your net pots and hold them inside at the bottom then fill the pots with clay beads and the plant should stay in it.
Make sure the roots can be seen at the bottom so they can immediately reach water.

Step 7: Keeping It Going

This is day one - straight after the plants went into our system.

Basically just keep checking up on the plants each day to add the nutrients will suffice make sure there is water in the tank and that the water is covered (allow space for the water to get back in from the pipes). If the tank gets too much light, we get an algae problem.

That's it really. I''ll try and update the pictures of the plants as they develop - we'll crop the basil in a month, and one plant will make a whole batch of delicious Pesto.

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