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I've been exploring hydroponic gardening lately, and thought y'all might
be interested in hearing about my setup:
1 Footlocker or trunk, bigger is better.
1 Rubbermaid dishpan that just fits on the bottom of the trunk, when the
trunk is turned on its side (this will make more sense in a few minutes,
I used a 12 quart one)
3-4 blocks of FLORAL FOAM (Preferably agricultural grade, as it does not
have preservatives in it, but Oasis will do if it is completely
1 Muffin Fan (look in computer surplus stores)
1 50 WATT High Pressure Sodium lamp (Or your lamp of choice)
1 roll of tin foil
Comments on Cost
If you bought all this stuff, it would run about 100 bucks... However, I
got my trunk at a yard sale for $5, had the fan lying around, and through
some creative scrounging on a public bike trail late at night, came up
with the HPS lamp and ballast for free. The dishpan came from a
'Everything's a dollar' store, and foam is cheap... I think I spent $30
total (including fertilizer, which I will discuss later)
What to do with this stuff-
First, cut the handle off of one end of the trunk, then stand the thing up
on that end. Sitting it on a phone book with the door hanging off the end
makes it much easier to open and close.
Then install the fan... I put mine on the top of the box, but It could go
in the top back corner if light leakage is important. A good deal of
light will be exiting the fanhole (well, more than anywhere else)... keep
this in mind. I also painted the fanblades white in an attempt to reflect
the light back into the box, but Im not sure if it worked... it probably
Put some intake holes along the bottom of the box, these will be covered
with foil later, so not too much light will be leaking out.
Cover the entire inside of the box with foil, excluding the fan area, and
where you plan on installing the lamp. I used duct tape to affix it to
the walls/door, and I LEFT IT UNATTATCHED AT THE BOTTOM so air could come
through the intake holes.
Install the lamp! I put mine at the very top center of the door, with the
bulb sticking straight out, so it enters the rest of the box when the door
is closed. This made it easier to wire, but In the future, I would put it
on the back wall of the box, as less of your room will be illuminated when
you open the thing (it's kind of like opening up the sun).
Thoughts on Lamps
According to Ed Rosenthol (believe him if you want to, ignore him if you
dont) HPS lamps are some of the best growing lamps made, especially when
efficiency is an issue. These lamps give off an amberish glow, and are
often used to light parking lots, bike trails, etc. They operate on a
very high voltage, and require a transformer or ballast to work. Metal
Halide lamps (used in photographic and theatrical lamps) are smaller, and
much whiter, and usually do not require ballast, but they use up a hell of
a lot more energy.
I used a Flourescent to sprout the plants, and switched to HPS after
they had developed 3 sets of leaves (about 48 hours after germination)
This was acceptable.
Next, it is time to deal with the foam and plant. I soak the foam
overnight in a nutrient-water mixture (more on that later) after rinsing
it extremely well. Then I cut a brick or 2 into 1" cubes, and plant one
seed in each cube. Planting in foam means you place the sead on the foam,
and push it in with a small wire or something similar, so the seed is
surrounded as much as possible by the wet foam. The cubes are placed in
the dishpan, and 1/2" of water-nutrient mixture is added to the pan. The
foam will suck up water and nutrients as necessary, so it is important to
try to keep the water level at about 1/2". It is better for the water to
be slightly too low (but not dry) than too high.
The seeds can take as long as a week or 10 days to germinate, do not worry
if nothing happens at first, and it seems that I never get more than about
15% of my planted seeds to sprout. This suggests a fault somewhere in my
system, but I havent identified it yet, no do I especially care. I just
plant a LOT of seeds, and then use the best seedlings for my gardening.
Usually a smoking-buddy or someone will take a free marijuana seedling off
your hands with a minimum of hassle.
About 3 days after germination, a few pairs of leaves should've formed.
Now is the time to transplant. And transplanting is the glory of foam.
All you need to do to transplant things growing in foam, is put the small
block of foam (with the plant in it) on top of the larger block , and rub
them together a few times. The roots will grow out of the small cube, and
into the bigger one in a matter of days. I managed to find foam in 12"
cubes... cutting these in half gave me 2 pieces of 12"x12"x6" foam, and
each of those can easily hold one plant, probably 2. I personally grow
only one plant in each trunk, but 2 smaller ones are probably perfectly
When I transplant is when I turn on the HPS lamp. It then stays on for
24 hours/7days until the plant is 8-15 inches tall. Then it is time to
force flowering. This can be done by giving the plants a 10-16 hour dark
period in each 24 hour day (this should be done using a cheap timer like
people use when they go away on vacation in an attempt to foil burglers)
In a matter of 3 weeks, sex should be apparent on the plants... REMOVE THE
MALES. Keep the dark period constant until it is time to pick, dry and enjoy.
A word on water-nutrient mixtures
Floram foam should be totally inert, meaning it does not provide the plant
with ANYTHING except something for the roots to grow in. Thus all
nutrients that the plant would get from the soil MUST be in the water.
Read a few books on hydroponics to figure out what mixture suits you best,
I personally use a liquid plant food that shows on its label an N-P-N
count of 10-15-10. This seems to work fairly well for me. I know people
who use 20-20-20, and quite a few who use different foods during different
stages of growth. Read up on the subject and decide for yourself.
Anyway, this was not ment to be a 'HOW TO GROW WEED' type of post, but
apparently it has become one (sort of). It was ment to talk about my grow
room, as it was described earlier in this post. I have found that a
single plant can grow to maturity without any trouble in this space, and 2
smaller plants (forced to flower at about 8 inches, instead of the 10-12
that I personally use) would probably be ok too.
This grow room is very portable (unplug it and take it with you)
clandestine (it looks like a trunk to me (not an uncommon thing in a
college dormatory if you are a student), and it can be locked with a
padlock) and effective (trust me!)
I assume one could grow using standard soil and such in this thing, but I
have had great success with foam, and it is much easier to keep it
watered. Rockwool has been sugested to me as a medium, but I dont even
know where to buy it... apparently it is much like foam in that it is
inert, and transplanting is a breeze.