View Full Version : Help!....Jumping in head first

06-03-2009, 04:05 PM
Hi all,
Although I have done months of research, I have come to the conclusion that Forums may be my best bet for specific answers. I am endeavoring to begin a commercial hydroponics farm
Here is my situation. I am very lucky to have all the space in the world, 300 acres. I am putting together a 20 ft. wide X 100 ft. long PVC "Hoop" Greenhouse as my first one. My financial backer wants to grow peppers. (E.g. Ornamental, Tabasco, Habernero, Multi-colored Bell, etc.)
Eventually I will expand into other produce crops (with other greenhouses) but I want to use one system to reduce complexity. So one my questions is which system is best on a large scale, Ebb & Flow or NFT?
At this time I plan to use 6" - 8" PVC pipes with holes drilled in them to hold 4" - 5" net pots. Should I fill the entire pipes with my growing media, (Perlite) or just the pots themselves?
What are the best nutes for peppers? Do different crops require different nutes? How often do nutes need to be changed? Or can I keep the same mixture indefinatly as long as I add to it and maintain the Ph. and TDS?
What is the most energy efficient lighting system for such a large operation?
I have many more questions but since this is my first time using a forum such as this I will hold them in order not to "overwhelm" the reader. (To late, huh? :o )
Looking forward to all responses.


06-04-2009, 12:55 PM

I found this video to be eye opening in terms of the variety of greenhouse designs that are available.

06-09-2009, 07:25 AM
I recently constructed my own greenhouse, but on a smaller scale than you speak of. I also used the PVC ebb and flow system to start with. I ran into a few problems that cost me time and extra money. I, like you, was a first timer. Although these forums are great, they can be oversaturated a bit with info and opinions... So, for what it's worth, here is my two cents..

Start off small with the PVC system. You can always add to it. There are many things that will come up that you may have not thought of. You can do all the research you want, but you will have to accommodate to your surroundings, and that takes a bit of trial and error.

For the greenhouse.

- After you get your greenhouse constructed, put a temperature gauge in it. It can be a cheap one. Note how hot it gets, especially mid-day. According to that, you will need to consider a shade cloth, ventilation, heat, etc. I'm betting you will need shade cloth and definitely fans for circulation.

- Make sure to do your best to keep bugs out of the greenhouse. Some can get inside, and without the natural enemies to regulate them, can be trouble.
Also, if you have to spray inside the greenhouse, use something like insecticidal soap.

- I used 6 mil contractors plastic and it works fine. I build my greenhouse with 2x12s, pvc, and rebar. You can spend assloads on a pre-made greenhouse, but it's just too simple to build your own.

You might also want to consider building more than one. Some plants respond well to different environments. You mentioned starting with peppers. They are slow growing, so your yield will take a while. Try some lettuce or tomatoes. These are easy, and grow alot quicker. Doing this, you will learn about how your plants respond (and don't) to what you do.

As far as PVC, some of my problems...

- Balance. Your pipes have to be balanced or you will end up with either half of your solution on the ground, or plants dying from lack of enough nutrient flow. It's a little harder than it seems.

- Buy the rubber ends for your pipes. They are easy to get on and off, and trust me, you will be doing that a lot. The pvc ends are more expensive and leak if not permanently sealed.

- Leave an open hole at each end, without a plant. This allows you to check the flow and such without having to remove a plant (which can damage roots)

- Get a powerful, yet adjustable flow rate pump. It's better to have power to spare, than not enough.

There are many opinions and recommendations on nutrients. I'm sure you've seen this already. In my experience, I tried the wal-mart route and even though it did not necessarily kill my plants, their growth was slow and it was easy to upset my roots and leaves.
So, since you are novice as I was, I recommend using a solution specifically for hydroponics. I use general hydroponics flora series. It's very forgiving, and does well on all of my veggies. Later down the road you can get into making your own, or experimenting.

Oh, yeah, whatever you've budgeted for this project, go ahead and double it. lol

If there's any other questions, feel free to contact me. There are folks on here with much more experience than I. I just am not too far down from the path you are taking, so I wanted to give you some of the mistakes I made to save some headache.

Good luck, take pics. I'm interested to see how it goes.

06-10-2009, 11:39 AM
You gave some very good points Tim. As per oversaturation of information, you "hit the nail on the head". Very frustrating.
As far as building the structure itself, I have worked in construction as a carpenter for 25+ yrs.and have built far more complex structures so that is my easiest part. Hence there is no way I could buy a pre-fabricated greenhouse with a clear conscience. I do however need to make my next one a little more complex. i.e. roof venting, roll up sides, etc.
As for the PVC pipe system you did give some good pointers. Especially the rubber ends. Thank you.
Other points you made. (Please give feedback)
Bugs; I plan to introduce "predator" bugs. The same with pollination. Insecticidal soap was a very good suggestion.
Balance; I plan to use a "Builders Level" to set elevations at each end (due to the over-all length) and give 1/8" - 1/4" fall per foot depending on my pipe size to avoid having one end full and the other end too shallow. But this depends on whether I use an Ebb & Flow or NFT system.
Now to Nutrients. As you can imagine, this is my largest concern from the begining. It seems that many of the nutes online are geared towards growing "w e e d". I know that flowering and vegatative crops pretty much need the same nutes but the purpose of a my research is to avoid as many problems as possible. Peppers are a fruit and not a vegatable.So how does this affect my nutrient solution?
Well, that's what I have for now. Thank you again for your input. Please feel free to continue if you have any more thoughts. As for pics, I will start posting them as soon as I get the greenhouse up. That should be next week.


06-11-2009, 09:53 AM
Glad to help..

Let me know how the predator bug plan goes. I made the most of my space in my greenhouse, I hung my PVC on posts I set. The brackets were easy to move as far as adjustments, and my vined plants can grow with gravity, instead of against it. I also used the ground, but I removed all topsoil and replaced it with organic. Not 100% effective to keep out intruders, but has worked great with growing.

The reason I suggested the general hydroponics is because it's very forgiving to the novice. I've tried "store brand" nutrients, and they CAN work, but the strength is not made for hydroponics, so damaging was easy, and I almost lost my plants. I know the stuff is expensive, but if you're going to put all this time and work into a greenhouse, I suggest giving it a try. Once you get familiar with what works best in your environment, you can move on to other ferts, or simply make your own. I can recommend the General Hydroponics brand because it worked for me. You can get it fairly priced on ebay. You don't need to buy all of them. I got a grow method I've been using...

You don't need to buy all three solutions of GH. Eliminate the "Grow." You can use GH nutrients VERY successfuly by just using the Micro and the Bloom. Its a two to one ratio. For vegging 0-5-10. For flowering 0-8-16.

Vegging: Grow = 0 / Micro = 5ml per gallon / Bloom = 10ml per gallon.

Flowering: Grow = 0 / Micro = 8ml per gallon / Bloom = 16ml per gallon.

This is simple, and will save a little $ for you. Actually it's from one of those pot growers you've run across online. The majority of hydroponics forums are catered to ********* growers, but don't count them out. They have some of the best experience when it comes to everything about hydroponics. :cool:

06-12-2009, 07:54 AM
Thanks again Tim

The nutes info. is very helpful and I will probably go with your suggestion.

I too plan on eventually trying some vine crops. I am planning to use a "w e e d barrier cloth" then covered with pine straw (since I have 175 ac. of planted pines).

I have come across a new blog run by pros and would like to give you the link. http://hydroponicmastery.com/blog/ I first got the link from the Dr. Howard Resh page. This is a brand new site and they are working to get everything in order but I have gotten some great feedback there also. They are supposed to have 6 videos but only have 1 up at trhis time. I continue to get emails from them keeping me up to date on the others.

Once again, thank you for your advice and keep it coming.

J. Gray