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Old 01-17-2010, 04:09 PM
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Default Useful hydroponics without electricity?



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Another post in another section got me looking into hydroponics. I have limited resources when it comes to electricity and am not willing to put any more of a load onto my system. Is there a useful, meaning something that actually produces enough food to keep you going, hydroponics set up that doesn't use electricity? And can it be used without grow lights which also use electricity? I'm not super concerned about grow lights as they don't use much power but a water or air pump is just too much for someone who doesn't have unlimited electricity.
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Old 01-17-2010, 07:26 PM
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i see you are in wisconsin so not sure this would work as easily as it does here.
But when I lived in florida I took a course on hydroponics and aquaculture and they had Styrofoam boards with circles cut out floating in a small pond. the plants were growing in small pots designed for the hydroponic aquaponic field. with slits and holes in them allowing the roots to hang down in the water.

The fish that lived in the pond of course pooped and the plants took up some of the nitrogen and nitrates from the fish poop to feed their roots. It was a very basic system with no moving parts and very natural. I know being as far north as you are the ponds may freeze over and would not work as well as they did down there in orlando where I was at the time.
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Old 01-17-2010, 07:42 PM
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About the only non electric, hydroponic system (other than the outdoor situation, which I'm assuming you want something 'safe' and indoors) would be just to get into sprouting. No sunlight/artificial light needed.

If you have solar panels you might be able to get enough light to grow cool weather items indoors, but really, most plants need alot of light.

Sprouting is like 'quickie' vegetable gardening and you will be able to get ALOT of nutritional value that way. It's just not as tasty (to most folks) as eating a full grown veggie!

I have, erm...ALOT of wheat stored. Then I found out I'm gluten intolerant! (insert favorite cuss word here). I have grain mills (hand and electric) for it, but for me, one way to still be able to consume some of it is to sprout it until it has a fairly good sized tail, or to even let it go to the 'wheatgrass' stage. Then it's actually more 'vegetable' than grain. I'd be able to consume it then. Plus it'll have more nutritional value as a sprout.

Thank goodness I have some rice stored too!
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Old 01-18-2010, 10:03 AM
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Hydroponics doesn't actually have to be done inside. Sure, growth rates may be higher when certain spectrum light is provided in a carefully controlled climate, but the sun is a lot cheaper.

Saying that, some small amount of electricity is still needed for most types of hydroponic systems. This is usually for water pumps or air pumps (the fishtank kind). That's really next to no power at all, and solar water pumps can be easily bought or solar air pumps can be easily made.

I've been trying to grow hydroponic corn out on my patio for the last month and a half or so. All I'm using is a small solar water pump and cheap five dollar fertilizer. Growing as fast as possible? Probably not. Cheaper than inside? Definitely.
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Old 01-18-2010, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Xenabyte View Post
About the only non electric, hydroponic system (other than the outdoor situation, which I'm assuming you want something 'safe' and indoors) would be just to get into sprouting. No sunlight/artificial light needed.

If you have solar panels you might be able to get enough light to grow cool weather items indoors, but really, most plants need alot of light.

Sprouting is like 'quickie' vegetable gardening and you will be able to get ALOT of nutritional value that way. It's just not as tasty (to most folks) as eating a full grown veggie!

I have, erm...ALOT of wheat stored. Then I found out I'm gluten intolerant! (insert favorite cuss word here). I have grain mills (hand and electric) for it, but for me, one way to still be able to consume some of it is to sprout it until it has a fairly good sized tail, or to even let it go to the 'wheatgrass' stage. Then it's actually more 'vegetable' than grain. I'd be able to consume it then. Plus it'll have more nutritional value as a sprout.

Thank goodness I have some rice stored too!
I do sprouts already. I would have a hard time living out here in the winter without my sprouts. I have two bags of sprouts going and one sprouting tray. Mung beans, wheat, broccoli, alfalfa, red clover this week.
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Old 01-18-2010, 10:36 AM
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Not meaning to hijack the thread, but how do you use sprouts?
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Old 01-18-2010, 11:50 AM
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Not meaning to hijack the thread, but how do you use sprouts?
I eat them by themselves, a snack-finger food,..
or in salads,..
On sandwiches, or in pita bread or tortillias, with other ingredients.
In soups, usually added on top, just before I eat the soup..
In oriental cooking,.
I've had them in veggie juice drinks. ( I don't have a juicer - yet )
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Old 01-18-2010, 11:59 AM
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I'm no hydroponics expert, but I have read a lot about it..
It will depend on the size of your 'garden', but the pumps needed to circulate the nutrient solution are reall small. Also, you may not need to run them constantly.

You coupld also probably make a gravity fed system, that you manually dump the nutrient solution in a high mounted tank, retrieve it from a gathering tank and recycle it that way. Meter it with a simple valve.
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Old 01-18-2010, 02:29 PM
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I'm no expert but have read a little and you probably could set up a gravity fed system pretty easy. My idea is to set up a large tank that everything drains into, this would also contain fish. Then just set up a spigot and a hose which would have to be at the bottom of the tank so the water pressure allows it to flow to the top of the system. This would work like a rain water collection system. This in theory would allow the water to flow continuously without the use of any electricity. Also with the water always flowing there should be enough oxygen to support the fish. I have never tried this out but setting up a system like this is in my plans and with a little ingenuity you should be able to get it to work.
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Old 01-18-2010, 02:40 PM
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Check this out. Hydroponics without electricity and produces its own meat and fertilizer!

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/barrelponics/
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Old 01-18-2010, 04:54 PM
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I see a couple of people have beat to the gravity feed suggestion. I suspect these are best for those who can be sure to be around to tranfer the water. I've often thought that a bicycle hooked up to a manual pump would be a paricularly easy way to do the transfer.

There is also a form of hydroponics called 'wicking'. These are essentially your self-watering containers - the ones that have a reservoir below where the plants grow. These require no electricity and you just need to feed and top up the reservoir occasionally.

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Old 01-18-2010, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by woods woman View Post
I do sprouts already. I would have a hard time living out here in the winter without my sprouts. I have two bags of sprouts going and one sprouting tray. Mung beans, wheat, broccoli, alfalfa, red clover this week.
Try cold frames... they have worked well for us here in VT and altho the plants don't grow much, if at all, in the winter if you start them (winter greens) in Aug. you'll have plenty to eat along with your sprouts. Our celery root is still in the cold frame and doing well altho we put most of the crop in storage for the winter with other root crops.

-SECR
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Old 01-18-2010, 09:33 PM
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There is also a form of hydroponics called 'wicking'. These are essentially your self-watering containers - the ones that have a reservoir below where the plants grow. These require no electricity and you just need to feed and top up the reservoir occasionally.
The problem with wicking, at least from what I've read, is that it's only good for small plants. So if your just interested in lettuce or something I'm sure it would work fine. But for larger plants the wick just isn't capable of delivering enough water to a root system.

Of course, you could manually water any larger plants to give them the extra amount they need, but I think that would be a lot of work.

Also, reading the original post again, I think you have your power requirements backwards. Grow lights use way more juice than water or air pumps. The fish tank air pumps that are used for deep water culture systems run at less than 5 watts on average. When I was running mine through an inverter it ran at 8 and put through less air then normal, but still more than enough for plants.

Really, the only way to learn what works is to experiment. That's what I did, and now I have some hydroponic corn, broccoli, and lettuce out on the patio. All powered by small, dedicated solar systems.

Now, I'm not gonna claim I'm an expert, because none of my plants have gotten big enough to produce anything yet. But they are alive, and I figure that counts for something.
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Old 01-18-2010, 10:16 PM
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The problem with wicking, at least from what I've read, is that it's only good for small plants. So if your just interested in lettuce or something I'm sure it would work fine. But for larger plants the wick just isn't capable of delivering enough water to a root system.
Not sure just what 'larger' is, but I can speak from personal experience that it can work well with tomato plants and I've heard of some people (including some on this board) growing corn this way.

The composition of the growth medium will be a major factor in how well the wicking works. I did up two batches of growth medium for several containers and found that there must have a difference as one set of containers remianed moist to the surface and the other set was dry for about the top 4cm (which is a bit under 2 inches for 'dem 'dar backwards folks )

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Old 01-19-2010, 12:20 AM
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Originally Posted by woods woman View Post
Another post in another section got me looking into hydroponics. I have limited resources when it comes to electricity and am not willing to put any more of a load onto my system. Is there a useful, meaning something that actually produces enough food to keep you going, hydroponics set up that doesn't use electricity? And can it be used without grow lights which also use electricity? I'm not super concerned about grow lights as they don't use much power but a water or air pump is just too much for someone who doesn't have unlimited electricity.
Ummmm.... am I understanding this correctly???? You are claiming that grow lights use LESS Electricity than an Aquarium Pump????
Old 01-19-2010, 09:45 AM
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Try cold frames... they have worked well for us here in VT and altho the plants don't grow much, if at all, in the winter if you start them (winter greens) in Aug. you'll have plenty to eat along with your sprouts. Our celery root is still in the cold frame and doing well altho we put most of the crop in storage for the winter with other root crops.

-SECR
I do have cold frames and even put manure into them to make them hot frames. I still can't have a viable crop of greens for the winter from them. There's just not enough light. I have plenty of stored food but without sprouts I just don't have the vitamins I need to stay healthy through the winter unless I buy greens. I don't like buying food that other people have produced (I worked at a Delmonte factory when I was younger and you do NOT want to know what people do to your food before you eat it). Sprouts are so easy it doesn't make sense not to use them.

I eat them as snacks straight out of the sprouting trays, I put them on sandwiches and in stews and I add them to my carrot/apple juice I make every morning. I can have a new batch every 6 to 10 days where growing things in soil take a minimum of 10 days just to break the surface. Sprouts are just the way to go here in the winter.
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Old 01-19-2010, 09:52 AM
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The problem with wicking, at least from what I've read, is that it's only good for small plants. So if your just interested in lettuce or something I'm sure it would work fine. But for larger plants the wick just isn't capable of delivering enough water to a root system.

Of course, you could manually water any larger plants to give them the extra amount they need, but I think that would be a lot of work.

Also, reading the original post again, I think you have your power requirements backwards. Grow lights use way more juice than water or air pumps. The fish tank air pumps that are used for deep water culture systems run at less than 5 watts on average. When I was running mine through an inverter it ran at 8 and put through less air then normal, but still more than enough for plants.

Really, the only way to learn what works is to experiment. That's what I did, and now I have some hydroponic corn, broccoli, and lettuce out on the patio. All powered by small, dedicated solar systems.

Now, I'm not gonna claim I'm an expert, because none of my plants have gotten big enough to produce anything yet. But they are alive, and I figure that counts for something.

Well, I can turn on grow lights and they don't bog down the system. I plug in a pump and it does. So I have to go with what I see. My electric system runs my whole house and during winter, if the wind is down I just don't have much juice to spare.

I'm just trying to find out if I could grow even a small percentage of food from a hydroponics unit and have it pay back the energy I put into it. I don't have a whole lot of extra energy to experiment with so at this point I think I'll be keeping my experiments to the garden. But I am going to keep reading to see if there is a way to make it at least somewhat viable.
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Old 01-19-2010, 09:55 AM
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Ummmm.... am I understanding this correctly???? You are claiming that grow lights use LESS Electricity than an Aquarium Pump????
Yes, I must have better grow lights than most do. Mine are designed to use less energy. Then again I didn't know there were some that used a great deal of energy. I'm glad I found the ones I have.
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Old 01-19-2010, 01:36 PM
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Yes, I must have better grow lights than most do. Mine are designed to use less energy. Then again I didn't know there were some that used a great deal of energy. I'm glad I found the ones I have.

Could you please post the grow lights you use?
Old 01-19-2010, 02:29 PM
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Not sure just what 'larger' is, but I can speak from personal experience that it can work well with tomato plants and I've heard of some people (including some on this board) growing corn this way.

The composition of the growth medium will be a major factor in how well the wicking works. I did up two batches of growth medium for several containers and found that there must have a difference as one set of containers remianed moist to the surface and the other set was dry for about the top 4cm (which is a bit under 2 inches for 'dem 'dar backwards folks )

Cheers,
-Per.
Hmmm, I didn't know wicking could work that good. Could you tell me what kinda growth medium you used?
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