Lettuce and Pak Choi in my Winter Hydroponic Greenhouse

My second winter hydroponic setup showing my ebb and flood Pak Choi system.

My second winter hydroponic setup showing my ebb and flood Pak Choi system.

This is just a little up date to show you what I’m currently doing in the greenhouse.
With it being winter I don’t usually grow too much due to the costs of heating, This year though I decided to try and grow some plants which are hardy enough to grow over winter.
Specifically winter lettuces/pak choi/various herbs and water cress.

As you can probably see from the photo’s in this post, I’ve bubble wrapped the whole of the inside of one part of my greenhouse.

This helps to keeps the temperature within the greenhouse a degree or two higher than outside.
I do have a heater ready and set to come on if the temperature within the greenhouse does go below freezing but this so far has only come on during two days of cold weather.

To grow these plants over winter in the UK I’ve converted my two large NFT channels into simple flood and drain systems.

I’ve got two fairly small nutrient heaters turned on to keep the nutrient solution from freezing and to keep it slightly warm, This nutrient solution flows down the channels underneath the trays of plants.

A closeup of the watercress I'm growing with the continously flowing nutrient solution.

A closeup of the watercress I’m growing with the continously flowing nutrient solution.

This might help keep the plants slightly warm but the main reason for the solution to flow all the time is to trickle over the watercress you can see in the photo growing at the start of each channel.
The continously flow is required to keep the water cress growing happily, I wasn’t sure if watercress would be happy growing during winter due to the low temperatures but the plants seem to thrive.

My winter watercress/herbs and leafy lettuce ebb and flood setup

My winter watercress/herbs and leafy lettuce ebb and flood setup

In one of my channels I’ve got lot’s of trays of various leafy lettuce and herb plants all growing in a mixture of vermiculite and perlite.
To ensure the plants all are kept with enough nutrients to grow I’ve inserted a piece of polystyrene into the end the channels,
I’ve done this so the flow of the channels trickles out at the end, but allows me to use a secondary more powerful pump at certain times during the week to flood the channels.


The power of this extra pump is enough to overcome the amount that trickles out through the polystyrene, but when the pump is turned off to stop the flood of nutrient it drains out through the polystyrene quite quickly ensuring the trays of plants don’t get waterlogged.

 

My Pak Choi and Winter lettuce growing in my Ebb and Flood trial system over the top of my flooding converted NFT tank growing more plants and watercress.

My Pak Choi and Winter lettuce growing in my Ebb and Flood trial system over the top of my flooding converted NFT tank growing more plants and watercress.

In my second channel I am growing lot’s of individual winter lettuces, and Pak Choi Each one has been propagated in a small rockwool cube then placed in a small pot filled with perlite. As you can see from the photo’s I’ve also topped each pot with several clay pebbles to try and stop algae growth from occuring.
Again I am using the flow of water to grow water cress at the beginning of the channel and also flooding regurlarely using the same secondary pump method as the other channel.

One last thing I’m testing this winter is a small trial flood and drain clay pebble setup growing winter lettuces and pak choi, You can see this setup in the photo’s.
It’s the small white square piece of white guttering pipe which is located above the second channel.
The whole pipe is filled with clay pebbles and has had pak choi and lettuces grown in rockwool cubes placed into cuttings at the top. The whole piece of guttering is flooded every day with nutrient solution.
You might be able to see the difference in growth rate between those grown in this flooding system and the ones grown below it. It’s quite an improvement.
I will probably enlarge this system next winter so I can grow more this way over winter.

I have also started building a system based on this guttering arrangement outside on a south facing wall to carry on growing further lettuces and then switching to growing my strawberry plants outside this year, I’ll detail this new system shortly.

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Our Flood and Drain Hydroponic Strawberry Tank

The Flood and Drain Strawberry tank fully working

The Flood and Drain Strawberry tank fully working

This is the first of the hydroponic strawberry systems I am trying this year, I don’t really know much about growing strawberries but I will be giving it my best shot.

This system I have set up with a HydroGarden Dual Flow NFT Kit which I purchased last year.

This is a unique kit as the tank can be used as either a NFT system where nutrients are simply pumped in one end and then flow back out the other end, or by moving a few included parts around and adding an extra electrical timer you can use it as an Ebb and Flood system where the nutrients are pumped from the underneath tank to the top channel where the things growing are flooded with nutrients for a while and then when the pump is turned off the nutrients slowly drain back into the nutrient tank below. Hence the Ebb and Flood description.

The Net Pots

The Net Pots

As you can see from the pictures, I have several net pots filled with clay pebbles which are then placed on the top channel which is flooded every hour. This allows the clay pebbles to  take on some of the nutrients which is then taken up by the plants resting in the clay pebbles. In this case my strawberries, these are placed into the pots with the crowns out of the clay pebbles as these are supposed to be kept dry.

Usually in hydroponic kits these pots are held in place by something called correx, I’ve found this to be ok but after a year of use it becomes too flexible and has lost all it’s strength so doesn’t work as well. This year I decided to try some other material.

Setting up the Flood and Drain Strawberry System

Setting up the Flood and Drain Strawberry System

The white plastic you can see on the picture surrounding the pots, Is actually PVCu plastic sheets normally used for surrounding showers or bathroom walls. It’s slightly more expensive than the correx but hopefully with the extra strength it will last quite a few years. It has added strength compared with the correx because the ridges within the plastic go across the tank rather than all the length of the plastic tanks. I’ve cut the pieces into several sections too which also means that I can remove parts of the cover if I want rather than the the whole top plate, And due to it having some form of tongue and groove ends it all clips nicely together. It also has the extra benefit of being easier to store at the end of the year.

Flood and Drain Running

Flood and Drain Running

I’ve had to adjust the HydroGarden system slightly by adding an extra bit of white plastic tube where the nutrients overflow when flooding as it didn’t quite allow enough of a flood to the pots.

The strawberry plants are now in place and have had the clay pebbles covered with black plastic to stop any algae growing on the pebbles. These covers are made from squares of pond liner which I simply clean and sterilize each year.

 

 

 

A Strawberry Runner

A Strawberry Runner

The strawberry plant as it arrives, Looking a little shrivelled and depressed ready for it’s new home.

 

 

After 1 week in the flood and drain

After 1 week in the flood and drain

 

The plant after a week in it’s flood and drain home.

 

 

I will post an update on how all the strawberries are doing in a month or two but as you can see from the two photo’s above taken before planting and after a week they are already doing well.

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