Build Your Own Home Hydroponic Farm | Caleb Johnson | Skillshare

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Build Your Own Home Hydroponic Farm

teacher avatar Caleb Johnson, Simple Greens Hydroponics

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

21 Lessons (2h 36m)
    • 1. 0 Course Intro

    • 2. 1 Why Hydroponics

    • 3. 2 Hydroponics Systems

    • 4. 3 How Our System Works

    • 5. 4 Rail System Layout

    • 6. 5 Materials

    • 7. 6 Tools

    • 8. 7 Cutting the Rails

    • 9. 8 Measuring Connection Holes

    • 10. 9 Outlet Tubing Hole

    • 11. 10 Drilling Connection Holes

    • 12. 11 Drilling Plant Site Holes

    • 13. 12 Drilling Plant Site Holes (Alternate)

    • 14. 13 Inflow and Outflow Connections

    • 15. 14 Rail Connections

    • 16. 15 End Caps

    • 17. 16 Lighting & Environment

    • 18. 17 Reservoir

    • 19. 18 Final Setup

    • 20. 19 Nutrients

    • 21. 20 Planting

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About This Class


A full tutorial on how to build a hydroponic rail system to grow produce right in your home or greenhouse. We go through what is hydroponics, materials needed, details on building and connecting the rail system, setting up a growing area and managing nutrients and planting. We like simple, so we take care to simplify the design and process into something that is attainable for anyone looking to grow a steady supply of produce.

Meet Your Teacher

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Caleb Johnson

Simple Greens Hydroponics


Hello! I enjoy growing hydroponic produce as simply as possible and teaching others to do the same. We've spent several years (and lots of prototypes) designing a system that is easy to maintain and super productive. I'd love to help you set up a system and grow food right in your home!

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1. 0 Course Intro: I'm standing here in our two-bedroom town home in the middle of Wisconsin winter. And we have a whole bunch of fresh greens right in our home. And this is something that anyone could do. We started out with hydroponics a few years ago and we were looking at how do you do this in your home, and there wasn't a whole lot of information about it. So we've done a lot of trial and error and done this for a few years now. And so we want to show you some of the things we learned and how you can do this too. With these systems, we've grown a hundreds of pounds of produce right in our small home, including lettuce, kale, basil, oregano, time, sage, and strawberries. And there's a lot more left to dry. In this course, I'll walk you through all the steps I took to build this exact hydroponic rail system. This will include the materials you need, background on how the system works, every single step of building the system, setting it up in your home or greenhouse, choosing lighting, getting plants started, setting up a routine for managing your nutrients. Everything you'll need to start your own hydroponic rail system. We like to maintain a really simple approach to hydroponic gardening so that it's a straightforward and low maintenance as possible. If you're interested in growing your own produce hydroponics, even if you're just starting out and don't know where to begin. This course is for you. I want to encourage you with just a few basic tools, right? Materials and a bit of time. Hydroponic gardening is totally accessible for you. 2. 1 Why Hydroponics: Let's start out with what is hydroponics? On the most basic level, hydroponics is a way of growing plants without using soil. Instead of gathering nutrients from the soil. Nutrients the plant needs are dissolved into water to make a nutrient solution. The point then grows its roots down into the water and pulls the nutrients it heats up into the plant. So then why hydroponics? Well, the best way to explain might be to compare to something we're familiar with on some level, plants growing in soil. The first advantage we can see with hydroponics is faster growth. So if a plant and the soil, to get the nutrients it needs, it may have to grow roots, way out to find everything, then it needs to grow. Plus if there's ever a period of time where there's not enough rain like a drought or just a few days between rains, it has to go way down in the soil to get to where the water is. However, with hydroponics, you're kind of delivering everything the plant needs, right to where the roots are, then the plant doesn't have to use as much effort to grow roots down and get the nutrients and get the water that it needs. So that allows it to spend more time growing leaves and fruit. Another advantage of hydroponics is that it actually saves water. Now it may sound backwards at first, since hydroponics is using water to grow plants. But if you think about a plant in the garden, in the dirt to water it, you pour water on top of the soil around the plant. Well, most of that water doesn't actually get to the roots, but it just goes down through the dirt and away from the plant or a evaporates back up into the atmosphere. With hydroponics, you have the water in a contained area. And many hydroponic systems just recirculate that water. So you're using the same water over and over again in keeping it by the roots. And it also lessons evaporation because the water is usually contained inside. It's either a reservoir or Rails, which is slowing down evaporation. And other benefit of hydroponics is that it has less mess. This one's pretty straightforward since you're not using dirt. It's pretty hard for things to get dirty. To go along with that. Hydroponics often also has fewer pests and disease. So if you think about a plant outside, it's kinda susceptible to a lot of different things. You can have large animals that come in and eat the plant. You can have bugs both aboveground and underground. And so there's a lot of different threats to your plant when it's outside. However, with hydroponics, since you can move around, you can bring your system either into a greenhouse or inside. And there's no dirt. A lot of these pests are negated and you won't have to worry about them. However, I did put a star here because. There's fewer pest and disease, but there can still be pests and disease. So it's something to watch out for. Another cool advantage of hydroponics is that you can grow anywhere, especially if you're using artificial lighting. You're not really limited at all and where you can go there actually, right now, looking into different ways of growing food in space and hydroponics is one of the main ways that they're looking at for growing fresh greens even out in space. So that's cool advantage of hydroponics. And finally, with hydroponics, you don't have to worry about one of the gardeners biggest nemesis, weeds. Since you don't have any dirt and you have set locations where the plants are growing within your system. It's very difficult for a week to get started with hydroponics. However, there are still several challenges with hydroponics. One of the main challenges is just that there it requires setup and it can be a little bit complex starting out. So if you think about dirt, you can take a plant or a seed and put it in the dirt outside. And it will probably grow. With hydroponics. Before you can even start to grow anything. You have to build your system, get everything worked out about how the water is going to circulate, get your nutrient solution ready, things like that. So it takes more setup before you can grow anything. It can also require more financial investment, again, compared to just dirt in your backyard. You might have to buy materials for making a rail system or by a pump or light, things like that. Also a challenge that you have with hydroponics is that plant roots need oxygen. So this is true if you're outside as well. However, with dirt, it kinda takes care of itself because there's often oxygen throughout the dirt in the plant can get it that way. With hydroponics, you don't take care to make sure that there's oxygen in the water. The plant can pull it all out of the water and then it doesn't have enough. So some things we use to mitigate that as either leave an airspace for some of the roots to contact air or use like a bubbler to put air into the water. Another disadvantage or challenge of hydroponics is that there are some plants that are much more difficult. So especially if you think about root vegetables, like potatoes or onions, where you're growing the entire fruit underwater. That can be a challenge with hydroponics compared to dirt. And then finally, hydroponics can be challenging because there's much less information about it at this point. People who have been gardening with there for as long as we can remember. But with hydroponics it's, it's kind of a newer thing. So there's not nearly as much information about how to grow things, how to troubleshoot when you have issues. So that can be a barrier to starting with hydroponics. However, I think that the benefits of hydroponics far outweigh the challenges. And there are things that we can do to mitigate some of these challenges. 3. 2 Hydroponics Systems: Next I'll briefly go over a couple of different kinds of hydroponic systems that you may come across. The first type of system we'll look at is one that uses the crack key method. So at the crappy method, a plant is suspended over a container of nutrient solution. So as time goes on, the plant will slowly absorbed the water and nutrients that are in the container. And the roots of the plant won't grow down farther and farther. So then the plant gets its oxygen from this airspace between the top of the container and the top of the water level. So this section of roots will pull in oxygen. And then down lower the roots that are in the nutrient solution will be pulling up the nutrients. So the nice thing about this type of system is that it's really simple. Requires no electricity, no pumps, no air raiders, nothing like that. The disadvantage is that you can have slower growth with this system. And there are some plants that don't like to grow in this type of environment. Another type of hydroponic system is called the deep water culture or D WC. So PwC is pretty similar to crack key where you have plants suspended over a container of nutrient solution. However, this time there's an air raid or in the bottom of the container, and that's what provides the oxygen to the roots. So with the deep water culture, you have to maintain the water level where it is. So that requires frequent water changes or adding water to top off the nutrient container. And then the air freighter, which requires electricity, then keeps the oxygen near the roots. Another type of system is it drip system. So with a drip system, the plant in a container. But this time you have a growing medium in there as well. So this could be hydrogen or pearlite, just something to give the root something to grab onto. But then water is pumped up from a reservoir container and then it's slowly dripped onto the plan. So the plan is still getting its nutrients from the water that's being dripped onto it. But it's not completely submerged in water like, like crack key or D WC. And this type of system is really good for really big plants because it allows the big plants too send their roots way down into the growing medium and really get stable. So something like tomatoes and peppers, this can be really good. Another common type of hydroponic system is a nutrient film technique system, or NFT. So with an NFT system, you have your plants spread along a gutter or a rail, and that rail is then put in a slight decline. You then have a reservoir that has nutrient solution in it and a pump. The pump pushes water up from the reservoir into one end of the rail. Then that water flows down the rail and then exits back into the reservoir. Along the way down the rail. It's kind of the, the film of water. That's where the name comes from, is nutrient film of water contacts the roots of the plants and the plants get their nourishment in water from this film. So this is really good for smaller plants like lettuce that grow really fast, that you harvest pretty often. It's not very good for tall plants like tomatoes or peppers, because there's not really much for the plant roots to grab onto and so they would tip over. But this system allows you to grow a lot of different plans with a relatively small reservoir. This rail could be really long and then the exit tube could come all the way back and come back into this reservoir. So this can really expand how many plants you can grow with a given amount of nutrients. The final type of system we'll talk about as a flood and drain system. So you'll see there are some similarities to an NFT like we just talked about. So you'll have your plants spread out along either a rail or this could be a tote or some other container. And then you have a larger reservoir underneath it. And again, there's a pump and a reservoir that pumps water up into your container with the plants. However, what it does is it fills up the reservoir, fills up the container until it reached reaches this outflow height. Once it reaches the outflow height, the water starts to exit through this outflow pipe back into reservoir. So it maintains the water level here for a little bit. And then when it turns off and the pump turns off, the water drops back down to where the inlet is. So you end up with a water-level that goes up and down throughout the day. So this when the water goes up, it waters the roots and gives them nutrients. And when it comes back down that allows the roots to get oxygen. So we just took a brief look at these five different types of systems, but there's a lot of different kinds of hydroponic systems and there's new types being developed all the time. And there's actually quite a few systems that are hybrids of some of these five. Our system actually is a hybrid of BWC, an NFT. So that's something that we'll look at in the next video. 4. 3 How Our System Works: Next we'll talk through some of the details of how our hydroponic system works. So this will give you the whys behind the design of the system that we're building in this course. Our system can be thought of as a combination or hybrid of a deep water culture and nutrient film techniques system. We use Rails similar to an NFT system because this allows us to grow a lot of plants without having a giant tank or reservoir. However, to make things simpler and reduce the possibility of spills, since we use our system indoors, we lay the rails flat. The plants then rest in net cups on the top of the rails, allowing us to easily move plants. And we'll get to why that's important in a minute. Here's an example of a strawberry plant That's resting inside of a net cup on top of the rail. Instead of a film of water flowing across the bottom of the rails like you'd have with nutrient film technique. The rails fill partially with nutrient solution that float slowly through the rail. The water level is then determined by the height of this outlet Hall. The advantage of this is that it allows us to customize the water level based on what we're growing inside the rail. So for plants with full root systems, we can keep the outlet Hall low, which keeps plenty of oxygen in the rails and allows for faster flow past the plant roots. For example, you can see this lettuce plant has really tall roots that can really reach down to where the water's at. However, if we want to start seedlings, the water level needs to be high enough to keep the seeds moist. So we need the water level to touch the bottom of the net cups. So the outlet for this rail needs to be higher up. And you can see now the waters gets up high enough to touch the bottom of these net cups in, keep the seed drill plugged wet. We can then connect several rails together to make a system that can handle plants all the way from seed to harvest. This eliminates the need for a separate system to start seeds in and makes the process easier. So you can see here this first rail, this is looking from the top. This first Drell is where we'd have the seedlings. So this has the highest water level near the top. Then as the water flows across this connection to the second rail, the second rail can have much lower water level and grow bigger plants. And the same with the third and the fourth rail. So in this one system you have both seedlings and full-sized plants. Also. When the plants are smaller, we can keep them closer together because they're not competing for light. So you can see this is one of our systems fully built. You can see this first trail that's the one that's going to have highest water level. And you can see we have our holes pretty close together. So this allows the seedlings to grow. They're not crowding each other, but they can grow on this rail and then we can move them over to the other rails as they get bigger. This is important because we really want to make full use of the space that we have. Especially when we're using artificial lighting. We don't want to waste any of that light. So if we have r, If we had our small seedlings separated, far apart, there'd be all this space in-between plants that we would just be shining light onto a white rail. So we want to fill up this entire area as much as we can with plants. Another feature of our system is that we can take it apart. So between the rails we have these connections. And at the connections they look like this. We have something that we have a union here so that you can unscrew it. And that allows you to separate the rails by hand and then take them out for inspection or for cleaning. Then what can we grow in this system while we started with lettuce? And the system works great for that. So we found that with just two rails, we can grow four heads of lettuce each week for harvest on amperage. And you can see we've got led us here in the first two rows. The best, let us varieties are ones that are a little more compact. So giant Romain heads are little trickier to grow. You just have to drill your, have your whole spacing be farther apart for those and you may not get as quite as many. Another thing that we've grown quite a bit is herbs and those we found grow really easy and really big. So you can see we have some basal here in the back. There's some stage. And yeah, that was very simple and has excellent flavor. Another thing we've been doing recently is strawberries and those are, those have been really fun to try. So there's still some more tweaks we have to do with them, but we've gotten a lot of berries. We use an ever bearing strawberries. So it's one that continually bears over time. So it's cool to have our fresh supply of strawberries right in your home at anytime VA or even in the middle of winter. And the size of that, we've done a variety of different greens like kale, spinach and there's others that were just starting to dry now. So I'd say if you make one of these systems, there's quite a wide variety of things you can grow and there's a lot more things left to dry. We really liked this system because it's simple and it's versatile. There's a whole bunch of different things you can grow and it's really easy to operate. You don't need any any other separate seed starting systems or anything like that. You can grow everything from seed to harvest, right? In this system, I'd say the only thing that's challenging in this system is really tall plants are plants that could really big roots. So things like peppers and tomatoes. We have done peppers before, but they just get so tall that they tend to tip over. Tomatoes would probably be the same way. And then we've done things like chives that just grow huge roots. They start to block up the rails and block the flow. So those aren't ideal. But anything compact or things that grow for a short period of time or don't have giant roots, they grow really well. It seems. 5. 4 Rail System Layout: Next we'll talk about your rail system layout. Both how many rails you want to use and then the whole pattern that you'll drill. So we'll start with how many Rails? The first thing is I would recommend even number. And that's because if you have inflow coming in one side and then going down and coming back, it ends up coming back to the reservoir. And so you don't need a lot of extra tubing. If you had three rails, then the outflow would be on the opposite end. So it helps to have an even number. The other thing is I wouldn't recommend any more than four because after the water has exact quite a bit, it can start to lose oxygen. And also the water level will build up as you go backwards from the exit. So I'd say for Rails is the maximum. Then going from there, the main factor for you would be how much space is available. So the two rail system is obviously smaller, thinner, but it also doesn't allow you to grow as many plants as the four rail system. The other thing to consider is lighting. So if you already have specific light source you want to use, you probably want to customize your rail layout to match that. That's one mistake we made early on. We made it Rails too long for our lights. So we made rails that were five or six feet long and the light was only four feet long. So anything past the end of the light didn't really grow well. So I recommend sizing your layout to match your light. Now if you're doing something outside or in a greenhouse where you're relying on sunlight, then it's a different story. You don't really have to consider that. Also, I've always done 50 into Rails to match 48 inch light. But you could make the rails shorter or longer to match the situation that you have. So if you wanted to really small system, you could just do two rails like this and then cut them in half so that they're just 2.5 feet long. And that would work well. Especially if you had a small square light. And you just wanted a small system to get a little bit of lettuce two heads a week or so. That could work really well. So once you have your re-layout picked, then we have to work on the whole pattern. And the main factors to consider when working out a whole pattern, r, one, the space that's required by the plants. But then to optimizing the light usage with that whole pattern. And these two things kind of work against each other. So on one hand, you want to have plenty of space for your plants. But on the other hand, you don't want to waste any of the light. You don't want to be sending light down to an empty spot. So I tend to lean a little bit more towards optimizing light usage and putting the plant's little bit closer than probably what is recommended if they were in a garden. But if you go too close, then the plants really run into issues. So something to keep in mind. The other thing with the whole pattern is, I like to make A system that's versatile so it can grow a lot of different plants. So that means it's not necessarily ideal for everything, but it's something that can work for a wide variety of different plants. And then one more factor with your whole pattern is the hole size. So I generally use two sizes at this point. A is 1.5 inch for lettuce and other greens. And I like 1.5 inch because it fits a grow plug really nice and lessens the amount of light that's getting into the rails, especially when the plants are small. So it works really well for lettuce. And let us just something that you pick pretty often every couple of weeks. So it's not staying in the system and getting really big and having big root, root system. However, for other things like herbs, strawberries, and larger plants, I like two-inch hole so that we can use a two-inch net cup. Does that provides more stability and more room for bigger roots to grow. So that's something also to keep in mind as you're creating your whole pattern. I've provided a few different layouts that I've used and found to work pretty well. So this one here, this is for, uh, for rail system where each rail is 50 inches long. So for these bottom two rails, what I did is these are for lettuce. So you can see in this first trail, this will be where the highest water level is. I have the whole pattern pretty tight. Over here. We're going to have seedlings. So they can be as close as possible because they're not going to be overlapping or crowding each other out because there'll be so small. Then here's kind of the next stage after seedling. They're still pretty small, but they need a little extra space. And then here is where we'll put them for the last few weeks of their life when they're really big, mature. And this ends up this to rail system here with this whole battery I have found can give us about four heads of lettuce every week. And that's because there's 28 holes here. And it takes about seven weeks for a lead us to mature. So 28 spots divided by 7 is foreheads every week. So you'd start out, you'd plant for here, then after a week, you move them here. After another week you can move them here. So that's three weeks in at that point, the plants are stirring and get a little bigger. So then you'll move them out here and they'll stay here for two weeks. And then at that point there, five weeks old. And then you'll move them out to these spread out spots for the last two weeks and you won't move them back to that. Spread out spots have eight inch separation. I found that to be a pretty good pretty good distance for lettuce and a lot of different things. Eight inches, just good all around spacing for plants. So then what I did in these two rails, these are 2-inch halls and these are for other things you may want to grow strawberries or herbs and other things, maybe larger greens if you wanted to really make Romaine or something. So here I did this whole pattern for strawberries. So you can see ten inches. Strawberries need quite a bit of distance between them because they get so big and bushy. So ten inches is probably the minimum of what you'd want. And then here's another rail with eight-inch spacing, which can be good for herbs or if you wanted it to grow some other greens. So this whole pattern here is just overall a nice layout that you could use for a variety of different things. If you're just doing the two rail system, you could just stop here and just do the lettuce system like a half here. I've done that and it's worked really well. Or if you're doing the four rail system and you only want to grow lettuce. You could take this idea and just expand it to four rails so you could put more seedlings spots over here and maybe few more intermediate spot here, and then make all of these 1.5 inch holes. One thing to note when you're looking at these whole patterns. I put it in the drawing here so I wouldn't forget because I have forgotten in the past. But I put in the connectors here. And that's important because if you put a net cup hole right over the top of a connector E, I've learned this from experience. You won't be able to fit the net cup in because the bottom of the couple hit the fitting that's inside of the rail. So just keep that in mind when you're making your whole layout. Don't put holes right above where these connections will be. The other important thing about the connections is I don't like to put put any plants too close to an exit hole. And that's because if you have a plant right next to the exit hole, it, the roots will grow and they will end up plugging the x at all in causing the water level to rise. So I like to keep the plant away from the downstream exit. You can put them as close as you want to where the water comes in and that's fine because the roots will get pushed this way, but don't put them too close to the exit. This is another example of a whole layout you could use. So this is using all two-inch holes. So this would be for bigger things. This is actually the whole layout I'm going to use in this course, though. I will also show you how to do the other one. But what I, what I'm going to use this one for is mainly bigger plants, like strawberries. So you can see, just like in the one before I have rails with 10-inch separation between the holes. So that'll give me 10 slots to put strawberries here. And I will also have six slots on the back rail with eight-inch spacing that I could use for lettuce or herbs or other plants that I want to try. Because again, eight inches is just a really good overall versatile distance between the two between two holes. Then here in this first rail again where the water levels higher, I've got a couple of spots really close together just in case I'm starting seeds in any two-inch cups. And then I've got a few closer spot. Some herbs don't need to be very far apart. So having some closer ones down here can accommodate herbs. This will also be closest to where I can access the system, since I'll always be accessing it from this side. So having herbs out on the front will be nice because if I just want to come in, pluck off a branch, it's pretty simple to do. And again, you can modify this layout to accommodate just to Rails or shorter alles if you wanted it to do that as well. Same principles apply no matter how long the rails are. And also feel free to make any whole layout you want. These are just some ideas to get you started. But depending on what you're growing, This is the fun part of hydroponics here. You're designing the layout, designing year, your garden basically. So put some thought into what you want to grow and then go ahead and make a layout like this. 6. 5 Materials: The first thing we'll need is the rails themselves. These are just four by four inch fence posts that are available at many home improvement stores. I bought posts that are a 100 inches long. That way I can cut them in half and have to 50 and trails. 50 inches is a good length and incised well for many available grow lights. But you can make them shorter rails if you wanted, depending on the space you have available. If you're making the two rail system, you'll just need one vegetables. So then next we have the fence post caps. These are also four by four caps made specifically for the fence posts that I bought. And then we'll seal those on with a combination of PVC glue. This is just one part PVC glue. It's built-in primer, self priming, and then some silicone. And I use silicone that is used for fish tank so that it's nontoxic. Then we have the materials for connecting the rails together. So for this, since I'm making a for rail system, there's an MP3 connections between the rails. So for each connection, we need one PVC Union, and this is a one-inch, so this will fit over one inch schedule 40 PVC. And then we have 31 inch PVC couplings. So this will also fit over one inch PVC schedule 40. And then we have three sets of those for one for each connection. Then we have just standard one inch schedule 40 PVC pipe. And I just got to two foot sections of it. We'll need three two-inch sections of the PVC pipe for each connection. So six inches of pipe for each connection times three, so 18 inches. So I'll probably only need one of these, but they're so cheap doesn't hurt to get too just in case we mess up a card or something. And then we'll need fittings for the inflow and outflow tubing. So for the inflow tubing, we have half an inch bulkhead fitting with MPT threading on the inside and then a half inch elbow with MPT on this side and then a slip fitting here for the inflow tooling to connect to so the knees can connect together and form a seal. For the outflow tubing. What I use is a one-inch elbow except a female and then a male electrical conduit fitting also one-inch. The thing about this is it doesn't have the taper threads, so you can screw it as far as you need to. So later on this will allow us to screw it right down and tighten up against the edge of the rail. So it's important that on the inside you get an electrical conduit fitting so that these threads aren't tapered, then this is irregular. And PT thread one inch slip fitting so we can connect the outflow tubing to it. And then a little superglue can be helpful to seal up this bulkhead fitting from unscrew it once we've got it in there. We'll also need half-inch tubing to connect to the inflow and then one inch tubing to connect to the outflow. But I'll talk more about that later on when we're actually setting up the system with the reservoir. Because you'll need varying lengths depending on how you're setting it up. So overall, the materials for this project are pretty simple and fairly inexpensive. If you have trouble finding any of the materials. I keep a materials list on my website that will show you links to where you can buy all these things. 7. 6 Tools: One of the main things you'll need for this project is a drill. So you could use a cordless drill like this, otherwise a drill press could also work. But the one important thing is whatever you use, it needs to be able to go in reverse because you're going to be drilling through PVC. And using a whole side going forward through PVC, it will catch and it can be really difficult. So you'll want to, you need something that can go in and drill in reverse. So then for the actual hole size, you'll probably need four. So you'll need the one and a quarter inch for making the inflow hall for the bulkhead fitting. Then we'll need 1313 eighth inch all saw for making all the connections between the rails. And then need a 1.5 into l saw for making the actual net pot sites are the 1.5 inch net pots. And then you may also want to use a two-inch all psi if you're going to be making plant sites for bigger plants like strawberries or larger herbs. I use the 1.5 inch for lettuce and then the two inch for bigger plants. So you'll need those for Hall saws and then also Ann Arbor that you can run the whole saws are another important tool for this job is a saw. So the main thing will be sine is the rails and then the PVC pipe for making the connections. So a very minimum, you'll need a hand saw that should work fine, might take a little longer, but it'll work fine. Otherwise, if you have a miter saw or circular saw, those could go a little bit faster. However, I like to keep things as simple as possible. So if you don't have those tools, just go ahead and use hand side. I know I showed this when we talked about materials, but you'll also want to caulk gun. Doesn't have to be anything fancy, just something that you can easily distribute the silicone lower ceiling up the ends. And then we'll need basic project tools like a measuring tape, a marker, and a ruler. For a ruler, it can be helpful to have one with ionic. Because when you're trying to make some of these precise measurements can be a lot easier when you have tenths on your ruler. So this particular one has 10, so on one side and then your editor regular quarter-inch increments on the other side. So I find that to be helpful. So another thing you'll want a sandpaper after we drill our halls will want to smooth off the edges so that we're not catching on things as we're moving plants around. So I'm using 220 grit sandpaper, but just about any sandpaper would probably be fine. Before starting this project, I would highly recommend that you are a safety glasses. When we're drilling through the PVC, lots of little bits, well, fly all over the place. So it's really good to have eye protection. 8. 7 Cutting the Rails: Overall, cutting the Rails is pretty simple. The main thing that we want to keep in mind is we want to have this flat of a cut is possible so that when we put the fence post caps arm, they will seat nicely onto the end of the rail. So then you just need to find the spot big enough to set the rail down and then start cutting. So I have my real laid out here and I have a measuring tape going to one end. And I'm going do 50 into Rails. So my my fence post is a 100 inches long, so I'm going to cut it in half new 50 and trails. So before I do any cutting, we're going to make two on each side for 50 inches. And that way I can connect the lines to make perfect straight edge. And I'll flip it and do the same thing. Okay, Now that we have a line drawn on all four sides, we're ready to cut. So like I mentioned in the Tools video, I'm going to try and do things as simple as possible. So I'm just going to use a hand saw. But if you do have a miter saw, our circular saw, that might make this a little bit easier. One thing about miter stars is unless you have a really large miter saw, it probably won't be able to cut through this in one goal. So that's something to keep in mind. So to begin cutting, I'm just going to get get started on the top side here. That side is complete. So now I will flip it over. I'd like to do one side at a time just so that I can make sure I'm following the line strictly. Now we'll do the second side and we'll put it over here, the third side. Now on the final side, we're just going to connect the two. We've already done. And there we go. That turned out pretty nice actually. At this point, it's a good idea to give it a quick sand so that there's no borers. Again, come in. Again. You could use a more sophisticated tool for this, but just a piece of sandpaper works fine. And now we have our Rails ready. So if you're just making a two rail system, this point you're done cutting rails. If you're gonna do, uh, for rail system, then you'll just do the exact same thing we did except one more time to get for Rails total. 9. 8 Measuring Connection Holes: So the next thing we need to do is make the holes for the connections between the rails. At this point, it's good to just lay out the rails so we can plan out what we need to cut. Another thing to do at this stage is a line, the rail, so that they're nicest sides are facing you. Sometimes you can have a rail that has a little bit of sticky stuff on it. Or there might be a small dent or something just from shipping or in the store. So just put that side downs that you won't see it. So getting all the connection holes measured correctly can be a bit of a challenge, just keeping in mind how everything is going to connect. You don't want to get this step wrong, because then you may have to start over. So it's good to plan everything out before you start drilling holes. So for the for rail system, we're going to have water come in on this side. It's going to flow down and it's going to cross over here to this rail. Slow down. Then crossover again, flow back, crossover again, and then flow all the way back. And then here the outlet will be on the inside. Now if you're doing just the two rail system, it's quite a bit more simple. So you just go, just have the inlet here, go down L'Oreal. Then you'll have one connection crossing here. Then the water will go back down. The rail on the outlet will be here. So either way get your rail setup so that you have an idea of how the water is going to flow. And then now we can start marking out where we want polls for the connections. One other trick you can do just to keep everything straight. Take some masking tape and just put a little piece of tape on the top of every rail. That way as we're flipping things around for drilling holes and making marks, you can keep track of what the top is. So I'll start with marking holes for the inflow tubing. So we want the inflow to be on the inside here. So I'm going to take the rail and flip it towards me. This is the top. This is the inside now. And this is where this fitting is going to go. Be like this, except from the inside. So we want pull the b two inches from the end. So I'll make a mark or two inches is and then we want it to be 1.5 inches from the bottom. And that includes these fence posts have a little bit of a curve on the edge. So that's all the way from the or the flat part of the fence post this. One thing to quickly note. If you're doing the whole pattern where you have all the Turin tools, there's going to be 12 inches tall right above this inflow connection. And if you have, depending on which net cup you use, the net cup may slightly rest on top of the inflow connection. If you put the hole here, this is what it looks like at the end, you can see that there's just a slight gap because the net comp is actually resting on top of the inflow connection inside the rail. And it's fine to leave it like that. The plant will grow just fine. But if you wanted to avoid that, you could lower this whole by just an eighth of an inch or so. You don't want to go much more than that because then you'll start to run into the bottom of the rail. But you could go down about an eighth of an inch. And that would avoid that problem in the future. If you're doing any of the other whole layout, you're using the 1.5 inch cups, then this shouldn't be a problem. You could just leave it like this. So we drilling right there on the x and you can measure from the top as well just to double-check. So it should be 2.5 inches from the top and then 1.5 from the bottom. And then you can see, once we have this and here, it will fit nicely in there and there won't, it won't be going off the edge at all. So that's where we're going to drill our inflow tubing goal. And this will be the same regardless of if you're making the two rail system or the four rail system, the height on this one isn't critical, but I like to keep it low. So then when you turn off the pump, if you ever want to clean it or check on things. If you turn off the pump, all the water can then run out and go back through the pump and then empty out most of this rail. If you have this really high, then the rails, the water's just stuck in here and it's not going to drain back out. So that's why I like to keep it as low as I can. Now we can work on the first connection. So the important thing about the connection is the height that we put this connection determines what the water level is going to be in this first trail. So what I usually do is I like to have my seedlings in this first rail. And so to keep the seedlings moist, we need the water level to be high. So I like to keep the outflow hall pretty high up on this first rail just to keep that water level in this rail high enough to keep the seedlings moist. If you are growing something bigger where you didn't care about keeping seedlings moist, then you could put the connection while lower than what I'm going to do. But if you're doing lettuce and you want to start seedlings or starts feelings of another plant, you should follow what I do here. So now we'll go ahead and mark the hole for this first connection. So again, this is the top. We want the connection to be between these two. So I'm going to take the rail, flip it towards me, keeping the top towards me know. So then the hole is going to go right here. So this time we're going to go 13 quarter inches from the top and one and three-quarter inches from the end. And then again, we should check. It can be 13 quarters from the top in two and a quarter from the bottom. So we're good. And just so you see why we do 13 quarters from the top, the standard net cup is usually two inches tall. So if I have the net cup resting here down the rail and the water, the center of the hole is here. The water is going to be exiting right about at this level. So you can see the net pot reaches just below this 13 quarter center line. So it just barely get too wet when the pump is on. So now we can mark the rail right across. So this one, the connection is going to come into this side. So we're going to flip this rail away from us. So now the top is facing back away from us. So it's important that we have the exact same measurement on this one. Do on this one. Because these two are going to connect. There are different heights. Then that connection is going to be holding one rail up off the surface that the rails are lying on. So it's important that we get them to be the same height. And again, we're going to do one and three-quarter inches from the top and one and three-quarter inches from the side. But this time you have to remember that the top is now away from you. So 13 quarter from the top and 13 quarter from this side. And we only care about where those lines cross. So now we can check that we've got it right by flipping them both so that the top is up. And then when you put them next to each other, the whole should align. The markings that you made should align. So then we know that we've got it right. One mistake I've made in the past is measuring this hole from the bottom. So you end up with one that's low and one that's high. So just make sure you don't do that. Now we'll move to doing the connection between the second and the third rail. If you're only making the two rail system, then you can go ahead and skip to the video talking about making the exit hole. So for these two holes, we're going to want it to be on this side of the second rail and on this side of the third rail. So start with the second rail and I'm going to flip it towards me this time. So again, the top is facing towards me. And now I'm going to make the whole 23 quarter inches from the top and again, one and three-quarter inches from the side. And the reason that we do 23 quarter inches from the top and one and which is also one and a quarter inches from the bottom, is because when we have these two connected, we're going to have this union in there. And this union is just under one and a quarter inches in radius. So that makes sure that this won't be resting on the surface of whatever we have the rails arresting on. Now we'll do the third rail, so the inside here. So I'm going to take the rail and flip it away from me. Now the top is a way for me. The bottom is facing me. Again. I'm going to do 23 quarter inches from the top in one and three-quarter inches from the side. And again, we can make sure that we gotten it right. Flip both rails so that the top is up. And you should see that they line up. Perfect. Here's another angle of what they look like. So you can see the two holes align up when they're put down flat. And now our final connection is between the third and the fourth rail. And this one is identical to the one we just did except on the other side. So we want the hole to be on the backside of the third rail, front side of the Forth Rail. So I'm going to flip the third rail towards me. And then again, I'm going to measure it just like the other one, to 23 quarter inches from the top in one and three-quarter inches from the side. Here for the Forth Rail. I'll flip the top so that it's a way for me to do the same thing. This time I'm measuring, keeping in mind that the top is away from me. So we'll check this one just like we did with the others. You'll see when we flip the third rail back and Forth Rail towards us, those two holes are going to match up. 10. 9 Outlet Tubing Hole: Now we're ready to mark the hole for the outlet tubing. So before I do that, I'm going to get rid of these front three just so that they're out of the way. But we're going to be doing it on the Forth Rail and on the inside, the side that's facing us. This step is the same regardless of if you're doing the two rail system are the four rail system. So similar to the others, we want to keep the outflow tubing is low as possible. That allows the water level in this rail to be lower for more mature plants. And it also will allow the water to drain out most of the way when we turn off the pumps. And this is the connection we're going to be making. It's going to be going through like this. So it's actually going to be extremely similar to the other connections that we've done between rails. So since we want Paul to becoming out from this side, we're going to take the rail and flip it away from us. So now the top is on the back. And again, we're going to do 23 quarter inches from the top. And this time we're going to do two inches from the side. So it's two inches from the side for both the inflow and outflow. And the rest are 13 quarter inches from the side. Since this one's not connecting to anything else, it's not super critical that this is just right. But we wanted high enough that this can be attached to the hole and it won't be hanging off. So we have it right. 11. 10 Drilling Connection Holes: So now we've marked all of the connection holes. So if that one here inside the first trail for the inflow. And with that too, here matching going from the first, the second row. Then we have to hear from the second to the third rail. And then you have to hear from the third to the fourth rail. And then the final exit on the Forth Rail. And again, if you're just doing the two rail system, you're just going to have the inlet hall, one connection hall, and then the x. So we'll start with the inlet Hall. I put on the one in the quarter-inch hole saw on the arbor and my drill. A couple important things about drilling. One thing is you definitely want to drill backwards because these teeth dig right into the PVC and they'll catch if you're going forward. Backward works a lot better. However, I still go forward initially just to get the pilot hole started. So you go forward to begin with, switch it to reverse and then finish cutting. Another thing, you're definitely going to want to wear safety glasses for this step because PVC will start to fly everywhere once you start drilling. So now we're ready to drill. So again, I'm going to go forward, get my pilot hole started. And now I'm down to the PVC. Your switch it to reverse it at high-speed and then just apply constant pressure and drill. And there we go. Now we can send it off a little bit. And you'll see that our half-inch bulkhead fitting, it's right in there. But we'll save that for a future step. Now I've switched over to the one and three-eighths inch also. And we can use that for all four walls on the side of the rails. So we can just draw them one by one. One thing I would note and you may have noticed it, but I actually wouldn't recommend a whole. So I like this. You'll see this one cuts with just 1 of contact. So that makes it a lot less stable. When you're drilling through PVC. Sure, it works fine with things like wood. But if you're able to find one that has consistent teeth all the way around, that works a lot better for cutting through PVC. Unfortunately, this is one and three-eighths inch, which is a little more uncommon for whole sauce. So just keep that in mind. Now we'll do the same for the remaining three holes. We'll talk more about this later when we make the connections. But these holes, basically I'm just going to need the one inch PVC to fit through and then have a one-inch coupling now fit. So we got it. Now we can put the rail. Now we'll go, we have the connection holds done. That's one of the trickier steps. The next step, making the halls with the top of the rail. That can also be a challenge, but what we just did can be a little confusing with keeping all the heights right and everything. So we're making good progress. So here's what our whole pattern looks like. We have the inlet hole, the two connection holes between the first second rail. Connection halls between the second and the third rail, these are much lower. The connection between the third, fourth rail, again, their lore and dx at all. It can also show you one more time logic behind the higher exit hole on this first rail. So you see the exit hole is pretty high. If we have a net pot resting in there. The base of the neck cup is just over the base of the exit hole, the first rail. The thing is the water always rises a little bit above this whole when it's traveling through this rail. So it's just enough to touch the bottom of this net cup and keep the seedlings moist. So that's why we do that. 12. 11 Drilling Plant Site Holes: Okay, I have my whole pattern already. So now I'm going to mark all the locations where I'm going to drill hall. So I've got all my Rails facing up with the tape. Can take the tape off now. And what the whole pattern I chose. The closest holes are going to be here right near the inlet because this rail is going to be have the highest water level. So I want then the seedlings and small plants are going to be in this one so I can put the holes closer together. So with all these holes, when you're measuring them, you're just kind of guessing. But then once you get both measurements from each side, then I draw a line to lay me. So I'm going to draw right here where the two lines meet. Measurements for these holes aren't totally critical. You're off by just a little bit. That's okay. Now I have my two inch will go ahead and start drilling out the plant side holes. Again. Our safety glasses here because those plastic flying all over the place. Just like before, what I like to do is drill forward. It started. Once I get down near the surface of the rail, then I flip it to reverse and then draw right through. Okay. And there we go. That wasn't too bad. You may have noticed, but one trick that I really like, having one of these retractable arbors for your whole psoas. One of the things that can take the longest is just getting these little disks out once you drill through. But when you have one of these retractable arbors, you can just pull back on here and then pull the disk write off. So it makes it a lot faster. Now I'll go ahead and sand off each of the holes. This is a little more important because you want these to be fairly smooth. Since these are the plant roots are we going into? So I'll give it a little more time to get these smooth. Now we can take a 2-inch net cup just to test that out. Perfect. It's fun because at this step it's really starting to look like hydroponic rail system. So at this point, it's a good idea to get everything cleaned off. There's a bunch of those little disks everywhere and plastic shavings. So I'll go ahead and clean off the surface and we'll move on to the next step. 13. 12 Drilling Plant Site Holes (Alternate): In this video, I'll show you how I measure and drill the holes for the lattice layout that I like to use. So I start out by marking the halls just like we do for any other layout. And it's pretty much the same. The only part that's difficult is when we get to the other end where we have to drill the holes really close together. And there you need to be really precise with your measurement. One thing that I did to help is I made a little jig that's measured out just exactly how I want it to be in. Then I can put that on top of the rail and then mark all the holes to make sure that they're all good distance apart. Because if they're too close, then the net cups can overlap once we put them in. Then for drilling will use a 1.5 inch hole I instead of a two inch. That way that will accommodate the 1.5 inch net pots. But besides that, the drilling is the same as if we were doing to Internet cups. Again, the most challenging part of this is drilling the holes where they're really close together just because of the precision involved. One thing you can run into is if you start to drill the holes too close to the edge, the whole sock and actually catch on the edge of the rail. So just be wary of that as you're drilling. And when you're done drilling, it's good to sand each of the holes. Sometimes the 1.5 inch pot can stick inside the halls if they have VRS or anything. So it's good to go through and sand them all in check. And all the other steps of building the rails will be the same. This is just a different whole pattern. 14. 13 Inflow and Outflow Connections: If you made it this far, you're doing great. We're getting towards the home stretch here for finishing up the rails. So the next thing we're going to do is put in the inflow and outflow connections for us to hook up the tubing to. Later on. We'll start with the connection for the inflow tooling. It's pretty simple. Got the bulkhead fitting here, this is the half-inch Ball kit fitting. And one thing to note, there's like a little thin plastic gasket that comes with the ball kid fitting. Make sure that's goes on the outside. Next two away from the collar. So that's a mistake that I've made in the past. I had it on the wrong side. So it works best when it stays on the outside. We're going to pause here for a quick tip. So I didn't do this in the video. But one thing that can be helpful is to put a little bit of silicone right here on the inside of this bulkhead fitting and also on the threads of the elbow. So one thing I found even though these bulkhead fittings are supposed to seal, I've had it happen probably about half the time where at least small leaks will occur around the edge of this bulkhead fitting. So if you just put a little bit of silicone in there that should seal seal up any little leaks that might happen. Same thing with the threads of the elbow. It seems like just about every time you can have tiny little leaks that will come back through the threads once everything is assembled. So it's easier now to put silicone and seal it up than it is to do this at the end. So now back to back to the construction. So you just put the fitting through the hall that we made. This is on the first rail. And then Titanomachy color. Then one little thing I like to do is put a little bit of superglue on these threads right next to the rail. Because once we put the cap on here, you won't be able to access this. And so if this ever does loosen up, you're kind of in trouble. So I like to put some superglue on it so that it stays stays screwed down. Even once we've got everything locked down. You don't need a whole lot. Tighten it down as hard as you can this point. And then you can. Your half-inch elbow in right away. And you'll want the elbow to be facing towards or your inlet is going to come from. So usually that's going to be maybe a 45 degree angle down. Could be straight, horizontal if you need to. Otherwise, pointing straight down with work depending on what your setup is going to be. So I just leave mine at about a 45. And there we go. I should also add, if you're going to be keeping this on like a table that you can't run a tube through. You're going to want to have this be sideways so that your inlet tube has room to connect here. If you have a plain straight down, then you'll have a problem. So just keep that in mind. In this step. You can always rotate this later and you should be fine. But just to be safe, think about it now. That will especially be important for the exit tube, which we'll do in a second. So the exit tube is a little bit different. I've used bulkhead fittings in the past, just like I use for the inlet, except a one-inch. And that works fine. But this setup is a little bit cheaper and simpler. So I've kind of moved towards this when I do rails. But if if you wanted to make adjustments later on, then a bulkhead fitting might work better. You would then have to draw it bigger hall here as well and probably raised This whole lot. So what we're gonna do with this setup, we've got our one inch male PVC conduit fitting and then a one-inch female elbow. And we're going to a through hole that we drilled with the conduit fitting on the inside. And then we're going to just thread on the elbow. And we're going to go into cinch it down tight. And we're going to use some PVC glue so that it locks it down here. The only disadvantage of this is once we have locked down, we won't be able to move it. That's nice for keeping it solid. But if you want to make adjustments later on, it's not as nice. So I like to point the two out like this. Then it's got a little bit of a decline and the water will leave. But it won't rub up against the surface that you're resting on. Okay. So I have my rail up right here so I can get a better view and better leverage. So this is the top, and then this is the exit hole. So we've got some PVC glue here, which remember using quite a bit here in the next few steps. But what I'm gonna do is just put a little bit of PVC glue rate along here. And then when I put that in, that's going to bond to the inside of the rail. And then once a tighten this down, that should seal it up pretty good. If we did ever have weeks, we could always put silicone around the edge. So that's the plan. So the thing about PVC glue, it dries really fast. So we have to have a plan of what we're going to do. And especially we need to know in advance which direction we want the outflow elbow to point. So for me, since I'm using kind of a lattice support structure that has space between the supports. I can actually send my outflow to being straight down. That's what I wanna do. But if you're doing it on something like a table where you have a totally solid surface underneath. You don't wanna do it like this. You'd want to angle your exit elbow just a little bit downward so you're not scraping against the table. So just have a plan in advance of which orientation you want this to point. Okay, so I've got my PVC glue. We don't need much, so I'm going to dab off the brush quite a bit. There we go. Just like that. That'll take a little bit fully here. But it's it initially cares pretty quick. 15. 14 Rail Connections: Next we can get ready to assemble our connection fittings. So first I'll show you what the end goal is that we're looking for. So these are going to be the connections that go between rails. So what we're gonna do is we've got a union. So this will allow us to separate the Rails just by unscrewed by hand later on. Super handy. So we'll have that in-between. Then to connect it, we're going to put a little chunk of PVC, one inch PVC pipe. And that'll allow us to connect it to a coupling. And then this will be the only part that you can see between the two rails. Then we'll have another chunk, one inch PVC that'll go through the rail. And then we'll put this on the inside and this will sandwich up against one of the rails. And on the other side, there'll be similar. And once we the PVC glue in there, these are going to tighten up against each other. Slide down the PVC pipe a little more. So this will all be one continuous piece. And then the one, the wall of one rail will be here and the wall of the other rail will be here. And this gives us about 4.5 inches between the rails, which then if you add the two inches of diameter for each of the rails, you end up with about 8.5 inches. Between the center to center of the rails. You could use bulkhead fittings are connecting the rails, and I've done that in the past. But using the couplings is much cheaper. And it allows you to put your holes lower because the bulkhead fittings are a lot bigger. So you'd have to raise up your hall. And I like to have the water level is low as possible in the last rails. So that's why I choose to go a little more unconventional and use the coupling on the inside and sandwich it onto the rails. If you wanted to Rails to be spaced further apart, then you're just going to cut this piece of PVC to be longer. So if you make it longer, but basically just extends the length between the rails. But I found 8.5 inches to be a good amount. And that will allow you to fit for rails and about 2.5 feet of width, which can be covered by quite a few different grow lights. If you're just doing it to rail system, then you could do it a little farther apart if you'd like, if you up the space for it. So for cutting the PVC pipe, I would say the maximum size you want to cut it to two inches long and probably go even shorter just to be safe. Because what we're going to be doing is basically creating a ball cap fitting by putting this up against the edge of the rail, the wall of the rail. And then from the inside, pushing this coupling back the other direction and sandwiching the wall of the rail in-between the two. So if we have too long of a piece of PVC, then we're not going to be able to sandwich all the way down to the rail. So just to be safe, even go 17 eighths might be a good option if you're doing it for the first time just to make sure. Sometimes when you're pulling it together, it doesn't always push all the way as far as you'd like. And you have to go real fast when you're working with PVC. So 17 eighths inch sections. And then we can use either a hand saw, circular solver miter saw that got these would be the easiest. But again, a hand saw symbol. Okay, We have our three sections of one inch PVC, so we're ready to preassembled or connections eating. So we'll first do the part that we'll be able to see between the rails. So when I'm taking apart the rails, It's nice to be able to unscrew this collar of the Union towards open space. So I want to put the other coupling that I can see. I want to put it on this side. So it's going to look like this. There's going to be a rail here. There's going to rearrange here. And then I can unscrew this towards the open coupling rather than if I had at the opposite direction. This is now going to be the wall of the rail here. And unscrew this. Going to have to screw it towards the wall of the rail, which is a little bit harder to do. So a small detail but something that can make your life a little bit easier down the road. And then we can also put in another chunk PVC on this side and this side of the coupling. And then later on we'll put the two couplings on the inside of that rail here and here to seal it up. But first, we can now assemble these parts together before we put them into the rail. One thing I would recommend you do is a practice run of gluing together to these couplings with the PVC pipe. Just because you're gonna have to do this really fast on the walls of the rail. And you don't want to mess it up because then you'd have to start over with the rail. So what you could do is if you've got two extra couplings and an extra section of pipe, you can do a practice run where you put glue on the pipe and then put glue on not coupling and force it, force it together, and then do the same thing on the other side and make sure that when you do that you're able to get these two couplings to touch, to meet together. Because that way, you know, you'll be able to tighten it up against the rails. If you have a gap, even this wide might be a little bit too wide. So if that was the case, you need to make sure that this connection pipe here is shorter. It's probably good to err on the side of too short because we need these to be able to sandwich all the way together on the rails. So I've done two inches for a length on this connection pipe. I suggested 13 quarters. You could even do a 1.5. Partly depends on the exact couplings you get and how deep they go. So just keep that in mind union and make sure that this is short enough to allow the two sides to sandwiched together. So we see what it's going to look like. I'm going to take these apart. We can start with this one is a simple example. So I've got the PVC glue here. We're not going to need a whole lot. So white quite a bit off the brush. I knew a little bit on the inside. They're a little bit on the outside. And when I put them together, I like to spin them to make sure that the glue is holding everywhere and it makes a tight seal. Now we go. There might be a little excess glue. If that's the case. Just use a towel and wipe it off. Now we can do the same thing for the other sections of the connection fitting. Start here. I like to really push it in so that it gets all the way down at the base because we don't want any extra piping off from Morgan. Now I'll put the coupling on here. Same thing. And this is where the longer piece would go if you wanted the rails to be farther apart. But I don't want him to be snuck. Again if there's extra swipe it off. Now we'll do the last section of PVC pipe inside. Okay. So now you can see this will be the visible part of the connection fitting between the rails. And it'll look something like this. And I would advise not to leave it screwed together for now because if there is any residual extra glue in there, you don't want it to accidentally get caught up in the threads in seal whole thing permanently. So you can leave them separate for a little while on a dry ice. So next we'll put the connection fittings into the rails. So again, before you do it, you want to just plan out what you're about to do. So it's going to look something like this. Where we have one side through there, neither side through here. And again, make sure that the two rail though the tool you want to connect together. And it doesn't really matter which direction you go this way or this way. Just pick whichever one seems to make more sense to you. I would recommend using the same orientation for all of them null because that way in the future, if you ever want to switch rails, you can just make one rail with the same orientation as these, and then you can just replace rails or switch them out whenever you want. So in this case, we're going to do all of them with the sleeve on the side of the previous rail. Attaching the connectors to the rails. Pretty simple. We're just going to put this small section of PVC pipe through the hall that we've already drilled. And you'll see that this coupling prevents prevents it from continuing to go through the hole. And we're going to put a coupling on the inside with some PVC glue. And then we're just going to smash them together so that they tighten up hard against the wall of the rail. Again, it's simple, but since we're using PVC glue, we have to work fast. It doesn't hurt to have a little bit of extra glue in this step. That way, a little bit can really seal up between the coupling in the wall of the rail and both sides. Make it watertight. And again, if you did have trouble where there was a leak after you're all done, you could always put a bead of silicone around here and you'd be okay. Now I'll do a similar thing with the other side, with the second rail. We're going to look like this. Got a different angle here so you can see what I'm doing. So again, I've got my PVC glue. Ugly with coupling. Set a tone for a second. Put my connector through some glue to the PVC pipe on the inside. Smash them together. And it's good to hold them tight so that they really bond to the wall of the rail. Hold it for 30 seconds or so. And now we have a completed connector between the first and the second rail. You'll see they're apart. You can always just screwed on the collar, attach them. And this is solid later on if you ever need to disassemble for cleaning or transport, you can just unscrew this color by hand and separate the two rails. And this is where the water's going to flow between the two. If you're doing the two rail system, then you're done. You just need this one connector. However, if you're doing the four rail system, you have to do this two more times. So you're gonna do it between the second and the third rail. And between the third and the fourth rail, it's going to be exactly the same as what we did right here. One on there note for the pieces that are going to be going through the wall of the rail. You really want to make sure that you push in the PVC as far as you can. So you want it to go all the way till it touches the seat of this piece. Because if you don't get it all in all the way, you won't be able to compress up against the rail wall here. So you need to make sure that these can go all the way together. When they're not, when they don't have glue on them, you won't be able to get them together. But once there's glue on them, they get a little more slippery. But then just give him a solid push when you're putting them together. So you can see here I've pushed the PVC pipe in all the way till it seeded up against the back of this half of the union fitting. Once all the PVC glue has dried, you can take a look at all of your connections and make sure everything looks all right. And you might have a case like this where there's a small gap between the coupling in the wall of the rail. If that's the case, just to be safe. I like to put a little silicone on there just to seal it up and make sure we don't have leaks later on. So so I'm going to take a look at It's not really a big deal. If it happens. Also if you had any concerns, well leaking, you can put a small bead of silicone all along this outer edge where the connection meets the rail. And this is something that's fairly easy to do later on as well. If you have it all set up and you realize that it's leaking. Once you're gluing on the connection, fittings can be good to let it sit overnight just to let the glue totally clear. It solidifies pretty fast. But two completely solidify. I think it takes 24 hours. So at least give it overnight to really seal down on the wall of the rail. And another tip can be helpful to put a little bit glue on the piece before you put it through. Because then it can build up along that edge, seal up the opening. 16. 15 End Caps: At this point we've drilled all of our plant site holes. We have our connection fittings on between all the rails as well as our inflow and outflow tubing connections. So now that we've got all that done, we're ready to put on the end caps. And you want to do this last because once we put on the end caps, we can no longer access the inside of the rails. For putting the caps on the rails. One important thing is that we seal up the connection between the cap and the rails. These caps aren't really made to be waterproof from the inside. So even if you use just PVC glue and put it on, I've done this before and water will leak out in the corners, sometimes even in the sides. So what I've done is a hybrid where I do, I put silicone right along the base here. And then that kind of bonds to this edge here. And then I put a little bit of PVC glue higher up on the sides. And that just holds it on real tight so that it doesn't get pushed off by the water inside. So that combination is worked really well. I've never had one leak. At this point. You can get your silicone writing. I like to use a query. I'm silicone. It works well, being submerged in it's non-toxic. And also get your PVC glue ready. I start with the silicone because that takes a little bit longer to dry so you have a little more time to work. So the important thing when you do this is put a lot in the corners, because the corners is going to be where the biggest gap is. So we've got the entire perimeter with silicone with a nice bead. Now, we'll open up our PVC glue and we don't want to use very much. So get as much of it off as you can. And then I like to put it onto the rail itself. So I just put it a little bit right along the main edge. On the side here. And then you can put a little bit on the inside here as well. I try not to touch the silicone with this. So now we just take the cap smashed on and then hold it for a little bit, kind of compress the sides in so that they can bond. And that's all there is to it. Sometimes you'll have a little bit of back through and you can just wipe that off with a cloth nearby just in case you have excess material for the rest of the gaps. Hi. So you can see that once you get the hang of it, it's really not that complicated of a process. You can go pretty quick. This is a view of what we want the end caps to look like once they're on. So you can see we have a nice bead of silicone right at the bonding point between the rail and the cap. So that's seals up that connection point in a moment, any water out. And here on the outer edge you can see we have a nice bond from the PVC glue to really hold that cap on. At this point the rails are done, so nice work. The silicone that we just applied to the end caps that's supposed to take at least 24 hours to fully here. So I would recommend laying the rails flat so that the silicone isn't being pulled in one direction. It can just dry nicely in the end caps. And then once everything has dried, you can go ahead and spray it out with a hose, get any last bits of plastic that might be left inside the Rails. Another thing you could do at that point is tested for leaks. So you could you could either connect a pump up to the inlet and connect everything together and see if any water leaks out. Or you could just fill up each rail individually with water from the hose or something and see if there's any leaks at any of the joints or at the end caps, if you've done everything we've done up to this point, I doubt there will be leaks. But if it's something you want to check beforehand that this would be the time to do it. 17. 16 Lighting & Environment: Next we'll talk about the lighting and environment for our hydroponic system. This is something that can have a lot of different factors and be complex. But I'm going to boil it down to what you need to know. We'll start by talking about lighting. So there's two potential sources of light for our plants, sunlight or artificial lighting. With sunlight, the nice thing is that it's simple. It's free, and it's easy. So if you do have access to sunlight, if you have, say, a greenhouse or an area outside that you want to use, then that may be all you need. You might be done with this whole section right there. However, there are a few reasons you may not want to use sunlight. The first thing is that temperature control can be difficult. Especially in a greenhouse in the summer, it can get really warm. And there's plants such as lettuce that don't like to get warm. So that's one disadvantage of sunlight. Also, if you live really far north or far south, where you have really short days in the winter, you may not be getting enough light anyways from sunlight and you would need to use artificial lighting. Another note, when we first started, we thought, hey, let's put our system next to a big window and see if we get enough light that way. Well, it turned out we didn't get anywhere near what we needed. The plants are really stretched out and didn't grow very fast. So I would say it's probably probably not a good plan to I expect that you'll get enough light just from a window. Artificial lighting is nice and is often associated with hydroponics because of the fact that it can be used anywhere. So it's very friendly to using indoors in a basement, stacking, things like that. So that's one benefit of artificial lighting is just the flexibility that it gives you. It also gives you a consistent light source through all the seasons. So no matter what's going on outside, if it's snowing, raining dark, light, short days, long days. That doesn't matter with artificial lighting, you can control the environment and control the amount of light that the plants are getting throughout the seasons. Now a disadvantage of artificial lighting is that it costs money to both buy and then keep running. The lighting usually turns out to be the biggest expense in hydroponics. And so it's something we wanna take a close look at and make a good decision on. There are a lot of different types of artificial lighting. But for this video, I'm just going to focus on the two primary ones that we've used in two of the most popular, which are fluorescent lighting and LED lighting. So with fluorescent lighting. The advantage of fluorescent is that it's cheap and easy to find. So the initial cost is pretty low. You can find fluorescent bulbs just about anywhere. And oftentimes, people who already have fixtures or bulbs already in their home not using or in a shop or something like that. The disadvantage of fluorescence is that they have a higher running cost and heat output. So they use more electricity than other types of lighting such as LED. And they release heat. And that can be a disadvantage, especially if you're in a warmer climate where you're already paying to cool the space that you're in. And now you're adding some more heat from your lighting. Led lights have progressed a lot in the past few years and they're becoming very popular for hydroponic gardening. And one of the main reasons for this is because they have a lower running costs and heat output. For us, switching from fluorescent to LED cut our electricity usage in half. However, they do have a higher initial cost. So that's something to keep in mind. You can often recoup this initial cost over time with the electricity savings. But if you're looking to start out cheap, that is a disadvantage. Another thing about LEDs is that that there's a lot of different types available. So you'll notice there's lots of different spectrums, types, sizes. So it can be a little bit overwhelming to make when you're making a decision on which one to buy. However, it can also be a tool because you can choose the correct light for the application that you're going to use it for. To sort through some of these choices. I'll start by giving a short summary of light spectrum. So this rainbow diagram here is the visible spectrum of light. And plants use light from throughout this range of wavelengths in varying amounts. So plants tend to use more light in this blue section. And down here closer to the red section. Whereas our eyes tend to see and be more sensitive to light in the middle and the green yellow range. Knowingness. Light manufacturers will customize their lights to emit certain wavelengths of light to meet the needs of the plant. That's why you see so many lights that are purple. They have, they emit a lot of blue light name in a lot of red light to try to meet those two needs of the plant. That was actually one of the reasons that we avoided LED lights to begin with. Since we have our system in our home. Having the purple lights made the entire room purple. And now it's just weird. However, there are quite a few lights available now that are full spectrum LED lights. So full-spectrum lights will have lights from all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum, though still have peaks. Are they emit extra blue and extra red, but they'll also have some green and yellow. And this causes the light to appear more white to us and appear more like sunlight. There are some research that full spectrum lights are actually more beneficial for certain plants, then having just the blue and red. But again, it depends a lot on which plant you're trying to grow. And other factors. For us, we've had really good results with full-spectrum LEDs for a wide variety of plants. And we like the color since it's in our home, the more natural color rather than the purple. So that would be our recommendation. Useful spectrum LEDs. But if this is something that really interests you, feel free to dive in more and look specifically at the wavelengths that the plants you want to grow like and Feel free to tinker with it. After spectrum, the next question we ask is how much light do we need? There's several factors involved, but we'll start with light coverage. Ideally, we want to provide an even light source for our entire system. The problem is that with any light, you're going to have more light in the middle and less out on the edges, but we want to minimize that as much as possible. The best way I've found is to find a light that has a coverage area that matches the system that you have. So for a system like this, you're going to want a light That's probably rectangular and fairly wide so that it can cover the whole area. You could get a super, super bright bulb that's right in the middle. But then you're going to have a lot of light right in the middle and not much on the edges. So it's better to get one that's more spread out. Lights often have a coverage area listed and you can use that to make this decision. But one rule of thumb we've used for fluorescence or LED tube lights. It seems like you need at least four tube lights to cover a two rail system and then eight tubes to cover a for rail system. Another factor is the intensity of the light or the rated power of the light. We found that for, uh, for rail system like this, we need 200 watts of LED power, or at least 400 watts if it's fluorescence. Here's an example of our setup under the light. You can see that the light distribution is pretty good. It's a little bit brighter in the middle, but still there's decent coverage on all the edges. Another thing that can help with lighting along the edges is using a reflective mylar material on the walls of the area where you're growing. This reflects any light that would be escaping and sends it back to the edges. So this can help to equalize out your light coverage. Another factor that determines how much light your plants get is the height of your light above the rails? So we found good rule of thumb is to keep the light between 16 and 18 inches from the top of the rails to the bottom of the light. And finally, you can control how much light your plants get in a day by adjusting how long the light is on every day. This again, depends on what planet you're going. But we found that 14 hours a day works really well for a wide variety of plants. A few notes about the environment for your plants. We like to keep the temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be a little tricky in the summer with the heat from the lights and then heat from from outside. So a basement, actually a good location for a system because basements are often cooler even in the summer, just from being partially under crowned. So that's something to consider as a location depending on your climate. For humidity, we like to keep it between 40 and 60 percent. If you get higher than that or lower than that, you can start to see issues such as tip around with your plants. Something that can be beneficial for both the temperature and the humidity is to just put up clip on Fan next to your system. This will keep, this will make sure you don't have a local pocket of warm air above your plants. And we'll also push out some of the humidity to keep the humidity more constant. These are cheap, simple, and pretty easy to set up. So this is something I would recommend. 18. 17 Reservoir: The reservoir is an important part of your hydroponic system. The reservoir is of course, where the majority of the nutrient solution is going to be stored. But also it's where your pumps will live and then where you can do aeration as well as water changes in nutrient mixing or testing. So good thing is, we can do all those things with a pretty simple Tok. I just get a tote from local home improvement store. For a for rail system, I would recommend a 27 gallon tote or something in that range. If you're doing just a two rail system, you could probably get away with 15 to 20 gallon tote. But the bigger the better because then you have to do fewer water changes in your systems, a little more stable. For a pump. We use a submersible pump that we can put right into the reservoir. Then we can connect half-inch tubing here. And then on the other end it's going to connect to our inflow tubing on the rails. As an example, we had water in the reservoir. You'd put our home down in the bottom. Water would be up above the level of the pump. And then we run the cable back out through the lid and then plug it in. And then that will then push water up through the rails. Then if you ever want to turn off the pump to drain water out of the rails, you just unplug it. And this is our half-inch tubing. So we can just connect it right down like this. I like to use a cable tie and pull it tight on here just so that never comes off when it's in the reservoir. I've had it come off once or twice. Then for length, you have to cut the whole length of the hose later on, once you have your setup all figured out, you basically just need enough to being to go from the base of your reservoir where it's connected to the pump up to the height of where your rails are. So at a minimum, you need to keep your Rails a few inches above the top of the reservoir so that water can drain back down. But then you could have your rails up as high as you want as long as you have a pump strong enough to get the water up there. Pumps sizing will also depend on the height of your Rails, both the reservoir. And that's because the higher up the rails are both the reservoir, the slower the flow rate's going to be from a given pump. So if you have a real low, you'd need just a real small pump. Then if your rails are real high, then you'll need a much bigger pump. This table shows the approximate sizing you'll need for the pump. You can always check my website to see the exact pumps I've used. And the heights that they've worked for outflow tubing is very similar to the inflow, except it's thicker, do allow for water to drain out. So this is a one-inch one-inch tubing. And again, you're going to connect one end too. Outflow elbow from the rails. And then the other end is going to go through the lid down into the reservoir. So then I end up drilling a few holes in the top of the rest four to accommodate all the tubes coming in and out. So I usually draw one kinda towards the corner that I use for putting in all the power courts and also airline tubing to go into that hole. Then I'll do another drill, another hall for the inflow tubing to come out. The half-inch moving from the pump. We'll come out through that hole. And then I'll drill a third hall for the outflow to to go into. And I found that a one and a quarter inch hole saw works good for all three of those. The one and a quarter is just big enough to fit this one inch tubing through this corrugated doing. So one of the quarters, nice because we already used that to drill a hole in the rail for the inflow connection. So you've already got the whole saw, so you might as well keep using the same one. So this works well. Just drill three holes and then you'll have one for all the power cords. And airline will have one for the inflow tubing and then you'll have one for the outflow to me. And you can locate the holes based on what where your system is in relation to the reservoir. So here's an example of what I've done in the past to set up a reservoir. So the first thing I did was spray paint the bottom of the lid. This is important because we don't want any light getting in the reservoir which would cause algae to grow. We don't want algae. So if you have a reservoir for tote that already has a really dark top, then you can skip this step. Next, I went ahead and drilled holes into the lid of the reservoir for the inflow and outflow tubing, as well as all the power chords in aeration tubing. So you can see I added two halls kinda right in the middle because that matches where I have this system set up. And then I have one haul off to the side for all the power chords in the aeration tubing to come in. And all three of these holes are an inch and a quarter in diameter. Next, I set up my air pump underneath the location where I'm going to have my rails. And then I put the reservoir in the final location where I wanted it. At this point, I'm ready to put in the submersible pump. I have half-inch tubing already connected to the pump. And I put the pump in the reservoir and thread the power cable through one of the holes that I drilled in the lid of the reservoir. And then I also thread the half-inch tubing through one of the holes in the reservoir to get to where the rails are. I then thread the airline tubes through the side hall created in the lid of the reservoir, and then add bubble bars to allow for aeration. So now I'm ready to take the half-inch tubing that's connected to the submersible pump and connect the other end to the inflow elbow of my rails. As long as you get it past one or two of the barbs on the inflow elbow. I've never had one leak at this spot. Attaching the one inch tubing to the exit of the rails. It's fairly similar. You just press it on and it may take some spinning or some twisting or back and forth to get it to really go over the barbs on that exit elbow. But once you have it connected there, then you will push it through the last remaining Hall in the top of the lid of the reservoir. And both of these steps are the same, whether you have two rails or for Rails. I have a separate video talking more about the final setup of the actual rails. So you may want to watch that one too before you do this. But this is how you connect the tubing to your Rails. If you live in a cold climate. You could also use an aquarium heaters to keep your reservoir water temperature at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit is good, but 65 to 70 would be ideal. 19. 18 Final Setup: Now we're ready to put the rails in place and assemble them together. A quick note about the support structure. There's a wide variety of things you could use. The main requirements that it be sturdy so I can hold a 100 pounds or so if the entire rails are filled with water, and then also it needs to be level. So if your system isn't level, you're going to have issues controlling the water level within the rails. So what I've done here is just build something out of wood. It looks cool when a stained it and everything. But you could also use wire shelving. That works well. Or you could just use a regular table if you wanted. It can also be helpful if your support structure has built-in spot to hang a light. You could also hanging from the ceiling if you have that capability. But it can be nice to have something over the top to hang your light from England at the correct distance above the plants. And we'll talk more about that in the lighting video. So we get the rails all situated on our support structure. We connect both the exit tubing and the inflow tubing from the reservoir, like we did in the other video. And then we assemble the rails together using those unions that we created. 12 of your rail system set up where you can do is turn on the pump and then test everything, make sure that it's what you want. So one of the things you want to check is the water level. So when you turn the pump on and let it run for a while till the waters cycling all the way through. You want to make sure that the water level isn't too high. That would mean that you have too big of a pump. So you can just test that with cop. You see the water comes up maybe a third of the way, about half an inch up the bottom of this net comp. So that's about the max that I would suggest. Up here. As long as it just touches the bottom, you're okay. But if you're getting up any higher than that, then you may want to go with a smaller pump or adjust your pump if you have an adjustable pump. I've done well with pumps between one hundred and two hundred gallons per hour in this system where I'm just a few inches above the reservoir. And then systems up here seem to need between two hundred and three hundred and fifty gallons per hour. I'm currently using a 320 gallon per hour pump and pumping it up about 2.5 feet from my reservoir. The thing I've found with the pump ratings is not always consistent between manufacturers. So it may take a little bit of testing. You might, you might get it on your first try, but it might take some tweaking. And if you ever needed drain out the system, just turn off the pump. And a lot of the water from this first rail will go out through the inlet. It's also a good time to check for leaks and any other issues before you put your plants in your first setting up your system, you want to make sure that you're not letting any light into the rails. So with hydroponics, algae is not your friend. And algae happens when light contacts your nutrient solution inside your Rails. So especially when you're starting out you don't have any plants. It's a good idea to cover up all the holes until you can fill them with plants. So simple way, just get a piece of cardboard and put it over the top of the holes until your smaller plants get big enough that you can move them into all the slack. 20. 19 Nutrients: So nutrients, nutrients could have an entire course of their own. However, what I wanna do here is give you a simple routine that I've used for managing nutrients. So that if you don't want to dig too deep into it, you can just use this and grow plants. So first let's look at some categories you might encounter when you're looking for a nutrient. So the first thing is there's mixing nutrients and there's premix nutrients. With mixing nutrients, they come dry as a powder or assault. And sometimes they come in multiple parts. And basically you have to measure them out and then put them into water to make nutrient solution. Sometimes you have to put them in a certain order and have them dissolve in that order. In order for them to dissolve correctly. Premix nutrients, on the other hand, are already dissolved and they come as a really concentrated liquid. So they're a little simpler because you can still have to put them into water like you would with the mixin nutrients. But you just put a main, you don't have to worry about them dissolving or anything. They'll just mixed by themselves. The disadvantage of pre-mixed nutrients is that they're often more expensive because you're paying for the nutrient and you're paying for the water that's being shipped to you that's holding the nutrients. So if you want the cheapest option, mixing is usually the best, but pre-mixed it a little bit simpler. Another decision to make is organic or synthetic. So synthetic nutrients, their powers are salts, and they're usually pretty simple to use. Organic nutrients can be more complex, but uses organic matter to fertilize the plants. Personally, I've only use synthetic nutrients at this point. So I don't have any experience with organic, but I do know that it's possible to use organic nutrients for hydroponics. So that is something you could look into if that's what you wanted to do. So then the main consideration is will the nutrients you picked serve the needs of your plant? So if you remember with hydroponics, the plant is getting all of its nutrients from the water. So we have to make sure that we have every nutrient that plant needs existing in our nutrient solution. So there's some primary nutrients that plants need, plants need, but then there's also a lot of trace nutrients that plants need. And most commercially available nutrients solutions will add a wide variety of different minerals present in their nutrients. So if you really wanted to take a deep dive, you can look at your plant in the SEC needs that it has and then check it against commercially available nutrients and see if they match. What I found is that there's quite a few commercially available nutrients. That will meet the needs of a wide variety of plants. They may not be the very best for a specific type of plant, but they can at least meet most of the needs for a wide variety of plants. So that will allow you to grow a lot of different plants in the same system. And I will include a couple of recommendations of nutrients that have worked really well for me for a wide variety of plants. Now I'll either include those along with the course notes here, or you can always find them on my website. So once you have your nutrients than you need water. Now obviously water is really important for hydroponics. But thankfully, water is pretty widely available. If you're like me and you live in a cold climate though, in the summer, in the winter, you can't really get rain water because all the water frozen. So you either have to buy water from the store or use it from the tap. Thankfully, I've found that tap water works just fine as long as you dechlorinate it first. And I've done this in two ways. First thing I've done is use acquire a query in water treatment. So there's solution that you can put into the water before you put it into your hydroponic system that will basically neutralize the chlorine. And it's the same stuff that people who have a query I'm going to use to treat their water before they put it in the aquarium. Because chlorine is poisonous to both fish, as well as some plants. Like lettuce can be very sensitive to chlorine. There are some plants that aren't quite as sensitive, but it's good to take the chlorine out. Another option is you can actually use vitamin C ascorbic acid. And it works fairly similar, where it will neutralize the chlorine if you put it into tap water. And it will also lower your pH a little bit, which can be helpful if you're waters naturally high in pH. If you have access to rainwater or reverse osmosis water than you probably good to go right from the start. Rainwater should be fine as long as you're not in an area that's heavily polluted and you able to catch it in something that's clean. And reverse osmosis water is an excellent source if you have access to it. For well water, that could be fine. Might not be depends on the quality of your well water. You basically want as low of dissolved solids in your water as you can to start with, so that you have kind of a clean slate as you're adding your nutrients. So then comes managing your nutrients. I found it most helpful to have a Schedule. A Schedule can get you in a routine that will keep your nutrients and pH in the range that they need to be. With a lot less monitoring, then if you're just reacting to what you're seeing. So what I like to do is do a nutrient check every week. So let's say that I start out on the first year, what I would do is I drain out as much of the water as I can from my reservoir. And then I would replace it with new. Fresh water and then add nutrients to match what the recipe on the bag or the container says to do. Then that should last at least a week. And then after a week, I'll check that. I'll check my reservoir level. And usually after a week the plants have used up water and they've used up some nutrients, usually more water than nutrients. And so it will require topping off the reservoir and adding some more water. So at this point you don't want to add full strength nutrients because the plants took out more water than they did nutrients. So you don't want to be increasing the concentration of nutrients. So I either add no nutrients or I add half the amount of what I would normally add for the water then I'm adding to the system. So the after this first week you're just, you can just think of it as topping off the system. Then after two weeks, I will usually do another full drain and fill like I did back on the first. So it's a two-week cycle. Then on the next week you do the tapping off, and then the next week you do another drain infill. Sometimes you can get away with doing three weeks in a row. So you could do the full drain and fill first week. Then you could top off the second week, top off the third week, and then do a full drain and fill on the start of the fourth week. And this is something you can adjust based on how you see your plants are doing. If you start to see that you're having some issues with your plans after two weeks of not doing a drain and fill, then it's probably time to do a drain in film. So that's something you can adjust as you move forward and keep an eye on your plants. So like I said, the nice thing about having a routine is that it takes care of a lot of the details for you. However, it can still be helpful to take measurements just to kinda see how your system is doing and make sure that your routine is working out. So there's two main things you can measure. The first thing is the nutrient concentration. And that can be measured as TDS, total dissolved solids, or ECE, electrical conductivity. And basically you're just measuring how many, how many nutrients are floating around in nutrient solution. So a good target is somewhere between six hundred and ten hundred ppm for many plants. However, that can be different depending on what the plant is. But again, if you're trying to grow a variety of different things, I found somewhere between six hundred and ten hundred to be good. Maybe a little on the lower end if you're including things like strawberries, lettuce is extremely flexible, can take just about anything in that range. But other plants can be a little pickier. There are also some plants who need a lot higher nutrient concentration. The other thing to keep in mind with this is that if you're starting out with water that already has dissolved solids, then you may want this number to be higher than if you're starting with pure water like reverse osmosis or rain water. So a lot of, like in a lot of city water can start out at 200, 100 ppm or more. So my my city water is usually between two hundred and two hundred and fifty ppm before I add any nutrients. So in the winter when I'm using city water, I can go a little bit higher than this 600 and closer to a 100 or 1000. So then another thing to keep an eye on is pH. This one's more complex and not always obvious as to what's going on with it. So I like to keep it and arrange 5.5 to 6.5. And that, again, can be good for a wide variety of plants. But again, their specific plants may need it to be lower or higher. Usually, not much higher than that though. So what I have found is that pH tends to stay high to high. So the way pH works is you, when you take, if you have perfectly clean water like rainwater or reverse osmosis water, your pH should be right about seven. My city waters a little bit higher, Usually 7.5 to eight. However, the good thing is when you add nutrients that drops the pH, usually for me by at least a whole point. So for me just adding nutrients to my water usually gets me down between either six to 6.5. So I'm usually in a good range just by adding nutrients without even thinking about pH. But then as the plants use up, the nutrients that pH will start to creep up. So that's why it's important to then keep topping off your water each week. And then that's why it's also important to do a drain and fill every so often because then you're taking out the water that's already in there and you're replacing it with lower pH water. There are some things you can add to your water to drop the pH. And that can, that can be helpful too, especially if you're starting off with water that's at a really high pH. But like I said, the nice thing about having a routine is it helps you to manage these things without having to check them every single day. 21. 20 Planting: Next we'll talk about planting. Planting is pretty straightforward. With hydroponics, you need to have a growing medium. And growing medium, in our case, will help us by keeping the seed moist as it's germinating. And it also will give structure to the roots of the plant. As it's growing. The thing that's doesn't do, it's different from dirt. It's not giving the plant any nutrients. It's just there for structure and hold moisture. The growing medium that's worked the best for us is the C plugs. They're made of either peat moss or tree bark. And these have had excellent germination and growth rates for us. So this is what we really like to use, especially for things like lettuce that we're seeing a lot. The other nice thing about these, that they fit nicely, know, 1.5 inch net pot and they fill the entire thing so that there's no light getting through. If you're using them in a two inch. There is a little bit of space around the edge, but I'm often growing bigger plants and 2-inch. So as time goes on, this is going to be blocked anyway by the leaves of the plant. You could also use rock wool. There is a two-inch Rockwell cube you could buy that you can put in here. They're a little bit more expensive than the seed plugs. But if you're just growing a few plants in their bigger, you may want to go with that. Once we've selected our growing media, will put it into the pot. Then take it back and see. I usually shoot to just plant one in each spot, at least with lattice because it germinates Sowell. But you could plant two or three z is just to be safe. If I put the seed right into the center divot in the growing medium. And then that's all there is to it for planting a short-term crop like lettuce. We like to spread out our planting so that we have a continual supply. So this is the two rail system that we looked at. And with this one we'd like to plant for plants every week. And then that allows us to harvest for plants every week. So then we put them into the system. They'll get moist just from the water circulating in the system. And they're getting light already since they're in a good spot. And so they'll germinate on their own, no further work required. This is one of our favorite parts of this system. We don't have to keep a separate seeding tray that's getting algae or need to separate light. We just put them right in the system and they can stay there all the way until we're ready to eat them. For plants like strawberries that start out with a lot of routes already. I like to take a 2-inch net cup and cut out a small circle. Then I gently slip the roots through the hole in the bottom of the net pot or the slots along the side so that the roots can reach down and get to the nutrient solution. Once I have it in the Rails, I then use hydrogen, which is a hardened clay material. And I put it around the roots to give the plants stability as it grows, and also to block light from hitting the roots. This plant is then ready to go into the rails and start growing. For planting herbs, I prefer to start with a stem of an existing plant and then put that straight into a seed plug. Then put that into a two-inch net cup, and then put it straight into the system. You could also use a seed, but it grows faster from a stem.