SARS and the ongoing war on terrorism devastated Asia’s tourism market, we knew that we had no choice but to leave our diving-instruction business and come back to beautiful British Columbia to make some cash, wait for the whole thing to blow over, and return one day with our own diving boat.
We contacted a hydroponics shop to get the lowdown on new products and equipment. Once dirt farmers, we knew that to increase quality and yield we had to get with the times and try aeroponics.
Our gardening space consisted of a room around 350 square feet in size. We decided to try the high-yielding new space-saving Plant Tier Aeroponic system.
Three PT160’s fit our room dimensions. Lighting consisted of eight 1000w Plantstar enhanced sodium lamps. The sales rep stated that he has had customers report very good results with this system. Cost for the system was just short of $2,500 CDN ? about $1,750 US. This included the grow tubes, irrigation supplies, high-pressure pump, aeroponic timer, and stand.
He also sold us a pump monitor that turns off the lights if the water pump fails. It cost an extra $600 CDN for two (about $200 US each). Also added to the bill were fans, lights, a charcoal filter, a tri-meter, nutrients, and flashgro reflecting material.
We used a new product called Plantroids Quickroot Gel to root the cuttings, and were very surprised to find, eight days later, roots six inches long exploding out of the bottom of the cube. We fed the little ones with Super B1 and Propagator. The room temperature was a steady 80degF (26degC).
Once the clones were well rooted and about four inches tall, we knew it was time to kick into bud.
We switched the lamps to 12 hours on when the plants were about five inches tall. That’s when the growth started to accelerate.
We found that the best nutrient uptake occurs at 5.8 pH. The nutrient temperature held steady at 66degF (19degC). We also flushed the reservoir once a week, which helped with any nutrient buildup problems. We did this by emptying the week-old nutrient and refilling the reservoir with straight pH water. We let it run for 24 hours, then emptied and replaced it with full-strength nutrient solution as per the instructions on the label.
The reservoirs were located out of the room on a cold concrete floor. The temperature hovered between 65degF-70degF (18degC-21degC). We ran a coil to each reservoir with a constant flow of cold water.
We sprayed Botanics Insecticide Spray by Doktordoom for spider mites twice, at weeks one and three. We didn’t see another spider after that, which was surprising given that when we received the clones they were infested with spider mites and root gnats. We added Bugsy Gnat Killer to all reservoirs at weeks two and three, and this effectively controlled the root gnat population but did not eradicate them fully.
The nutrient line our sales rep set us up with was Plantlife Products. The vegetative plants were fertilized with Holland Secret Nutrient Vegetative formula at a rate of 800-1,000 ppm. The flowering plants were fertilized with Holland Secret Nutrient Bloom formula at a rate of 1,000-1,300 ppm. On the 10th day in, we boosted them with a product called Bud Start, which helped start the flower enhancement.
For the last three weeks we added Bud Boom to all the reservoirs, then foliar-sprayed Bud Boom Plus. We flushed with Double Flush and water for the first three days in the seventh week, then for three days flushed with straight pH water to get any remaining fertilizer out.
temperature and humidity
The average temperature ran around 83degF (28degC) during the day and 60-65degF (15-18degC) during the night. Humidity never went higher than 60% or lower than 40%. Five FHD oscillating wall-mounted fans kept the air movement going quite well. Two 2,200 cubic foot squirrel cage blowers exhausted the air through two 60cm charcoal filters. With a 1,400 cubic-feet-per-meter fan for an intake, the fans fully evacuated the room in less than five minutes. So heat was not a factor.
We started picking off yellow leaves two weeks before harvest. Since they’re compact plants, even the lower buds were getting huge in size. By week six the buds were hard and oozing with resin.
We flushed for five days on straight pH water and then we harvested. This was a sheer delight. It took us under 12 hours to pick the whole crop. We let it hang to dry on strings in a dark room for 96 hours with a small exhaust fan on.
We sold out right away and almost paid off our whole total system cost due to the extra $400 per pound we made over the amount a friend got for his dirt-weed which took him three weeks longer to grow and three weeks longer to sell.
The Plant Tier yielded 18.25 pounds under eight lamps. That’s 1,022 grams per bulb!
Our goal is to get 24 pounds off the next crop. Since we had our clones ready and it took two weeks to write this story, we only have five weeks left to find out if the secret weapon (CO2) we added works. It’s looking real good. Happy Growing!
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