The Grow Tent Saga

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The beginning of me acquiring a 48x48x20" grow tent with four 4' Flourescent T-5 lights and buying an English made AutoPot system gisette turned me on to is chronicaled here , so I'll spare most of the uglier details. Quite a bit of frustration, aggravation and thought went into getting it running. It took three weeks from arrival to the first planting but all is going well as I write, two weeks into the first grow cycle.

The 62# package arrived early 11.4.08 and it took about 5 minutes to tear into it and see what I had. Surprisingly the grow tent itself was in the smallest box, the 48" 4 tube flourescent fixture with 4 6500K grow tubes and 4 3800K bloom tubes seemed HUGE. Next thing to do was see just how bright these T-5 tubes really are. They use 200 watts and put out 20,000 lumens so I was expecting a decent amount of light but I thought my eyeballs were frying when I turned them on. This picture was taken on our dining table about noon on a bright, sunny day.

The whole batch, fresh off the UPS truck The goodies from all the boxes - YUM! Sunglasses time! Grow tubes outside, bloom tubes in the middle

It took about five minutes to set up the tent, everything snaps together and I already had a table ready for it in a spare bedroom. I installed the lamps, put in the velcroed double waterproof liner, a remote temp and humidity sensor from my weather station and put in an old bedraggled tomato plant we'd rescued from the cold outside. The first problem arose when I found the lights hung down 16" from the top so I had to tear them apart and install some eyelets for the high/low hangers to attach to. Now they only hang down about 6" and I can raise and lower them as needed.

The light-tight tent sitting on its table. The inside bottom with double waterproof liner. The high/low hangers make it convenient to raise and lower the light.

After much tooth gnashing grief trying to find a hydro system that wouldn't take more of my quickly shrinking headroom, gisette finally turned me on to Autopots that were exactly what I needed. A mixture of coco coir and perlite resting on a bed of growrocks makes for a perfect growing medium. A $3 brick of coco coir mixed 50/50 with perlite will fill more than two 8.5 square x 6" deep pots and it's fun watching the hard brick turn soft and fluffy. Soon the system was installed and planted with Big Jim green chiles in the left two pots and Anaheim green chiles in the right two. I planted 4 sets of seeds in each pot, two in Rapid Rooters and two in dampened "soil" and covered them with cling wrap to hold moisture. The planting date was 11.24.08.

This is a test setup of the autopots. a fantastic product that uses no energy. The Coco Coir brick after soaking water for 5 minutes. The Autopots in the tent just before planting. 

12.01.08 - 7 days after planting and most of the seeds were germinating

  The Big Jim Chiles one week from planting. The white wire is a soil temp probe Anaheim Chiles, a little slower germinating than the Big Jims

  12.09.08 - 15 days after planting and already done thinning of weaker double plants

 Big Jim Chiles 15 days old. Anaheim Chiles 15 days old

I'm using a weak mix of General Hydroponics Flora Micro, Grow and Bloom liquid nutrients with an EC of 1.0 in the 12 gallon tank using intermittent airstones to keep it in solution. It's develeped a thick tan colored percipitant on the bottom of the tank that just won't mix. My one gallon jars of the mixes are also accumulating this stuff. For now I'm stumped as to what causes it and if it will hurt anything. Any ideas?

Tan colored percipitant in nutrient tank.

Tomorrow I'll top off the pots with growrocks to help contain moisture and prevent algae.

My weather station is always live so you can see just what the conditions inside the tent are as well as a lot of other Albuquerque North Valley weather info.

 

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Ginger
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It's probably all the fruit

It's probably all the fruit on them, Bruce, and leaning on each other and the tent for support. You would have had them staked outside. Did the stems break, or can you kinda of jiggle them back up with the tent back in place?

This is kinda what it was like when I had to wash the aphids off my pepper plants. The plants really weren't up for that...

Moderator. Author of Indoor SaladEcigs 102, and the Calm Act climate apocalyptic series.

jessijordan (not verified)
Aw Bruce! I am sooooo sorry

Aw Bruce! I am sooooo sorry that happened! Your plants are amazing!

I dont know if this will help in the future (or if you may know it already) but I read somewhere that plants need you to simulate wind for them so that they can develope stronger stems. It recommended putting a fan on them 2x a day for 5 to 10min as they grow. I have one of those big strong honeywell fans that blow alot of air fast. I think its helping my little tomato plant.

BB (not verified)
Major disaster today. I had

Major disaster today. I had to replace the recirculation fan which entailed taking the front and right side down and trying to fish the fan cord behind the plants. They had gotten so lush and full of chiles that the tops almost exploded out of the tent, they would have covered twice the space in the tent. Unfortunately, since the tent was holding them upright they never developed good strong stems and I've lost almost the entire top half of the plants, they just folded over from the weight.

Here's a few pictures looking through the side vent, the plants were growing into and around the lamp.....

 

Friday the 13th disaster3 Friday the 13th disaster2 Friday the 13th disaster1 

BB (not verified)
Week 13.... The leak never

Week 13.... The leak never reappeared, I think some tiny roots kept a valve open just slightly. The chiles had grown into and past the lamps so I gave them a trimming today, setting 5 clones from the carnage. Temp and RH isn't bad, 79-83* and 28-38% since midnight. I'm leaving the lights on for 13 hrs but upping the vent fan to 4 hours every night.

I upped the nutes to an aggressive bloom mix, there are so many chiles on the plants they are hardly growing and they're not ready for ripen mix yet plus a few new leaves and chiles are a lighter green than normal. My new mix is 10ml Micro and about 35ml Bloom per gallon. With PH down, the mix is 2.7 EC and 5.85 PH. Anyway, here's a whole gallery of pics from today...

 

Looking thru the side hole Pre-haircut Post haircut, cloning trimmings The Big Jims aren't growing very fast 'nother shot of Big Jims The canopy falls outside the tent The canopy, left side Decent color of canopy, finally 

BB (not verified)
The grow tent chiles 2/15,

The grow tent chiles 2/15, about 12 weeks. Gisette's suggestion of heat mats in addition to her original suggestion of AutoPots have turned out fantastic. I did a little damage to the left two plants putting the heat mats under them but nothing fatal. They've gotten so tall I had to tie the lights to the very top of the tent and the plants are still reaching them. Temp is averaging about 80*F and RH around 30%, pretty close to what I think I want. Lights are on 13 hours a day and the vent fan comes on in the middle of the night for a few hours to simulate outdoor conditions. I'm using 2.5 EC, 5.8 PH GH Bloom mix and they're back to using a gallon or more a day.

         

Ginger
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Gorgeous, Bruce! What happy

Gorgeous, Bruce! What happy pepper plants!

I'm curious to see whether those will ripen without underlighting? Well, maybe my mini-bells would have, had I the patience of a saint. Never having had the patience of a saint, I wouldn't know.

Moderator. Author of Indoor SaladEcigs 102, and the Calm Act climate apocalyptic series.

BB (not verified)
Almost 9 weeks... Since going

Almost 9 weeks... Since going to 13 hours of 3000K light and full GH bloom nutes (2.4 EC, 5.8 PH) the chiles have gone into a frenzy of blooming and setting peppers. I lost some leaves and flowers while trying to get temp & humidity close to where I want it the last week or so and just yesterday discovered a 6" chile that had been hidden on one of the anaheims that I thought was being pretty stingy flowering, Now I know why. At the rate they're growing I should start harvesting in two weeks or so.

Since turning off the vent fan, transpiration has dropped a lot, I'm only going through half a gallon a day for now. I mixed the last four gallons of bloom mix with tap water and haven't seen the brown precipitant like I had before. I've used about 25 gallons of mix so far, 18 gallons of distilled water, the rest from the tap. The nute level in the pot sumps is staying very close to what I have in the tank, the PH rises about 0.5 just like the AutoPot people said.

Chiles @ 8.5 weeks Anaheim @ 8.5 weeks   

Ginger
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Ooh, growtent peppers looking

Ooh, growtent peppers looking great! I wonder if they too will need light to ripen? Could be tough down there.

Are the other AG peppers still producing well?

I finally yanked my latest starter pods out of the pro100 and put them in a bowl of plain water. I think maybe the Aerogarden soup is too strong for starting lettuce seeds, because I'm sure not having much luck starting another two pods.

Moderator. Author of Indoor SaladEcigs 102, and the Calm Act climate apocalyptic series.

BB (not verified)
Two months - The plants have

Two months - The plants have flowers everywhere and a few chiles almost 2" long! The grow light is now four 3000K tubes and I'm moving the nutes a little more towards bloom stage. I'll be changing the lighting from 18 hours to 13 hours a day tonight. I finally got close to the temp and RH I want by turning off the vent fan, opening the right and left lower vents and the top and upper right 6" vent ports. The high humidity took its toll though, I lost quite a few flowers and leaves before getting it right and the humidity may still be a little high for chiles. Now if I could get 82*F and 30% RH I think they'd be happy.

PH is still a problem using distilled water and I finally bought some odd PH up mixture called EcoChem. The hydro store had no GH brand. The bottle had crystals I added water to and it got HOT but cooled off quickly. Instructions said 1 tbsp per gallon would raise PH 1 point - NOT. 2.5 tbsp in 4 gallons raised the PH from 4.8 to 6.8 so I had to add another gallon of 5 PH grow mix to make it halfway decent. So far this has been fun but I really miss seeing them every day like we do the AGs.

Ahh... can't get lightbox to work right..... check out http://picasaweb.google.com/av8ndv8/20090124#  The lettuce and peppers are there too...

BB (not verified)
Used a bit of baking soda

Used a bit of baking soda mixed in water - a little goes a long way! PH about 6 now, EC at 1.4. Bottom of tank is clean as a whistle so far.

EDIT - The original mix was 6.3 PH so I think I'm OK, it'll take a while for the PH in all the coco and perlite to change. I hope.

EDIT again... You got my curiosity going, the PH in the pot tray is almost 7! Maybe should have left well enough alone.

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