Greenhouse Grow Systems

Many of the photos you will see here are from over ten years ago. They are handmade systems and utilize common hardware and materials. While the methods remain relevant many new trays, troughs, reservoirs and other such building materials are commercially available now and will make your job easier. Be creative and build your own variations upon the basic systems shown here


NFT lettuce.jpg (38082 bytes)Here we have lettuce growing in NFT troughs. The three 4 inch channels setting on knee high benches are fed from a plastic 50 gallon barrel buried in the ground beneath them. This helps to keep the solution cool. A 250 gph cool running MagDrive pump continuously delivers nutrient to the top end of the troughs and it drains back into the tank. NFT is a very popular method for commercial crop production because it is simple, low tech and trouble free.


This is a small vertical NFT gutter system we call the Jacobs Ladder. With the nutrient tank below the solution is pumped to the top trough with 1/4 inch tubing. It runs down and around through each channel consecutively until it returns to the tank below.  jacobs-ladder.jpg (37418 bytes)


jacobs-ladder2.jpg (52305 bytes)Same as above, this system is constructed using plastic rain gutter where the top piece is drilled for 2 inch baskets and turned upside down inside the bottom channel. One inch PVC pipe and fittings are used for the frame. Rather than glue the fittings together I prefer to put a small screw through the fitting and into the pipe. This way it can be disassembled and modified or transported easily.


Here are tomatoes in a scaled up NFT system. We have carved tapered V shaped gutters about 8 inches deep and 24 in. wide in the pea gravel floor of the greenhouse. Then we laid weed barrier with a double layer of black poly on top of that. Next we put white plastic over the top and stapled it to a 2x4 frame laid on the floor around the gutters. At the far end two 50 gallon barrels buried in the ground spray solution all along the way up a poly pipe between the two layers of black poly film. Cut a small hole in the top white and black layers and place a 4x4 rockwool block with your seed or cutting. The roots will quickly spread unencumbered between the two layers of black plastic. The plants will find ideal conditions for both air and water roots to flourish.   NFT tomatoes.jpg (44741 bytes)
This is an excellent easy, low cost, and highly productive system which could be applicable for small or large scale operations.


waterculture-trof.jpg (32372 bytes)This photo shows a small water culture system with self contained trough, spray lines and pump. Fill trough just below spray lines. Holes in poly pipe jet stream solution back into trough and create aeration and turbulence. We used foam sheets to support the plants in small net baskets over the top of the trough. I was concerned that the solution would not get adequate oxygen but that fear was not realized.


This is the root mass of a tomato growing in the water culture tray shown above. The roots are completely submerged in a nutrient solution that is continuously recirculated and agitated.

Lettuce, broccoli, chard, basil, and really all leafy plants love this method. Tomatoes, peppers and lukes also do well.  I had poor growth with strawberries however as if the roots were not responding well to these conditions.

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spraystake-pots.jpg (50136 bytes)This photo demonstrates a hybrid method for people who just aren't ready to give up the traditional pot or like the portability this system offers. Ten inch pots filled with ceramic pellets, or pea gravel or just about anything you want and lined up on drain troughs. A spray stake fed by spaghetti tubing from a header line parallel to each row originates from a remote nutrient reservoir. A cycle timer is used to pump short spurts of nutrient (10 sec.) on a frequent basis to each pot. If irrigation timing is proper little or no run off will occur and the system can be a non recovery open drain system.


This is a flood and drain table aka ebb and flow. Individual pots or rockwool slabs can be set into the upper tray. A variety of grow mediums can be used providing they don't float. Solution is pumped from the reservoir below to partially fill the upper tray. Restrict the drain back into the nutrient tank so the pump overtakes the drain and it fills to the desired level. A cycle timer will operate the pump for the required times and intervals. flood-drain.jpg (42780 bytes)


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