Frequently Asked Questions
Do you germinate seeds separately or right in the rail system?
We've done both, but found germinating right in the rail system to be easier. Our goal is to have a low-maintenance system and we found separate seeding systems could often be more maintenance than the entire rail system. This way, we can plant the seeds right into the rail system and we don't have to worry about the seedlings staying watered. The seeds still germinate very quickly, so it doesn't seem to slow them down much.
What is the energy cost for running grow lights?
For simplicity, assume each 4' T5 bulb costs $2.50 per month. So a 6 bulb fixture will cost $15 per month in electricity. This assumes 14 hours per day, 30 days per month and electricity cost of $0.11 (USD) per kilo-watt hour. If you want to do a more exact calculation, you can use the watts of your light, the time on per day and the cost of electricity in your area to find the cost. LED bulbs use about half as much electricity, so the ongoing cost is also about half as much.
Can you grow other vegetables besides lettuce using hydroponics?
Yes! Almost any plant you can grow in regular soil can be grown hydroponically, but some are easier than others. Lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow hydroponically and a great option for anyone just starting or who wants a simple way to grow healthy greens. Tomatoes, peppers, kale, spinach and even strawberries are popular hydroponic crops. However, the rail system we use for lettuce will not be ideal for larger plants so you may want to look into systems such as Dutch Buckets if you want to grow larger plants. We have been trying several other plants in our rail systems and are finding success! Herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme and sage have been simple to grow and they produce large crops (we couldn't eat them fast enough). We've also had success with strawberries and we did a full article on it! If you have success growing other fruits or veggies in a rail system we'd love to hear about it!
Does your rail system have an incline?
Our rail system is designed to be placed on a flat surface - no incline is required. The water flows through the rails simply by filling up one rail, draining to the next, and so on. They are not traditional NFT systems where only a film of water is flowing through the rails - that would require an incline of some sort.
Is PVC safe to use for a hydroponic system?
Based on our research, we believe it is safe to use. This requires a lot of explanation so we wrote a whole article on it.