I figure this would be an interesting topic to learn, as I with NO experience am begining the task of setting up my first system.
I'm planning an outdoor system here in SW Florida and I leaning toward maybe a five hundred gallon system. My reasoning the larger the water mass the less fultuation in ph as well as temp, Some of the parts of my system that i'm still trying to find the ideal sizes for would be the depth of a dwc/raft system, as well as how deep the gravel should be in grow beds? Should a Nft system be added in or would that increase the temp of the water to much? Should water flow and fall out of the gravel beds in to a tank or should that water be piped to the tank?
One of the biggest concerns I have about setting up the system is the fact that this part of florida receives a lot of rain during the rainy season and if i would have to attempt to shelter the system from it?
I know there is alot of questions in this but i'm hoping that you can steer me in the right direction.
p.s. in my location Im not restricted by the amount of space for the most part
Hi Patrick, Yes 500 gal. I think sounds logical. Is large enough to produce a bit but manageable. I would stick to the gravel beds for now though not to complicate things too much, and later add on what you like. A system that could be easily expanded would be nice. My theory was that larger volumes of water would be more stable and cool also. I'm a newbie too and got quite carried away at first, still trying to catch up. Best Wishes!!
I started with 100 liter system to get familiar with all the concepts and to test out some different plants. I think that you would want to size it depending how many different plants you want to test. Once you know what you want to grow and that you can grow it with success then you can scale up.
Keep in mind I'm up in Central FL along the Ridge so it gets colder here in winter and I don't think we usually get the really good rains anymore like all of Florida used to.
My idea of a good backyard starter system for outdoors in FL without extra "greenhouse" type temperature protection would be 300 gallons of water in the fish tank and 600 gallons of media filled grow bed fed in sequence with an indexing valve. The fish tank could be sunk half way to two thirds into the ground to further help temperature stability and if an extreme stretch of hot or cold threatens once can always flip the stand pipes over and top up with water to run constant flood for a time in summer or a time in winter but my bluegill have done fine in such a system without the intervention either in the heat of summer or cold of winter. I do add some shade cloth over the system from about May through Sept since it is out in full sun otherwise. the fish tank has a heavy duty shade cover. In a location that gets major downpours regularly, you might want to put up some sort of cover that could divert and collect the rain water instead of letting it all go into the system but make sure to keep any in ground tank full in such a situation since a partially empty tank in ground where heavy rains make ponds out of back yards, you risk having the water float the tank out of the ground and cause much damage. Make sure the bases under the grow beds are firm and stable since gravel and water are heavy and you don't want the ground under such things shifting and tipping your grow beds.
for my Big system 600-700 gallons of water is great for growing out big catfish but I think 300 gallons of fish tank water is a really good starting point for an average starter system that will still produce very well, be fairly stable and reasonable to manage. I've been going with mostly 24 inch deep grow beds since that is how deep the Rubbermaid 100 gallon stock tanks are and it's a good price for the volume from Tractor supply. I think 1/2 IBC's can make good grow beds too but you need to protect the plastic from the sun.
All my recommendations here are for media based systems since that is what has done best for me.
Keep the question coming, I am new as well in Central Florida the 32808 are code :) looking to get my system going for spring. I have the soil garden already prepped :)
Bryan, don't wait, the spring garden time will be done here shortly. Remember that Florida's seasons are pretty upside down when it comes to gardening Late March is time to be planting hot weather crops since it gets hot here and then our mid summer is too hot for many things and Fall is a second hot weather crop season and then our winter is the time for all the normal cool season spring and fall crops of the rest of the country.