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what do you have the most success growing?  what specific varieties to you recommend?  what should be avoided, in your opinion

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I see not much been posted here for a bit but lets see if anyone is reading.  I have a small 10 gallon bed, and I started with the following

Cuttings - 3 months

Portugese Chilis -Died

Jalapeno - small but some growth, no roots showing

Grape Tomato - Died

Sweet Basil - rooted then died

Roma tomato - 3" cutting now 13" tall and weak stem.  Tied up.

Habanero - Died

3 Celery plants bases - 2 died, one is yellowing with green veins

Seeds

Lettuce - sprouted 20 plants got about 6" tall and died

Basil - Sprouted died

Bush Bean - sprouted to 9" died

Habanero - sprouted died

Dill - sprouted died

Thyme - sprouted all but one died

Lavender - nothing

Sweet Grass - just planted

So all started great then blahhh.  Worms are happy and multiplying in bed. Fish are doing great.  It is a flood and drain system and the pH - 7.8 / Ammonia - .25 / Nitrites - 0 / Nitrates - 80.  I have some Maxicrop on the way but I know something is not right.  Fish are fed 2x's a day - high protein veg based flake from API and a Pea, Spinach and Green bean pellet.

Hi John,

Could be anywhere from too frequent flood cycles to nutrient deficiency from the fish feed. I'm sure you have the light and temperature issues covered as well?

Hi John. Don't take this the wrong way...but it's pretty hard for someone to diagnose from just the description "died". What did the "dying process" look like? Stuff (details) like that would go a long way in helping someone help you

Did you remove and inspect the plant(s) after they died, looking for signs of common pathogens (like oomycetes or 'damping off' disease)...?

On the celery...intervenal chlorosis (yellowing leaves with green veins)...is the yellowing occurring on just the newest leaves (iron deficiency) or on just the older leaves (magnesium deficiency)...or both...

Tall weak stems are often light related affairs...

It wouldn't hurt to get the pH down a bit, but my pH is about where yours is (and was quite a bit higher for a good while and so far my plants are doing just fine)...

Sorry if this wasn't much help.

Sylvia's book says a pH of between 6.8 to 7.0 is ideal. I agree. Most vegetables have a hard time picking up nutrients at higher pH ranges, even when gardening in soil. Just don't drop it all at once, which I'm sure you already know.

Thanks Harold and Vlad for the reply's.

When I mean dying it went like this with the seeds - The germinated, sprouted and grew to various sizes, then fell over and turned brown all with in a day.  Not a issue with signs or warnings.  Virtually no root systems on those.

The cuttings were a little different.  I did remove and check for problems.  Here some things I noticed.  The sweet basil was a cutting and started to root well

About a week later the leaves started to turn brown and I clipped those then the rest did the same.  I pulled it back out and all the roots were gone and the stem was brown and mushy.

This same scenario was pretty much the same for all the cuttings.

The celery came from our soil garden.  When we harvest we leave the stump in the ground for it to grow back, we usually get 2 to 3 harvest before frost.  Instead after harvesting I brought in 3 stumps.  One I cut all the roots down and planted, the other one I left about an inch of roots and the third I left all the roots in place.  The first two started to grow then wilted and the stumps turned brown and rotted.  The third is still growing but all the leaves are starting to turn yellow and the veins are green.  These were dark green in the soil and very hardy.

Water was 1/2 below surface when the seeds and cuttings were placed in the bed, once germination started I dropped it to 1" and once growth started I lowered it to 2" and it has remained there since beginning of October.  I raised the light from 16" above the bed because it was burning the one good tomato plant to 24".

As I said I have a bottle of Maxicrop on the way and soon I will have enough compost for a tea bath for the bed.  I should have enough nutrients from the fish, since they get a solid diet with peas, spinach and green beans as well as the flakes that are also fish and soy protein free, but high in peas, wheat, rice, turmeric etc.

pH - Our water is 8.0 start and I have gone through the records since I started this venture in the beginning of September.  7.6 is the lowest I have had and that when I was having issues with getting the Nitrites to drop below 5.  So we have ph - 7.8 / Ammonia - 0 to .25 / Nitrite - 0 / Nitrate - 80 / Temp 73 degrees F (23 C.

Hi John,

OK. So i looked at some of your photos. I noticed a lot of moisture on the surface of the media and also in the plastic bottle cap and F&d guard as well. Since you have flood and drain why don't you allow for complete draining of the media bed? Dry time is important to avoid root rot and to allow for air exchange. With those tiny droplets of water I'm seeing in the pics could be a humidity problem as well. I suggest we try dealing with these concerns first before moving on.

Now your talkin' John . From everything that you described...plants doing well, then falling over (if you very gently and carefully remove a plant that has just fallen over but has not yet turned brown, you'll probably notice that small portion near the base of the stem has "thinned out" and is a lighter color than the green stem above it. This is the point at which the plant 'flops over'...the brown and mushy stem of a semi-woody basil plant (it probably started out as a small reddish brown lesion near the base of the stem look closely at the where the roots meet the stem, called the "crown" you'd probably see a bit of brownish red discoloration there as well, easilly mistaken for LECA dust fines)...even what you said about the problem being exacerbated when you got your pH below 8...  All of this together, especially when coupled with some of the foto's on your page would lead me to say that your problems are not nutrient related, regardless of your pH at this point, but fungal/oomycetic pathogens brought on by conditions that are way too moist...even wet. (In many books oomycetes like pythium are still mistakenly classed as a fungus...so as not to split hairs we'll just call them all 'fungal').

Harold is right, there is a lot of moisture pretty much everywhere. Ditch the plastic bottles for sure get those poor palnts some ventilation and air, put a sock over your water inlet if it splashes the plants. Keep flooding well below the surface of your media (hydrocorn/liaflor seem to wick water "much" more than hydroton...I use both. I'm stating this as something I've observed with my particular products in my particular situations...not necessarily as gospel across the board...but it would certainly appear to be the case). A small fan could only help.

I just snapped these pics for you just now, to see what my plants look like at a pH of 8.0-8.2. And before people jump on me...I'm not saying that John or anyone else shouldn't shoot for a pH of 6.2 to 6.8, because ultimately you should...just that it's not culprit here (except maybe in the aforementioned intervenal chlorosis exhibited by the celery...you could probably stand to dose some Fe-EDDHA chelate. I have. To the tune of 0.75-1ppm since the plants are small and just salad greens. I'll dose to the 'normal' 2-3ppm later on, when I feel it's appropriate and not just a waste of iron chelate product). The maxicrop certainly won't hurt but again, IMO your problems are fungal based and not nutrient based.

 I put the net pot in the pic for size reference. They're not huge plants, but they are still young and it's quite cold out here, and the days are very short, and the pH is very far from optimal. So, all in all I'm quite happy with their progress. Hope some of that helps.

Yep... it's called "collar rot"

Thanks Harold,

The water droplets are from me spraying the plants, I gather not a good thing.  I am confused about the drain part you mentioned.  I have a fill rate of 13 minutes / drain rate of 30 seconds.  Are you saying a delay from the next fill?  All the terrariums (bottles) were removed after a week when the cuttings were placed in the bed.  It was either here on in Sylvia's book I saw that but they have been off for some time.

Harold Sukhbir said:

Hi John,

OK. So i looked at some of your photos. I noticed a lot of moisture on the surface of the media and also in the plastic bottle cap and F&d guard as well. Since you have flood and drain why don't you allow for complete draining of the media bed? Dry time is important to avoid root rot and to allow for air exchange. With those tiny droplets of water I'm seeing in the pics could be a humidity problem as well. I suggest we try dealing with these concerns first before moving on.

Thanks Vlad,

Those bottle have been gone for sometime.  I was told to cover the cuttings to get the stems to start rooting, was either here in the group or Sylvia's book, but they are gone.  The moisture you see in the photos was from me spraying the plants.  I guess that was not a good thing.  I have dropped the water lever to 2" below the surface and the fill rate is 13 minutes / drain 30 seconds.

I agree on the hydrocorn/hydroton. I will say you are making perfect sense so let me add this.  Since I have dropped the water level to 2" the top layer of hydrocorn is showing white residue once it dries.....I do have a ceiling fan above the setup on low and the room temp is 68, water is 73.

I appreciate everyone's help as this is a test for me before I move on to a larger setup.  I have no problem raising fish, and growing a soil garden, but I am having a heck of a time pulling it together..lol.  So I am gathering that at this point.  Letting dry out and giving the plants some more time, anything else?

Vlad Jovanovic said:

Now your talkin' John . From everything that you described...plants doing well, then falling over (if you very gently and carefully remove a plant that has just fallen over but has not yet turned brown, you'll probably notice that small portion near the base of the stem has "thinned out" and is a lighter color than the green stem above it. This is the point at which the plant 'flops over'...the brown and mushy stem of a semi-woody basil plant (it probably started out as a small reddish brown lesion near the base of the stem look closely at the where the roots meet the stem, called the "crown" you'd probably see a bit of brownish red discoloration there as well, easilly mistaken for LECA dust fines)...even what you said about the problem being exacerbated when you got your pH below 8...  All of this together, especially when coupled with some of the foto's on your page would lead me to say that your problems are not nutrient related, regardless of your pH at this point, but fungal/oomycetic pathogens brought on by conditions that are way too moist...even wet. (In many books oomycetes like pythium are still mistakenly classed as a fungus...so as not to split hairs we'll just call them all 'fungal').

Harold is right, there is a lot of moisture pretty much everywhere. Ditch the plastic bottles for sure get those poor palnts some ventilation and air, put a sock over your water inlet if it splashes the plants. Keep flooding well below the surface of your media (hydrocorn/liaflor seem to wick water "much" more than hydroton...I use both. I'm stating this as something I've observed with my particular products in my particular situations...not necessarily as gospel across the board...but it would certainly appear to be the case). A small fan could only help.

I just snapped these pics for you just now, to see what my plants look like at a pH of 8.0-8.2. And before people jump on me...I'm not saying that John or anyone else shouldn't shoot for a pH of 6.2 to 6.8, because ultimately you should...just that it's not culprit here (except maybe in the aforementioned intervenal chlorosis exhibited by the celery...you could probably stand to dose some Fe-EDDHA chelate. I have. To the tune of 0.75-1ppm since the plants are small and just salad greens. I'll dose to the 'normal' 2-3ppm later on, when I feel it's appropriate and not just a waste of iron chelate product). The maxicrop certainly won't hurt but again, IMO your problems are fungal based and not nutrient based.

 I put the net pot in the pic for size reference. They're not huge plants, but they are still young and it's quite cold out here, and the days are very short, and the pH is very far from optimal. So, all in all I'm quite happy with their progress. Hope some of that helps.

Hi John,

Try adjusting the standpipe of the siphon so that the top layer of the media remains completely to almost completely dry between cycles. 13 minute cycles are OK. Allowing the GB to drain as close to 100% of reservoir water, if possible, is also a good idea. Smaller systems require more attention and management than the larger more forgiving ones. Please post updates as you go. Thanks for all the detailed info Vlad!

Yeah, avoid spraying the leaves unless the foliar spray contains some sort of AP appropriate anti-fungal agent...like potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3) or homebrewed worm tea. It might not be so much the 'dry time' per say, since I've grown many, many things in a scenario like DCW where the roots are constantly submerged in water (including ton's of hot peppers which we're often told "don't like wet feet"...that's bullshit IMO, what they don't like are wet "ankles" i.e crowns and stem bases...this goes for most all plants). So lowering your standpipe was probably a good idea. Even if you sprinkle seeds directly into the growbed with your current standpipe height, I'm betting that the wicking action of the hydrocorn will be more than moist enough for sprouting, since most seeds fall and settle in between the cracks...and sprout just fine so far.

The white residue is just a calcium precipitate from your water, often calcium phosphate, but in any case is nothing to be concerned about.

There's really no need for the terrarium gig IMO, but I've not read Sylvias book, so I have no idea as to the context in which she mentions that. Probably as a way for the leaves to absorb more moisture as the cuttings develop a working root system. (I'm just guessing that is what she meant, her book is unavailable here, so again, I've not been exposed to it).

I've sometimes taken to soaking seeds that take a long time to sprout (like hot peppers) in a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide, or even HCL. The acidity seems to soften the hard outer shell resulting in quicker germination and has the added benefit of of staving off certain pathogens (some folks do this for the anti-pathogenic effect alone, I on the other hand am a pretty impatient guy when waiting for my Hab's to spring to life).

So, since you've taken steps to dry thing up a bit, go ahead and get yourself some Fe-EDDHA chelate (like the 6% product from GrowMore)...the particular product I use probably isn't available in the US...it matters little what brand you choose, but I'd stay away from EDTA and perhaps DTPA chelating agents personally. Once your pH is under control you probably wont need it, but it might be good to have on hand til then perhaps.

Iron is the fourth most prevalent element in the Earth so there's plenty of it in the dirt. Also in order for Fe3+ to transition into plant usable Fe2+, anoxic conditions are required not a problem beneath the first 30-60cm below the ground, (and as with most processes in nature...it is also pH dependent). so a "high-ish" pH coupled with a well oxygenated environment (like our AP systems usually are) are not exactly prime real-estate for plant usable Fe2+. So grab some chelated iron, it plays a significant role in various energy transfer functions in the plant due to ease of valence change (Fe2+ = Fe3+ + e– blablabla). Iron also has an important role in the photosynthesis process and in the formation of the chlorophyll molecule. And it's the one thing (essential element) that is likely lacking or being locked out due to pH at the moment...(perhaps a bit of potassium too the the maxicrop should take care of that). Iron deficiencies are quite common when growing without soil. So that may become your next potential "plant problem". It might be wise to "pre-emptively" avoid it with some Fe-EDDHA. Sorry for the "Das Kapital"-length post, but I'd like to see your "micro" sized system work, and it seems you have a really good handle on the fish part (something I know relatively little about, I'm more of a "plant guy") and get exited about this kind of stuff sometimes...

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