In my last post, I told you about the hydroponics system I bought. Now that I’ve had it for over a month, I feel I can now provide an honest review based on what I have learned about it since set-up.
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The system I bought is a Kalolary Hydroponic Grow Kit with Wheels, which has 108- 1 ½” plant sites. The kit came with everything needed for assembly, including a rubber hammer. The pipe diameter is 2 ½”, which is ample for the 2” long plant baskets. (I ordered the unit from Amazon but do not have an affiliate account so will not get any commission from your purchase, but don’t let that disuade you from buying. And as of the day of writing, they are on sale.)
Assembly: A diagram of the pieces included was provided, as well as the assembly diagram. The rubber hammer included was not strong enough to tap the pieces together so I used a bigger one I have. Note they are a tight fit, so making sure they’re right from the start is beneficial.
The system stands just over 5 ½’ when placed on the casters. Having a step stool handy is recommended for anyone who is height-challenged like I am.
The pump and hose are included, but a water reservoir is not. I used a rectangular plastic tote that has over a 30-liter capacity.
The system also includes 110 baskets (at least mine did) and foam seed-starting cubes. I opted to use grow plugs I bought for use in my other hydroponics grow units.
From what I have seen so far, the system works as mentioned in the product description. There is, however, a learning curve. More on that in the next section.
My Experience and Advice
This will probably be the longest part of my review, but all points will be covered.
I assembled the system on my own but could have used an extra pair of hands; especially when putting the levels together.
Pay careful attention to the diagram, as the plug placement is crucial to correct water flow through the tubes. If you have to mark the levels to distinguish front from back, I recommend you do so. And always work from the same side, otherwise it’s easy to get messed up.
The included casters are adjustable which is great for levelling the assembled unit. I suggest placing it in its intended location before adding the nutrient solution. A little word of advice here: level the unit, fill it with the nutrient solution, then check the level within a few days of operation. I failed to check to see if it was level beyond the initial setup and the solution wasn’t getting everywhere it was supposed to. I ended up losing all my strawberry plantlets, that I had on the top level.
There wasn’t any nutrient solution included with the system, so I initially used the one that came with my other hydroponics system (similar to AeroGarden). I have since purchased another type, which is more concentrated and seems to be working well.
As for the amount of nutrient solution needed, the instructions weren’t clear on a starting point. It said to put the solution in a reservoir (which is not included), run the pump for 10 minutes, then top it up. After some trial and error, I have decided to go with 24 liters. And as more recent experience has taught me, do not let the solution level drop below 16 liters.
Now more on the reservoir: I am using a plastic tub (approximately 12” x 18” x 8”) that fits below the assembled unit. The drain tube ends 4” below the bottom of the lowest layer, so the reservoir needs to be below that. I cut a 4” hole in the corner of the lid so I could place the pump, hose, and drainpipe. As the container isn’t quite high enough, I used a plastic cup with the bottom cut out as a drain extender. I found it necessary because the water splashed onto my floor when it was draining back into the reservoir. To keep algae from growing in the reservoir, it’s best to use an opaque container. The lid also keeps foreign objects and little hands (my granddaughter loves to play in the water) out of the solution.
I have the container at an angle because it’s too wide to fit directly under the drain tube. I initially had it beside the unit but that just didn’t work well for the space it’s in. It’s not an ideal size, but until I find another it works.
Lighting and Temperature
Lighting and temperature are also things to consider when placing your unit. I currently have mine placed in the spare bedroom in front of huge south-facing windows, so there’s a lot of natural light. It also means a lot of heat this time of year. I initially didn’t have any air circulation and I think some of the plants got too hot. Now that I have a fan circulating the air they seem to be doing better.
The spot that works now will not work well in the winter, as the big windows are not energy efficient and that room does stay much cooler. The plants will not appreciate the cooler temperatures (aside from the kale and lettuce). Perhaps they may be the only crops I grow in this unit during the coldest months.
I did put LED lights above the lower three levels for the plants that are further from the window as they were stretching out quite a bit. The top level doesn’t have an artificial light source but will have to once winter sets in.
Something else to check regularly is the water flow. I was away for a few days and when I came home, I noticed there wasn’t any dripping between cycles. Before I go further with this, I have my pump set on a 5-minute on – 30-minute off cycle; and there’s generally dripping into the reservoir between them. It didn’t click the first day, but the next I realized something was wrong. What had happened was the tube disconnected from the pump, so there wasn’t any water flow into the unit.
That did not end well for several of my remaining plants, as their roots dried out and they couldn’t be revived. The pump was still in the nutrient solution, so even if it did continue to run it wouldn’t have overheated.
As for the unit itself, there was no numbering system on it for record-keeping so I created my own. Each level was designated a letter (A-D) and each hole a number (1-27). I have a dot grid journal to keep track of what I’m doing so each letter was given its own page and numbered from 1-27. Each number has its own line, and I recorded the planting date, seed planted, and later the germination date of each.
I planted a variety of seeds but only had successful germination of some. As you can see in the photo above, the germination of some was nonexistent. First, all of the seeds I planted: Dwarf Bok Choy, Leeks, Italian Parsley, Garlic Chives, Blue Curled Scotch Kale, Dukat Dill, English Lavender, Lemon Bergamot, Lemon Balm, Leaf Lettuce, Spinach, Arugula, Marigold, Celery, Cranberry Bush Bean, Butter bean, Sugar snap Pea, Nasturtium, Cilantro, and Oregano. And of course, there were about 15 strawberry plantlets put in, but due to some not taking root and others dying because they dried out, I don’t have any left. (I will try again.)
I’m not going to go into detail about which germinated and which didn’t, but my highest rate of germination was the kale, lettuce, marigold, and arugula. Oh, and the Bok Choy. So, with that information in hand, I’m going to plant more of what germinated and grew, and less to none of what didn’t. Keep in mind some of my seeds may not have been viable as they were from an older seed stash.
Before I wrap this post up, I am going to say this: it is nice to harvest greens that are flavourful, tender, and not full of bugs like the greens I have in my straw bale garden (namely the kale). I’m looking forward to having more fresh vegetables in my diet this winter that I don’t have to buy at the store.
Wrapping It Up
I am happy with this system overall as it has met my expectations. The placement of which level certain seeds should be planted should be taken into consideration, as the bottom level isn’t the ideal spot for marigolds. Apparently, they’re a bigger variety than I have planted outside in my containers and flowerbeds.
If you want to give hydroponics a try but aren’t sure about the size of this unit, there are smaller ones available on Amazon as well. I chose this one because I tend to go all-in when it comes to anything plant related. (Hence my site name.)
If you have any questions about this unit or hydroponics in general feel free to ask them below in the comments. I’ll answer them to the best of my ability, or at the very least, point you in the right direction. This is a new way of growing for me so there’s also a learning curve.