I didn’t know anything about which system to start with and to me the NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) seemed to be give a crack at. Well, this is definitely the system that a true beginner should pick to try out first. For many reasons and the first being that it’s a technique that take a bit of tinkering with in order to truly master. I would suggest other systems like the Kratky method to start.
Because I chose the NFT system and to build this out using PVC I knew I would need a pump to lift the water to the top and then let gravity flow it through the system. The first Pump I had bought from the local hardware store literally was flowing water at crazy speeds through my pipes. It was so powerful that water was coming up the sides of the 2 in holes I drilled out to hold my pods. This obviously is not the right way to support an NFT system. The F in NFT stands for FILM and the idea here is that you only have a few millimeters of water flowing through the bottom of the pipe. So my pump was way too strong. Luckily, I just returned it and purchased another pump I had found off Amazon. Saved some money there too.
Not buying the correct grow lights. I had a mini lemon tree that my mother bought me completely die on me because the grow lights I had bought were not strong enough. If they weren’t strong enough to keep 1 plant alive, why would I think they were strong enough to support a few plants? So long story short, make sure you have sufficient watts in your light setup.
Not buying glasses. This one might be one of the most important!
Friends, you only get one pair of eyes. DO NOT STARE at the lights and to be honest you should always protect your eyes when working around bright grow lights.
Buying the wrong medium to replace soil. At first, I bought an $8 bag of Vermiculite. That’s not a terrible medium to use, except that in this situation using it to hold the plant inside of a pod isn’t going to work. The material is too fine and will just fall into the water and clog up my system. I didn’t realize this from my initial research and purchase. I also bought a super expensive one at that. Now good thing is I figured this out before ever using it in my system and so I returned it. I then bought some clay pebbles but even those aren’t the best for my setup since I used so thin of PVC pipe (2 in) and the holes I cut were just under 2 in for the 2 in pods. With such small pods I have found that the pod can’t get all the way into the holes I drilled and therefore on its own this doesn’t do a great job keeping the light out of the system.
Starting with the wrong plants. I wanted to grow things I like to eat and things that are just cool to grow. I first decided to start plant seedlings for Tomatoes, Squash, Cucumber, Zucchini, and Brussels Sprouts. All of these are not great choices for an NFT system. Instead leafy greens like Lettuce and Kale are great starter plants. You could even go with some simple herbs.
Moving seedlings to your NFT system before the roots are long enough has become a huge struggle for me. I planted my seedlings into starter cups with dirt. I had great success getting little plants to grow. But I had made the mistake of moving these into the NFT system before the roots were ready. I’ve done this too many times already as I might just be a little too impatient. So I suggest to you to wait until you have a couple inches of root growth that goes past the bottom of the pod.
Not blocking the light. I mentioned this a little up in mistake 5. Algae will grow very quickly and start stealing nutrients away from your plants. It’ll also start the root rot process much quicker when light infiltrates into your system. Make sure that any unused holes are covered and that your reservoir is not clear or light in color.