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How to Setup

Comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to grow plants using SNAP Hydroponics.

Establish Seedlings#

Required Materials#

Sowing Tray#

Shallow box or basin with holes for drainage at the bottom. This can be fashioned out of microwavable containers. Be sure to add drainage holes at the bottom. It is important that water is allowed to drain off the container, otherwise seeds or seedlings will sit in water which can cause the seeds to rot and the seedlings to drown.

It’s best to keep the lid since it can be used to keep the moisture in and help with the seed germination. If the lid is to be used in such a manner, add aeration holes on them to allow some air to escape and circulate.

Microwavable tub fashioned into a sowing tray.

Growing Media#

There are a number of materials that can be used as growing media for seed raising. Cocopeat is used as growing media in this manual.

Regular potting mixes also work, specially the ones designed for seed raising. The use of soil that is dug up from the surroundings is not recommended because it could be contaminated with pests and pathogens.

Cocopeat prepared from cocopeat bricks.

Seeds#

Seed packets can be bought from local garden centers or agri-vet centers. Hardware stores in malls also have these in their gardening section. Bookstores and grocery stores occassionally stock seed packets as well.

For beginners, it is strongly recommended to start with leafy vegetables such as lettuce, pechay, mustasa or kangkong.

Procedure#

  1. Fill the sowing tray with a layer of moist cocopeat around 2.5cm thick (one inch).

  2. Pack and level the cocopeat.

  3. Spread the seeds uniformly and thinly over the cocopeat. For reference, a pinch of small seeds (lettuce seeds for example) contains around 20-50 seeds. Be sure to consider the germination rate of the seeds which is usually indicated in the seed packets.

    Seed packet label.
  4. Water liberally. How long the seed will take to germinate is usually indicated on the sowing instructions printed on the seed packet. There are a number of factors that can affect how long the seeds will take to germinate and the germination rate. Depending on the freshness of the seeds, first signs of germination usually appear within the next 24-72 hours with most of the seeds germinating one to two weeks.

  5. Grow the seedlings for 10-14 days before transferring to individual seedling plugs.

    Lettuce seedlings with first true leaves visible.

Prepare Grow Boxes#

Required Materials#

Styrobox#

Boxes made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) known commonly as “styrofoam box” or simply “styrobox” make excellent materials for grow box (or growing box). The size recommended for use with SNAP Hydroponics is 20"×16"×6". These boxes can hold 10-12 liters of nutrient solution and has enough room to grow up to eight leafy vegetables and up to five fruiting vegetables. Styroboxes of this size are used to transport US imported grapes and are typically common during the months of September to February.

Lining Material#

Styrofoam boxes has ventilation holes running along the edges. In order for the bottom half of the box to hold the nutrient solution it must be lined with a sturdy waterproofing sheet. This manual uses 20"✕30" polyethylene (PE) plastic bags.

A typical brand of 20✕30 inch PE plastic bags.

Styrofoam Puncher#

A styrofoam puncher is required to make holes on the upper half of the grow box for the seedling plugs. A tin can of the appropriate diameter for the seedling plug can be fashioned into such a tool.

Packaging Tape#

This will be used to hold the lining material in place and optionally cover the ventilation holes.

Bamboo Stick#

A bamboo stick or similar implement is used to draw guidelines on the styrofoam. It is also used to safely remove the styrofoam piece from the styrofoam puncher after each cut.

Procedure#

  1. Flip the upperhalf of the styrobox over and place it on a flat surface. Put a piece of plywood or cardboard in between the surface and the styrofoam to prevent the surface from being damaged by the styrofoam puncher during the cutting step of the procedure.

  2. Draw guide lines connecting the ventilation holes from opposite sides of the box as illustrated below. A hole should be made centered where the lines cross.

    Lines connecting ventilation holes in opposite sides. A hole is made where they intersect.
  3. To make holes, put the sharp end of the styrofoam puncher on the styrofoam and apply pressure to score the surface. Hold the tool by the handles and apply pressure while moving the tool in a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction making tool cut deeper through the foam. Continue this process until the tool cuts through the foam.

  4. Pull out the styrofoam puncher carefully. A circular piece of foam will be left on one end of the tool. Use the stick to safely push one side of the piece into the tool. This will cause piece to rotate and the other side will be pushed out of the tool allowing it to be safely extracted.

  5. Repeat this process to create the rest of the holes.

    Holes are punched where the guide lines intersect.
  6. It is strongly recommended to use packing tape to cover the ventilation holes on this half of the styrobox if the growing area does not have protection from mosquitoes. This will deny mosquitoes access to the nutrient solution and stop them from breeding in the grow box.

  7. Line the lower half of the styrobox with the PE plastic bag.

    Lower half of a styrofoam box lined with PE plastic sheet.

Prepare Seedling Plugs#

Required Materials#

Styrofoam Cups#

This guide uses eight-ounce styrofoam cups pictured below.

Typical 8oz styrofoam cup.

Small Hand Saw or Similar#

This is used to cut slits at the bottom of the styro cups.

Established Seedlings#

Please see section on establishing seedlings.

Growing Media#

There are a number of materials that can be used as growing media. This manual uses cocopeat.

BBQ Stick or Similar Implements#

This is used to uproot seedlings from the sowing tray. This is also used as digging implement when transferring the seedlings to the seedling plugs.

Procedure#

  1. Using a handsaw, make four to six vertical slits on the side of the cup starting from the bottom. It should run two-thirds along the side of the cup and about one-third the radius of the bottom of the cup.

    Bottom of seedling plug with slits running along the side and bottom.
  2. Add coco peat to the prepared styro cups. One-fourth to one-third the volume of the cup is sufficient—just enough to support the seedling upright. The lesser the better because the less growing media there is in the cup the faster it is for the roots to find its way to the nutrient solution.

  3. Transplant the seedlings from the sowing tray to the cups. Use a stick or a similar implement to uproot the seedlings from the sowing tray with care. “Dig” a hole in the middle of the growing media in the cup using a stick or similar implement. Transfer only one seedling per cup. Make the transferred seedling stand firmly by moving the growing media around the base of the seedling using a stick.

  4. If desired, the seedlings in the seedling plugs can be hardened off before they are transferred to the grow boxes. Let the prepared seedling plug sit in a shallow pool of diluted working solution for a few days.

    Hardening seedlings off.

Setting Up the SNAP Hydroponics System#

Materials Needed#

SNAP Nutrient Solution for Hydroponics#

The SNAP Hydroponics system requires the use of SNAP Nutrient Solution for Hydroponics. They are developed and manufactured in IPB-UPLB. They are sold at the National Seed Foundation and also distributed by SNAP Authorized Resellers.

Seedling Plugs#

Please see section on seedling plugs.

Grow Boxes#

Please see section on grow boxes.

Clean Water#

Deep well and regular tap water works well. SNAP is designed for use with water from typical water sources in the Philippines. Using water that has gone through reverse osmosis (distilled water) doesn’t fit SNAP’s working parameters and the resulting nutrient mixture will not be suitable for hydroponics growing.

Benches#

Optional benches or stand where the grow boxes will be placed under a shelter.

Shelter#

Greenhouse, rain shelter or roof awning facing east for the earliest and longest sunlight exposure possible.

Procedure#

  1. Arrange the grow boxes in the shelter. Make sure that each one is leveled and each one is receiving sufficient sunlight to support the plants’ growth.

  2. Fill each grow box with 10L of water.

    Adding 10L of clean water to the bottom half of the grow box.
  3. Add 25 mL of SNAP A. Mix well. Add 25 ml of SNAP B. Mix well. Either SNAP A or SNAP B can be added to the water first but remember to stir the mixture thoroughly in between adding the SNAP A/B nutrient solution. The resulting mixture is the working solution.

  4. Join the upper and lower halves of the grow box together and make sure they are properly locked into place.

  5. Insert a seedling plug to each holes on the upper half of the grow box. Make sure the bottom of the cups is immersed in the solution by at least a centimeter. If not, add plain water until the proper water level is reached.

  6. Examine the boxes for leaks and do troubleshooting.

Maintenance of the SNAP Hydroponics System#

  • Visit the setup every morning as early as possible to catch any insect larva that may feed on the plants. The larva is active visible in the early morning. After that they tend to hide and are harder to find.

  • Expect slow plant growth in the first two weeks after the seedlings have been transplanted. This is specially true if the seedlings has not been hardened off. In this first couple of weeks the plant is adjusting to water logged conditions.

  • After the first couple of weeks the plants will show vigorous growth. Most leafy crops will be of marketable size during in third week onward.

  • Expect the working solution level to go down as the plants grow. The level will go down faster as the plants grow.

  • Replenish the working solution when the working solution level becomes too low. Never allow it to totally dry up. When replenishing the solution, never allow the level of the solution to reach the bottom of the cup and submerge all of the roots. The upper half of the plants’ roots must always be exposed to air and thus not be submerged in water. Always observe this practice when replenishing the contents of the grow box.

    Animated illustration of plants growing in SNAP Hydroponics.

    How the plant grows its roots and leaves as the nutrient solution level goes down.
  • Crops that needs replenishment but are close to harvest are replenished with plain water.

  • Crops that needs to be grown for over a month are replenished with fresh working solution.