Gutter NFT

Nutrient Film Technique

Nutrient Film Technique

In NFT, a film of plant food solution continuously drifts over exposed roots. It is a good system for small plants such as lettuce and herbs. With the use of vinyl gutters or downspouts and very little tools, you can make your own rough yet easy NFT system.

Shopping list

  • Three 10 ft. long vinyl downspouts (downspouts work best, but you can also use gutters with covers or 4” PVC pipes); they are usually standard size.
  • Three 2 ft. pieces of 1.5” PVC pipe
  • Six 4 ft. pieces of 1.5” PVC pipe (for the legs; can choose taller or shorter)
  • Six elbows for 1.5” PVC
  • Three downspout drains
  • Roll of 1/2” tubing.
  • Roll of 1/4” tubing.
  • Sixty 2” round net pots (pot should have a rim that makes it slightly larger than 2”)
  • A large clean plastic tub with lid (25-30 gal size works well)
  • 6 double barbed connectors for 1/4” tubing
  • Plastic cable ties or a cap to plug 1/2” tubing
  • Large size submersible fountain pump (400 gph)
  • Duct tape
  • Electric drill with a 2” hole saw
  • Scissors
  • Post hole digger
  • Level
  • Possibly a saw
  • Possibly a hammer
NFT Gutter 1
  1. Assemble all your materials and tools. Cut your PVC pipes and downspouts to the correct sizes that you want. The legs of the system will have to be inserted into the ground at least 6” so remember that for whatever height you wish your system to be.
NFT Gutter 2
  1. Connect a 2 ft PVC to two of the 4 ft PVC using the elbows. You will have 3 C shapes when done. These three C shapes will be the base of your system.
NFT Gutter 3
  1. Dig holes for where the legs of the system will be. Holes will be around 2 ft across from each other and 3 ft apart from each other. This will be the base of your system on which downspouts will rest. Make sure holes are around 6” deep. The legs can move a little, but should not fall over.
NFT Gutter 4
  1. Use your hole saw to drill 2” holes every 6” in the top of the downspouts. Insert the 2” net pot in the first hole to make sure it sits well and doesn’t fall through.
NFT Gutter 5
  1. Place the prepared downspouts on your base. Secure them by wrapping duct tape where the spout lays on the PVC pipe.
NFT Gutter 6
  1. Check the angle with a level. You don’t want it perfectly level. It should have a very slight decline (1-3%) towards the reservoir end of the system. Water should flow smoothly, but not too fast. You may need to adjust by carefully tapping with a hammer the base closest to the reservoir so it goes further into the ground.
NFT Gutter 7
  1. Roll out enough 2” tubing to go from the pump in the reservoir at one end to the downspout at the other end. Also cut 6 short pieces of the 1/4 “ tubing.
NFT Gutter 8
  1. Clamp the end of the 2” tubing so no water gets out. Connect the other end of the tube to the your pump inside the plastic tub reservoir.
NFT Gutter 9
  1. NFT Gutter 9At the end of the 2” tubing, near the clamped area, make six small holes in order to insert the barbed connecters. Then connect the 1/4” tubing pieces to the connectors. Place two small tubes in the first hole made in each downspout and secure with duct tape.
NFT Gutter 10
  1. Connect the ends of the downspouts to the drains. Insert the drains through holes that you cut into the lid. Fill tub with prepared nutrient solution (pH 6.0; EC around 1.5 with high N for herbs and greens). Place lid on top of tub. Run your system to see that the flow of water is even and smooth. You may need to adjust the angle of the base to allow a faster or slower stream. Check to make sure there are no leaks from the tubes and connections.
NFT Gutter 11
  1. If everything is running smoothly, you can now insert your seedlings growing in Grodan 1.5” A-Ok plugs. See the following page for growing great seedling and cuttings with Grodan: Growing Tips: Seed. Make sure there are enough roots at the bottom of the A-Ok plug so that they are touching the bottom of the downspout. Start the pump and leave it on continuously.

Maintenance

Change the reservoir with fresh solution at least once every two weeks (weekly if at all possible). Just recycle the old solution by dumping on some plants outside.

Maintain a pH of 6.0 and an EC around 1.5 with plenty of nitrogen if growing leafy greens and herbs.

Keep an eye on pests and diseases. Make sure lid is secure over the reservoir to minimize the amount of debris that gets in the solution.

With some plants, such as Basil, you can take many cuttings off of one plant. Just keep the system clean with fresh solution for great harvests all season long!