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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Grow Towers and Deep Water Culture

The humble plastic pail with my keys on top

I picked up some barrels from Nova Barrel. Today I wanted to show you what I'm doing with these nifty square 4.5-gallon pails. Next week I'll show you the compost barrel, the black soldier fly harvester, and the potato barrels...

I've played around with deep water culture, sometimes called "floating raft." But you don't have to have a floating raft. You just need to be able to keep the plant's roots in the "nutrient solution."

For now let's hit the trust button that I know how to plumb this into my system. I find I'm better at showing than telling, so let me show you what I've done so far.

Pail with holes and net pots

I pulled out my 2-1/4 inch hole saw (the same one you use to cut holes in doors for doorknobs). Turns out this is the perfect size for one of the standard sizes of net pots. I drilled four holes in the corners of the pail lid. I've already wedged the net pots into the holes in the picture above.

I also drilled small holes in the center of the pail lid. These will allow water to drip into the pails. Below is a picture of the pail with a 3 foot vertical grow tower resting in the center.

Grow tower supported by the pail

I'll be plumbing these into my system sometime in the next week. I'll fill the net pots and tower pockets with hydroton, then planting can begin.

You could do this with regular round 5-gallon pails. There are lots of pail-based deep water culture systems out there, though I don't think I've seen any connected to an aquaponics system. I like the square pails because they have a flat side that will work well with the home-made grey plastic bulkhead fitting I use for the rest of my through-wall plumbing.

Here's a sketch showing how I'll achieve constant height of water in my pails (think Durso Siphon or Standpipe). A crate structure will support the flat sides of the pails and block some of the light that will otherwise get to the roots. I'll anchor an EMT 'loop' in the crate structure to hold the grow towers upright and support the piping for the water coming in from the sump.

Sketch of aquaponic vertical tower/deep water culture concept

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