A more advanced technique, aeroponics is a way to grow plants while they are suspended in midair. That’s right, the plants are not in soil or water; they are simply exposed to a nutrient-rich, misty environment. This system can work indoors, in greenhouses, and outdoors as well.
There are two types of hydroponic systems: high pressure and low pressure. The high-pressure systems are much more advanced and use fewer resources for growth. These have even been used by NASA to grow vegetables. However, these systems are a bit much for the average back yard gardener. Low-pressure systems are the most commonly used and built by those looking for a project for their own home.
Build Aeroponic System
Aeroponic systems can certainly be purchased all complete and ready to go, but it is much more cost-effective to build your own. There are several different designs out there for an aeroponic system. There are methods for a five-gallon bucket, a tower garden, and many more. Only one method will be discussed in this book, but feel free to check out others online if this construction method does not meet your needs. This method will be made inside a 30-gallon plastic tote with a lid.
- (1) 30-gallon tote with lid, preferable dark in colour
- Hydroponic net pots with rubber foam lids (size and quantity will depend on the size of the plants you plan to grow)
- The electrical timer that can be used in 30-minute increments
- (77”) of ¾” PVC pipe
- (6) ¾” slip “elbow” PVC connector
- (1) ¾” slip “cross” PVC connector
- (2) ¾” slip “t” PVC connector
- (6) ¾” slip to ½” threaded PVC connectors
- (1) ¾” slip “T” connector that has a ½ inch threaded top
- (1) Tube of silicone caulking
- (1) ½” Flexi-tubing shut off valve
- (1) ½” threaded bulkhead fitting with gasket
- (1) ½” hose clamp
- (1) 12” black flex-tubing
- (1) ½” barb to the male threaded connector
- (6) 180 degree ½” plastic head threaded sprinkler heads
- (1) Fountain pump (200 gallons per hour)
- Grab your 30-gallon plastic tote with lid. The darker the colour, the better to prevent algae growth. Also, collect your net pots. The size of these will vary depending on what you plan to grow. Pots that are 3.75” would work well for something like tomatoes. Choose something smaller for smaller crops or larger for larger ones. Cut holes in the lid of the tote that will allow your net pots to sit snugly inside the holes. A craft knife works well for cutting these holes.
- Grab 3’4” of ¾” PVC pipe. Make sure to get PVC, not CPVC, as this is known to leach harmful chemicals.Cut this pipe into the following increments:
(6) 4.5” lengths
(6) 6” lengths
(1) 8” length
(1) 3” lengths
- Collect 6 PVC elbow connectors and use PVC glue and primer to connect the 4.5” lengths to the 6” lengths. These will make an “L” shape. The 4.5” length will be flat on the ground and the 6” lengths will be rising into the air.
- Attach the ¾” slip to ½” threaded PVC connector to the top of each 6” pipe of each “L” shape. Now, screw in sprinkler heads.
- Collect two ¾” “T” shaped PVC connectors and one ¾” “cross” PVC connector. Use the PVC primer and glue to connect your “L” shaped pipes. Connect two sets of them with the “T” shaped connector and one set of them with the “cross” connector.
- Visualize your PVC pipe creation sitting in the bottom of your tote and spraying water up at the roots of your plants. Use the 8” section of cut PVC pipe to connect one of the “T” connectors to one side of the “cross” connector. On the other side of the “cross connector, add one of the 3” sections of pipe, then add the “T” connector that has a ½ inch threaded top the opening pointing straight up, then add another 3” section of pipe, and lastly, glue this into the other “T” connector you already added.
- Add a ½” barb to ½” threaded connector into the part of the “T” connector that has been left sticking up.
- Place the sprinkler unit into the tote. Use ½ inch Flexi-tubing to connect the fountain pump to the sprinkler unit. Take care to ensure there are not any kinks in the tubing.
- Put the lid back on top and use caulking to seal the lid on top. Make sure there are not any gaps in the caulking and let it dry completely before using the system.
- Attach the bulkhead fitting wherever you would like it on the bottom of the tote, and put on the shut-off valve with Flexi-tubing as a drain valve.
- Put in the net pots with plants. Fill with water to just below the sprinkler heads and place on a timed cycle of 25 minutes on and 25 minutes off. Add nutrients to help your plants thrive.
Try using a humidity dome to help young cuttings thrive.
Maintaining an Aeroponic System
Like all systems, problems can arise in an aeroponic system. It is very important to make sure the pump is working properly. If the pump fails, the plants will end up in a very sad state. The nutrients used can also clog up the sprinkler heads. Keep an eye on these, and clean them with isopropyl alcohol occasionally to keep them clear. If the situation gets too far out of hand before noticed, the sprinkler heads may need to be replaced.
There are several methods out there to combat bacterial and fungal growth in these systems. This is a very common problem just because of the damp, warm environment. Use a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to kill off the bacteria. Just be aware that using this will also kill off any beneficial bacteria or fungi in the supplements used.
The roots of plants prefer to grow in total darkness. Therefore, it is important to not let in any sunlight to the box. All leaks need to be sealed. Even though the roots need total darkness, the rest of the plant does not. Make sure the plants get enough sunlight or look into artificial lights if setting up this system indoors. This whole system is compact and light in weight, therefore it could be a great option for someone living in an apartment, as it can simply be set out on the deck and brought in when it gets cold.