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Old 11-24-2015, 10:11 PM
Stan Stan is offline
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Default My 2015 Dutch Bucket vs Aeroponic Tomato Challenge

I've been growing tomatoes using a self built aeroponic system. This year I decided to build a Dutch Bucket system to see which would produce the largest and better tasting tomatoes. Here's some pics of the Dutch Bucket and Aeroponic systems and the tomatoes on them.

The Dutch Bucket system was up and running 6 weeks earlier than the Aeroponic system. I used the same nutrients in both systems. Even though the Dutch Bucket system had a 6 week head start the Aeroponic system caught up really fast and actually surpassed the Dutch Bucket in height and growth.

The tomatoes on the Aeroponic were larger and had a slightly better taste than those grown in the Dutch Bucket. Will try this again next year but this time will start up both systems at the same time.

If you have any questions i will gladly answer.

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Last edited by Stan; 12-13-2015 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 11-25-2015, 10:38 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello Stan,
I'm going to go out on a limb and say you must like tomato's. I'm also courteous about a few things.

1. That's a good size air pump in the pictures. Do you have a air line for each individual bucket? Or are you just aerating the main reservoir?

2. I assume the tomato's in the square vinyl fence post tube are the aeroponic grown plants. Those roots must be packed tight for such a large root mass to be in there. Are they compacted?

3. Is it a low pressure aeroponic system, or a high pressure aeroponic system?

4. You may mot really be able to answer this, especially since the the dutch bucket plants had a 6 week start. But do you know which ones drank up the most water?

5. Were you using the same size reservoir (total water volume) for both systems? And growing the same type, and amount of plants in both systems?

6. You said the aeroponically grown plants grew much quicker, and larger fruit. Were there any other possible variables that could have contributed to this? Like maybe the aeroponic plants were able to get more sunlight, pH swings, water temps, water volume, nutrient change schedules etc. etc..
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Old 11-26-2015, 12:44 AM
Stan Stan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
Hello Stan,
I'm going to go out on a limb and say you must like tomato's. I'm also courteous about a few things.
I wouldn't say I like them but i do love them. I can eat a few a day and whatever is left over I make pasta sauce out of them.

Quote:
1. That's a good size air pump in the pictures. Do you have a air line for each individual bucket? Or are you just aerating the main reservoir?
It's just aerating the reservoir. I have 1 very large air stone inside the reservoir it will only turn on when the water pump starts.

Quote:
2. I assume the tomato's in the square vinyl fence post tube are the aeroponic grown plants. Those roots must be packed tight for such a large root mass to be in there. Are they compacted?
The roots run along the bottom of the vinyl tubing maybe only 1/2 inch high off the bottom. You would think the vinyl fence tube would be filled with roots but they are not. I took a pic of the roots when I took everything down for next year when I find the pic will post it.

Quote:
3. Is it a low pressure aeroponic system, or a high pressure aeroponic system?
Yes it's a low pressure aeroponic system. I would go with a high pressure but the pumps are just way to much $$$.


Quote:
4. You may mot really be able to answer this, especially since the the dutch bucket plants had a 6 week start. But do you know which ones drank up the most water?
The aeroponic plants seem to drink the most water.

Quote:
5. Were you using the same size reservoir (total water volume) for both systems? And growing the same type, and amount of plants in both systems?
Both systems were growing the same type of tomato plants. The Dutch Bucket was using a larger reservoir and was growing more plants as compared to the aeroponic system.

Quote:
6. You said the aeroponically grown plants grew much quicker, and larger fruit. Were there any other possible variables that could have contributed to this? Like maybe the aeroponic plants were able to get more sunlight, pH swings, water temps, water volume, nutrient change schedules etc. etc..
Both had same amout of sunlight, both had same ph levels thru the growing season. Water temps were slightly warmer in the aeroponic due to the smaller size reservoir. The aeroponic would receive a 1/4 dose of nutrients and Dutch Bucket received 1/2 dose of Verti-Gro nutrients for the full grow season. Both reservoirs would get nutrients on the same day and ph levels would be checked on both every other day. Both were running on the same feeding schedule which was on for 30 minutes off for 2 hours. At night it was on for 30 minutes off for 4 hours.
The Dutch Bucket was started the first week in June the aeroponic was started 6 weeks later in July. The aeroponic was started when it was brutally hot and the plants just took off and thrived.
Next year will do the same but will do the same amount of plants with same size reservoir.

Last edited by Stan; 11-26-2015 at 12:46 AM.
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Old 11-28-2015, 08:08 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Why don't you leave the air pump on 24/7? That's interesting about the root mass, any idea why the root mass in the aero system is so small? Do you trim those plants a lot?

Quote:
Yes it's a low pressure aeroponic system. I would go with a high pressure but the pumps are just way to much $$$.
I wouldn't use a pump for a high pressure aeroponic system. I would use compressed air to pressurize an accumulation tank (like in RO systems) with the nutrient solution. And have an electronic solenoid on a cycle timer to open and close the water line to the misters. It will still cost a few bucks to build, but will provide the true high pressure needed. And be more reliable than turning on and off a pump for short bursts thousands of times a week.

I thought of using a small 1500 psi pressure washer I can get for about $100 to get the PSI needed, and modifying it for the aeroponic system. But just don't think the motor wold last long constantly being turned on and off all the time. Their just not designed to take that. Plus it would be noisy. The pressurized tank would run quiet. Just use a small air compressor like the ones you can buy for your car to pump up your tires to pressurize it once or twice a week to keep the PSI up.

Quote:
The aeroponic plants seem to drink the most water.
Have you calculated out how much more water the aeroponic plants are drinking (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1 gallon a day per plant etc..)? And taking into account the size difference? I'm curious as to weather the type (an aeroponic) system may be a factor in the water consumption compared to other system types.

Quote:
The aeroponic would receive a 1/4 dose of nutrients and Dutch Bucket received 1/2 dose of Verti-Gro nutrients for the full grow season.
Are you saying that you only used 1/4 strength nutrients for the aeroponic plants the entire season? Yet they grew faster and with bigger fruit than the dutch bucket plants you gave twice as much nutrients to? That would defiantly be interesting.
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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 11-28-2015 at 08:17 PM.
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Old 11-29-2015, 06:04 PM
Stan Stan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
Why don't you leave the air pump on 24/7? That's interesting about the root mass, any idea why the root mass in the aero system is so small? Do you trim those plants a lot?
I did that the first year I started growing hydroponically and noticed when the air pump ran 24/7 I had a major headache with reservoir temps running the same as the temps outside which at times gets to the high 90's because air pump is pushing hot air into the air stone. I had to put at least 4 gallons milk jugs with frozen water at different times during the day to get reservoir temps down which was a PITA. Over the next 2 years I cut down on the amount of time air pump turns on also covered cooler with a car windshield sunscreen ($1 at the dollar store) and noticed reservoir temps stayed at a much cooler level. Didn't have to use any frozen jugs doing it this way and didn't see any difference when it came down to the health of the tomato plants.



Quote:
I wouldn't use a pump for a high pressure aeroponic system. I would use compressed air to pressurize an accumulation tank (like in RO systems) with the nutrient solution. And have an electronic solenoid on a cycle timer to open and close the water line to the misters. It will still cost a few bucks to build, but will provide the true high pressure needed. And be more reliable than turning on and off a pump for short bursts thousands of times a week.

I thought of using a small 1500 psi pressure washer I can get for about $100 to get the PSI needed, and modifying it for the aeroponic system. But just don't think the motor wold last long constantly being turned on and off all the time. Their just not designed to take that. Plus it would be noisy. The pressurized tank would run quiet. Just use a small air compressor like the ones you can buy for your car to pump up your tires to pressurize it once or twice a week to keep the PSI up.
I will have to look into this during the winter months. I would prefer to get more of a mist onto the roots for 5 minutes instead of spraying them for 30 minutes every 2 hours during the daytime hours.


Quote:
Have you calculated out how much more water the aeroponic plants are drinking (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1 gallon a day per plant etc..)? And taking into account the size difference? I'm curious as to weather the type (an aeroponic) system may be a factor in the water consumption compared to other system types.
I hate to give you any numbers on this considering both systems were not started at the exact same time or had the same amount of plants and reservoir size. The only comparison I can give you is from last year when I grew the same amount of plants from the aeroponic with the same reservoir used for the Dutch Bucket this year. In 2016 I will be growing the same amount of plants out of both and both using the same size reservoir.


Quote:
Are you saying that you only used 1/4 strength nutrients for the aeroponic plants the entire season? Yet they grew faster and with bigger fruit than the dutch bucket plants you gave twice as much nutrients to? That would defiantly be interesting.
Yes I only used 1/4 strength with the aeroponic the whole season and started the grow during the hottest months. I was actually shocked how fast they grew when it was steaming hot outside as they caught up to and surpassed the Dutch Bucket system.

Last year I grew twice the amount of plants using the aeroponic I had to fluctuate between 1/2 and 3/4 strength with the nutrients depending on how healthy the plants looked. Again I'm still experimenting and might try 1/4 strength from beginning to end with 10 - 12 plants next year.
Also want to point out even though you see hydroton on the top of the Dutch Buckets they are actually growing in Perlite. I started the plants aeroponically and transfered them all as is directly to the Dutch Buckets that are filled with Perlite.

Last edited by Stan; 11-29-2015 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 11-29-2015, 09:43 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Quote:
I did that the first year I started growing hydroponically and noticed when the air pump ran 24/7 I had a major headache with reservoir temps running the same as the temps outside which at times gets to the high 90's because air pump is pushing hot air into the air stone.
Is it possible that the heat was cumming from somewhere else? You even stated that insulating the reservoir on top had a big effect. Likely even from the reservoir sides and bottom, as well as the temperature differential as you run the water through the system. I know that common sense would dictate that if the air is warm going through the air pump, it will heat up the water. That should also work in reverse, if cool air is going through the air pump it should cool the water (which was my hope). But I did a test a few years back and the results showed no change in water temps at all.

I took small container that held about 3/4 of a gallon of water. I put the air pump in my freezer and closed the door with the plug and air line hanging out the bottom. The air going in the air pump isn't going to get much cooler than directly from the freezer. I took the temp of the water before the experiment witch was somewhere around room temp. I put the air stone in the water and plugged in the air pump. I let it run like this for at least an hour pumping frozen air through the air pump and stone in the water. With less than a gallon of water the temp should change very quickly, but after more than an hour the water temp didn't even change 1 degree.

I also grew some strawberry's last summer in a non-recirculating system. I used a 32 gallon Trash Can for the reservoir. I insulated this trash can well by warping 4 layers of bubble-wrap insulation around it and warping that with white duct tape for a tight fit. Then I made a lid for the trash can out of two layers of 2 inch thick Styrofoam insulation. I also set the trash can on a layer of high density Styrofoam insulation so heat couldn't radiate up through the bottom sitting on the ground.

Our daytime temps were were between 108 and 120 degrees. Our night time temps were over 100 degrees (even at 4-5 am). I would need to fill this reservoir about once a week to make sure it never run dry, it used about 2.5 gallons per day. When I filled it I added about 10, 1/2 gallon ice blocks (5 gallons of ice) so the water was ice cold. The water in this reservoir. would remain at least cool to the touch all week. There were a few times near the end of the week when there was only about 5-10 gallons of water left that I added a block or two more ice. But for the most part it stayed cool to the touch all week long.

I used a twin output air pump for 60 gallon aquariums in this reservoir, and let it run 24/7. Not so much for the dissolved oxygen, but mostly for the rising air bubbles to keep the nutrients mixed evenly and from settling at the bottom. But despite running the air pump 24/7 and with air temps between 100 degrees at night and 120 during the day. There didn't seem to be much if any affect on water temp from the air pump. Running it 24/7 with those kind of air temps, the water temp change should be very quickly noticeable, one day, two max. But like the cold air test, it just wasn't an issue.

Quote:
I will have to look into this during the winter months. I would prefer to get more of a mist onto the roots for 5 minutes instead of spraying them for 30 minutes every 2 hours during the daytime hours.
I got the idea from someone that built an aeroponic system using that spray method, let me know if I can help you with it. He told me how he built it, and he pressurized it to around 90 psi for a fine mist and small water droplet size. He used a cycle timer for short bursts, around 3 seconds every 5 minutes or so I think (it was 3-4 years ago I talked to him). I have been meaning to build a aeroponic system like it ever since. With such short bursts, even with so many of them, he didn't go through as much water as you would think. That's why I'm so interested in how much water your plants were drinking up using the aeroponic method.

P.S.
I always mark the inside of all my reservoirs. This way I will know exactly how much water to replace as the plants drink it up. That way the nutrient solution isn't to diluted or concentrated when I replace it. Knowing the volume of water I'm adding back also allows me to be able to average out how much water each plant is drinking daily.

Comparing different size plants isn't all that hard either. Just break it down to percentages. Like if a plants foliage is 25% bigger, I would expect it to drink 25% more water. Here is an example:

Example 1
Plant 2 is about 25% bigger than plant 1
plant 1- drinks 2 gallons of water per day
plant 2- drinks 2.5 gallons of water per day

Plant 2 is drinking 25% more water, but is also 25% bigger. Therefor I cam conclude that for it's size plant 1 is drinking the same amount of water as plant 2.

Example 2,
Plant-2 is 50% bigger than plant 1
plant 1- drinks 2 gallons of water per day
plant 2- drinks 3.5 gallons of water per day

In this example plant 2 is 50% bigger, but is drinking 75% more water than plant 1. Considering plant 2 is 50% bigger than plant 1, I would expect it to drink 50% more water as well. So 75% minus 50% (size difference) equals 25%. So I can conclude plant 2 is drinking 25% more water than plant 1 in an equal comparison, even though the plants are different sizes.

Anyhow that's how I do it.
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Old 12-12-2015, 02:06 AM
Stan Stan is offline
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Quote:
Is it possible that the heat was cumming from somewhere else? You even stated that insulating the reservoir on top had a big effect. Likely even from the reservoir sides and bottom, as well as the temperature differential as you run the water through the system.
I really believe the high water temps I would get in years past was due to running the air pump 24hrs a day. My coolers have always been shaded and off the ground using bricks. This year was the hottest year to date since I started growing hydroponically yet my reservoir temps were lower this year compared to prior years most likely due to only running the air pump at the same time the water pump would kick on.


Quote:
I got the idea from someone that built an aeroponic system using that spray method, let me know if I can help you with it. He told me how he built it, and he pressurized it to around 90 psi for a fine mist and small water droplet size. He used a cycle timer for short bursts, around 3 seconds every 5 minutes or so I think (it was 3-4 years ago I talked to him). I have been meaning to build a aeroponic system like it ever since. With such short bursts, even with so many of them, he didn't go through as much water as you would think. That's why I'm so interested in how much water your plants were drinking up using the aeroponic method.
If you can I would like to know how your friend had set up his system. I would love to be able to use a cost effective High Pressure instead of a Low Pressure as I've read up they will use mush less water than I use now. Also would use less nutrients to.

Quote:
P.S.
I always mark the inside of all my reservoirs. This way I will know exactly how much water to replace as the plants drink it up. That way the nutrient solution isn't to diluted or concentrated when I replace it. Knowing the volume of water I'm adding back also allows me to be able to average out how much water each plant is drinking daily.

Comparing different size plants isn't all that hard either. Just break it down to percentages. Like if a plants foliage is 25% bigger, I would expect it to drink 25% more water. Here is an example:

Example 1
Plant 2 is about 25% bigger than plant 1
plant 1- drinks 2 gallons of water per day
plant 2- drinks 2.5 gallons of water per day

Plant 2 is drinking 25% more water, but is also 25% bigger. Therefor I cam conclude that for it's size plant 1 is drinking the same amount of water as plant 2.

Example 2,
Plant-2 is 50% bigger than plant 1
plant 1- drinks 2 gallons of water per day
plant 2- drinks 3.5 gallons of water per day

In this example plant 2 is 50% bigger, but is drinking 75% more water than plant 1. Considering plant 2 is 50% bigger than plant 1, I would expect it to drink 50% more water as well. So 75% minus 50% (size difference) equals 25%. So I can conclude plant 2 is drinking 25% more water than plant 1 in an equal comparison, even though the plants are different sizes.

Anyhow that's how I do it.
Will start doing this next year and will log everything down. Will make a graph for the years grow.
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Old 12-12-2015, 11:30 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello Stan,
If you want to send me a PM with a e-mail address, I'll try and draw up some diagram's to send you. I's really a simple concept. But the hardest part is finding a solenoid to open and close the water line to the misters. I live in a small town, you might have more options where you live on that. But if not I have looked into using a sprinkler valve as the solenoid, and have some ideas on it.

The guy that built the aeroponic system also built his own cycle timer, but I'm not planning to go to that trouble. I found the CT-1 Short Cycle Timer that is digital for accuracy down to 10 seconds, and has a battery backup so power loss isn't a problem. For shorter ON times you may need to build your own cycle timer, or spend a lot more money if you can find one. One of the reasons the guy that built the aeroponic system didn't go through much water was due to the real short ON cycle times. I know I said he used a 3 second ON time (remember I said also it was a long tome ago I talked to him) , but I think that was more like what I would have used. I now remember him saying his ON cycle time was 1/2 second. Anyhow I can go over this aspect more as well.

Another reason I think he didn't go through that much nutrient solution is he also grew his plants in a climate controlled (kind of) greenhouse so his plants had good humidity and 80-85 degree summer days. But If I remember correctly he said he went through around 4 gallons of nutrient solution once or twice a week. I forget what he was growing with it.

As for marking your reservoir, it's just something I tarted doing early on, and find it very helpful. I usually mark them every 5 gallons (5 gal, 10 gal, 15 gal etc.). I would fill the reservoir with 5 gallons of water and use a permanent marker to draw a line at the water line. But it's almost impossible to keep the pen from getting wet, and when it does it wont work again for days. I still use a permanent marker, but I do it differently now. I still fill the reservoir with 5 gallons of water at a time, but now I use a stake knife to scratch a small line at the water line for each level. Then empty it and dry it out. Then use the permanent marker to draw the water level lines and numbers.

To make sure I get 5 gallons exactly, I fill a 1 gallon water/milk jug 5 times. I also did this for one of my five gallon buckets. Filled it with 1 gallon of water, made the mark, and did it again until 5 gallons. So my five gallon bucket is marked in one gallon increments. This way I don't have to fill a one gallon jug 30 times for a 30 gallon reservoir. I just fill my 5 gallon bucket to the 5 gallon water line to be accurate. Doing this also makes it easy to add nutrients to the reservoir and be accurate at the same time. Even when there is already nutrient solution in he reservoir, and just topping it off with a diluted amount of nutrients. You'll always know how much water your replacing, and how concentrated your nutrient solution because you know the water volume and amount of nutrients in it.

As an example, say I have a 20 gallon reservoir with full strength nutrient solution in it. You don't want to add anymore nutrients because it would be to concentrated. But you don't want to change your nutrient solution every week, and change them at 2 weeks instead. Since your reservoir is marked, you know how much water the plants are drinking daily/weekly. Let's say they are drinking 3 gallons per day, 21 gallons per week.

Now plants only take up nutrients they need and leave the rest, so you know even though they used 100% of the 20 gallon water volume, there are still nutrients in it, just diluted (around 50%) and slightly unbalanced . So I might add 3-5 gallons of full strength nutrient solution back when I top off the reservoir at the end of the week to compensate for the nutrients the plants used during the first week. I know the nutrient concentration at the beginning of week two won't be to strong because I'm only adding back 15-25% more nutrients compared to the 100% water the plants drank up.

Bottom line, instead of just changing the nutrient solution on a specific schedule regardless of how big they are. I go more by clues to tell me when it's time to change it, and normally do nutrient changes anywhere from 1 week to 4 weeks. If I want to let it go for another week, I may or may not add more nutrients back based on how much water the plants are drinking (compared to total reservoir water volume). If I see signs of slight yellowing (dark green leaves turning light green), or abnormal pH swings it's time to change it completely.

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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 12-12-2015 at 11:34 PM.
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