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Advice needed on a root vegtable system


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Old 10-11-2009, 12:13 AM
Harlequin Harlequin is offline
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Default Advice needed on a root vegtable system

I'm thinking about growing root vegies (carrots etc.) and I'm struggling a little with the mental shape of how the system would work. At the moment my experience is all with NFT systems growing leafy plants.

My understanding is I would need at least a 12" deep growing medium, probably a combination of Perlite and Vermiculite for carrots to grow well. What I am thinking is a 14" deep trough with a drain in the bottom, a mesh an inch or so above the bottom so there will be an open space at the bottom of the pot. Then to flood the system from the top and then allow the nutrient to drain out the bottom.

My thoughts / concerns are the timing for the flood drain cycle. Should I use sprayers or drips or try flooding the whole pot? I could always valve the drain so the pot will fill and hold the water for a time and then drain.

Or am I making this too complicated?

Doing some research this is what I am thinking of building...



Last edited by Harlequin; 10-11-2009 at 02:39 AM.
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Old 10-11-2009, 03:32 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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I have not done root vegetables hydroponically, but I don't think I would use a flood and drain type of system for them. The roots system would be submerged in water to long to be good for the vegetables I would think. I would use a drip system. I attached a quick drawing of a box to give you an idea. Just find a container the size you need and run a line back to the reservoir at the bottom. Run drip irrigation along the top of the growing medium. This way the roots wont be swimming in water and would just trickle down the same way it does in mother nature.

I would probably use coco fiber and or coco chips for a growing medium because it holds moisture well and I am familiar with it, though Perlite and Vermiculite would probably do well also. You just want to make sure that the growing medium does not make it down the drain spout. you could line the bottom of the container with a few layers of cheesecloth or screen door screening as a mesh to strain it and keep the growing medium in place.
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Old 10-11-2009, 04:02 AM
Luches Luches is offline
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Harlequin,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
I'm thinking about growing root vegies (carrots etc.) and I'm struggling a little with the mental shape of how the system would work. At the moment my experience is all with NFT systems growing leafy plants.
I had similar thoughts and plans lately (manly about carrots actually), and have been concerned about it in quite the same way. The depth for the carrots, an appropriate media for roots to develop nicely, etc.

What I have to tell you firstly: forget straight away about perlite and/or vermiculite in a ebb/flow system. Because this material is way to light (when dry anyways) and will, when flooded from below - rise over the edge and drop out!

Have you thought about gravel in a Ebb/Flood system instead? Well, it's in fact hard to draw the line between coarse Sand and fine Gravel, - but one has to find the best grain size for carrots and roots. Fine enough to keep good moisture and good root formation - but rough enough to drain properly during the ebb cycle. The other alternative are (expanded) clay pebbles of a smaller size. I am actually using a mix of small clay pebbles and coarse sand in some setups (drip and recycle in buckets system).

Another suggestion about carrots: there is one special variety of carrots that forms ball-oval shaped roots of a much smaller size. (Romeo or Tonda Di Parigi from Italy) If using this kind of variety, there is no need for a deep bed. A hight of roughly 3-5 inches would be high enough. This gives you much more flexibility for your bed reservoir (less high) and much less volume of (expensive) media is needed per square foot!
Romeo and Tonda Di Parigi carrots

As I haven't build or used any ebb/flood system yet i've also been reflecting about (supplementary) drip-units first, actually because I wasn't comfortable with the idea of just fooding the whole thing. I guess these thoughts come naturally when only using dripping and such
But actually the ebb/flood system has explicitly the advantage of not needing any complicate(d) dripping or spraying system. That's actually the good thing about it. The other plus is, that the drain cycle is providing perfect drain and good oxygenation of roots. Plants that don't like high root humidity in media (such as many capsicum species) thrive really well in these kind of setups. The clear disadvantage is that you cannot grow seedlings - or rather difficultly.
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Old 10-12-2009, 05:34 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Yes, I probably should have mentioned that perlite and/or vermiculite would be a bad choice for a ebb & flow (flood and drain) system. They float like Styrofoam, and the first time you flood the system it would all overflow out of the container. Though for the drip system I was thinking of it would be fine. I like what Luches had said about "coarse Sand and fine Gravel" even for a drip system because of cost. Where I live I need to drive 3 1/2 hours to get to the nearest hydroponics store. Buying online and shipping all that growing media to me is a killer, about $10 of product equals about $10 shipping most from places. Growing a plant for root vegetables and considering all the growing media required for root vegetables, that is a good idea. Using a drip system you can mix them all without the floating problem.
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Old 10-12-2009, 06:09 AM
Harlequin Harlequin is offline
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My idea is to build a large base that multiple pots can sit in. Currently my plans are for 6 x 1m trench style pots all sitting in a single large base. The problem with a drip or spray system is the added complexity of the sprayers and the fact you need to line them up with the plant. You can't just drop the pots in and out. (unless you are in a green house setup which this won't be)

With regards to the plants sitting in the fluid too long I have built a water sensor that connects to an IC and it turns the pump off as soon as the water gets to the target level. So there wont be a long period the roots are submerged for - just the time it takes to fill.

Maybe deco would be a better growing material? Its also dirt cheap (sorry). Perhaps mixed with expanded clay to increase drain rate....
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Old 10-12-2009, 07:20 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Quote:
My idea is to build a large base that multiple pots can sit in.
OK, I am not sure how your system is planed to be setup particularly why you would need pots in the growing containers as you described for root Vegetables. The growing containers should be the pots? If you have one growing medium sitting in a pot then setting that pot in another growing medium the roots don't stop at the border they will continue into the other medium. Then when you try to pull it up you will be ripping it all out anyway. If you are looking for something that you can pull up and replace in a single system you might want to keep in mind the roots. They grab onto everything.

As far as lining up the drip system with the plants I am not sure I see a problem there. I don't know what materials you are using to do that. I just set up a drip system and I just used the same 1/2 inch tubing from the pump and poked holes into it where I wanted them. I was concerned that it wouldn't cover the whole area with a few holes but after running it for a 1/2 hr the growing medium (coco chips) was completely saturated.

I have pics of the building of this system but haven't downloaded them to the computer yet (plan to tomorrow). Then I will post a thread of it in the "
Your Hydroponics Setup" section of this forum.
Quote:
With regards to the plants sitting in the fluid too long I have built a water sensor that connects to an IC and it turns the pump off as soon as the water gets to the target level. So there wont be a long period the roots are submerged for - just the time it takes to fill.
I don't see a problem with that.

If you are interested, I think I can come up with a plan for a replaceable root Vegetable system for your for ebb & flow (flood and drain system). A lot will depend on what materials you have at at your disposal, to determine how I would do it. It would basically consist of a base nutrient delivery system with detachable modules. Also, what you were growing as well as how much.
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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 10-12-2009 at 07:41 AM.
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Old 10-12-2009, 06:29 PM
Harlequin Harlequin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
OK, I am not sure how your system is planed to be setup particularly why you would need pots in the growing containers as you described for root Vegetables. The growing containers should be the pots? If you have one growing medium sitting in a pot then setting that pot in another growing medium the roots don't stop at the border they will continue into the other medium. Then when you try to pull it up you will be ripping it all out anyway. If you are looking for something that you can pull up and replace in a single system you might want to keep in mind the roots. They grab onto everything.
.
Trying to think of how to describe what I have in mind. There is one large box which has a lip hight at least 12" high. This will be the box that has the connectors to the pumps and the reservoirs. So when the system cycles it will fill with water but doesn't have any growing medium or plants in it. I then fill a pot with growing medium and line the bottom of the pot with a root proof liner. Then it gets dropped into the large box. Then when the large box gets flooded the fluid will also go into the pot through the holes in the bottom. Roots should be kept inside the pot by the screen.

The idea is that the large box will hold 4+ of the "growing pots" and that I can rotationally plant vegies. When the plants in one box are ready to be eaten I just pull the whole pot out and drop in the next ready planted one.

This picture shows a smaller version of what I have in mind. The other advantage as well is the drain and inlet pipes are completely seperate to the growing medium so the pipes shouldn't get blocked and the medium shouldn't flow into the tank.

As for what I am growing the plan is carrots and beetroot. They both have similar nutrient requirements and growth times and the idea is to plant on 4 weekly cycles which should produce enough to be a staple food source.
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Old 10-13-2009, 03:02 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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OK, I understand now, the picture did it.

I don't see a problem there. Though I don't know of anything that will allow the transfer of liquid and will stop roots from going through it (root proof). I don't see a problem with that, because with what this picture shows the roots sticking out of the containers wont be a problem..

Basically you have a bathtub that floods to a pre determined height with plants sitting in it. I would want to clean out the tub often because all the light will promote algae growth to everywhere that is not in the dark. Though what you have in mind is quite reasonable.

Quote:
My thoughts / concerns are the timing for the flood drain cycle. Should I use sprayers or drips or try flooding the whole pot? I could always valve the drain so the pot will fill and hold the water for a time and then drain.
This statement had me confused (and still does) because you are talking about three different types of systems, sprayers (areoponics), drips (drip system), flooding the whole pot (ebb & flow/ flood & drain) . Though what you have described with the last post and the picture is a "ebb & flow/flood & drain" system. I see no problems (other than then the one described earlier) with that system. Though I would not let the medium soak in water any longer than necessary for root vegetables. I have not done any root vegetables but like all hydroponic plants all that you need is to just keep the roots from drying out (not soaked).

I would take a note from Luches had to say because perlite and/or vermiculite would be a bad choice with this type of system.
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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 10-13-2009 at 03:30 AM.
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Old 10-13-2009, 03:17 AM
Harlequin Harlequin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
This statement had me confused (and still does) because you are talking about three different types of systems, sprayers (areoponics), drips (drip system), flooding the whole pot (ebb & flow/ flood & drain) . Though what you have described with the last post and the picture is a "ebb & flow/flood & drain" system. I see no problems (other than then the one described earlier) with that system.
Sorry by sprayers I was more thinking along the lines of a Nylex sprayer you would see normally attached to mains pressure water spraying onto the top of the plant. Realistically this is a drip system.

What I am trying to chose between was a drip system or a flood / drain system.

As for the root mat I have some in my off the shelf systems - I will find out exactly the brand and details of it and let you know.
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Old 10-13-2009, 03:43 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Quote:
What I am trying to chose between was a drip system or a flood / drain system.
Well, what you have in mind as best as I can tell is a flood and drain (probably can be used as a N.F.T. also). as you mentioned to run a drip system with that much flexibility would take some effort to control properly.

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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 10-14-2009 at 06:32 PM.
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