Aquaponic Gardening

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I am surprised to find no references in any of the forums about ziptowers. I want to do vertical towers but can't afford $80 per tower. What would be good media for filling a 5 foot long tube that would allow water to flow pretty freely but act as a good anchor and media for such towers?

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I'm experimenting with 3 inch pvc. If you cut half way through about every 8 to 10 inches, then use a heat gun to soften the pipe above the cut and push it in to the back of the pipe it will bake a nice planting space above for medium and allow the water to flow through to the next (cut) below it.

Be sure not to use your bare hand to do the pushing. The pipe will get very hot...

I was asking about the media, not the pipe.
 
Steve Meachum said:

I'm experimenting with 3 inch pvc. If you cut half way through about every 8 to 10 inches, then use a heat gun to soften the pipe above the cut and push it in to the back of the pipe it will bake a nice planting space above for medium and allow the water to flow through to the next (cut) below it.

Be sure not to use your bare hand to do the pushing. The pipe will get very hot...

sorry.

I use expanded clay balls (Hydrocorn) It has given me no problems thus far

  Not sure exactly how Zip Towers are designed so I studied the pictures and suspected it couldn't be too hard to come up with something homemade.  I had a couple pieces of PVC rain gutter downspout pipes laying around that looked like they should work, so I went to Home Depot to look around and walked out with a couple sheets of 24" x 36" "Natural Aire" cut to fit air filters.  I cut my downspout tubes into 4' pieces, cut a 1/4" - 3/8" slit down the center of each one, cut strips of the cut-to-fit filter material to fit snugly in the tubes, added a water supply, and ...... joila.......vertical towers hanging over my growbeds.

  I found that using 2 strips of the air filter material folded in half was much easier to pull into the tubes than trying to fit one whole stack of 4 strips.  My homemade towers have been up for a little over a week, and the plants I have in them are looking happy and well adjusted to their new home. 

I found the plastic material for the tubes-5"x5" vinyl fence posts. Most big box stores carry them but when I described them no one could tell me whether they had something like that and the guy that does the ordering at a big local hardware store said they had never seen plastic like that. DOH! The material people have been telling me about is mantala which according to my biology training should far exceed the capacity for growing large plants than hydroton or insulation because it has so much more room for roots to grow. A plant can't get any bigger than it's root mass. Still looking for cheaper alternatives that are food grade, however. The other thing is that mantala is made of HDPE and is reusable many times and probably over decades.

   Don't know what "mantala" is.  Tried to google, but gave up looking 4 pages in.  Stuff I am using is not insulation.  Looks more like green scrubber pads, but with a much more open weave. Pretty cheap, too considering how little it takes to fill a 5' long square tube. 

  I think TCLynx has some information on her site about ziptowers.  Video, too.

If it isn't food grade I am not using it. Here is a link to some material offered on Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Matala-Blue-Filter-Sheet-Media/dp/B003CIAOZS/...

It is carried as bio-filter material at koi shops. It is way cheaper to find somebody local that has material like this that will give you a bulk discount and not charge shipping. The sheets from the manufacturer are too big,even though the material is light, to ship with standard USPS or UPS rates.

I am trying strips of  both 100% wool felt  and cotton terry cloth weave fabric both folded on itself like ribbon candy. Yes both are food safe AND reef safe. And yes both will bio degrade so I expect to replace it regularly. It has held up well since early June and the plants like it.  Oh and it's cheap.

 

 

It is going to take up a lot of room and  limit the size of the root mass. Root mass and plant production are pretty equivalent in soils and I suspect they are in hydroponic/aquiponic systems as well.

I should have said "loosely folded back on itself like ribbon candy. This to prevent it from bunching up". 

 

The felt gives some structural strength to keep compaction from interfering with the roots as they weave their way through the terry cloth's open stretch weave.
 
Glenn said:

I am trying strips of  both 100% wool felt  and cotton terry cloth weave fabric both folded on itself like ribbon candy. Yes both are food safe AND reef safe. And yes both will bio degrade so I expect to replace it regularly. It has held up well since early June and the plants like it.  Oh and it's cheap.

 

 

We are about to embark on a tower project and we have selected the black Mantala media as our choice for our grow media.  We are also using 4" x 4" PVC fence posts as the basis for our towers.  Two cuts on a table saw running an 80 tooth hollow ground blade and fed relatively slowly leaves us with a nice grow opening.  

We have also sourced the same size and grade PVC from over seas.  The minimum order that we have negotiated it for 200 pieces shipped cargo container.  The cost FOB Dallas Texas is about $6.00 per piece.               

We should have a demo installation up and running in about two weeks and will post pics and video if anyone is interested.  

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