I'm new to aquaponics, only having dabbled in it briefly before, and am considering my system options. After much research and brainstorming, I've come up with an idea that I am not entirely sure will work. The primary inspiration for this idea was the following video:
As you could probably guess, my idea is to hook this system up to an aquaponics system, with continuous flow. Two modifications I would make from the video is decreasing the size and increasing the number of holes on the bucket, down to 1", spaced 1" between each hole, offset between rows, for a total of 70 holes per bucket. I could also vary the hole size and spacing depending on the crop, but small holes closely spaced would allow intensive production of various high value crops like baby greens, baby spinach, etc. I would also have the overflow hole in the bottom side of the upper grow bucket, which would attach it securely to the bottom reservoir, and allow the bottom few inches of soil to really get soaked, allowing greater wicking throughout the bucket. This may even enable me to eliminate the need for a cloth wick, as the video calls for. Obviously this means the need for some sort of screen material to prevent soil from being washed into the system, for which I was considering using 5 gallon paint strainers, which are also readily available and fit perfectly into the bucket, and also double to hold the soil and seedlings in the holes a bit better. Here's a diagram I made, very roughly done:
The idea here would be to plant each of these with seedlings of baby lettuce mix, mesclun mix, baby spinach, radishes, scallions, and various herbs, and then stack them up to 4 high, each with it's own reservoir, thus maximizing growing space. The great part about this idea is that 5 gallon buckets are readily available for free from local bakeries and delis, and the actual parts are probably less than $1/bucket, making it a very economical option.
I guess the only concern I have is whether it will actually function properly, whether the plants will grow well in this set up, and whether they would filter the water enough. I'd like to have other types of grow beds as well, so if it isn't sufficient filtering, that's not such a problem, and only a bonus in my opinion. At the very least I would imagine it would help to filter out the solids to an extent.
I know wicking beds work in aquaponics systems, as the wicking growers forum can attest (I will be posting this there as well, just for documentation), but the question is whether this particular set up would work. I hope it will, because it really would be a great way to grow. Even if it doesn't work out with aquaponics, it would be cool to have sub-irrigated towers made from readily available materials.
So anyone have any thoughts on this? Would it work, or totally fail? Any suggestions for modifications to make it function better overall? I'd love to hear any ideas anyone has!