Aquaponic Gardening

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I'm a big fan of Hydroton, although I know it is crazy expensive...but you will have it forever.  Lightweight and easy on my hands.  Even looks nice.  Ok, I know I'm sounding like a girl here.

 

What do you use and why?  And if you use gravel, what size and tell us about your source.

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Some day I'll have to try out some Hydroton.  The video of Sylvia wiggling a seedling into a flooded grow bed of hydroton as if they were packing peanuts really looks so fun!!!!  But I've not broken down to pay the price for it.

 

Here in Florida, the 1/2" brown river rock seems to be the best price and most appropriate easily available bulk material I've found.  It is mostly quartz type river pebbles and fairly easy to wash by swishing a basket of it in a couple bins of water before placing in the grow bed.  It doesn't mess with pH and is not as horrible on the hands as lava rock would be.  It is still heavy but there are pros and cons to that.  Heavy gravel is good for supporting tall plants.

 

I have often gotten smaller amounts of large red Lava rock for around the bottoms of grow beds and drains.  It is lighter but costs more and takes more washing.  It's too big to fill the whole bed usually and really tears up the hands.

 

Shells, DON'T DO IT, unless you really do your research.  My big system has about 60% brown river rock and 40% washed shells, I got a mix of river rock and washed shells thinking it would be good to buffer my system.  Well it buffers the system but it keeps the pH higher than is really desirable for AP.  That system will probably forever require Iron supplementation.  While this system has worked ok, I would not recommend anyone do it unless they are only growing plants that prefer a pH between 7.4 and 7.8.

 

Anyway, those are the things I have experience in.

Yes even my wife loves Hydroton. My gravel beds are similar to "Rubbermaid" plastic tanks (at present around 40 gallons each), that are greater than 12 inches deep. Unfortunately, I do not do things in one or two. I have 15 such media grow beds. It was just very expensive for me to fill this number of them with Hydroton so this is what I have experimented with:

I use a base of 1 inch deep red volcanic rock and then 9 to 10 inches of 3/4 inch river rock gravel. I then add 2 to 3 inches of Hydroton. This has worked for me so far but it was only my first planting season.  After the first harvest, I will be able to see whether I will need to reduce an inch or so of the 3/4 inch gravel with Hydroton...kinder on the fingers :-)

 

In my vertical "Babylon Towers" et all, I have placed 1/2 inch river rock gravel at the bottom and combined Coir and Hydroton as the growing media. I have just planted some of them and will share the results at a later date :-)

 

I plan to also try Aliflor in my next Phase of Media Beds as well as "Wood" chips and other types of gravel that is available locally (any thoughts on using crushed concrete ...concerned about excess "lime"), and coir chips mixed with straw for my "wicker" grow beds. Will let you know how it all works out :-)   

I use black cinder. It is full of nutrients and is cheap. Its readily available when living on an active volcano like here. I get a cubic yard for about $50. It is as light if not lighter than hydroton and has way more surface area. It has been working for me very well.

I am using 3/4 in gravel but it is very heavy.  I started out to use lava rock but the red is too big and the black is so small.  Since hearing that Chris is using black lava I may see if I can find some bigger size and more than in bags.  Gravel is relatively cheap and the last load I used a lot on my driveway back to the fish and around the tanks as well as in the grow beds.  I am with with TC about lava tearing up your hands.  It is very nasty.  The gravel works great and is cheap I would like something lighter.

The cinder that I get is super light. About 1/3 will actually float! Since it is so light it is not so rough on the hands. My daughter likes to dig in it to find worms and it does not bother her hands.

Raychel A Watkins said:

I am using 3/4 in gravel but it is very heavy.  I started out to use lava rock but the red is too big and the black is so small.  Since hearing that Chris is using black lava I may see if I can find some bigger size and more than in bags.  Gravel is relatively cheap and the last load I used a lot on my driveway back to the fish and around the tanks as well as in the grow beds.  I am with with TC about lava tearing up your hands.  It is very nasty.  The gravel works great and is cheap I would like something lighter.

I should have been on here earlier, ha!  I'm experimenting with charcoal as a media as most of you know.  I'm finding that it wicks very well, meaning it's damp on the surface.  Something is precipitating out of the charcoal, near the edges.  Maybe it's minerals? Kinda whitish grey.  I will grow out this crop and then probably remove a few inches and put a bag of hydroton on top.  I need to keep this bed light so no gravel.  This way the surface will stay dry and my water usage will go down.
In our little kiddie pool grow bed we are useing 3/8 pea gravel we bought from Lowes. It works good. We are in the process of planning our greenhouse and we are thinking of going to expanded shale.
Hi, this is the first time I've participated in any discuccions. My grow media is 3 layered. The bottom 4" is small red java rock, I covered that with 6" of Sure To Grow Hail. The Hail settled a bit. On top of that I added 4" of another layer of lava rock. The top layer of rock seem to be stopping algea growth. I also have worms in the beds but don't see any, guess I don't have a large population of them yet.
I've been sold on hydroton since 1992- It is in my opinion, by far the best completely inert aggregate growing media there is! True, it takes along time to clean it and the only downfall to it is wasting all the water that is needed to clean it. Once properly rinsed, it will last forever,  and nothing else compares to all the superior qualities of Hydroton (LICA) &  can easily be rewashed/stored if needed. It retains those qualities always, is if they were brand new! Plants love it and it provides a great anchor for the roots.. I have used coco mat under the rocks and it worked just as well , but the roots entrapped the rocks and made it difficult to manage. Hydroton should be used (alone) for consistency of root proliferation and ease of use when harvesting- just pull the root mass out of the rocks by the plant stock - when the tables are flooded they are easier to lift without damaging/breaking the roots & losing them (making a mess) in the system.
Red lava rock. I have experimented with perlite-- but the results weren't pretty. I like the lava rock better, mostly because it's cheap. :D
I have been told that our local red lava cinder has minerals that prohibit plant growth. That is why it is  popular with landscaping. I origionaly thought red cinder was the way to go because the color had to be bue to iron content. The black cinder provides trace mineralsl and is used in most soil mixes that are made here. I can get a cubic yard of cinder loaded into my truck for the same price as a single bag of hydroton from the local hydro store.

Debra Colvin said:
Red lava rock. I have experimented with perlite-- but the results weren't pretty. I like the lava rock better, mostly because it's cheap.

I'm using red lava in one tub and a black nonporous igneous rock in the other.

I love the red lava, rootlets grow right through the pores.  I've never seen plants as healthy as these.  Imagine the surface area for bacteria to grow on!

I have noticed that lava as taken from the bag is alkaline.  I had to wash it many times anyway for the sand.

 

Homefire

 

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