Aquaponic Gardening

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Hey Folks! I'm starting to hash out the plans for a hobby system in which space is a bit limited. I saw the zip grow towers and thought they were intriguing. Has anyone tried them? If so, what do you think? And how do you catch the discharge water at the bottom?

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Got it. 

Wow! Thanks a bunch for your detailed info.

Max Gfx said:

If ZipGrow towers are cost-prohibitive for you, it's not too hard to make a functional clone (note: I didn't say physical clone). All it takes is a 38" length of 4" PVC drain pipe with a 3/4" slot cut down one side (preferably in the area where the manufacturer's printing appears), two 4" PVC end caps, one 1-1/2" PVC end cap, a 3/4" PVC elbow with threads on one end and a slip fitting on the other, and two strips of Matala brand low-density black pond filter media cut to 36"x2-3/4" (it already comes in 1-1/2" thick sheets).

If you want to make a more physical clone, then simply use a 4"x4" vinyl fence post sleeve. They're a little more expensive than 4" drain pipe and only available in 8' lengths. So, I'm guessing you can now figure out why ZipGrow towers are only sold in 5' and 3' lengths.

Assembly is painfully simple. Each 4" PVC end cap gets a 7/8" hole drilled in the center (best to use a drill-press and a spade bit at slow speed). One of the caps gets a 1-1/2" PVC cap glued in the center of it which has multiple 1/8" holes drilled in it to create a shower head. This is your top cap and your water/nutrient feed goes in the 7/8" hole in that cap...With the other cap, heat up the hole with a heat gun or torch to make it pliable and then thread in your 3/4" PVC elbow, let it sit and cool back to its solid state. Remove the elbow, apply PVC primer and cement to the threads in the cap and elbow, then put them back together to set up.

Planting the tower with plugs or strawberry root-stock is really simple and doesn't require any kind of wicking strip, simply sandwich the plugs or root-stock between the two strips of Matala pond filter media and slide them into the PVC drain pipe with your plant tops extending out through the slot. Put your end caps on and you're ready to hang it. If you have any reusable zip-ties (such as the ones use on home dryer exhaust hoses) you may want to strap one around the middle of the planter just to keep the slot the same width from top to bottom. The top cap is held on by two cup hooks threaded through the cap and the drain pipe, but could also be held on by drilling larger holes and using the S-Hooks on 1 foot long bungie cords. The tower simply sits in the bottom cap since it's actually held in place by my drain line plumbing.

Total cost for all parts in one planter is less than $10 US. The water/nutrient trickles down through the Matala pond filter media totally even and symmetrical. The filter media is specifically designed to create a great deal of biological surface area and has plenty of void space. As for the question of "food-safe plastic" in this DIY planter, all I have to say on that point is that I have yet to see any aquarium/pond pumps, poly water/drip line, etc - sporting food-safe advertisements. As an engineer friend told me one time, there is no such thing as food-safe plastics, not even in the bottle that your oh-so-healthy bottled water or plastic jug that your milk comes in - the harder the plastic, the "safer" it is, but there is no such thing as a 100% food-safe plastic.

I am only posting this for the benefit of those people who want something that works equally as well as the patent-pending ZipGrow towers (filed by the University of Wyoming for the application, not the actual device) but can't justify the $50 to $70 price tag. I do not sell these planters, so I am by no means infringing on the patent pending. Use this information as you see fit and feel free to expand upon it or improve it (A'la Open Source).

My 'growbed' is undersized for the system capacity, so I added a couple knocked together towers to increase media surface area.

There are 4 of these now, made from 4" vinyl fence and filled with red lava rock.  The tower bottoms are the fence post toppers with a bunch of holes drilled for drainage.  It probably cost me about $15/tower for the post and topper at the local hardware store.  I don't get a ton of production in the 2 planted towers necessarily, but it was a fairly cheap and straightforward way to increase total media volume.  Plus the water trickling through 4' of rock media has to help with oxygenation.

If nothing else, the birds sure love to perch on 'em and take drinks!

Attachments:

Here is a rain gutter material that home depot sells that will work for Your wicking material.  $48 for 4 pieces.

Rain Filter


Model # 50TMG015


Internet # 203009078

Chat Offline

Gutter Filtration for 5 in. K-Style Gutters (8 4-foot Pieces)

4.3 out of 5

You can make 2 towers per strip.

Look up a guy on YouTube named Gunnar Shaffer, he has a much more productive tower design that allows you to grow 22 plants in a 5' tower and your plants aren't growing in front of other plants in the tower. Shove a strip of Matala filter media (or your favorite pond filter media) down the inside of the tower and it gives the tower an instant biological and solids filter. His towers also don't suffer the same heat exchange and evaporation problems that plague the ZipGrow design.

I made my own and just started using them. Pros- saves space , organized produce, Easy to change out, Great bio media. Cons- Harder to design stands, Water cools in heated systems, more cost up front, less lighting options. Overall I like them and will continue using them.

Hey Scott,
Would You be so kind as to attach a photo if You have one?  I would appreciate it.
I am going to make about 6 to grow strawberries.



Scott Lee York said:

I made my own and just started using them. Pros- saves space , organized produce, Easy to change out, Great bio media. Cons- Harder to design stands, Water cools in heated systems, more cost up front, less lighting options. Overall I like them and will continue using them.

I'm growing baby kale in mine. At first they did really well and outpaced those in the garden bed. Now, however they are not looking as good but I'm not sure why. Some leaves have turned brown and others are a bit papery. I'm using zip grow towers and am pumping water from my sump tank back up into the tower. I don't want to do strawberries so I'm not sure what I'll do when I remove the kale. 

Any suggestions?

Michael Welber,
It would be great to see a photo of Your kale.  It sounds like some sort of deficiency to  to me.  If You go to Facebook group - aquaponics and post Your picture, I am sure You will get an answer.

Nate Storey is so knowledgeable about aquaponics. I highly recommend the training videos they produce.

RupertofOZ said:

If you search the forum.... you'll find a complete thread about them... authored by Nate Storey... the bloke that invented them...


I agree with You Martha...
Nate's videos on Youtube are first rate.  I appreciate the fact that Bright Agrotech is so willing to train us all.


Martha Anderson said:

Nate Storey is so knowledgeable about aquaponics. I highly recommend the training videos they produce.

RupertofOZ said:

If you search the forum.... you'll find a complete thread about them... authored by Nate Storey... the bloke that invented them...

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