Aquaponic Gardening

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Dear Everyone,

Good morning, afternoon, or evening. Thanks in advance for reading.

I've made a few decisive rulings as to what kind of system I will have. I want IBC tanks, and I want an indoor system (to be placed in my unfinished basement). I have had much AP wisdom imparted on me recently, as to lighting, and today I'm looking for some more...

...GROW BEDS. Grow beds with an IBC system.

I know that common convention would instruct me to simply saw off the upper quadrant of my IBC tank and employ it as a grow bed. But sometimes I wonder if this is the best way to go. I have never really LOVED the idea of growing plants in very heavy gravel. If I had my way, I think I would prefer NFT, but I hear this isn't very compatible with smaller systems. (I want four 4x4 grow beds)

Anyone have anything to way in here as far as grow beds with IBCs are concerned?

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Replies to This Discussion

i have 4 ibc halves for growbeds in my basement.. they work ok for me
Keith,

How do you support their weight? And what kind of sizes are we talking here?



Keith Rowan said:
i have 4 ibc halves for growbeds in my basement.. they work ok for me

Carson-

I am building a 16-unit (now down to 14-unit due to space constraints) IBC system in a barn.  Utilizing the top portion as a grow bed and granet as the medium, the few I got going so far are working very well.  Send me a personal email to sha_man_1@yahoo.com and I will send you my sketches of the system water inflow manifold, and crossover siphon to tye two totes together.

Leo, (please excuse me if that isn't your real first name)

Thanks, that is awfully helpful of you! I need all the help I can get, after all. Will be contacting you very soon!



Leo White Bear said:

Carson-

I am building a 16-unit (now down to 14-unit due to space constraints) IBC system in a barn.  Utilizing the top portion as a grow bed and granet as the medium, the few I got going so far are working very well.  Send me a personal email to sha_man_1@yahoo.com and I will send you my sketches of the system water inflow manifold, and crossover siphon to tye two totes together.

I like IBC cut in half as grow beds since I like deep grow beds for many plants.  However, in a basement you may have limited height to work with.  Keep in mind that gravel grow beds are plant growing space and filtration all in one.  If you go with NFT or RAFT you are likely to need additional things for filtration. 

Please remember that Aquaponics is a Triad 1-Bacteria (filtration), 2-Plants, 3-Fish (NOT simply plants and fish) where the filtration is the most important element.  An aquaponics system with a functioning bio-filter can usually run for a time minus the fish or the plants but it won't work if the filtration is removed.

If gravel beds are just TOOO heavy for you, then you need to research ways to filter the water without it.  This might be solids removal via vortex filters and then separate bio-filtation and these things often need some extra care and maintenance as well as taking up space.  One exception might be if you were to use ZipGrow towers since they have the filtration built in but you will need to be sure your basement is appropriate for the harvesting and planting of such towers without making too much of a mess.  Zipgrow towers might be a good option for using vertical yo yoing grow lights though.

TCLynx,

Thanks very much for your reply. It's very cool, because I have read many of your posts here, and even perused your blog, so I am a wee bit star-struck. I know you know your stuff!

In the future, I think that I will be researching the alternatives to media filtration. I am so much a beginner, I think I need to start with the tried and true basics before I attempt to veer off. Gravel, cumbersome as it is, may have to do for the first system.

You have given me something to think about, vis-a-vis ZipGrow towers. These clever little numbers have had my attention for a minute. I will try to find some videos on them to better understand them. I didn't realize that they could have a messy harvest. I was sort of planning on using "bat-wing" lights, but I can also look into vertical grow lights. Good golly, I didn't know such a thing existed! Love learning more and more.

Have a great day, TCLynx!

Page with some videos

Hi Carson,  above is a link to one of my web pages with a video of me planting a tower (including bloopers) and a vid of a tower being planted by the guys who invented them.

Biggest problem I see with the towers for inside is sometimes you get dripping water outside the tower and this might not be a bit deal in a greenhouse or outdoors (other than the fact that you are loosing water) but indoors it could be a real issue.)

Now the guys at Bright Agrotech have come up with a new reservoir for under the towers (hopefully it will be on the market soon!) which might be a good starting point.  Look up their spring system video or their Kickstarter project "Grow Up"

Nate Storey has been doing Lots and Lots of videos lately.  The towers are a good choice for small plants in confined spaces with stable air temperatures.

But I think you are on the right track with wanting to start simple and a basic media bed system is really a very good starting point for learning and having a base system to expand from.  For a home system to just grow veggies for myself and family, the media bed system is hands down the best way to start in my opinion.  Then you can add on or build other things later as you desire or not. (and actually in my location, my media beds have been producing certain crops for sale better than any of the other methods I've tried.  I still grow lettuce in the rafts since that is the easiest way to get living lettuce to sell and the towers are working well for the cut lettuce mix some cut head lettuce and certain herbs and edible flowers.  I have lots of space though.)  In a basement your space will be at a premium I expect and lighting may also be at a premium so when you expand you will have to take that into account.

Duly noted! I will be settling in with some popcorn to watch those clips.

Also, while I have some voices chiming in, I will take this opportunity to mention the questions I've had about filtering media in general. I am re-reading Sylvia's book, and she advises a depth of 12 inches for grow beds. Should I take that to mean that the entire 12 inches should be filled, right up to the brim?

generally yes you pretty much want to fill up your grow beds, within reason.

But keep in mind that the 12" rule is just a basic rule of thumb or guide and there are people out there with grow beds that are not as deep and there are grow beds out there that are 2 or 3 times as deep.

The important thing is that you have enough depth for your desired plants root systems as well as enough depth to have some of the bottom of the bed be able to stay too wet while some of the top layer of the bed will need to stay dry and you still have a middle region that floods and drains which is where most of the activity of roots and worms and bio-filtration will take place.  One thing to note, pretty much all media will settle a bit over time so if you at first fill your bed right up to the brim, it will likely settle down a little which is a fine thing so it will make it a little easier to plant into the bed if the media isn't falling out as soon as you try to dig a little bit.

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