Aeroponics is one of the methods of cultivating plants without soil. Having appeared relatively recently, it has already found its wide application in growing vegetables and, of course, has a great future. This approach requires special equipment, but do-it-yourself aeroponics is also possible..
- What is aeroponics
- Aeroponics equipment
- How to assemble do-it-yourself aeroponics
- Aeroponics with an air compressor
- Ultrasonic aeroponics
What is aeroponics
By this name is meant the cultivation of plants without the use of a substrate. At the same time, the roots are in airspace – this is the main difference between aeroponics and hydroponics, in which they are immersed in a solution. How do nutrients get to plants? To do this, the roots are regularly irrigated with solutions containing all the necessary components. Watering is carried out not in a jet, but in the form of an aerosol, the size of the drops of which depends on the spraying device. So that the roots do not dry out, such irrigation is repeated regularly, with an interval of several minutes or even seconds.
The method was first developed and published by V.M. Artsikhovsky in 1911. However, over the next 80 years, references to it are extremely rare. And only since the 1990s, cultivation in airspace began to be widely used in laboratory practice. Since 2000, aeroponic installations have been used in agriculture and are rapidly gaining popularity..
Now this method is considered environmentally friendly and highly effective, allowing you to get much larger yields at lower cost. However, it is used not only on an industrial scale. You can purchase or make a miniature aeroponics designed for home use with your own hands.
Consider how to make do-it-yourself aeroponics with a water pump. For a small installation, the following items will be required..
- Nutrient solution tank.
- Flat container with a lid. It must necessarily be opaque. The fact is that in the light of blue-green algae begin to develop in the solution, competing with plants for nutrients and air, as well as poisoning them with products of their vital activity..
- Flexible hoses. It is important to choose their diameter correctly, because all joints must be airtight. Hoses, nozzles, adapters and various connection elements are easy to find in plumbing stores.
- Nozzles When choosing sprayers for aeroponics, the biological characteristics of plants should be taken into account. Roughly coarse roots that need abundant moisture can be irrigated with large drops having a diameter of more than 100 micrometers. Microjets that spray water almost into fog are universal: this method of feeding makes the nutrient solution as accessible as possible to the roots.
- Actually the pump, diaphragm or diaphragm. When choosing this device you will need a creative approach. Many try to use aquarium equipment, but its power is insufficient even for the smallest installation. But car devices fit perfectly. The wiper pump and automobile compressor have been used successfully for a long time by lovers of seedless cultivation of plants. There are special pumps for aeroponics, and the cost of domestic production models can be as little as a couple thousand rubles.
- Timer. This aeroponics equipment can be mechanical or electronic. The former are simpler and more reliable, but the minimum step size for them is 15 minutes; this interval is too long for a number of systems. The roots of young plants should be sprayed every 5 minutes, and only as they grow this interval can be increased to 20 minutes for adult plants.
- In addition, many such models are distinguished by a loud tick. The weak point of electronic timers is their batteries, it often turns out that it is extremely difficult to buy this spare part. When buying a timer, you should not choose the cheapest models – they fail very quickly, so you won’t be able to save money in this case.
How to assemble do-it-yourself aeroponics
A timer pump is connected to the tank. Aeroponics nozzles are installed in the bottom of the container, and a hose is attached to each of them using a multiple adapter. These connections must be tight, for which you can use silicone. The other end of the hose is connected to the pump. The installation is ready, it remains to plant the plants. At the same time, it is necessary that they do not come into contact with plastic, because hard material can damage delicate shoots and roots.
Directly in the lid of the plant can be mounted using pots without a bottom. Another option is to use a foam or foam plate. The size of the holes is selected very carefully, because it is necessary that the plant feels comfortable and does not fall down. The nutrient solution is poured into the tank, from here it will be pumped to the nozzles and sprayed onto the roots of the plants.
Aeroponics with an air compressor
This is a similar option, but with a different driving force, providing a solution to the roots. Instead of a pump, here you should take an external air compressor and connect it to the tank. At the same time, the tank and the hose and all connections must be strictly tight, since it is necessary that the compressor operation creates increased pressure inside the tanks. As in any other device dealing with high blood pressure, a sensor is required to record its changes, as well as electromagnetic valves that are installed in front of each nozzle. This method is convenient to use if it is planned to create a small-sized aeroponic plant, for example, for growing dill, parsley or other herbs.
This is another, perhaps the most original method of spraying a nutrient solution. This approach has long been practiced in climate control instruments, for example, the so-called “fog generators” are an example of ultrasonic aeroponics. The passage of a sound wave through a liquid causes the formation of cavitation bubbles in it, as a result of which small particles of liquid are ejected into the air. An ultrasound wave is generated in such installations by a piezoceramic element representing a membrane or a flat disk.
Such aeroponics has some limitations. The fact is that the temperature of the fog obtained by ultrasound cannot be lower than 40 ° C, and this is twice as high as the optimal temperature of the solution. Therefore, it is necessary to make additional efforts to pre-cool the liquid, which significantly reduces the productivity of the process. In addition, in such aeroponics, only solutions of low concentrations not exceeding 500 ppm can be used. Therefore, using ultrasound, it is possible to grow only seedlings or young herbs.
Preparation of aeroponic solution
The composition of the elements, which plants need in regular supply, is more or less known and worked out for different groups of plants. But the number of components and the mode of receipt each time must be selected by trial and error. The fact is that once they get to the roots, the drops of the solution begin to dry out, which means that the concentration of salts also changes. In choosing the optimal regime, the main role is played by observations of plants: growth rate, turgor preservation, leaf color changes, etc..
The main components of the nutrient solution are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N, P, K). However, besides this, many other elements are needed, moreover, in a form accessible for root assimilation. Typically, nutrient mixtures include calcium salts, for example, calcium nitrate, magnesium, copper and zinc sulfates, citrate, chloride or iron sulfate. There are detailed recipes in which all the components are painted and their approximate amount is indicated. These compounds are designed mainly for hydroponics, they can be made a starting point for the creation of aeroponic installations.
To prepare a nutrient solution, it is better to use not distilled or rain water, but this will allow you to accurately know the concentration and avoid undesirable impurities. Each salt is dissolved separately, only then mixed and added the amount of water of the desired volume. Hard water is pre-softened using special filters, tablets or by insisting for 12 hours with peat at the rate of 700 g per 10 liters. Store salts preferably in a dark, dry room in tightly closed jars.
Advantages of Aeroponics
Fans of the method call aeroponics the most progressive method and technology of the future.
- The lack of substrate allows you to avoid the usual dirt and dust for gardening.
- The pest problem is easily solved.
- The unlimited availability of oxygen for the roots contributes to their rapid development, which, in turn, provides a rapid set of shoot biomass.
- In an artificial environment, it is easy to choose the climatic conditions that are optimal for a given culture.
- Independence from external conditions, you can get several crops per year.
- Many components of plant care are automated, the rest are minimal. Before the new season, it is enough to rinse the system and remove old plants.
- Compared to traditional methods of growing plants, aeroponics requires much smaller areas. In addition, such an installation can be easily made tiered.
As a result, the final total advantage of aeroponic crops can be considered their higher productivity.
Representing a relatively young and high-tech method, cultivation on aeroponics, however, is accessible to everyone. All supplies are easily purchased at the hardware store. It’s not so difficult to assemble aeroponics with your own hands. There is wide scope for creativity, because such a plant can be adapted to just one pot or can be a complex branched irrigation system for many plants. Experience is necessary for successful management, but it is gained very quickly, and errors, due to the plasticity of living organisms, are not fatal. Having built aeroponics, you can start by providing the family table with fresh herbs throughout the year, and as you gain self-confidence, go on to create your own business.