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Old 01-06-2005, 06:13 AM #1
BigToke
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Post BigTokes ~ "How-To" Of The Bio-Buckets 101

How-To Bio-Buckets 101

A brief description of the Bio-Buckets are as follows.
  • Description – The Bio-Buckets is a Recirculating Hydroponics System, that exchanges the water/nutrients 7 to 10 times an hour in each bucket, depending on the size of your grow also consist of a remote-reservoir {separate} that is highly active that generates it’s own oxygen by water-fall.
  • How it works – the Bio-Buckets work by using lava rocks as it’s media to harbor the live beneficial bacterium which lives in the pores of the lava rock.
  • Benefits are – some of the fastest and healthiest growing plants that you have ever seen: uses no added air, and no reservoir change-outs, stable ph levels in most cases, and can run at higher temps than a normal hydro system, with no root-rot, I have been growing for little over two yours now in the Bio-Buckets and I have never had root-rot!! That means that you save tons of money remember what that was!! My friends that get my Bio-Buds can tell no different from soil, to my hydro Bio-Buds, just a better way of growing all the way around imo. One could say that it is the only hydroponics system that has an Immune System Anti-Viral Support Matrix.
  • Drawbacks are – I don’t know if this is a drawback or not, but you best be prepared to deal with the massive growth of this system, vertical and horizontal.

This is a step-by-step tutorial of the how-toe of the Bio-Bucket System and Design.

Ok friends the long awaited, how-to of the Bio-Buckets System from BigToke is here, just for and exclusively found here at International CannaGraphic Magazine ONLY!! It has been said to me that it would be nice to have a good how-to of the Bio-Bucket System, so without further ado let’s begin.

I’m going to break this down for ya in parts.

This will be the table of contents: we will be discussing the parts of…….
  1. Grow Room Area – I have seen the Bio-Buckets grown in many different places & styles. These Bio-Buckets can be scaled to fit or suite anybody’s needs whether you’re a small timer or big timer the Bio-Buckets are completely scalable.
  2. Bio-Bucket Design – what it takes to make a Bio-Bucket.
  3. Reservoir Design – how to properly configure your reservoir to produce its own oxygen!!
  4. Supply and Return Lines – what’s the best and proper way to run both of these?
  5. Media – what’s the best media to grow in for the Bio-Buckets?
  6. Recirculating Nutrient Management – the need for system flush or not?
My hope and aim is to have fun growing cannabis, I have found that if you have fun with something you’ll stick to it but if it becomes bothersome you’ll leave it by the way-side.

In conclusion: I assure you that the Bio-Buckets are one of the most maintenance free hydroponics system that you’ll ever grown in, imo. Good luck and enjoy!!


BigTokes: "How-To" Of The Bio-Buckets 101
BigTokes: Hard-Core Bio-Buckets, First Big Run!!
BigTokes: Secound Big Run!!
BigTokes: AK-47 Plus H.D.F Bio-Bucket Style


Last edited by BigToke; 10-14-2005 at 03:23 AM..
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Old 01-06-2005, 06:16 AM #2
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Post Part one – Grow Room Area!!

Part one – Grow Room Area!!

In this section I will discuss the positive and negative sides of the grow room area for the Bio-Buckets
______________________________ ______________________________ ___________
The positive side of growing in the Bio-Buckets is there unique ability to adapt in almost any grow area, I have seen them grown in areas from small, medium, to large, the best and foremost way to teach is through the eye-gate, so seeing is believing here are some examples that I found from other Bio-Bucket growers.

I will start with the smallest Bio-Bucket grow room area that I have ever seen and work my way up to the largest, so lets get this party started!!

Small—Bio-Bucket Grow/Rooms

Here is one of the smallest Bio-Bucket grows that I have seen here at ICmag, comes to you from a grower called:
tokinsmokin, you can find his grow/thread documentation in the Growroom Designs & Equipment, his thread is called: 1000 Watt Bio-Bucket System.

There are others here at ICmag that are doing Bio-Grows but have not made grow/documentation threads but they have posted there Photo’s in the “How-To” of the Bio-Buckets 101

Here are just a few of them:
  1. Kaus ~on page 6 with he’s eight bucket Bio-System.
  2. 1tokeOverLine ~on page 9 with he’s two pot Bio-Tub.
  3. daltron ~on page 11 with he’s 14 bucket Bio-System.
  4. Journeyman {guest} ~on page 11 with her six bucket Bio-System.
Medium—Bio-Bucket Grow/Rooms

Here is a nice medium sized Bio-Bucket grow that is here at ICmag, comes to you from a grower called:
Rule35sub1, you can find his grow/thread documentation in the Growers Forums, his thread is called:Rule's bio-bucket grow

This next fella needs no introduction to us that are in the bio-bucket community, but for those of you that have never herd of him, he is a true frontiersman in the Bio-Buckets and was also there in the beginning of the Bio-Buckets. He has a one of a kind and unique Bio-Setup.
This grower is called:

Petemoss, you can find his one of a kind unique Bio-Bucket Modular SCROG Grow in the Indoor Grows – Hydro section. he's thread is called:Petemoss' Bio Buckets

Large—Bio-Bucket Grow/Rooms

For all references to large Bio-Bucket Grow Ops look for yours truly
BigToke, and coming soon Bio-Bucket Mega-Grows!!
______________________________ ______________________________ ____________
The negative side to growing in the Bio-Buckets is the extreme growth that comes from these systems, this explosive growth comes for many different reasons which we will get into later but for right now let’s stick to what will most likely be your most difficult obstacle which is: height, width, leakage, light and back-flow.

This unique growing system called the Bio-Buckets will produce the most massive and explosive growth that I am confident that you have ever seen!! So be prepared to take on such obstacles as:
  1. Height – Vertical growth!! If your height challenged in your grow/space then consider going SCROG, this will help you control the height problem.
  2. Width – Horizontal growth!! Be prepared to take on the width issue also as well. Note: if you trim off the side branches and grow one signal coal, this might help if you have a lot of width problems.
  3. Leakage – If the proper hole-sizes and material are not used then you mite have some leakage, for a safe and smooth construction and operation please follow the Step-by-Step instructions that I have laid out. If you have any questions about different material and need a second opinion just ask.
  4. Light Movement – I’m not for sure if this is a negative or not but it is a concern nevertheless, you need to have a way to move your lights up quickly and easily no joke, once your cuttings are placed in the system and the roots take hold (usually three to five days or so) be prepared to up the lights every day or so.
  5. Backflow – this part is somewhat tricky to say the lest, you shouldn’t have much at all backflow but for some ode reason growers wish to run a supply line all the way down to the bottom of the bucket, there is only a few circumstances that I know of were this would be escapable.


BigTokes: "How-To" Of The Bio-Buckets 101
BigTokes: Hard-Core Bio-Buckets, First Big Run!!
BigTokes: Secound Big Run!!
BigTokes: AK-47 Plus H.D.F Bio-Bucket Style


Last edited by BigToke; 09-22-2005 at 06:01 AM..
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Old 01-06-2005, 07:49 AM #3
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Post Part two – Bucket Design!!

Part two – Bucket Design

Ok friends lets look at how the Bio-Bucket is made.

Take a standard five gallon bucket…..(I would recommend five gallon buckets) as the root systems of your plants are going to be huge!! As your roots fill up the bucket your water level will rise and you use a smaller bucket the roots will fill up the bucket and the water/nutrients will not be able to circulate properly, dead spots will occur and root rot will set in. so let’s get this show on the road.

Photo one – Standard Black Five Gallon Bucket.


Photo two – Standard Hole Saw, 1” 5/16 will make a very tight fit for your 1” ¼ coupling, you will have to push it in pretty hard so you might want gloves. I had a blister on my hand for week after pushing in 36 of them.


Photo three – Take a ruler and measure 2” ½ down from top of bucket, all hole saw bits use a drill bit, place the drill bit right on your mark you should be 2” ½ from the top.


Photo four – Push the coupling about half way in, and the best way to do this is to use hot-glue and go all the way around it, inside and out, making sure to seal every thing!! Take your time, check and double check!! Now after the hot-glue dries take some clear silicone and go over top of the dried glue. I did 36-buckets and did not have one leak and after a year they still don’t leak!!




Photo five – Making the lids, again I took a standard hole saw, 4” and drilled right in the middle of my lids, if you made an 8” hole you stand a better chance of loose debris falling in the lava rock. And you don’t wont to make the hole to small because of the necessary gas’s that need to escape through the lava rock.


Photo six – Net-Pot’s, I used an 8” net-pot for my Bio-Buckets for two resins, (1) I needed more room to hold more lava rock, the more the merrier. (2) the root systems that’s going to develop in there are going to be massive.


Photo seven – Mounting the net-pots to the lids, I use these little nut’s & bolts to mount the net-pots underneath the lids.




Photo eight – Drilling the supply line, take a 7/16 to an 1” hole saw and drill a hole at the very top, right under rim-lip.


The next couple of things that I’m going to mention are imo options, but keep in mind if your wanting to go big you need a way to get things done fast, so I will number them for you.
  1. In each of my 36-buckets I installed a ¾ drain plug with a ¾ shut off valve so as to make draining of the buckets fast and simple. Note: since I do no flushing in my Bio-Buckets I only use them at the end of the grow, but it makes draining 205 gallons very easy!!





  2. I also removed the medal handle off the bucket, because when you place them side-by-side they got in my way, they are simple to remove.




Well I think that’s about it for the Buckets, so let’s move on.

Last edited by BigToke; 09-22-2005 at 06:03 AM..
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Old 01-06-2005, 07:59 AM #4
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Post Part Three – Reservoir Design!!

Part Three – Reservoir Design

The reservoir that I have selected for myself and to demonstrate is a 55 gallon tub, you can find these big tubs just about any were, I bought mine at Home Depot there solid black just the way I like it. Remember you need something sturdy, so NO rubber made stuff for large reservoirs; the one that I pick out for myself was a fiber glass tub.

There made of a fiber-glass-plastic, so in return you will get years of use out of it and not have to worry about decaying material, it is important to have a led on your reservoir for many reasons:
  1. To block out light.
  2. To keep out flying insects or other things?
  3. You most likely will have a one foot drop, that will do a lot of splashing so a led will help.

Let me explain a little bet further about reservoir’s, maybe an easer way of looking at the Bio-Buckets is to think of each Bio-Bucket as it’s own reservoir, and the one big mane reservoir as what I call the Central Control Reservoir this is were you make all the changes in the rest of the Minnie five gallon reservoir’s, (or Bio-Buckets) for an example:

My grow/room has 36 Bio-Buckets, in other words look at it like this; that’s (36 Tiny/Mine Five Gallon Reservoir’s) each bucket servers as it’s own minnie/reservoir, now in order to control all 36-five-gallon-resavior’s you need them to flow back to the (Mane Central Controlling Reservoir) and there is were you will have control over ever how many you chose to have in your grow/room? you will add your nutrients here in the central reservoir and not in each bucket!!

Photo-of-Reservoir


Now here’s what I did to it to make it work for my Bio-Buckets.
  1. First it is recommended to put a drain plug in the bottom of your reservoir for easy darning, I used a used a ¾ drain plug in mine.
    Photo two

  2. Then add a float valve to your reservoir so that it will constantly top off your reservoir with fresh water (I use only tap-water) in most cases it is better to use tap-water trust me on this, I will discuss this in more detail later.
    Photo


    Let’s talk about another important factor in the reservoir, HurtBack pre-drilled all of his ½ fittings with a 1/32" hole in the end of the fitting so if the pump stops it will let some air into the line and prevent the line from siphoning all of the bucket water back into the reservoir and overflowing it. I did something a little different, if you will look at the photo above you will see that instead of laying those 4” drain pips on top of the reservoir I drilled two 4” 1/8 holes in the side of the reservoir, and then hot-glued around the inside and outside of the pips; now this was done this way because, 1) I had the room in the reservoir to do it. 2) My buckets are designed a little bit different than that of HurtBacks are, my Bio-Buckets do not have that tub running down to the bottom of the bucket, so there is no danger of darning out all five gallons of water back to the reservoir, but there is enough darning from my 36 buckets to over flow my reservoir if I didn’t have those two 4” drain pips inside of the reservoir, so to take out all the guess work of just how much is going to drain back into the reservoir I simply put those big drain line inside of the reservoir and now when the electric goes out instead of flooding the place it simply goes back-up in the drain pips and there’s never been a problem this way.


    This is the amount of Dissolved Oxygen that you will have if you design your Bio-System like mine, this takes the guess work out of the Bio-System and the water-fall-effect.











  3. Water-Fall-Effect, I have a lot of trouble explaining this to folks for some reason, in the photo pictured above you will see two things, (1) the water-fall-effect, dropping one foot before reaching the water/nutrients creating tons of Dissolved Oxygen. (2) you will also see my float valve which keeps my reservoir water level all the time. The thing that you need to know is that your return water/nutrients needs to drop one-foot or no less than 7” before reaching the surface. (Preferably in the range of 10” to 12” is recommended.)
  4. Location of the pump – well you can either put the pump in-or-out of the reservoir, I’ve seen it both ways, (I put mine on the out-side) but I would recommend putting it on the out-side of the reservoir to reduce heat.
    Photo

Well I think that just about does it for the reservoir, so let’s get moving on.

BigTokes: "How-To" Of The Bio-Buckets 101
BigTokes: Hard-Core Bio-Buckets, First Big Run!!
BigTokes: Secound Big Run!!
BigTokes: AK-47 Plus H.D.F Bio-Bucket Style


Last edited by BigToke; 09-23-2005 at 05:59 PM..
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Old 01-06-2005, 08:19 AM #5
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Post Part four -- Supply and Return!!

Part four -- Supply and Return

Let’s start off with the supply line to your Bio-Buckets.

There are some things that you need to understand about the supply of the water/nutrient to Bio-Bucket System, we all know that it starts in the reservoir and ends up in the bucket and then drains back to the reservoir again, that seems to be pretty simple but can wind up intimidating if your not careful. Let’s look at a few things that we need to know about when running your supply line’s.
  1. Supply Line – From Reservoir!!
  2. Main Supply Line – the main supply line of (MY SYSTEM!!) consist of 1” ½ pvc pip, which then braches off with a ¾ water hose to each bucket; the size of your supply line will depending upon the size of your pump!! Just use the same outlet size of your pump as your main supply line, then breach off of that with a smaller size line to each bucket.
    photo








    The smallest that I have ever seen was: ¾ and then branched off to each bucket with ½ , on a four bucket system, if you go any lower than a ¾ main supply line, you run the risk of not having enough water/nutrients to exchange-out your buckets 7 to 10 times an hour, and the same is true with the ¾ line to each bucket.

    Supply Line – For Bio-Bucket!!
  3. Bucket Supply Line – here’s what I did, I came off of my main supply line that is 1” ¼ pvc pip, with a ¾ water/hose and rain it up to each bucket. The exchange rates of my Bio-Bucket System runs eighteen times an hour, Wow!! That’s a lot of O2.
    Photo-2



  4. Exchange rates – very important that each bucket is exchange-out at list 7 to 10 times an hour to provide plenty of O2 for the plants, just about all pumps are rated on how many gallons they will pump an hour, just divide that by ever how many buckets that you wont to run and then you will be able to find a pump that you need very easy.


Water Level?
If your wondering about were the water level is supposed to be in the Bio-Buckets, you can keep the water level any were between 2” to 2” ½ from the top and that well be just fine.


Now let’s look at the draining of the Bio-System.
What I usually do is cut off one foot of the sump hose and connect the slick end of that to the coupling on the bucket and the other end goes in the 4” pvc pip, the photos well say more than I can so here goes.






That big white 4”pvc drain pip that all of the other buckets connect to is 10’ long and drains 18 Bio-Buckets at one time, and goes back into the reservoir to be recycled and sent right back to the Bio-Buckets again.

The first Photo is at the furthest ends or the upper end of the 4” pip and is at Half Bubble


And at the other end or the downward end that goes into the reservoir it is at Full Bubble


The hose that’s used for the draining of the Bio-Buckets is called "Sump Pump Hose or Discharge Kit sump-hose, and it’s pretty easy to find it’s 1” ¼ in size and riveted or flexible, most people make long run’s with this hose’s but I don’t recommend it for the simple fact that I believe that lose particles of root matter get lodged in the riveted cresses and very easily could setup bad bacteria, I would recommend using a pvc pip or some other material that is slick inside but not rubbery inside!!

This is what the sump-hose looks like, just cut the hose were the sections meet and then use the slick part to insert the cupping, it’s that easy!!
Although a short run with the sump hose has been proven to work very well.
Photos

Well I do believe that’s it for this, so let’s move on.

Last edited by BigToke; 04-27-2006 at 04:59 PM..
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Old 01-06-2005, 08:40 AM #6
BigToke
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Post Part five – Best Growing Media!!!

Part five – Best Growing Media

I have only grown in one kind of growing-media and that is Oasis Cubs, now I suppose that any growing-media would work because of the way there set in there, they are not going to be actually in the water/nutrients at all, so it really doesn’t matter, but I would (recommend using Oasis Cubs, because they have been proven to work without any trouble) but you may use anything as long as you do not set them directly in the water/nutrients. You won’t the cub to stay semi-wet to semi-dry, not socked!!

If you use Oasis Cubs here’s how I prepare mine, I take a bowl put in 36 Oasis Cubs then fill with distilled water, then let sit over night, then the next morning take cuttings, I use two different rooting hormones. I will number them in the order of best result that I have had, from good to best!!

  1. Good – Schultz Take Root (Powder) is pretty good but for this type of media it tends to dry it out a bit, but still works good.
  2. Medium – Earth Juice (Gel) works better than powder and is made with all organic natural ingredients.
  3. Best – Olivia’s Cloning Gel, is the best that I have ever used, the gel keeps the Oasis Cubs from drying out thus giving you a faster rooting time.
photo


Let’s keep the train moving just one more to go.


BigTokes: "How-To" Of The Bio-Buckets 101
BigTokes: Hard-Core Bio-Buckets, First Big Run!!
BigTokes: Secound Big Run!!
BigTokes: AK-47 Plus H.D.F Bio-Bucket Style


Last edited by BigToke; 09-23-2005 at 06:05 PM..
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Old 01-06-2005, 08:56 AM #7
BigToke
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Post Part Six -- Recirculating Nutrient Management!!

Part Six -- Recirculating Nutrient Management!!

I realize that this is one of the most controversial issues to bring up about the Bio-Buckets, but it is something that needs to be addressed. You can hear and see a lot about nutrient deficiency from the hydro forums, and I will not get into some heated debate about it, but will say this about it; I have tried it every way you can think of, from every other week to only flushing half of the system and then I have gone the entire grow without making a reservoir change-out, and I must say for the record that I could tell no difference and had no ill effect.

For further proof of this just look at my grows, they are done; without added air or reservoir change-outs, and that all I’ll say about that.

Now let’s get down to some information.

Nutrient Solution Management and Longevity for small Recirculating Systems

Due to the many concerns about the non changing reservoir of the bio-bucket system, I have tried to piece together a little something of the workings of my bio-system

There are many ways in which people determine the longevity, or useful life, of their hydroponic nutrient solutions. These range from the "replace it every week or two to be safe" method, to not replacing it at all except between crops. The latter, meant primarily for Recirculating DWC Bio-Bucket System of operations. For the home grower who hasn't the resources nor the financial incentive to have lab tests performed, other management methods are used. As home growers not using lab tests, in this article we will not consider maintaining the elemental makeup of the solution. Attempting to do so without such tests would have no basis in fact and would be based solely on guesswork.

Useful Life

Useful life can mean many things to many people depending on their definition of useful. Two factors can be used to define useful where it relates to nutrient solutions; plant health and economics.

Plant Health
  • A solution is no longer useful when it has potential to negatively impact growth or the health of plants, and ultimately yield. The nutritive quality of a solution is determined by the grower at the time he mixes a new solution. I remember a time during the beta testing of my system there was one time that I mess read the ratio for the bloom formula and that caused an excess/build up of salts in the system, even then because of the design of the bio-buckets toxic levels were never reached, if you do get an excess of build up salts in the bio-buckets you better check yourself and see what your doing wrong because most likely you’re the one doing it.
  • Some have argued that Over time, water and nutrients will be used by plants and will slowly change the elemental composition (or balance) of the original mix, leaving some elements in short supply while others become proportionately over-abundant.
There are two facets involved with elemental availability.
  1. One is the existence of an element,
  2. the other is the effect the chemistry of an imbalanced solution has on the availability of that element.
[list][*]An aged solution's imbalance can be such that it either has an insufficient quantity of an element existing in the mix, or that the imbalance has changed other properties of the solution to cause the element to become unavailable to the plants. For example, a solution may have had all but a trace of its nitrogen depleted, or it may still contain adequate nitrogen but it will be unavailable because of the pH shift resulting from the imbalance. Either condition is unfavorable to plant health. The difference being that the former points to a spent solution that has no more useful life and needs to be replaced, and the latter points to a solution which may still be useful but is starting to require more maintenance than desired. Although both points may carry merit, this has been my experience in the bio-bucket system, the reservoir is designed with a float valve, which is constantly adding fresh water back into the bio-system:
  1. A good day in my bio-system goes like this, you start out with a set point of 1100ppm, and two days later it is at 1050, depending on what stage of growth there at.
  2. It should go without saying that using the plants themselves as a means of measuring the useful life of a solution is counterproductive. The purpose of nutrient solution management is to avoid any unhealthy solution condition, waiting for plants to show signs of nutrient stress defeats that goal. Instead of using the plants as guinea pigs, we use indicators in the solution that will alert us to approaching potential problems so that we can avoid those problems thus insuring uninterrupted plant health for the life of the solution.

BigTokes: "How-To" Of The Bio-Buckets 101
BigTokes: Hard-Core Bio-Buckets, First Big Run!!
BigTokes: Secound Big Run!!
BigTokes: AK-47 Plus H.D.F Bio-Bucket Style


Last edited by BigToke; 09-23-2005 at 06:05 PM..
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Old 01-06-2005, 08:58 AM #8
BigToke
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Post Part Six -- Recirculating Nutrient Management!!

Economics
A useful solution will not be discarded before its time. If economy is defined as...... Careful, thrifty management of resources, such as money, materials, or labor, then replacing a solution before it's time is less economical on all three counts. When a solution with a life of 20 days is replaced after 10 days because the stage of growth is now demanding a different NPK formulation, it could be said that was not thrifty management. So in some cases a solution can have too long a life to be economical. On the other hand, when a solution with a life of 10 days is used for a crop requiring only 2 growth stage formula changes, each 30 days apart, it could be said that was not thrifty management of labor resources, because replacing six solutions takes more work than replacing 2. So in other cases a solution can have too brief a life to be economical. The value people place on their time can be much different from that they place on their money or materials. Many would gladly spend a dime to save an hour while others would gladly spend an hour to save a dime. Perhaps the best practice is to seek opportunities to save an hour or a dime whenever the payback can be seen on a repeat basis, where the gains could be enjoyed over and over again. This is what the Bio-Buckets is all about.

Solution Maintenance Required to Insure Plant Health
Although a solution may pose no potential threat to plant health, most growers consider a solution no longer useful when it causes the grower to spend more time maintaining it than is desired. My Bio-Buckets are outfitted with a float valve, which continuously supply’s the system with fresh water, (tap-water, from cold line) not solution. As the fresh water dilutes the solution in the system the ppm’s go down, and about every other day (depends on stage of growth) just add your nutrients at the desired ratio to bring the ppm’s back up to the desired level, as you (add back) the fresh nutrients to the diluted mix which is already in your system, all you are doing is simply refreshing freshly diluted mix, and bringing that diluted mix back to it’s desired level of ppm’s. Needless to say, what is and what isn't a desired amount of time can produce a hundred different answers from a hundred different growers, but it can be assumed that less time is more desirable than more time when results are the same. Solution maintenance can be said to consist of two activities; maintaining the solution volume and maintaining its pH/TDS.
  1. Maintaining the solution volume is a matter of adding plain water to the reservoir as its level drops, generally replenishing the reservoir level to its full line. Add backs (another term for water volume adjustments). When it comes to add-backs, it has been my personal experience in the Recirculating bio-buckets that it is easier to maintain a more well balance mix when your add-backs are just plain-tap-water, and not a already nutrient solution mix, if your not going to use a float valve then predetermined intervals usually complimenting a growers schedule, or randomly at the grower's convenience. In most cases, in stead of manually performing and scheduling any repeated add backs, most grower may instead opt to maintain a float valve connected to a secondary water source such as tapped water line, or another reservoir filled with tap-water, to keep levels constant, and maintain that device only once each time a new solution is mixed and water replaced. Water volume adjustments are easily predicted after only one or two crops, if one keeps track of water use during those crops.
  2. Because of the plants' relatively higher absorption of water than of salts in the water, maintaining the solution volume is essential in a recycling system in order to prevent salts from over-accumulating in the solution. Since add backs are an unavoidable fact of life, and because any additional pH/TDS maintenance and adjustments are avoidable, a maintenance program that limits itself to only add backs will be easier, less time consuming to maintain, and less of a drain on your resources. Furthermore, in the interest of economy, pH/TDS measurements can be performed at the time add backs are made while access to the reservoir solution is already convenient.

BigTokes: "How-To" Of The Bio-Buckets 101
BigTokes: Hard-Core Bio-Buckets, First Big Run!!
BigTokes: Secound Big Run!!
BigTokes: AK-47 Plus H.D.F Bio-Bucket Style


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Old 01-06-2005, 09:04 AM #9
BigToke
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Post Part Six -- Recirculating Nutrient Management!!

pH
One of the most common reasons people replace their nutrient solution is because controlling its pH to stay within its range keeps them running in circles. As a solution ages and nutrients are removed, the ability for the solution to buffer against future pH shifts becomes less. Hint: As a rule of thumb, when running in a bio-system, it has been my experience that the closer you become to that 100% add-back mark that the ph will also begin to lean towards the ph of the original water source, here is were you need to have a maintains plain to do one of two things:
  1. Flush the entire system, and replace with fresh solution. This will not be a problem if outfitted with drain valves. A fresh solution has a pH behavior that's generally predictable, it will fluctuate but will do so within the acceptable range, thus requiring no adjustments or maintenance other than add backs. An older solution finds the pH wanting to run out of range (usually in the direction of the source water pH), this runaway pH drift constantly needs attention. At this point pH can start to become more trouble to maintain than the trouble it takes to replace the solution and return to the lower maintenance of a balanced and well buffered fresh solution. The problem here is that by the time a grower realizes he's been going in circles chasing a pH ghost, the solution can have already passed its useful life in other respects.
  2. Or, have a plain ready that would replenishes the aged solution? Or not, I have found that it pays to use mathematics rather than guess work when it comes to the useful life of your solution.

TDS
Using TDS as a yardstick by which to gauge a solutions' useful life can be tricky. That TDS drops 25%, or 250ppm, isn't of itself an indicator for possible nutrient deficiencies, or that plant yields will suffer because of it. The assumption often made here is that the starting solution was at or near the nominal threshold of the plants' ability to sustain healthy growth, thus concluding the reduced TDS to be well below the threshold, and possibly deficient in one or more elements. Since it's relative to the starting TDS of a solution, if the starting solution was originally mixed 25% stronger than the nominal threshold, then when the solution TDS had dropped 25% it would be at the threshold instead of below it. Plant nutrient requirements are not something that can be nailed down to the ppm, for that reason thresholds for many crops are given as a range of recommended minimum and maximum elemental ppm values (not to be confused with TDS ppm values). For example, a flowering recommendation might be given as N 40-100 ppm, P 70-100, K 100-200, Mg 30-60. To know your crop's limits is to be able to use it to your advantage. As you can see from the above example, a grower has a good deal of latitude in how he can configure his nutrient solution mix. A safety margin for TDS measurements can be built-in to the original mix by mixing the solution nearer to the high end of a crops' recommended range, doing so will also provide more buffering power thus extending the solution's life to a degree where it relates to pH stability. In other words, TDS can have an affect on pH changes, but pH has no effect on TDS changes, so TDS also plays a role in controlling pH.

Water Uptake
A common rule-of-thumb estimate of water usage in a greenhouse is about 1 liter/sq ft/day for vine crops such as tomatoes. It has been my experience in my bio-bucket system, that in-between maximum/minimum of water/solution uptake, (this is not a static time frame,) for a mature indoor garden under strong artificial HID lighting is about (1qt, US Gallons) per plant.

Water uptake based management determines the useful life to end at a point where the original volume has been completely replaced by plain water add backs. For example, in my bio-bucket system, which has a total of 205 gallons of water in it, when the 205 gallons has had 205 gallons of water added back to it. This is sometimes also referred to as the 100% add back point. As you add back plain water, simply make note of the quantity and replace the solution when the total quantity of all add backs equals to the total capacity. For example, I have a 205 gallon bio-bucket system, 36 buckets/plants are using per plant or bucket 1 quart per day, that’s 36 quarts per day and that equals out to 9 gallons a day.

BigTokes: "How-To" Of The Bio-Buckets 101
BigTokes: Hard-Core Bio-Buckets, First Big Run!!
BigTokes: Secound Big Run!!
BigTokes: AK-47 Plus H.D.F Bio-Bucket Style


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Old 01-06-2005, 09:09 AM #10
BigToke
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Post Part Six -- Recirculating Nutrient Management!!

Two ways that I have grown in the Bio-Buckets
  1. To do a grow without a reservoir change-out, requires mathematical skills and a great deal of knowledge of hydroponics solutions, but can be done if you calculate your reservoir correctly.
  2. This other way will probably render a more piece of mind for the beginner in the bio-buckets, water uptake based management determines the useful life to end at a point where the original volume has been completely replaced by plain water add backs. For example, when a 25 gallon reservoir has had 25 gallons of water added back to it. This is sometimes also referred to as the 100% add back point. As you add back plain water, simply make note of the quantity and replace the solution when the total quantity of all add backs equals the reservoir capacity. It should go without saying that I have tried both of these methods and there are very little deferent’s between them.

In case you haven't noticed, the determining factors behind a reservoir's useful life can all be traced back to the rate of water uptake, which is directly tied to the current demands of the crop. These demands will constantly increase as plants slowly fill their allotted space, often taking sixty or more days and spanning multiple growth stages before peak water uptake is eventually seen by the reservoir for the first time. As more water is being used by the plants, more nutrients are being removed from the nutrient solution, this naturally affects the nutrient balance in the remaining solution. In essence, the nutrient balance is also being controlled by the rate of water uptake. Simply put, a fuller garden space uses more nutrients because it uses more water. So what we have here is a direct relationship between solution volume maintenance (add backs) and pH/TDS maintenance. When that relationship is recognized, and this strategy enhanced to take advantage of it, additional gains in labor can be realized.



Reservoir Sizing, to buffer ph and nutrient uptake
An indoor home grower wanting a starting point for determining his reservoir size to go the entire grow start/finish, I have used this method with great success, here’s how I did it by approximately calculated 3 US Quart(s) or (2.839 liters) of reservoir water volume for each square foot of mature crop/bud canopy space. This is not to say, the entire veg canopy space of your grow, only crop/bud space!! This is how I calculate my overall canopy space, which in my case 33sq feet times two is 66sq feet, this is a rule-of-thumb what I am about to say next, I dived that total number of 66sq feet into two, which is 33sq feet of mature crop/bud space, and if I use three quarts per crop/bud space, that equals out to be 24.75 gallons. My reservoir size is 25 gallons, this gives each sq-foot of mature canopy crop/bud space, three quarts per sq-foot. This water volume to space ratio has been found to produce both low maintenance and solution life expectancies that can easily coincide with growth stage nutrient formula changes. Waste not, want not:-)

Management Strategies
Time Based---Management Strategy
The "replace it every week or two" idea is usually safe regarding plant health, however, it doesn't distinguish between those using small reservoirs with large crops and those using large reservoirs with small crops. What really determines solution life is the plants' ability to transpire, which is a function of its leaves. This means that if you have one more leaf today than you did yesterday, that today you would need a little more water than you did yesterday because of the new growth that was born since yesterday. As you can see, water uptake is a constantly moving target, and while it does have an element of time associated with it, it's really controlled by the mass of leaves in a garden at any given time.

To adopt a static time frame for when solutions should be replaced, doesn't account for the scant water uptake from the few leaves found on small seedlings/clones at the start of a crop, compared to the demanding water uptake of what those seedlings/clones will become after 60 days once they possess the thousands of leaves typical of some matured crops. Nor does it account for those gardens using a reservoir size that is undersized for the amount of growth it supports, while other gardens might be using oversized reservoirs. Someone using the "replace it every week or two" method with an undersized reservoir might be safe when a crop is new but not be as safe as he thought after the crop has matured, while someone using an oversized reservoir may be needlessly performing six or more solution changes over a twelve week crop when he could get the same results doing only three changes.

Clearly, time alone and your nutrient solutions useful life doesn't answer all the variables taking place between different grows or the growth stages those grows are in at any given time. In other words, this method is tied to the calendar, not to the plants. I suppose it should be mentioned that I have seen some fertilizer labels suggesting very strong mixes to be replaced at unusually frequent intervals for the strength of the mix. While it's unlikely that crop damage would result from following such instructions, one can only wonder if such labeling suggestions are an honest effort to simplify use of the product or to bolster sales for it, or both.


Enhanced Water Uptake Based Management
Formulating the starting solution mix in concert with the unique properties of your source water can allow you to run a nutrient solution without making any secondary pH/TDS correction adjustments during the entire life of that solution, thus limiting your maintenance to only the unavoidable plain water add backs. For example, an alkaline source water will tend to produce an alkaline solution as more and more of it is added back to the reservoir over time. You can avoid correcting unacceptably high pH levels later during a solutions' life by adjusting its starting pH a bit lower to compensate. Similarly, to keep the ending TDS of a solution from falling below the nominal threshold for a given crop, you can adjust the starting TDS a bit higher to compensate. The advantages of making all corrections at one sitting are obvious, and speaks strongly to the growers' economy of labor. It's not all that different from making the kids pee before they get in the car for that long drive!

BigTokes: "How-To" Of The Bio-Buckets 101
BigTokes: Hard-Core Bio-Buckets, First Big Run!!
BigTokes: Secound Big Run!!
BigTokes: AK-47 Plus H.D.F Bio-Bucket Style


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