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By Peat

A 'Classic' Re-Design

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The ongoing project this time is to install an air pump and air stone into my Classic. Why? Because I want to move away from the water pumps which have proven so unreliable for me, having an aerated AG (similar system to the new AG6 line) will make things more reliable and save my sanity!

 

How to aerate your Classic/Deluxe/Pro100 or Pro200 using an air stone and air pump for better growth.

How to remove your water pump and use wicks (with the air stone) to grow.

How to use the newer AG6 type pods in your Classic - temporarily on hold while I grow cucumbers, but, see my cucumber main page as I've used one AG6 pod in my Classic; which has worked very well.

 

Snippets...

                                 Week 5

AirTech 70 Air Pump        Manifold - Adjustable Taps

 

 General Hydroponics Flora Series Nutrient Dosage (for lettuce)

Week 0 (starting week) - Seedling Phase - Flora Micro 2.1mL, Flora Grow 2.1mL, Flora Bloom 2.1mL (all per 3.2 litres), pH is 6.3, EC is 0.8

Week 1 - Mild Growth Phase - Flora Micro 4.2mL, Flora Grow 8.5mL, Flora Bloom 4.2mL (all per 3.2 litres), pH is 6.3, EC is 1.7 

Week 3 (onwards) - Vegetative Growth Phase - Flora Micro 6.3mL, Flora Grow 10.6mL, Flora Bloom 2.1mL (all per 3.2 litres), pH is 6.3, EC  is 1.7

Remain on the Vegetative Growth Phase indefinitely for the lifespan of the lettuce. Depending on the EC, you either top up your reservoir with fresh water or a batch of nutrients - see my guide for further details.
 

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Ginger
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Looking forward to seeing these over here - thanks!

Peat
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First off, this project involves dismantling parts of your AeroGarden and, for neatness, drilling a small hole in it...

 

Lets' get started then.

We need to remove the central column which houses the water pump, there is no room in the AG if we leave it in. It's easy to do, there is only one screw holding it in at the top; unscrew and remove the whole unit - plenty of space now.

Here is the kit I have bought for this.

Rena Air 50 Air Pump - this is very small and quiet, about the same size as a pc mouse.
Check Valve - as the pump will be below the AG water line we need this to stop the water syphoning back into the pump when it's turned off.
Silicone Tubing 6mm Diameter - silicone is better than plastic
Air Stone - this one is a quality 13.2cm stone which fits nicely in the bottom of the AG bowl.
 

And here are the results from the air stone, looking pretty good at the moment. Of course, a bigger pump would get us more bubbles...

As the tubing fits neatly out the back of the AG, no drilling of holes are necessary. The tubing was moved since I took this to one of the lid location cutouts at the back of the bowl - you can just see one on the left of the picture. When you put the lid on, the tubing is not so squashed this way. Edit - see later post about drilling a hole, it looks much neater!

You can see the check valve (or non-return valve), this must be connected the right way round. The arrow will point to the direction flow of the air.
 

When I have some more time I will talk about the Classic (Deluxe, Pro100 or Pro200) pods and how to get them to wick up the water. Remember, the pump has now gone and the pods need water, they are too short at the moment and cannot be grown this way if starting from seed.

If you already have an established garden with good roots which are in the water, this aeration method will work fine.

Ginger
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Thanks, Peat, great article!

FWIW, my externalizing aerator article is over under Lore | Hardware. That's for a system that has an internal aerator that goes bad - mini / AG3, maybe AG6. Much simpler.

How bad is it to use AG3 / 6 pods in the classic bowl body? I keep meaning to try this next time my bigger systems are empty, then forget until it's hard to move my plants again. AG3/6 pods are long enough to reach the water, and supposedly now we can buy AG6 Master Gardener kits (among others - one hole shy of a full set of pods, though...) Is it just two pods that then tilt (a little? a lot?) because of long pods vs. the curved sides of the Classic/Pro/Deluxe bowl?

BB (not verified)

This is great, Peat! Especially now that Maere's isn't too keen on moving the AGs into the grow tent. Who'da thunk it? My air pump and airstones in the tent are driving us crazy but I think I got too much. This looks perfect since I've about given up on getting a replacement noisy pump for the Chile deck.

I see two airstones I think, one 6" long white one and a round one (love the lightbox, Gisette!). Are you just using the round one in one AG or splitting the air into more? Maybe I'm mistaken but it seems it takes very little aeration to do the job.

Peat
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Gisette - the AG6 pods fit great, apart from the end two due to the sloping bowl. They are slightly at an angle, but this will not effect the growth - purely aesthetic. The only problem is stuffing them full of a growing medium, I shall use my tried and trusted rockwool for this. I only have two or three sponges left, I don't think this will be enough. As I cannot buy anymore over here then rockwool it is, another AG customer lost due to no replacement parts...

Bruce - you indeed have 'eagle eyes' for spotting the two different pumps. The large photo is the Rena 50 ,my first model. I then purchased a Rena 400 with dual, adjustable flow rate, outputs. This is now my main pump, powering this project (with my lettuce and large air stone), the other cylindrical air stone is in the cherry tom AG. The aeration can be as gentle or as violent as I want it, I started off gentle until the roots hit the water, it was then cranked up to full flow. I have lots of pictures of my lettuce to follow using this method, the results are pretty impressive over what I have grown before.

 

Ginger
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Oh, that's pretty raw, Peat. Have you tried emailing AG customer support? Though my experiences with them have always been better by phone... My experiences have always been excellent with them by phone, actually.

The AG3/6 MG kits are brand new, and weren't easy to come by even in the US, last I looked. But I've owned the minis since February, so long since learned to make due with my Park Starts pod inserts. They work.

BB (not verified)

So Peat, are you using a large pump or a smaller one? I learned it wasn't the pump that made so much noise but the airstones. Does depth or flow make much difference? I've turned it off completely as I was only trying to add a little humidity to the tent and failing miserably.

For both of you, I have 3 MG kits and maybe one more coming and more tabs than I know what to do with. I also have a 3 tier wall hanger that will never cut it with deluxes. I have 4 sets of Pro/Deluxe lamps and 3 sets of classic lamps (that won't help you much Peat, sorry). I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with my AGs but I'm surprised Maere has become defensive when I talk about moving them to the tent.

If you'd like some you're welcome to have them for what it cost plus postage. I've sent a lot of things 'cross the pond and would be happy to send what you need, Peat.

Peat
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Gisette - I'm afraid that it's just tough luck for us over here, we can only purchase a Classic and the product support is nonexistent. They just don't sell any thing else bar an old style pump, master gardener kit and some seed kits, that's it. I have had to adapt to this, hence rockwool and GH liquids. It's not really a problem to me anymore, what I have now is far superior to the standard supplies.

I would hate to ring them, see my phone bill go through the roof with international call charges.

Bruce - thanks for your kind offer. I will not be purchasing anymore AeroGardens, these two will do me for now - they are not reliable enough to warrant purchasing more (I have 3 noisy pumps already!). I want to get back into proper hydro again, the AG has lit the fuse to my intended move towards this...

I started out with the small air pump and then decided to buy a bigger, more powerful one - I continued this grow using the larger one.

What does aeration do for your plants?

1. The more bubbles you have the more fresh oxygen you are injecting into your nutrient solution, plants love oxygen.

2. The air stone will mix your nutrients, stopping any stagnation.

3. High oxygen levels also have the benefit of discouraging harmful microbial growths.

4. The bursting of the bubbles on the surface has a secondary action, it sprays oxygen rich nutrient solution onto your plants air roots.

The bigger the pump the more aeration you can give, which is obviously better. But, don't give too much aeration or the roots will be damaged! The deeper the pump the more oxygen you can pump into your solution, plus, the air stone will be quieter - they do make a noise as you have found out.

Peat
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A little explanation of what we need to do with the Classic (Deluxe, Pro100 or Pro200) type pods. As I said before, the water pump has now been removed and the seed pods need water/nutrients to grow. The pods are way too short to reach into the water in the bowl, so, we need a way of getting the water up to them.

The usual method is to use a highly absorbent wicking type of material. If we place this around the sponge the wick (by capillary action), will suck up the water and moisten the sponge – problem solved.

Have a look at the picture below, what I have done is use some of my wick and run it down both sides of the sponge, making a loop at the bottom. The loop will sit permanently in the water and suck up the water to the sponge. Moisten the sponge and wick before placing then in the AG, it gives the wick a good start.

Sponge on the left, rockwool on the right.

There is something else that has come to light during my tests. As the bubbles from the air stone burst on the surface they throw out water everywhere. Unfortunately, everywhere also means on the metal contacts which were used to power the water pump. Obviously this is not a great idea as the water will start to internally run down into the AG! Simple solution though, place a piece of plastic across the open back of the bowl and tape down. I used a wad of absorbent kitchen roll and taped this across the back – no more problems.

The bubbles bursting on the surface are very beneficial to the plant, they serve to moisten the grow sponge and also to splash the forming plant roots with oxygen enriched nutrient solution. Once the roots from the plant are long enough they will stretch down into the water and, again, be enriched by the constant stream of bubbles. Remember, the air pump MUST be run 24/7 – the plants cannot sit in stagnant water or they will suffer. Once the roots are fully in the water the wicking material will have served it's purpose, the plant will now get all it's nutrient requirements directly from the water.

Wicking materials
So, what sort of wicks do we need? We need something highly absorbent that won't disintegrate, in this instance, cotton is not very good. These are some of the things that are good though :-

Synthetic shoe laces, nylon rope (very good), polyester fabric, strands from a pure white rayon mop head, hemp, or some hydroponic capillary matting. Also, acylic yarn (as used by gisette for her drip lids) works well as a wicking material.

The wick I have used was donated by a friend who has an interest in Meteorology, he uses them to put around thermometers to measure humidity – something called a ‘wet bulb’.
 

Peat
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Before I get onto the photos of the mixed salad I will grow, a few modifications...

To make things neater, I drilled a hole in the top of the AG bowl and inserted a small rubber grommet. The air line passes through this, it looks better and is waterproof. 

Rubber Grommet & Air Line (for reference)                                          Back of the AeroGarden Bowl

         

Inside the AeroGarden Bowl

The other modification is a better, more powerful air pump. I bought a dual output Rena 400 model.

This model came with a check valve and cylindrical air stone, this air stone will go into the AG growing my Cherry Tomatoes - this one will now have the water pump and this cylinder air stone.

Rena 400 Twin Output Air Pump, Cylindrical Air Stone (in the foreground).

To follow, photos of the mixed salad greens I'm growing, and, all the General Hydroponics (GH) nutrient details that they require