Multiponics author(s) have been published many times during the past decade in the world's leading indoor gardening and modern farming magazine: Modern Farmer - Maximum Yield Magazine. Here is a sampling of the content. Additional articles and magazine links are available in our "Learn" section.
Below is our latest article, narrated with videograhpics:
Below is the text of the illustrated print article sampled above:
“All About Growing with Aeroponics”
A basic, comprehensive approach to aeroponics begins with a distinction between aeroponics and hydroponics. Hydro plants grow using a medium other than soil. Aero plants grow with no medium, their roots hanging in the air. They only need an anchor, such as a net pot or small rockwool cube, secured by a lid, and a misting chamber. With these and a few other items from your favorite grow store, you will be on your way to growing big with aeroponics!
Start with good grow lights and a climate controlled room. Temps matter more than ever with aeroponics because although plants grow bigger and faster, they are also more susceptible to environmental stresses. The saying, “more risk, more reward” rings true, more with aeroponics than any other style of growing. However, when basic parameters such as temperature and humidity are well controlled, plants really take off with aeroponics! Crop turnover times are minimized and yields are maximized.
Use lights manufactured specifically for growing. Begin with a well lit, climate controlled room. Build it the same as if growing with any method. Next add the grow system. This will consist of a root chamber, pump, misting nozzles or spray manifold, trellis and of course - nutrients!
Choose your favorite brand of nutrients, just as you would with hydroponics, but remember that aeroponics can uptake more nutrients when roots are really thriving. In this case, be sure not to burn plants by starting at ½ or ¾ strength. Maintain cool water temps, which prevents problems with pathogens and disease. Generally keeping ambient room air temps below 75 will suffice. Target a humidity range of 35%-55%. Place aeroponic pumps on a timer to allow a well aerated, humid environment for the roots. Common aeroponic timer settings are on for about ¼-⅓ of the time they are off, for example, 1 min on, 3- 4 min off or 5 min on, 15-20 min off. These settings can be adjusted as desired, depending on other factors such as humidity or stage of growth.
The equipment for growing aeroponically is the same as any hydroponics room, except the plants are held in place on a lid by a net pot, as the roots are allowed to dangel and grow freely in a humidity controlled root chamber. A trellis supporting the plants from above will also help to allow for large growth and heavier fruits. A quick internet search will yield many DIY aeroponics plans and projects available for studying. Don’t get overwhelmed with the more intense projects. Although fun for some, if that’s not your thing, start with a basic setup. Rely on the equipment mentioned above, available from your favorite grow shop, and just get going! Give your plants what they need and they will thank you.
If aeroponic plants begin to slow their growth and vigor, this is the first sign of the need to pay closer attention. Start with the environment first. What are the temperature and humidity levels? What is the pH level of the water? Depending on the type of plants being grown, pH levels should be maintained in a range between 5.7 and 6.5. Remember that with aeroponics, there is no soil or other grow medium to act as a buffer. While adjusting, most growers target a pH of about 6.0. Again, check the needs of your specific crop. Are the above parameters providing the plants with the environment they need to grow? Usually, one of these can easily be adjusted to correct most crop problems.
As with any style of growing, be on the lookout for common garden issues, and especially keep a close eye on the roots. They need to be healthy and thriving at all times in order to maximize benefits offered from aeroponics. Roots beginning to rot will brown and develop a slime coating, with the leaves quickly losing their vigor.
Discoloration can also when using certain nutrients that have a tint to their color, such as humic or fulvic acids and organically mixed nutrients. For this reason, coloration is not as important of a factor as general plant health and vigor. This can be seen by observing the ends of the roots to verify that they are healthy and growing new tips that are able to easily uptake water and nutrients. General environmental control equipment will usually prevent these types of problems.
Remember to clean your system thoroughly after each crop to prevent gunked up equipment. This can be easily accomplished with little effort by continuing to run the system after harvest. Instead of nutrients and cool water, use warm water with a little cleaning solution such as H202. Doing so prevents the cakeup of old nutrients, which later break off into tiny pieces that clog your equipment up when you need it most, right as the next crop is starting to thrive. Prevent headaches with little effort by planning ahead and using these simple cleaning steps.
Remember when starting aeroponics to have fun with it! Just get a kit, system or parts and follow the steps laid out in this article. The rest is not much different than hydroponics or other styles of growing. Aeroponics works great from seed or clone to harvest! Just follow these steps to get growing today.
Below is the text of the illustrated print article sampled above:
"High Pressure Aeroponics," is different from the "Aero" systems that first appeared commercially in the 90's. A very light mist is produced that floats around in the air and looks like fog, and thus, the name "Fogponics" is often used to describe this style of growing. Technically, what is occurring is an atomization of water and nutrients that distributes a mist with droplets in the range of 30-80 microns. A droplet size of 50 microns is the optimal size roots can uptake, as determined by NASA through their research on aeroponic potatoes in the International Space Station (ISS) during the 90's. Because most of the droplets in this range are lighter than air, they float around the root chamber until colliding with roots or other obstructions.
The root chamber remains humid with roots dangling in air, which is what technically defines an aeroponic system. For the atomization and mist to occur, an external, high pressure pressure pump must be used instead of a submersible pond-style pump that is typically used in aero systems. These pumps usually produce low pressures, under 4 psi. In order to produce the mist or fog, pumps must run pressures in the range of 80 to 100 psi. Low pressure aeroponics works using low pressure, high flow pumps, whereas high-pressure aeroponics works using high pressure, low flow pumps. For this reason, the mist is very gentle and floats around like a fog in a properly tuned high pressure aeroponic system.
Fogponics via Ultrasonic Humidification
Another kind of fogponics system includes the use of an ultrasonic fogger, much like the kind found in humidifiers. With an ultrasonic fogger, a small ceramic plate is vibrated by an oscillator over a million times per second and creates droplets ranging only 3 to 5 microns in size. This thick fog can actually suffocate roots because it displaces the available oxygen. However, if the root chamber is well aerated and properly cooled, the roots will be allowed the right conditions to grow.
With enough oxygen and the proper temperatures, cuttings often root faster in this type of system. But this reward comes with higher risk in the sense that the roots are extremely sensitive to high temperature and low oxygen levels. It is recommended to use a low dose of nutrients when using ultrasonic foggers because the equipment can be damaged by the salts. Additionally, the nutrient mix cannot be easily carried in a fog consisting of such small droplet sizes. For this reason, this type of setup is best suited for cloning and early vegetative cycles. For flowering or fruit production, nutrient-craving plants perform much better with a droplet size closer to 50 microns, which can fully support the plant's nutrient capabilities and needs.
Growing with HPA
High pressure Aeroponics (HPA) is the most efficient way to grow as determined by NASA in the 1990s when they studied aeroponic potato production at the ISS. When HPA efficiency is achieved, roots develop fine micro hairs called trichoblasts that can take up more nutrients and provide a higher rate of growth compared to other methods. This style uses the least amount of water and nutrients possible, which motivated NASA to perform the studies at the ISS in the 1990s with the aim of minimizing cargo costs for space missions.
While cloning or germinating with HPA, is important to provide the roots with enough humidity that they can develop a strong root system. This is done by using timing cycles closer to always on, or with a shorter on / off ratio than later on in the growth cycle. After roots have developed, it is good to dial back on-times and increase off-times. This will be done continually, from the time of initial rooting until later in the growth cycle.
Early on in the vegetative cycle, the plants will develop fine hairs called Trichoblasts, which increase roots' surface area and ability to provide the plant with nutrients. trichoblast “root fuzz” is allowed to develop only in a finely tuned HPA system that doesn’t over-wet the roots, which can grow into pom-pom sized fuzzy masses under the right conditions. Less spray time and wetting causes more oxygenation, leaving the roots with a hyperactive surface area that can absorb more nutrients and water out of the air-vapor mix. Less is more with HPA. Thus, the feeding solution should be closely monitored.
Often, the same nutrient density (EC/ppm) used in early veg would also be used throughout the rest of the cycle. It is important to judge this by the amount of trichoblaststhat have developed on the roots. If these are not present, a typical hydroponic or aeroponic feeding schedule can be used. However, when trichoblasts are prevalent, plants can be burned with a higher density of nutrients. A good rule of thumb is to reduce nutrients by about 25%-50% of normal strength as the plant's absorption rate increases.
Cleaning the HPA System
Postharvest, it is important to keep the lines primed and the system running. This will prevent the lines from drying out and the nutrient solution from drying, caking and breaking off, which could eventually block the small orifices and clog the nozzles. Preventative maintenance is key in order to avoid future failures. This is also a good time to add a cleaning solution such as hydrogen peroxide, which will help clean and sterilize the plumbing while the system is being cleaned.
Before beginning another crop, the grow system should be cleaned out the same way a typical hydroponic or aeroponic system would be cleaned: with good scrubbing and a sterilization process. The plumbing lines and pump can be left intact, or if they have been running clean, they can be dismantled.
Because the high rewards of HPA also come with greater risk, many HPA gardeners will build hybrid systems that include equipment to run other growing styles as a backup. For example, plants that are growing in a HPA setup can be easily converted to hydroponics, such as ebb and flow or recirculating deep water culture, by fitting the system with removable or adjustable drains and a submersible pump hooked up to a timer that can be plugged in as needed. In the event of extreme temperatures or equipment failure, this can be invaluable. The trichoblasts will have been removed throughout the process of heavy watering, and they will take some time to grow back, but the crop will be saved and can continue to thrive in either setting.
Having an adjustable system that can go between hydroponics and HPA is also an advantage if keeping the same setup throughout cutting to harvest, since the grower can switch it up according to necessity. A hybrid system makes it possible to root with bubbleponics, or grow in the early vegetative cycle with hydroponics and then move towards HPA as the root system develops. This often results in a stronger root system that can support larger plants.
Finally, having a hybrid system provides a fun way to learn the variances in different growing styles and how the plants react to subtle nuances in water and nutrient delivery. This often provides the grower with an educational experience in addition to crop production alone. Often tinkering around with the system is as therapeutic as the gardening itself.
Additional articles and magazine links are available in our "Learn" section.