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Advanced - Aeroponic construction

How can I build a wick system to keep my plants in stasis?


Growers are, as a rule, unable to take vacations, with our secret gardens necessitating a limited amount of days gone or someone else to provide care for those trips that take us out of our maintenance schedule. The amount of time away we are limited to is determined by the medium our plants grow in (Hydroponic gardens are easier to plan out a strategy, due to the ability to add a larger reservoir). I will deal with my garden in this thread, soil based with equal parts of store bought potting soil and perlite and a touch of vermiculite thrown in. It?s a very fast draining soil and I provide plenty of volume for the roots to grow into, 5-7 gallons per flowering container under a 400 HPS.

I?m going to attempt to maintain as much of my continuous harvest setup as I can for the 13-15 days I?ll be gone. This includes nine plants in flower, six plants in veg, two mothers and clones. Obviously, two weeks would be impossible to do without some sort of attempt to provide passive watering for the time away. The lone exception will be three clones just rooted to small cups that will be put into a fully watered flowering container the day I leave. I?m sure they will not grow into the entire thing and use all the water contained, which is about 2.5 gallons in 7 gallons of soil when completely dry.

Timetable and planning

Planning things out months in advance, I advanced the timetable on two generations in flower to less than two weeks between them instead of the normal 4-5 weeks, so I was harvesting six plants just before I left and also throwing a generation of plants in veg into the flower room. This left me with three plants early in flower (one generation) that were just through the stretch that I knew would be the problem ones. The uptake of them would be huge and if the wick system I was planning couldn?t keep up, there would be death in the flower room.

Let me clarify. Two weeks before leaving, I have nine in flower, three in veg being trained and three clones rooting to soil. Six generation of three plants each. Six of the flowering plants (two generations) will be harvested. Three others will be kept going for the trip. The single generation in veg will be moved to the flower room and the three now well rooted clones will be moved to the flowering room for a SOG type grow (Just a way of getting as much out of the space as possible)


Right away it became obvious that I wouldn?t be able to keep my two mothers, or any plants in veg. My veg light is floros and the growth would be too great for the time gone and the lights would have to be kept too low to avoid stretching. The mothers had to be killed, there was simply no way to keep them.

Chopping the moms and preparing the cuttings
It was here that I exercised one of those aspects of water cloning that most people call a drawback, but in this case was perfect. The extended time it takes to root cuttings in water would be ideal for the delay that I would be gone. Using a hormone in soil would assure no clones would be alive, since they would grow roots and die of thirst! Using water cloning, cuttings be placed under a continuously burning fluoro for nearly as long as you want. In fact, by not changing the water, you will further slow root development (. Slow, but not stop, as you'll see)

For this aspect, I needed a deep pot with straight sides. This would be so the cuttings could float down evenly as they sucked up the water below.

Using polypropylene sheeting, I used the pot to mark a circular template, and then made it an inch less in diameter. Cutting that out with a knife, I poked ¼? holes evenly across the poly for the cuttings stem to sit and dangle in the water.

For this, the cuttings need a long stem, so trimming branches on some of them became necessary. I made them as big as possible; because it would be the end of the mothers, stressing them wasn?t a factor. Water cloning supports almost any size cutting just fine as long as you wait long enough for a (size dependant) root system to develop. If you plant them before the roots are able to take over, a humidity dome may be necessary to prevent wilting.

Leave the cuttings under a light and go and don?t think about it. The rest of the room would be more complex.

Constructing the wick system

I used a wick system, with ¼? nylon rope being inserted through the existing root system to dangle in a passive reservoir. Sounds simple enough, and besides being a little work intensive, it was.

First, I attached my rope to a metal bar roughly the same diameter using duct tape. The crates I use in flower have very large openings all around making a garbage bag liner with small drainage holes in it necessary. This also means no PITA poking around to find drainage holes in round planters.

Tie a knot in one end of the rope for an anchor against pull through. A simple once around is sufficient. Even if the rope goes in a bit, don?t worry, the roots are concentrated at the bottom.

Plan on a number of ropes, the bigger the plants the more you?ll want to put in. I attempted distribute them as evenly as possible by simply inserting the steel rod straight down through the root system and out the bottom.

Next I went exactly opposite the exit hole and penetrate back up to the surface. When you pull the rope through, remove from the rod and knot off that end.
The finished surface will look like this: 

After finishing the bottom of the planter will look like this:

Next I prepared the reservoirs, three more crates just like the planters. This is made so much easier by the fact that all crates are made to stack together. I filled each with 2.5 gallons of the appropriate solution for the plant involved (different for plants in the stretch and those out of it) watered the soil to saturation with ropes in place and set each planter on a res. The ropes were soaked from the watering and the 100% humidity in the res will keep them wet. If the ropes were to dry out during the period that the soil is feeding the plant, they would not wick water.

14 days later

Well, came home to happy news from the cuttings as expected. They all survived just fine and all had roots showing, some more than others. This is the view from above a little yellowing, but that happens when they grow roots. Cuttings have to draw those sugars to make roots from somewhere and the leaves are all it has.

From below, all cuttings have actual roots forming, it?s just some are still nubs and others are ready for transplant. I would like to split these up to make two generations out of them, but that will mean keeping ½ in water for two more weeks or so.

To remove them from the poly, simply break off small pieces from the sides until you reach the desired cutting. Try not to pull back through the same hole as you may rip off roots.

The results
Of the three that were in flower when I left, one turned out great, with just a little yellowing and dried leaves I cant explain it except to say that the wick system worked perfectly. The second suffered about 30% loss of its foliage from the bottom up. Many of the fan leaves had a distinct lime green tint. The third plant turned out badly with 75% loss of its foliage.

The three plants from the veg area turned out very well. Some loss of foliage was seen on two of the three, but less than 10%, and the green color indicated healt (but a bit P deficient).

[Editor's note: Some other things to try to slow growth:

>reduced temperatures (slows rooting and growth)

>reduced light cycles (14-18hrs), or staggered light cycles (extended periods of darkness with intermittant light cycles. Keeps em in veg mode, with a flower light cycle).

>Intentionally put them into shock. Delays growth for up to one week. Cold air or water temps. May cause deficiences.]