I have finally emerged victorious over the technical difficulties that plagued my ability to upload pictures. (translation: I finally got off my backside and fixed it.)
Here we see the very beginning – two stacked 5 gallon bucket lids that have been covered in aluminum duct tape for light-proofing. I’ve drilled small holes in the center of each lid, large enough to admit plant stems but small enough to prevent a jiffy starter (also shown here with the Micro Tom seedling started in it) from passing through.
Most importantly, note the brown net-like structure. This is made from common, everyday shelf lining (or whatever it’s called). You can buy it at W-Mart or wherever, it costs practically nothing for a roll that will last you forever, and you can even use it to line your kitchen drawers/shelves. As you can see here I cut a narrow strip (slightly wider than I needed it to support). I then found the middle and carefully clipped out larger holes, also clearly seen here. I wasn’t sure if it would be helpful to do so, but I figured a little extra access for roots wouldn’t hurt, and this stuff is much stronger than it looks so I wasn’t really weakening it. (That narrow strip would likely support at least 75lbs.)
Keep going until you’ve got enough of a loop to slip your Jiffy starter (or whatever you’re using) into place without harming your seedling, then carefully pull the ends back out until it’s snugly in place and the seedling is through the top and flush against the lid (see below).
Now the tricky part is finding a way to hold the ends tightly apart so that the plant won’t fall back down. Astute late-night television viewers will recognize the “Hercules Hook” employed in this task here. I also considered the ever-popular duct tape, but felt something more easily adjustable and more permanent would be the better choice.
This completes assembly of the upper portion of the system, solidly securing plant to lid.
Please note that nearly any single item used in the construction thus far can be easily exchanged for something similar. This is primarily an example of construction using “at hand” materials. Take the spirit from this rather than a specific shopping list.
So, on to the bucket.
At left we see how the exterior is drilled for the airline, which you can see installed with the one-way valve here.
To the right you can see inside the bucket. I glued the air stones down with silicone sealant. The one you see here is a super cheap air stone you can get anywhere (and it didn’t even last through the whole grow, so I don’t recommend that style.)
Thoughts on this design…
The airline would benefit from being more effectively secured to the side of the bucket. Each time it was necessary to clean the buckets the roots would be wrapped around the air line a little. Not a big deal. Mostly I didn’t see a simple way to do that without complicating something else.
As I mentioned, the air stone should be upgraded. Cheap air stones clog up and stop bubbling entirely, which of course kills plants.
To the right you can see a shot of the “salad machine” just set up and ready to go. It was coordinated to go with the Bitsy Battle. On the left you can see how the closet was set with both buckets and the salad machine. On the left is the 150w HPS I wrote about before, and on the right is the 105w (500w equivalent) CFL I’ve been using all along.
As plants in the salad machine matured and got crowded, I removed one at a time until three were left. Those were harvested at full maturity a couple weeks ago.
The Bitsy Battle continues and I’ll post another update in a day or two to cover the mid-way point, and then the final conclusions and photos a little bit after that.