\tHybrid Bioponics For Huge Plants and RootsOriginally Posted on May 1, 2011 by caseyjones If you want to grow a small number of HUGE plants, try hybrid hydroponics with bio buckets. Your roots and yields will be bigger than anything I could ever describe in this article. Great root systems give us great plants. Large yields just aren't possible without large root systems, and most indoor gardeners can tell you their favorite method for achieving thick mats of healthy white roots-although their advice will vary widely. Some growers will even combine multiple techniques to reap the benefits of different styles of gardening. Top-feed drip systems and deep water culture are two common hydroponics methods known for creating amazing root systems. Some of the most popular growing media are soilless mixes and grow rocks (usually expanded clay), both of which are known for generating luscious root growth. <a></a>While researching root growth, I heard about some European growers running an interesting hybrid hydroponics garden and obtaining yields higher than I ever thought possible. I dug up as much information as I could about their operation, and then I built a small grow focusing on those same hybrid techniques. The plant growth was so fast I could barely keep up with it, and the roots were massive. If you want to grow a few really BIG plants, this might be the ideal hydro system for you. Each individual planter includes a 10 inch mesh container in a three and a half gallon bucket. The mesh basket holds several inches of grow rocks, a grow block in the center and two inches of soilless mix on top. Two top-feed drip lines run constantly, and two and a half inches of bubbling water sits just under the mesh basket, creating a level of deep water culture at the bottom of each bucket. â€œRoots grow quickly in the 2.5 inches of deep water culture inside each bucket.â€ I started with some well-rooted â€˜pineapple' tomato clones transplanted into four inch grow blocks. After about three weeks of ebb and flow in grow blocks, the tomato plants were really growing and roots were popping out all over the blocks. At this point, it was time to move them into a new hydro system and set the lights to a 12/12 schedule for flowering. My flowering garden space is two and a half feet by two and a half feet, with a 400 watt metal halide grow light specifically tuned for flowering. With the light hanging vertically in a six inch air-cooled glass tube, no reflector is used. A two foot by two foot flood tray sits in the garden, the perfect size for four buckets. In the past, I would have flowered nine small plants in this space, but with the bio buckets I am now able to grow four monster plants. I drilled a one and three quarter inch hole into the side of each bucket to allow the nutrient solution to overflow safely into the tray as the bucket is filled by the drip lines. The large size of the hole will also allow you to fit an air stone through it, which will keep the solution bubbling inside each bucket. After the buckets were drilled, I added the 10 inch mesh containers. These containers are made to fit on buckets and are available at your local grow store. Two inches of expanded clay grow rocks were then added to the bottom of each mesh container. The grow block, complete with a pineapple tomato plant, was placed on top of two inches of grow rocks. Then I filled in more expanded clay rocks around the block. With the expanded clay grow rocks surrounding the grow block, two and a half inches of space remained at the top of each container. I filled in that space with two inches of soilless mix-made up mostly of peat moss and perlite-on top of the grow rocks. Once all four buckets were complete, they were ready for installation into the hydroponics system. The buckets were now in the two foot by two foot tray. The first step here was to add air stones to each bucket via the one and three quarter inch hole. I ran two small round air stones off of a quarter inch air line into each bucket, which will ensure that the two and a half inches of water in each bucket will never get stagnant or anaerobic (low in oxygen). This step is important because aeration prevents root rot. The next step was to add two drip lines to the top of each container. If one dripper ever gets clogged, the other dripper will keep flowing. If that dripper is also clogged, the DWC layer will keep the roots from drying out. The entire system is built above a 20 gallon reservoir filled with a mild nutrient solution (750 ppm). Once the pump is turned on and the drip lines are flowing, the buckets will start to fill with nutrient solution. After the solution reaches the two and a half inch level, the liquid will start spilling out of the one and three quarter inch hole. Each bucket is thus constantly overflowing, with the solution draining back into the reservoir. So the nutrient solution is running through the various layers of growing mediums and dripping down into the bucket. The two and a half inches of deep water culture is fed by the drip stream and bubbled by the air stones. The result is an oxygen-rich environment-perfect for roots and beneficial bacteria and fungi. To ensure that this environment is not overtaken by disease -causing bacteria or fungi, a few precautionary steps should be taken. First and foremost, the water temperature should never rise above 71F. Higher temperatures will decrease oxygen and encourage anaerobic bacteria and mold, while lower temperatures-between 60 and 71-will create an environment that is safe for roots and friendly breeds of micro-organisms. Always inoculate your garden with various strains of oxygen-loving bacteria and fungi. Bacteria strains should include several types of Bacilli, including Paenibacillus, while fungi strains should include Glomus Mycorrhizae for root expansion and Trichoderma for disease protection. These micro-organisms are available in granular, powdered and liquid products, although some of the most diverse mixes of beneficial microbiology come from high-end compost teas. Get a recommendation from your local hydroponics store. Some readers are probably shuddering at the thought of a soaking wet soilless mix setting on top of their valuable roots-â€I thought oversaturated soil causes root rot?â€ Allow me to explain. Plants become overwatered when they can no longer obtain oxygen in the root zone, but with a rich blend of beneficial bacteria and cool temperatures, the water will contain copious amounts of oxygen regardless of how wet the medium gets. Overwatering becomes impossible. After a day of continuous flowing, the hydro system will start to show a frothy layer of foam, both around the drains and in the reservoir. An ebb and flow system with the same nutrients and supplements is only a few feet away, and has no foam. The levels of oxygen and microbiology are obviously much higher in the hybrid hydroponics system. After a few weeks in the bio buckets the plants were growing out of control and required steady pruning to shape them-I ended up pruning enough to get over 100 clones per month without even trying. Big ropes of roots were appearing in the buckets, surrounding the air stones. Looking at the roots, certain features become obvious. Root sizes include thick, tubular roots, medium roots and millions of tiny root hairs. These roots were attempting to grow in every direction, including upward. Roots typically grow outward and downward, but given such an ideal situation they can defy the norm and even grow towards the sky. With the surprising amount of biomass produced in such a short period of time this system is obviously capable of huge roots and record-setting yields, and the vertical lighting system allows the plants to grow tall and full. A powerful blower keeps the light cool, and the plants will grow right up against the tube. Maintenance includes monitoring the pH daily, changing the reservoir weekly, checking drippers for clogs and general plant care. Considering the large yield and the amazing health of the plants, the amount of work required is actually minimal. Although the 20 gallon reservoir is kept on a cold concrete floor-which keeps the water temperature in the 60s-during the summer some growers may need a chiller to keep reservoir temperatures in check.