As a simple rule of thumb, a medium that holds a lot of water offers more protection against pump failure than one that holds little. The drawback is a "wet" medium has little room for fresh air and is a good breading ground for fungus and disease. If you have the luxury of an adjustable cycle timer and can check up on your plants frequently, I prefer to use a 60% perlite/40% coco-coir mix and adjust my timer so that the medium never gets soaking wet but never dries out completely. This setting is completely based upon the plants you grow, their size, ambient temperature and intensity of the sun. With all these variables, checking your garden every day or two is a very good idea this way you can make adjustments before problems arise. If you prefer to run your pumps constantly, choosing a medium like gravel or LECA stones will suit your needs as both of these mediums allow plenty of interstitial space for air to keep your roots happy.
Start your seeds or cuttings in your preference of starter cubes or sponges. Transplant once roots are clearly visible from the bottom of the cubes and plants are ready for your growing environment. It's a good idea to place the drippers close to the plants until they have a chance to develop some root, at which time (2 weeks) you can move the drippers closer to the edges of the bucket for better distribution.
Depending on your crop and stage of growth, you will want to choose a good quality hydroponic nutrient. Do not use fertilizers designed for soil gardening as they do not contain a complete balance of nutrients required for growing this way.
The feeding cycle has a lot to do with the medium you choose to grow with and even more to do with the environmental variables discussed above. Keep the medium moist, never wet and never let it dry out completely!
Drain and replace nutrient in reservoir when it falls to a level just above the top of your pump. Never let your pump run dry. Inspect and clean in-line filters with every nutrient change.
Drain reservoir and use to feed your landscaping or lawn. If using LECA stone or gravel, dump into a storage container and rinse thoroughly and allow to dry. Clean all empty buckets with hot water and allow to dry before packing away like this >
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