A pen or marker
Razor knife for cutting tubing
Electric or battery powered drill w/ 1/4" bit (optional)
Step 1. If you are utilizing a non-weighted air curtains as in this photograph, you should secure it/them to the bottom of your hydroponic planter so they do not move around. I took advantage of small tabs molded into the bottom of the Dynamic Design planter to hold the air curtains down using some stainless steel wire and rubber bands. Make sure you don't use anything that will rust inside the planter. Of course you can also just pour the LECA right on top of the air curtain once it's plumbed as the weight will keep them in place just fine.
Step 2. The layout is real simple... Using the "t" fitting as shown, connect both air curtains to the supply line and route it along the bottom and up the side of the planter. You may also use a single air curtain of 24" or so in length and feed it from just one end. I drilled holes in some tabs that were molded into the planter to secure the airline. The LECA will hold the airline in place as well if there are no tabs available. After securing the air curtain(s) and attaching the supply lines, fill your system with water and run the pump to check for even distribution of air bubbles and absence of leaks!
If your system is bubbling away like this one, you can drain the water and continue on to the next step. If you do not have a steady stream of bubbles, make sure your air line is not kinked or clogged. If all else fails, try using a more powerful air pump. Always remember to keep the air pump HIGHER than the top of the planter to avoid it siphoning nutrient solution from the planter.
Step 3. You may choose to install a nutrient level indicator. To do so, simply drill a 1/4" or so hole through the bottom of a section of 1/2" clear rigid tubing as shown at left. This will allow you to secure the bottom of the tube to one of the tabs on the bottom of the planter using a plastic zip tie.
I highly recommend adding this feature since there is no other means of determining the nutrient level inside your planter.
Step 4. Attach the bottom of the level indicator to a tab through which you drilled another equal size hole - using a plastic zip-tie. We chose the Dynamic Design deck planter because of the many molded in tabs which allow easy connection to the planter.
Step 5. To make the level indicator float - simply cut a piece of 1/16 inch balsa wood into a large "match stick" shape so that it can easily side up and down inside the indicator tube. Now all you have to do is glue on a small piece of styrofoam to add buoyancy. Either way, apply a coat of clear wood sealer to the stick to keep it from getting waterlogged. You can use a plastic drinking straw in place of the balsa wood stick if you can find one long enough. Try your local convenience store as sometimes they have extra-long straws for their Super-Sized fountain drinks.
Step 6. If you do in fact use a float - insert it into the tube and cut it flush with the top of the indicator tube.
Step 7. Now you are ready to fill your garden with freshly rinsed LECA or clean, pea-sized gravel. Fill it up to within two inches of the top. Fill the system with nutrient solution according to the directions that came with your nutrients. Try to add one gallon at a time and mark off the level on the dipstick as it rises up with the nutrient solution so you will have a reference to the nutrient level.
To insert your plants, simply dig a hole in the LECA as deep as the seedlings roots have grown and carefully backfill the aggregate around them. Make sure you get their roots down deep enough so they are getting wet. Water from above for a few days till they adjust. Once your seedlings or rooted cuttings have been planted, turn on the air pump and watch your plants grow!
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