So after being on here a few months now, I have seen alot of people asknig the same questions about aeroponics, so I thought, what the hell I will write up the best I can a simple guide to aeroponics the way I do it.
Ok first off lets describe a little about aeroponics, its history and its future.
Aeroponics is a relativly new growing technology in which plants roots are fed and watered suspended in midair. The plants are generally suspended from baskets with holes in them called net cups, and resemble the rates that strawberries come in. The cups usually sit at the top of a closed cylinder or trough. With the plants suspended this way all essential nutrients and nourishment can be supplied to the roots by misting them with a nutrient enriched water based solution. Since the roots are suspended in the air they recieve the maximum amount of oxygen possible. This method is also nutrient efficient since you need only provide what the plant needs and no more, and any unused nutrient simply falls back to the reservior. The increased levels of oxygen the roots recieve benefits growth at unprecedented levels, and has been scientifically proven to increase crop yields by as much as ten times over soil. Now the drawback, You must constantly maintain the root zone at 100 percent humidity, and keep the roots constantly misted or they will rapidly dry out, and cause a crop failure.
Most of the systems available on the market today are this typeof system they feature the same suspended roots and misting heads as a full aero system, but there is no external reservior, instead the roots are suspened over the res and the roots hang down, eventually long enough to sit in the nutrient solution, the added benefit of having a hybrid system is the deep res allows for water pump failure, it will keep the roots from drying out, and iff you add an airstone then the roots will simply feed directly out of the res until you can fix the pump.
Lets look at some key points you need to be aware of and how they affect your plants and system.
With aeroponics it is vitally important to get good nutrients, such as Dutch master or GH, as long as it isnt the flora nova series, which tend to leave behind alot of undisolved salt residue, which can clog the sprayers or the pump, or worse, cause nutrient lockout. I dont reccomend using a single part nutrient for aeroponics. I do reccomend finding a good nutrient that allows you the most control over what your feeding your plants.
With aeroponics your p.H. level is very crucial, because you are feeding the plant with such a fine mist, the nutrients the plant needs have to be readily available to be absorbed, the optimum range is between 5.8 and 6.2 but can be as acidic as 5.5 and as base as 6.5 without noticing to many problems. Whenever possible try to target your pH level at 6.0 right in the middle. You should check you pH everyday, but do not adjust it everyday, if everything is in good working order you shouldnt see a large fluctuation in the number anyway.
because you have a pump running constantly in your res you need to keep an eye on the temperature of your nutrient solution, plants like a nice cool drink, so get a fish tank or floating thermometer and leave it in your res to monitor the temp.
now lets look at some common mistakes people make and how to avoid them, or if they happen how to correct them
WATER EVAPORATION - This happens when the res temp is to high, and the system is not sealed well, this also means that your root zone is not being kept at 100% R.H. if water evaporates the concentration of your nutrients become stronger and will damage the plant and its roots. To fix this make sure the lids is secure and all holes are blocked by plants or closed off in another fashion, keeping water from escaping.
FUNGAL OR BACTERIAL GROWTH - This one is nasty and is usually a side effect of a light leak or a res temperature that is to high. To prevent this make sure you thoroughly clean everything after each use, and clean the res with each nutrient change. I use a 10% bleach solution to clean between each grow and a weak H2O2 solution to clean the reservior every time
ROOT ROT - this one is a little less common but still occurs in the hybrid systems, if you ever encounter htis, then your solution is not being aerated adequatly, so you must add an air pump and air stone, but in most cases the falling mist and the pump will keep the nutrient solution oxygenated plenty for you.
CLOGGED SPRAYERS this is by far the most heard of problem in the actual system, and luckily it is easy and cheap to fix. If you run into the problem of your srayers continually getting clogged, do two things and it will almost guaranteed go away. first buy an inline filter or make one out of pvc and faucet screens, and second change your nutrients because the number one cause of clogged sprayers is undissolved salt build up.
Ok everyone I have written alot so far and I am tired of typing, if I missed anything or you still have questions please let me know, I love to help if I can.