Using Gravel as a growing media

homehydroFebruary 9, 2012

This thread is created, and only for people who have used gravel as a growing media, wish to use gravel as a growing media, or are interested in using gravel as a growing media. No other replays will be tolerated. Any reference to hydroponic systems or anything other growing media other than gravel will be dealt with harshly. That's simply to make sure the thread does not GET SIDETRACKED, AND/OR BECOME OFF TOPIC.

Anyone else use gravel as growing media before?

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grizzman

I have used gravel before but only on small projects due to the weight.
An aside;
Really HH you're so interested in showing your colors you'd ruin the forum. It's almost as bad as a spammer.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:49AM
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tn_gardening

I've got a few net pots full of gravel right now.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 2:17PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Aquaponics Secrets DVD Trailer Look this up on youtube.

He uses 3/4" gravel for his system, please watch the vid.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 4:43PM
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homehydro

tn_gardening
What type of system is it in? What type of plants are you growing? What are your observations on using it at this point?

TheMasterGardener1
I saw the video, it was quite interesting. Especial how he terraced the water flow to different fish pools. Some day I plan to have a aquaponics system, but right now I just don't have the space (much less money). I love to eat fish and think it would be great to grow both.

grizzman
Have you ever considered/tried the benefits of using gravel in combination with other growing medias? In order to take advantage of the benefits of gravel, but at the same time limiting (or taking advantage of) it's weight?

P.S. grizzman
It wasn't my dumb idea to demand a thread stay on topic with every sentence. Personalty I think that's about as dumb as it gets. But it wasn't my idea, so I cant take responsibility/credit for it. I even voiced my objections, and gave the same exact (valid) reasons for those objections you complain of. But my points seems to have fallen on deaf ears. If there's a problem with the new rule, then perhaps the one (or committee) that decided on it should take a second look at it. Then someday common sense may be able take over again.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 6:42AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Yea same thing. I think aquaponics can be harder then hydroponics because you have to worry about the health of fish. Hydro you can just store up on fertilizer.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 12:58PM
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RoboGeek

I use aquarium gravel - it stays pretty Ph neutral. It works good.
I was just goofing around with this, not expecting anything to live after my garden plants got hit by frost. I cloned some cuttings and was pleasantly surprised.

I read the rules and I can't post links or anything since I'm a business, but I have some good pics of the monsters that are growing in 2.5" net post on an ebb and flow system, surprisingly with a reservoir of only 350ml. As big as the plants are they drink that much daily! Oh.. and the tomatoes are DELICIOUS! I have a 2nd gen clone in a DWC setup now and its going great in gravel

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 10:41PM
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homehydro

RoboGeek,
Are your numbers off? 350ml is less than two cups (1 cup= 237mL) Or are the plants just seedlings?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 6:03AM
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RoboGeek

fyi.. those things drink almost all the nutrients everyday. It is a PITA to change its nutrients, but every morning they have fresh stuff and I can adjust it every 24 hrs to whatever I need. Peppers love it - but I can tell the tomato is a bit root bound.

I really expected 'if' a clone would actually grow, I may have a foot tall plant to put in the garden by spring. Instead I was harvesting fruit after just a month. And now my clones have clones!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 8:06PM
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tn_gardening

homehydro (My Page) on Sun, Feb 12, 12 at 6:42
tn_gardening
What type of system is it in? What type of plants are you growing? What are your observations on using it at this point?

==============

Nothing to report yet. I just started. This year, I'm trying out a drip system.

Last year I did a flood and drain with gravel. The gravel did just fine.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 7:19AM
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grizzman

Nice system robo. Don't see many people using the air pressure technique to flood systems. How do you keep the medium from drawing back down you're supply line when the pump cuts off?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 9:54AM
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vorkus(z6 PA)

I've used river stone as a medium. Last summer I setup some DWC buckets on my patio. Two with hydroton and six with river stone. The river stone I got from my local big box store. The weight was an advantage outside. It anchored the plants better in the wind. I chose the river stone over angular gravel so as not to cut the roots. It turned out to be much easier to clean than the hydroton as well. I had tomatoes, peppers and watermelon in the stone. No issues.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 3:00PM
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homehydro

grizzman
What type of systems do you generally use? Do you grow inside or outside? What media do you prefer and why?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 6:12AM
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grizzman

I usually use DWC. I like NFT and that's the way I'm leaning but I'm still working out kinks and trying to figure out how to control the deer.
Normally I grow outside, though I occasionally grow a tomato plant through the winter in my office window.
I used to always use river gravel but had some problems with the small bits clogging things. Then I tried lava rock, but the size is always an issue(smashing it with a hammer is not reasonable). So now I've tried hydroton and found it very satisfactory. holds water well. It's small and round and doesn't much up things too much.
Even large(ish) scale doesn't require much with small pots.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 8:38PM
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RoboGeek

@grizzman.. I have a cup that fits nicely in the bottom, over the tubing with 1/16th holes drilled in it. The gravel wasn't my worry so much as roots working their way down through and clogging it. So far no issues with that

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 8:57PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

" I'm still working out kinks and trying to figure out how to control the deer. "

Me too!!!! I found either liquid fence or the hot pepper stuff by Bonide both work very well. I think the the liquid fence costs less in the long run and is trusted by small commercial scale growers even. The pepper solution does not smell bad like liquid fence but needs more applications. I am going to try the pepper stuff but had results with liquid fence so I will stick with that. I find the deer chose what I get to grow!!!!! I cant grow tomatoes even with sprays, but the peppers they do not even touch.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 9:54PM
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grizzman

That's true. They've never messed with my peppers. I've used liquid fence on the recommendation of a peer but I have a few caveats:
I'm not sure how often it must be applied or how much / close to the plants
I'm not sure it'd be a good thing to get in your reservoir. I mean the stuff does smell like vomit.
So If I spray, say a perimeter of the stuff around my garden, is that enough to keep the deer out?
I've also heard you can tie 20lb test fishing wire around the perimeter to stop them. the can't see it and when they run into it, it scares them off. Not sure if it'll work, but a different peer of mine suggested that.
@ Robo;
I've never had a problem with roots getting out of a pot and, with DWC, clogging isn't so much of an issue, but with EnF and NFT, those little rocks can get in an clog your pumps. I suppose I should invest in some kind of filter bag so there are no worries.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 8:44AM
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homehydro

grizzman
Have you ever used a drip system? It's one of the simplest to build, and easiest to use type of hydroponic systems. One of my favorite, especially for your larger plants that need more root space.

I generally like coco chips as a growing media, but adding 2-4 inches of rock at the bottom of the five gallon buckets gives excellent drainage when using a growing media that holds moisture as well as coco does. Also In the winds we get here, the rock provides the weight to the container needed to keep it secure through the high winds. Adding the rock provides an extra 10-20 lbs (per 5 gal bucket) that wouldn't be there otherwise. Not to mention I get all the rock I want for free (I just need to clean and sanitize it).

I use inexpensive furnace filter screening (I cut to size) to cover the drainage holes, that keeps any debris from getting into the drainage lines/reservoir/pump. The rock also holds the filter screening in place so nothing else is needed to filter it. Each 5 gal bucket only costs me about $6 to build, and that's if I use brand new materials. I can use as many grow chambers (bucket's as I want), it's completely expandable. Anyhow, out of all the systems I have built, the drip systems are by far my favorite (in functionality, maintenance, and ease of use).

I plan using the same design for growing peppers commercially, but using 3 gallon buckets (like other commercial setups). I'm planing on starting with 30-40 plants, but plan to grow as many as I have space for, as well as different variety's. Especially the small sweet colored peppers that fetch a high price here. But also green, red, yellow, orange, and purple bell peppers, as well as Hatch/anaheim peppers (I forget the name of the other one, but it's similar to the hatch, but larger and darker in green color).

You may not have many sources there, but here there are company's that specialize in selling decorative rock for landscaping. Here is one that is right here in my town and I have done business with in the past Arizona Decorative Rock. They sell rock in different sizes from pea gravel size up to about one inch at $20-$36 a ton (2000 lbs). I wasn't looking for lava rock, but if I was looking for it, and they didn't have any on hand, they would know where to get it for me (or tell me who to contact).

For me I just cant see using anything other than a drip system for large plants (especially for large quantity's of them), it's also the preferred method for larger plants in commercial operations as well. For me hydroton is OK in some situations, but I have just outgrown using it. First it is reusable, but it's no fun to clean and sanitize if you use much of it. After about the third time the novelty of reusing hydroton wore off for me (as well as for any growing media).

Second is that it isn't cheep (epically if using more than a gallon or two's worth of it). If you've ever used coco fiber, you would know coco fiber holds more than twice the moisture of hydroton. Yet because of it's course nature it still allows good drainage and aeration to the roots (especially the coco chips).

I have yet to see any commercial operations using hydroton. That's because the process of cleaning/and sanitizing isn't worth the cost (labor) involved. Some commercial operations will reuse/sanitize rockwool slabs, but the organic material (dead roots) left in it lead's to increased disease in the new plants (thus less overall productivity). So they weigh the pros and cons of buying new growing media, verses the loss in productivity expected to make that decision.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 4:28AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

"I plan using the same design for growing peppers commercially, but using 3 gallon buckets (like other commercial setups). I'm planing on starting with 30-40 plants, but plan to grow as many as I have space for, as well as different variety's. Especially the small sweet colored peppers that fetch a high price here. But also green, red, yellow, orange, and purple bell peppers, as well as Hatch/anaheim peppers (I forget the name of the other one, but it's similar to the hatch, but larger and darker in green color"

Homehydro, Nice!!!

I am growing as many peppers as I can fit on the deck and in the yard this year!!!!!!! Hey, I will take some pics of it the whole way through. I really only grow Jalapeno and Cayenne because I live in zone 5b so they grow well anywhere. I am using #2 containers if you can believe it. Another thing I found is that hot peppers grow more peppers per plant then sweet or bell.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 12:07AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Homehydro,

I am the same way, I do not like to reuse grow medium this is why I grow in soilless.

"I have yet to see any commercial operations using hydroton"

"For me hydroton is OK in some situations"

Yes it has its uses. And I have seen professionals use it with outstanding resulting. Like you said it is best suited for a smaller production and I think can be most useful in that. I understand Coco is getting more popular which has caused it to be cheaper and more readily avaliable, popping up in a lot of hydro shops.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 12:35AM
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homehydro

TheMasterGardener1
Ya, coco fiber/chips is more popular than it was a decade or two ago. Simply because it's more cost effective on a commercial scale. If it's more cost effective on a commercial scale, it's more cost effective on a hobby/home grower scale. It always comes down to money. You can just about always fallow what's the most economical by fallowing what commercial growers are doing with regards to hydroponics. They always do their research before spending money on technology, simply because they can't afford to fail (so they always have the bottom line in mind). They also tend to keep up with new technology's and/or methods, as well as extensively test them first. If any technology/method is worth a dam, it will be used by commercial operations to make money.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 6:33AM
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RoboGeek

lots of pepper lovers here! I have ghost peppers on their way from the Philippines.. cant wait to plant that. Those will get gravel but I think I may try perlite for a few plants this year

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 1:11PM
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amaeroff

I use pea gravel for my greens these days. It only works for me because I use flexible 30"x 48" grow beds that come in and out of service between crops on a staggered schedule. The system used to be hydroponic but I found that connecting it to my aquaponic setup worked better and the plants grow like there on steroids completely naturally.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 5:55PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

HomeHydro,

Very true.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:03PM
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fintuckyfarms

I used pea gravel in a flood and drain system using 55 gal barrels cut in half like they use in barrelponics. Worked really great for my zuchinni and cantalope. I did have to adjust the run time to run more frequently as the gravel does not hold the water like the clay pellets or perlite.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:47PM
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RoboGeek

just wanted to post a follow-up. I've been using the gravel that looks like river gravel and it works great. I tried to use some of the white gravel I found at walmart and it seems to shoot my pH up to around 8 after a day or two. There is white gravel that looks like river stone, and some that looks like crushed limestone. Don't use the limestone looking stuff unless your doing drain to waste or watch your pH closely. Plants grow fine in it though

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 12:10PM
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tn_gardening

tn_gardening
What type of system is it in? What type of plants are you growing? What are your observations on using it at this point?

==============

Sorry for the delay.

My system is a simple drip system in a 20 gallon tote and a couple of CFLs.

It was working fine until the aphids got my lettuce.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 3:51PM
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hemipower

Hello, total noob to this forum and hydroponic growing. I built a hyrdro system that is 8'X4'X8" and 1500lb of stones. The stones are comprised of a bottom layer of gravel (kind of jagged) and a top layer of river pebbles (smooth and round). I use a 5 gallon bucket with tap water and a submersible (cheap fountain) pump that pushes water/feed solution up to a 3/4" irrigation hose & dripper system, then a second pump in the reservoir to push the drained water back into the bucket. I have attached a photo for reference.

My first attempt I used MiracleGro (and WAY too much - like 5 cups instead of 2 teaspoons) and killed all my tomatoes overnight. I went to a hydro store and they told me to ditch the MiracleGro and use a proper synthetic hydro solution which has been working great. I'm 2 weeks into it and my 52 plants (tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, cauliflowers, broccoli & herbs) are doing great!

I'm so glad I found this forum. Sounds like you guys have a lot of experience that I'm hoping I can pick from.

I have a couple of questions:
1. I monitor my PH levels every morning and it is constantly around 8. I use PH Down to get it down to 5 or 6 (I'm using PH strips so not super accurate). Any idea what is causing the spike every day? My plants drink about 2 gallons of water/feed each day.

2. Any suggestions or recommendations on best practices?

Thank you in advance.
-hemi (humble noob).

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 1:21PM
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backwoodbill

I have used washed river stone since 1983 never had a complaint about cost damn near for free! didn't like the weight issue but everything has a con I used ebb and flow systems with great success I did occasionally have root clogging issues as I always had used metal screen or hardware cloth and zip ties to anchor it to fill and drain tubes (back when I used old school e&b systems) I now use a single feed drain bucket controller system with cloth composition grow bags as a liner in my grow pots (bags similar to smart pots) and that keeps the roots in check so they cannot penetrate the mesh baskets in square type inserts in square 4 gal. buckets when you first start out the ph gets a little drifty but will straighten out in a day or two and you are off to vegging all is reusable and I like that as on my budget I cant see putting any one other than myself through college due to cost of grow mediums luckily I have many gravel pits around me that screen gravel yielding the river bed stone and for a buck or two I can load up a ton if I want but you can get it at home depot or lowes for around four bucks a bag at 0.5 cu ft. and with a little patience and labor you can use it for about as long as it is old give or take a million years and the bags you will get a few uses out of but they are only three bucks a piece pretty negligible for what you get in return product so I hope I kept on topic best of luck to all happy growing! from backwoodbill!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2015 at 6:33AM
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