Newspaper as an NFT Spreader Mat

nekbet(6)August 6, 2013

I've read a few other forums that have said to use 7-10 layers of newspaper as a cheap spreader / capillary mat.

To me, this seems it would A) mess up the ph and B) make your nutrient water dark/gray

There are a fair amount of publications saying using newspaper in compost and organic garden beds is fine, as recent (15+ years) ink is plant based in nature... but, using as an NFT mat I am skeptical about...

The reason I am asking is, I can't find the mat in the US easily. There is another thread here that mentions using thin felt from the hobby/crafts store..

any thoughts?


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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

I wouldn't use newspaper. You might be right about the inks, but most newspapers contain about 25% recycled paper pulp in which it is reasonably possible to find aromatic hydrocarbons which are carcinogenic. If that is a problem or not who knows but old newspapers give me the ick factor.

Why not look into polyester (PET) fleece at the fabric store, and sandwich that between plastic (probably PE), perforating the top or just cutting pot bottom circles?

Sure to Grow medium is just a PET fleece. Maybe something like this could work?

Or perhaps coconut mat:

Tell us how it goes!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 4:03PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

The aromatic hydrocarbon content of newspaper is somewhere in the range of 3000-6000 micrograms/gram. The concerns regarding aromatic hydrocarbon contamination of food from recycled paper is generally about boxes in a hot environment offgassing into the food in the box. Depending on how hot the water is, I would say the offgas potential in this use is significantly lower especially if the air in the greenhouse gets exchanged for fresh air frequently. If it's outside, the concentrations will be ridiculously low. As for uptake by the plants themselves, it depends on the plant, but the highest concentration is in the roots and they will be around 2 orders of magnitude less concentrated than the substrate. Stems will be about 3-4 orders of magnitude less concentrated, and leaves will be about 5 orders of magnitude less concentrated.

You will ingest far more carcinogens driving to work with your windows down or eating a burger (if you fly in airplanes these concentrations are laughable) but some people's tolerance for carcinogen exposure are lower than others so it's up to you to make that decision.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 10:03PM
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Update.. finally got the poly fleece and cut it for the channels (had stuff in nursery channels which are flooded, and hadnt had the need for real NFT yet..)

it seems to work well, however, it wants to run down the channel. Any tips for securing at the top? I was thinking of drilling two holes in the channel (4x4 fence posts) and inserting coat-hangar-type wire or such down to secure the top (water source).. but, anyone have any nifty ideas other than that?


    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 1:55PM
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    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 3:44PM
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Grizzman, dont you replace it every growing cycle? I sealed my end caps on, so its kind of a pain to get in there to glue it.

Should I make a larger access hole at the end to do this?
You just lay down a bead of silicon and push the mat to it?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 3:51PM
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Well I don't use any kind of mat, but yes I would just lay down a bean and press the mat into it.
Also, yes I would probably just add an access hole to do it. Probably add it on the top though as there is less chance of leakage up there. Alternately, where ever you put the mat in you could add the bead of silicon there.
If you have to replace it the silicon is easy enough to remove.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 7:48AM
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What kind of channels do you run with no mat? If I dont have a mat, no matter how level I make it, the water runs down one side of the other.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 8:10AM
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I am using 3"x2" downspouts. the bottom is not flat but has corrugations that run the length of the trough.
this photo, I believe, shows it best:

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 11:11AM
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The fleece material is working well. I found it needs to be just a tad wider than the channel width, if not, a drip will form from the bottom edge and track back up the outside of the channel (fence post).

Works well and much cheaper ($9, and have a ton left over) than "real" capillary mat ($30)

Here is a link that might be useful: Mat picture

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 5:48PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Thanks for follow-up here which is really helpful... if it looks like a capillary mat ... and smells ... and works ... like one ...

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 7:37PM
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