Paul Nickerson

Tomatoe Roots: All Tangled Up

In Aquaponics, Gardening on March 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

I always tell people that one of the most enjoyable things about aquaponics is how modular and dynamic it is. Every system is different, and each presents its own unique challenges. The twelve tomato plants rafted in the sump tank have brought about one of these situations.

As the roots on the tomatoes developed, we have worked diligently to prune them to keep them from becoming entangled in the pumps. Last week was spring break. Being away, I was not able to keep an eye on the system. When we returned, the roots had grown to the point that they were drawn into the inline pump, and had wrapped themselves around the blades, almost seizing it. Water flow to the gutters was decrease.

After shutting down the system and cleaning out the pump, the discussion began as to how to avoid this problem in the future. After much deliberation, and dozens of sketch diagrams of how to move the pump, rearrange the plants, add a second sump tank, etc., we realized all we had to do was move the inlet of the pump. Instead of trying to plumb the pump into the other side of the sump tank, we simply needed to find a way to draw water from the opposite end of the tank from the tomatoes. (The simplest solutions can be so hard to find)

This was accomplished by attaching a hose to the inlet of the pump just inside the sump tank. It was easy as the inside of the bulkhead was threaded for a hose fitting. The length of hose was connected to the bulkhead, and run across the system into the bucket-cage with the other pump. From there the hose can supply water to the gutter system, and we can keep a sizable barrier between the roots and the pumps.

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