Recently, while visiting another farm, we were introduced to perforated 4 inch tubing - commonly known as "French Drain Pipe". At that location it was being utilized in the manner to create what is called an "Earth Box". As we do not ascribe to the success of the "Earth Box" design, as was evident upon our visit, we did see some possibility in the tubing as a way to feed the plant macro and micro nutrients in a "timed" manner insuring proper plant feedings while reducing the need to physically remove, mix and redistribute the soil for future plantings. This has provided us several advantages as noted:
1 - The Nute Tube permits reduced stress on the soil and microorganisms. The less any organic soil is disturbed the better for entrained organisms; be they insects, fungi or bacteria. Our ultimate goal is to simply "fork" the soil to increase aeration and thus reduce churning to the surface and exposing the soil (and all it contains) to the affects of heat, sunlight and pests which often hinder or kill many helpful components.
2 - The Nute Tube provides flexibility to treat the different plant species with nutrients specific to their needs. Most importantly, we are able to treat pH levels but other additives can draw beneficial insects, fungi and bacteria that will better assist in the best returns over the growing and harvest season. We are also able to utilize various additives to discourage pests.
3 - The Nute Tube offers a much easier and less time consuming feeding process. Once the Nute Tube is constructed and properly placed into each growing "barrel" it is filled with a combination of "sludge" and "slurry" created on site. This nutrition provides all nutrients - both macro (N-P-K) and micro nutrients - in a strong yet benign manner... we have yet to experience any nutrient "burn" and do not anticipate any in the future.
CONSTRUCTING the NUTE TUBE
Constructing the Nute Tube is inexpensive and takes little time or skill.
1. - Purchase 4" perforated tubing in 10 foot lengths. One length provides 22 to 23 Nute Tubes. 2. - Using a hacksaw cut lengths approximately 7" - at each 8 ribs.
3. - Using 1 gallon freezer bags (of high quality) cut 2 flat sheets.
4. - Using a rubber-band, stretch the plastic sheet over one side of the tube and snap the rubber-band to secure the plastic onto the groove of the 1st rib.
5. - Using scissors, trim the excess plastic material from the installation.
Locating & Installing the Nute Tube
We utilize a central system "transfer" pump and use the aquaponic fluids for plant watering (during dry spells) and system TDS (total dissolved solids) maintenance. Locating the Nute Tubes is important.
1. - Using a small hand spade, mark the location so when using the central transfer system the aquaponic fluids with flow into the Nute Tube. Remove any soil cover like straw or compost.
2. - Excavate the required soil and place the Nute Tube to maintain 1 to 3 ribs above the soil line. Lightly dig the Nute Tube in to prevent float-out during heavy rains.
Making & Using Feed for the Nute Tube
As previously mentioned we use 2 components in our generic nutrient feed - "sludge" and "slurry".
Sludge - is the collection of solids gathered at the Aqua-Pod tanks returns to the weir tank with the use of nylon material. It is composed of fish waste, tadpoles and snails collected. It is high in macro nutrients - N-P-K - along with a surprising number of micro nutrients. Sludge is the heavy-lift component of the plant feed. Sludge is collected every 10 days to 2 weeks depending on aquaponics system populations.
Slurry - is the collection of by-products of cooking and food preparation. It is composed of plant trim, egg shells, tea, coffee... There are no fruits, animal wastes, seeds (if possible), dairy products, warm blooded animal wastes - pretty much text book requirements for any healthy compost. Because it's necessary to activate the components as rapidly as possible it's required that the waste is "atomized" as much as it can be. To achieve this a "juicer" is used to make a nutrient rich "smoothie" that we call "slurry". Simply place the wastes in the juicer and top with water to permit proper smoothie development and collect in a separate sealed bucket. Add a small dollop of pure molasses occasionally and stir the components when adding new treated waste.
Final Product - is a mix of the two components - Sludge & Slurry - without any need to measure or calculate amounts. As mentioned previously the mix - though a strong nutrient - due to it's organic and benign qualities cannot burn the plants. Once the mix is complete take a cup - a 2 cup measuring device - and go around to the barrels and pour the feed into each unit's Nute Tube. Initially the tube will fill. Following an hour or 2 the liquid will leach into the soil and each time it rains or the plants are fed from the Aqua-Pods the tube will refill and, again, leach out into the soil.
Observation of the Nute Tubes guides the grower as low solids levels will dictate the need for further additions of nutrient feed.
It remains important that the reader understands:
Nothing passes the gates of CyrSon Ranch Aquaponics but Fish Food
- NOTHING -
Any - and all - nutrients and plant additives are created on site.