Reporting from your friendly neighborhood Fifth Season Gardening store, I’m here to shine a light on a hidden gem in our inventory, a product that doesn’t get nearly enough attention for the ease and versatility it affords the home gardener. Adoring public, meet the WaterFarm, a hybrid Top Drip/DWC hydroponic unit from General Hydroponics.
Each unit consists of a 4 gallon reservoir, a 2 gallon growing chamber that nests inside the reservoir, a pumping column, and a drip ring. The included air pump pressurizes the pumping column, feeding water up to the drip ring, where it then filters down through a hydroton medium. It’s available as either an individual unit or as part of an “8-Pack” that includes almost everything necessary to create an 8 unit recirculating system, including the individual WaterFarm modules and an 8 gallon controller w/ integrated 13 gallon top-off reservoir. This system connects 8 individual modules inline with the controller/reservoir, using air pressure (quite ingeniously) to slowly circulate the nutrient mixture through the system, ensuring solution consistency throughout. The individual standalone units include a drain level tube, for monitoring solution depth.
From personal experience, the 8-pack is a flexible, powerful grow system, with a couple of nifty features that set it apart from other, typically more expensive, recirculating DWC (RDWC) setups. Hard plumbing–standard on many high end RDWC systems–is a pain to setup and, once plumbed, pretty much sets your grow configuration “in stone”. The flexible tubing included with the 8-pack allows easy changing of plant spacing and/or layout if your needs or plans change. Also, the drip ring at the top of the unit both mixes and aerates the nutrient solution, eliminating the need for an air stone. Some nutrient solutions suffer from pH drift with air stone usage, so this is quite useful in getting your feeding regimen dialed in with minimal fuss.
With all that being said, I do have a couple of suggestions for the intrepid gardener thinking of taking on one–or 8, or 23, the world is your oyster!–of these wonderful units. The bottom of the growing chamber is perforated, but for especially large plants it can be helpful to take a cordless drill and add additional holes in the margins between those already provided, maximizing the ability for root growth into the reservoir below. Additionally–and this applies specifically to the 8-pack–those same large plants can slightly clog the interconnecting ½ tubing near the end of the growing season, leading to differing levels of nutrient solution between the first and last pots in line. Having a partner carefully lift the growing chamber out of the reservoir while you gently trim some of this excess root mass can be helpful in such instances. These are just quibbles though, and the system really is excellent right out of the box.
The GH Flora trio (Grow, Bloom, Micro) are included in both the individual units and the 8-pack, and will almost certainly give excellent results, but I’m a Canna man and would recommend their Aqua line wholeheartedly for both this and any other hydroponic gardening project you may encounter. That, though, is a blog post for another time. Come on into your local Fifth Season Gardening Co., and start WaterFarming today – you won’t be sorry!