Types of Plugs for Starting Seeds in Commercial Vertical Hydroponics

Types of Plugs for Starting Seeds in Commercial Vertical Hydroponics

Dr. Nate Storey: This is Nate Storey with
Bright Agrotech and today we’re going to talk a little bit about plugs, rockwool, the way
that we plant our seeds and the best kind of mediums for transplanting seedlings in
to our towers, specifically for indoor growers. Dr. Nate Storey: Today, we’re going to talk
about a few different types of material here for planting your seeds and getting your seedlings
out. We’re going to talk about the good things about them, the bad things about them and
what I would recommend for anyone serious about indoor growing.
All right, so, you guys have probably seen the video that we did a while back regarding
our greenhouse production and how we just use regular growers mixes. These are just
like peat or coco coir mixes, perlite, vermiculite, traditional stuff. We put those in plug trays.
We plant them. We plug those plugs and transplant those into towers. We really, really love
those in the greenhouse and in fact even if you’re using ZipGrow towers indoors you can
still keep using all of that same stuff. We know a lot of you guys are a little bit concerned
about having solids building up in your indoor system, especially if you don’t have really,
really heavy aeration. There are a couple of alternative to just
using regular potting mixes or germination mixes. The most popular of those are flexible
plugs. What we have here are some FlexiPlugs. There are a few different manufacturers that
are making these now, but they’re very interesting. These area peat product or a coir product
that is bound with a polymer. They put kind of a plasticky rubbery material in there and
it actually binds all of the fibers together. They can actually incorporate a lot of a slow
release fertilizers into these types of things so that these plugs they’re are actually … They
can basically put all of the fertilizer for starting your seeds in these things. You can
ditch the whole hydroponic aspect of your seed starting, which is kind of nice.
These are great little plugs and you’ll see how they compress which makes them a great
fit for towers because they’ll compress very nicely going in and they’re really nice and
easy to deal with. The drawback to these is they aren’t as compostable as just say growing
mix or something like that or regular potting or germination mix. They’re a great material
and they’re very, very popular with a lot of people who grow with ZipGrow towers indoor
and out. The one drawback to these is they can get
a little pricey if you’re buying them in small quantities. In large quantities they’re still
fairly pricey if you can just compare them to traditional germination mixes or something
like that. They’re well worth the money if you’re doing things in kind of a small and
medium scale. They’re very, very easy to work with. When I think small scale, typically
we’re talking several hundred to several thousand of these plugs. A larger scales would be 10
thousand to 100s of thousands of these, at that scale. There are a lot of things you
can do with these. They can be really useful to you and I would definitely think about
getting together with some other growers if you’re thinking about ordering these to try
and get a better price. All right, another alternative is rockwool.
This is an example of rockwool. It’s basically a type of rock that they cook at a really
high temperature and run through a machine that spins it out into a fiber and you end
up with this product here. It’s also used as insulation, right. It’s a great, great
product by and large for seed starting and especially for cloning, if you’re doing a
lot of cloning. It’s one of those things that I would tend towards more of a more natural
product like peat or coir over rockwool most of the time simply because this stuff does
not biodegrade, it doesn’t breakdown. It will go a landfill and it will be here till the
end of time. That’s always a little concerning when we create things that last forever and
ever, that always concerns me a little bit. By and large it’s a good product.
It comes in a lot of different ways. One of these ways is these little cubes like this.
These guys tear off individually, so basically each little piece will tear off there. If
you drop your seed in hole in the top, it just kind of tears away and you can transplant
the seedling with the plug in it. It’s handy stuff. It’s nice because it holds itself together
and you don’t really need a plug tray or anything like that. We just use these trays here for
our seedling station. The seedlings will grow in this, tear them off to transplant them.
It’s handy. It’s useful material. Again, the only drawbacks are that it can get kind of
pricey at scale and it’s doesn’t breakdown, it will be here forever and ever. That is
definitely something to consider when you’re thinking about the different types of growing
medium that you can use. There are a few other alternatives out there
and a lot of people will ask about things like Jiffy pellets, about Oasis products,
that kind of thing. Jiffy pellets can be used and they’re great. I’ve just found them to
be a little pricey and a little hard to handle. Man, if we could get them in bulk and if we
had the automation equipment to automate planting Jiffy pellets they would be great. I really
like Jiffy pellets. Oasis is another thing that people ask about.
What about Oasis products? In our opinion, Oasis products they tend to smash up when
they’re compressed within the towers, and you end up with plastic bits in your system
which isn’t always the best thing in the world. We tend to advise people to avoid Oasis products
and focus more on Jiffy or peat pellets that type of thing if the rockwool or the polymer
bound FlexiPlugs aren’t your thing. One last thing that people talk about or ask
about quite a bit is bare root plants. Can I do bare root? Absolutely. You can do bare
root especially if you’re using wicking strips, you can definitely use bare root plants. The
problem is is transplanting. A lot of people will grow them out in a hydrogen system and
when they pull the seedlings out they’ll just sprinkle seeds, when they pull the seedlings
they actually damage a lot of roots. The shock going into your system when you plant that
bare root plant can be pretty significant and slow down your product cycle, we’re talking
several days. Aeroponic, folks that are doing mist systems or high pressure aero, something
like that, they take their plant and they plant in these systems, that’s not the best
way to transplant those plugs because it will again damage your root system and you end
up with some seedling shock which slows down your production cycle.
Of all of the things we’ve talked about, we do recommend starting your seedling in some
type of growing medium. Whether it is something like rockwool, whether it is FlexiPlug, whatever
it ends up being if it’s in a plug, some type of contained thing for the root system that’s
always going to be better than going with bare root. Once you transplant those things
they’re just going to root out really fast and they’re going to take off and you’re going
to be really, really happy with the results. Today, I talked about different types of growing
medium, the stuff that we recommend or that we like or that a lot of our customers end
up using. We’ll talk a little bit more about what that transplanting process looks like
here pretty soon. Today, we talked about a lot of different
growing mediums that you can use for getting your seedlings started and for transplanting
those seedlings. If you’re just getting started I would say your first step is to start with
a flexible plug type product just like this. Eventually over time once you get comfortable
with this, once you learn how to grow with these types of products, you can transition
out, try new things like rockwool and of course the ultimate ideal is always get down to some
type of loose growing medium because it’s compostable, it’s newable, it’s something
you can take after you’re done growing and compost and use for gardening or something
else. That’s always the ideal, but in the meantime I would start here because this is
going to be a really easy and fast way to get started and you’re going to have really
high success rates right out of the gate. Hey, thank so much for watching this video
today. I hope it was useful to you. If you have any questions about this kind of thing
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23 thoughts on “Types of Plugs for Starting Seeds in Commercial Vertical Hydroponics

  1. I was using rock wool plugs, but recently started switching over to the Rapid Rooter brand of flexible choir plugs. They are much simpler to use, and come PH balanced. No need to pre-soak them in a PH 5 water prior to planting as with rock wool. For people new to this, that alone could be the difference between success/failure and simplicity in planting. Most come pre-moistened, so you simply drop in the seed, place it in a tray, and continue with normal propagation methods.

    Yes, they are more expensive. A bag of 100 at the local hydro store was $26.00. You can find them cheaper in bulk online, but you may want to start with a small bag to see if they are suitable for what you need.

    For some of the finer rooted plants, I have found better initial growth in the choir flexi plugs than rockwool. It's substrate expands easily for root penetration, and I see the increased length of the plug as being beneficial to 'stabilize' the plant prior to transplanting as well.

    Also, i find less algae growth on the medium if placed into direct sunlight than rockwool.

    I will be experimenting with both mediums in the new propagation chamber soon, thanks to the recent video here about their use. Thanks for that info!

  2. hello, you refer to the video on the seed starting and transplanting process. Could you pinpoint this video (there are so many, thanks)

  3. Im just learning about aquaponics and this is very helpful. Traditional gardening is a little difficult fro me to keep up with. Setting up a system has been a learning process. Im still not set up and growing but I will be soon. Thank you for the lessons

  4. Rock's not particularly biodegradable either, right? I understand your concern about landfills filling up more quickly, but it's not like adding newly permanent chemical structures to the ecosystem, like we do so often with petroleum-based plastics. Or am I missing something?

  5. rockwool does break down, fibers are so thin that once it gets physically broken down (torn, smooshed, pulverized, etc) enough that its pieces are small enough, it goes through the same process as leaf litter. its slower than leaves, but it really will distinigrate. add it to potting soil or compost! it is awesome additive! break it apart by rolling between the fingers(AFTER WETTING THOROUGHLY!) and toss it in

  6. that ceramic material could be recycled. I'm not sure how its produced exactly, but throwing old mats into the machine would probably do no harm. anything on the mats would be completely burnt away

  7. Have you ever used "Soil Blocks" I really like using them because of the natural air pruning as the seedlings grow making my grow cycle shorter..

  8. Hi Bright Agrotech,
    I used the rock wool to start my seedling. how tall does my plants have to be to bring them out in sun light? My vertical system is outdoor and it get all afternoon sun. Thanks for your help..

  9. Rock wool will be here forever, so will the rocks they were made from. Unless another Ice Age comes along and pulverizes and grinds the rock up to soil, as past Ices Ages did. That how the natural rock fertilizers got spread around the planet in the first place. Check the Periodic Table you will find all the elements that plants and humans need listed.

  10. Dr Nate, How about outdoor growers? I am planning to grow outdoor in a mesh covered sort of green house for start.

  11. The plants humans and animals evolved to eat, evolved from growing in soil. I would think that the molecules of these artificial growing mediums will end up inside the bodies of the plants and then also inside the bodies of those consuming such plants. So if we're talking about artificially engineered plastics, foams, rubbers, etc… wouldn't there be issues with BPA, pthalates, hormone/endocrine disrupting molecules, PVC, chlorine, fluoride, rubber latex, petroleum, etc… ???

  12. a lot of energy is consumed to make rockwool but it is a natural material so it isn't necessarily bad for the environment. your just moving a material from one part of the planet in the other intill eventually we run out of that resource

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