My 3×3 space is dominated by a 10 gallon airpot and a very large, deep saucer.  Perfect for bottom-feeding.  Flood the tray with nutrients and let the coco wick it up.  Now there’s a 1″ airgap or where I end up with long roots growing into the saucer.  Long roots aren’t as good as tons of roots.  So I have found a very convenient solution that gives me a massive benefit in my bottom-feeding operation.  Orbeez, the agricultural plastic beads that swell with water/stimming toy for people.

I have completed 3 runs using a buffering layer of Orbeez under my airpot.  No issues with nutrient lockouts, and they extend the time my plant can has before damage occurs when I can’t water.  Once the drain tray has been drank dry, the Orbeez underneath still have enough moisture for another 48-72 hours before the plant is actually out of drink.  Orbeez absorb a lot of the feed solution and help the tray to go dry faster.  Like 24 hours faster, and then when the tray is dry, I still have a gallon nutrients stored in the Orbeez.  Letting the tray dry out and the plant roots drink from the Orbeez, which are in a compressed layer, seems to stimulate root tip growth down into the Orbeez without the roots trying to escape from under the pot.  Seems to be a very happy, appropriately moist textured layer for the root tips to do their work!

I heap a ton of the beads into the center of my tray after a reset, and then press the airpot down and jiggle back and forth until the airpot has a compressed layer of the beads underneath it.  Done.  Don’t lift it again, or the Orbeez will spill out.

The Orbeez basically provide an osmotic buffer to help pull the moisture into the coco.  The increased wicking action is awesome!