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Carbon Filters 101
An activated carbon filter is an air purifier that will remove the larger particles from the air and trap any odors that are passed through it. Available in a wide range of sizes to fit any ventilation system, these filters are a must for any indoor gardening project.
Activated carbon is a form of a form of carbon that has been processed to make it extremely porous and thus to have a very large surface area available for adsorption. To undergo this process, temperatures of 1300°F (700°C) are applied to a carbonaceous substance (i.e., coal, wood, or coconut shells) in the absence of air to produce a carbonized char. The carbonized char is then “activated” at temperatures of 1500°F -1800°F with steam, carbon dioxide or acid to create a highly porous, clean and adsorbent material. In fact, it is so adsorbent that that each teaspoon of activated carbon has the equivalent surface area of a football field, and one pound of it equals about 125 acres of surface area. These so-called active, or activated, charcoals are widely used to adsorb harmful pathogens and odorous substances from gases or liquids.
The word adsorb is important here. When a material adsorbs something, it attaches to it by chemical attraction, meaning the atoms attract each other and bind together in a molecule. The huge surface area of activated charcoal gives it countless bonding sites. When certain chemicals pass next to the carbon surface, they attach to the surface and are trapped. If broken down, the device is actually comprised of two perforated cylinders with a layer of thick activated charcoal carbon filling both those layers in the cylinder. Air is pushed or pulled through the carbon with a fan, which moves through progressively smaller pathways and comes out clean on the other end.
As adsorption is a surface phenomenon, it is totally reversible (the reverse of adsorption is termed desorption), and this is one of the disadvantages of granular activated carbon. The rate at which activated carbon adsorbs or desorbs is affected most by the temperature and relative humidity of the air stream. Adsorption occurs more readily at lower temperatures and humidity levels while the opposite is true for desorption. At approximately 60% relative humidity (RH), the water content of activated carbon goes up to 25% by weight. Therefore, quick rises in RH can cause activated carbon to desorb gases in order to adsorb water.
To produce activated carbon, carbon-rich materials must be processed. These can include coal, wood, charcoal, petroleum and even coconut shells and bamboo. In the factory, these materials are ground down to a fine powder and then heated up in an oxygen-free chamber to get rid of non-carbon constituents without it igniting. The porous structure comes about when it is heated again with oxygen and steam. Different adjustments to this process can produce different sizes of pores and granules.
Once carbon has been activated, it can adsorb a long list of airborne chemicals, including molds, mildews, alcohols, organic acids, chlorinated hydrocarbons, ethers, esters, ketones, halogens, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and phosgene, among many other carbon-based impurities (“organic” chemicals). Many other chemicals are not attracted to carbon at all — sodium, nitrates, etc. — so they pass right through. This means that an activated charcoal filter will remove certain impurities while ignoring others. For example, the carbon filter may not always adsorb harmful pathogens created by mold or bacteria. If you want to remove these particles, you may need to add a HEPA filter to your indoor garden as well.
Moisture and odor are adsorbed by the carbon grains, which increase in weight with the amount they adsorb. As such, activated carbon’s effectiveness will slowly diminish with saturation. This continues until the maximum capacity of the carbon is reached and then the pollutants are no longer adsorbed but are passed through the bed. This means that once all of the bonding sites are filled, an activated charcoal filter stops working and is no longer effective. At this point or before, the carbon must be replaced or reactivated. Check your filter regularly as it nears the end of its recommended life cycle to ensure it is working properly.
How to Size your Exhaust Fan & Carbon Filter
- Step 1 – Room Volume
First calculate the volume of the room. Multiply the length x width x height of the growing area. For example: a room that is 8′ x 8′ x 8′ will have a volume of 512 cubic feet.
- Step 2 – Required CFM
The fan should be able to adequately exchange the air in a grow room once every three minutes. Therefore, 512 cubic feet/3 minutes = 171 cfm. This will be the absolute minimum cfm for exchanging the air in a grow room.
- Step 3 – Additional factors
Once the grower has calculated the minimum cfm required for the grow room, the following additional factors need to be considered:
- HID lights – add 5% per air cooled light or 10-15% per non-air cooled light.
- CO2 – add 5% for rooms with CO2 enrichment
- Filters – if a carbon filter is to be used with the exhaust system then add 20%
- Ambient temperature – for hot climates (such as Southern California) add 25%, for hot and humid climates (such as Florida) add up to 40%.
Organic Gardening: Protozoa & Nematodes
Soil, or at least healthy soil, is teeming with life. Soil life lives in a symbiotic and mutualistic way, offering their services to help the whole system work. Bacteria and fungi build the soil structure and help make nutrients in the soil available to plants, and also store valuable nutrients in their bodies. Protozoa, nematodes and other larger members of the soil food web consume these microbes, and in doing so release the nutrients to the plants. This process allows natural systems to maintain themselves with the help of the soil food web.
Protozoa are single-celled animals that feed primarily on bacteria, but also eat other protozoa, soluble organic matter, and sometimes fungi. They are several times larger than bacteria, ranging from 1/5000 to 1/50 of an inch in diameter. Both protozoa and nematodes are aquatic and live and move in soil water films and water-filled pores of soil aggregates.
Protozoa are found in greatest abundance near the surface of the soil, particularly in the upper 15 cm (six inches). There they play an important role in mineralizing nutrients, making them available for use by plants and other soil organisms. Protozoa (and nematodes) have a lower concentration of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in their cells than the bacteria they eat. Bacteria eaten by protozoa contain too much N for the amount of C protozoa need. They release the excess N in the form of ammonium (NH4+). This usually occurs near the root system of a plant.
Nematodes or roundworms are non-segmented worms with tapered ends and are typically 1/20 of an inch (1 mm) in length. They have a head, and a tail with a well developed central nervous and fertility system with a complete digestive system, so they are considered the most primitive animal. They are small enough to fit in most soil pores and soil aggregates.
There are several species of nematodes that are responsible for plant diseases and can be very harmful (known as detrimental nematodes), but far less is known about the majority of the nematode community that plays beneficial roles in soil. Many beneficial nematodes serve as biological pest control agents in managed systems and others regulate the natural ecosystem and soil nutrient cycling. Some feed on the plants and algae, others are grazers that feed on bacteria and fungi, and some feed on other nematodes. A variety of nematodes function at several trophic levels of the soil food web. Nematodes are most abundant in the surface soil horizon.
Like protozoa, nematodes are important in mineralizing, or releasing, nutrients in plant-available forms. When nematodes eat bacteria or fungi, ammonium (NH4+) is released because bacteria and fungi contain much more N than the nematodes require. At low nematode densities, feeding by nematodes stimulates the growth rate of bacteria populations. Small or low root consumption by nematodes may stimulate plant root growth like air pruning, increasing root biomass.
Product Spotlight: AZOS Red Liquid
AZOS Red Liquid is a naturally occurring nitrogen-fixing bacteria that helps benefit plant growth, converting atmospheric nitrogen into a useable form that is readily available to the plants. AZOS Red Liquid is a pure, living bacterial inoculant; experience an improvement in plant establishment and accelerated plant growth. AZOS Red Liquid is great for containers, raised beds, and row crops. AZOS Red Liquid is ideal for cloning and plant propagation, transplanting, and general watering throughout veg and grow.
AZOS Red Liquid is a living product with millions of colonies of Azospirillum brasilense at 1 x 10^8 CFU per ml. AZOS Red liquid can be used in conjunction with other fertilizers and biostimulants and is designed to be compatible with all waterborne applications and fertigation systems. AZOS Red Liquid is best for middle to large-scale growers looking to increase the efficiency of their clones and nursery plants as well as boosting vegetative growth.
Of all the nutrients transported to plants through the soil, nitrogen is required in the greatest amount. It drives chlorophyll production in the foliage, keeping plants green and propelling photosynthesis. It is a fundamental building block of amino acids and other essential compounds that ensure crop health and productivity. Nitrogen is a major component of every protein molecule, and yet soils are often deficient in this element. Although the atmosphere is comprised of around 80% nitrogen, it is in a form (N2, or atmospheric nitrogen) that is not readily available to plants. AZOS Red Liquid is able to facilitate this conversion.
With the increased accessibility of nitrogen in the soil, AZOS Red Liquid can catalyze a natural growth hormone within plants that help promote more root and vegetative growth. AZOS Red Liquid is great for rooting out cuttings and transplants.
Cultured and packaged to order, AZOS Red Liquid is one of the freshest and biologically active microbial products on the market. AZOS Red Liquid packaging includes a spigot that allows growers to extract the right amount of liquid needed for an application. This spigot technology maintains the viability of the bacteria as it does not allow outside contaminants to enter and spoil the inoculant.
To ensure the best results, we recommend you purchase enough product for a single crop cycle. Best when stored in a refrigerator.
AZOS Red Liquid is highly versatile and easy to use with all types waterborne applications. At an application rate of 5 ml per gallon, apply throughout vegetative growth stages for vigorous plant growth. AZOS Red Liquid can also be used to catalyze root growth for cloning and plant propagation at a rate of 20 ml per gallon for rockwool cube and plug soaking, and 5 ml per gallon in propagation and cloning machines.
AZOS Red Liquid is the key to successful transplants and gardens. Experience the true power of a pure, fresh and living bacterial inoculant.
Product Spotlight: Root Pouch Fabric Pots
What is a Root Pouch?
Root Pouch is a fabric planting container made from recycled plastic water bottles. They have several different fabric densities, colors, and patterns depending on what the need and decor is. They are safe to use in growing edibles as well as decorative plants. Perfect for drip systems, overheads and hydroponic flood trays, as well as the use for the home grower.
Why fabric pots?
Root Pouch fabric is a mixture of PETE (recycled plastic water bottles) and natural fibers that creates a mesh like surface. Once roots reach the fabric it signals the plant to send out new roots, instead of circling and strangling the plant like other containers. Thus creating super dense, fibrous healthy root systems for plants. Root Pouch containers achieve a superior root system over the traditional plastic pot. These natural fibers mixed into the netting of the fabric will retain moisture much more evenly around the pot.
Why Root Pouch over other fabric pots?
Root Pouch is the only fabric pot on the market made from recycled plastic water bottles and mixed with natural fibers, such as jute and cotton. It has always been a frustrating feat to want to purchase and use earth friendly items, but when they are usually far more expensive then their less earth friendly counterpart it is sometimes difficult to do. Root Pouch decided to keep their prices low and affordable. Growing in Root Pouch not only takes the water bottles out of the landfill, but it also diminishes the use of the traditional black plastic pots (that also end up in the landfills), lessening the carbon footprint.
Root Pouches are not only earth friendly and affordable but they also create an ideal environment for the plant to grow in. Their handles and stitching are industrial strength and make planting and growing in them that much easier.
Does the recycled material leech contaminants into my plants?
No. Root Pouch uses recycled plastic water bottles (known as PETE) in the making of their fabric. PETE is a plastic resin made from water bottles that have the recycled symbol surrounding the number 1, which is FDA-approved as safe to drink and eat out of. PETE is used along with natural fibers because of its strength, thermal-stability and its resistance to UV rays.
Xtreme Gardening harnesses the power of microbial evolution, isolating the most critical members of the soil food web that have repeatedly proven to improve plant performance. Gardeners can experience an increase in crop quality and crop yields, while also improving nutrient and water management.
The MAMMOTH® mission is to provide solutions for a range of challenges that cultivators face. They have polled thousands of growers and have identified:
Pests like spider mites and thrips pose the potential to cause huge losses for cultivators if they are not addressed before they become a problem.
Their pest prevention solution, MAMMOTH® Biocontrol Preventative Insecticide (MB-PI), utilizes compounds found in thyme oil found to be highly effective in pest prevention and control. MB-PI is made entirely from plant-derived ingredients which means it leaves zero toxic residue, and is safe for testing.
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