Hydroponics simply means “hydro=water and ponos=working.” This method has faced a great surge in recent years. It comprises of a system of cultivating plants in baths or flow of oxygen and nutrient-rich water.
How the system works
Organic matter is broken down by decomposition in soils. The water present dissolves the salts allowing easier uptake of nutrients. Hydroponic plants receive food and water directly to their roots. Due to great exposure to natural light, they grow with fewer energy requirements. The porous growing medium ensures good air retention and breathing of roots. Minimal evaporation rate ensures that it is applicable in drought areas. Positives of the hydroponic system include:
- Effective in plant teaching and research.
- Less labour in plant harvesting.
- Ability to produce higher yields.
- Ensures quicker plant growth.
- Eliminating soil-borne diseases.
- Availability of crops throughout the year.
Different Hydroponic Systems
Free system plans can be found at simplyhydro. Some factors to consider when choosing a system:
- The amount of space available.
- Your choice of plants.
- Access to power.
- Available lighting.
However, the major hydroponic systems include:
- Water Culture
Based on homehydrosystems.com, it’s the simplest system among active hydroponic systems. Plants are held by a platform built of Styrofoam that floats on the solution. The air pump is installed to supply moisture to the air stone used to bubble the solution, hence supplying oxygen to plant roots. The most preferred choice when growing plants which are fast growing. It is an inexpensive system which can be made from watertight containers and old aquarium. However, it doesn’t work well with long-term and large plants.
- Wick System
It’s the simplest hydroponic passive system. A wick is utilized to draw nutrient solution inside the growing media. Some of the growing media that can be utilized by this system are Vermiculite, Perlite, coconut fiber and pro-mix. However, plants that need a lot of water intake, use up the nutrients faster than the wick’s supply rate.
- Ebb and Flow (Flow and Drain)
The growing tray is flooded with mineral solution, which is then drained after a regulated time interval into the storage. Normally, it’s done by use of a submerged pump which includes a timer. The timer ignites the pump to begin the supply, and switches off to drain the solution. The system is versatile and hence various mediums like grow rocks or granular rock wool can be used. However, with a few types of medium like perlite, grow rocks and gravel, power outages, timer and pump failures are imminent. With this method, any interruption in water cycles will lead to drying of roots. To avoid this, as modularhydro states, use of growing medium that has high water retention is advised.
- Drip Systems
It’s the most prominent hydroponic system. A timer is installed to control a pump that is submerged in the solution. The timer ignites the pump and the solution flows onto the plant roots. In a recovery drip system, run-off solution is collected and sent to the storage. This system requires no precise control in watering cycles. For the non-recovery system, a precise timer is required to ensure plants receive enough nutrients. This requires less maintenance since the solution PH and strength is stable.
- F. T
Ensures flow of solution is constant. Growing medium is not required since air is responsible for growth. Plants are supported by a plastic bucket with roots floating in the solution. It’s affected by failures in pumps and lack of power.
It is the most advanced hydroponic system. Air is used as the growing medium. Roots are suspended and misted with the solution. A timer is present to control misting.
Tips to Grow Healthy Plants
- Nutrients – Ensure you purchase preferred nutrients for plants in hydroponic systems. Liquid fertilizers seem to be easier to use while dry fertilizers tend to be cheaper.
- Reservoir – Choose the appropriate reservoir for your plants. Larger plants will require bigger reservoirs to maintain required water distribution.
- PH levels – Plants only absorb nutrients when pH levels are within their range. Ensure you test pH daily and use pH adjusters to maintain pH levels.
- Water quality- Ro water is preferred to ensure healthy plants.
- The frequency of watering- Decrease or increase the watering sequence according to your plant needs.
- Temperature of water and oxygen supply- Ensure the optimum temperature of 68-72 Fahrenheit and make use of aquarium pump to regulate oxygen supply.
Pre-made hydroponic systems
There’s a lot of pre-made systems on the market nowadays and it is hard to decide what system to use. Factors that should be considered while buying such systems are:
- Amount of noise
- Electricity consumption
- Recurrent cost
- System height
Eric from placecallhome.com talks more in-depth about every factor and has prepared a complete review of best hydroponic systems in the market right now.