Before we start with the common types of hydroponic gardening, it would be good to start by learning about some basics. For instance, hydroponics is the process of growing plants without using soil. The plants are placed in a water-based solution or a sterile growing nutrient mixture.
Both techniques provide the best delivery of nutrients to the roots of the plants. More so, the sterile growing medium promotes optimal nutrient absorption by the plants.
Plant rooting systems might will endure less stress when grown in such environments, because they no longer have to struggle with the soil. Thus, the plant can convert nutrients into energy much faster. This way, the plant has a higher yield level, and in a short time span.
It is also easy to control the supply of nutrients by using a liquid solution or adjusting the Ph of water to promote growth. More so, one can opt for organic or non-organic nutrients, which help promote plant growth. With that said, hydroponic promotes optimal plant growth benefits.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Hydroponics
The main role of a hydroponic system is to provide the essential requirements required for plant growth. These include nutrients, light, and water. In the best conditions, where all these needs are available, the plant will grow fast, healthy, and produce optimal yield.
Even more, in conditions where the plant does not have the conditions, the yield is often weak, which can lead to bad results. There are many advantages to growing hydroponically, so it might be useful to consider some few key factors:
- Do I want to grow for personal or commercial purposes?
- Which type of plants do you want to grow?
- What is the planned expenditure for the project?
- How much time are you willing to dedicate to the process?
- How much space is available for your gardening needs?
- What is your level of experience?
Common Hydroponic System Types
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
The deepwater culture system is the most basic of active hydroponic systems. You can place most plants in a tray, which is usually made using polystyrene material. The material will float on top of a nutrient solution, which is stored in a tub or reservoir. The roots will then grow into the water.
Optionally you can place the plants in pots or fit them to a lid that fits the tank or tub. Also, you can keep the water oxygenated by using an air stone, which you connect to an air pump. You can connect the pump to this unit by using a tube.
Such a unique design helps to ensure the plant does not get waterlogged, which might cause unnecessary rooting. This would compromise the ability of the plant to absorb nutrients. Plants that benefit highly from this system include lettuces, endives, Asian greens, and more.
This type of approach is, in some cases, known as Aquaponics, and classifies as a water culture system.
Hydroponic Wick System
The wick system traditionally classifies as a passive gardening system. Such a unique structure means that it does not have any moving components, and no electricity is required. It’s the perfect way for gardeners or those on a budget to get going.
This type is the most simple of all hydropic setup. The plants receive nutrients through a wick, which is integrated into the plant and the reservoir. It then soaks up the nutrient solution through this unique connection. More so, the growing medium also helps to absorb nutrients and to also feed the roots of the plant.
Hydroponic Drip System
This is the most common hydroponic system. It involves the transportation of nutrients through a reservoir, and a tube, which is connected to an irrigation pipe. The pipe has the role of the watering the base of the plant.
The drip irrigation technique classifies into two, which are the recovery and non-recovery techniques. The commercial growers prefer non-recovery methods, while DIY growers prefer the recovery approach.
A recovery system involves the use of a timer, which helps to control the pump, which supplies the drip lines. Then, the nutrient solution travels back to the reservoir. While this system is cost effective, the nutrient level might not be adequate, and an accumulation of salts requires added maintenance.
The non-recovery techniques involve a higher amount of nutrients because the nutrient solution is used once. The benefit of this system is that it helps to regulate and maintain the PH. Also, users find it convenient to set timers, and until added solution is required.
Ebb and Flow Systems of Hydroponic
This technique is much more complicated when compared to most types of hydroponic systems. The Ebb and Flow technique involves placing plants in a grow tray with a nutrient solution. Then, you have to place the entire set up in a reservoir.
The system is controlled by a timer, which lets the pump switch on and allow the nutrient solution to flow to the grow tray. It enables the nutrient to solution flow to the tray based on specific time intervals
If the nutrient solution surpasses the normal, the timer will switch off. The nutrient solution will drain off, and this approach is either a recovery or non-recovery system. This means the solution is used once or can be used repeatedly.
Nutrient Film Technique (N.F.T)
In the NFT approach, plants grow in tubes referred to as gullies. They can also be grown in tanks, which provide added space for plant growth.
The grow tray or gully is then positioned at a level high than the reservoir. Then, a channel in the center of the grow tray is made to allow the nutrient solution to travel comfortably.
There is no need for a timer because the pump delivers a constant supply of nutrient-rich solution to the roots. More so, the plants are put in net pots, and with no growing medium required for the setup.
Ventilation in the reservoir occurs through the use of an air pump, which you can connect to an air stone. This helps to ensure the nutrient solution never settles and also supplies the root with the required oxygen for nutrient absorption. Thus, the plant requires less energy to grow and to feed.
Using a submersible pump helps to deliver a continual supply of nutrient-rich solution to the tray. Placing a suitable gap between the plants helps ensure optimal aeration benefits. Once complete, the water travels back into the reservoir. Based on that, this system classifies as a much more efficient approach when compared to the recovery system in the drip method.
This also another common type of hydroponic system. It is also one of the most advanced, and it involves the use of an automated time system. Similar to the NFT approach, this method does not require a growing medium. Plus, this system includes roots in which area suspended in the air, with a mist being produced every few minutes. The mist contains a nutrient-rich solution, which is required for plant growth and development.
Dutch Bucket System
This approach is similar to the Ebb and flow system. It involves the use of single buckets, which are placed in specially made rows. Then a single irrigation line is used to supply nutrients from a higher level, and through a single drainage pipe. This system is perfect for large operations because the single rows are easy to connect to a single line. More so, the line can accommodate many plants, which makes this system ideal for plant development.
Also, since each plant has its bucket, this system is easy to access and allows for the convenient movement of individual plants. With this system, you have to use a growing medium, which will maintain optimal moisture levels. More so, the system should also consider ventilation factors, which are crucial for plant growth.
You can place the reservoir below the buckets, and leverage gravity to ensure the nutrient solution is recovered for repeated use. During this step, you can set the submersible pump, which works to drive the nutrient solution back to the individual buckets on top.
With this system, you want a growing medium that can maintain high levels of moisture and stay well aerated. Good drainage is essential as you want to avoid clogging when nutrients drain back into the reservoir.
The plants also receive oxygen through the use of an air stone and air pump. You also have to perform maintenance regularly. Plus, maintaining the pH and salt levels is crucial for plant growth.
How Hydroponics Works?
Plants grow without soil to help optimize nutrient absorption, which is crucial for plant growth. Thus, the delivery system for the nutrients is vital for the development of the plants. Most hydroponic systems work in the same way, with slight variations in different functions.
A hydroponic system can classify as an active or passive system. The active system means that the nutrients travel through the use of a convenient pump. In the passive system, there no moving parts, and no electricity is required. Any variations in these systems mean that the passive system might need pumps to transport nutrient solution and oxygen.
The other component of these systems is that they include either recovery or non-recovery methods. In other words, some systems reuse the nutrient solution once, while others are discarded after use.
The recovery system involves the recirculation of nutrient solution, which is crucial for plant growth. While non-recovery techniques are more affordable, it can make it challenging to manage if you have many plants.
Components of Hydroponic Systems
Before settling for a specific hydroponic system, consider your budget, and the types of plants you want to grow. The following are some of the critical components to consider for your needs:
- Grow lights – primarily if grown indoors or low light gardens
- Heating systems – during winter or for outdoor gardens
- Growing medium or nutrient solution
- Submersible or air pumps to help transport the nutrient solutions
- Tanks, tubs, containers to help hold the solutions
- Air stones and hoses for convenient use
- Water-soluble, mineral-based, and buffered nutrients required for optimal plant growth
- pH kits and TDS to check the quality of nutrient solutions
Hydroponics is among the modern plant growth techniques today. However, there are many different approaches, and you need to learn about them. Choosing the best method depends on your skills, preferences, types of plants, planned use, and more. Once you can classify this information, you will be in a better position to use the hydroponic system for your plant and gardening needs. Hydroponics is highly efficient because plants don’t have to struggle to find nutrients through the soil.