There’s a lot to take into consideration when first starting your journey with hydroponics. From different nutrients to different media, but one of the most important parts has to be the system you use to grow your hydro garden. There are a lot of choices out there, you can buy systems on websites like amazon.com, Googles shopping search, and other personal shop websites. You can, however, save yourself that money and build the hydroponic system! Here are the basics of how each system works.
The most common system out there is the drip system.
Being the easiest system to use makes this the most popular system to own.
All the nutrients you use for your plants are added to the water in the reservoir tank. This tank then uses a network of tubes attached to a pump to water each individual plant. You can connect this pump to a timer and adjust it to the watering cycle you want. This eliminates manual watering!
There are, however, two types of drip systems to chose from; a recovery drip system and a non-recovery drip system.
Ebb and Flow System (Flood and Drain System)
Even easier to use than the drip system is the ebb and flow, or also known as the flood and drain system.
Much like the drip system, the nutrient enriched water is kept separately in a reservoir. But different to the drip system, the plants are all kept in a tray and all share the same water that is periodically pumped up from the reservoir.
When the pump turns on, it floods the plant tray with that nutrient water. Once the try is sufficiently flooded the pump is turned off and the excess water runs back into the nutrient reservoir. Practically runs itself!
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Known for their commercial use, NFT systems are very easy to maintain.
If timers aren’t your thing, NFT could be for you! This system still uses the same separate reservoir technique but does not use the flooding technique that the other two systems do.
The NFT system uses an incline to move the water that is continuously pumped in at one end of the tray, flows under the suspended plants touching the roots, and reaches the other end. Yup, you heard right, continuously pumped! So no timers! Just plug in and go. The drain tube at the other end of the of the tray recycles the water back into the reservoir and is reused. The recommended slope for an N.F.T. system is typically a 1:30 to 1:40 ratio. That is for every 30 to 40 inches of horizontal length, one inch of drop (slope) is recommended. We recommend when designing your N.F.T. systems, you design it so you can adjust the slope while the plants are still growing. That’s because as the root systems get bigger, they may cause it to pool and dam up the water flow.
Airstones are sometimes added to this type of system to oxygenate the water before it reaches the plants.
This is the most complex kind of hydroponic system listed so far. Not recommended for beginners at hydroponics.
Using mist nozzles, water from a reservoir is sprayed at the roots of suspended plants.
With a lot less nutrients reaching the roots at a time, this method must be done more frequently than other methods. The plus side to this type of system is how oxygenated the water is by the time it reaches the roots. The roots also tend to try and cope with these low levels of nutrients by growing much larger root systems in order to collect a larger amount of water and nutrients.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
The easiest hydroponics system by far is the DWC system.
With just a tank of water and nutrient solution, a platform with cut out holes, and a method of oxygenation, you have yourself the base for this hydroponic system! This system does not require any pumps, timers, or tubes. Instead of a reservoir, the plant sits in the water solution absorbing the nutrients.
With no moving water though, you will need air stone to provide oxygen to your plants. You are also better off growing plants that will not mind being continuously submerged in water.
If you’re looking to get a little more advanced than hydroponics, then aquaponics is for you!
Building an entire ecosystem is pretty awesome. This symbiotic ecosystem helps filter the water in a fish tank with fish inside and feeds your plants vital nutrients it needs to grow. Once the plants have filtered the water, the water runs back into the fish tank, clean and ammonia free. Pretty neat right?
After doing your research and figuring out which works best with your skill level and available time to spend, one of these is bound to work for you! Good luck on your hydroponic endeavors!