Growing plants in fields and gardens have been the norm since the discovery of agriculture. For this reason, to practice any other form of plant production that isn’t on the field or gardens will look strange. However, aside from growing it outdoor, there is a new way to grow crops, which is known as hydroponics growing or soilless agriculture.
Hydroponics is a soilless and indoor plant production. This indoor growth system offers many advantages to both the user and the plant. To the grower, it provides privacy while preventing the plant from harsh climatic and environmental factors.
Also, plants that are grown in this medium generally do better than those grown in conventional soil. Over the years, many have used this system to cultivate various vegetables, including tomatoes.
Hydroponics ensures maximum harvest as pests and diseases that affect plants are absent. It also improves crop quality significantly. Read on To find out more about this system, and how it works.
- Hydroponics: How It Works?
- Hydroponics Growing Mediums
- Benefits and Drawbacks of Hydroponics
- Best Plant to Grow in Hydroponics
- Plant To Avoid Growing with Hydroponic System?
- Types of Hydroponics?
Hydroponics: How It Works?
Hydroponics offers several ways to cultivate plants. For one, you can grow plants in plastic containers while adding nutrients via a pump or gravity. This method also known as the Nutrient Film technique ensures that the minerals get to the important spots. If you want a suitable option, swap the soil for sand or Rockwood.
Aeroponics comes as another great way to cultivate in this system. In this type, the crop suspend in space while the roots stay in containers with humid air. Here, they get food from an aerosol, which provides the right amount of nutrients.
You can use hydroponics to grow any plant of your choice. However, some crops perform better, especially with this cultivation system. If you want a good harvest, consider growing fruit crops like berries, herbs, and some vegetables.
Hydroponics Growing Mediums
The growing medium used in this system helps to channel adequate air and support to the plant’s root. It also helps to supply water and nutrients to the crop.
There are several growth media used in this system. In hydroponics types like the flow or Ebb system, one of the rapid draining systems that work effectively is the Hydrocorn or extended shale. These growth mediums are stable, and it hardly affects the nutrient solution pH.
Growers can reuse the two kinds of growth rocks more than once, although with reduced efficiency. For the Hydrocon, this has an enlarged lightweight mass of clay that supports the growth of plants by supplying enough oxygen to the root of the plants. However, comparing the two growth rocks, the shale is likely to spoil than the Hydrocorn, which can last longer.
Another popular growing medium is Rockwool. The material in this case is not the insulation type used in construction, but an horticultural grade. For this media, the user will have to insert the grade into cubes and blocks and press it well.
This material comes as a result of volcanic eruptions of limestone and rock. The elements then pass through a heating process of more than 2500 degree temperature and allowed to melt. The melted liquid goes into a spinning cylinder, the same method used in making cotton candy.
Afterward, the material enters into a similar cube, sheets, or block and then you will need to press to take the shape of the container. Since it holds about 20 percent air bubbles, and more than 13 times water than the soil, this makes it a perfect fit for any hydroponic system.
However, growers need to be more careful when using this growing medium. The reason is that the pH could increase the alkalinity of the nutrient solution since it has a pH of 7.8. Most gardeners can only use Rockwool cubes ones because it’s not reusable.
Some other mediums that will also be effective include vermiculite and perlite, which do not alter the nutrient solution’s pH. It’s best to use these media when the plants are moisture tolerant since it holds too much water.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Hydroponics
- Carry out planting anywhere: Unlike regular gardening, hydroponics allows you to produce a crop in areas without space, soil, or adequate lighting. For this reason, it’s ideal for urban homes with small spaces.
- Easy to Control Crop Growth: With this method, you can manage the supply of food and water to the harvesting point. You will also have a wide selection of ways to perform this gardening system.
- Less work: Compared to regular gardening, hydroponics does not involve a large number of activities. These include weeding, soil aeration, and dealing with pests.
- Uses less water and Nutrient: Since hydroponics systems have closed features, they recycle food and water. With that said, it does not harm the environment since it lessen the carbon footprint needed to make the process work.
- Less transplanting shock: Most soil-grown plants do not grow well, especially after transplanting. But with a hydroponic system, transplanted greenery doesn’t affect the plant growth. The exciting part is that plant grows faster than the ones grown in the soil.
- Produces a bountiful harvest: Do you want an option that provides a year-long supply of fresh fruit? Then, you should go for a hydroponic system. This method bring out about more harvest than any backyard garden.
- Requires constant attention: This system relies on nutrient and water to grow. For this reason, you will have to check on them from time to time. If you go on a trip, you will end up with dead plants.
- Expensive: Operating a hydroponic system does not cost much. However, installing one bring about more expenses. The reason is that you will have to buy several items like containers, fans, pumps, timers, and lightning.
- Hydroponics does not grow every crop: You cannot grow some plants without soil. Also, some plants require enough room to thrive. So if you want to try this style, have a perfect knowledge of the spacing or support requirements of the plant.
- Needs great Insight: Before you can enjoy the benefits of a hydroponic system, you will need to have technical knowledge about it. With that said, this method might not be an easy one for beginners.
- Rely on many systems: Every hydroponic system consists of many components that work together. If one of these parts has issues, the entire device breaks down and leads to withered plants.
- Return is quite Low: If you want to raise crops for sale, the expensive nature of hydroponic equipment supplies might make you consider other options. Also, you cannot determine if you will have a profitable yield.
Best Plant to Grow in Hydroponics
Numerous plants can thrive in the hydroponics system as far as they get access to enough nutrients and proper setup. However, with this system, the plants will require adequate supervision and management to do well. For beginners, it’s better to start hydroponics with plants with great knowledge of it.
Apart from tall trees and shrubs, there are few things you can’t grow in hydroponic systems. Here is a list of them:
- Vegetables: Lettuce, tomatoes, beans, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, kale, artichokes, and peas.
- Herbs: Basil, oregano, chives, and mint
- Cannabis: Weed
- Fruits: Strawberries, hot peppers, blackberries, blueberries, grapes, raspberries, watermelons, and cantaloupes
These plants won’t give much stress to a beginner and would be much fun to grow with a hydroponics system.
Plant To Avoid Growing with Hydroponic System?
Many plants grow well in hydroponics grow tray. However, some of them require extra care and might be better off in regular gardens. So if you want to take up this plant cultivation system, avoid the following plants.
- Crops with deep roots: Deep-rooted plants need room for downward movement. They will also need sturdy materials – like earth – to support the features of their roots. Examples of such crops include turnips, potatoes, and carrots.
- Crops that use excess space: Pumpkins, melons, squash, and corn love large areas. Besides, these plants need surfaces that can cope with their weight. If you prefer these crops, stick to greenhouses or traditional gardens.
Types of Hydroponics?
Hydroponics, in general, has many benefits. But to have a decent harvest, you should get a model that offers impressive qualities. Now let’s show you some of the common types and their best models on the market.
Popular Types of Hydroponics
- Deep Water Culture (DWC)
- Ebb and Flow System
- The Wick System
- Nutrient Film Technique
- Drip System
Read on to get an insight into each type listed above.
1. Deep Water Culture (DWC)
Deepwater culture involves growing plants in a solution. The term deep water culture hydroponics is because the plant roots stay in the water, which contains optimal oxygen and nutrients for plant growth. In this state, the plant is set to complete its life cycle.
The constant contact of the plants with the water is what differentiates the DWC hydroponic system from others. The standard for this system is that the more the water, the less the maintenance. The logic is simple; the more the volume of water, the higher the oxygen concentration. Which means it would take a longer time for the gardener to change the water.
There is a fear that plant roots staying in water for long might cause death due to suffocation. But this system is different, and that does not apply to this system. The water in this medium contains oxygen, which is necessary for plant respiration, thus eliminating suffocation.
Aside from water, this system also contains other factors necessary for proper plant growth and development. These factors include nutrients, temperature, and light intensity.
The air supply in this system remains constant through the aid of an air pump or falling water. This feature allows the air bubbles to rise from the water and nutrient solution contained in the reservoir.
Most times, the growth of plants could reduce in this system as a result of lack of water, nutrients, light, or temperature. But with a constant supply, plant growth in this medium is optimal.
One thing that makes this system runs freely and effectively is the oxygen present in the water. When plants stay in the water without sufficient oxygen, this makes them suffocate, and die rapidly. So, the oxygen system must be working at maximum efficiency daily.
To understand this DWC system designs, let us see how it works.
There are five essential components of this system, an air-stone, air-pump, airline, reservoir, and net-pot.
The reservoir holds the water and nutrients, while the net-pot is the plastic mesh that looks like a cup. This pot Is where the user can insert the plant they want to grow.
For the air system, this comprises of the air-stone, air-pump, and airline. The air pump connects to the airline, which attaches to the air stone. The air- stone is the visible component of the air-system within the reservoir.
The net-pots containing the plant are set up above the nutrient concentration in the reservoir. Once the plant comes in contact with the nutrient solution, this promotes immense growth. Furthermore, due to its mesh feature of the net-pots, the plant’s roots will be able to spread better.
This system is set up in a way that looks more like an outdoor garden. But the plant growth process is quite different. In the field, when plants germinate, the root moves through the soil in search of water and nutrients. But in the DWC system, when the plant sprouts, the roots go down to find an already prepared nutrient solution.
2. Ebb and Flow System
This type of hydroponic system uses powerful recovery features. Here, the reservoir contains a pump while the top tray houses the plants. Furthermore, they grow plants using a flood and drain method.
With such method, the unit supplies the grow tray with excess liquid and clears the solution into the reservoir. To carry out this process, it uses a hidden pump and timer. As for the tank, it holds the minerals and pumps.
Switching on the pump sends the nutrient solution to the top tray. At this part, the roots of the crop can soak up minerals quickly. Experts describe this stage as the “flood cycle,” and it continues for 20 to 30 minutes.
At the end of the cycle, a pipe transfers the liquid back into the tank. Typically, the pump remains active for this process to take place. When the solution reaches the crop, it removes any unhealthy air and replaces it with an oxygen-rich variant. With this, the plants can increase the consumption of nutrients.
You can also set a timer to control the unit automatically. But first, you will have to consider the size and nature of the crop, temperature, and moisture content in the air. You will follow the medium used to cultivate the plant.
If you want to grow your favorite herbs with this hydroponic system, you can use various types of surfaces. Such media include growing rocks, granular rock wool, and gravel. Try raising the greenery in containers filled with such materials, especially if you want to move the plants around quickly.
Even if the Ebb and flow bucket system has excellent features, it has a few drawbacks. First, using growing medium such as gravel, the grow rocks, or perlite can cut the power of the unit and damage the timer or pump.
When this happens, the water cycle stops, and leads to a set of withered plants. You can avoid this problem by filling the grow trays with absorbent materials like coconut fiber, Rockwool, vermiculite, and suitable growing mix.
Unlike some other hydroponic system types, the ebb and flow system requires minimal care. Also, it does a great job of helping your seeds become healthy plants in a short time.
In other word, the Ebb and Flow is low maintenance yet highly effective type of hydroponic gardening Now let’s check out the best systems that the market has to offer.
This system is quite popular, but if you still don’t know what is Aeroponics, here is a great insight into it. Well, the term aeroponics comes from two Greek word “aero,” meaning air, and “Ponos,” which means to work.
However, the concept of Aeroponic farming is simple. Air misting provides the necessary oxygen for plant growth, while nutrient mixture offers nutrients. There is a nutrient spray feature that mists the solution directly to the plant roots.
This is a high-tech hydroponic system compared to the other type. It is difficult to use because the plant is meant to hang in the air while the root is supplied with nutrients through a spraying process.
Furthermore, with this hydroponic type, there is no need for growth mediums like soil. It uses a technology known as air misting to provide the required nutrient needed to keep the plant alive. This process is done repeatedly every few minutes to prevent the plant from drying up as a result of exposure to air.
In this system of hydroponics, the plants go into the provided frames or boards placed horizontally. This board ensures that the roots, the crown, and the top plant are in the open air. For this reason, the plant will grow to its optimal height, both on its root and shoot.
This hydroponic type uses a closed system, so no nutrient or moisture is lost. Furthermore, plants receive nutrients in the form of mist, which is a combination of nutrients and water. But the gardener is to ensure that the plant gets the right amount of mist on the roots at the right time.
Like other hydroponic systems, aeroponic farming uses a timer setting. This feature controls the nozzle that sprays the nutrient solution.
To achieve optimal plant yield, growth, and development, ensure to carefully follow the instruction manual provided in any Hydroponics.
Aeroponics is suitable for individuals that don’t have adequate ground spaces to practice farming. In other words, you don’t need a large mass of land or interior space to use this gardening system.
The best part is that plants grow faster, and it has more growth cycles than usual. What’s more is the Aeroponic system also regulates light and temperature, and this helps to achieve robust growth.
One of the downsides to this system is that it is expensive to acquire. Also, user will need to check the mist dispensing mechanism often, to ensure that it is working properly.
Overall, this system makes plants grow fasters. They grow optimally and have more qualities compared to when you grow plant in other hydroponics types.
4. Wick System
Four major parts make up this type of hydroponic unit. They include a grow tray, aeration system, wick, and reservoir.
Anyone can install and use a wick system, especially without professional help. For this reason, you can take it to be the best beginner hydroponic system for beginners on the market. The processes needed to cultivate crops with this system are also easy to understand.
Unlike other systems, this tool does not include moving parts. Instead, it works by using rope or fabric to draw minerals from the hydroponic reservoir. With this process, the root of the plants remains well-fed and healthy.
Luckily, a wick system does not use timers or pumps that can make it expensive. Furthermore, it is a good fit for growing parsley and basil. But since this tool offers a reduced supply of oxygen to the plant roots, it stands as the inferior choice for cultivating such crops.
As expected, this tool does not use soil to grow plants. Instead, you will have common wick materials like coconut fibers, vermiculite, pro-mix, and perlite.
So how does a wick system work? Here, it uses capillary action to draw and supply the crop with nutrients. For a better understanding, try seeing the wick as a sponge that sucks up liquids.
Well-made systems have wicks that can provide adequate water to a plant. Typically, the crop stays in a container located on top of another vessel that houses the hydroponic reservoir. With this setup, the nutrients can reach the growing materials quickly.
If you watch closely, you will notice that the hydroponic wick system reminds us of the Lettuce Raft style. But the raft style does not absorb water with a wick. Instead, the roots will stay in the reservoir.
You can use a wick system to grow herbs like rosemary or even lettuce. When it comes down to it, these plants do not require excess water. But if you love growing water-loving plants like tomatoes, choose other hydroponic indoor growing systems.
Asides these types of crops, massive-sized plants tend to consume the nutrient solution quickly. This issue makes a wick system a poor choice for such greenery.
5. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Like most Hydroponic Systems in General, the Nutrient Film technique has powerful recovery features.
NFT hydroponic system is one of the popular methods of soil-free gardening, which requires a steady supply of nutrients. With this in mind, the pump does not need a timer.
Under this method, the nutrient solution flows through a pipe, travels over the roots, and returns to the tank. Commonly, these cycles occur for 24 hours.
Compared to other hydroponic systems, this style of indoor gardening has complicated features in this unit, the tank supplies oxygen-rich liquid into the planting tube. To allow the solution to make a complete cycle, you will need to set PVC pipe you want to use at a slanted angle.
A grow basket or support collar holds your plants in place. If you choose the basket, it consists of gaps that allow the crop plants to reach the nutrient solution. Instead of a growth medium, the unit offers air, and this erases the need for medium replacements.
Sometimes, the liquid might not flow effortlessly from the planting. When this happens, it stays at the pipe, thus allowing bacteria that can harm the plants to thrive.
Besides that, these conditions encourage the growth of thicker roots that can also stop the free flow of the solution. You can avoid this problem by setting the pipe at a steep angle so that the liquid travels quickly.
Apart from clogged pipes, indoor growers might not know how to adjust the functions of the unit. For instance, NFT products have issues of power failures and damaged pumps. Due to these problems, the roots will not receive adequate nutrients and dry out in the process.
As mentioned earlier, this method of gardening does not use a growing medium. So the plants do not have a secondary source to get food and water. Overall, any break in the transfer of the liquid leads to unhealthy roots and dead herbs or flowers.
If you ignore these problems, you will discover the fantastic benefits of NFT. For one, you can enhance various parts of the system. You can achieve this task by punching more holes – in the planting tube to contain more plants.
If you don’t feel comfortable with this enhancement, simply add extra planting tubes to the setup. Will the new options affect the system? Since the pump and the reservoir can cope with the load, you shouldn’t have any problems.
6. Drip Systems
This Hydroponic system uses drips for the supply of water and nutrients, and one of the popularly used types. In this system, it has a reservoir that contains a submersible pump connected to supply, which directs the nutrient to the plant.
This hydroponic system features a drip emitter used to regulate the nutrient supplied to each plant. The control is quite easy as it uses timer settings, which allow the pump to push in the required nutrient through a narrow drip line.
There are two types of drip system- the recovery and non-recovery type. The recovery time has a drip tray under the row of plants. This tray collects the un-absorbed water and sends it back to the reservoir. The non-recovery type disposes of the excess liquid by allowing it to run into the ground.
The recovery system is usually the best drip irrigation kit because of its efficient use of nutrients. The best part is that it does not waste excess solution, rather it recycles them for future use. The recovery system houses a pocket-friendly timer, but this feature does not need stringent control for plant growth.
Unlike the recovery type system, the non-recovery system heavily depends on the use of timer control. This feature is to ensure that the watering cycles are accurate, and the loss of nutrients is minimal.
A downside of the recovery system is that it requires proper maintenance. Also, the excess solution recycled could make the pH and nutrient strength of the reservoir vary. For this reason, it requires regular checking of the solution to ensure top-notch performance.
On the other hand, the non-recovery system is easy to maintain. All the gardener needs to do is add more nutrients and water to the reservoir, and the let timer control setting does the work.
The challenge facing the drip system generally is blockage of the drip holes. This blockage is a product of large particles present in the nutrient mix.
For this system, Rockwool, pear moss, or coconut coir are the best slow draining medium used to regulate the drip flow. But any other growing medium will work great.
Plant production is evolving daily with the discovery of better ways to produce plants. Hydroponics ensures climatic and environmental factors or space does not limit planting. The six popular systems of hydroponics we discussed above have their strengths and weaknesses.
The drip system ensures optimal crop production but would be labor-intensive. The reason is that you have to control the flow of nutrient solution to the roots of plants.
The deepwater culture hydroponics system gives the plants water, oxygen, and nutrients all year round. But users will need to change the water often and is usually expensive to set it up.
The Wick system is one of the best for beginners, since its set up and planting process is very easy to carry out. The only downside is that it is not suitable for large size gardening.
The mini aeroponics system, or larger models, involves growing plants in an air medium. This system is very productive, but quite expensive and highly technical.
For the Nutrient Film technique, it doesn’t use growing medium, which mean it erases the problem related to disposal, supply, cost. But if there is a breakdown or blockage of the flow process, this could make the plant dry out and die.
Ebb and Flow system is also another hydroponic system that is quite affordable. Also, it is easy to handle that’s if you set everything right. The biggest problem of this system is that the flood drain could get faulty, thus flooding the plants.
With all these mentioned above, it is advisable to go for the type and the best hydroponic models that you can handle.