As a kid we used to dig our nails onto soil and play with worms. Getting hooked with burying seeds, waiting for the first bloom, watering the plants etc. That’s one helluva gardening experience. Looking back at those memories always keeps me “grounded”. It makes me realize that it’s easy to chop down woods but difficult to go green and plant a seed.
It’s a rainy day and I am standing with a cup of coffee in my hand looking out the window. I turn around to take a look at the indoor grow system. Yup it’s the hydroponic one, the one that’s been pushing traditional gardening from its first place. But from my own personal experience, I feel soil gardening is much more relaxing as you get to vent out your emotions a lot. But hey, who am I to say? If you a fan of hydroponics then go ahead and indulge. I am doing it anyway and have come to “like” it (my first love will always be a soil).
Coming back, if you are looking for a hydroponics guide, then I am glad to help you out. Here are few of types of hydroponics that I leave at your discretion to choose for.
Deep Water Culture
This is one of the most convenient and cheap ways of growing plants in hydroponics. Quite a basic type, you can simply start out by planting the cut roots in a simple pot filled with water and keep it near windowsill. The process of sunlight will help you derive rich yields especially the ones you need everyday. Herbs or garnish is easily accessible right at your kitchen.
You might have seen this in classrooms for project as well. A growing platform (piece of Styrofoam) is used to float on top of nutrient reservoir. With aptly cut holes, small pots are used to hold the plant so that the roots grow down as well as feed from the nutrient water below. As the nutrient solution is not circulated it is essential to keep them oxygenated.
Flood and Drain (Ebb ‘n’ Flow)
Another popular system is the ebb and flow hydroponic system that is quite user friendly. They are quite similar to the above type but much more simple to use. It is best recommended for those who are amateurs in the field of hydroponic gardening.
Just like the drip, the ebb and flow uses nutrient reservoir for growing plants. Of course, there are individual tanks, one that acts as a base for growing plants and one for reservoir. A timer needs to be set for periodically watering the plants. When activated, the water pump will flood the grow tray, feed the plants and reverse/drain back to the reservoir. This is quite energy efficient.
The principles behind the hydroponic drip system are relatively simple making them incredibly easy to use. This is one of the reasons why they are quite a hit among many conventional gardeners. In drip system, vital nutrients are added to the water tank. It is kept separate from the growing plants. Water is then pumped up using a chain of tubes that releases nutrient to the plants respectively.
This takes the pain out of manual watering. You can preset the timer as per the desired watering cycle. The best part is with the help of emitter at end of each tube, you can allow more or less watering to different type of plants. This will help in growing different characteristics of plants together suiting their needs.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
NFT or Nutrient Film Technique is often used in commercial hydroponics especially those who want only short harvest. NFT system does not call for a timer. Here the water is pumped to the grow tray in a continuous cycle. The growing chamber is built with a slight steep down that allows the solution to flow down from top end of the grow tray. It trickles down to the reservoir where it is recycled again.
Unlike a regulated timer, the NFT system uses constant flow of nutrients. The slope ensures that the water reaches the water tank safely. This ensures that the grow tray is not flooded and your plants are not overfed. As a matter of fact, only a thin film of nutrient is accessible to the plants – with the roots hanging down at any given point.
The absence of timer inhibits anything going wrong in this type of system. Even the maintenance is quite low. All you have to do is prepare the nutrient solution and turn the pump on. However, since the system can function for a long time without any check, it is better to use air stone in the reservoir to keep the water oxygenated.
It is one of the most advanced hydroponic types. Experts claim that this system could be the answer to food shortages in many countries around the globe.
In aeroponics system the plants are suspended in the air (just like NFT) with the roots below. Here the nutrients are pumped to a tube wherein another high pressure pump sprays this solution as a mist on the roots. As the mist provides only little food to plants, the feeding process takes place more frequently than other hydroponic types. This means you need an advanced timer to pump up the mist at frequent intervals. It also means that the nutrient solution needs to be far more oxygenated than any other hydroponic system to enhance the plant growth. Aeroponics claims to deliver faster growth than any other units. The best part is plants are also able to absorb more nutrients the mist.
This is a combination of two grow systems – plants and fish. Yes, you can actually use live real fish to grow healthy herbage. Far from being a decor, this hydroponic system actually creates an ecosystem that benefits both plants and aquatic life that swim below.
The feces of fish release ammonia that is detrimental for their lives. If they remain in water that is filled with ammonia they will die. Hence it is vital to remove ammonia to keep them healthy. This process is done using bacteria that mixes with the water to create nitrate. Nitrate is one of essential nutrients that promote optimum plant growth. This water is fed to the plants. While plants absorb the water, they remove the toxins from the water thus purifying it for fish to breathe easily.
Quite a devious idea, ain’t it? While fish benefit the plants by delivering a natural fertilizer, the plants in turn refresh the water for fishes to swim free. Which fish does not love clean and fresh water? As I said, aquaponics is a complex ecosystem that is also effective. It is also one of the best ways to interest your kids in another wonderful hobby.