Hydroponics is growing plants in water medium. There is no soil used and all the nutrients for the plants are coming from the water. It saves you gallons of water every year and could get the same or even better yield year after year. Many might think that hydroponics is a complicated technique, in real; it is simple that you can even make one of your own. This simple technique can bring the garden right inside your home and have a flourishing growth of fruits, vegetables, flowers or any other plant types.
What is hydroponics system?
Hydroponics system is a collection of a water reservoir, plant growing net pots, substrates for the root system, a water pump, aeration pump, nutrients, lighting system, and other essential controlling devices as per requirement. The basic unit could be a single plant growing system or the 4 plant unit or an 8 plant hydroponic unit.
The hydroponics unit uses no soil for the growing and thus safe from many diseases, pesticides and use of other chemicals. Hydroponics is as pure as or better than the organic farming. Here you could eat the fruits and vegetables directly from the plant without even washing.
Hydroponics system brings the nature closer to the man. It makes the best practical solution for indoor gardens when there is no space for a real garden outside. The plants can be safer growing inside the controlled environment than in the polluted outside.
Advantages of hydroponics systems
- The biggest advantage is that the nutrients are fed to the plants and that they no longer need to spend energy looking for the nutrients. This helps in faster growth.
- There is also less competition between the plants which makes them uniform in growth to have simultaneous harvesting of the plants that were planted together.
- The nutrients are mixed in the water only as much is necessary. This saves the nutrients as well as the water. When the water runs out of the nutrients, you can use the same water batch for up to a week before refilling the reservoir.
- Plants have fewer encounters with diseases and pests which help them preserve the vitamins, minerals and all kinds of nutrients in them.
- Season becomes irrelevant with an automated hydroponics system indoors. With these systems you can grow any type of plants regardless of the climatic conditions outside.
- Hydroponics unit allows you the flexibility in controlling the environmental changes inside the unit according to the type of plants growing. The same system could be used to grow different types of plants. This is applicable when the plants of similar characteristics and requirements are grown together.
- The hydroponics system can be fully automated with all the working happening o its own, leaving you time to spend your time as you wish. A fully automated system can go on working for a week if provided with enough nutrients and the climatic conditions set.
Different hydroponics techniques
There are basically 6 different types of hydroponic techniques. The technique differs in how the nutrient rich water reaches the root system of the plants. It could be drip by drip, deep water culture, ebb and flow, aeroponics, NFT, or the wick system. Each of these techniques has its ups and downs. It all depends on the type of plant that grows in these system makes it suitable. The difference is also seen in their design but the basic working concept is the same, to feed the plants through the water.
Aeroponics the darling of modern gardening
Aeroponics is the latest trend and the most convenient of all. This technique of hydroponics could be used anywhere and especially in the areas where the air is rather dry. It is also the best way to keep the plants moist al the while. The technique is to spray the nutrient rich water droplets on to the root system and letting it absorb.
The biggest advantage is that it uses far less amount of water than other hydroponics method. The root system gets plenty of air around and keeps it dry as much as needed. This will reduce the possibility of many diseases.
This is the technology that is used for a small square area to a large wall of a big office building. Aeroponics is the real idea behind all those living walls you might have come across the malls and other high roofed buildings. It could be used at home for a herb garden or as a living décor piece on the wall.
Plants that are most suitable foe aeroponics system are the leafy green vegetables and herbs, vine plants, flowering plants such as marigolds, morning glory, sunflowers, polygonum, petunia etc.
Drip system requires a small pipe attached at the base of the stem, from where tiny water droplets are dropped on to the root system. Instead of using a large amount of at a time, this technique will keep the root moist all the time. The excess water will be flowing down into the reservoir. The technique enables the plants to survive in hot arid areas. The quantity of the water coming out of the pipes can be controlled.
Run the drip system 3-4 times in a week during hot season and once in cold season. It must be run longer but less frequently. Depending on the amount of water coming out, run it for 12 minutes to 90 minutes each time.
Tomatoes are the best option to grow with drip systems. Other herbs like chives that need more moisture to grow would do well in this type of hydroponics systems.
Ebb and flow system
Ebb and flow technique is to provide the nutrient rich water up to neck level of the root system and keeping them submerged for a specific period of time. After this time, the water is completely drained to allow drying time for the roots. This system could be beneficial for growing larger plants or medium sized trees. The flexibility to have larger pots with this system makes the difference from other types. The best suitable plants to grow in ebb and flow hydroponics systems are, water melon, cantaloupe, celery, chives, oregano etc to name some. Most of the herbs could be pooled together to grow in an ebb and flow system. But make sure to have the mint separate from others as it can grow its roots faster than you can imagine and could crowd the system.
Nutrient Film Technique- NFT
NFT is a simple technique where the nutrient water is run as a thin film along the root system, constantly. The water will be flowing continuously and in case there is any stoppage, it could dry out the plants soon enough. The pants are grown in tubes through which water will be flowing constantly.
Here, extreme care must be taken to allow free flow of the water all the time. Otherwise the clogged water could cause root rot of the plants.
Plants that are prone to root rot and need less root humidity are the best choice to grow with NFT. Strawberries, blueberries, lettuce, basil, etc are some of the suitable plants for NFT hydroponics.
Wick system is the simplest of all and works without a water pump to water the plants. Here the plants are grown in a bucket or container placed inside another that has the nutrient solution. The nutrient water is drawn upwards through a wick system that would be connected between these two holders.
Wick system works well for the plants that are small and does not require too much of water and not much care of nutrients for their growth, this system is slow to provide the nutrients but the plants are capable of healthy growing as it is.
Deep water culture
In deep water culture, the plant roots are practically drenched in water all the time. The root system will be in constant contact with the nutrient solution and there is no water ‘flow’ to speak of. The net pots are set to have the root system immersed in the nutrient water. The water is changed whenever needed. Just make sure that only the root system is in contact with water and not the net pots. This helps keep the substrate drier. Lettuce and other herbs that need lots of water makes a good bet for deep water culture and so do radishes.
Choosing hydroponics system is tricky. First decide where you will be having the system set up, check the space availability, choose the plant type and then go for the best hydroponic system to grow it. It should never be the reverse. This would only increase your chances of failure with the gardening. Also make sure that you have got all that are needed for the growing. Small trials and errors are accepted with hydroponics but one wrong step could cause the damage to the entire growing plants is a scary thought. Be careful, pay attention, and have a blasting time with your indoor gardening.