Hydroponics is the science and art of gardening without soil. Hydroponics is derived from Latin and means “working water”. Without soil, water functions to supply oxygen, nutrients, hydration and other vital elements to plant life. From jalapenos to watermelons to orchids, plants flourish in the rigors of hydroponics. Using minimal space, 90% less water than conventional agriculture and a clever design, hydroponic gardens grow stunning flowers and beautiful fruits in a fraction of the time.
Although hydroponics may seem like modern technology, the origins of hydroponics is rooted in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it dates back to the ancient world. The Euphrates River was channelized to channels that ran down the garden walls. Marco Polo, a 13-year-old writer from Italy, wrote about floating gardens in China. Hydroponics isn’t a brand modern technology. In the 90s, NASA grew aeroponic bean seeds in zero gravity on a space station, opening the possibility of sustainable farming in space. Hydroponics is a timeless and dynamic method for conserving water and crop production.
What is hydroponics exactly?
Hydroponics Hydroponics refers to the cultivation of plants using only water and no soil. The hydroponic plants as well as vegetables, herbs and other plants are planted in inert growing media and provided with nutrients-rich solutions, oxygen, and water. This system allows for faster growth, higher yields, and superior quality. If a plant is grown in soil, its roots are perpetually searching for the necessary nutrition to support the plant. The plant doesn’t need to use any energy to sustain itself when its root system is directly exposed to nutrients and water. The plant’s growth can be made more energy efficient by investing the energy the roots expended in getting water and food. Foliage growth is encouraged as are the flowering and fruiting of flowers.
The plants sustain themselves through a process called photosynthesis. The green pigment chlorophyll that is found on the leaves of plants captures sunlight. They use light’s energy for the breaking down of water molecules that they’ve taken through their root system. Hydrogen molecules react with carbon dioxide to produce carbohydrates, which plants need to sustain themselves. This is a critical step in maintaining the planet’s habitability. To photosynthesize the plant, they don’t require soil. They require soil to provide the nutrients and water. It is possible to add nutrients to the plant’s root systems through flooding, misting, or the immersion of nutrients if they’re dissolved in water. The hydroponics revolution has proven that the direct application of nutrient-rich water is a more effective and versatile way to grow than traditional irrigation.
What does hydroponics look like?
Hydroponic systems work by allowing minute control over environmental conditions like temperature and pH balance and maximized exposure to water and nutrients. Hydroponics operates under a very simple concept: give the plants with exactly what they require when they need it. Hydroponics provides customized nutrition solutions to each plant. You can regulate the amount and duration the plants get light. The pH levels can also be adjusted and controlled. Plant growth is accelerated in highly customized, controlled conditions.
Many risk factors can easily be managed by you. The environment that plants grow in is a major factor in their health and growth. Diseases of plants can be transmitted through fungi in the soil. Wildlife such as rabbits can eat the vegetables that you grow in your garden. Pests that eat crops like locusts are capable of taking out crops in just a few hours. Hydroponic systems can remove the uncertainty that comes with growing plants outside and in the earth. Seedlings mature quicker if they’re not subject to the mechanical resistance of soil. Hydroponics produces healthier, better-quality fruits and vegetables by removing pesticides. With no obstacles, plants are free to expand rapidly and vigorously.
What are the components of a hydroponics system?
In order to maintain a healthy hydroponic system, you’ll need to become acquainted with the components that help hydroponics work efficiently.
Media that is growing
Inert media supports the weight of hydroponic plants and anchors the root structure. Growing media is the alternative to soil, but it doesn’t provide any independent nutrition to the plant. Instead, the porous medium retains nutrients from the solution and then delivers them to the plant. Many growing media can also be pH neutral and won’t alter your nutrient solution. There are many different media that are available. Your hydroponic system and plant will determine which media works best for you. Hydroponic gardening media is available at both local nurseries and garden stores and online.
Air pumps and air stones
Plants are susceptible to drowning when submerged in water. Air stones disperse tiny bubbles of oxygen dissolved throughout your nutrient solution reservoir. These bubbles also distribute the dissolved nutrition equally. Air stones cannot produce oxygen on their own. These stones need to be connected to an external pump by transparent food-grade plastic tubing. The opacity will stop algae growth from setting in. Air stones and air pumps are popular aquarium components and can be purchased easily at pet stores.
net pots have mesh planters that can hold hydroponic plants. Since the latticed material permits roots growth from the sides and bottom they provide more oxygen and nutrients. Net pots provide superior drainage, as opposed to clay or plastic pots.
What are the six kinds of hydroponic system are available?
There are hundreds upon hundreds of hydroponic methods, but they all come from the same six hydroponic systems.
1. Deep water culture systems
Hydroponics for deep water culture are basically plants that are suspended in aerated water. DWC systems, also known as deep water cultivation systems, are among the most popular methods of hydroponics. DWC systems have net pots that hold plants suspended over an oxygen-rich reservoir. The solution keeps the roots of plants well-hydrated and provides them with constant access to nutrients, water and oxygen. The cultivation of deep water is thought to be the most pure form of hydroponics.
Because the root system is constantly suspended in water, oxygenation of the water will be vital for the plant’s health. The plant will die if it doesn’t get enough oxygen. For oxygenation of the whole system, attach an airstone to an air pump in the reservoir. The nutrient solution can also be circulated thanks to the bubbles produced by the airstone.
It’s simple to put the deep water cultivation system at home or in a classroom. To make the net pots, you can make use of an old aquarium or a clean bucket. DWC plants shouldn’t have their roots submerged into the solution. You should never let any part of the stem, or the vegetation, be submerged by the solution. Even the roots should be left about an inch and half above the waterline. The air stone bubbles will pop out of the surface and splash down onto the roots that are exposed, meaning they won’t be in danger of drying out.
What are the benefits of deep water culture systems
- Very low maintenance After the DWC system has been set up, it’s extremely easy to maintain. Just replenish the nutrient solution when required and ensure that the pump is pumping oxygen to the air stone. The nutrient solution typically only needs replenishing every 2-3 weeks, however this can depend on the size of your plant.
- DIY appeal Deep water culture is inexpensive and simple to construct.
What are the downsides to deep-water culture systems?
- Restrictions: Deep-water culture systems are excellent for growing lettuce and herbs however they struggle to produce larger and more slow-growing plants. DWC systems aren’t ideal for flowering. With some effort, however it is possible to grow tomatoes, bell peppers and squash inside the DWC-system.
- Control of temperature It is important that the temperature of the water solution not exceeds 60°F or 68°F. DWC systems are static, meaning that the water is not circulating. This makes it harder for you to control the temperature.
2. Wick systems
In a wick-based system plants are tucked into growing media on a tray that sits on top of the reservoir. The reservoir is filled with a water solution that contains dissolved nutrients. The wicks move from the reservoir to get to the growing tray. The wick is then flooded with water and nutrients that then cover the soil around the plant’s roots. Wicks can be constructed from just rope, string or felt. This is by far the easiest method of hydroponics. Wick systems can be classified as hydroponics that are passive, meaning that they do not require pumps or other mechanical parts. This makes it ideal in instances where electricity is not available or unreliable.
The capillary action process is the reason wick systems work. The wick absorbs and transfers the nutrients from the water it’s submerged in. Hydroponic wick systems hydroponics work only if it’s supported by media which can aid in the transfer of nutrients and water. Coco coir (fibers formed from the coconut’s outer husks) has great moisture retention and is pH neutral. Perlite is pH neutral. It’s extremely porous and therefore can be used in wicking systems. Vermiculite is extremely porous, has a high percentage of cation exchange. This means it is able to store nutrients for later uses. These growing media are ideal for hydroponic wick systems.
Wick systems are quite slow when compared with other hydroponic systems, which does limit what is practical to grow with them. Be sure to have at minimum one wick per growing tray. These wicks must be placed near the roots of the plant. Although they can function with aeration, many people opt to include an air stone or air pump to the wick system’s reservoir. This will add oxygen to the hydroponic system.
What are some of the advantages of a wick system for your business?
- Simplicity A basic system for wicks can be set up by any person. It does not require much care after it has been operating. The wicks will constantly provide your plants with water, which means there’s no chance of them drying out. There will be the growth of lettuce when you have wicks, providing you with an excellent return on your investment.
- Space-efficientWick systems are able to be put anywhere as they don’t require electricity. This system is ideal for educators, beginners or anyone else who would like to learn more about the world of hydroponics.
What are the disadvantages of wick systems?
- LimitationsLettuce (and other herbs such as rosemary and mint) are fast-growing and don’t require large amounts of water. Tomatoes, on contrary, struggle to thrive in a wick system because of their high demand for nutrients and hydration. Other plants are not able to thrive in an environment that is perpetually moist. A wick system won’t let root vegetables like carrots or turnips to thrive.
- Highly susceptible to Rot. The hydroponics wick system is always moist and humid. This makes it more likely that fungal diseases and rot could develop within the organic growth medium or in the root.
3. Nutrient film technique systems
The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) suspends plants above a stream that continuously discharges the nutrient solution. The water is then washed across the root. The channels that keep the plants tilted allow water to run down their length before draining into the reservoir. The reservoir is then airstone-aerated. Submersible pumps then move the nutrient-rich water out of the reservoir to the top of channel. The technique of nutrient film is a recirculating hydroponics system.
An NFT system isn’t similar to deep-water hydroponics. The roots of the plants are not immersed in water. Instead the stream (or “film”) is only flows over the ends of the roots. The roots’ tips will draw moisture up to the plant, while the root system that is open has plenty of oxygen. Since the bottoms of channels have grooved edges, the thin film can easily flow over the root tips. This prevents water getting into the channels and causing dams on the root systems.
Although nutrient film technology systems constantly recycle water, it is recommended to flush the reservoir frequently and replenish the nutrients solution every once a week. This will ensure your plants get adequate nutrition. The slope of the NFT channels must be gradual. The water will not nourish the plants if the slope is not steep enough. In excess water could cause the channel to overflow and the plants could drown. NFT hydroponics is a popular commercial method because it can support several plants in a channel and can be quickly mass-produced. Systems using nutrient films are best for lighter plants like spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, and mustard greens. The heavy fruiting plants like cucumbers and tomatoes might require trellises to support their weight.
What are the benefits of a nutrient film technique system?
- Consumption is low: Since NFT hydroponics recirculate the water they don’t require huge amounts of nutrients or water to function. Since the water is constantly flowing, salts cannot accumulate on the roots. Nutrient film techniques are also not dependent on growing media, so you are saved the expense of buying media as well as the hassle of changing it.
- Modular design: Nutrient film technique systems are ideal for commercial and large-scale projects. It is easy to increase the size of your greenhouse after you have one channel functioning. Multiple channels can be used to support different crops within your greenhouse. It is advisable to ensure to ensure that every channel is fed with its own reservoir. This way, if pump failure occurs or illness spreads through the water, you will not lose the entire operation.
What are the disadvantages of the use of a nutrient film?
- Pump failure: Your plants will be dry when the pump stops functioning and the channel fails to circulate the nutrient films. Without water supply the entire crop could be dead within a matter of hours. A NFT hydroponic system requires constant monitoring. You should be vigilant about checking the performance of the pump.
- Overcrowding can lead to obstruction of the channel when roots are growing too quickly or are spaced too tightly. If the channel is blocked by roots, water will be unable to flow through and your plants will starve. This is particularly true for those plants that are located at the bottom of the channel. If the plants near the bottom appear to be performing poorly in comparison to the other plants Consider removing certain plants or moving to a smaller unit.
4. Ebb and flow systems
Ebb, also known as flow hydroponics, is a method of filling a growing bed with nutrient solutions from below. A timer is fitted in the submersible pumps within the reservoir. As the timer begins it will fill the growing bed with water and nutrients. After the timer is over the gravity gradually drains all the excess water out of the beds and flushes it back into the reservoir. The system is fitted with an overflow tube that will ensure flooding doesn’t surpass a certain level and damage the fruits and stalks of the plants. In contrast to the other systems described, the plants in an ebb and flow system are not constantly being exposed to water. The growing bed is submerged and the plants absorb the nutrients via their root systems. The roots become dry when the water recedes and the bed becomes empty. The dry roots then oxygenate during the time before the next flood. The length of interval between floods is determined by the size of your grow bed and the dimensions of the plants.
Ebb-and-flow systems, also referred to as flood or drain systems, are among the most popular hydroponic growth methods. The plants benefit from a high level of nutrition and oxygen which encourages rapid and vigorous growth. The ebb-and flow system is a flexible and easy configurable. It can be filled with a variety of net pots, as well as various fruits and veggies. More than other system for hydroponics the ebb and flow method lets you to play around with your plant and media.
Ebb and flow systems are able to be used to grow almost any kind of plant. The size of your grow tray and depth are the main drawbacks. Root vegetables will need more space than lettuce or strawberries. Popular ebb-flow crops include peas, tomatoes and beans, as well as peppers, cucumbers, and carrots. Actually, you can even attach trellises directly to the growing bed. Hydroponics with ebb and flow is an extremely popular method of growing plants. They are simple to wash, reuseable and light. This is an essential feature for ebb flow systems.
What are the benefits of an ebb-flow system?
- Versatility When you have an electronic flow system, you can grow more plants than other systems for hydroponics. Ebb and flow hydroponics is extremely well-liked by flowers, vegetables and fruits. You will get a bountiful harvest if you are careful to provide your plants with the right sized grow bed, nutrition and other essential items.
- DIY appeal: You could build your own ebb flow hydroponic systems at home in many different ways. You can get everything you require at your local hardware and pet shop to build an ebb and flow setup. Although they are more costly to set up than other DIY systems like wick and deep water culture, flow and ebb systems support a greater scope of plants than they could.
What are the benefits of an ebb/flow system?
- Pump failure: Like any other hydroponics system, if your pump fails and your plants are affected, they will perish. Monitoring the flow system is essential to ensure that your plants are healthy. Your plants won’t receive sufficient nutrients or water if the water rushes in and out too quickly.
- Root diseases and rotSanitation is essential for an effective ebb and flow system. Rot, root diseases, and other problems can occur when the bed doesn’t drain correctly. An unclean flow and ebb system could produce mold and attract insects. Inattention to cleaning your garden could result in low crop yields. Some plants are not capable of enduring rapid changes in pH caused by extreme flooding or draining.
5. Drip systems
In a hydroponic drip system the aerated and nutrient-rich reservoir pumps solution through a network of tubes to the individual plants. This solution slowly drips into the root system of each plant. It keeps them moist and well-nourished. Drip systems are the most popular and widespread method of hydroponics, particularly among commercial growers. Drip systems are used to water individual plants or large areas.
There are two kinds of drip system hydroponics. In systems that are recovering, which is more popular with small, home-based growers, excess water is taken out of the growing bed and returned to the reservoir to be recirculated in the following drip cycle. Systems that do not have recovery let the excess water run through the media before it is released to the outside environment. This method is preferred by commercial growers. Although a drip system that doesn’t recover seem wasteful, large-scale growers are careful with water consumption. These drip systems are designed solely to provide the quantity of solution needed to keep the growth media around the plant dampened. Non-recovery drip systems use complicated timers and feeding plans to minimize the amount of waste.
It is necessary to adjust to fluctuations in the pH of the nutrient solution if you are growing plants in a recovery drip system. This applies to all systems that allow wastewater to be recirculated back into the storage tank. The plants will reduce the amount of nutrients in the solution and alter the balance of pH, so the grower must monitor and adjust the solution reservoir more than they would require in a non-recovery system. A growing medium that is saturated can cause problems, so it is essential to clean and change them frequently.
What are the benefits of drip systems?
- Many choices for plants: A drip irrigation system can hold more plants than other hydroponic systems. This is why it’s attractive to commercial growers. A properly-sized drip system can be utilized to support a variety of plants, including melons, pumpkins and onions. Drip systems can hold more of growing media than other systems do, which allows them to help support the bigger root systems of these plants. Drip systems are best used with slow-draining media such as coco coir and rockwool.
- Scale: Large-scale hydroponics operation are possible using drip systems. Growers can add additional plant by connecting new tubing to reservoir. New crops can be introduced into an existing drip system, as additional reservoirs can be added with differing timer schedules tailored to fit the needs of the plants. This is another reason why drip systems are very popular in commercial hydroponics.
What are the cons of a drip-system?
- MaintenanceIf your home is not a recovery system, it will require some attention. It is important to monitor the levels of nutrient and pH in the solution. You will need to drain and replace when necessary. Debris and plant matter can block recovery system lines, so it’s important to regularly clean and flush them.
- ComplexityDrip Systems are simple to create complex and intricate. This is not as important for professionals hydroponics but it is still not the ideal system for home growers. There are a variety of simple systems, such as ebb and flow, that lend themselves better to at-home hydroponics.
Aeroponics systems suspend plants in the air and expose the naked roots to a nutrient-filled mist. Aeroponics systems are enclosed frameworks such as towers or cubes which can house a multitude of plants simultaneously. Water and nutrients are stored in a reservoir, and then pumped to a nozzle that atomizes the solution and distributes it as a fine mist. The mist is usually discharged from the top of a tower, which allows it to to fall into the chamber. Certain aeroponics continuously spray the root system with mist similar to the way the NFT systems expose the roots to the nutrient movie constantly. Other systems spray the roots regularly with mist, more similar to the ebb/flow system. Aeroponics doesn’t require any kind of substrate to survive. The constant exposure of the roots lets them absorb oxygen and grow at a much faster pace.
Aeroponics systems consume less water than other types of hydroponics. Aeroponics uses 95% less water than an irrigation plant. Vertical gardens is designed to use less space and allow the towers to be housed in one location. With aeroponics, great yields can be achieved even in confined areas. Additionally, due to the oxygen-rich environment they are exposed to, aeroponic plants grow faster than other hydroponically grown plants.
Aeroponics allows year-round harvesting. Aeroponics is a great way to grow vine plants as well as nightshades (e.g. bells, tomatoes and eggplants), in a controlled setting. Baby greens as well as ginger, watermelons, and strawberries all thrive in an aeroponic setting. However, fruiting trees cannot not be grown in aeroponically because they are too large and heavy.