Have you ever envisioned a future whereby growing of plants would not be limited by climate or seasons? For those of us who love farming, that future is upon us, made possible by the advent of hydroponic gardening systems.
Hydroponics is a branch of hydroculture, which refers to the growing of plants in a soil less environment, or an aquatic based medium.
With hydroponics, plant roots grow not in soil, but in nutrients enriched growing medium.
Growing medium is the substance that supports the root system. This covers a wide variety of substances such as Rockwool, gravel, coconut fiber, vermiculite, and perlite.
Hydroponic farming is a great way for growing plants indoors and in small spaces. Here's why it works so well.
Why Hydroponic Farming works so Well
The reason is simple. If you provide a plant with all the required nutrients in the right amount and at the right time, that plant will grow to be as healthy as is genetically possible.
This has proven to be very difficult to achieve in a soil medium but is not the case with hydroponics.
In a hydroponic system, the plants grow in a medium with a perfectly balanced PH, and the nutrients are provided in a soluble form.
This allows the plants to absorb the nutrients with little or no effort as opposed to a soil medium, where the roots have to search out and extract the nutrients from complex compounds underneath the ground. This process consumes a lot of energy.
Since in hydroponics all nutrients are provided in a highly soluble form, all the energy produced is used in vegetative growth and fruit production. That's why hydroponic plants grow faster and yield better results.
Types of Hydroponic Gardening Systems
There are various types of hydroponic gardening systems in the market today. Though each differs in functionality, in all cases, the nutrients are delivered to the plants via a form of water or hydro delivery system.
Here are six of the most common types of hydroponic gardening systems.
1. Wick Systems
Wick Systems are one of the easiest and the most basic hydroponic systems you can find. Their use date back thousands of years though back then, they were not as valuable as they are today.
These systems can use a variety of growing medium, and in all cases, the nutrients get delivered to the root system through a wick.
They are also known as passive hydroponics because you don't need water or air pumps to use them. Water and nutrients are passed into a plant's roots system through a wick which can be in the form of a rope.
The success of a wicking system depends on your choice of the growing medium. If you choose a growing medium that transports nutrients and water well, like, vermiculite or perlite, you'll get great results.
However, wrong placement of the wick may cause death to your plants. Also, the wick system is best suited for smaller plants. It's not the best for larger plants.
2. Drip Systems (recovery or non-recovery)
Drip systems are perfect for watering multiple crops. They are very common in commercial operations since they are easier and economical to operate in a large scale setup.
The drip system consists of a large reservoir that sits underground and a timer that controls the water pump. The water pump siphons water and nutrients through a system of elevated water jets.
A recovery system collects excess nutrient solution back to the reservoir. A non-recovery system is designed to avoid this so as not to offset the PH balance in the reservoir.
3. Aeroponics Systems
Aeroponics systems are the most "high tech" hydroponic gardening systems around, but they are not that complex once you learn how they work.
In an aeroponic system, the roots are not suspended in water. Rather, they hang in the air where they are misted with nutrient solution.
Just like other hydroponic systems, an aeroponic system comes with a timer that controls the nutrients pump.
The misting of roots is timed and should happen after every few minutes. If the misting cycles are interrupted, the roots could dry out rapidly.
One advantage of an aeroponic system over other hydroponic gardening systems is that the roots get a constant supply of oxygen, which is good for plants growth. However, it's a bit expensive and setting it up is not that easy.
4. Ebb and Flow
Also known as Flood and Drain systems, Ebb and Flow systems are not very common. But they are very efficient and can be your best choice depending on your circumstances.
This system utilizes a timer connected to a submerged pump to control the temporary flooding of the nutrient rich solution. The solution is contained in a roots zone grow tray.
Unlike in other hydroponic systems, Ebb and Flow doesn't expose the root system to a nutrient solution on a constant basis.
Instead, the tray is flooded with a nutrient rich solution a few times a day. Flooding depends on factors such as your plant's water requirements, temperature, and so on.
The excess nutrients solution gets drained back to the reservoir where it gets oxygenated awaiting the next flooding cycle. The Ebb and Flow system is highly customizable and provides an efficient use of water and energy.
5. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System
The NFT system is one of the most advanced hydroponic gardening systems, and it doesn't require a medium. Since it involves a continuous flow of the nutrient solution, it doesn't require a timer either.
The nutrient solution is pumped from the reservoir into a tray where the roots absorb the nutrients from.
When the solution reaches the end of the channel, it flows down to the reservoir where it's recycled and sent back to the growing tray.
The recirculation system ensures less wastage of resources. However, overgrown roots can block the channels.
6. Deep Water Culture Systems
In water culture systems, containers holding the plants are placed inside a floating Styrofoam platform. Through this platform, the roots are directly suspended into the water with nutrients.
Most classrooms use the water culture technique where roots can be observed hanging outside the floating platform.
Since the roots are suspended in the solution, they get a constant supply of oxygen, water, and nutrients. Deep water culture systems are by far the easiest hydroponic systems to use.
Hydroponic systems are here you to stay and have made the growing of crops easier and more convenient in and out of season.
The systems mentioned above are the most commonly used. However, you can expect more systems in the future as studies in the field of hydroponics continue to evolve.
If you want to venture into hydroponic farming, browse our site for the best and affordable containers and grow mediums. We are renowned as one of the fastest growing hydroponic and indoor gardening suppliers in the country.