Hydroponics can be used as a buzzword and also to describe a method. You’ve heard that with it, it is possible to grow indoors, achieve amazing yields very quickly, and extend the growing season. If you’re environmentally oriented, it's likely you have even heard about not needing pesticides or herbicides and about the efficiency of nutrient recycling. However you’ve heard about it, you may be a little clueless as to how it works, but excited to learn about what constitutes a hydroponic system.
There are some different basic systems in hydroponics: the drip system, the deep water culture, the nutrient film technique, and the ebb and flow system. The drip system is well-liked and simple to implement, and works well for large plants. In a drip system, plants are placed in a non-soil growing medium such as gravel, rockwool, perlite, coconut coir, L.E.C.A., higromite or vermiculite, then suspended in baskets. Water and nutrient solution are pumped to the growing medium from a reservoir using a basic plumbing set-up, enabling the solution to then drip through the medium. There are different ways to set up the drip system; you can choose to set it up without or with automatic, timed pumps and with or without a recirculation system that funnels excess solution back to the reservoir.
Another hydroponic system, the deep water culture or direct water culture, involves the immersion of plant roots in oxygenated, nutrient dense water. For this system you need an air pump, and it is common to use a net pot to suspend the plant in the water in the bucket. In the net pot, many gardeners use L.E.C.A. (lightweight expanded clay aggregate) for the roots to secure themselves since they immerse in the water-nutrient system. The trick with this system is to ensure that the water is adequately oxygenated to keep the plant alive and healthy. The advantage to this system is the continuous availability of nutrients.
Nutrient film technique or NFT has been promoted as the system that has the best balance of oxygen, water and nutrients, but this technique is not recommended for beginners. The plants are grown, bare-rooted, in watertight channels in which a thin stream of nutrient-laden water is constantly circulated and recirculated. The thinness of the stream is meant to ensure that the top part of the root mat will always be exposed to oxygen, while the bottom has a steadily obtainable supply of nutrients and water. The secret with NFT is to establish the right channel slope, correct channel length, and proper flow rate.
Another simple hydroponic system, the ebb and flow system, utilizes a tray that is filled with a growing medium and a water-nutrient solution is pumped into it to flood the tray periodically. A holding tank under the tray allows the solution to drain back out through the same tube using the force of gravity. This system isn't necessarily in favor with large commercial growers, however it is well-liked by quite a few hobbyists and gardeners for its simplicity. Maintaining a proper pH level of the of the recirculating water to ensure healthy plants and regular and thorough water drainage as well as the need to ensure your plants do not suffer from pathogens which can cause root rot are the challenges faced with the ebb and flow system.
All hydroponics systems can be utilized in greenhouses or used indoors with the aid of full spectrum lights. Grow lights, reflectors and light movers must all be used effectively in order to achieve successful indoor development, extension of the growing season and produce high yields. Ask local suppliers about the proper system and set-up for you or your business.