This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Hydroponics is defined as growing plants, using mineral nutrient solutions, without soil.
Although hydroponic systems do not involve soil, they may involve a wide variety of growing media, such as perlite, gravel, peat, sand, rock wool and others. Typical hydroponic crops include lettuce, strawberries, hebrs, tomato, cucumber and flowers. In hydroponic systems which do not involve any growing medium, roots are immersed in an aerated nutrient solution. In hydroponic systems, most of the plant nutrients are supplied by the nutrient solution, rather than by the media in which the plants are grown. Unlike soil, that stores nutrients, the growing media used in hydroponic systems have a little effect, if any, on the nutrition of plants. As a result, the only source of nutrients is the nutrient solution, and therefore you have total control over your plant nutrition. While soil allows more tolerance for inaccuracy, hydroponics leaves very little room for errors. Because changes are rapid and mistakes can be very costly, hydroponics growers should make highly educated and accurate decisions.
What Is Hydroponic Gardening?
Jan 2, 2012 If you break down the word “hydroponics” in the Greek, (which I’m sure most people don’t do before asking the definition of a word), you will find that it comes from the root words “hydro” which means “water”, and “ponos” which means “labor”. People have the choice to plant their gardens in soil, or they can plant their gardens in water. Those that do decide to grow in water are practicing the art of hydroponic gardening. Hydroponics is also commonly taught in University Biology centers for research and study. Just as much as plants use their roots to search for nutrients in the soil during traditional gardening, the water you are using to grow in hydroponics requires a nutrient rich water solution. The plants are also placed within a pot with a growing medium, which is essentially a replacement of the soil creating an environment your plants can grow in. Special growing mediums provide your plants with a dark environment and an anchor point to stabilize the plant
to ensure proper plant growth. Some examples of growing mediums would include Rokwool (mineral wool), perlite, gravel, or coconut husk. Depending on the growing medium you use, some are inert, which means they do not have any nutritional value for your plants. This allows the gardener to have complete control over the nutrient levels during the growing process.
Advantages of Hydroponics:
Hydroponics is being adapted all around the world as an efficient method of food production. The reasons for this include:
• • • •
No soil is required for hydroponics Water used within a hydroponic system can be recycled and reused which allows for water conservation and lower water costs A hydroponic gardener or farmer has complete control of their plants nutrition levels which allows for lower nutrient costs and bigger produce yields A controlled hydroponic system allows the blockage of nutrition pollution that is released into the environment through traditional gardening or farming due to the controlled environment within the system Hydroponics allows for stabilized and higher growth rates and yields The mobility of the container offers the luxury of getting rid of pests and diseases much more easily.
Hydroponics has also been recognized as an establish branch of agronomy. Agronomy is basically the technology and science of completely using as many elements that we can of the plants we grow. This includes using plants for food, fuel, fiber and reclamation.
Disadvantages of Hydroponics:
The only disadvantages of hydroponics that we have identified would be the initial cost of set up. Traditionally, if a home hydroponic gardener opted for the easier method of hydroponics, known as ebb & flow, then depending on what you are growing, like vegetables or herbs, etc., you could recoup your costs in anywhere from 12-24 months and have your own quality, home grown food. Any other disadvantages would result from human error in hydroponic growing. Just be smart, ask questions and follow the basics of hydroponics and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
The basic Hydroponic System types
Their are six basic types of hydroponic systems and there are hundreds of variations (and combinations) of these hydroponic systems, but all hydroponic systems are based on these six system types. By understanding what makes these systems work you can understand how all variations of hydroponic systems work. These Hydroponic systems are fairly simple in concept,
and if you understand how the systems work, building your own Hydroponic system won’t be hard and can even be fun. Even if you just want to buy a manufactured system, understanding how the basic systems work will make your gardening experience much more rewarding.
1. Drip System 4. Water Culture 2. Ebb- Flow (Flood & Drain) 5. Aeroponics 3. N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique) 6. Wick System There are a few things that you will want to keep in mind when designing and building (even buying) your Hydroponics systems. You will probably want to use it more than once so you should think about things like how hard it will be to take it apart to clean between plantings. Also, should you have a problem while the plants are still growing you should think about how hard will it be to fix the problems without doing damage to the plants or system. You also may want to scale up or down your system in the future. Designing your Hydroponic system to be easily flexible is always a good idea and can even save you money in the future. Using materials that are light proof will also help cut down on algae growth. If you can’t find light proof materials you can paint the outsides of what you use black to block the light. You may then want to paint it white to keep the it from absorbing too much heat. There are many ways to design a working Hydroponics system using commonly found materials from home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's. Many things can even be found at places like Wal-Mart, K-mart, Target and other large department stores. Commercially made Hydroponic systems usually are made from food grade plastics that drive the prices up but is not necessary for Hydroponics.
The average, home hydroponic system usually consists of a few basic parts
1. Growing chamber (or tray), this holds the root system. This can be made from many different materials and designed in many ways depending on what you have to use and what you want to grow. A simple storage tote with a lid that you cut a hole into to set the plant in can cost as little as $5. Or you may want to use a bucket in a bucket system for larger plants. The designs here are endless. You may want to look around and get some ideas of what and how you want to use different things. 2. Reservoir this holds the nutrient solution that feeds the plants and can be made out of just about anything, from a bucket to a 32 gallon trash can from Wall-mart for $10. Maybe even a Styrofoam cooler leftover from last summer. Again here it’s just up to your imagination.( Note: it should just be clean from anything that might contaminate the nutrient solution.) 3. Submersible pump to water the plants with. You can use one from a Hydroponics store, or use a fountain pump found in the garden section of any home improvement store. These can range greatly depending on the size you choose, from about $15 to $80. 4. Delivery system to get the water/nutrients from the pump in the reservoir to the plants, and back to the reservoir again. Vinyl tubing or regular PVC pipe also found at any home improvement store work very nicely, and can easily be customized to your application. 5. Simple timer to turn on and off the pump, as well as the lights (if you are using them). No special timer is needed here but you just want it to be able to turn on and off many times a day for the pump. (Note: if using one for lights you will need 2 timers) 6. Air pump and air stone to oxygenate the nutrient solution, this is the same kind used in fish tanks and are quite inexpensive. Oxygenating the nutrient solution is not absolutely necessary but highly recommended. This helps the root system to get the oxygen they need but because the water is continuously moving it cuts way down on algae growth, and helps to keep the nutrients fresher. 7. Lighting for the lighting you can use many different lighting systems, from compact fluorescent lighting (CFL's) that you can get at any home improvement store to expensive lighting systems from the Hydroponics store. Or you can simply just use the free sunlight.
1. Drip System recovery & non Recovery
Drip systems are probably the most widely used type of hydroponic system in the world. Operation is simple, a timer controls a submersed pump. The timer turns the pump on and nutrient solution is dripped onto the base of each plant by a small drip line. In a Recovery Drip System the excess nutrient solution that runs off is collected back in the reservoir for re-use. The Non-Recovery System does not collect the run off. A recovery system uses nutrient solution a bit more efficiently, as excess solution is
reused, this also allows for the use of a more inexpensive timer because a recovery system doesn't require precise control of the watering cycles. The non-recovery system needs to have a more precise timer so that watering cycles can be adjusted to insure that the plants get enough nutrient solution and the runoff is kept to a minimum. The non-recovery system requires less maintenance due to the fact that the excess nutrient solution isn't recycled back into the reservoir, so the nutrient strength and pH of the reservoir will not vary. This means that you can fill the reservoir with pH adjusted nutrient solution and then forget it until you need to mix more. A recovery system can have large shifts in the pH and nutrient strength levels that require periodic checking and adjusting.
2. Ebb & Flow - (Flood and Drain) System
The Ebb and Flow system works by temporarily flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into the reservoir. This action is normally done with a submerged pump that is connected to a timer. When the timer turns the pump on nutrient solution is pumped into the grow tray. When the timer shuts the pump off the nutrient solution flows back into the reservoir. The Timer is set to come on several times a day, depending on the size and type of plants, temperature and humidity and the type of growing medium used.
The Ebb & Flow is a versatile system that can be used with a variety of growing mediums. The entire grow tray can be filled with Grow Rocks, gravel or granular Rockwool. Many people like to use individual pots filled with growing medium, this makes it easier to move plants around or even move them in or out of the system. The main disadvantage of this type of system is that with some types of growing medium (Gravel, Grow rocks, Perlite), there is a vulnerability to power outages as well as pump and timer failures. The roots can dry out quickly when the watering cycles are interrupted. This problem can be relieved somewhat by using growing media that retains more water (Rockwool, Vermiculite, coconut fiber or a good soilless mix like Promix or Fanfare’s).
3. N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique) System
This is the kind of hydroponic system most people think of when they think about hydroponics. N.F.T. systems have a constant flow of nutrient solution so no timer required
for the submersible pump. The nutrient solution is pumped into the growing tray (usually a tube) and flows over the roots of the plants, and then drains back into the reservoir. There is usually no growing medium used other than air, which saves the expense of replacing the growing medium after every crop. Normally the plant is supported in a small plastic basket
with the roots dangling into the nutrient solution. N.F.T. systems are very susceptible to power outages and pump failures. The roots dry out very rapidly when the flow of nutrient solution is interrupted. The N.F.T. (Nutreint Film technique) is probably the most commonly used type of Hydroponic system. It's a simple design that is basically just a continually flowing stream of nutrient solution witch the roots get their nutrients from.
4. Water Culture System
The water culture system is the simplest of all active hydroponic systems. The platform that holds the plants is usually made of Styrofoam and floats directly on the nutrient solution. An air pump supplies air to the air stone that bubbles the nutrient solution and supplies oxygen to the roots of the plants.
Water culture is the system of choice for growing leaf lettuce, which are fast growing water loving plants, making them an ideal choice for this type of hydroponic system. Very few plants other than lettuce will do well in this type of system.
This type of hydroponic system is great for the classroom and is popular with teachers. A very inexpensive system can be made out of an old aquarium or other water tight container. The biggest draw back of this kind of system is that it doesn't work well with large plants or with long-term plants.
The aeroponic system is probably the most high-tech type of hydroponic gardening. Like the N.F.T. system the growing medium is primarily air. The roots hang in the air and are
misted with nutrient solution. The misting are usually done every few minutes. Because the roots are exposed to the air like the N.F.T. system, the roots will dry out rapidly if the misting cycles are interrupted. A timer controls the nutrient pump much like other types of hydroponic systems, except the Aeroponics system needs a short cycle timer that runs the pump for a few seconds every couple of minutes.
Hydroponic systems like this simple A frame designs make great use of a small space. Because of using the vertical height, rather than a horizontal flat design you can produce more yields with the same square footage. As you can see this Hydroponic system is
simply constructed with two flat panels with holes cut into it for the plants to rest in. These panels just lean against the A frame that sits above a troff that holds the nutrient solution. Inside there is a nutrient delivery system simply made from PVC piping (like the kind used for the sprinklers in your yard) with emitters that spray the root system of the plants. The nutrients then drip back down into the troff again where it is pumped back through the PVC piping to the root systems again. You can find everything you need to build a Hydroponic System like this at local home improvement stores and for much less money than you would spend to buy a premade system. Another advantage of building Your own Hydroponic system is that you can customize it to your needs as well as size.
12 The Wick system is by far the simplest type of hydroponic system. This is a passive
system, which means there are no moving parts. The nutrient solution is drawn into the growing medium from the reservoir with a wick. Free plans for a simple wick system are available (click here for plans). This system can use a variety of growing medium. Perlite, Vermiculite and Coconut Fiber are among the most popular. The biggest drawback of this system is that plants that are large or use large amounts of water may use up the nutrient solution faster than the wick(s) can supply it.