Hydroponics is the practice of gardening with no soil. Hydroponics is an Latin word that means “working water.” In the absence of soil, water goes to work providing nutrients, hydration, and oxygen to the plant life. Hydroponics helps plants thrive, from watermelons and jalapenos to orchids. Hydroponic gardens require minimal space and 90 percent less water than conventional farming. They also grow beautiful fruits, flowers, and vegetables in half the time.
Although the technology may sound modern Hydroponics’ history is rooted in the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Euphrates River was diverted and channeled into channels that poured down onto the gardens. Marco Polo, a 13-year-old Italian writer, described floating gardens in China. Hydroponics was not just an invention of the ancient ages. In the 90s, NASA grew aeroponic bean seeds in zero gravity on the space station, opening up possibilities for sustainable agriculture in space. Hydroponics is an innovative and timeless method for water conservation and crop production.
What exactly is hydroponics?
Hydroponics Hydroponics can be described as the cultivation and maintenance of plants without the use of soil. The hydroponic plant, flower, or vegetable is grown in an inert environment and is supplied with oxygen, water and nutrients as well as water. This system promotes faster growth, higher yields, and higher quality. The plant’s roots are always looking for the proper nutrients to sustain it. Plants that are provided directly with water and nutrition can sustain themselves without the need to use energy. You can use the energy roots used for acquiring food or water to help the plant mature. The growth of the foliage is encouraged, as is the fruiting and flowering of flowers.
The plants sustain themselves through a process called photosynthesis. Plants capture sunlight with chlorophyll (a green pigment present within the leaves). They use the energy of light to separate water molecules from the ones they have absorbed through roots. Hydrogen molecules are combined with carbon dioxide in order to create carbohydrates that plants use to power themselves. The atmosphere then gets enriched by oxygen, which is essential for maintaining our planet’s habitability. For photosynthetic purposes, plants do not need soil. The soil is the only thing plants require to obtain water and nutrients. When nutrients are dissolved in water they can be directly applied to the plant’s root system through misting, flooding or even the immersion. The hydroponic innovation has shown that exposure directly to nutrient rich water can be more efficient and versatile than conventional irrigation.
What exactly is hydroponics?
Hydroponic systems operate by providing a small control over environmental conditions like temperature and pH balance and maximized exposure to nutrients and water. Hydroponics is based on a simple concept: give the plants with exactly what they require in the time they require it. Hydroponics is able to offer nutrition solutions that are adapted to the specific needs of every plant. They allow you to determine exactly how much light the plants receive and how long. You can alter the pH level. The environmental conditions can be completely controlled and customized to accelerate the growth of plants.
A variety of risk factors can be reduced through controlling the plant’s environment. The plants that are grown in gardens and fields are exposed to a variety of variables that negatively impact their health and development. Plants can be infected by soil fungus. Your garden can be purged by wildlife such as rabbits. Locusts, which are a pest that can attack crops and destroy their crops in just a few hours, can attack the crop. Hydroponics eliminates the unpredictable nature of plants growing in the ground and outdoors. Seedlings can mature faster without the mechanical resistance of the soil. Through the elimination of pesticides, hydroponics produce much better-quality and healthier fruits and vegetables. Without obstructions, plants are able to expand rapidly and vigorously.
What are the parts of a hydroponics system?
Certain key elements are essential to have the success of a hydroponic system.
Media that is growing
Inert media supports the weight of hydroponic plants and helps anchor the root structure. While growing media is utilized as an alternative to soil, it does not offer any nutritional assistance to the plant. Instead, this porous media holds water as well as nutrients from the nutrient solution, which it then gives to the plant. A lot of growing media are pH neutral, which means they won’t alter the balance of your nutrient solution. There are a variety of media options. It is dependent on the hydroponic system and the specific plant species to decide which media you select. Hydroponic media can be found in the local nursery or garden store, as well as on the internet.
Air pumps and air stones
Plants that are submerged in water can quickly drown if it isn’t adequately air-conditioned. Airstones release tiny oxygen bubbles throughout the nutrient solution reservoir. These bubbles also distribute the nutrients that are dissolved evenly. Air stones can’t create oxygen by themselves. They need to be connected to an external water pump by opaque tubing made of plastic. The opaque prevents algae from growing. These are extremely popular in aquariums and can be readily purchased from pet stores.
Net pots can be used to grow hydroponic plants inside mesh planters. The latticed material allows roots to sprout from the bottom and sides of the pot giving more oxygen and nutrients. Net pots are also more draining than clay and plastic pots.
What are the six kinds available for hydroponic systems?
There are a variety of hydroponic techniques. But, they are all variants or combinations of the six fundamental hydroponic systems.
1. Systems for deep water culture
Hydroponics for deepwater culture is simply the cultivation of plants in aerated water. Deep water cultivation systems, also referred to as a DWC system are among the most simple and popular methods of hydroponics that are available. DWC systems are made up of net pots with plants that are held in a large pool of oxygen-rich nutrients. The solution keeps the plant’s roots well-hydrated and provides them with constant access to water, nutrients, and oxygen. Deep water cultivation is considered the purest form for hydroponics.
Since the root system is constantly suspended in water, water oxygenation will be vital for the health of the plant. If there isn’t enough oxygenation, the roots will drown. To supply oxygenation by connecting an airstone to the air pump located in the base of the plant. The solution of nutrient can be circulated thanks to the bubbles created by the airstone.
A deep water system can be constructed either at home or in the classroom at minimal cost. A bucket or an old aquarium can be used to keep the solution. To house the containers on nets, put a floating surface like styrofoam over the top. DWC systems shouldn’t permit roots to submerge within the solution. You should never let any part of the stem, or the vegetation, be submerged by the solution. The roots must be kept at least 1 inch and a half over the surface of the water. They will not dry out as the air stone bubbles off the surface can splash onto the roots.
What are the advantages to deep water culture systems?
- Very low maintenance After a DWC system is installed, it’s simple to maintain. Just replenish the nutrient solution when required and ensure that the pump is pumping oxygen into the air stone. The nutrient solution usually requires replenishment every two weeks, but this does depend on the size of your plant.
- DIY appeal: Deep water cultures are inexpensive and simple to construct.
What are the downsides to deep water culture systems
- Limitations: Deep water culture systems are well-suited to growing herbs and lettuce however they are unable to compete with bigger and slower-growing plants. DWC systems aren’t suitable for growing flowers. However, with some extra work, you can grow plants such as tomatoes, bell peppers and squash in the DWC system.
- Temperature Control It’s crucial that the water solution you use not exceed 68°F and not drop to below 60°F. In a DWC system it is a static system, meaning that the water is and not recirculating, so it can be more difficult to regulate the temperature.
2. Wick systems
The wick system allows plants to be placed in growing media, and on the top is the reservoir. The reservoir contains a water solution containing dissolved nutrients. The wicks travel through the reservoir until they reach the tray for growing. The wick is then flooded with water and nutrients that then cover the soil around the plant’s roots. Wicks are constructed from simple materials such as rope, string, and felt. Hydroponics with wick systems is the simplest kind. Passive hydroponics is Wick systems. They don’t require pumps or mechanical parts to work. This makes them perfect for situations in which electricity is either unreliable or unavailable.
The way the wicks function is known as capillary effect. The wick absorbs the water that it is immersed in, like a sponge, when it comes in contact with the porous Grow Bags media, it releases the solution of nutrients. Hydroponic wick systems hydroponics work only if it is supported by a medium that can facilitate water and nutrient transference. Coco coir, which is made from coconut husks and fibers is a great moisture retention. It also has the added advantage of pH neutral. Perlite is also pH neutral and highly porous, which makes it perfect for wicking systems. Vermiculite is very porous, and also has a very high cation exchange capacity. It is also able to store nutrients for later usage. The three media that are growing are the most suitable for hydroponic wick systems.
Wick systems take longer to grow than other systems. This restricts the options of what you could cultivate with these systems. It is important to ensure that each plant that you grow in your growing tray that you have at least one wick that is running from the reservoir. The wicks must be placed close to the root system of the plant. Although they are able to be used with aeration, many prefer to add an airstone and pump to the wick’s reservoir. This will provide additional oxygenation to the hydroponic system.
What are the advantages of a wick system?
- Simple A wick-system is simple to set up and does not require much effort once it’s operating. The wicks will provide the plants with water throughout the day long, meaning they are never at risk from drying out. A wick system will let plants like lettuce to thrive and provide great return for your investment.
- Space-efficientWick Systems are compact and easy to install anywhere. They do not require power to operate. It’s an ideal system for students, beginners and anyone interested in hydroponics.
What are the pros and cons of wick systems.
- The limitationsLettuce or herbs such as rosemary, mint, basil and basil are fast-growing, so they don’t need a lot water. Because of their demands for nutrients, and the need for hydration, tomatoes struggle to survive in a wick system. Others plants aren’t able to thrive in a climate that is always humid. Wick systems can destroy root vegetables like turnips, carrots, and other root veggies.
- Very susceptible to rot. The hydroponics wick system is constantly humid and moist. This can cause fungal infections and root rot that can affect your organic growing media as well as the plant’s roots.
3. Nutrient film technique systems
NFT (Nutrient film technique) systems suspend plants over an endless flow of nutrient solutions that washes above the roots. The channels holding plants are tilted, permitting water to flow across the entire length of the grow tray before draining to the reservoir beneath. The water in the reservoir is aerated using an air stone. Submersible pumps then pump the nutrient-rich water from the reservoir up to the top of the channel. Recirculating hydroponics is the technique of nutrient film.
NFT systems are different from hydroponics with deep water culture. Their roots are not immersed into water. Instead the stream, or “film” flows only across the root. The tips of the roots hold in moisture from the soil while the exposed root systems receive plenty of oxygen. The bottoms and sides of the channels are sanded to allow the water to pass easily over the root tips. This stops water from logging up or clogging the roots.
It is essential to empty the reservoir each week and replenish the solution of nutrients. This will ensure your plants are getting enough nutrition. NFT channels need to be placed on an upward slope. It must not be too steep because the water can swell down and damage the plants. The system can burst if it is filled with water that is too high. NFT hydroponics are a fad in commercial systems because they can support several plants in a channel and can easily be produced in mass quantities. Systems using nutrient films are best for plants that are lighter, such as lettuce, spinach and tomatoes, as well as strawberries and mustard greens. For heavier fruiting plants like tomatoes or cucumbers you’ll need trellises to support their weight.
What are the benefits of a nutrient film technique system?
- Low consumption of water: Because NFT hydroponics circulate the water, they don’t require large amounts of water or nutrients for their operation. The constant flow also makes it harder for salts to build up on the plant’s roots. Nutrient films don’t need any growth media. This means you don’t have the hassle of having to replace media or investing money in it.
- Modular design Nutrient films technique systems are excellent for large-scale, commercial projects. It is easy to increase the size of your greenhouse once you’ve got one channel working. Multiple channels are possible to fill your greenhouse, each supporting various crops. It is recommended for each channel to have its own separate reservoir. This will ensure that the pump will function throughout the entire process regardless of the fact that the pump fails or there is a spread of disease.
What are the drawbacks of a nutrient-film technique?
- Plants will die when the pump isn’t functioning correctly and the channel stops circulating the nutrients, Your entire crop could be killed if it’s not given water within hours. An NFT hydroponic system needs constant monitoring. You should be vigilant in checking the condition and performance of your pump.
- Overcrowding: The canal could become blocked when there are too many roots growing or are too close together. The plants will be starving if water is not flowing through the channel if it is restricted by roots. This is especially true for the plants in the bottom. Consider taking plants off the bottom of the channel, or shifting them to a smaller one in the event that they are performing poorly.
4. Ebb & flow systems
Ebb and flow hydroponics work by flooding a grow bed with a nutrient solution from a reservoir below. The submersible pump in the reservoir comes with an alarm clock. The timer will start when the pump fills with nutrients and water. When the timer ends, gravity slowly drains all the excess water out of the beds and flushes it back into the reservoir. The overflow tube ensures that the flooding doesn’t exceed a certain amount and can cause damage to the fruits or the stalks. In contrast to the other systems described, the plants in an flow and ebb system don’t have to be being exposed to water. While the growing beds are flooded and the plants’ roots absorb the nutrients through their roots. As the water evaporates the roots begin to dry. The dry roots will then be oxygenated during the time prior to the next flood. The time between floods will be determined by the size of the grow bed and how large the plants you have.
Ebb and flow systems (also called flood and drain systems) are one of the most well-known hydroponic growth techniques. The plants get plenty of oxygen and nutrients to stimulate rapid and robust growth. The ebb & flow system is easily customized and modified. You can fill the grow bed with various net pots and also a range of fruits and vegetables. The ebb/flow system lets you to experiment more than other hydroponic systems.
Ebb and flow systems are able to accommodate almost any type of vegetation. The only thing that will restrict your choices is the dimensions of your grow tray. Root vegetables need more space than strawberries and lettuce. Many well-known ebb flow crops include tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas. There is the option to attach trellises directly on the grow bed. “Grow rocks” and expanded clay pebbles (hydroton) are among the most popular growing media in ebb and flow hydroponics. These are cleanable and reusable light weight, and although they retain moisture, they also drain. This is a crucial quality for ebb flow systems.
What are the benefits to an ebb flow system?
- Flexibility: An ebb flow system lets you grow plants that are larger than those in other hydroponic systems. Ebb-flow hydroponics is ideal for vegetables, fruits and even flowers. Your plants will produce a lot of fruit when they have the proper dimensions of the bed and the right nutrients.
- DIY appeal: There is no shortage of methods to construct an ebb/flow system for hydroponics in your own home. You can find everything you need in your local hardware and pet shop to build an ebb or flow system. Ebb and flow systems can be more challenging to set up than DIY systems like deep water culture or wick. They do allow for a wider range of plant life.
What are the disadvantages of an ebb or flow system?
- Pump failure: As with any other hydroponic setup reliant on a pump, in the event that the pump ceases to work and your plants die, they will. Monitoring your flow system is important to make sure that your plants remain in good health. If water is flowing in and out too fast, your plants will not receive an adequate amount of water and nutrients.
- Root diseases and rotSanitation is essential to an ebb & flow system. Root diseases, rot, and other issues can arise when the bed doesn’t drain correctly. Ebb/flow systems that are dirty can attract pests and grow mold. The crops are affected when you fail to keep your system clean. In addition, certain plants are not able to respond to the rapid change in pH that occurs as a result of draining and flooding extremes.
5. Drip systems
Hydroponic drip systems deliver the nutrient-rich and aerated solution from a reservoir through a network tube system to the individual plants. This solution is dripped slowly into the growing media surrounding the root system, ensuring that the plants moist and well-nourished. Drip systems, particularly popular with commercial growers are the most popular type of hydroponics. Drip systems can be used to water individual plants or large areas.
There are two types in hydroponics with drip systems. Recovering systems are popular among small-scale, home-grown growers. Excess water is drained back into the reservoir and then recirculated during every drip cycle. Systems that do not have recovery let the excess water run through the media before it is released to the environment. This method is popular with commercial growers. Though non-recovery drip systems can sound wasteful, large-scale growers are very conservative with water usage. They can only provide the solution needed for keeping the plant’s expanding media in check. Non-recovery drips utilize sophisticated timing devices and feeding programs to reduce the amount of waste.
If you’re growing plants in a recovery drip system, you will need to be attuned to the fluctuations in the pH of the solution of nutrients. This is the case for any system where wastewater re-circulates into the reservoir. Because plants can deplete the solution’s nutrient and alter its pH balance, the growers will have to alter the pH of the reservoir in order to ensure it is in good shape. This differs from a non-recovery method. Growing media can also become saturated with nutrients, and they will require cleaning and replaced regularly.
What are the benefits of a drip system?
- There are many alternatives to grow plant species: Drip systems can grow larger plants than other hydroponic systems. This is among the main reasons why it is appealing to commercial growers. A well-designed drip system is able to be able to support squashes, melons, onions, and zucchinis. Drip systems are capable of holding greater amounts of materials than other types of systems. This allows them to support the larger root system of these plants. Drip systems work best when used with slow-draining media such as coco coir or rockwool.
- Scale: Drip systems are capable of support large-scale hydroponics operation. If a farmer wants to add more plants, new tubing can be linked to a reservoir and divert solution to accommodate the new plant. The drip system that is in place can be modified to accommodate new crops. Additional reservoirs may be added to allow for different timers that meet the requirements of the plant. Drip systems are popular in commercial hydroponics because of this.
What are the drawbacks of drip systems?
- Maintenance If your plants are grown using a nonrecovery drip system at home, you’ll need to do a lot more maintenance. It is essential to keep track of the levels of nutrient and pH in your solution. It is essential to drain and replace if necessary. You will also need to clean your recovery lines frequently because they could become clogged with dirt and plant matter.
- Complexity:Drip systems can easily turn into complex and complicated projects. This is not as relevant to experts in hydroponics, but it is not the best for home growers. You can use simpler systems like ebb-flow for at-home hydroponics.
Aeroponics systems suspend plants in the air, and expose the roots to a nutrient-filled mist. Aeroponics systems use enclosed structures, such as cubes or towers that can hold a variety of plants in one. A reservoir is used to store water and nutrients. Next, the solution is pumped to a pump that disperses it in fine mist. The mist is usually released at the top of a tower, which allows it to fall down the chamber. Some aeroponics constantly mist the root system, much in the same way the NFT systems expose the roots to the nutrient film constantly. Other systems spray the roots regularly with mist, more similar to the ebb/flow system. Aeroponics doesn’t need any kind of substrate to survive. The constant exposure of the roots to the air lets them absorb oxygen and grow at a an increased rate.
Aeroponics systems use less water than other kind of hydroponics. It actually requires 95 percent less water to cultivate an aeroponic crop than an irrigation field. Vertical gardens is designed to use minimal room and allows for numerous towers to be housed in a single location. Even in cramped space, aeroponics can yield excellent yields. Additionally, due to the oxygen-rich environment they are exposed to the plants of aeroponics grow more quickly than other hydroponically grown plants.
Aeroponics allows year-round harvesting. Aeroponics allows for the development of nightshades and vines, such as bell peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. Lettuce, baby greens and herbs, as well as strawberries, watermelons and ginger also flourish. Obstacles are too large and heavy to grow aeroponically. Plants that have roots that are deep, like potatoes and carrots can also not be grown.