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What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is an approach to gardening or farming done without soil. Instead, plants are grown in a mix of water and nutrients only – amazing right? Although it is revolutionary, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as technology has greatly advanced in the last century.

Growing plants hydroponically is faster and much more efficient than growing them traditionally in soil. It’s been found that plants grown with this use less water, require less space, but still yield more. Also, this system can be used year-round unlike conventional farming where the soil would have lost most of its nutrients and would need to be left for a few years to recover.

Hydroponic systems are ideal for anyone, anywhere, and it is an innovative solution that solves the problem of farming and gardening in urban cities with little or no spaces. Through this system city dwellers are able to practice small- or large-scale gardening depending on their choice and budget.

With the right equipment, this system of growing crops can be incredibly easy. You can visit http://wholesalehydroponics.ca to learn more about where to find the right equipment.

 

Types of Hydroponic Systems

There are six main approaches to hydroponic systems employed today. They are:

  1. Water culture
  2. Drip Hydroponics
  3. Wick systems
  4. Aeroponics
  5. Ebb & flow
  6. Nutrient film technology (NFT)

 

Water Culture

This system places the plant roots directly into the water-nutrient mixture or solution. Plants also need oxygen and so it is supplied into the solution by what is called an air stone, or a diffuser. When using the water culture system, it is important to keep the plants’ position secured; this can be done using net pots.

The water culture system is used by a lot of people because placing the root directly into the nutrient solution enables the plant absorb nutrients much faster. As a result, plants grown using this method mature quickly.

The water culture system works for any type of plant, including those with big root systems. The only potential draw back with this type of hydroponics is that plant roots will be infected by diseases if growing conditions are dirty.

 

Drip Hydroponics

The drip method is an excellent option for growers who make frequent changes to the type of plants they cultivate, as it is easy to use and can be altered to fit various types of plants. Nutrients are fed to plants by pumping them into a tube that carries them to the plant base.

A drip emitter is attached to the end of each tube and is used to regulate the solution that the plants are being fed. The flow can be adjusted to suit each plant.

The drip system can be built to any size and can be designed as circulating or non-circulating systems. Circulating systems drip steadily and sends extra nutrients back to the nutrient solution tank. Due to the flexibility of this system, just about any plant can be grown with it. There is however, one caveat with the drip hydroponics and that is the fact that growers will need to constantly monitor and regulate the unstable pH and nutrient levels that comes with the recirculation. Click here to learn more about plant pH scales.

 

Wick System

This hydroponic method is the simplest method that can be used by anyone to grow plants. Wick systems are popular for not requiring the use of electricity, pumps, or aerators. They are the only systems that are completely passive, not needing electricity for anything.

In wick systems, crops are placed in a medium that is absorbent. Examples include coco coir, vermiculite, perlite, with a nylon (wick) placed around them that run straight into the nutrient solution. Because this hydroponic method doesn’t supply enough nutrients to crops, it is recommended for use only for small house plants and herbs.

Although recommended for small herbs and plants, wick systems shouldn’t be used for heavy-feeders like peppers and tomatoes. Heavy-feeders are plants that require a large supply of nutrients to grow properly; which makes the wick system inappropriate for them. Another drawback to this method is that herbs do not absorb nutrients and water evenly, leading to the accumulation of toxic mineral salts. Visit https://organicgrowersschool.org/gardeners/library/feeding-your-garden-organically/ to learn more about heavy feeders.

 

Aeroponics

Aeroponics is a simple concept in hydroponics but definitely isn’t an easy method. In aeroponics, the plants are suspended in the air with the nutrients sprayed over the roots by specialized nozzles set up below the plants.

These nozzles are connected to the nutrient solution tank fitted with pumps that make the spraying process possible. Below the suspended herbs is also a reservoir that collects the excess of the nutrient solution sprayed on the herbs.

Depending on the size of the reservoir, almost every type of herb can be grown using the aeroponic system. Lastly, with aeroponics, growers do not bother about how to supply oxygen to herbs as they get enough being suspended in the air. The aeroponic method isn’t perfect either as it has two notable issues. One is that it is expensive to build and maintain. Secondly, the nozzles used in spraying nutrients often get clogged and requiring frequent checkups.

 

Ebb and Flow

Also known as flood and drain, this hydroponic system is popular among home gardeners; here’s how it works. Crops are placed into expansive grow beds that are filled with special grow medium like perlite or rockwool.

Once herbs have been carefully planted, the nutrient solution is pumped into the bed till it reaches a few inches below the top of the grow medium to prevent overflow. The pump used in this exercise is fitted with a timer that turns it off after it has worked for a while. Once turned off, the nutrient solution is then drained completely from the grow bed back into the pump.

The ebb and flow method works well for growing different kinds of crops including vegetables like radishes and carrots. That said, this system isn’t recommended for crops with large root systems as they will require too much space.

 

Nutrient Film Technology (NFT)

In the NFT system, herbs are held in sloping channels that allow the flow of nutrients through to the roots of the herbs. The sloping channel allows the solution to flow back to the reservoir after passing through the roots of the crops.

NFT systems do not make use of grow mediums but relatively small channels that won’t grow larger plants. Despite the fact that these channels are only suitable for smaller crops, they can be designed to accommodate a large number of smaller plants, making it very scalable. This is why it is used by many commercial planters.

 

Conclusion

The use of hydroponics is steadily growing and have proven to be a sustainable method for growing plants. Although more expensive than conventional farming, growers using this agricultural method are able to control a lot of environmental factors that affect crop growth and yield.

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