Different Types of Hydroponic Systems
Urban gardening has gradually become popular these last few years. With the current pandemic and lockdowns, people have become more interested in growing their own food.
But one major setback to gardening in the city is the lack of space. How will you find enough floor space for all your potted herbs and plants? Hydroponic systems might be the answer for you.
What is a Hydroponic Systems?
A hydroponic system is a method of growing herbs, crops, and fruit-bearing plants without using any soil. It relies on a nutrient-rich liquid that is constantly fed to the roots of the plant.
In a traditional horticultural setup, plants are deposited in nutrient-rich soil. But for the plant roots to get those nutrients, water is needed. Water acts as the solvent – the nutrients in the soil gets dissolved in the water. The plants can then get the nutrients they need.
Hydroponics cuts the soil from the equation by providing the plants with water that’s already packed with the nutrients they need.
How is Hydroponics Better than Traditional Planting Methods?
You’d need a large space in a traditional horticultural setup. If you plant in an open tract of land, you’d need to space the plants so their root systems have room to grow. Even if you use individual pots, you’ll still need plenty of floor space.
Hydroponics is more efficient in using what space you have. Some systems are even designed to be installed vertically.
Another advantage is how water is used. Traditional methods use drastically more water than hydroponics.
To give you an idea, 2 pounds of soil-grown tomatoes needs roughly around 110 gallons of water. In a hydroponics system, the same amount of tomatoes only needs around 5.3 to 18 gallons of water.
Hydroponics systems can also be set up indoors. This means that even people who live in areas with harsh climates or where water is scarce can now grow their own plants and produce.
Lastly, the biggest advantage of hydroponics is that plants that are grown in a hydroponic systems can grow twice as fast.
So now that you have an idea of how innovative hydroponics is, what are the 6 types of hydroponic systems and which one could be the system for you?
The 6 Basic Hydroponic Systems
You can find hundreds of hydroponics systems out there, but all of them are variations of these 6 basic types.
- Wick System
The wick system is the easiest and cheapest hydroponics setup that almost anyone can use. It doesn’t require any pumps, aerators, or electricity.
This setup requires a reservoir filled with the nutrient solution. A separate holding tray or vessel is placed on top, where the plants will be. The plants are placed in an absorbent growing medium like perlite, vermiculite, or coco coir.
Absorbent wicks made of cotton or nylon, are placed around the growing medium. The tail ends are dangled into the nutrient solution reservoir underneath.
The wicks supply minimal water and nutrients needed by the plants. This makes it best for plants that don’t require too much water, such as small plants and herbs.
- Deep Water Culture
If you want to grow plants that need a lot of water such as tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers, this system might work better for you.
The DWC type removes the wick and has the plant’s roots directly touching the nutrient solution. This means that the plant can soak up as much water and nutrient it needs.
For this type of setup, you’ll need a significantly larger reservoir for the nutrient solution. You’ll need to create a raft with net pots for the plants. The raft will be placed on top of the reservoir with the net pots suspended in the water. This is so that when you place your plants in the net pot, the roots will touch the nutrient solution.
You’ll also need some sort of aerator inside the reservoir to provide oxygen for the plants. You can use a pump or an air stone.
- Flood and Drain (or Ebb and Flow) System
This type of setup is a bit similar to the DWC. However, it uses a timer and a water pump in addition to an aerator.
Instead of a raft with net pots where the roots of the plants are suspended, the top part of this system has a growing tray. Net pots filled with growing medium and plants are placed on the tray.
The growing tray is “flooded” with the use of the water pump system from the reservoir below. A draining tube makes sure the water level stays a few inches below the growing medium to avoid the plants becoming waterlogged.
An automatic timer regulates the flooding times and length. After the water pump shuts off, the nutrient solution drains from the top tray back to the reservoir below. The aerator in the reservoir replenishes the oxygen in the solution, ready for the next flooding schedule.
The Ebb and Flow system is very effective to grow nearly all types of plants including some root vegetables such as carrots and radishes. However, this system is not recommended for mainly large plants due to the space require by these plants as you may not able to fit enough grow media and nutrient solution.
- Drip System (Circulating and Non-Circulating)
If the flood and drain system supplies a large amount of solution to the growing tray, the drip system supplies a controlled amount.
The setup is similar to the flood and drain system. However, instead of a water pump system flooding the entire tray with nutrient solution, the water pump distributes the solution to individual drip lines.
The drip line nozzles are situated directly at the base of the plants. They supply the solution at regular intervals, with the use of a timer.
Drip systems can be either circulating or non-circulating. A circulating drip system allows the excess solution to drain back into the reservoir. A non-circulating drip system drains the excess solution outside of the reservoir.
If you prefer a circulating drip system, you need to steadily maintain the mutable nutrient and pH levels when the solution is recirculated.
- Nutrient Film Technique
NFT systems also supply nutrient solution constantly. They don’t use a timer, unlike in flood and drain and drip systems.
The setup is still similar with the previous types, with a reservoir holding the solution below and a growing tray (usually a tube) above. Unlike the previous types, the growing tray or tube above is positioned at an incline.
The growing tube will usually have holes cut along it. You’ll have to place your plants in plastic or net baskets with holes big enough for the roots to go through.
The nutrient solution is pumped from the reservoir to the top of the incline. Gravity allows the solution to flow over the roots of the plants along the growing tube. A drainage tube is situated at the lower end of the incline. The excess solution drains back to the reservoir, to be aerated and circulated again.
- Aeroponics System
Aeroponics is the most high-tech system out of the 6. This system is popular with commercial growers because it uses the least amount of water than the other hydroponics systems.
The setup is similar to the DWC system. You have a reservoir below with a raft on top. The plants are in net pots, suspended well above the nutrient solution.
The water pump system is connected to several lines, with mist nozzles attached to the ends. They work almost like sprinklers, but the particle size of the water droplets is finer. Plant roots will absorb the solution faster if the particle size is smaller.
This system doesn’t need an aerator because the roots are suspended in air. However, the mist nozzles can be a bit expensive for a beginner home gardener.
With these 6 hydroponic systems, you’ll be able to grow your own food even if you’re living in cramped quarters in the city. These systems are an efficient and relatively low-cost solution for urban and home gardeners.
So still the question is “Which hydroponic systems are most suitable for you?” To determine this, it’s important to understand the features of each system and your hydroponic requirements. Let’s say if you are a hobby grower or home grower and looking for only a simple system then one must consider using the wick or water culture system. If you are an experienced grower and want to grow a large plant, the N.F.T. system or drip system is the good option. To be able to determine the best method or system, always keep in mind the pros and cons of each hydroponic system so that you can get the best out of it.
If you are looking for hydroponic supplies for your everyday growing, contact PMHydro today!