Winter doesn’t mean your garden has to close. Don’t let it signal the end of growing your own produce. A hydroponic system is a mess-free, fuss-free alternative so you can keep your garden going all year-round.
How Does a Hydroponics System Work?
Hydroponics doesn’t rely on soil to provide plants with nutrients. In most hydroponic systems, the roots are directly suspended in nutrient-rich water which means that plants typically grow around 30% faster than traditional methods, and they are less likely to suffer as a result of being over or under-watered, therefore, they generally produce bigger plants and better yields.
By using a hydroponic system, growers can control and enhance the plants basic needs. The system feeds a nutrient solution so the plants do not need to develop a large root system in order to feed.
This means they can use energy growing upwards, rather than dividing energy between upward and downward growth as all its nutritional requirements are being met. This produces quicker growth and higher yields.
Types of Hydroponics System
There are six types of system:
- Flood and Drain (Ebb and Flow)
- Nutrient-Film Technique (NFT)
- Drip Irrigation
- Deep-Water Culture (DWC)
Flood and Drain
This is a popular technique for its effectiveness and versatility. With this method, the plants are potted in clay pebbles and sit on planter tables or in pots which are placed above a nutrient reservoir.
A timer triggers a water pump to flood the pebbles which provides the roots with water and nutrients before draining away back to the reservoir.
The NFT method utilises a film of nutrient and oxygen-rich water which is pumped from a reservoir tank into a tray.
During this process, the solution flows past the roots of the plants covering them in a film before draining back to the reservoir ready to be re-circulated.
With no moving parts, the wick system is uncomplicated and easy to manage, however it’s not ideal for large plants that require lots of water and nutrients.
The system consists of a grow tray, reservoir, growing medium, and wicking rope.
A nutrient solution is added to the water which is then absorbed through the wick directly into the roots of the plants.
With this method, you have a high level of control over the amount of water and nutrients supplied to the plants.
The water and nutrients are pumped through a network of feeder lines, and small emitters are used to drip the solution directly onto the plants.
All drip systems have to use some kind of timer system because left uncontrolled, a drip system will flood the plants.
This method promotes vigorous growth and foliage. The system relies on the plant growing towards the nutrient solution rather than the solution being pumped to the plant.
The roots are completely submerged in nutrient rich water. The water is aerated with air pumps and air stones in order to prevent the roots from suffocating.
This is an advanced method whereby plants are suspended above an enclosed chamber which mists nutrient solution over the plants’ roots.
The plants have access to nutrients, oxygen, and water whenever it’s required which causes incredible oxygenation around the roots resulting in the best quality plants possible.
Which Hydroponics System Should You Choose?
All hydroponic methods are a variation or combination of these six basic systems. the one you choose depends on the amount of growing space available, your budget, and experience.
There are a variety of plants you can grow in a hydroponic system including greens, fruit, herbs and root crops. Each plant is different when it comes to its growing conditions so take some time to do your reseach before investing in a system.
For the best results, you should grow only one type of plant in a system at a time. If you’re new to hydropnics, a leafy green is a good starting point as they are relatively low maintenance to grow.
Before your plants go into the hydroponic system, the seeds need to germinate. An inert material that can hold water and oxygen should be used. A growing medium such as rockwool is ideal because it’s extremely porous and holds several times it’s own weight in water.
Place a seed in the hole of each cube and keep the cube moist, within a few days a sprout should appear. Once the sprouts grow a few inches place the cubes in larger rockwool blocks and place in the grow tray.
Ensure that the temperature, lighting, water and nutrients are correct for the type of plant, and the stage of the grow cycle. then just plug in, switch on, and start growing.
When a harvest is finished, replace the rockwool and thoroughly clean the system before re-using it.
If you need any advice on choosing the right hydroponic system, please get in touch with the team here at Gardeners Corner.