Hydroponics is the science and art of gardening with no soil. Hydroponics means “working water” in Latin. It is the art of growing plants in soil. Hydroponics is a method which allows plants to thrive, from watermelons to jalapenos and orchids. With minimal area and 90% less water than traditional agriculture and ingenious design, hydroponic gardens produce beautiful fruits and flowers in a fraction of the time.
Although the technology may sound cutting-edge, the history of hydroponics dates back to the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Euphrates River was channelized into channels that ran along the garden walls. Marco Polo described floating gardens in China in the 13th century. Hydroponics isn’t just a flimsy invention. NASA started growing aeroponic bean seedlings aboard the space station in the 1990s. This opened up the possibility of sustainable farming in space. Hydroponics is a timeless and dynamic method of water conservation and crop production.
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics Hydroponics refers to the cultivation of plants with only water without soil. Inert media is utilized to cultivate hydroponic herbs, plants, and vegetables. They are then supplied with oxygen, nutrients, water, and other growing media. This allows for quicker growth, better yields, and superior quality. If a plant is planted in soil, the roots are constantly searching for the essential nutrients they require to thrive. A plant’s roots are directly exposed to nutrients and water, meaning it doesn’t have to use any energy to support itself. The energy the roots expended in acquiring food and water can be redirected to the process of maturing. This results in the growth of leaves is accelerated, as well as the blooming of fruit or flowers.
Photosynthesis is the method that plants use to maintain themselves. Plants capture sunlight with chlorophyll (a green pigment found in the leaves). The energy of light is utilized to break down water molecules that they have taken in through their roots. Hydrogen molecules are combined with carbon dioxide and create carbohydrates that plants utilize to nourish themselves. This permits oxygen to be released into the atmosphere. This is a crucial factor in preserving the planet’s habitability. To produce photosynthetic energy, plants do not need soil. They need soil to provide the water and nutrients. It is possible to add nutrients to plants’ root systems by flooding, misting, or immersion if they are dissolving in water. Hydroponics has proven that direct exposure of nutrient-filled water can provide more effective and adaptable growth strategies over traditional irrigation.
How does hydroponics operate?
Hydroponics works by giving you the ability to control the environment such as temperature and pH balance and the the maximum amount of the amount of nutrients that can be absorbed. Hydroponics works on the simple principle that plants get precisely what they need. Hydroponics offers customized nutrition for each particular plant. They are able to adjust the amount of sunlight plants receive, and how long. pH levels can be monitored and adjusted. The growth of plants is increased when the pH is controlled and customized to specific conditions.
By controlling the environment of the plant, a variety of risk factors are reduced. There are many factors that could negatively impact plants in gardens or fields. The spread of disease can be carried by plants. Animals like rabbits may pounce on the ripe vegetables in your garden. In just a few minutes, pests like locusts could descend upon crops to decimate them. Hydroponic systems eliminate the uncertainty of cultivating plants outside and in the soil. Seedlings mature faster if they are not subject to the mechanical resistance of soil. Hydroponics is a way to produce better quality, healthier vegetables and fruits by removing pesticides. Without obstacles, plants are free to grow vigorously and rapidly.
What are the main components of a hydroponic plant?
In order to maintain a healthy hydroponic system, you’ll need to become acquainted with the components that help hydroponics work smoothly.
Inert media helps the weight of hydroponic plants and helps anchor their root structure. Although growing media can be used as an alternative to soil, it does not give the plant any nutrition. Instead, this porous medium holds nutrients in the solution and then delivers them to the plant. Many growing media are also pH neutral, which means they won’t alter the balance of your nutrient solution. There are many media choices. It’s dependent on the hydroponic system and the specific plant species to decide which media you select. Hydroponic media can be found in your local nursery or gardening store, as well as online.
Air pumps and air stones
If the water is not adequately aerated, plants can drown quickly when submerged. Air stones are tiny bubbles that disperse dissolved oxygen through your nutrient solutions reservoir. They also distribute nutrients that are dissolved evenly. Air stones can’t create oxygen by themselves. They must be attached to an external water pump via transparent plastic tubing. The opaque prevents algae from growing. The most popular components for aquariums are air pumps and stones. They can be bought at pet stores.
Net pots are mesh plantsers that contain hydroponic plants. The latticed materials allow roots access to the sides and bottom of each pot. This gives them more nutrients and oxygen. Net pots also offer better drainage than conventional clay pots or plastic ones.
What are the six types of hydroponic systems?
There are hundreds of hydroponic techniques, however each one is a modification or mixture of six basic hydroponic systems.
1. Systems for deep-water culture
Deep water culture hydroponics are simply plants suspended in aerated water. DWC systems are among the most popular and simplest method of hydroponics. A DWC system dangles net pots holding plants in an oxygen-rich, deep nutrient solution. The solution is submerged to the plant’s roots, giving it constant access to nutrients, water oxygen, as well as other vital elements. Deep water cultivation is thought by many as the most pure form of hydroponics.
Since the root system of the plant is constantly submerged in water, oxygenation of the water will be vital for the health of the plant. The plant will die if it doesn’t get enough oxygen. The reservoir should be equipped with an air pump that can provide oxygen to all the parts of it. The nutrient solution is circulated by bubbles created by the airstone.
It is easy to put together a deep-water culture system in your classroom or at home using minimal hydroponics equipment. A bucket or an old aquarium could be used to store the solution. To store the containers on nets, put an edifice that is floating, such as styrofoam on top. DWC systems are made to keep the plant’s roots submerged in the solution. It is not permitted to submerge vegetation or stems. It is possible to leave about an quarter-inch and an inch of the root above the waterline. The roots can be left exposed by allowing air bubbles to break out of the water.
What are the benefits of deep water culture systems
- Low maintenance Once the DWC system was set up, very little maintenance is needed. It’s enough to replenish the nutrient solution as needed and make sure that the pump is supplying oxygen to the air stone. The frequency of replenishment is contingent on the dimensions and the condition of your plants.
- DIY appeal Deep water culture is inexpensive and simple to construct.
What are the drawbacks of deep water culture systems?
- Limitations Although deep water culture systems excel at growing lettuce and herbs, they have trouble growing larger and slower-growing plants. DWC systems don’t work well for flowers. However, you can cultivate vegetables such as tomatoes and bell peppers in the DWC system, with just a little more effort.
- Temperature control It is essential that the water solution you choose to use does not exceed 68°F, and never be below 60°F. DWC systems make use of water that is stored and not circulated. It is more difficult than normal to regulate the temperature.
2. Wick systems
A wick system is a place where plants are planted in growing media and put on top of a pot. This reservoir holds water with minerals that are dissolved. The wicks move through the reservoir until they get to the tray for growing. The wick is flooded with nutrients and water, which then saturate the soil around the roots of the plants. Wicks can be constructed from just rope, string or felt. This is the easiest form of hydroponics. Wick systems are passive hydroponics – meaning they don’t require pumps or other mechanical components to function. This makes it ideal in situations where electricity is unavailable or not reliable.
The capillary action process is the reason the wick systems function. The wick absorbs water similar to a sponge and transfers nutrients to the media. Only wick system hydroponics will be successful if there is a growing media that allows for transfer of water or nutrients. Coco coir fibers (from the outer husks coconuts) are ideal for retaining moisture. They also come with the benefit of being are pH neutral. Perlite is extremely porous and pH neutral which makes them perfect for wicking systems. Vermiculite is also extremely porous and has a high cation-exchange capacity. It can also conserve nutrients for later use. These three growing media are the most suitable for hydroponic wick systems.
Wick systems are slower than other hydroponic system therefore it’s not feasible to cultivate plants using them. For each plant you put in the tray for growing, ensure that at least one of the wicks is flowing out of the reservoir. These wicks should be placed close to the roots of the plant. Though capable of functioning with aeration, many people do choose to add an air stone and an air pump into the wick’s reservoir. This will provide additional oxygenation to the hydroponic system.
What’s the benefit of a Wick System?
- Simplicity A basic system for wicks can be set up by anyone. It doesn’t require much care once it is running. The plants you plant will never run dry because the wicks provide water to them all the time. Plants like lettuce thrive in a one-way wick system. This will guarantee a high return on your hands-free investment.
- Space-efficientWick Systems are small and simple to set up anywhere. They don’t need electricity for operation. This system is perfect for beginners, teachers, or anyone who is interested in hydroponics.
What are the disadvantages to Wick systems?
- The limitationsLettuce (and herbs like mint and rosemary) are fast-growing and don’t require large quantities of water. Due to their high demands for nutrients, and hydration tomatoes will struggle to survive in a sort of wick system. Others plants will not thrive in a climate that is constantly moist. A wick system is not good for root vegetables, like turnips and carrots.
- Responsible for rot: Hydroponic wick systems are always humid and damp. This increases the likelihood that fungal diseases and rot can be present in the organic growth medium or on the roots.
3. Nutrient film technique systems
Nutrient film technique (NFT) systems are designed to suspend plants over a stream of continuously flowing nutrients that wash across the edges of the root systems. The channels that support the plants are tilted so that water to flow down all the way down their grow tray, and then drain into the reservoir below. The reservoir is then airstone-aerated. Submersible pumps then pump the nutrient-rich water from the reservoir and back up to the upper part of the channel. The nutrient film technique is a recirculating hydroponics system.
In contrast to deep water-based hydroponics, the roots of the plants within an NFT system aren’t immersed in water. Instead, the stream (or film) flows over the roots’ ends. The roots’ tips will bring moisture towards the plant whereas the root system that is open has plenty of oxygen. The channels’ bottoms are sloping, which means that the film that is shallow can flow across the tips of the roots with ease. This also keeps water from pooling and getting clogged up by the root system.
Even though nutrient films technology systems constantly recycle water, it is recommended to flush the reservoir frequently and replenish the nutrients solution every once a week. This ensures that your plants get sufficient nutrients. NFT channels must be placed on an upward slope. The water won’t nourish the plants if it is not steep enough. The system could explode if it is pumped with too much water. NFT hydroponics systems are extremely well-known because they can accommodate several plants in a channel. They can also be easily mass-produced. Plants that are light, like mustard greens and lettuce, and also strawberries, are better suited to nutrient film technique systems. To support heavier fruiting plants like tomatoes and cucumbers, trellises will be required.
What are the advantages of using films containing nutrients?
- Low consumption NFT hydroponics do not require huge amounts of water and nutrients to function. The constant flow also makes it harder for salts to accumulate on the plant’s root systems. Nutrient film technology systems don’t require the growth of media. You can reduce the cost of buying media and the hassle of changing it.
- Modular design Technique systems for Nutrient Films are excellent for large-scale, commercial projects. Once a channel is in place and operational, it’s easy to expand it. Multiple channels are possible to fill the greenhouse with each one supporting different crops. It’s recommended to supply each channel with its own reservoir. In this way, in the event of a the pump fails or if illness spreads through the water, you will not lose the entire operation.
What are the disadvantages of a nutrient film technique?
- A failure of the pump: When the channel stops transmitting the nutrient film to the pump, your plants will dry. Your entire crop could die if it isn’t being provided with water within a matter of hours. An NFT hydroponic system needs continuous monitoring. It is important to be attentive when checking the efficiency of your pump.
- Overcrowding could result in a blocked channel if the roots grow too fast or are too closely spaced. If the channel is blocked by roots, water will be unable to flow through and your plants will starve. This is particularly true for plants at the bottom. Consider taking plants off the lower part of the channel or moving to a smaller one if they seem to be not performing well.
4. Ebb and flow systems
By flooding the growing area below using a nutrient-rich solution Ebb and flow hydroponics works. The reservoir’s submersible pump comes with an alarm clock. The pump is able to fill the growing beds with water and nutrients when the timer turns on. After the timer is over the gravity gradually removes the excess water from the grow beds before flushing it back into a reservoir. The system is fitted with an overflow tube to ensure that the flooding does not exceed the limit and harm the fruits and stalks of the plants. Unlike the previous systems mentioned that the plants within an flow and ebb system don’t have to be exposed to water. When the growing bed is submerged, the plants drink up the nutrient solution through their roots. The roots dry out after the water has receded and the bed becomes empty. The roots dry out and then oxygenate in the time between the next flood. The length of interval between floods is contingent on how big your grow bed is and how large the plants are.
Ebb-and-flow systems, also referred to as flood or drain systems, are one of the most popular hydroponic growth methods. The plants receive ample oxygen and nutrients that stimulate rapid and robust growth. The ebb-and flow system is flexible and easily configurable. It can also be equipped with an assortment of net pots and a variety of vegetables and fruits. The ebb & flow system offers more options than other system for hydroponics. It is possible to play around with your plant, media and media.
Ebb and flow systems can accommodate nearly all kinds of plants. The main limit is the size and the depth of the grow tray. Root vegetables will require a deeper and more extensive bed than strawberries or lettuce. Peas, tomatoes cucumbers, beans, carrots, and peppers are all popular ebb and flow crop varieties. It is possible to put trellises directly on the grow bed. Hydroton as well as “Grow rocks” are two of the most common growing media used in hydroponics with ebb-flow. These are cleanable and reusable, lightweight, and while they retain moisture, they also drain. This is an important feature of ebb/flow systems.
What are the benefits of an ebb-flow system?
- Versatility: With an ebb and flow system, you are able to grow much larger plants than you can in other hydroponic systems. Ebb and flow hydroponics is extremely well-liked by flowers, vegetables and fruits. Your plants will yield lots of fruits if they have the right size grow bed and the right nutrients.
- DIY appeal: There’s no shortage of methods to construct an ebb/flow hydroponic system in your own home. A visit to the hardware store or pet store will provide you with all the supplies needed to build an ebb and flow setup. Ebb and flow systems are more challenging to install than DIY systems like deep water culture or wick. They do permit a greater variety of plants to thrive.
What are the drawbacks of an Ebb-flow system?
- Pump failure: Just like any hydroponics system, when your pump fails and your plants are affected, they will perish. You do have to monitor your flow and ebb system to make sure that it’s functioning is not harming the well-being of your plants. Your plants will not get the right amount of water and nutrients when it flows too quickly.
- Disease and rot:Sanitation is essential for an ebb-and-flow system. Rot and root diseases can be caused by inadequate drainage. An unclean ebb-flow system can draw in insects and cause mold to grow. Your crops will suffer when you fail to maintain cleanliness. Additionally, some 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
The hydroponic drip machine sends the nutrient solution and aerated solution through a network tubes to the individual plants. The solution is slowly dripped into media around the root system to ensure that the plants are hydrated and well-nourished. The most common technique for hydroponics is the drip, particularly among commercial growers. Drip systems can be individual plants or massive irrigation systems.
There are two types for drip system hydroponics. The most well-known recovery method is for smaller growers in the home. This means that excess water is drained from the growing bed and then recirculated back into the reservoir. For non-recovery systems the excess water drains from the growing medium and runs to waste. This is a more common practice among commercial growers. The non-recovery drips may seem inefficient however large-scale growers are incredibly conservative about water consumption. These drip systems are only needed to keep the plant’s expanding media dampened. Non-recovery drip systems use elaborate timers and feeding schedules to reduce waste.
If you’re cultivating plants in a recuperation drip system, you will need to be attuned to the fluctuations in pH of the nutrient solution. This is true for any system that has wastewater recirculating into the reservoir. The solution is depleted by plants, which can change the balance of pH. Therefore the grower will require more monitoring and adjustment to the solution reservoir than a system that is not recovering. Also, growing media can be too high in nutrients and need to be changed regularly.
What are the advantages of drip systems to your company?
- Wide range of plant options: A drip-system can accommodate larger plants than other hydroponics systems. This is among the reasons it is so attractive to commercial growers. Onions, melons, pumpkins, and zucchinis are all well supported by a correctly designed drip system. Drip systems can accommodate larger amounts of growing media than other types and can support bigger root systems. Drip systems work best with slow draining media, like rockwool, coco coir and peat moss.
- Scale: Large-scale hydroponics operations are easily supported by drip systems. The new tubing is connected to the divert or reservoir system to grow additional plants. A drip system that is in place can be updated with new crops. This is another factor which makes drip systems popular commercial hydroponics
What are the disadvantages of drip systems?
- MaintenanceIf you a growing plants with drip systems that do not recover at home, there is a significant amount of maintenance involved. It is essential to check the pH and levels of nutrient in your water as well as draining and replacing it when required. It is possible for recovery systems lines to get blocked by dirt or plant matter. Therefore, you need to clean and flush the lines frequently.
- ComplexityDrip Systems can rapidly become complex and elaborate. This is not a problem for professionals in hydroponics, however it’s not the most ideal method for home-grown growers. You can use simpler systems like the ebb-flow system for hydroponics at home.
Aeroponics systems suspend plants in the air and expose the naked roots to a moist, nutrient-rich mist. Aeroponics systems are able to house a variety of plants in one enclosed structure, such as towers or cubes. The reservoir is filled with nutrients and water. Then, it is transferred to the nozzle which disperses and atomizes the solution in fine mist. The mist is blown into the chamber after being expelled from the tower’s top. Aeroponics can continuously mist the roots of the plant, similar to NFT systems that expose the roots to the nutrition film continuously. Others work more like an ebb-and-flow system spraying the root with mist on a regular basis. Aeroponics do not need substrate media to survive. The root’s constant exposure to air allows them to drink in oxygen and expand at a rapid rate.
Aeroponics systems use less water than any other type of hydroponics. It actually requires 95% less water to grow a crop aeroponically than in an irrigated field. Vertical gardens The towers are constructed to take up less space and allow for several towers to be able to fit into one location. Aeroponics produces high yields and can be produced even in confined areas. Aeroponic plants are also more productive than hydroponically-grown plants because they have a greater oxygen supply.
Aeroponics allows you to harvest year-round. Aeroponics is a great way to grow vine plants as well as nightshades (e.g. tomatoes, bell and eggplants), in a controlled environment. Lettuce, baby greens and herbs, as well as strawberries, watermelons and ginger thrive. However the fruits trees are big and heavy to be cultivated aeroponically, and plants that have extensive root systems like potatoes and carrots are not able to be grown.