By Nadia Ruffin (September 2016)
WHAT IS HYDROPONICS?
Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in water without the use of soil. Hydroponics is not a new growing method in fact it has been around for centuries. It has however started to get national attention due to the legalization of marijuana in certain states. Hydroponics is a method commonly used by commercial growers to grow many of the fruits and vegetables we consume.
ADVANTAGES OF HYDROPONICS
There are advantages to growing in hydroponic systems. First off you can grow plants indoors. Being able to grow plants indoors can allow anyone the option to grow food all year long. So in the winter you can still have fresh produce even when there is a foot of snow outside on the ground. Secondly, you are not bothered by pests and diseases they come along with having your plants grow outside. Third anyone can have a garden. If you live an apartment and don’t have a place to plant in ground you can still grow produce right in your home. There are other reasons like it’s better for the environment because companies are not cutting down forests to create new farmland or further eroding already nutrient-depleted soil. Also you use less water than in conventional farming because the water you have in your system is recirculated over and over again.
DIFFERENT HYDROPONIC SYSTEMS
There are quite a few different systems to grow plants in with many depending on the type of plant you intend to grow.
Deep water culture systems (DWC) are the simplest and easiest way to grow. In this system plant roots are suspended above a reservoir full of nutrient rich water. Plants receive oxygen either from the water via a pump with an air stone placed in the water or a space is left between the water and the base of the plant to allow oxygenation. Leafy green plants and herbs grow very well in these systems.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)-a little more advanced than the deep water culture. The plants are placed in a channel (usually made from a fence post or pvc) and a small stream (film) of nutrient rich water is passed over the roots via a water pump. The water is circulated over and over again. A multitude of plants can grow in this system. Leafy greens benefit from continuous flow while fruit plants like tomatoes and peppers may benefit from timed watering.
Ebb and Flow (Drain and Flow)-a more advanced system that requires timers, sumps, pumps etc. Plants are planted in a grow bed using inert media like lava rocks, perlite, pebbles etc. Nutrient rich water is comes from a reservoir and fills up a grow bed then drains back to the reservoir. This system usually cycles every 15 minutes all day. A multitude of plants can grow in this system.
Bato (dutch) Buckets-The bucket has an outlet for water to drain. Plants are planted in buckets using perlite or another inert media. The plant receives nutrient rich water from a reservoir using a water pump via a drip line. The water is passed over the roots and drains from the bucket and returns to the reservoir. This system cycles throughout the day or can be a continuous flow. Fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers do well in these systems. You can setup multiple buckets at a time.
Aeroponic System – Plants are setup in a channel or in a reservoir with their roots suspend in air. A mist of nutrient rich water is sprayed on the roots in interval of 3-5 seconds every 5 minutes. This prevents roots from drying out. Plants get oxygen from the roots being suspended in air.
For information on How To Setup A Hydroponic System At Home, watch this video: