Hydroponics refers to the art of gardening with no soil. Hydroponics is a Latin word meaning “working water.” In the absence of soil water is at work, by providing nutrients, hydration and oxygen to plant life. From watermelons to jalapenos to orchids, plants thrive in the rigors of hydroponics. Hydroponic gardens are compact and take up only half the space of conventional agriculture.

With 90% less water and clever design, they can produce stunning fruits and flowers in a fraction of their time. But remember, these stunning harvests attract wild life so install deer fencing so that your growth can thrive and not become deer fodder. 

While hydroponics may sound modern, the history of hydroponics dates back to the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It is among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Euphrates river was diverted into channels which ran along the extravagant garden walls. Marco Polo in 13th century China wrote about floating gardens. Hydroponics was not just an invention from the past. NASA began growing aeroponic bean seeds aboard the space station in 1990. This opened up the possibility of space-based sustainable agriculture. Hydroponics has been a reliable and effective method of cultivation and conservation of water for a long time.

What exactly is hydroponics?

Hydroponics Hydroponics refers to the cultivation of plants with water and no soil. The hydroponic plants, herbs, and vegetables are planted in inert growing media, and are provided with nutrients-rich solutions as well as oxygen and water. This method encourages rapid growth, higher yields and superior quality. The roots of a plant are always looking for the proper nutrients to nourish it. Plants that are directly provided with nutrition and water are able to sustain themselves without the need to use energy. The roots can use the energy they would have used to acquire food and water to grow the plant. As a result, leaf growth flourishes as does the blooming of fruits and flowers.

Plants sustain themselves by the process of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is a color found in plants that absorbs sunlight. They use the energy of light to break down water molecules they’ve absorbed via their root system. Hydrogen molecules react with carbon dioxide to produce carbohydrates, which plants need to sustain themselves. This permits oxygen to be released into the air. This is a crucial factor in preserving the planet’s habitability. To produce photosynthetic energy plants don’t require soil. The soil is the only thing plants require to get the water and nutrients. When nutrients are dissolved in water, they can be applied directly to the plant’s root system by flooding, misting, or immersion. Hydroponics has demonstrated that the direct application of nutrients-rich water can offer more efficient and adaptable growth strategies than traditional irrigation.

What does hydroponics look like?

Hydroponic systems operate by providing a small control over environmental conditions like temperature and pH balance and maximizing exposure to water and nutrients. Hydroponics works on the simple idea that plants receive exactly what they want when they need. Hydroponics provide nutrients specifically designed to meet the requirements of the specific plant being grown. You can control how much and how long the plants get light. You can alter the pH level. In a highly personalized and controlled conditions, growth of plants increases.

By controlling the environment of the plant, a variety of risks are eliminated. The environment that plants grow in is an important factor in their growth and health. The plants can be affected by soil fungus. Rabbits and other wildlife can eat the vegetables in your garden. Locusts, a pest that can attack crops and kill them in a matter of hours, can attack the crops. Hydroponic systems remove the uncertainty that comes with cultivating plants both in and out of the earth. The soil’s mechanical resistance means that seedlings mature faster. Hydroponics permits the creation of healthier and higher-quality fruits as well as vegetables and flowers, by removing pesticides. Without obstacles, plants are free to grow vigorously and rapidly.

What are the components of a hydroponic system?

It is essential to understand the basics of hydroponics so that you can maintain a productive system.

Media that is growing

Inert media, which help anchor the root structure and support the weight of the plant, are often used for hydroponic plants. Although growing media can be utilized as a substitute for soil, it doesn’t provide any nutritional support for the plant. Instead, this porous medium retains nutrients from the solution and then delivers these nutrients to the plant. Many media for growing are pH-neutral so they won’t alter the balance of your nutrients. There are many media options available. The particular hydroponic system and plant will determine which one is the best fit to your requirements. Hydroponic growing media is widely accessible online as well as at local nurseries and gardening stores.

Air pumps and air stones

Plants can drown quickly when immersed in water. Airstones release tiny oxygen bubbles throughout the reservoir of nutrient solutions. These bubbles help distribute the dissolved nutrients evenly in the solution. Air stones can’t produce oxygen by themselves. They must be connected to an external pump with opaque food grade plastic tubing. The opaqueness will prevent algae from growing. These components are very well-liked in aquariums and can be easily purchased at pet shops.

Net Pots

Net pots can be used to cultivate hydroponic plants in mesh planters. The latticed materials allow roots to sprout from the bottom and sides of the pot, giving more oxygen and nutrients. Net pots provide better drainage than clay or plastic pots.

What’s the main difference between six types hydroponic systems?

There are hundreds of hydroponic techniques, however each one is an adaptation or combination of six basic hydroponic systems.

1. Systems for deep water culture

Hydroponics are plants that are suspended in aerated water. DWC systems, also known as deep water cultivation systems, are among the most popular techniques of hydroponics. A DWC system hangs net pots that hold plants in an oxygen-rich, deep nutrient solution. The solution sits into the root system of the plant and provides the plant with continuous nutrition and water as well as oxygen. Deep water culture is considered to be the purest type of hydroponics.

Since the root system is constantly submerged in water, water oxygenation will be vital for the plant’s health. Plants will die if there isn’t enough oxygen. Add an air stone connected to an air pump at the base of the reservoir in order to supply oxygenation to the entire system. The solution of nutrient will be circulated by the bubbles created by the airstone.

It’s simple to put the deep-water cultivation system in your home or in a class. To store the pots that are net it is possible to use an aquarium that is old or a clean buckets to store the solution. The plants that are part of DWC systems should be submerged by the solution. The solution shouldn’t be used for submerging any portion of the plant or stems. The roots should be kept at least an inch and one-half over the surface of the water. You can leave the roots exposed by allowing air bubbles to break off the surface.

What are the benefits of deep water culture systems

  • Low maintenance: After an DWC system is in place it requires very little maintenance required. Simply refill the nutrient solution when required and ensure that the pump is pumping oxygen into the air stone. The typical nutrient solution has to be replenished every two weeks depending on how large your plants are.
  • DIY appeal: Unlike many hydroponic systems, deep water cultivation systems can be constructed inexpensively and quickly by yourself, using just a quick run to your pet store and local nursery to purchase the air pump and nutrients.

What are the downsides to deep water culture systems

  • Limitations While deep-water culture systems are great in the cultivation of herbs and lettuce, they have trouble with larger and slower-growing plants. DWC systems aren’t suitable for any plant that blooms. However, with some extra effort, you can plant plants such as tomatoes, bell peppers, and squash inside a DWC system.
  • Control of temperature: It’s important that your water solution doesn’t exceed 68degF, and also doesn’t fall below 60degF. In a DWC system it is a static system, meaning that the water is and not recirculating, so it is more difficult to regulate temperature.

2. Wick systems

A wick system is where plants are placed in growing media, then placed on top of a pot. The reservoir is filled with a water solution that contains the dissolved nutrients. The tray for growing is connected to the reservoir via wicks. The wick’s water and nutrients move through the wick, allowing it to be absorbed by the growing media surrounding the plant’s roots. These wicks can be made from materials as basic as rope, string, or felt. Hydroponics with wick systems is the simplest type. Wick systems can be classified as hydroponics that are passive meaning that they don’t require pumps or other mechanical parts. It is ideal in situations where electricity isn’t available or unreliable.

Capillary action is the method Wick systems employ to function. The wick absorbs water like a sponge and transfer nutrients to the growing media. Hydroponic wick system hydroponics works only if it’s supported by media which can aid in the transfer of nutrients and water. Coco coir fibers (from the outer husks coconuts) are ideal for retaining moisture. They also come with the benefit of being have a neutral pH. Perlite is extremely porous and pH neutral which makes them perfect for wicking systems. Vermiculite, which is extremely porous, also has a high rate of cation-exchange. This means it can conserve nutrients for later use. These three media are best for systems of hydroponics that use wicks.

Wick systems are slower than other hydroponic system, so it is not practical to grow plants with these systems. Make sure you have at least one wick in every growing tray. The wicks should be located close to the root system of your plant. While wicks are capable of working using aeration and pumps, many people choose to add oxygen stones and an air pump to the tank of the wick system. This will provide extra oxygen to the plant.

What advantages does a Wick system provide?

  • Simplicity: A wick system can be set-up by anyone, and doesn’t require a lot of attention once it has been running. Your plants are safe from drying out by the constant water supply provided through the wicks. You will see plants like lettuce flourishing when you have wicks, providing you with a great return on investment.
  • Space-efficient:Wick systems can be put anywhere as they do not require electricity. This system is perfect for beginners, educators, and anyone who wants to explore the world of hydroponics.

What are some of the drawbacks to wick systems?

  • Limitations:Lettuce and herbs like mint, rosemary and basil are growing rapidly and don’t require huge amounts of water. Because of their demands for nutrients, and the need for hydration, tomatoes struggle to survive in a wick system. Other plants are not able to thrive in a climate that is perpetually moist. Wick systems can destroy root vegetables like turnips, carrots and many other root vegetables.
  • Possible to rot: A hydroponic wick system needs to be kept humid and moist. This increases the chance of fungal disease and rot developing in your plants’ organic growing media, and the roots.

3. Nutrient film technique systems

The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) suspends plants above a stream that continuously discharges nutrient solution. This water is washed across the root. The channels that support the plants are tilted so that water to flow down the length of their growing tray, and then drain into the reservoir beneath. The water in the reservoir is Aerated with an air stone. The submersible pump pumps the nutrient rich water from the reservoir back up to the top. The nutrient film technique is a recirculating hydroponics system.

Unlike with deep water-based hydroponics the plant’s roots in an NFT system aren’t submerged in water. Instead the stream (or “film”) is only flows over the ends of the roots. The tips of the roots trap moisture in the soil, while exposed root systems receive ample oxygen. The bottoms of the channels are grooved to allow the film to easily flow through the tips of the roots. This prevents water from pooling on the root system or damming it.

Although nutrient film technology systems recycle water constantly, it is important to drain the reservoir and refill the nutrient solution every week. This will ensure that your plants are getting enough nutrition. NFT channels must be designed with a gradual slope. A steep angle could cause water to rush down the channel and not properly nourish the plants. The system could explode if it is pumped with too much water. NFT hydroponics are popular commercial systems, as they can accommodate multiple plants in a channel and can easily be mass-produced. The most effective nutrient film systems are suitable for plants with light weights such as spinach, lettuce, mustard greens, and Kale. Heavy fruiting plants such tomatoes and cucumbers might require trellises to support their excess weight.

What are the advantages of using films containing nutrients?

  • Low usage: NFT Hydroponics does not require large amounts or nutrients. Salts can’t accumulate on the roots due to the constant flow. Nutrient film technology systems don’t require the growth of media. You can reduce the cost of purchasing media and hassles of replacing it.
  • Modular Design: Nutrient Film Technique Systems are ideal for large-scale commercial ventures. Once a channel is set up and functional, it’s very simple to expand. You can fill your greenhouse with multiple channels supporting different plants. It is recommended for each channel to have each channel’s own reservoir. In this way, in the event of a the pump fails or if disease spreads in the water, you’ll not lose your entire operation.

What are the disadvantages of the nutrient-film method?

  • Pump failure If the pump is damaged and the channel no longer circulating the nutrient film the plants will begin to dry out. In a matter of hours, your entire crop can be destroyed if it’s not getting water. It is essential to be on guard in maintaining your NFT hydroponics system. You must be diligent in monitoring the performance and condition of your pump.
  • Overcrowding is when the plants are placed too close to each other, or when the growth of roots becomes too prolific and causes the channel to become clogged. Roots could hinder the flow of water, causing plants to starve. This is particularly relevant to plants that are at the lowest. Consider taking plants off the lower part of the channel or moving to a smaller channel if they seem to be not performing well.

4. Ebb and flow systems

By flooding a grow area below using a nutrient solution Ebb and flow hydroponics is performed. The submersible pump in the reservoir comes with an alarm clock. As the timer begins it fills the grow bed with the water and nutrients. After the timer is over the gravity gradually drains excess water from the grow beds before flushing it back into the reservoir. The overflow tube ensures that flooding does not exceed a set amount and can result in damage to the fruit or the stalks. A ebb and flow system isn’t as dependent on water. The growing bed is flooded and the plants take in the nutrients through their roots. When the water evaporates, the roots begin to dry. The dry roots then become oxygenated in the time between floods. The time between floods will depend on the size of the grow bed and how large the plants you have.

Hydroponics is one of the most popular methods of hydroponics. The high levels of oxygen and nutrients the plants are supplied with encourages quick and rapid growth. The flow and ebb system can be easily customized and flexible. The grow bed can be filled with various net pots, as in addition to different vegetables and fruits. The ebb and flow system offers more options than any other system for hydroponics. You can experiment with your plants, media and media.

Ebb and flow systems can be used to grow almost any kind of vegetation. The size of your grow tray and depth are its primary limitations. Root vegetables will require a much deeper bed than lettuce or strawberries. Popular ebb-flow crops include peas, tomatoes and beans as well as peppers, cucumbers, and carrots. Actually, you could even attach trellises directly to the grow bed. The most widely utilized growing media used in hydroponics with ebb flow are “Grow Rocks” and “Grow Pebbles” (hydroton). They are light and washable, reusable and can be reused. They also drain efficiently. This is an important characteristic in Ebb/flow systems.

What are the advantages to an Ebb/flow system?

  • Flexibility: With an ebb and flow system, you can produce much bigger plants than in most other hydroponic systems. The use of ebb and flow hydroponics is great way to cultivate flowers, vegetables and even fruits. The best method to ensure that your plants receive the maximum yield is to ensure they have the proper sized grow beds and nutrition.
  • DIY appeal: There are hundreds of ways to build your own hydroponic ebb and flow system at home. A visit to the hardware store or pet store will provide you with everything you need to construct an ebb and flow system. Ebb and flow systems are more difficult to set up than DIY systems such as wick or deep water culture. However, they allow for a wider range of plants to thrive.

What are the disadvantages of an Ebb-flow system?

  • Pump failure: Just like any hydroponics system, if your pump fails, then your plants will perish. To keep your plants healthy, you must monitor the flow and ebb of the water. The plants will not receive enough nutrients and water if the water is flowing in and out too quickly.
  • Rot and disease:Sanitation, maintenance and inspection are essential to an Ebb/flow system. If the bed isn’t drainage is proper, then root disease and rot could develop. Mold and insects are attracted by a dirty ebb/flow system. You can cause damage to your crops if you do not maintain a clean environment. Some plants may not be able cope with the rapid changes in pH caused by draining and flooding extremes.

5. Drip systems

Hydroponic drip systems deliver the nutrient-rich and aerated solution from a reservoir through a network tube system to the individual plants. This solution is slowly dripped on the roots to ensure the moisture and nutrients. Drip systems, particularly popular with commercial growers are the most popular form of hydroponics. Drip systems can be individual plants or huge irrigation systems.

There are two types of drip hydroponics systems: recovery as well as non-recovery. The most well-known recovery method is designed for small farmers in the home. It means that the excess water is drained out of the grow bed and recirculated into the reservoir. Non-recovery systems let excess water drain through the media before it is released to the environment. This method is preferred by commercial growers. Though non-recovery drip systems can sound wasteful Large-scale growers are extremely conservative with water usage. They only provide the amount of water needed to keep the media surrounding the plants. Non-recovery drips use elaborate timers and feeding programs to reduce the amount of waste.

If you are growing plants in a recovery drip system, you will need to be attuned to changes in pH of the nutrient solution. This is true of any system where wastewater re-circulates into the reservoir. Plants will deplete the nutrient content of the solution as well as alter the pH balance, which means the grower must monitor and adjust the solution reservoir more frequently than they require in a non-recovery system. Additionally, the growing media may be excessively rich in nutrients and will need to be changed regularly.

What are the advantages associated with a drip system?

  • There are many options for plant species: Drip systems can grow bigger plants faster than other systems for hydroponics. This is among the main reasons why it is attractive for commercial growers. A properly-sized drip system can be utilized to support all kinds of plants, including melons, pumpkins and onions. Drip systems have higher amounts of growing media than any other system, allowing them to support larger root systems. Drip systems are ideal for mediums that drain slowly, such as rockwool, coco coir, and peatmoss.
  • Scale Drip systems are capable of supporting large-scale hydroponics operations. If a farmer wants to add more plants the new tubing could be connected to a reservoir and divert solutions to the new vegetation. You can add new crops to the existing drip system by adding more reservoirs with different timers that can be adapted to the plants’ needs. This is one reason for why drip systems are very popular in commercial hydroponics.

What are the drawbacks of drip systems?

  • MaintenanceIf your home is not a recovery system, it will require some attention. You’ll need to consistently check the pH and levels of nutrient in your solution as well as draining and replacing it when necessary. Debris and plant matter can block recovery system lines, so it is important to periodically clean and flush them.
  • ComplexityDrip system could quickly get complicated and complex. This is not as relevant to experts in hydroponics, but it’s not the ideal choice for those who want to grow their own plants at home. There are a variety of simple systems, such as flow and ebb which are more suited to hydroponics at home.

6. Aeroponics

Aeroponics systems hang plants in the air and expose their roots to a rich nutrient mist. Aeroponics frameworks are enclosed structures such as towers or cubes, that can hold many plants simultaneously. The reservoir holds water and nutrients. It is then transferred to the nozzle which atomizes and disperses the solution in fine mist. The mist usually falls from the tower and may be seen falling through the chamber. Some aeroponics constantly spray the root system with mist, much in the same way that NFT systems expose roots to the nutrient film at all times. Others work more like an ebb-and-flow system spraying the root with mist at regular intervals. Aeroponics requires no substrate media in order to thrive. The root’s constant exposure to air allows them to take in oxygen and expand at a rapid rate.

Aeroponics systems consume less water than other types of hydroponics. Aeroponics requires 95% less water than an irrigation crop. Vertical gardens is designed to use minimal room and allows for numerous towers to be able to be tucked away in a single location. Aeroponics produces high yields and can be produced even in small spaces. Aeroponic plants also grow faster than hydroponically grown plants because of their higher oxygen exposure.

Aeroponics makes it possible to harvest year-round. Aeroponics is a great setting for vine plants, nightshades tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplants as well as other nightshades. Lettuce, baby greens, herbs, strawberries, watermelons and ginger thrive. Obstacles are too large and heavy to grow aeroponically. Plants that have roots that are deep, like potatoes and carrots can also not be grown.