Hydroponic gardening can be a challenge, but having the right equipment and tools can provide you with a lot of help in producing a healthy, large yield of plants. There are a variety of hydroponic systems to choose from, each catering to different levels of experience, as well as your gardening budget and needs.
Despite the wide range of hydroponic systems, there are a few essentials that will benefit the growing process for each gardener. Here is a list of essential hydroponics equipment you need, together with detailed explanations and tips on how to make the best purchase that caters to your needs.
1. Water pumps
In hydroponics systems, it is important to focus on providing optimal levels of water, light, nutrients, temperature, oxygen, as well as support. As such, having a good water pump can ensure that plants receive sufficient water and minerals. There are only two main categories of water pumps: submersible pumps that are placed inside the nutrient solution, and non-submersible pumps that are placed outside of it. Water pumps also have different levels of output – gallons per minute (GPM) and gallons per hour (GPH). if you are looking after a small hydroponic system, the best pump to use would be one that supplies at a rate of 30 – 40 GPH. A pump of this category is often inexpensive, replenishing the nutrient and water supply at an optimal rate.
Hydroponic timers are extremely useful as they help you to control various conditions of your growing environment. Unless you are using a basic hydroponic system, a timer is an essential tool that regulates lighting, water supply, and the ventilation of air in your garden. There are two kinds of hydroponic timers, analog and digital. If you’re nurturing plants that are sensitive to their environment, requiring round-the-clock care, look for digital timers. Though they’re pricier, they can be adjusted to your needs, regulating growth environments according to a multi-stage growth process. Consider purchasing one if you have a busy schedule, and require assistance to look after your plants.
3. Grow lights
The best grow lights can do wonders in increasing the quality and yield of your plants. When shopping around for grow lights, look out for those offering a full light spectrum. These lamps are better equipped to support plant growth throughout all phases, from germination to the vegetative or flowering stages. Fluorescent lights are great as a supplementary source of light, but they are often unable to provide a comprehensive spectrum for healthy plant growth.
Metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights are excellent light sources, as they have been designed to mimic natural sunlight. MH lights have a greater proportion of blue light, which makes it suitable for boosting vegetative growth. On the other hand, HPS lights fall within a red-orange spectrum of light. Although their light belongs to a more limited spectrum, HPS lights have a longer lifespan. Additionally, they are brighter and more energy-efficient than MH lights. HPS lights are ideal for plants in the flowering stage.
While each light has its own benefits, it is sometimes better to use both lights. This gives you a light source that is closer to the full spectrum of natural sunlight. To achieve a broader light coverage, look for light reflectors as they can help you achieve wider coverage with just a few lights.
4. Grow media
One of the main distinguishers of hydroponic growing is that it doesn’t use soil. Grow media function as a replacement, and they often consist of inert, inorganic materials like polyurethane foam, gravel, vermiculite, expanded ore, and even coconut fiber. Growth media are designed to give stable support and hold for your plants, facilitating drainage and giving roots proper exposure to air. Some growth mediums might give good anchorage for plants, but do note that sometimes, these can reduce the circulation of air and nutrients in the reservoir.
Growth media should also be capable of storing moisture and minerals for sustained periods, as this will allow plants to absorb them between the flooding stages. This depends on the material and particles within the medium, and the best ones will give your plants the nutrients and water they need. A final tip would be to always maintain the cleanliness of your grow media. Make sure the medium is sterile, in order to avoid the trouble of mold, diseases, or pests.
5. The hydroponic reservoir
The reservoir is one of the most important and fundamental components of a hydroponic system. Water and nutrients are stored in the hydroponic reservoir, ensuring your plants have access to a sufficient supply of moisture and minerals.
The reservoir you use depends on the size of the hydroponics setup, as well as your preferred budget. If you have a small system going, you are in luck since all you need is a bucket for your water and nutrient supply.
Avoid using reservoirs made from metal, as minerals that are poisonous to plants might leak into the nutrient solution. Minerals might also react with other components of the nutrient mix, which may also harm your plants.
Finally, note that water reservoirs need to be covered at all times. This is to prevent evaporation from occurring, which can disrupt the nutrient balance and thus affect plant growth.
6. pH kit
Plants are sensitive to changes in pH levels, so it is essential to maintain ideal levels in the nutrient solution of the hydroponic system. The preferred pH conditions will always differ, but it is advised that levels stay within the range of six to six and a half.
pH test kits are a must-have in order to stay within the optimal range. These kits are also the cheapest out of all the equipment listed.
Growing plants in hydroponic gardens might be easier compared to traditional methods, but having good equipment and tools can help you go a long way in producing healthy yields of crops. Use the tips and recommendations in this article to carefully choose the equipment you need, and best of luck in your hydroponics journey.