This is for plant lovers who cannot afford the space to garden. Aeroponics brings you a new way to gardening indoors and also uses up a lot less space whilst allowing you to grow most of the varieties of crops that are grown the traditional way. Sounds tempting right? But how exactly does this work?
How an Aeroponics System Works
As we know, in aeroponics, plants are usually suspended in the air, leaving the roots exposed. Of course, you’ll still need a light source to be shined on the plant leaves. As for the roots, the importance is having a reservoir.
This is the bank of nutrient-filled solution that will be sprayed onto your plants in the form of mist. This system is close-looped ensuring that whatever excess the plants don’t absorb will be returned to the system and reused as mist. This process of transferring the solution to the nozzles is aided by a water pump which is located at the base of the reservoir. The next important thing about this entire system is that the water output has to be controlled lest the roots get overexposure to water intake. This can be controlled using a repeat cycle timer. There is no golden rule as to what the perfect cycle is, so what you can do is to keep experimenting on your first batch of plants to devise the optimized cycle time.
Going back to the nozzles, you cannot just use any kind of nozzles, they have to be misting nozzles. The plant roots absorb the nutrients best when the water droplets are not large and also smaller water droplets reduce the risk of drenching your roots. So, it is crucial that you find misting nozzles that produce smaller water droplets around the size of 5 to 50 microns. Lastly, you can separate the leaf and roots of the plants by using net cups. These net cups are usually inserted into lids with cut holes to serve as a growing chamber. Then, a styrofoam collar will be used to seal this growing chamber so that water will not enter it from the reservoir. In general, this is how all aeroponics systems work.
Things to look out for in the Aeroponics System
Aeroponic plants have a definitive range that they thrive in and this optimal range lies between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you find that your reservoir temperatures are experiencing drops in temperature, you can opt for an aquarium heater coupled with a thermostatic regulator so that the optimal temperatures can be maintained. If you find it going higher instead, you could opt for a reservoir chiller.
The pH level of the solution is essential to the growth of the plants as certain important nutrients are only effective in certain pH levels. This ideal level is usually 6 but it does not have to be so strict as long as you can maintain it above 5 and below 7. You can test out the pH levels using a digital pH meter, liquid pH tests, and paper strip tests. However, if you are planning to do this for the long term, our suggestion is to get the digital pH meter. It may be costlier at the start compared to the other two methods, but the costs will be spread out across the long term and make it more worth it since it is a one-off purchase.
Electrical Conductivity (EC) Levels
The EC levels tend to give you a better gauge of what your plants require at any point in time. The plants will absorb what they need at different stages. For example, during hotter periods, plants will absorb more water than nutrients and the converse applies for the cooler periods. So, the EC level is important to know what exactly is happening within your plants. As such, EC levels should be monitored daily so that adjustments can be made to maintain a consistent EC level. This can be done by adding nutrients if it is too low or diluting the solution if the readings are too high. You can measure these EC levels by investing in EC meters, and again, if you are planning for the long term, an EC meter will be a worthy investment. Another way to prevent additional problems like clogging of the nozzles due to mineral deposits is to clean out the reservoir and refill it every week or fortnight.
The Pros of having an Aeroponics System
With all that is said and done, there are other ways of gardening indoors, so what makes aeroponics so different?
- It aids faster plant growth than traditional soil growing.
- It requires a minimal amount of space especially if you use a vertical growing system (which also works well with aeroponics) since there will not be a risk of excess water dripping from the top plant to the bottom one.
- It is a mostly automated system as plants will only use what they need and the excess is recycled back into the reservoir helping to save greatly on water costs as well.
- Full control of the growing climate and water and nutrient intake by the plant.
- Less chance of pests and insects harming your plants.
The Cons of having an Aeroponics System
Nothing is perfect in this world, so obviously, the aeroponics system also comes with a few costs.
- The plants are completely reliant on the system, meaning problems in the system will cause problems for your plants.
- Extensive knowledge is required on the part of the grower as there are many specificities that you need to take note of, like the percentages of each nutrient in the nutrient solution.
- It requires ongoing effort to monitor pH and EC levels.
- Fungi and bacteria may not form on your plants, but the reservoir, being a body of water, is susceptible to them so regular maintenance is required.
The aeroponics system is ideal for those who want to grow plants indoors. However, you will also have to build up a good understanding of how it works before you start setting up an aeroponics garden. So, the important thing is doing more research before committing!