Every beginner gardener will say that there’s nothing like the joy of growing your own plants. Well, if you’ve experienced that joy and want to take it to the next level, consider trying out a hydroponic system — a method of growing plants with no soil, but a nutrient-rich water solution. To get you started, here are some commonly asked questions about hydroponic systems and how you can build your own.
Q1. Are hydroponic systems effective?
The short answer is yes! In fact, for certain types of plants, Hydroponic systems are even more effective than using normal or traditional farming methods. Here’s why:
Firstly, using hydroponic systems mean that farmers are able to control the conditions of growth much more closely. This includes factors like pH level, amount of nutrients, and temperature. Compared to traditional soil-grown crops, farmers can set everything to optimal levels all down to a science. They are able to even control things like lightning schedules and air moisture to improve the yield of plant production.
Secondly, using hydroponic systems help farmers and home gardeners to save a lot of space. For regular crops, farmers would need acres and acres of land to grow the desired amount of crops. However, in a hydroponic system, farmers can produce up to 10 times the number of crops in the same amount of space! This is because systems are designed to make full use of not just horizontal spaces, but vertical spaces as well so that more plants can be grown in the same area. This has allowed farms to exist where they couldn’t previously.
Thirdly, hydroponic systems are much faster in producing the desired yield as compared to traditional soil-grown crops. The time gap between first planting and reaping the harvest is comparably shorter than that of normal crop production. Having the plants planted densely also helps the farmer to harvest them much quicker, then if they were to travel across the entire plot of land for normal soil-grown crops.
Last but not least, for consumers, you can rest assured that no chemical products are used in your food. None are needed in a hydroponic system!
Q2. Which type of hydroponic system is most suitable for my home?
There are six recognized types of hydroponic systems used all over the world, from home gardens to huge crops. However, home systems tend to be the less complex of the six, namely the Wick System, Deep Water Culture System, and Drip System.
- Wick System: In this system, the nutrient solution is pumped and delivered to the roots. The plants are not submerged in the solution, but rather receive the nutrients and water from the roots. It is suitable for most plants, apart from thirsty ones like exotic plants and tomatoes.
- Deep Water Culture System: For this, plants are placed in a net pot where the roots are dangled in the nutrient solution. As for oxygen, an air stone is placed in the tank and connected to an automatic air pump on the outside. This works best for lightweight or fruitless plants that can sit right on the nutrient solution without sinking.
- Drip System: In this case, the nutrient solution is pumped using a water pump. It follows the tubing to root drip emitters that directly drop the nutrients on the plants’ roots. The excess water follows the tubing back into the tank of nutrient solution and the cycle repeats.
Out of all three, the Drip System works best for a wide array of plants, regardless of weight or level of thirst. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and even beans are successfully grown using this form of hydroponics.
Q3. What do I need to build a hydroponic Drip System?
It’s not difficult at all to build a hydroponic drip system, as it’s easily one of the most common systems all around the globe. To start off, you’ll first need something to build your bed system — where the plants will be held. You can use a real flower bed, flower pots, or simply dutch buckets. Dutch buckets are squarish buckets which can be used for one or more plants. We recommend using one bucket per plant as that gives the plant plenty of room to grow! It also helps safeguard against infections, as you can easily remove one infected plant from the entire bed instead of dismantling everything.
Next, you’ll need a growth or culture medium. Ordinarily, this would be soil, but for hydroponics, different materials are used. A favorite is vermiculite, a group of minerals that helps plants absorb things like potassium and magnesium more easily. Alternatively, you can use crushed granite as well.
Once you’ve settled on a medium, you’ll need PVC tubing, clamps and drippers. Specifically, you’ll need poly tubing, pipe clamps, diner clips, and zip ties. You can find these in garden stores or quite easily online. You’ll need drain fittings as well for each bucket.
Aside from these smaller items, make sure that you also get a good water pump and tank to store the water. This is known as a reservoir and should be able to contain at least 15 gallons of water.
Q4. How should I assemble my hydroponic Drip System?
Now that you have what you need, it’s just a matter of assembly. First, fill your dutch buckets with the medium of choice and put the planter in. Then place the buckets on your table and space them out as desired in two rows.
For the tubing, start by cutting the tube to the length of the table, with extra lengths for the end cap and elbow. Place the cut tubing in the middle of the two rows of buckets and make markings for where each plant is. Then, drill a hole on each of the markings and fasten the tube along the middle line above the buckets with clips and clamps.
Now, simply put your drip emitters in place and attach the PVC end camp and elbow. Connect these to the pump, reservoir, and irrigation line and voila, you have your own hydroponic drip system! It’s that easy to set up.
With these tips, you’re all ready to take your own home gardening to the next level. With your very own hydroponic system, you’ll be able to get more yield without the messiness and unpredictability of using soil; a true win-win solution.