You’ve heard about hydroponics from your next-door neighbor who’s been harvesting vegetables for her cooking. And now, you’re interested in doing the same for your home too. But, where do you begin? And what exactly is hydroponics? Well, that’s what we’ve created this guide for! We’ll take you through all the important things you need to know about starting your own hydroponics system.
What Is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is essentially growing plants without soil as a medium. Instead, you have a nutrient solution that delivers everything the plants need directly to their roots. Some hydroponic systems don’t have any mediums and plant roots are placed directly into the nutrient solution. However, some do have an inert medium as the medium can help keep the plant upright and rooted whilst also allowing oxygen and the nutrient solution to reach the roots.
There are many benefits to a hydroponic system, such as:
- It is compact and can be set up even with space constraints.
- There is no need to find arable land.
- You have total control over the growth of the plant as you can tweak all its conditions.
- Less maintenance – there are no pests, weeds, or diseases to worry about.
- Hydroponics allows for ideal conditions that encourage faster growth for the plants
The Different Systems
There are several different systems and some are more challenging or complicated than others. The six systems are – Water Culture, Wick System, Drip System, Ebb and Flow system, Nutrient Film Technique, and Aeroponics. The Ebb and Flow system, Nutrient Film Technique, and Aeroponics are far harder and more complicated than the rest. If you are a beginner, these three options are not as suitable. Instead, you should try out the following.
The simplest system would be the Wick System as it has no mechanical or technical details to it. Instead, it is a passive system that utilizes capillary action. This system is also the easiest to set up but it is not a system that is suitable for growing plants that require great amounts of water.
The Water Culture System is also another easy system to try out. It does not require a pump or anything electric. Instead, it has your plants floating upon a reservoir of nutrient solution. The roots of these plants are suspended in the solution and are able to absorb their nutrients directly from the solution. For an improved version of this, a pump and aerator can be included to allow for the roots to receive more oxygen.
The Drip System is also great for beginners as its concept is simple. Therefore, the initial set up is easy. Over time, as you get to understand hydroponics better, you can adjust and change it to make it better. However, this is a system that requires more maintenance and supervision as you would have to ensure that the dripping of the nutrient solution is working. If the emitters clog, your plants may not receive the moisture and nutrients it needs.
Which Plants Should You Grow?
The great thing about hydroponics is that it can grow a great variety of plants. However, some are harder to care for and beginners might face more difficulty with them. If so, you should instead try non-fruiting plants as there is no pollination to worry about. Plants that are durable and fast-growing are great options too. You would also not want to choose a plant that has long and deep roots. Therefore, great choices for plants would be salad greens like lettuce or herbs like mint.
Conditions To Control
Hydroponics is great because you can control a plethora of conditions. However, this also makes it complicated as you would have to know what exact conditions to provide. Here’s a general guide on those conditions:
Firstly, water quality is highly important for your plant’s growth and health. You should aim to use water that is pure. For most, this might not be a concern as your tap water naturally provides pure and clean water. However, for some, your taps might be drawing and supplying hard water and this would negatively impact your plants.
The best option is to use filtered or distilled water for your plants. You can obtain such water through filtration, distillation, or reverse osmosis. If you are unable to process water on your own, you might want to purchase pure water to use. Remember to provide your plants with sufficient water too!
The nutrient solution is highly important as well as it supplies all the plants’ needs. The easiest way to ensure that you are providing the right amounts of nutrients is to buy what is commercially made for your specific plant. These commercial mixes are formulated exactly for your plants’ needs and are the safest. Just remember to follow the instructions on mixing it with water.
When replenishing your hydroponics system’s water supply, do remember to add in the nutrient mix too!
Every plant has a different optimal temperature for its growth. You would have to research for your specific plant individually to provide the best conditions. It might also be difficult to supply a variety of temperatures in your setup, so try to grow plants that have similar optimal temperatures.
This is a crucial factor and it must be frequently monitored to ensure that the solution’s pH level is optimal for your plant. If it isn’t, your plant might not be able to absorb any nutrients. Therefore, you would have to regularly test your water’s pH level with test strips or a digital meter.
Different plants also have different optimal pH levels and you would have to ensure that you provide your various plants with water at the correct pH level.
Depending on where you are growing your plants and how much lighting your plants need, you might have to set up extra lighting or put up shades. Some plants grow better in the shade and some plants need copious amounts of light. You can always set up your system to take this into consideration. Plants that need greater amounts of light can be placed closer to lighting fixtures or natural lightning. Places that need no light can be grown in the shade.
Ventilation is pretty important for growing plants as they photosynthesize. Therefore, you would want constant air movement to ensure that they are supplied with carbon dioxide or aren’t oversaturated with oxygen. If your place does not have good ventilation, a simple fan could help greatly.
Humidity is great for plant growth and you should try to maintain a humidity level of 40 to 60 percent around your plants. If your area is too dry, you would want to use a humidifier or frequently mist the air around your plants. If it’s too humid, you could install an extraction fan to tone down the humidity.
Hydroponics may seem like far too daunting or challenging a task. However, it is one where the results are worth the work. With hydroponics, you can grow plants even within a smaller space and said plants can be vegetables used for your own household’s meals. With this guide, we hope that you have a better understanding of how you can set up your own hydroponics.