So what are these basic systems, and how do they work?
Well, let's take a closer look.
First, we have the least active system, The Wick System.
The wick system is a passive non-recovery system. It uses no water pump and has no moving parts. The nutrients are stored in a reservoir, then moved to the root system using a candle or lantern wick or even a paper towel(think back to the bean sprouts). Though the wick system is easy and inexpensive to set up and maintain, it tends to keep the growing medium too wet. It doesn't allow for the optimum amount of oxygen in the root system. Therefore, it isn't considered the most effective way to grow hydroponically.
Next, we have the Water Culture System.
The water culture system has the most simple design of all the active systems. A styrofoam platform usually is what holds the plant and floats directly on the nutrient solution. An air pump is used to supply air to the air stone that bubbles the nutrient solution. The air stone provides oxygen to the plants' roots. This system is the primary choice for growing leaf lettuce, which is fast growing water-loving plants. Not many plants besides lettuce will do well in this system.
This particular type of hydroponic system is a great classroom model. It is very popular with teachers as an inexpensive system, often made out of an old aquarium or other watertight containers. One drawback of this system is that it doesn't work well with large plants or with long-term plants.
Here, we have the Ebb and Flow System.
It is an active recovery system, and it uses a submersible pump in the reservoir; the plants are in an upper tray. It works on a basic flood and drain theory. A tank holds the nutrient solution and the pump. Once the pump turns on, the nutrient solution is pumped to the upper tray for delivery. T stays on for 20 to 30 minutes; this is called a flood cycle. During the flood cycle, oxygen-poor air is moved out of the root system by the upward moving water. As the nutrient water drains back into the reservoir, oxygen-rich air gets drawn into the growing medium, allowing the roots ample oxygen, which maximizes their nutrient intake. After the flood cycle, the nutrient solution drains back down into the reservoir through the pump. This system is low maintenance, yet highly effective type of hydroponic growing.
Then, we have the Nutrient Film Technique. The Nutrient Film Technique(NFT) is the system type we use here at Sprouting Farms and is an active recovery system. It uses a submersible pump. It reuses nutrient solutions that are pumped into a grow-tube where the roots are suspended. The grow-tube stays at a slight downward angle, so the nutrients run over the roots and back into the reservoir up to 24 hours per day. No growing medium is necessary because the plants are held up by either support collars or a grow-baskets. It is a very efficient system, although it may be difficult for novice hydroponic growers to fine-tune. Because there is no growing medium to hold any moisture, it can be very unforgiving. Any prolonged period of interruption in the nutrient flow and the roots could dry out, causing the plants to suffer and possibly die.
Next is the Continuous Drip System.
This system is more versatile. It can be an active recovery or non-recovery system. As with the others, this system uses a submersible pump but has supply lines going to each plant. Due to a drip emitter for each plant, the grower can adjust the amount of solution on each plant. A drip tray added under each row of plants to send the solution back to the reservoir would easily make this system an active recovery type. Continuous Drip systems use Rockwool most often. Still, any growing medium can work, thanks to the adjustment feature on each drip emitter.
And last, we have the Aeroponic System.
The aeroponic system is likely the most high-tech type of active non-recovery system. Like the NFT system, the growing medium is primarily air with the roots hanging in the air. They must have a nutrient solution mists, and mistings must be done every few minutes. Aeroponic systems need a pump with a short cycle timer that runs the pump for a few seconds every couple of minutes. These timers are imperative. If the misting cycles are interrupted and with the roots exposed to the air, they will rapidly dry out.
Now, do you Buy or Build?
Your skill level and the amount of time and effort available to put into your hydroponic growing venture will play a big part in determining whether to buy a prebuilt system or try your hand at building your own.
The prebuilt, all in one, kits are very user-friendly, easy to set up, and often require less maintenance. They are great for beginners since there is no need to do extensive research or planning, but they can be expensive.
The DIY or build your own setups are more involved than the all-in-ones. They require research, planning, and at least some experience, though you do have more freedom in how your system work. You can combine systems and experiment with the way they work. Shopping around for the pieces you want and need can be time-consuming and may or may not be cost-effective. It all depends on the type of system you choose to build.
Whether you chose to build a diy system or an all in one, there is a system that can work with your budget and availability.
Have you grown hydroponically?
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