Today’s Hydroponics Technologies

The word “hydroponics” come from the Greek, with “hydro” meaning “water” and “ponics” meaning “labor.” When you garden with hydroponics, you are gardening without soil. Soil-less gardening has been around for centuries, with two of the earliest examples being the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Floating Gardens of China, and there is a reason it has stuck around – it works and works well! Homemade hydroponic systems are great for gardening and growing crops because, on average, plants grow 30 to 50% faster than they do in regular soil, and their yield is greater, because the plants do not have to search the soil for water and nutrients – these things are delivered directly to the roots via the hydroponics system.

So what kinds of hydroponics technologies are out there for you to take advantage of for your own gardening? There are several different types of systems as well as growth materials, each offering their own advantages. Whether you decide to build your own system or purchase a kit, it is best to be familiar with what is out there before you begin. There are six basic types of hydroponics systems, though you should bear in mind that each of those six basic types has hundreds of different variations on them. These six types are Wick, Water Culture, Ebb and Flow, Drip, Nutrient Film Technique, and Aeroponic.

Let’s take a closer look at each hydroponic system:

The Wick System: The Wick system is the simplest of all of the basic hydroponic systems. It is considered a passive system because there are no moving parts. The nutrient solution is pulled into the growing medium from the reservoir via means of a wick. The most popular growth materials to use with this kind of system are Coconut Fiber, Perlite, Vermiculite, and Pro-Mix. The thing to think about with a Wick System is that if you are using large plants or plants that use up a lot of water, they may use up the nutrients faster than the wick can supply it.

Water Culture: In a Water Culture system, a platform (usually made of Styrofoam) floats directly on top of the nutrient solution. An air pump supplies air to an air stone that bubbles the solution and supplies oxygen to the roots. This is good for growing lettuce, but doesn’t do well with larger plants or plants that take longer times to grow.

Ebb and Flow System: In this system, a submerged pump floods the growing tray with the nutrient solution and then drains it back into a reservoir repeatedly, usually via means of a timer. This system works with a variety of different growth materials, like gravel, Grow Rocks, or Rockwool. With this system, you can use individual pots for the plants that makes it easy to move them around. This system is vulnerable to power failure, so that is a caveat to think about.

Nutrient Film Technique: This is also called N.F.T., and in this system, a constant flow of the nutrient solution is provided by the submersible pump, and it flows over the roots of the plants and then back into the reservoir. This system usually uses no other growth material than air, which saves on expenses.

Drip: This system is very common. A timer controls a submerged pump that drips the nutrient solution onto the the roots of each plant with a drip line. A recovery system allows the excess nutrient solution to be reused.

Aeroponic: This is the most high tech solution, where the plant roots hang in mid-air and are misted with the solution every few minutes. A timer controls this so that the roots do not get dry due to too infrequent mistings.

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