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The hydroponic system involves growing plants in a soilless medium or a solution of water with rich nutrients. In this system, you feed the plant roots with a nutrient-rich solution. You only need to add different nutrients to the water that suits the type of plants you’re growing.  These nutrients include phosphorus, calcium, nitrogen, potassium, among others. 

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Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Advantages of Hydroponic Gardening 

This system is becoming so popular because it’s easy to maintain and it’s also super convenient. Some of the benefits of hydroponic systems are:

  • They require less space.
  • They don’t use a lot of water compared to growing plants in the soil.
  • Plants in these systems provide higher yields than those in their soil counterparts.
  • They’re easy to maintain and require less labor.
  • The crops grow faster.
  • Easy to control pests and diseases.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

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Image Credit: Deposit Photos

1. NFT (Nutrient Film Technique)

NFT or Nutrient Film Technique is a well-known and versatile hydroponic system. It includes a pump that supplies the fertilized water to the grow tray, and a drain pipe is used to store or recycle the unused nutrient solutions. 

In this hydroponic system, the nutrient solution keeps on running in a cycle and constantly flowing over the plants’ roots. Gravity plays an important role in keeping the solution running. You place the tray in a position that allows the water to return back into the drainpipe. There is a constant supply of the new nutrient solution at the top of the tube in the grow tray. 

It is a dynamic system and requires the moving parts or components to work. The nutrient solution comes through a thin tube over the roots. Make sure you water the plants’ roots and nourish them properly without completely soaking them.  

Thin-film has another purpose of making sure that the tops of the roots remain dry and can get oxygen from the fresh air. This hydroponic system is widely popular among commercial and home growers to grow various types of plants. 

This system is reliable whereby the plant roots constantly get the necessary nutrients. Unlike the EBB and Flow system, this one doesn’t require a timer, and instead, it uses a submerged water pump. 

In my opinion, this pump helps deliver the nutrient solution to the plants that are growing in a tray through a channel. 

In this system, the plant roots receive a narrow film of water and nutrients, and they are not entirely submerged. The solution returns to the reservoir for reuse.

Unlike other systems, this one does not require any growing medium. Apart from that, the film ensures that you do not suffocate the roots.

2. DWC (Deep Water Culture) or Bubbleponics

Bubbleponics is just an upgraded name of the Deep Water Culture, in which you place the plant directly into the nutrient solution instead of an absorbent substance. In Deep Water Culture, there is no hurdle between the plant and the water. You grow the plant roots in well-proportioned water nutrient reservoirs that adjust to the correct pH. 

To get the best access to water, nutrients, and oxygen, the plant roots can be hung with only oxygenated nutrient water. Make sure you provide the pants with net pots in their proper positions. It will result in a plant that will grow much faster and stronger as well. And if you are using a basket with clay pebbles, make sure the roots have adequate access to nutrient water and air.

The best thing about this method is that the roots have a direct connection with all the necessary nutrients. And it’s easy to implement as well. You can use this method with some large plants as well. 

This method is best suited for plants and especially vegetables that love water and can grow quickly, such as leaf lettuce. This growing method is one of the most convenient for use with a grow tent for growing in an apartment.

In Deep Water Culture Systems, you should suspend the plant roots in a solution with water, oxygen, and nutrients.  This allows them to absorb nutrients and oxygen in a more convenient way than when you are using other hydroponic setups. 

3. Ebb and Flow Flood and Drain

Ebb, also known as Flow and Drain, sometimes referred to as flood and drain system, is a versatile, inexpensive, and moderate-level difficult method and is considered the most recognized hydroponic system.

In this system, you need to place the plants in a tray. It would be best if you periodically filled the tray with nutrient-rich water, which is pumped out of the reservoir located at the bottom of the tray. This natural effect of gravity pulls the water back into the reservoir and reuses it in the future. 

This is the most favored system for gardening since it allows you to modify your garden with ease, such as adding or removing plants without affecting their surroundings, environment, and yield. Although assembling various components can be challenging for beginners, it can be accomplished with proper focus and attention.

You should have a very small amount of electricity. You can grow plants of various types. Although using this system you can grow all types of plants, it’s best suitable for root vegetables, such as radish or carrot. Periodic maintenance is essential because its pump can stop working due to some reasons, and you will not be able to grow plants until you fix or replace the pump. 

You need to place containers in a reservoir. You should also use a pre-set timer, which turns the pump several times within the day. This causes the nutrient solution to flood the roots. Once the water level reaches the overflow tube, the system drains and re-circulates it. 

4. Aeroponics

Aeroponics is the best method of growing plants without soil, requiring a little amount of water. This method has been used in space as well by NASA, and the results were pretty good. It’s widely used when there is a shortage of space because you can grow plants vertically and horizontally as well. 

In this method, you need to place the plants in A-frame trays or boards so that major parts of the plants, such as their top, bottom, roots, and crown, remain suspended in the air. This allows the plant to grow from the upside, and roots can extend from the bottom without requiring soil or any other substances. 

To achieve this, you’ll need mist nozzles. These nozzles regularly spray the plant roots with a mixture of water and nutrient solutions. The aeroponics system is enclosed, which means that the nutrients and water remain within the system for a long time and can be recycled.

Periodic maintenance of the system is important because its components, especially the nozzles, can get clogged and slow down the flow of nutrients.

This aeroponics setup requires specialized misters and a nutrient-rich solution. The solution mists the plant roots at regular intervals since you need to suspend the plants in the air. This way, they can get the food and oxygen they require to grow.  

The major benefit of this system is that it is water efficient and it does not require a lot of space. Again, it eliminates all soil-borne fungi and pests, and your plants grow 50% faster. However, it is a bit difficult to set up and expensive to maintain.

5. Hydroponic Drip System (Recovery or Non-Recovery)

A hydroponic drip system is a suitable option for beginners as well as commercial growers. In this system, the water comes in tubing that ends in a single plant. This tubing can also branch to other different plants. 

These systems require a timer, which activates the pump to deliver the nutrient solution to plants. This solution flows over a growing medium and drips down to the plant roots. These systems can be set up in a recovery using non-drip recovery methods.

In a non-recovery system, the nutrient solution that runs over the plant roots is not recycled back into the reservoir, which means you can use it only once. On the other hand, recovery systems recycle the nutrient solution after it has dripped over the plant roots. As a result, the recovery system is more economical since it saves water and nutrients. 

The good thing about the drip system is that you can grow any type of plant. It’s also easy to customize since some plants may need more water than others. This means you can easily control the amount of water that gets to the plants. 

6. Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a system in which plants are grown in water, and fish or other water creatures are also present. Having fish and plants in the same environment provides a unique cycle in which the plants clean the water for the fish and, in return, fish release nutrients to the plants. 

This cultivation of fish and plants together in a constructed, recirculating ecosystem utilizes natural bacterial cycles to convert fish waste to plant nutrition. It is an environmentally friendly and natural method of growing food that harnesses the best attributes of aquaculture and hydroponics without the need to eliminate water, filtrate, or add chemical fertilizers.

7. Wick Hydroponic Systems

Hand holding hydroponic coriander plant.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

The Wick system is the simplest hydroponic system that can grow plants without using pumps or aerators. This could be a great start for beginners who want to learn about hydroponic systems because they don’t have to deal with complex mechanisms. It’s considered to be the only completely passive system, as it does not require electricity and has no moving parts. 

In this system, the plant is placed directly in an absorbent substance with a nylon wick. Then, the plant is wrapped around the wicks and put into the nutrient solution from the reservoir. Different types of absorbent substances used in this system include vermiculite, perlite, coco coir, pro-mix, etc. 

Please keep in mind that the wick system can only obtain a small number of nutrients, which means that it’s not suitable for large plants, as they require a lot of water to grow. This system is best suited for small plants and herbs, such as rapid-growing lettuces and rosemary.

Purity Wamoyi
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Purity Wamoyi is a horticulturist. She studied BSc Horticulture at the University of Nairobi. She has a passion for agriculture driven by her urge to be a champion and ambassador in fighting for food security.She believes that the world would be a better place if we did the little things that bring peace and uphold humanity. During her free time, Purity loves watching soccer and is a huge ardent Chelsea fan.

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