Do you love growing different types of plants, but you think it’s impossible because you don’t have enough space for an outdoor garden? No worries! You can grow your preferred plants inside your house using a system called a hydroponic system.
The good thing about it is that it does not require soil. In this article, we’ll guide you on how a hydroponic system works. We’ll also take you through the different types of hydroponic systems so that you can choose the one that suits your needs best. Ready to start? Perfect!
What Is Hydroponic Gardening?
Hydroponic system involves growing plants in water without using soil. 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.
This means that even if you live in a rented house where you don’t have enough space, you can still grow your plants indoors. Amazing, right? 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 as compared to when you’re growing plants in the soil.
- Plants grown in these systems provide higher yields than those grown in the soil.
- They’re easy to maintain and require less labor.
- The crops grow faster.
- Easy to control pests and fungi.
Types of Hydroponic Systems
If you’re searching for a suitable hydroponic system for farming, you need to understand the different types of hydroponic systems. In this guide, we’ve covered all the major types of hydroponic systems with their pros and cons.
1. Wick Hydroponic Systems
The Wick system is the simplest hydroponic system that can be used by any person to grow plants without the need to use any type of 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 there are no moving parts as well.
Usually, you need to place the plant directly in an absorbent substance with a nylon wick. Also, you need to wrap the plant around with the wicks and then put it into the nutrient solution from the reservoir. Different types of absorbent substances used in this system include vermiculite, perlite, coco coir, pro-mix, etc.
Do 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 suitable for small plants and herbs, such as rapid growing lettuces and rosemary.
The other drawback in this system is that the water and the nutrients may not be absorbed equally, resulting in the accumulation of mineral salts. Therefore, you should wash off all the excess nutrients from the plants using fresh water every 10 to 15 days.
|As compared to other hydroponic systems, this one is the easiest to maintain.||It’s not the best choice when it comes to nutrient distribution.|
|You don’t need a lot of equipment to set it up.||Not suitable for large plants.|
|A great choice for beginners who want to learn about hydroponic systems because it doesn’t require you to deal with complex mechanisms.|
|It allows you to grow plants without any type of pumps or aerators.|
In this setup, you should transfer nutrients and water from the reservoir to the plant roots through a wick. Then, you suspend the plants inside a growing media and secure them in place over a reservoir, which contains a nutrient-rich solution.
You need to place one side of the wick in the growing medium. As for the other end of the wick, you should place it in a nutrient-rich solution. This wick is made from an absorbent material, and it soaks and delivers nutrients to the plants.
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 the 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 plants of large size as well.
This method is best suitable 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.
|Easy to implement.||The plant shouldn’t be in a dirty environment as it can develop some root diseases.|
|The roots have a direct connection with all the necessary nutrients.||DWC is more complicated than the wick system as it requires an air pump. You also need air stones that release oxygen bubbles to the nutrient solution.|
|Suitable for some plants of large size.|
|Vegetables that love water and can grow quickly, such as leaf lettuce.|
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, is a versatile, inexpensive, and moderate level difficult method and considered the most recognized hydroponic system. In this system, you need to place the plants in a tray. You should periodically fill the tray with nutrient-rich water, which is pumped out of the reservoir located on the bottom of the tray. This natural effect of gravity pulls the water back into the reservoir and is reused in the future.
This is the most favorite system when it comes to gardening because it allows you to easily change your gardens, such as adding or removing the plants without affecting their sounds, environment, and crops. No doubt implementing this system requires you to assemble different types of components, which can be a bit difficult for the newbies, but you can do it if you focus properly.
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.
|Inexpensive.||Complicated in terms of set up.|
|The most popular system when it comes to gardening.||Periodic maintenance is essential.|
|It allows you to easily change your gardens.|
|Suitable for all types of plants.|
|Best suitable for root vegetables such as radish or carrot.|
|Easy to customize to suit your needs.|
Another name for this system is the flood and drain system. In this setup, plants, the growing medium. 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 flooding the roots. Once the water level reaches the overflow tube, the system drains it back and re-circulates it.
Unlike other hydroponic systems, this one is very easy to customize to suit your needs. Another benefit is that it does not require a lot of space. It’s also affordable and easy to set up. However, a timer failure will cause the roots to dry. This system also requires a large amount of the growing medium.
4. 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 to 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 plant’s 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.
|Popular among commercial and home growers.||Not that easy to set up.|
|The constant supply of plant roots with nutrients.||Requires the moving parts or components.|
|Doesn’t require a timer, and instead, you need a submerged water pump.|
|Does not require any growing medium.|
|The film ensures that you do not suffocate the roots.|
The Nutrient Film Technique is another reliable system whereby the plant roots constantly get the needed nutrients. Unlike the EBB and Flow system, this system doesn’t require a timer, and instead, it uses a submerged water pump.
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 are supplied with a thin film of nutrients and water where they are not completely submerged. The solution gets back into 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.
Aeroponics is a bit difficult to build, but it’s the best method of growing plants without soil, requiring a little amount of water. It’s an efficient method to grow plants. 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 in such a way that major parts of the plants, such as their top, bottom, roots, and crown, remain suspended in the air. That is the reason that allows the plant to grow from the upside, and roots can extend from the bottom without requiring soil or any other substances.
For this method, you’ll need mist nozzles. These nozzles regularly spray the plant roots with a mixture of water and nutrient solutions. The aeroponics system comes in an enclosed form, which means that the nutrient and water remain within the system for a long time and can be recycled as well.
It’s good to do the periodic maintenance of the system because its components, especially the nozzles, can get clogged and disturb the flow of nutrients.
|The best method of growing plants without soil.||A bit difficult to build.|
|Requires a little amount of water.||Requires special equipment.|
|A good method to go for if you’re short of space.|
|You can grow plants vertically and horizontally.|
|Nutrients and water can be used multiple times.|
|Eliminates all soil-borne fungi and pests.|
|Your plants grow 50% faster.|
|Approved by NASA.|
|A bit difficult to build.|
|Requires special equipment.|
This one is the most advanced hydroponic setup. In an aeroponic setup, you need to suspend the plants in the air. You can hold them by clips. This setup requires specialized misters and a nutrient-rich solution, which mists the plant roots at regular intervals since you need to suspend plants in the air. This way, they are able to 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.
6. 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 as it drips down to the plant roots. These systems can be set up in a recovery on non-drip recovery methods.
|A good choice for beginners and commercial growers.||Requires special equipment.|
|You can grow any type of plant.|
|Easy to customize.|
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 that you can easily control the amount of water that gets to the plants.
Aquaponics is a system where you grow plants in water, but you also have fish or other water creatures in the same setup. Having fish and plants in the same environment provides a unique cycle where the plants clean the water for the fish and, in return, fish release nutrients to the plants.
What is the difference between Aquaponics and Hydroponics?
There is no major difference between hydroponic and aquaponic systems. However, hydroponic systems are for plants, while aquaponic systems are for both plants and water creatures. Below are other differences between these systems:
- In the hydroponic system, you grow plants using a nutrient-rich solution made by humans, but in aquaponics, you need to use nutrients provided by fish or other water creatures.
- The other difference is that hydroponic systems use manmade nutrients, while in aquaponics, you need the fish waste for the plants as nutrients.
- In hydroponic systems, you prevent the growth of bacteria by keeping the temperatures low, while in aquaponics, you prevent the growth of bacteria by controlling temperatures to a level that discourages the growth of these harmful microorganisms.
- It’s easier to set up a hydroponic system than an aquaponic system.
- In terms of maintenance, hydroponic systems are more expensive to maintain as compared to the aquaponic system. This is because you have to buy different equipment and nutrients for hydroponic systems.
Hydroponic systems have become so popular today, especially to those who do not have enough outdoor space where they can set up a garden. Before you set up a hydroponic system, the first thing you need to do is to understand the different types of hydroponic systems. And you can read my article How to Grow Hydroponics at Home too.
These systems are not the same, and knowing their pros and cons will allow you to choose the most suitable one that suits your needs. You’ll also find that some are more difficult to set up than others. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this tutorial. In case you have any questions or comments, feel free to share them below.