Your decision to try a hydroponic growing system is a great one! If you have made this big decision, you probably need to know what steps to take next. The best thing you can do is to look at the hydroponic system options. Before you begin, you may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts and terms surrounding hydroponic gardening. You should be familiar with those hydroponic terms and concepts after reading this quick guide.
Top Choices for Hydroponic Systems
A variety of pre-built hydroponic systems are available from hydroponic equipment dealers. Your decision depends on what works best for you, but consider the size, crop output, and maintenance requirements. If you’re entering the world of hydroponics for the first time, purchase a small system to get an idea of what to expect.
You can choose from the following system types:
- Deep Water Culture: A highly oxygenated nutrient water solution completely submerges your plant roots in this hydro system. You can achieve fast growth this way.
- Hydroponic Drip System: As the name suggests, drip systems gradually deliver nutrient water into the plant medium. During growth, it keeps the medium moist.
- Ebb and Flow: Hydroponic systems are usually associated with ebb and flow systems. Plants are grown in Rockwool, which is periodically soaked with nutrient-rich water.
- Nutrient Film Techniques: An NFT surrounds the roots of a plant with a thin film of water, a practice often used by commercial growers. The growing medium is not required.
- Nutrient Reservoir: Maintaining this system is easy. A small pump constantly circulates the solution through the reservoir tank, which has your growing medium and crop.
- Hydroponic Wick System: This is also an easy way to get water to your hydroponic plants, but it uses a rope to draw the water up to the container.
Also, if you’re handy, you might consider making a DIY hydroponic system! Books and online construction guides are available.
Plants can access nutrients from the soil during traditional gardening. Hydroponic farming uses growing media, usually an inert medium, replaces soil and promotes a fast plant growth rate. Due to their shallow root systems, some plants do not need growing mediums. The roots are not drowned as nutrient water aerates sufficiently in some hydroponic systems, thereby avoiding the need for a growing medium.
These are some of the most popular hydroponic growing mediums:
- Coconut coir: Water is absorbed by coconut fiber more rapidly, while at the same time, oxygen is absorbed more efficiently. It’s a particularly effective medium for intermittent systems.
- Clay pellets: This is a baked clay that is semi-porous. It retains water and air through capillary action.
- Perlite: Volcanic glass is rapidly heated to form this mined material. As a result of that heat, the perlite opens up gaps that can store water.
- Rockwool: The sterile growth medium is a cotton candy-like substance that has been made from basalt rock. Gaps like these can hold fresh water and air.
- Sand: Sand’s natural capillary action makes it an excellent hydroponic medium due to its low cost. It ensures an even distribution of nutrients and water.
- Vermiculite: When exposed to water, these rock nuggets triple in weight, making them an ideal hydroponic component.
Hydroponic Tools You’ll Need
The equipment requirements for nearly every hydroponic system are similar. The items may not be included in kit purchases, but you can purchase them separately.
- Aquarium heater: You will need a water heater during the colder months if you grow all year long with a hydroponic system. Plants may go dormant if they get chilled.
- Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions: Mineral nutrient solutions are built by adding a range of hydroponic fertilizers into the water reservoir. For each of your plants’ growth stages, you’ll need a different fertilizer.
- Grow Lights: Providing your plants with enough natural light to grow will also be important if you consider indoor growing. Since your crop requires different lighting types as it grows, you should invest in various artificial light sources.
- pH Testing kit: Monitoring the pH level of your nutrient solution will help you determine how alkaline or acidic it is. For plants to grow vigorously, they require a specific pH.
- Planting containers: A container sized for your plant’s root depth will provide a place for it to grow. The growing medium is often used in them.
- PPM/EC meter: Measures the number of nutrients present in your nutrient-filled water.
- Submersible pump: The mineral solution needs to be aerated and circulated by a submersible air pump. Your plants will drown if you don’t have an aeration system.
- Nutrient Solution Reservoir: Your nutrient water solution is stored in this tank. On top of the tank usually sits the system trays.
- Grow Tray: Trays hold your containers in place by partially submerging your planting containers in the nutrient solution.
How to get started in hydroponics?
Figuring out how it works, choosing a system, what leafy greens to grow, and even how to grow are all needed to begin.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is the technique of plant growth by using only nutrient-rich water and a growing medium.
What are the benefits of hydroponic gardening?
The greatest benefit of hydroponic gardening is the massively increased growth rate and crop yield of most healthy plants.
What is the difference between a hybrid and non-hybrid?
When they struggle less to find pockets of water or nutrition than they would in garden soils, they can divert that energy to better growth.
What are the biggest downsides of hydroponics?
The biggest con of hydroponics is the cost of buying a system.
What is the difference between organic gardening and hydroponics?
In hydroponics, you will create an artificial environment where you provide the water, nutrients, light, and everything else the plant needs, which means you also need to monitor those inputs.
What if the water pump dies?
If you have an equipment failure like a pump failure, then you can put your entire garden at risk.