When most people think of hydroponics, they think of plants grown with their roots suspended directly into water with no growing medium. This is just one type of hydroponic gardening known as N.F.T. (nutrient film technique). There are several variations of N.F.T. used around the world and it is a very popular method of growing hydroponically.
Basically Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral solution only, or in an inert medium, such as perlite or gravel.
Hydroponics is proved to have several advantages over soil gardening. The growth rate on a hydroponic plant is 30-50 percent faster than a soil plant, grown under the same conditions. The yield of the plant is also greater. Scientists believe that there are several reasons for the drastic differences between hydroponic and soil plants. The extra oxygen in the hydroponic growing mediums helps to stimulate root growth. Plants with ample oxygen in the root system also absorb nutrients faster. The nutrients in a hydroponic system are mixed with the water and sent directly to the root system. The plant does not have to search in the soil for the nutrients that it requires. Those nutrients are being delivered to the plant several times per day. The hydroponic plant requires very little energy to find and break down food.
Types of Hydroponic systems
1. Wicks System
Seen as the most simplistic hydroponic system. The Wick system is described as a passive system, by which we mean there are no moving parts. From the bottom reservoir, your specific Growth Technology nutrient solution is drawn up through a number of wicks into the growing medium. This system can use a variety of mediums, perlite, soil or coco.
2. Water Culture
This system is an active system with moving parts. As active hydroponic systems go, water culture is the simplest. The roots of the plant are totally immersed in the water which contains the specific Growth Technology nutrient solutions. An air pump with help oxygenate the water and allow the roots to breathe
3. Ebb and Flow System (Flood and Drain)
This hydroponic system works by temporarily flooding the grow tray. The nutrient solution from a reservoir surrounds the roots before draining back. This action is usually automated with a water pump on a timer.
4. Drip System (recovery or non-recovery)
Dip systems are a widely used hydroponic method. A timer will control a water pump, which pumps water and the Growth Technology nutrient solutions through a network of elevated water jets. A recovery system will collect excess nutrient solution back into the reservoir. A non-recovery drip system will avoid this allowing the pH of the reservoir not to vary. If using a recovery system, be sure to check the pH level of the reservoir regularly and adjust using either pH UP or pH Down solutions on a more frequent basis.
5. N.F.T System
The N.F.T system is at the forefront of people’s minds when hydroponics is mentioned. Nutrient Film Technique uses a constant flow of your Growth Technology nutrient solution (therefore no timer is required). The solution is pumped from a reservoir into the growing tray. The growing tray requires no growing medium. The roots draw up the nutrients from the flowing solution. The downward flow pours back into the reservoir to be recycled again. Pump and electric maintenance is essential to avoid system failures, where roots can dry out rapidly when the flow stops.
6. Aeroponic System
Aeroponic systems are seen to be a high tech method of hydroponic growing. Like the N.F.T system the growing medium is primarily air. The roots hang in the air and are misted with nutrient solution. The misting of roots is usually done every few minutes. The roots will dry out rapidly if the misting cycles are interrupted.
A timer controls the nutrient pump much like other types of hydroponic systems, except the aeroponic system needs a short cycle timer that runs the pump for a few seconds every couple of minutes.