Maybe you’re just starting out in hydroponics and have no idea which system to buy or build. Or maybe you’ve been growing with hydroponic gardens for years and want to try something new. No matter your reason for wanting to learn, there’s a lot to know about all the different kinds of hydroponic systems.
Keep reading to learn about each type of hydroponics system!
What Are Hydroponic Systems?
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, and instead using a growing medium, water, and nutrients.
Hydroponic systems can range from incredibly simple to incredibly high-tech. They can be an easy science experiment or part of the solution to feed a growing world!
There are many different kinds of hydroponic systems, so keep reading to learn more!
Advantages To Using Hydroponic Systems
Hydroponic systems have many advantages.
The first among them is high yields and larger plants. When you use a hydroponic system, you can create a completely ideal growing condition for your plants- down to the exact micronutrients they need. The ability to tailor your plants’ environment can lead to an explosion of growth unlike anything you’ve seen before!
Likewise, hydroponic systems are environmentally friendly. They can use up to 99% less water than traditional soil gardens. They recycle the water solution in a closed system so nothing goes to waste.
Hydroponics also brings the joy of gardening to hydroponic growers who are low on space, don’t have access to quality soil, or have a short growing season. This leads to fresh, healthy, homegrown fruits and vegetables all year round.
Disadvantages To Using Hydroponic Systems
One major disadvantage to using hydroponic systems is your electricity bill! Depending on how large your system is and what kind of lights you’re using, you may end up with a hefty bill at the end of the month.
There can also be a steep learning curve when adjusting to growing hydroponically. That’s why it’s important to read blogs like this one so you learn all there is to know before getting started.
To be honest, some people won’t find the same satisfaction out of hydroponic growing as hydroponic gardeners that they would out of a traditional growing as a soil gardener. It isn’t the same thing, and we shouldn’t pretend like it is.
But just as many people love to grow their crops indoors and find great joy in tinkering with their setup!
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Nutrient film technique systems (NFT) is a popular hydroponic gardening method among commercial growers and dedicated gardeners.
Nutrient film technique systems use a series of PVC pipes that slant slightly downwards so gravity will pull water through the system. Only a very thin layer of film of nutrient solution is traveling through the bottom of the pipes at any given time.
Water returns to a reservoir where it is pumped back up to the top using a water pump.
The plants are suspended in net pot inserts throughout the system. Their roots dangle below into the solution where they’re both properly hydrated and aerated.
Because the channels are narrow, nutrient film technique systems are best suited for crops with small root systems like lettuce or other leafy greens.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
Deep water culture systems (DWC) stands apart from other hydroponic systems because the roots of your plants stay completely submerged in the nutrient solution. They’re provided oxygen with an air pump and air stone.
Deep water culture systems lead to prolific growth because of the sheer amount of nutrients and oxygen that your plants get!
Deep water culture systems are great for beginners because there aren’t many moving parts. It’s also the method of choice for large plants with larger root systems.
Wick hydroponic systems are known as “passive” systems because they require no energy input, such as electricity. There are no water pumps or air pumps!
Plants are held in an absorbent medium such as coco coir, with a nylon wick connecting the plants to a nutrient reservoir.
When the wick dries out, it sucks up more moisture and supplies it to the growing medium.
As you may have figured, wick systems don’t provide a whole ton of nutrients so they’re best reserved for herbs and small houseplants. They’re also good for plants that don’t need a lot of water.
Ebb & Flow or Flood and Drain
Ebb and flow/ flood and drain hydroponic systems refers to the same thing and are used interchangeably. It is one of the most popular systems among home growers.
In an ebb and flow system, plants are situated in a growing tray filled with a substrate above a nutrient reservoir. The tray is periodically “flooded” with a nutrient solution until the water reaches a certain level, at which point it will reach a “drain” so that it doesn’t overflow.
After running for an allotted amount of time, the water pump turns off (thanks to a handy dandy timer). At this point, the water can fully drain down through the substrate and back into the reservoir.
Flood and drain systems are perfect systems for nearly every plant- even some root veggies! They’re commonly built DIY instead of bought.
Drip system hydroponics are simple to set up, easy to use, and highly customizable hydro systems.
The nutrient solution is pumped directly to the base of the plant via tubes. Drip emitters are found at the end of the tubes, from which the nutrient solution drips and saturates your growing medium.
Drip hydroponic systems can either be circulating or non-circulating. Circulating systems drip more frequently, with excess water returning to the reservoir. Non-circulating systems drip at a slow, consistent rate.
Aeroponic gardening is not for the faint of heart! Simply put, hydroponic plants are hung in the air with their root systems dangling. As their supply of water, a nutrient solution is sprayed onto the plants roots system, typically in a fine, pressurized mist.
The nutrient solution gets pumped into piping that has mist nozzles at the end. When enough pressure builds up, mist comes out of the nozzles and sprays the plant roots.
Eventually the mist falls back into a reservoir below.
Aeroponic systems can grow nearly any kind of aeroponic plant and is potentially the most efficient form of hydroponics. It’s being explored in laboratories across the world- even in Disney World!
The Kratky Method
The Kratky method is another passive hydroponic system along with the wick system. If you remember from before, this means there are no external energy inputs.
The Kratky hydroponic method is simple. Plant roots dangle in a nutrient solution. However, there is a gap for air between the reservoir and where the roots begin. This lets the root system breathe from the exposure to oxygen while also sucking up nutrients.
As water levels drop, the roots grow deeper to keep reaching the nutrients and remain submerged!
What Hydroponic System Is Best?
What hydroponic system is best depends on what you want out of your hydroponic setup! Aeroponics is the most efficient and eco friendly system. Meanwhile, DWC is great for beginners and big vegetables. Wick systems are perfect for the lazy gardener.
What Is The Easiest Hydroponic System?
The easiest hydroponic system is the Kratky method. It requires nearly no upkeep and is simple to DIY. If you want to dip your toes into hydroponics without going all out, the Kratky method is a good place to start.
Why Hydroponics Is Better Than Soil?
Hydroponics is better than soil because it is more efficient. You will get massive, healthy yields because you are able to fully tailor your hydroponic plants’ environment to their liking. From the temperature to the lighting to the nutrients and everything in between, hydroponics can fully optimize everything to be perfect for your plants. You can also grow amazing plants in small spaces, year-round.
Are Hydroponic Systems Worth It?
Hydroponic systems are worth it. You can grow nearly anything, anywhere with hydroponic systems. They’re also highly efficient since they recycle their water and nutrients. Hydroponics can use up to 99% less water than traditional growing!
What Grows Well In Hydroponics?
Nearly everything grows well in hydroponics! Leafy greens are commonly grown hydroponically. But you can grow anything ranging from orchids to squash to tomatoes to potatoes!
Hopefully by now you have a good overview of how each hydroponic system works- and potentially which one might be best for you! If you’re thinking about buying or building a hydroponic system, go for it! You have nothing to lose, and you may just discover a new favorite hobby.
Check out more of our blogs for everything ranging from beginner guides to advanced how-to’s!