Hydroponic Systems

What are the different types of hydroponic systems, 2+ pros and cons for each?

Wick Systems – Nutrients and water are moved into a plant’s root zone via a wick, which is often something as simple as a rope or piece of felt.

  • Pros: truly “hands off” if you set it up correctly; good for small plants and beginner gardens.
  • Cons: not good for larger plants; incorrect wick placement can mean death.

Deep Water Culture (DWC) – in a DWC system, you use a reservoir to hold a nutrient solution. The roots of your plants are suspended in that solution so they get a constant supply of water, oxygen, and nutrients.

  • Pros: very inexpensive; very low maintenance.
  • Cons: does not work well for tall plants; does not work well for plants with long growing period.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) – Plants are grown in channels that have a nutrient solution pumping through them and constantly running along the bottom of the channel. When the solution reaches the end of the channel, it drops back into a main reservoir and is sent back to the beginning of the system again. This makes it a recirculating system, just like deep water culture.

  • Pros: minimal growing medium needed; recirculating system means less waste.
  • Cons: pump failure of any kind can completely ruin a crop; roots can be overgrown and clog the channel.

Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain) – you grow in a tray filled with a growing medium. The tray is “flooded” with your nutrient solution a few times per day, by pumping nutrient filled water up into the tray. After the tray is flooded, gravity drains the solution back down into the reservoir, where it is being oxygenated by an air pump and air stone. It sits there waiting for the next flood cycle, and the process goes on.

  • Pros: efficient use of water and energy; highly customizable.
  • Cons: roots can dry out quickly if environmental conditions are off or the pump or timer fails; uses a lot of growing medium.

Aeroponics – An aeroponic system is similar to a NFT system in that the roots are mostly suspended in air. The difference is that an aeroponic system achieves this by misting the root zone with a nutrient solution constantly instead of running a thin film of nutrient solution along a channel.

  • Pros: roots are exposed to more oxygen;
  • Cons: high pressure nozzles can fail and roots can dry out; not as cheap or easy to set up as other methods.

What are the best lighting systems?

  • Fluorescent lights- give off a cool blue light which is ideal for seedlings and cuttings. Fluorescent lights provide a wide angle of light, and emit low levels of heat, which creates good conditions for the first stages of a plants lifecycle.
  • LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights– these lights initially are expensive, yet are highly energy efficient, and they emit less heat than traditional bulbs, so they are good for very small growing spaces where bulbs have to be close to the plants. LED lights can be bought that emit different spectrums of light which will help to produce optimum efficiency in the different stages of a plant’s lifecycle.

 What are some simple ways to start at home?

One can start growing at home by: 1) cutting a circular hole out of the top of an empty pickle jar (make the hole the width of a net pot); 2) filling the jar with nutrient water; 3) putting a seed in some moist growing medium; 4) place the seeded growing medium in a net pot that fits in the top of the jar; 5) place the jar in plenty of sunlight.

What are a few considerations for commercial systems?

  •  How much space you have?
  • What type of plant you want to sell?
  • What market you want to sell to?