Tips for Setting Up Common Hydroponic Systems
Hydroponic gardening is a growing system that encourages maximum water and nutrient absorption, so plants grow faster and larger, and give more abundant yields. Hydroponic gardening has grown in popularity over the last few years, especially for people living in homes or areas with limited or nonexistent space for gardening. Since these systems take little room, you can grow a variety of plants indoors. What’s more, hydroponic systems are climate-controlled, allowing you to grow out-of-season produce year-round.
The variety of systems offered by hydroponic gardening make starting a garden easy for anyone and everyone, even those with the most unique needs. Depending on your living situation and gardening goals, you can find a system that checks every box. This guide will give you a better understanding of your options so you can decide the best hydroponic system for your needs.
Top Feed Systems
Since hydroponic gardens lack soil, plants typically don’t receive the vital nutrients they need to grow. However, top feed systems take care of this problem by efficiently delivering those much-needed nutrients to plants, so instead of struggling to get your plants to mature and dealing with their small yields, you’ll have a flourishing garden.
Top-feed systems deliver water and nutrients to the plants through a feed line attached to the bottom of each plant with time-controlled pumps that automatically deliver nutrients.
Are Water And Nutrients Not Distributing Equally?
Although pumps supply nutrients and water to your garden, they might not work if you’re using the wrong pump size. Too small and your plants won’t get fed and water, too big and it’ll zap the nutrients out of the solution. But with the correct pump size, your plants will get everything they need to grow.
Poor Nutrient Flow?
You might find that incorrectly sized pumps aren’t the only thing causing irregular water and nutrient distribution. However, in-line valves can make it much easier to control the movement of water and nutrients. Using a larger mainline for water and smaller diameter lines for feed lines, you can control the flow of nutrients to each plant.
Are You struggling With Standing Water?
Top feed systems sometimes accumulate standing water, which is detrimental to plant growth. It can cause numerous problems that keep them from flowering and can become a breeding ground for a host of pathogens. But, you can prevent this by simply angling your trays at a small degree to the return line.
Flood and Drain Systems
Flood and drain, or ebb and flow, is a hydroponic system where you flood a tray with the nutrient solution. Gradually, the solution returns to the reservoir as the force of gravity (or a second pump) causes it to drain.
Is Water Not Returning To The Reservoir?
If your trough takes too long to drain, or not at all, it can hurt your plants’ growth and yield. However, using an overflow valve will set the correct flood height in the tray and enable the nutrient solution to return to the reservoir instead. Make sure that it is double the diameter of your pump’s input line.
Nutrient Film Technique Systems (NFT)
NFT systems use a set of tubes to bring a constant flow of nutrients to the roots, which create a thin “film” of nutrients along the bottom of the tube. Rather than flooding the roots, a low-volume pump releases the solution through a slow drip.
Large Root Systems Clogging Your Tubes?
If you use NFT systems for a garden with large plants, their root systems may cause clogged tubes that obstruct the flow of nutrients. To avoid this problem, use NFT systems only for small- to mid-sized plants.
Nutrient Flow Impacting Plant Growth?
The wrong-sized pump can cause your plants to receive too much or too little nutrients. As your plants grow, your pump may become inadequate for supplying the right amount of nutrients. But with an adjustable pump, you can control the flow of nutrients at every stage of plant growth.
Incorrect Pump Size?
When you purchase a pump before designing your system, you could end up buying the wrong size. To prevent this from happening, create your NFT system first so that you can determine the specifications and size relative to the water depth in the reservoir.
In aeroponic systems, plant roots are not immersed in water. Instead, spray nozzles supply a mixture of water and nutrients in the form of mist to the roots.
Plants Not Receiving Enough Nutrients?
A weak pump could be the reason. It might not be supplying the right amount of nutrients to the root systems, especially if the spray head is set up far away from the plants. Using a pump that is strong enough to disperse the nutrient mist through the spray heads will ensure the root systems stay healthy.
Nutrient Solution Clogging Spray Heads?
Clogged spray heads are a common problem in aeroponic systems and are often caused by non-soluble nutrient solutions. These blockages can stop the mist from dispersing and impact plant growth. To avoid this, make sure you use a fully soluble nutrient solution and regularly clean the spray heads.
Deep Water Culture Systems (DWC)
In DWC systems, the majority of plant roots are immersed in water while air pumps supply extra oxygen to the mass. DWC is a popular hydroponic system because of its simple setup and accelerated plant growth.
Warm Temperatures Causing Root Rot?
The water temperature in DWC systems is typically between 18-20˚C. While this temperature is one reason behind accelerated plant growth, it can also reduce oxygen levels in the nutrient solution, increasing the chance of anaerobic pathogens like root rot. Investing in a water chiller stops temperatures from becoming too warm and prevents pathogens by making sure the nutrient solution always has the right amount of oxygen.
Inadequate Water And Oxygen Levels?
Sometimes, even a water chiller isn’t enough to prevent problems associated with low oxygen levels. Using an air pump ensures the soil receives the right amount of water and oxygen.
Like DWC systems, plant roots grown in undercurrent systems are mainly immersed in water and receive oxygen with an air pump situated under the water. The pump creates an undercurrent, which circulates nutrients from module to module.
Poor Water Flow
One of the biggest problems with undercurrent systems is inefficient water flow, which can cause flooding or standing water that doesn’t allow water to reach the other modules. However, you can resolve this issue by ensuring that the attachments between each module have enough room for plant roots. This will prevent even large root systems from blocking circulation.
Aquaponics uses components from aquaculture and hydroponics to supply nutrients to plants from fish waste while simultaneously filtering the water and pumping it back into the fish tank.
Not Enough Ammonia In The System?
Ammonia, a mixture of hydrogen and nitrogen, is a crucial compound for plant growth. Inadequate ammonia levels can starve plants and hinder their ability to purify the water necessary for the fish. By adding fish or ammonia first, you can kickstart the cycling process, and the system will be able to supply plants with the necessary nutrients.
Different hydroponic systems will come in handy depending on your garden. Hydroponics’ versatility doesn’t just stop with your system selection; you can implement components from various methods to create something unique that works for you. After all, this is an enjoyable and relaxing hobby, so have fun with it, play around, and don’t be afraid to experiment!