Hydroponic is a type of gardening where instead of soil, a solution of nutrients and water is used to grow plants. In a hydroponic system, you can grow plants and vegetables much faster as compared to growing them outdoors in soil. Moreover, this system can be used around the year; plants grown in this system usually yield more, require less space, and use less water as compared to conventional outdoor gardening.
A hydroponic garden is ideal for people living in apartments and urban areas with no outdoor space available for gardening. You can either create your own hydroponic system or get a pre-made kit where you only need to tend to the plants.
Hydroponic Gardening – A Technology for Sustainable Farming
This article will discuss some basic facts about a hydroponic system, how user-friendly it is, and how you can start it at home.
What is Hydroponics? A Quick Introduction
In layman’s language, hydroponic is a way of growing plants and vegetables submerged in water without using soil. In an enclosed space, plants get everything they need to thrive from the nutrient-rich water and grow lights.
The controlled environment encourages the rapid growth of plants without using chemicals and growing vegetables indoors means that you can grow fresh food even in extreme outdoor conditions.
Types of Hydroponic Systems
There are mainly six types of hydroponic systems. These include:
- Deep Water Culture (DWC)
- Wick Systems
- Nutreint Fil Technique (NFT)
- Flood and Drain (Ebb and Flow)
- Drip Systems
From Which Hydroponic System You Should Start?
If you are a beginner, DWC or deep water culture is the easiest hydroponic system that can be started at home. In this system, the roots of the plants are directly submerged in nutrient-rich water.
At home, you can start with large opaque buckets or storage containers. However, if you are working on a commercial level, you need rafts that flow on a large water bed. These rafts work like a conveyor belt where young plants are added to one of its sides. They’ll move along until the crop is ready to harvest on the other side.
As there are no moving parts, DWC is relatively simple to build at a lower cost. In DWC hydroponic system, water does not recirculate which means it sits in the reservoir for the entire plant-growing duration. It means that you must have to aerate the water in order to replenish the oxygen used by the roots.
To ensure that the water is oxygen-rich, an air pump attached with a stone – similar to the one used in fish tanks – can be used.
Which Crops You Can Grow in a DWC System?
You can grow many crops in a home-built DWC system. Some of the best crops to grow are:
These plants are not too top-heavy, and therefore, they are easy to grow in a DWC system. As the plant roots are not well anchored in this system, growing tall plants could be difficult. It doesn’t mean that you can’t grow tomatoes in a DWC system, but you would need the right support to keep the tomato plant upright.
How to Make a DWC System at Home?
Here is the simplest way to make a DWC system at home. At first, have a look at the materials you need to build it.
- Bucket or storage container
- Net pots
- Air pump
- Air stone
- Hard Water Liquid Nutrients (A and B)
- pH meter
- pH Down (Phosporic acid)
- Measuring beaker
- Hole saw with arbor
Method to Build a DWC System at Home
Find a Suitable Container
Usually, a deeper bucket or storage container is suitable for this system because the deeper the water reservoir is, the more stable the nutrient solution will be. In small reservoirs, fluctuation in water pH and nutrient concentration is more likely to happen; you’ll have to add water more regularly.
Ensure that light can enter your container, otherwise, the risk of algae growth in water increases.
Drill Holes in the Container Lid
In this system, your plants will grow in net pots that have plenty of holes for their roots to go through. Now, drill holes into the container’s lid where your net pots will sit. For this step, you need a special tool for this project which is a hole saw. However, these saws are quite easy-to-found and affordable. Make sure your hole size is not larger than the net pots so they do not fall through.
If your container is wide, you can make multiple holes. This is an important step where you need to plan before making holes. To give the matured plants enough room to grow, make the holes accordingly. If your container is small or you are using a bucket, a hole in the center is enough for a single plant system.
Assemble the Air Pump
Your air pump will remain outside the water reservoir. Usually, it comes with a check valve that makes sure that the pump does not suck-back water when turned off. If your pump does not have a check valve, keep the pump above the water level.
Connect the check valve with the air stone with a length of tubing making sure that the arrow on the valve faces the air stone. Now, connect the air pump with the check valve in the same manner.
Get the Reservoir Ready
First, place the reservoir at the spot you want it to be. Fill the container with water leaving only 1 to 2 cms of the space at the top. Now add the hydroponic nutrients to the water according to the instructions on the bottle.
Using your pH meter, measure the pH. You may need to adjust it. Usually, the pH of the tap water is between 6.5-7.5. However, most vegetables require a slightly acidic pH.
Assemble the System
Adding plants to the DWC system is easy. You can use Rockwool grown plants; put them in the net pots and place these pots in the container. Seedlings grown in soil can also be used, but it is better to use a medium that doesn’t make a lot of mess – for example, Rockwool plug and hydroton clay pellets.
How to Maintain a Hydroponic System?
Here are some tips to maintain a hydroponic system at home.
- Ensure that the water level does not drop too much in the container. It is especially important when the plants are young.
- Keep an eye on water pH. Use a pH meter every time you top up water.
- Clean the water reservoir and replace the water every 14 – 21 days.
Growing your own food using hydroponic technology is getting popular these days. Many people find it convenient as compared to conventional gardening. Now you also know how to build a simple hydroponic system at home, you can also start growing and enjoy home-grown food. A DWC system is a low maintenance system and you can place it anywhere – indoors or outdoors – where there is sufficient light.