Understanding The Basics of HydroponicsHerb Guys Canada
What is Hydroponics
Getting started with hydroponic growing can be very confusing and a bit overwhelming, but worry no more, in this article we are going to provide you with a simple break down of the most common hydroponic grow set-ups and how to ensure optimal plant growth.
In short, hydroponics is the grow practice of growing plants using only water. That’s right, no soil needed! Although hydroponics does not require soil, you will require a growing medium which we will speak about in the later portion of this article.
When utilizing a hydroponic grow system, the concept and process is fairly simple. A bare root plant is placed within a growing medium (a protective casing) and water is either dripped over top or flowing below the root system. The continual flow of oxygenated water allows the plant to grow at a much faster pace without the need to worry about root rot, which is often caused by stagnant and stale water. In addition to the above, hydroponic grows also have the ability to precisely control the amount of nutrients the plant obtains. This is usually done through mixing nutrients or fertilizers into the grow systems water reservoir.
The Benefits of Hydroponics
Some may wonder what the benefits of growing hydroponically versus a more common soil based grow. Simply put, growing hydroponically can be more efficient, will result in faster harvest, and can be done so year round as growing outdoors is not required.
With hydroponic growing, it is not uncommon to notice at least 20% faster plant growth and 25% higher yields.
Contrary to the above, there are also some negatives associated with hydroponic growing. This includes:
- Higher set-up costs; and
- Maintenance of mechanical components (if required)
In our view, even with a very simple hydroponic set-up, the benefits far surpass traditional growing (soil grow) methods.
There are many types of hydroponic grow set-up’s. However, our favorites and the easiest to set-up and maintain include the following:
- Wick systems;
- Drip systems; and
- Deep water culture systems
Hydroponic Wick Systems
A hydroponic wick system is a very simple and straight forward concept, but it can be problematic under certain conditions. A wick system has been used in the agricultural industry for quite some time, and requires no mechanical components or power to run. That’s why this system is popular among hydroponic hobbyists and beginners.
The wick system uses an absorbent material such as a rope or felt which is strewn between the plant and the water reservoir located below the plant. In ordered for this method to work, the wick must be able to pull water upwards and into the plants root system. The plant should be encased within a growing medium which also acts as a sponge and ensures that the root system never dries out.
A great growing medium includes clay pellets, coconut coir, and Rockwool.
Wick System Pros:
- Great for smaller plants that don’t require lots of water
- Hands off and low maintenance
- Great for hydroponic beginners
Wick System Cons:
- Not the greatest for larger plants or plants that require lots of water (lettuce/green onion etc.)
Hydroponic drip systems are amazing…… when you know what you are doing. The drip system is a very simple concept that does not require much work or money too setup. These types of systems are most prevalent in commercial growing.
Just like its name, a drip system works by slowly dripping water over a planting medium which in turn provide moisture to the plants root system. A drip system includes a reservoir that is filled with water and nutrients, and a pump/hose which provides the water to the plants.
The tricky part about operating a drip system is finding the perfect water balance (water frequency and drip rate). This usually involves a lot of trial and error as well as a pump timer which will assist you in controlling the frequency of watering.
“1 minute on and 10 minutes off”
Benefits of Drip Systems
- High level of control over feeding and watering schedule
- Relatively cheap
Downsides of Drip Systems
- May be overkill for a smaller garden
- Hard to dial in
Deep Water Culture System
Hydroponic growing using the deep water culture system is one of the easiest things to do. In simple terms the deep water culture system uses a reservoir to hold water and nutrients. The solution is aerated using a bubbler and the roots of the plants are suspended in the solution. This allows the plats to get a continuous water supply as well as nutrients and oxygen. Because the nutrient solution is oxygenated, root rot does not become a problem.
Like almost all hydroponic systems, the deep water culture system does not require any soil. Plants are bare root and are suspended in a growing medium. This includes foam board, rock wool, or clay pellets.
Deep Water Culture Pros:
- Very inexpensive and easy to make at home
- Extremely low-maintenance
Deep Water Culture Cons:
- Does not work well for large plants
- Does not work well for plants with long growing period