What Is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is the art of growing plants without soil. Instead of soil, hydroponics uses mineral nutrient solutions in water to feed the plants. The reason Hydroponics works is because it gives the plant the exact nutrients it needs, when it needs it, delivered right to the roots. It’s a much more efficient and dependable method for growing certain plant types. In fact, hydroponics is a proven method for growing vegetables faster with increased size and yield.
The most common form of hydroponics is a method where the plant roots sit directly in the nutrient rich water. This system of hydroponics is called Nutrient Film Technique or N.F.T. But it’s not the only way to grow a crop using hydroponics.
Types of Hydroponic Systems
The Wick System
The wick system utilizes a number of wicks to draw the nutrient solution into the plants. One of the upsides of the wick system is that it has no moving parts. One of the downsides is that plants requiring high volumes of water may use up the nutrient solution faster than it can be supplied.
The most basic form of hydroponics uses a Styrofoam platform to hold the plants in place with the root system dangling into the nutrient solution beneath. Air is then injected into the nutrient solution to supply oxygen to the root ball. With the exception of lettuce, very few plants thrive in a water culture system.
Ebb and Flow System
In the ebb and flow system of hydroponics, the plants sit on a platform called a “grow tray”. A pump and timer is then used to flood the grow tray with nutrient water which then drains back into the tank beneath the tray ready for recirculation.
The Drip System
Just as it sounds, the drip system utilizes drippers to feed the nutrient solution to the base of the plant. The excess nutrient solution is recirculated back through a pump and timer.
N.F.T (Nutrient Film Technique)
When people think of hydroponics they typically think of the Nutrient Film Technique or NFT. NFT uses a pump to continually circulate water to the highest point where gravity feeds the water back through the plant to the holding tank. The plant itself is placed in a plastic holder with the roots protruding through to the nutrient solution in the holding tank.
The aeroponic system uses a nutrient filled mist, sprayed into the air by a pump and misting nozzles. Similar to the NFT system, the nutrients are largely fed to the plant through the air.
In each hydroponic example the water and amount of nutrients that is useable by the plant is affected by water hardness. The harder the water the more damage the water causes to both the plant and equipment. Even the nutrients are affected because hard water reduces the absorption rate of nutrients by the plant so you will need an increased volume of nutrient to grow your crop.
This can be fixed by installing a Softerwater Conditioner to the hydroponic system.
Softening the water in your hydroponic system will cause the water to mix better with the plant nutrients. This will make the nutrients more easily absorbed by the root ball encouraging more feeder roots giving you a healthier plant.
In the example of the Ebb and Flow, Drip, NFT and Aeroponic Systems a water softener can be attached after the pump to soften the water. Installing a Softerwater Conditioner after the pump will soften the water and give the nutrient solution and water a thorough mix as the solution is recirculated time and time again.