In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the different types of hydroponics gardening systems. Once you familiarize yourself with how each system works, you’ll find it a lot easier to identify which type of system works best for your garden, so stick around.
The wick system is by far the simplest of all hydroponic systems. The reason why is because it’s entire operation doesn’t rely on any moving parts. In other words, it doesn’t need pumps or even electricity in order to work properly. But that’s the traditional approach, there are people that find it more effective to incorporate an air pump in the system’s reservoir.
If you’re new to hydroponics, you’ll find that the wick system is an ideal system to adopt in order to get your feet wet. Moreover, the fact that it can do without electricity makes it perfect for those who live in areas where electricity is unreliable. This system is often demonstrated in schools by teachers as a way of explaining how plants tend to grow because of its simplicity.
As you may have guessed from the name, the wick system functions primarily on wicking. To be more elaborate, this system employs capillary action to wick up the nutrient solution found in the system’s reservoir and delivers it to the plants. A reliable wick system should be equipped with a bare minimum of two decent-sized wicks in order to ensure a good supply of solution.
The setup of the wick system is also as simple as its operation. Generally, the solution reservoir is to be placed underneath the container/bucket that contains the plant. This way, the solution in the reservoir doesn’t need to travel upwards that far in order to reach the growing medium. If the distance between both containers is lengthy, a pump would be required.
You might be wondering about the size of the reservoir. Well, the reservoir can be small or large, but it can’t be dry. You want to make sure that the water level in the reservoir remains high at all times so that the distance between the reservoir and the root zone doesn’t increase. In addition, you want to make sure to clean the reservoir out every now and then to avoid microorganisms.
This is one of the most popular systems used in hydroponic gardening amongst commercial and home growers alike. The reason behind its popularity is that it functions on a simple concept. It’s also one of those systems that don’t require a lot of parts. Aside from all of that, it’s one of the most effective and versatile systems in hydroponic gardening.
Drip systems have plenty of design variations. And in terms of size, the sky's the limit. But this is a system that’s more geared towards growing larger plants that require a lot of space in order to grow thick and strong roots. The idea behind this system is pretty straightforward. All that needs to happen is for the nutrient solution to be dripped onto the roots to keep them moist.
The nutrient solution present in the system’s reservoir is pumped through the tubing to the top of the root zone or growing medium. After reaching the root zone, the solution is dripped out of the tubing system to infiltrate the growing media. As it drains down, the nutrient soaks up the media and the roots, making its way to the bottom of the container and flowing back into the reservoir.
One thing you need to keep in mind when adopting a hydroponic drip system is that the container in which the plants reside needs to have a bare minimum distance of around 6-8 inches above the reservoir accommodating the solution in order for the surplus water to be drained with the aid of gravity. Bear in mind that in order for the water to travel upwards, a pump needs to be present.
It’s worth noting that there are two groups of hydroponic drip systems: recirculating systems and non-recirculation systems. The former is more popular among home growers as it allows for the reuse of the nutrient solution after it has wet the root zone, while the latter is the most popular in between commercial growers because they implement methods to limit wastage of water.
Water Culture System
The water culture system is one of the more simpler hydroponic systems out of the six. But don’t confuse simplicity for ineffectiveness, as this is a highly efficient system for hydroponics. With its simplicity in mind, it’s easy to see why the water culture approach is super popular among home and commercial growers. And we’re not just talking about small-scale growing here.
In addition to its simple design concept, the water culture hydroponic system is among the most affordable hydroponic systems out there, which is also a very good reason to justify its immense popularity amongst home growers. There isn’t just one way to assemble a water culture system. You can get as creative as you want as far as the different materials that you can use.
To build a water culture system, you need to suspend a bunch of pots/baskets containing plants above the reservoir containing the nutrient solution. The way you do that is by using styrofoam that will be floating on top. Alternatively, you can do that by cutting holes in the lid that’s covering the reservoir. By doing this, the roots will be hanging from the pots and into the nutrient solution.
The reason you incorporate air stones in the system is to provide the air that the plants need so that they don’t suffocate, considering that the roots will be submerged in the solution at all times. As far as how many air bubbles you should include, the more the better. Just make sure that the bubbles produced make direct contact with the roots hanging from the baskets.
The nutrient film technique system, simply known as N.F.T., is another popular system amongst a lot of home growers. The thing about this system, however, is that it’s geared towards growing quick-growing plants such as lettuce. It’s also used by commercial growers to grow baby greens and herbs. Also, you must keep in mind that this system is best suited for smaller plants.
Doing a bit of research, you’ll find that there’s a wide range of designs for the N.F.T. system, but all of those different designs share a lot of the same characteristics. In a nutshell, the whole idea of the N.F.T. system is an extremely shallow nutrient solution that torrents down through a tubing until it makes its way down to the roots where the plants can absorb the needed nutrients.
The operation of the N.F.T. system is as follows: the nutrient solution inside the reservoir is to be pumped up through a larger tubing that’s connected to a bunch of other smaller tubings with the aid of a manifold. The smaller tubes are connected to the side of each one of the growing tubes, which helps transfer the nutrient solution to the roots of each plant.
Moreover, each of the growing tubes has a narrow layer of the nutrient solution flowing inside of them. That fine layer is often called “film”. The purpose of this thin layer is to pass by each plant so that it wets the root zone. Keep in mind that the growing tubes are slightly sloped, meaning that the solution is going to flow downwards from one side of the growing tube to the other.
Ebb & Flow System
The Ebb & Flow system, also known as the Flood & Drain system is an easy-to-build system for anyone, which makes it a popular choice amongst many home hydroponic growers. The reason why many people are quite fond of this system is because you can build it from just about any of the unused materials you have in your garage, which helps save you a good amount of money.
As you can probably tell from its name, the Flood & Drain system works by deluging the roots of the plants with the nutrient solution present in the reservoir. However, the flooding of the solution takes place in a periodic fashion, rather than continuous flooding the root zone. The Ebb & Flow hydroponic system is perfect for both the indoors and outdoors since size is entirely up to you.
Operation-wise, the Flood & Drain hydroponic system consists of containers that are holding the plants. The nutrient solution is pumped through the tubing connected to the reservoir and into all of the containers holding the plants as soon as the timer turns on the submersible pump. As the solution flows, it will fill the system until it reaches the overflow tube, soaking the roots.
Generally speaking, the overflow tube should be somewhere around 2 inches below the growing medium. At the height of the overflow tube, the solution is drained back down to the reservoir in order to get recirculated all over again. As soon as the timer shuts the pump off, the solution will get siphoned down into its container, leaving the system drained.
The aeroponic system is arguably the most complicated of the six because of all of the technical aspects behind it. As a concept, however, it’s fairly simple. The good news is that you can use a wide range of materials to build your very own basic aeroponic system. You can also adopt a lot of different design setups based on the amount of free space you have.
While highly effective, there are some downsides to the aeroponic system. Firstly, it’s a bit more expensive to build than the other five systems. In addition, this system tends to have a sprinkler head that can get clogged up with ease due to the build-up of dissolved minerals. Also, the roots of the plants tend to be vulnerable to drought because they’re hanging in mid-air.
You might be wondering why the roots are hanging mid-air in the aeroponic system. Well, this is because you want them to get an optimal amount of oxygen. The more oxygen they can get, the faster their growth is going to be, which is pretty much the main appeal to this system. With this system, you need little to no growing media for the plants. You want them completely exposed.
Ideally, the plants are to be suspended by small foam plugs/baskets. Place the baskets inside of the small holes at the top of the growth chamber. Once settled, the roots will be hanging down in the growth chamber where the sprinkler/mister heads will spray them with nutrient solution. As a result, the roots are given the nutrients required and are kept from drying out.
Hopefully, the information we’ve provided today has provided you with the insight you need with regard to hydroponic systems. Let us know if you have any questions regarding this topic.