How to decide which produce to grow as a beginner in one’s home and how to plan for setup accordingly?
Welcome to the world of Hydroponics! The technique has been used for decades to maximize the plant growth and produce production in even the smallest, unassuming areas. Corners you thought were hopeless for plants, inside and out, are now potential peppers, tomatoes, or a slew of other tasty vegetables. Looking into the subject, though, you may notice there are many, many hydroponic techniques out there, and it may seem daunting deciding which one is the best choice for you. We’ll discuss a few options and how to dip your feet in this exciting field of agriculture.
Sub – Irrigated Wick Systems
Sub irrigation may not seem like a hydroponic method at first, but don’t be mistaken! By using an inert growing material such as vermiculite, perlite, or coco husk instead of soil, you are experiencing hydroponics in its truest form. A container filled with growing medium is held above a reservoir filled with aerated nutrient solution, which travels passively through a series of wicks through capillary action. Since it's almost totally passive and isn’t too far off from soil gardening, this is the simplest form of hydroponics you can get.
You can grow any leafy green, pepper, or tomato in this type of system, and can be utilized inside near a bright window or outdoors.
Deep Water Culture
One of the simpler ways to grow fruiting plants hydroponically is utilizing deep water culture. Plants are suspended over a reservoir containing highly aerated nutrient solution and the roots simply sit in the water. As with any other system, there is a variety available online, or you can build it on your own with a plastic storage container, a block of Styrofoam, and an air-stone from any aquarium supply store.
You can grow almost any leafy green in this system, but it excels with fruiting plants such as pepper and tomatoes.
NFT – Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is one of the more common hydroponic techniques used commercially, but in order for it to be worth the time and materials invested, it should be considerably larger than the previous systems. You can buy a system from one of many companies around the world, or build one from scratch with a plastic storage container, a water pump, irrigation line, and pvc pipes with drilled holes. No matter how you do it, the concept is generally the same: a constant stream of aerated, nutrient rich water flows through gutters in which plants seeded in grow cubes sit. The air space within the gutter allows for an oxygen rich environment and the nutrient solution provides everything else the plant needs. This technique is only recommended for vegetative plants, such as basil and lettuce, and would work best outdoors or in a small hoop house or greenhouse.
Bato Bucket or Dutch Bucket
There are a few different names for this type of system, but the technique is generally called Ebb and Flow. Ebb and Flow systems consist of buckets or containers filled with inert growing medium that are flooded and drained at intervals throughout the day. It’s a simplified version of what is used by the biggest tomato farms in the world.
Though you can build this on your own, it’s recommended to start with a simpler system and work up from there. The plumbing and growing medium needs are a little more complicated, but when you figure it out it can be one of the best ways to grow tomatoes, peppers, or many other flowering / fruiting vines.
Things to pay attention to when starting out:
- Nutrient solution – There are numerous choices for nutrient solution on the market, with all-in-ones, supplements, flavor enhancers, etc. Check web-based forums or ask your local hydroponic store for advice with the plants your growing. Though you can use similar nutrient solutions for all plants, the dosages differ immensely, even regarding temperature and lighting conditions.
- Water Chemistry – You’ll have to watch the water chemistry of your system often. The smaller your reservoir is, the more the chemistry fluctuates, which can be problematic for your plants. Purchase a decent pH reader, which can tell you pH, temperature, and TDS (Total dissolved solids). This will tell you almost all the information you need.
- Timing Water Cycles– Some systems and plants require different watering intervals. This is dictated by plant biology and the environment you create for your plants. Be sure to have a decent power timer that you can rely to turn on and off your pump at the right times throughout the day. Though you can grow fast, just one missed water cycle can kill your whole crop.
- Pests – Keep an eye on your plants! Although it may seem that you’ll have an easier time indoors than out, in many cases hydroponic environments create a perfect home for pest populations.
It may seem like a lot at the start, but the potential for faster growing cycles and tastier vegetables should keep you going. Good luck!
Here's an amazing infographic providing an overview of each type of system described above (Just, Click Here to Share It): Photo Credit (Source): (