When the uninitiated hear the term “hydroponics” they simply think “water.” However, this is a very shallow view of the possibilities. The term hydroponic encompasses several systems of delivering nutrients to plants through water flow. There are four main systems to achieve nutrient flow, listed below:
Deep Water Culture
Ebb and Flow
Each of these four systems are specifically suited for different types of plants and environments. Let’s take a deeper look.
Deep Water Culture Systems
This method is the best for beginners and most easily accessible system for achieving hydroponic growth. It simply involves resting a plant’s roots and soil into a nutrient solution composed of water and dissolved plant food. This method is very inexpensive. All you need is the proper pots and an aeration pump to keep the water full of oxygen and slightly moving. This way the plant’s roots can thrive instead of suffocate and rot underwater.
In this method, a single pot or an array of pots in a tray are temporarily submerged in nutrient-rich water and then allowed to drain. This method doesn’t require an aeration pump because the state of being drained allows constant access to oxygen. Frequent flooding of nutrients and water keeps the soil moist, which is achieved through the use of a pump and a timer. Cycling the same water with new nutrient injection can all be achieved, saving you constant intervention and maintenance.
Aeroponics is by far the most unique and advanced method of hydroponics. It’s name comes from the fact that the root systems of the plants dangle in the air and are frequently misted with nutrient-rich water. The benefit is that the roots and plants can avoid being exposed to fungus and creatures that can thrive in the soil. Plants can grow as much as 50% faster with a proper aeroponics setup.
The drip method is similar to the Ebb and Flow, except that instead of cycling water in larger amounts less frequently, you drip nutrient-rich water into the soil in small amounts frequently. With a drip of 6-12 times per hour, the roots and soil stay moist but have constant access to oxygen and food. This is also a fairly inexpensive setup and easy for beginners to handle.
When understood in this fashion, hydroponics becomes a little less intimidating. It is suggested that beginners start with a Deep Water system, graduate to a Drip or Ebb and Flow system, and if desired attempt Aeroponics later as an advanced method. The difficulty and cost will increase along this path along with your skill level. Enjoy the adventure and best of luck with your plants!