What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is the method of growing plants using water-based liquid nutrients without soil. In order to do this successfully, the water must be enriched with nutrients and oxygenated. A hydroponic system allows absolute control of the nutrients contained in the water.
What are the advantages of Hydroponics?
There is no need for soil in hydroponics the water stays in the system and can be reused - thus, lowering water costs Nutrition levels can be controlled in its entirety therefore lowering nutrition costs No nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of the controlled system. Stable and higher yields and less pests and diseases than in soil.
What are the disadvantages of Hydroponics?
With no soil as a buffer, any failure to the hydroponics system or mistakes with nutrients leads to rapid plant illness or death.
Pathogen attacks such as damp-off due to Verticillium wilt caused by the high moisture levels associated with hydroponics and over watering of soil based plants.
Hydro Aero or Drip?
Growing systems exist in 3 categories: 'hydro 'aero or 'drip. In 'hydro', roots are grown in rockwool then placed to grow in a film of water. In 'aero', roots hang between air and water. This is when the oxygenation in the root zone is optimal. In drip', roots are generally in clay pebbles, Coco or more recently hydro stones and are relatively protected from external conditions. We generally recommend hydro or drip systems to beginners., we prefer to recommend aeroponics to experienced hydroponics or passionate hydroponics fans.
Types of Systems used for Hydroponics Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Nutrient Film Technique is a hydroponics technique where the nutrient solution is pumped into the growing tray and flows over the roots of the plants, which then drains back into the reservoir. There is usually no growing medium used other than air, which reduces the cost of replacing the growing medium after every crop.
Normally the plant is supported in a small plastic basket with the roots dangling into the nutrient solution.
NFT systems are depend on electricity which means additional costs and are very susceptible to power outages and pump failures. Also NFT systems do not offer any root protection. The roots dry out very rapidly and will die when the flow of nutrient solution is interrupted.
The Ebb and Flow System (Flood and Drain)
Ebb and Flow is a hydroponics system that is known for its simplicity, reliability of operation and low initial investment cost. Pots are filled with an inert medium which does not function like soil or contribute nutrition to the plants but which anchors the roots and functions as a temporary reserve of water and solvent mineral nutrients.
The hydroponics solution floods the system and is allowed to ebb away. Nutrient solution is pumped from a reservoir up into a growing table which is filled with perlite, rockwool or other growing media.
Advantages of the Ebb and Flow system
It is easy to set up and use It allows for high density planting and it provides a well oxygenated root system
Disadvantages of the Ebb and Flow system
Large containers require transferring the media to a suitable surface after sterilization to permit removal of leftover plant material.
The roots tend to grow together, meaning removal of harvested or damaged plants can be somewhat problematic in plants having well-developed root systems.
Ebb and flow systems are prone to breakdowns. Pump failure will result in plant death in a few hours particularly in very hot weather.
Aeroponics system processes growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil. It uses both water and air to produce more colourful, better tasting, better smelling, and incredibly nutritious fruits and vegetables. The Aeroponics system often consists of plants supported on channels with their roots dangling midair for the whole time.
Advantages of the Aeroponics System
The plants suspended they receive the maximum amount of oxygen possible. The method is nutrient efficient because you only need to provide what the plant needs and no more and any unused nutrient will simply go back into the reservoir.
Disadvantages of the Aeroponics System
Pump failure can result in plant death within a few hours. Evaporation losses can be high and unless the nutrient is replaced on a regular basis salt build up can be rapid. The spray jets are prone to blockages therefore maintenance of the feed circuit is required on a regular basis.
Drip Irrigation Systems
The Drip Irrigation System is a method which saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants where the nutrients are pumped through a network of tubing from a reservoir.
It is done through narrow tubes that deliver water directly to the base of the plant. Drip irrigation is used almost exclusively when using recycled municipal waste water. Regulations typically do not permit spraying water through the air that has not been fully treated to potable water standards.
Advantages of Drip Irrigation Systems
Fertilizer and nutrient loss is minimized Water application efficiency is high Soil erosion is minimized Weed growth is minimized Labour cost is less than other irrigation methods Foliage remains dry, reducing the risk of disease Drip Irrigation Systems operate at lower pressure than other types of pressurised irrigation systems reducing energy costs
Disadvantages of Drip Irrigation Systee
If the water is not properly filtered and the equipment not properly maintained, it can result in clogging.
If not installed properly drip irrigation systems can be a waste of water, time and harvest. The sun or lights can affect the tubes used for drip irrigation, shortening their usable life.
Deep Water Culture
Deep water culture (DWC) is a hydroponic method of plant production where the plant roots are suspended and then flooded and drained in solution of nutrient-rich, oxygenated water.
A more accurate definition for the acronym DWC is Direct Water Culture. Direct Water Culture can be performed in deep or shallow water.
Advantages of Deep Water Culture
Deep Water Culture is beginner friendly Deep Water Culture has the advantage in that it can grow the largest plants in the quickest time the plant roots are in constant timed contact with the nutrient and oxygen rich solution.
Disadvantages of Deep Water Culture
Power failure can quickly allow roots to dry out severely damaging your plants in a short time.