The 7 Hydroponic Methods
Hydroponic growing methods are popular among commercial growers and home gardeners alike for several reasons. Hydroponics allows for a more controlled environment in terms of fertilization and watering, which in turn allows for a more accurate measurement of nutrients and other needs that you plant may have. As with most things pertaining to gardening or plants, there are many different ways to go about achieving your end result.
Drip irrigation is a form of hydroponic growing what helps to conserve water and fertilizer by directing a slow and steady stream of droplets to be more carefully targeted to the plants base, or the root network of the plant. This method encourages plants to absorb the water and nutrients directly from their roots easily, with little strain to the plant, and saves much of the water that would be lost to evaporation and drainage that would result from traditional watering methods.
Similar to the drip irrigation method, the wick system targets the plants root system, saving you from water loss and fertilizer waste due to run off and evaporation. The wick system uses a series of membranes, called wicks, that are suspended below the root systems of a plant, and hang below into a reservoir of water that is gradually drawn upwards, as needed by the plant.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
Deep water culture, or aquaponic systems, allow for the plants to be suspended on the surface of a large body of water, with the root systems submerged. This process is achieved by having the water below constantly aerated to provide the necessary levels of oxygen to the plant. This method allows for nutrients and fertilizers to be diluted into the water and quickly absorbed directly into the roots cells with much less effort expended by the plant.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Closely related to the deep water culture method, the nutrient film technique of hydroponics allows for the root systems of the plant to be freely suspended in a body of water, but with this specific system, the water is enclosed in what are called channels. The channels, often made out of large pipes, have openings running along the topside for plants to emerge from, and a constantly moving and recirculating stream of water enclosed, to allow for the plants to feed and drink from. This system can be made to fit any size space, and because it is a fully contained system, has very little evaporation making it an extremely efficient form of hydroponic growing.
Ebb And Flow
An ebb and flow system for hydroponic growing is an easy system to set up for beginners, as it does not require much. Plants are placed into a quickly draining medium that allows for the roots to breathe freely when the water is let out from the trays that the medium is held in. The plants are occasionally flooded, normally in a tray, and the medium absorbs the water and nutrients from the solution that it needs, and then the tray drains back into a reservoir to be used again. The medium, once fully saturated, self drains into the tray, and therefore allows for a constant supply of moisture to the plants roots.
While soil, sponge, and other inert materials are often used as growing mediums, a soil free method can also be achieved. If you are looking to grow in a medium other than soil, coco coir and sphagnum peat moss are two very popular options. Coco coir is the fibers that cover the outer layer of a coconut, and can me matted together very effectively to great a successful growing medium for most plants. The fibers, providing for a natural growing environment, hold water well and absorb excess nutrients that can be later absorbed by the plants root systems. Because the fibers are not as dense as soil, they allow for excellent drainage, and root aeration. Just like coco coir, sphagnum peat moss has similar properties. The moss creates a nutrient absorbent environment that protects the root systems, but also allows for perfect drainage and aeration.
In addition to these methods, aeroponic growing is also a popular approach, and allows for the plants root systems to be either free standing, or in a soil free system made from coco coir, sphagnum peat moss, or any other inert medium. Aeroponic systems use mist to water the root systems of the plant. Because it is often an open-air system, or a system with large open compartments of air, the root systems can aerate easily. Many aeroponic systems are enclosed and have a tray below the root systems that catch excess mist and moisture that then runs off and drains into a basin to be recycled within the system for future use, making it a very efficient and self contained growing system.