A Discussion of Hydroponic Growing Systems

For sustainability and environmental acceptability hydroponics is a system hard to better. It eliminates soil-borne pests and diseases and improves water and unimpeded plant nutrient uptake is achieved with the right feeding. The crop is very heavy per unit area and the yield can be amazingly high from hydroponic growing. The water feeding agriculturalists have developed a number of distinct systems for home and commercial use. These systems include the Europonic Rockwood System, the Ebb and Flow System, Aeroponic Systems, Continuous Drip Systems, and Rockwool Based Systems. Hydroponic systems come in all shapes and sizes and can be adapted for nearly any budget.

An alternative in-vogue system is the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT). Almost continual feeding is possible within these systems while the plants sit within the water, with fertilised water constantly running over their roots. A reservoir with a pump that is submersible re-circulates the nutrient solution continually, pumping the solution to the top of the troughs to trickle back through the system. Larger Nutrient Film Technique systems are used commercially, both abroad and in the United States. Care must be taken to choose the correct trough size especially when using the Nutrient Film Technique system. Large systems used by commercial companies use wider troughs with greater flow capacity. Aeroponics is an amazing system related to hydroponics and in this method the roots are simply suspended in the air and usually in 3D. They are excellent for growing herbs and leafy vegetables. Plant support is provided to the growing vegetables and flowers by neoprene inserts. Varying hole designs in the top cover provides the proper spacing. and looks good. Aeroponic systems are also great propagators. The little plants when big enough to prick out are removed from a rockwool equivalent of a traditional seed compost and transferred to web pots. Nasa scientific research has come up with the idea of aeroponics and it is becoming popular with visitors to their space and education centres.

The Europonic System is modelled after commercial systems that are used in Europe. The system starts with an entry level system offering three trays each holding eight plants. The system may also be expanded to five trays if desired. A thirty gallon tank is usually suitable to store and deliver nutrient through a pumped system to the roots of every plant via an “emitter”. The solution trickles through the rockwool, over the roots, and back to the reservoir where it is re-circulated on a constant basis. Rockwool, or mineral wool, is the most popular and highly used hydroponic medium. It is basically a material of spun fibre providing a high surface area for a high ability to hold water. It can also be cut and formed into many shapes and sizes that allow many diverse growing applications. Under the Eurponic system there are 2 rockwool slabs fitted into each of the trays.. Rockwool provides good support to relatively extensive root systems, so the Europonic System is well suited to crops which grow like vines, such as tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers, and the large flowering blooms.

In a continuous drip system, a single pot is used with a two-gallon reservoir underneath. The system acts like a percolator as air is pumped down a vertical shaft, creating pressure, and nutrient solution is forced up another tube. A drip ring constantly irrigates the substrate, and the nutrient solution drains back into the reservoir. This type of system is easy to use, inexpensive, and great for individual experimentation. Unfortunately, it does not provide a practical method for commercial growing. Perennially popular in hydroponics applications are the abb and flow systems. Ebb and flow is good for lettuce, pepper plants, mini tomatoes, and potted decorative plants. Ebb and flow systems can also be utilized as a type of herb garden which provides thyme, basil, rocket, and oregano to name just a few, all year round. Ebb and flow systems are not perfect and a concern with them can be the building up of crystal fertilizing salts in the growth medium. What happens is that evaporation causes salt concentraion to rise. If this build up too high it will be toxic to the system in the media. It is best to flush the system with pure water periodically to take away any toxic salt build-up.