Choosing the right hydroponic system
The simplest way to describe or define Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Instead of soil we use a water based solution which also contains nutrients in which our plants use to grow. As the plants grow they are supported by a neutral grow medium that can range from coconut husk to hydroton (leca) pellets.
The only requirement of a Hydroponic system is that it doesn't use soil and because of this there are many different kinds of systems available. Prices and complexity of these hydroponic systems very significantly and with so many options available it can be difficult to know where to begin.
Below is a small list that shows in better detail the kinds of systems available to the grower, as well as the pros and cons of each. Click the title to view a more detailed description of the system and how it works.
A fairly common hydroponic system that uses a pump to cycle water to the plants. The plants are fed a nutrient solution for a small period of time then the water is drained from the plants where roots will then be given oxygen.
A very simple hydroponic system where the plants roots are continuously immersed in a highly oxygenated nutrient supply. Oxygenation can be achieved with an air pump and air stones which are crucial to preventing root rot.
In this system the plants roots are given access to a very thin flow of nutrient solution at the bottom of a grow tube. The solution is in a constant flow so the plants have little risk of drying out.
A small but continuous drip of nutrient solution is delievered to the plants from a drip line. Excess water from the drip process can be recovered and recirculated to the plants. Rockwool is often used in the Continuous Drip method of hydroponics to stabilize the plant.
The roots of the plants are sprayed with a light mist of nutrient solution. The spray allows for a good ratio of oxygen and nutrient to be delivered to the plant while keeping the reservoir circulating and oxygenated. Misting the roots does not require the plant to be placed in any sort of medium. Because of this Aeroponics is sometimes considered separate from Hydroponics.
When choosing the hydroponic system you want to build it's a good idea to consider a few things. What you're growing and the amount of what you're growing, Your budget, your availability to tend to the system, your geographical location and the space you have are just a few things to keep in mind. For example if you live in a very hot climate, only want to grow a few plants and are limited on space then maybe a DWC or "bucket system" is what you should be looking into.