If you’re planning to modernize your garden at your backyard, and want something new to it, try the hydroponic system for your garden. Sounds new to your eyes? Read and keep scrolling. This is a good idea if you want something out from ordinary for your garden.
Hydroponics is a good option when you want to control how your plants should grow. A well-built hydroponic system can be better in terms of growth and production. This pumping system produces the tastiest, healthiest, and biggest plant-produced products you could ever think of. It might look like it will take a lot of work when it is your first, then start with a small hydroponic system to learn the basic skills and knowledge. You can always upgrade once you’re familiar enough with the basics.
What is a Hydroponic System?
This is a method of growing plants in a non-soil area. Base from its name, it is where plants are grown in a nutrient-rich water solution system. The main idea of growing plants this way is to let these plants grow while in direct contact with its nutrient solution in a water system at the same time a direct access to oxygen called hydroponic. Since this method isn’t using any soil, its roots are supported by peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, rock wool, or clay pellets.
Benefits and Its Disadvantage
With proper and correct set-up of your hydroponic garden, the plants in your garden will increase its production up to 30% and maturity rate up to 25% compared to plants which are planted in a soil. This is because your plant’s roots needn’t struggle to reach and obtaining essential nutrients that are needed. Plants that are planted in a soil needs to expand their roots deeper down to absorb what they needed for their plant growth.
But with this kind of method, it’s a whole lot different from what was natively done before. Since all nutrients were provided in the water, where they were planted, your plants can focus more on growing upwards, and not on the roots itself.
It may sound easy but it’s not. With a hydroponic system, you need also to control its pH levels and nutrients you need to put in your water. This is environmentally friendly if you grow plants in this method because it will reduce soil erosion caused by waste it produces.
Together with benefits, it has its downsides. Like what I’ve mention earlier, it’s not cheap, because you must use water-based nutrients and pH solutions to provide what your plants need. Money isn’t the only issue here, but also your time and patience. Hydroponics system takes time when assembling its setup. Add the monitoring of pH levels in the water, as well as its nutrients in it. Your patience will be tested, it’s advisable to save a drum of it.
It’s necessary to closely monitor your hydroponic system because lack or excess of water medium can lead to death for your plants. Unlike soil, water can’t hold any nutrients for a longer time. To sum it up, your plants are dependent on your water system. One false move or failure to your pump system would kill your plants in short span of time.
Types of Hydroponic Systems
You can choose what type of pump system you would like or what suits you well and your area. Each of these types has specific roles and functions and has their own way of obtaining nutrient solutions for your hydroponic plants.
- Aeroponics. A type of hydroponic system where plant’s roots are sprayed with a nutrient solution while it is hanging in the air. To be able to provide the nutrient solution need by its roots you can either use pond fogger to mist the roots or use a spray with an adjustable spout.
- Drip System. It’s simple but needs to pay attention and must check it most of the time. This drip system’s common problem is clogging up. The nutrient solution particles cause this problem when they slowly build up in the emitter part of the machine. Gardeners most likely will not be advised to use a drip system, but if you can avoid such issues then your hydroponic plants will thank you.
- Deep Water Culture. Another term for the word “reservoir technique”. This is the easiest and most convenient type of a hydroponic system. You just need to suspend the roots of your plants inside a nutrient solution container. With the help of water pump, this way can provide oxygen to your nutrient solution. No more issue of clogging up from emitters in your drip or spraying tools. Just avoid exposing and letting light comes in your hydroponic system because it can cause algae formation in it.
- Nutrient Film Method. This system needs one side to be slightly elevated to promote a continuous flow of nutrient solution with the help of gravitational force. Roots were only submerged in the water solution which means that its stems and leaves are reached by natural air and sunlight that is good for plant growth.
- Wick. This is the easiest and low costing method of the hydroponic system. There are two options to do this. Plant your plants in a cotton or sponge-like material. Using two wicks, attach the ends to a water solution, and the other ends are also attached to the cotton or sponge-like and let it run its way up to the plants. Or you can just simply suspend in the water solution and use some sponge-like materials to sip the nutrient solution directly to its roots. Use perlite or vermiculite, because they don’t excessively absorb nutrient. Excessive absorption can cause plant suffocation which leads death.
- Ebb & Let it Flow. Known to be a great system of hydroponics. A flood and drain method in which your plants are flooded with nutrient essentials in a specific time and once done, the excess solution will be drained one at a time. This machine has fixed timer so it can repeat the same method at specified time lapse. This method is ideal for plants during drought or dry season.
Water for Hydroponic System
You can choose what kind of water you can choose from for your hydroponic system. Go through different kind of water listed to know which water suits your hydroponic plants. You will be able to determine what kind of nutrients you’re giving to your plants.
Choosing your water is the most crucial process because water is not just plain water. It’s more than to it. There are “other” things present in your water that could make or break your plants.
Reverse Osmosis System. This kind of water system uses a semi-permeable membrane to filter out large particles. It helps in removing suspended microorganisms and particles in the water and only smaller particles can pass through the tiny holes. In short, everything that passes through this membrane will be filtered. And in hydroponics, ROS has three (3) stages.
- Sediment Filtering (stage 1) – the things that will be filtered here are visible to our own eyes, such as pebbles or sand or gravel that might cause damage to the filters.
- Carbon Filtration (stage 2) – this stage will remove the presence of chlorine and organic elements in the water.
- Semi-permeable Membrane (stage 3) – the finest filter and the last stage in reverse osmosis. This membrane filters what wasn’t removed from stage 1 and 2.
ROS needs to be maintained and must follow guidelines because there can be clogged up happening with its filters. And the whole reverse osmosis system isn’t a fast procedure. From using tap water until to filling in the tanks with water takes a lot of time. Since ROS filters are easily damaged with chlorine and still they can produce clean water, you need to replace or sterilized the filters.
Distilled Water. Some water isn’t enough to cater the nutrients needed with your plants. This type of water for your plants removes all the unhealthy microorganism that is found in tap water. Elements like viruses, bacteria, chemicals, parasites, and more are removed once tap water underwent heating and evaporating process. The result will be a completely distilled water with close to as clean and natural water, which is also healthier. Distilled water has a pH level of 7 means it’s neutral. But there are plants that prefer lower pH level. Using this kind of water in your pump system may cause magnesium and/or calcium deficiency since they were removed during the heating process. You can make your own distilled water at home. Check out the steps here:
- In a stainless-steel pot, fill in tap water about a quarter inch of the pot.
- Let a heat-resistant glass bowl float into it.
- Turn a glass pot lid upside down to cover your stainless-steel pot. Add ice on the top of it.
- Begin to heat the pot until water boils.
- Once it starts to boil, simmer the water by turning down the heat.
- Keep adding ice on the lid once it melts.
- Repeat the process until you achieved the desired amount of distilled water.
The water that evaporates goes up and when it touches the cold lid, it suddenly condensation happens and the water dripped from the lid going back to the pot — pure water is the result.
Tap Water. Before discussing tap water, let’s talk about first the chlorination process before we use them straight from our faucets. Most of the water distributed to our homes are added with the small amount of chlorine to kill the microbes and bacteria which is present. Hearing this make you think twice of using tap water for your hydroponic system. Surely, chlorine will also kill the nutrients present in your solution for your water system. Worry no more! There’s another way to eliminate the presence of chlorine in your water. Sun exposure is the only answer to it. Expose your reservoir under the sun for about 24 hours to break down chlorine in your tap water. Overfill your reservoir because evaporation of water will also take place.
We need to also consider the pH level of the water we are using. It’s actually an important factor in water quality which our plants need for growth. Ideally, the pH of the water to use is between 5.8 and 6.8 after all the nutrient solution has been added. If the water pH falls lower or higher than its ideal pH range, the nutrients in that water aren’t available for your plants to take in.
High pH level on the water can cause the nutrients in your water less available to consume. And when it’s too low, the secondary and micronutrients aren’t available this time. Unsatisfied pH result could also contribute the growth of your plant, a make or break for them.
Effect Chloramine on Plants
Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, sadly it’s present in our tap water. Chloramine is a substance that it’s difficult to eliminate because of its structure. This substance is present in your tap water since some people also use them for water disinfection. This is not recommendable with aquaponics system because the chloramine will kill your fish. What makes this chlorine stable is the presence of ammonia with it.
But there are also ways to eliminate the presence of chlorine and chloramine. First, run the water in an active carbon filter or boil your water for a long period of hours. Next option is to use sodium thiosulfate to break down these harmful substances in your tap water.
Adding Nutrients to Your Hydroponics Water
In this part, you have two options to choose from. First, you can buy premixed nutrients at the store, and second is that you can mix on your own. Store bought premixed water solutions are complete nutrients already and fix, but every type of water in your hydroponic system might need some adjustments with the nutrients they needed. Unlike mixing these nutrients on your own can be as flexible as it is and more economical for you.
When Choosing the nutrients to be added, remember:
Know what water you’re going to use first. Do research to dig down what your water has and what needs to be done. You can also send a water sample to a laboratory to test what’s in your water. If the water is “mild” you can add up any essential nutrients for their growth. And if the results say that it’s a “hard” water, perform reverse osmosis to filter out unwanted organisms in it.
Know the use of essential nutrients in your water solution. Each element has its role and functions. This way, it can help you determine what should be lessened and what should be added more in your water. To help you out,
- Phosphorus – it is used for photosynthesis and overall growth of your plants
- Calcium – its role is to help plant cells grow healthy to build healthy and stronger cell walls for your plants.
- Hydrogen – this becomes water once it is bonded with oxygen
- Potassium and Magnesium – they’re catalyst or the reason why there will be starch and sugar formation inside your plant’s body.
- Sulfur and Nitrogen – helps in supplying amino acids and protein which your plants need
- Nitrogen and Magnesium – helps the production of chlorophyll which needs to make food.
- Don’t forget to add micronutrients, they’re essential too. You need to buy in huge amount because your plants only need a small amount of it. It can also contribute to an effective growth for them. Your nutrient mix should at least have ten (10) different micronutrients in it. Your micronutrients are:
Boron, Chlorine, Sodium, Manganese, Silicon, Cobalt, Iron, Zinc, Molybdenum, Copper, and Nickel
Your plants are sensitive to temperature as well. The water you are going to use should not be warm or cold to touch. Too hot water temperature may stress out your plants, and too cold-water temperature will not lead to a growth of your plant. This will lead in developing molds. Ideal water temperature is between 18 degrees Celsius (65 F) to 27 degrees Celsius (80 F). If you add water to your reservoir, make sure that the water added in has the same temperature inside it. And keep in mind, plants that grew in cold weather prefers cold temperature and plants grown in warm areas, prefers warm water.
As what I mentioned above, pH level is important. The ideal is between 5.8 to 6.8. Check the pH level regularly to ensure that your plants can take all the nutrients they needed. pH level constantly changes once essential nutrients are absorbed by your plants. pH level is also affected by the water temperature. Before adding chemicals in your reservoir, check the temperature first.
Do-It-Yourself Nutrient Mixture
- Add water to your container. Tap water is not recommended. It’s better to use a reverse osmosis water or distilled water. If both RO and distilled isn’t available, let your tap water be exposed to the sun for 24hours and/or let it check in a laboratory.
- Use measuring cups or cylinders to measure the amount for chemicals needed. If you’re suing liquid chemicals, use glass beakers or cylinders. You also need two containers. One is for your essential nutrients added that are crop-specific, while the other container is for another general nutrient blended essentials.
- Using a funnel will avoid spillage of chemicals. Use only plastic funnels or glass ones since they don’t react with chemicals. This way could also help prevent your skin from irritation due to chemical content. You can even wear gloves while doing the entire mixing process to protect yourself. Before you add them in, check the pH of the water first.
- Slowly add the essential nutrients to the water. Add gradually and one by one. A small amount of chemical spillage isn’t harmful to your plants. Use enough solution to cover the pump and avoiding it from sucking air into your pump system. The amount of solution need for your water system should be enough to submerge your pump.
- After adding the essential nutrients in, cap the container tightly and shake it off. Do it repeatedly for a minute to make sure that the water and chemicals are well-blended inside. If the container is too heavy, look for a clean stirring rod and stop until the residue of powdered nutrients is melted and mixed with water.
Useful Tips for your Hydroponic System
Change water, together with the nutrients in it every two to three weeks. This is because most of the time, the nutrient present in this time is unavailable due to water pH is not balanced. This too, your nutrients are less oxygenated.
- To maintain water pH for a longer time, use a cooler or chiller machine to maintain the water temperature inside your reservoir.
- Always follow the directions and recommended dosage. Follow manufacturer’s advice and instructions, because they know better for your plants.
- Upon checking, you noticed that your plants imposing healthy color and it looks sluggish, check the water pH level right away. And if pH level is balanced, then flush out your pump system immediately and change.
- Connect an air-pump with a flexible tubing in your water pump system. This will oxygenate your plants and water solution. Which means longer shelf-life for your mixed nutrients in your reservoir.
In choosing what is best to use for your hydroponics, it should be the water with no added minerals, a pH level that is between 5.8 to 6.8. These characteristics should be possessed by any type of water to be able to provide the needs of your plants without being toxic. It is necessary to be keen on what water to use for your plants. It’s advisable to analyze first what your water must be able to figure out what you really need to do with it to be able to provide your plant’s essentials.
Some say that clean rainwater is the best choice for your hydroponic system since it’s nature’s natural reverse osmosis. But rainwater is available, distilled water is the next good choice. Distilled gone through evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. The water in distilled water might lack some nutrients, you can just increase or add in the essential nutrients that were lost in the water itself. And if either clean rainwater or distilled water is unavailable, what follows is the water from reverse osmosis system because the water it produces is a clean and healthy water since it underwent three stages of filtering before using into your pump system.
Whatever water you use, make sure it doesn’t contradict with the nutrient solution and prevents its function to your plants. Happy planting!