WHAT IS HYDROPONICS?
“Working water.” Hydroponics literally translates to “working water” in Latin. Hydroponics is a gardening technique that does not require soil. In this method, the soil is out of the equation, and water becomes the main carrier and provider of the nutrients for the plants. It is both a science and an art whereby plants are delicately and strategically placed in the system to maximize their growth while improving your homestead’s aesthetics.
Hydroponics is not a new technology in the discipline of gardening, as one might think. The use of hydroponic systems dates way back to ancient times. In the early civilizations, Babylonians used this technique in what is now known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World- the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. History books also mention ‘floating gardens’ in 13th Century China as witnessed and written by Marco Polo. This clever way of growing plants survived the test of times and remained relevant in the discipline of gardening despite the continuous advancement in technology.
HYDROPONICS: HOW TO DO IT?
Despite the cleverness and effectiveness of this gardening method, building and assembling your own hydroponics system at home can be easy when you put your heart to it. Let us give you a step-by-step process of utilizing this method to give your garden incredible growth and abundant produce.
Decide what hydroponics system you want to build
There are different types of hydroponic systems to choose from depending on the type of plant you want to grow and how you plan to supply your garden with water and nutrients.
You can choose from the following hydroponics system based on the availability of the needed materials and the type of plant you wish to grow.
- Aeroponics. This system includes a submersible pump, short-cycle timer, air hose, and mist nozzles.
- Drip System. The drip system makes use of a grow tray, drip manifold and drip lines, overflow tube, submersible pump, a timer, non-submersible air pump, air stone, and air hose.
- Ebb and Flow. This hydroponics system uses a grow tray, overflow tube, submersible air pump, a timer, and air hose.
- Nutrient Film Technique. This also uses a grow tray, overflow tube, submersible pump, non-submersible air pump, air stone, and air hose.
- Water Culture. This utilizes a floating platform, a non-submersible air pump, air stone, and an air hose.
- Wick System. The Wick system includes a grow tray, rope wicks, air stone, non-submersible air pump, and air hose.
DETERMINING YOUR GARDEN’S LOCATION
If this is your first time working on your garden, it is wise that you determine the perfect location for it.
Hydroponics is ideally located in enclosed structures such as a greenhouse. This is to protect the plants from outside threats such as strong winds, wind-borne pests, and animals. Make sure that the system receives enough light to allow plants to absorb it for food processing. Also, ensure that the flooring is evenly leveled so that the water also evenly covers the area. Check whether the water is at just the right level not to dehydrate or drown your plants.
These are important things that you need to remember:
- They need light.
- They need to be protected from outside elements.
- They need to be aerated.
- They need a substrate in which to grow.
SECURING THE TOOLS AND MATERIALS NEEDED
Know the materials and tools essential to start assembling your hydroponics system. Of course, there are ready-made hydroponic systems available in your local stores and online. However, doing it yourself is always better for a more customized system and a worthwhile experience. A typical hydroponics system may include the following:
- PVC pipe
- stand and trellis made of PVC pipe
- a nutrient tank
- planting cups/nests
- plastic tubing
- plant clips
- a substrate or growing media
- expanded clay pebbles
- reversed osmosis (RO) water
- nutrients for a hydroponic system
- twine strings
- garden hose
SETTING IT UP
Assembling your own DIY hydroponics system indeed requires work and attention. In this example, we will build a system using the materials mentioned above.
1. Assembling process
For the hydroponics system, use growing tubes, a stand, and a trellis made of PVC pipe. You will also need a nutrient tank, a pump, and a manifold. Place the nutrient tank just under the framework where the PVC-growing tubes sit. Put the pump inside the tank so that the nutrients it stores can be delivered up to the plants through a manifold of smaller pipes and plastic tubes that have drain pipes leading back to the tank. Place the manifold on top of the pipes to easily propel pressurized water to the tubes.
The plants then receive nutrients stored in the tank when water is pushed through the pipe, travels via the manifold, and then propelled to small plastic tubes connected to each of the larger PVC tubes. The nutrients shoot out the very small holes in these small plastic tubes and are sprayed to the plants’ roots. Consequently, the whole process creates small, compact air bubbles providing the plants with enough oxygen.
2. Adding the plants
The key to a good garden in a hydroponics system is choosing the healthiest plants such as vegetables for a healthy diet. Purchasing a seedling may be your best bet for this, especially when you are just starting. Before adding your plants to the system, make sure that you remove all the soil from the plants’ roots using lukewarm water as soil sometimes contains harmful substances that can ruin the plants. Place each of them in the planting cups and pull as many roots as possible through the holes in the bottom. To hold it in place, you can use expanded clay pebbles. These pebbles may be hard, but they are actually lightweight and won’t damage the seedlings.
Once you are done assembling the system, do not forget to maintain it for a productive outcome.
Monitor the system and the plants. Plants can be dehydrated when the tank was left unchecked and runs out of water. Consider the weather and climate of your region and do a daily check of the system to ensure that your plants receive just the proper nutrition and hydration. Some plants also grow in no time. We can use plant clips and strings attached to the trellis to support the growing plant to ensure the plants climb straight up and don’t sag.
Watch out for early signs of pests and plant diseases, for they may infect and consequently ruin your entire garden if neglected. Protect the plants from outside threats like leaf fungus, mildew, and mold to make sure this doesn’t happen.