Hydroponics is a subset of hydro-culture, which is a method of growing plants without soil, by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. In a hydroponic garden, you provide your plants with a complete nutrient formula and an inert growing medium to anchor your plants' roots so they have easier access to the food and water.
Terrestrial plants may be grown with only their roots exposed to the nutritious liquid, or the roots may be physically supported by an inert medium such as perlite, gravel, or other substrates. The nutrients used in hydroponic systems can come from many of different sources, including fish excrement, duck manure, purchased chemical fertilisers, or artificial nutrient solutions. Plants commonly grown hydroponically, on inert media, include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuces, spinach, and many others. Hydroponics offers many advantages, one of them being a decrease in water usage for agriculture. Since it takes much less water to grow produce, it could be possible in the future for providers in harsh environments with little accessible water to grow their own food.
How does hydroponics work?
Hydroponic systems work by allowing minute control over environmental conditions like temperature and pH balance and maximized exposure to nutrients and water. Hydroponics operates under a very simple principle: provide plants exactly what they need when they need it. Hydroponics administer nutrient solutions tailored to the needs of the particular plant being grown. They allow you to control exactly how much light the plants receive and for how long. pH levels can be monitored and adjusted. In a highly customized and controlled environment, plant growth accelerates.
By controlling the environment of the plant, many risk factors are reduced. Plants grown in gardens and fields are introduced to a host of variables that negatively impact their health and growth. Fungus in the soil can spread diseases to plants. Wildlife like rabbits can plunder ripening vegetables from your garden. Pests like locusts can descend on crops and obliterate them in an afternoon. Hydroponic systems end the unpredictability of growing plants outdoors and in the earth. Without the mechanical resistance of the soil, seedlings can mature much faster. By eliminating pesticides, hydroponics produce much healthier and high-quality fruits and vegetables. Without obstacles, plants are free to grow vigorously and rapidly.
Hydroponic systems can be either active or passive. Active means that nutrient solutions will be moved, usually by a pump. Passive relies on a wick or the anchor of the growing media. Hydroponic systems are also characterized as recovery or non-recovery. Recovery means the nutrient solution will be reused into the system. Meanwhile, with non-recovery, the nutrient solution is applied to the growing media, and vanishes.
What are the components of a hydroponic system?
To maintain a flourishing hydroponic system, you will need to become acquainted with a few components that make hydroponics run efficiently.
Hydroponic plants are often grown in inert media that support the plantís weight and anchor its root structure. Growing media is the substitute for soil, however, it does not provide any independent nutrition to the plant. Instead, this porous media retains moisture and nutrients from the nutrient solution which it then delivers to the plant. Many growing media are also pH-neutral, so they will not upset the balance of your nutrient solution. There are a host of different media to choose from, and the specific plant and hydroponic system will dictate which media best suits your endeavor. Hydroponic growing media is widely available both online and at local nurseries and gardening stores.
Air stones and air pumps
Plants that are submerged in water can quickly drown if the water is not sufficiently aerated. Air stones disperse tiny bubbles of dissolved oxygen throughout your nutrient solution reservoir. These bubbles also help evenly distribute the dissolved nutrients in the solution. Air stones do not generate oxygen on their own. They need to be attached to an external air pump via opaque food grade plastic tubing (the opacity will prevent algae growth from setting in). Air stones and air pumps are popular aquarium components and can be purchased easily at pet stores.
Net pots are mesh planters that hold hydroponic plants. The latticed material allows roots to grow out of the sides and bottom of the pot, giving greater exposure to oxygen and nutrients. Net pots also provide superior drainage compared to traditional clay or plastic pots.
Substrates (growing support materials)
One of the most obvious decisions hydroponic farmers have to make is which medium they should use. Different media are appropriate for different growing techniques.
Expanded clay aggregate
Baked clay pellets are suitable for hydroponic systems in which all nutrients are carefully controlled in water solution. The clay pellets are inert, pH-neutral, and do not contain any nutrient value. It is light in weight, and does not compact over time. The shape of an individual pellet can be irregular or uniform depending on brand and manufacturing process. The manufacturers consider expanded clay to be an ecologically sustainable and re-usable growing medium because of its ability to be cleaned and sterilized, typically by washing in solutions of white vinegar, chlorine bleach, or hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and rinsing completely.
Growstones, made from glass waste, have both more air and water retention space than perlite and peat. This aggregate holds more water than parboiled rice hulls. Growstones by volume consist of 0.5 to 5% calcium carbonate Ė for a standard 5.1 kg bag of Growstones that corresponds to 25.8 to 258 grams of calcium carbonate. The remainder is soda-lime glass.
Coconut coir is a natural byproduct derived from coconut processes. The outer husk of a coconut consists of fibers which are commonly used to make a myriad of items ranging from floor mats to brushes. After the long fibers are used for those applications, the dust and short fibers are merged to create coir. Coconuts absorb high levels of nutrients throughout their life cycle, so the coir must undergo a maturation process before it becomes a viable growth medium. When exposed to water, the brown, dry, chunky and fibrous material expands nearly three-four times its original size. This characteristic combined with coconut coir's water retention capacity and resistance to pests and diseases make it an effective growth medium. Used as an alternative to rock wool, coconut coir, also known as coir peat, offers optimized growing conditions.
Parboiled rice husks (PBH) are an agricultural byproduct that would otherwise have little use. They decay over time, and allow drainage, and even retain less water than growstones. A study showed that rice husks did not affect the effects of plant growth regulators.
Perlite is a volcanic rock that has been superheated into very lightweight expanded glass pebbles. It is used loose or in plastic sleeves immersed in the water. It is also used in potting soil mixes to decrease soil density. Perlite has similar properties and uses to vermiculite but, in general, holds more air and less water and is buoyant.
Like perlite, vermiculite is a mineral that has been superheated until it has expanded into light pebbles. Vermiculite holds more water than perlite and has a natural "wicking" property that can draw water and nutrients in a passive hydroponic system. If too much water and not enough air surround the plants roots, it is possible to gradually lower the medium's water-retention capability by mixing in increasing quantities of perlite.
Like perlite, pumice is a lightweight, mined volcanic rock that finds application in hydroponics.
Sand is cheap and easily available. However, it is heavy, does not hold water very well, and it must be sterilized between uses. Due to sand being easily available and in high demand sand shortages are on our horizon as we are running out.
The same type that is used in aquariums, though any small gravel can be used, provided it is washed first. Indeed, plants growing in a typical traditional gravel filter bed, with water circulated using electric power head pumps, are in effect being grown using gravel hydroponics. Gravel is inexpensive, easy to keep clean, drains well and will not become waterlogged. However, it is also heavy, and, if the system does not provide continuous water, the plant roots may dry out.
Wood fibre, produced from steam friction of wood, is a very efficient organic substrate for hydroponics. It has the advantage that it keeps its structure for a very long time. Wood wool (i.e. wood slivers) have been used since the earliest days of the hydroponics research. However, more recent research suggests that wood fibre may have detrimental effects on "plant growth regulators".
Wool from shearing sheep is a little-used yet promising renewable growing medium. In a study comparing wool with peat slabs, coconut fibre slabs, perlite and rockwool slabs to grow cucumber plants, sheep wool had a greater air capacity of 70%, which decreased with use to a comparable 43%, and water capacity that increased from 23% to 44% with use. Using sheep wool resulted in the greatest yield out of the tested substrates, while application of a biostimulator consisting of humic acid, lactic acid and Bacillus subtilis improved yields in all substrates.
Rock wool is the most widely used medium in hydroponics. It is an inert substrate suitable for both run-to-waste and recirculating systems. Rock wool is made from molten rock, basalt or 'slag' that is spun into bundles of single filament fibres, and bonded into a medium capable of capillary action, and is, in effect, protected from most common microbiological degradation. Rock wool is typically used only for the seedling stage, or with newly cut clones, but can remain with the plant base for its lifetime. It has a proven efficiency and effectiveness as a commercial hydroponic substrate. It can be engineered to hold large quantities of water and air that aid root growth and nutrient uptake in hydroponics; their fibrous nature also provides a good mechanical structure to hold the plant stable.
Brick shards have similar properties to gravel. They have the added disadvantages of possibly altering the pH and requiring extra cleaning before reuse.
Polystyrene packing peanuts
Polystyrene packing peanuts are inexpensive, readily available, and have excellent drainage. However, they can be too lightweight for some uses. They are used mainly in closed-tube systems. Note that non-biodegradable polystyrene peanuts must be used; biodegradable packing peanuts will decompose into a sludge. Plants may absorb styrene and pass it to their consumers; this is a possible health risk.
Inorganic hydroponic solutions
The formulation of hydroponic solutions is an application of plant nutrition, with nutrient deficiency symptoms mirroring those found in traditional soil based agriculture. However, the underlying chemistry of hydroponic solutions can differ from soil chemistry in many significant ways. Important differences include:
Unlike soil, hydroponic nutrient solutions do not have cation-exchange capacity (CEC) from clay particles or organic matter. The absence of CEC means the pH and nutrient concentrations can change much more rapidly in hydroponic setups than is possible in soil. Selective absorption of nutrients by plants often imbalances the amount of counter ions in solution. This imbalance can rapidly affect solution pH and the ability of plants to absorb nutrients of similar ionic charge (see article membrane potential). For instance, nitrate anions are often consumed rapidly by plants to form proteins, leaving an excess of cations in solution. This cation imbalance can lead to deficiency symptoms in other cation based nutrients (e.g. Mg2+) even when an ideal quantity of those nutrients are dissolved in the solution.
Depending on the pH or on the presence of water contaminants, nutrients such as iron can precipitate from the solution and become unavailable to plants. Routine adjustments to pH, buffering the solution or the use of chelating agents is often necessary. Generally acceptable concentrations for nutrient solutions exist, with minimum and maximum concentration ranges for most plants being somewhat similar. Most nutrient solutions are mixed to have concentrations between 1,000 and 2,500 ppm.
Benefits of Hydroponics
One of the biggest advantages that hydroponics has over soil growing is water conservation. When growing plants in soil, a grower has to be very experienced to know how much water to give his plants. Too much and the plantís roots are not able to get enough oxygen. Too little and the plant can dry out and die. Hydroponics solves this problem in three different ways.
Oxygenated Nutrient Reservoir
The water reservoir can be constantly oxygenated, making sure that the plantís roots obtain the optimum level of oxygen. Additionally, the problem of watering is solved by the fact that the plantís root system no longer has soil surrounding it, blocking oxygen uptake by the roots.
Uses Less Water
Hydroponics uses much less water than soil farming because it can be re-circulated. In traditional farming, water is poured over the ground and seeps into the soil. Only a small fraction of the water actually gets used by the plant. Hydroponics allows for the unused water to be recycled back into the reservoir, ready for use in the future. In dry and arid areas, this is a massive benefit.
Total Growing Control
The final major benefit of hydroponics is the amount of control a grower has over the environment. Pests and diseases are much easier to deal with Ė your environment is often times portable and raised off of the ground. This makes it hard for bugs to reach your plants. Any soil-related diseases are completely written off in hydroponics as well. Lastly, youíre able to control the amount of nutrients provided to your plant precisely, saving on nutrition costs.
Farming of the Future
With all of these advantages, it seems as if thereís nothing wrong with hydroponics! Not entirely true. Soil does act as a buffer for growing errors Ė in hydroponics, errors are much more costly and can ruin an entire crop. In addition, higher levels of humidity do invite fungi and mildew to the system, which can ruin a crop. These are small prices to pay for the vast improvements that hydroponics has over traditional growing methods. Weíre seeing commercial hydroponic greenhouses pop up all over the world. In a world where fresh water and food supply are such hot issues, Hydroponics could be considered as a major way to solve these problems in a sustainable and ecologically conscious way. The farming of the future has begun!
Types of hydroponic systems
There are hundreds of hydroponic methods, but all of them are a modification or combination of six basic hydroponic systems.
1. Deep water culture systems
Deep water culture hydroponics are simply plants suspended in aerated water. Deep water culture systems, also known as a DWC system, are one of the easiest and most popular methods of hydroponics on the market. A DWC system dangles net pots holding plants over a deep reservoir of oxygen-rich nutrient solution. The plantís roots are submerged in the solution, providing it with perpetual access to nutrition, water, and oxygen. Deep water culture is considered by some to be the purest form of hydroponics.Since the root system is suspended in water at all times, proper water oxygenation is vital to the plantís survival. If there is not enough oxygen supplied to the plantís roots, the plant will drown in the solution. Add an air stone connected to an air pump at the bottom of the reservoir to supply oxygenation to the entire system. The bubbles from the air stone will also help circulate the nutrient solution.It is very easy to assemble a deep water culture system at home or in a classroom without needing expensive hydroponics equipment. You can use a clean bucket or old aquarium to hold the solution and place a floating surface like styrofoam on top to house the net pots. Plants in DWC systems should only have their roots submerged in the solution. No part of the stem or vegetation should be underwater.
Advantages of deep water culture systems
Low maintenance: Once a DWC system is set up, thereís very little maintenance required. Just replenish the nutrient solution when needed and make sure your pump is running oxygen to the air stone. The nutrient solution typically only needs replenishing every 2-3 weeks, but this does depend on the size of your plants.
DIY appeal: Unlike many hydroponic systems, deep water culture systems can be made cheaply and easily at home, with a quick run to your pet store and local nursery to pick up the air pump and nutrients.
Disadvantages of deep water culture systems
Limitations: Deep water culture systems are adept at growing herbs and lettuce but they struggle with larger and more slow-growing plants. DWC systems are not ideal for anything that flowers. However, with some extra work, you can grow plants like tomatoes, bell peppers, and squash in a DWC system.
Temperature control: Itís important that your water solution does not exceed 68įF and does not go below 60įF. In a DWC system, the water is static and not recirculating, so it can be more difficult to regulate temperature.
2. Wick systems
In a wick system, plants are nestled in growing media on a tray that sits on top of a reservoir. This reservoir houses a water solution with dissolved nutrients. Wicks travel from the reservoir to the growing tray. Water and nutrients flow up the wick and saturate the growing media around the root systems of the plants. These wicks can be made of material as simple as rope, string, or felt. Wick systems are by far the most simple form of hydroponics. Wick systems are passive hydroponics - meaning they donít require mechanical parts like pumps to function. This makes it ideal for situations where electricity is either unreliable or unavailable.
Wicks systems work by a process called capillary action. The wick absorbs the water itís immersed in like a sponge, and when it comes in contact with the porous growing media, it transfers the nutrient solution. Wick system hydroponics only work if accompanied by growing media that is able to facilitate nutrient and water transference. Coco coir (fibers from the outer husks of coconuts) have excellent moisture retention and the added benefit of being pH neutral. Perlite is also pH neutral and extremely porous, making it ideal for wicking systems. Vermiculite is also very porous, and also possesses a high cation-exchange capacity. This means it can store nutrients for later use. These three growing media are the most suitable for hydroponic wick systems.
Wick systems work quite slowly compared to other hydroponic systems, which does limit what is practical to grow with them. Youíll want to make sure for every plant in the growing tray you have at least one wick running from the reservoir. These wicks should be placed close to the root system of the plant. Though capable of functioning with aeration, many people do choose to add an air stone and air pump to the wick systemís reservoir. This adds extra oxygenation to the hydroponic system.
Advantages of a wick system
Simplicity: A wick system can be set-up by anyone and does not demand excessive attention after it is running. The wicks will constantly supply your plants with water, so there is no risk of them drying out. Furthermore, plants like lettuce will flourish in a wick system, providing a great return on your hands-free investment.
Space-efficient: Wick systems are unobtrusive and can be installed anywhere, seeing as they do not need electricity to run. It is a perfect system for educators, beginners or anyone interested in exploring hydroponics.
Disadvantages of a wick system
Limitations: Lettuce and herbs like rosemary, mint, and basil are fast-growing and do not demand large quantities of water. Tomatoes, on the other hand, will struggle to thrive in a wick system because of their high demand for nutrients and hydration. Other plants cannot thrive in an environment that is perpetually moist. Root vegetables like carrots and turnips will not succeed in a wick system. Susceptible to rot: A hydroponic wick system is always humid and damp. This creates the risk that fungal outbreaks and rot can develop in the organic growing media and on the roots of your plants.
3. Nutrient film technique systems
Nutrient film technique (NFT) systems suspend plants above a stream of continuously flowing nutrient solution that washes over the ends of the plantís root systems. The channels holding the plants are tilted, allowing water to run down the length of the grow tray before draining into the reservoir below. The water in the reservoir is then aerated via air stone. A submersible pump then pumps the nutrient-rich water out of the reservoir and back to the top of the channel. The nutrient film technique is a recirculating hydroponic system. Unlike with deep water culture hydroponics, the roots of the plants in an NFT system are not immersed in water. Instead, the stream (or ďfilmĒ) only flows over the ends of their roots. The rootsí tips will wick the moisture up into the plant, while the exposed root system is given plenty of access to oxygen. The bottoms of the channels are grooved, so the shallow film can pass over the root tips with ease. This also prevents water from pooling or damming up against the root systems.
Even though nutrient film technique systems are constantly recycling water, it is wise to drain the reservoir and replenish the nutrient solution every week or so. This ensures your plants are being delivered ample nutrition. NFT channels must be angled at a gradual slope. If itís too steep, the water will rush down the channel without properly nourishing the plants. If too much water is being pumped through the channel, the system will overflow and the plants can drown. NFT hydroponics are popular commercial systems, as they can support several plants per channel and can easily be mass-produced. Nutrient film technique systems are best suited for lightweight plants, like mustard greens, kale, lettuce, spinach as well as fruits like strawberries. Heavier fruiting plants like tomatoes and cucumbers will require trellises to support the excess weight.
Advantages of a nutrient film technique system
Low consumption: Since NFT hydroponics recirculate the water they do not demand large quantities of water or nutrients to function. The constant flow also makes it harder for salts to accumulate on the plant's roots. Nutrient film technique systems also donít require growing media, so you are saved the expense of purchasing media and the hassle of replacing it.
Modular design: Nutrient film technique systems are perfect for large-scale and commercial endeavors. Once you have one channel set up and functioning, it is very easy to expand. You can fill your greenhouse with multiple channels supporting different crops. Itís a good idea to feed each channel with a separate reservoir. This way, if pump failure occurs or disease spreads in the water, you will not lose your entire operation.
Disadvantages of a nutrient film technique system
Pump failure: If the pump fails and the channel is no longer circulating the nutrient film, your plants will dry out. In a matter of hours, your entire crop can perish if it is not being supplied with water. Maintaining an NFT hydroponic system does require vigilance. You will want to diligently observe the performance of your pump.
Overcrowding: If the plants are spaced too close together or the root growth is too proliferate, the channel can become clogged. If the channel is obstructed by roots, water will be unable to flow and your plants will starve. This is especially true of the plants at the bottom of the channel. If the plants at the end ever seem to be underperforming compared to the rest of the channel, consider removing some plants or switching to a smaller unit.
4. Ebb and flow systems
Ebb and flow hydroponics work by flooding a grow bed with a nutrient solution from a reservoir below. The submersible pump in the reservoir is equipped with a timer. When the timer starts, the pump fills the grow bed with the water and nutrients. When the timer stops, gravity slowly drains the water out of the grow bed and flushes it back into the reservoir. The system is equipped with an overflow tube to ensure flooding doesnít surpass a certain level and damage the stalks and fruits of the plants. Unlike the previous systems mentioned, the plants in an ebb and flow system are not constantly exposed to water. While the grow bed is flooded, the plants drink up the nutrient solution through their root systems. When the water ebbs and the grow bed empties, the roots dry out. The dry roots then oxygenate in the interval before the next flood. The length of time between floods is dictated by the size of your grow bed and the size of your plants.
Ebb and flow systems (also called flood and drain systems) are one of the most popular hydroponic growing methods. The abundance of oxygen and nutrition the plants are supplied with encourages quick and vigorous growth. The ebb and flow system is easily customizable and versatile. The grow bed can be filled with an assortment of net pots and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Perhaps more than any other hydroponic system, the ebb and flow system allows you to experiment with your plants and media.
Ebb and flow systems can accommodate almost any type of vegetation. Your primary limitation is the size and depth of your grow tray. Root vegetables will require a much deeper bed than lettuce or strawberries. Tomatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, carrots, and peppers are all popular ebb and flow crops. In fact, you can even attach trellises directly to the grow bed. ďGrow rocksĒ and expanded clay pebbles (hydroton) are some of the most popular growing media in ebb and flow hydroponics. These are cleanable and reusable, lightweight, and while they do retain moisture they will also drain. This is an important quality in ebb and flow systems.
Advantages of an ebb and flow system
Versatility: With an ebb and flow system, you can grow much larger plants than in most other hydroponic systems. Fruits, flowers, and vegetables alike respond very well to ebb and flow hydroponics. If youíve taken care to provide your plants with the appropriate sized grow bed and nutrition, you will see bountiful yield.
DIY appeal: There are hundreds of ways to construct your own ebb and flow hydroponic system at home. A visit to the hardware store and pet store will provide you with all the supplies you need to construct an ebb and flow system. Though more expensive to set up than other DIY systems like wick and deep water culture, ebb and flow systems sustain a much broader scope of plant life than they can.
Disadvantages of an ebb and flow system
Pump failure: Like any hydroponic system reliant on a pump, if the pump ceases to work, your plants will die. You do have to monitor your ebb and flow system to ensure that the systemís performance is not compromising the health of your plants. If the water is rushing in and out too fast, your plants will not receive an adequate amount of water and nutrients.
Rot & disease: Sanitation and maintenance are essential to an ebb and flow system. If the bed is not draining properly, root diseases and rot can set in. A dirty ebb and flow system can grow mold and attract insects. If you neglect cleanliness, your crops will suffer. Additionally, some plants do not respond well to the rapid pH change that occurs as a result of the flooding and draining extremes.
5. Drip systems
In a hydroponic drip system, the aerated and nutrient-rich reservoir pumps solution through a network of tubes to individual plants. This solution is dripped slowly into the growing media surrounding the root system, keeping the plants moist and well-nourished. Drip systems are the most popular and widespread method of hydroponics, especially among commercial growers. Drip systems can be individual plants or massive irrigation operations.
There are two configurations of drip system hydroponics: recovery and non-recovery. In recovery systems, more popular with smaller, at-home growers, the excess water is drained from the grow bed back into the reservoir to be recirculated during the next drip cycle. In non-recovery systems, the excess water drains out of the growing media and runs to waste. This method is more popular among commercial growers. Though non-recovery drip systems can sound wasteful, large-scale growers are very conservative with water usage. These drip systems are designed only to deliver precisely the amount of solution required to keep the growing media around the plant dampened. Non-recovery drip systems employ elaborate timers and feeding schedules to keep waste to a minimum.
If you are growing plants in a recovery drip system, you will need to be attuned to the fluctuations in the pH of the nutrient solution. This is true of any system where wastewater re-circulates into the reservoir. Plants will deplete the nutrient content of the solution as well as alter the pH balance, so the grower will need to monitor and adjust the solution reservoir more than they would need to in a non-recovery system. Growing media can also become oversaturated with nutrients, so they will need to be washed and replaced periodically.
Advantages of a drip system
Variety of plant options: A drip system can support much larger plants than most other hydroponic systems. This is one of the reasons it is so appealing to commercial growers. Melons, pumpkins, onions, and zucchinis can all be amply supported by a properly sized drip system. Drip systems hold greater quantities of growing media than other systems, allowing them to support the larger root systems of these plants. Drip systems work best with slow draining media, like rockwool, coco coir, and peat moss.
Scale: Drip systems can easily support large-scale hydroponics operations. If a grower desires to add more plants, new tubing can be connected to a reservoir and divert solution to the new vegetation. New crops can be introduced to an existing drip system, as additional reservoirs can be added with differing timer schedules tailored to fit the needs of the new plants. This is another factor that makes drip systems popular commercial hydroponics
Disadvantages of a drip system
Maintenance: If you a growing plants using a non-recovery drip system at home, there is a significant amount of maintenance involved. Youíll need to consistently monitor pH and nutrient levels in your solution, draining and replacing if necessary. Recovery systems lines can also become clogged by debris and plant matter, so you will need to regularly wash and flush delivery lines.
Complexity: Drip systems can easily become elaborate and complex undertakings. This matters less for professional hydroponics, but it is not the most ideal system for home growers. There are many much simpler systems, like ebb and flow, that lend themselves better to at-home hydroponics.
Aeroponics systems suspend plants in the air and expose the naked roots to a nutrient-filled mist. Aeroponics systems are enclosed frameworks, like cubes or towers, that can hold a multitude of plants at once. Water and nutrients are stored in a reservoir, and then pumped to a nozzle that atomizes the solution and distributes it as a fine mist. The mist is usually released from the top of the tower, allowing it to cascade down the chamber. Some aeroponics continuously mist the plantís roots, much like NFT systems expose the roots to the nutrient film at all times. Others function more like the ebb and flow system, spraying the roots with mist in intervals. Aeroponics do not need substrate media to survive. The rootís constant exposure to air allows them to drink in oxygen and grow at an accelerated rate.
Aeroponics systems use less water than any other form of hydroponics. In fact, it takes 95% less water to grow a crop aeroponically than in an irrigated field. Their vertical structure is designed to take up minimal room and allows for numerous towers to be housed in a single location. With aeroponics, great yields can be produced even in confined spaces. Furthermore, because of their maximized exposure to oxygen, aeroponic plants grow faster than other hydroponically grown plants.
Aeroponics allow for simple harvesting year-round. Vine plants and nightshades like tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants all perform well in an aeroponic environment. Lettuce, baby greens, herbs, watermelons, strawberries, and ginger all also flourish. However, fruiting trees are too large and heavy to be grown aeroponically, and underground plants with extensive root systems like carrots and potatoes cannot be grown.
Advantages of an aeroponics system
Oxygen surplus: The surplus of oxygen taken in by the bare roots supercharges the plantís growth. Aeroponics are not only the most eco-friendly hydroponic system, they are also among the highest performing. They are versatile, customizable systems that reliably produce high-quality results.
Mobility: Aeroponic towers and trays can be easily transported from one location to another without disrupting the plantís growth. During the transportation process, you will want to hand-mist the roots to prevent them from drying out. Additionally, aeroponic systems are designed to be ergonomic and maximize space. Aeroponics allow you to grow plants in greater densities than other hydroponics systems.
Disadvantages of an aeroponics system
Expensive: Aeroponics do have a higher initial cost than other hydroponic systems. To set up a fully functional system complete with reservoirs, timers, and pumps can cost thousands of dollars. It is possible to construct a DIY aeroponics system for much less, but it is a much harder undertaking than a DIY deep water culture or wick system.
Maintenance Aeroponics systems maintain a delicate balance and, if disrupted, the results are disastrous for your plants. If your timer doesnít go off or a pump fails, you risk losing your entire crop unless you mist the roots by hand. You will need to regularly clean the root chamber to prevent root disease from compromising your plants. Generally speaking, aeroponic systems do require more technique to succeed than other systems.