Last month, I began a mini series highlighting the basics of hydroponics systems. As a continuation of that theme, I’ll be touching on the different types of systems that fall under the Hydroponics Systems. There are six systems in total: Drip System, Water Culture, Ebb&Flow, Wick System, Nutrient Film Technique (N.F.T.), and Aeroponics.
This month I’m going to address the two simplest systems: Drip and Water Culture.
The drip system is one of the most commonly used hydroponics systems, and while commercial growers use it, the Drip System is easy enough for home growers to use as well.
The mechanics are very simple. A network of tubes is set up, where each plant (or potential plant) is hooked up to an individual tube. A man-made nutrient reservoir is created in a tank of water; this nutrient-rich water solution is what will be pumped and recycled. A water pump is set up (most often to a timer) and then periodically pumps the nutrient solution to the top of the media that the plant resides in. The solution drains downward to feed the plant and then flows back through the tubing to the same nutrient reservoir. This process repeats, recirculating the water continuously.
Important Note: As the recirculating solution gets passed through the plants over time, the solution itself may changed based on the plants’ nutrient intake. Be sure to check the pH levels and the nutrient strength of the solution over time.
Water culture systems are arguably the most simple of the hydroponics systems. There’s no separation between the nutrient reservoir and the plants that are being grown. Unlike the drip system, where a system of tubes is set up to get water to the plants, with the water culture system, the growing platform is simply placed into the nutrient solution to float in the water.
The floating platform is designed to keep the top of the plant (leaves and stem) above the water, while simultaneously keeping the roots below the waterline, to encourage root growth into the solution itself. Plants that either require a large amount of water or have a quick growth rate flourish best in these systems.
The water culture system requires aeration because the water is not being circulated. The most common method to get air into the water is through a simple air pump & air stone. Air pumps can be connected to porous rock material via a tube, and small air bubbles are pushed into the nutrient solution. A less common method is surface water agitation, where falling water is used to agitate the water and produce air bubbles in the solution.
A subset of water culture is Deep Water Culture.
Deep water culture is not a separate type of hydroponics system. This is simply a variation of the water culture system. A water culture system is deemed a “deep water culture” system when the nutrient solution is deeper than 10 inches. But many growers use the term water culture system and deep water system interchangeably.