Hydroponics is a system of growing plants in a solution consisting of water and nutrients. Hydroponic systems don’t require soil and a lot of gardening and space. They only use water to provide nutrients to the crops, making them grow 30-50% faster than soil-based plants.
Hydroponic methods of farming are cost-effective, water-efficient, and fun to take on as a hobby. Any homemaker can practice hydroponics gardening inside or outside his home using basic materials. Your small space can be turned into a beautiful garden as long as you’ve got appropriate medium, lighting, and nutrients.
Benefits of Hydroponic Systems
You can utilize hydroponics for home conveniently with the materials you have at hand and enjoy healthy home-grown vegetables. Hydroponic systems have plenty of benefits such as:
They Allow You to Make Use of Any Location or Space in the Home
As long as you’ve got the necessary materials, you can grow your plants effectively in a hydroponic system. All you need are the right materials, nutrients, and water. When set up well, your crops will grow closer to you without requiring a lot of maintenance.
Crops that are grown in a hydroponic system use about 10% of water. The water is usually recirculated when plants take up the amount they need as the remaining is captured and returned to the system.
No Soil Needed, No Weeds Expected
In a hydroponic system of farming, you don’t need soil to grow your vegetables. You can grow them in any place and achieve great results.
Since there is no soil, you’ll not see weeds in your crops. So you won’t have to undergo the time-consuming task of weeding in a hydroponics system. Weeds mostly affect plants grown in the soil.
Very Few Pests And Diseases
Just like weeds, your crops will be less vulnerable to diseases and pests. Most diseases that affect crops in the garden are soil-borne, but now soil is out of the equation here. And since you’ve grown your crops indoors in an enclosed system, you can take control of all the surrounding variables to ensure no underlying diseases or pests affect them.
You probably are asking yourself, ‘are hydroponic plants healthy?’ Hydroponic crops are the healthiest since they grow indoors and are less infected by diseases, eliminating the need for herbicides and insecticides.
It Saves You A Lot Of Time
Hydroponic gardening does not require weeding, watering, or applying fertilizers and pesticides to plants. Once you grow your crops, provide efficient water circulation and the necessary nutrients, you’ll only be checking them out as you wait for them to mature.
You Have Total Climatic Control
In a hydroponic setting, you have total control of the air composition, light intensification, moisture, nutrients, humidity, and temperature. Your plants are grown in ideal conditions where nutrients are provided in sufficient amounts and are directly in contact with their root systems. This means you can grow your vegetables throughout the year without considering the season. If you’re in business, you’ll be able to supply your customers with food all year round.
DIY Budget Hydroponic Systems You Should Try Out
Many innovative DIY hydroponic systems can be developed in very cost-effective ways using materials and equipment you have at home. Through imagination and creativity, you can devise ingenious ways to grow healthy crops in a hydroponic setup.
Here are some of the DIY hydroponic you can try at home on a low budget;
Vertical Hydroponic Systems
Vertical hydroponic grow systems are ideal for gardeners with small spaces. These types of systems require ample lighting and organic hydroponic fertilizer. You can build them from round unit stacks or square buckets. Use perlite.
There’s also the vertical window farm that requires little space and a few pieces of equipment. In this method, you can recycle old plastic bottles. You only need a few plastic bottles, half and quarter-inch poly tubes, a barb connector, elbow joint and end cap, zip ties, and a water pump.
The DIY hydroponics and aquaponics are related because they are both farming systems that don’t require soil to grow crops. But aquaponics uses aquatic animals such as prawns and fish instead of a formulated solution to provide nutrients to the plants. In such a case, the water in hydronic plants breaks bacteria into nitrates, which plants use, but microbes will convert the ammonia. The aquacultural operation occurs in several stages that involve nursery and hatchery operations.
Deep Water Culture Hydroponic Systems
Deepwater culture hydroponic systems are cost-efficient and reliable. They use plastic buckets, Rockwool cubes, with net cups and air pumps. The net cups are often poised above the nutrients solution. The air pump is used to deliver oxygen. The system can be watered in the first days of operation to keep it cool. When the leaves start to sprout, you’ll convert the Rockwool into the deep water culture bucket. Deepwater culture system is suitable for growing plants like cucumber and tomatoes.
Drip Hydroponic Systems
Drip systems are simple, just like the usual watering method where you use drip technology, but now there is no soil. All you need is a drip system, nutrient reservoir, water pump, and a growing media like clay pellets.
You can forego the pumps and instead use gravity to take the nutrient solution to the crops. Or you can use a submersible pump and several thin tubing to carry small amounts of nutrient solutions to the plants. A growing medium such as perlite-vermiculite and coir is recommended for drip hydroponic systems.
Ebb & Flow Hydroponic System
The Ebb and Flow system is suitable for home gardens. The trays containing the plants are immersed in nutrient water before they are entirely drained at regular intervals. You’ll need hydroponic accessories such as trays for keeping the plants, a water reservoir, air stones, water pumps, and a timer for automating the process.
The Ebb and Flow system is expandable, and you can use an aquarium pump in the process. This is the type of hydroponics with led lights, so you should ensure the crops get ample lighting.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) Hydroponic Systems
NFT uses a water-nutrient solution to nourish the plants. You may be wondering ‘what hydroponic nutrients should I use’ for the NFT system. In most cases, the nutrients are almost similar, but agents in your local store will advise you on the best nutrients you need for your crops.
For NFT systems, you’ll need PVC pipes, drip irrigation pipes, and a water reservoir. They also need lumber for the pipes to create water flow openings at the ends. You can grow vegetables such as lettuce and herbs. If you were trying to figure out what hydroponic system is best for tomatoes, this is it. Here you can grow your crops on a large scale.
Wick Hydroponic System
The wick system is one of the easiest, low-cost hydroponic gardening methods. This is hydroponics without air pump and other sophisticated equipment. The wicking rope is surrounded by perlite, and on its end, you should immerse it in the nutrient solution and wick it to the plants’ roots. You can use the wick hydroponic system to grow small plants like lettuce and herbs. It is not suitable for large plants that require large amounts of water.
Crystal Hydroponic System
The crystal hydroponic system is a commonly used small scale hydroponic system. It is also very cost-efficient. You only need simple hydroponic equipment like a container or vase and a packet of bio gel crystals – you may have seen this system in the lucky bamboo sale – small glass jars with gel balls.
Put the gel crystals in water and wait for a few hours to absorb the water and expand. Then take your container, place your crop in the middle, and fill it with the gel crystals.
How to Build Your Hydroponic System from Scratch
Hydroponic for beginners doesn’t have to be expensive. You can start your project with a plastic bottle, a bucket or trough (always use BPA-Free plastics), a cutting tool such as a knife, a drill, and a marker. You’ll also need a hydroponic nutrient solution, duct tape, perlite, and cotton yarn for wicking. Your local agricultural store can advise you on which hydroponic nutrients to use.
Steps to Building Your Hydroponic System
If you’re wondering which hydroponic method is best, there are plenty available to employ when building your hydroponic system at home in a DIY setup. You can either combine principles from the different methods above or select one that you can manage well.
- In hydroponic with plastic bottles, you’ll begin by cutting the top of the bottle with a razor blade or knife at the curvy part. Then turn the upper portion and insert it in the bottom so that the lid is inside the bottle.
- Take the marker and use it to mark the point where the lid is so you can use the mark as a reference point when you are pouring in the nutrient solution.
- Drill a hole in the cap. Make sure it’s a large hole that wick material will pass through. Then insert a piece of twine in the hole. It should be long enough to reach the bottom, with at least two inches remaining at the top. Screw the cap back onto the bottle.
- If you have a larger container, make sure the rope is thicker to transport more water.
- Pour the nutrient solution in the bottle – it should fill the bottom. Mix with water and stir using a star stick.
- The twine should be submerged when you place the top of the bottle upside down. Now you can put the seeds (at least three) and growing medium into the top of the bottle and tamp lightly using your fingers. The nutrient solution will be able to travel up the wick into the growing medium to nourish your plants.
This is how hydroponic farming is done on a small scale. With this method, you can grow green vegetables such as spinaches and lettuces. Later on, you can venture into fruit plants like tomatoes.
Hydroponic farming is here to stay. There are many excellent DIY systems in play that you are left wondering which hydroponic system is best for you. But you don’t have to, just go with the flow and choose what suits your space and budget. You’ll thank yourself later.
Have you implemented a hydroponic system in your backyard? Let’s share in the comments section.
Guest Author Bio: Archie was a builder for more than 40 years. Mainly after his retirement the enthusiastic electrical works in garden and writes for a blog Homemakerguide.com to keep himself occupied. His many years of experience can get you the right tool reviews whether it is a drill, welding machine or so. An impressive fact to note about him is that almost everything in his house is a representation of his skills made by his hands.