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Choosing the Hydroponic System that Is Right For You

May 9, 2008
Deciding which hydroponic system you will use will depends on how much money you will spend, what kind of plants you are able to grow, and how successful your garden will be. Therefore, it is imperative that you choose a system that matches your budget, needs, and experience. Hydroponic systems vary in what kind of equipment is required, how the nutrients are delivered, and what media can be successfully used.

The main kinds of the hydroponic systems are:

Wick Hydroponic System - The wick hydroponic system is the simplest and typically the most inexpensive system, and is thus commonly the choice of beginners to hydroponics. It is a "passive system", which means that it does not have any moving parts. It works by drawing the necessary nutrients into the growing medium from a reservoir with a wick. This should only really be used for smaller plants that do not require much nutrients or moisture, as the wicks cannot supply the plants with these things very quickly.

Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System - The Ebb and Flow system, which is sometimes referred to as the "Flood and Drain" system, is a much more advanced and complicated system. This system works by using a pump that is placed into the reservoir to regularly flood the grow tray with the nutrient solution and then draining it back into the reservoir. The pump floods the tray at regular intervals for a set period of time by using a timer.

In larger, more professional ebb and flow systems, the solution is pumped into a group of buckets. The advantage of the bucket or modular system is that each plant is grown in its own container and therefore can be moved or handled much more easily.

Nutrient Film Technique - This system delivers a constant flow of nutrients to the plants with a pump, so no timer is required. This system doesn't require a growing medium; the plants are simply suspended in a plastic tray with the roots dangling in a nutrient solution. While the lack of a growing medium may save you some money because you won't have to pay to replace the medium after every crop, this system is a little more high maintenance than most and the roots may dry out very quickly if something goes wrong with the pump and the flow of nutrients is interrupted.

Drip Irrigation Hydroponic System - In this system, a timer delivers the nutrient solution through the base of each plant through drippers. Continuous drip systems can be recovery or non-recovery, meaning that the used nutrient solution can either be returned to the reservoir or run off as waste. Recovery systems are more cost effective because they use the nutrient solution more effectively, but non-recovery systems require less maintenance because the pH balance and nutrient strength remains constant.

Aeroponic Hydroponic System - Aeroponics is a newer and more high tech method of hydroponic growing. Like the nutrient film technique, there is no growing medium. The plants are suspended with the roots in the air and the nutrients and moisture are supplied in the form of a mist. A timer ensures that the pump delivers a new spray of mist every few minutes. Like the nutrient film technique, it is imperative that the pump is always functioning correctly, because even a brief interruption can cause the roots to dry out.
About the Author
Michael Straumietis is co-founder of Advanced Nutrients, an international marketer and manufacturer of agricultural, home & garden, hydroponics and soil less fertilizers and plant nutrients. If you need more information on a hydroponic systems, visit the hydroponics gardening section on their website at http://www.advancednutrients.com.
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