Simple Hydro Setups for Beginners
Growing hydroponically is becoming increasingly popular for its simplicity, great yields, and year-round growing. If you’re just getting started, consider these simple setups to get you on your way.
From the outside looking in, hydroponic growing can seem a bit intimidating. Especially when it comes to large commercial operations like vertical farms, the sheer complexity of gardens is enough to both impress and overwhelm. Luckily, if you are a newbie just getting interested in hydroponics, there are several basic systems that you can utilize to learn about this type of growing.
In the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry of today, growers utilize a wide variety of hydroponic systems to grow plants, including aeroponics, aquaponics, and nutrient film technique (NFT) — to name a few. While each of these systems work great for CEA production, certain types are better suited for beginners than others.
Whether you’re interested in growing cannabis indoors or starting an outdoor tomato garden, a simple hydro system will save you time and labor with daily chores.
Top Drip Hydroponic Systems
Top drip systems are some of the most basic hydroponics setups on the market. Due to their simplicity and wide range of uses, top drip systems are great for beginners. Not only can top drips be used with just about any type of container garden, but they are also applicable to indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse cultivation. Outdoor growers even use top drips to irrigate traditional, in-ground gardens.
Following the terminology of the hydroponics space, top-drip setups are referred to as “non-recirculating drip systems.” This means that irrigation water is only fed to plants a single time with top drip systems. Since top drip systems don’t recover water, they are quite simple in design. Generally speaking, all you need for a top drip hydro system is a large reservoir, aeration stone, outlet timers, irrigation tubing, and a simple pump.
To feed your plants, mix up a nutrient solution in the morning and set your timers to irrigate 1-2 times per day. The frequency of feeding changes slightly due to factors like plant size, cultivation medium, and outdoor climate.
The key with top drip systems is ensuring that root balls have ample time to dry out between waterings. Once you have the moisture levels in pots balanced, you can adjust your reservoir to ensure that little to no water and nutrients are wasted with excess runoff.
Self-Watering Pot Stands
Another extremely user-friendly hydro system is the self-watering pot stand. In fact, these automated plant stands eliminate the need for hand-watering your plants. Due to their simplicity, you can use self-watering pot bases anywhere you have fabric pots. Not only are self-watering pot bases easy to use, but they also support planters up to 100 lbs. in total weight.
By integrating wick lines with fabric pots, self-watering bases pull water from individual reservoirs and bring nutrients directly to root balls. Self-watering pot stands like those from AC Infinity feature heavy-duty drip tray that collect runoff water for redelivery back to the roots. Finally, by keeping the fabric out of the nutrient solution, self-watering pot stands allow for ample airflow around root balls. The AC Infinity model also includes gauge displays to give accurate readings of water levels in reservoirs.
Fabric pots are an essential component of self-watering pot stands. Since they are permeable, fabric pots allow valuable water and nutrients to effortlessly pass through to the root ball. This same fabric material also brings oxygen to the root zone, while allowing the cultivation medium to adequately dry out. Once adequately dry, the wick simply pulls more moisture up to feed the plant.
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Deep Water Culture (DWC)
Deep water culture (DWC) hydroponic systems are popular among hobbyist cultivators who enjoy do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.
Because of their simple design, you can build DWC hydro systems with materials purchased from just about any hardware store. Even more, with few moving parts, DWC setups offer beginners a great introduction to hydroponics system design.
The most defining characteristic of a DWC garden is the “deep” reservoir that houses water and nutrients. Many home growers opt to utilize clear plastic tubs as the reservoirs for their DWC setups. With water and nutrients mixed in the container, all you need is a simple aquarium pump and aeration stone to ensure that plants get ample oxygen to their root zones.
To finish constructing your DWC setup, simply cut holes in the lid of the plastic tub to fit hydro baskets. After adding an inert cultivation medium like clay pebbles to the baskets, you are ready to start growing plants.
The goal with DWC hydro systems is to have plant’s roots submerged in the irrigation water, where they will pull life-sustaining nutrients. Since there is no recirculating water or vertical shelving in DWC systems, they offer an easy option for newbie growers.
Once you get comfortable with a DWC setup, you might be ready for something more advanced, like flood-and-drain table.
While hydroponics cultivation might seem intimidating from afar, a closer look reveals that hydro gardening still has plenty of room for newbies. From simple DIY hydro setups like deep water culture (DWC) to top-drip irrigation systems, there are plenty of beginner-friendly ways to grow crops hydroponically. There are even all-inclusive, easy-to-use systems like self-watering fabric pot stands.
People enjoy hydroponic growing because the practice borrows from diverse fields like engineering, biology, and information technology (IT). Using certain types of equipment, we have devised ways to lessen the human labor required for growing crops. As you learn about a new type of technology or method, you can slowly expand on your approach to hydroponics.
For one person, hydro growing might be as simple as adding a top-drip to your tomato plants while you are on vacation. Another person might have more ambitious goals, such as designing a zero-input and zero-waste aquaponics garden. In the end, there is no right or wrong way to grow hydroponically, as long as you enjoy the process and learn as you go.
AC Infinity is the foremost name in air delivery systems, designing and developing the latest innovations in cooling and ventilation technology. They offer a suite of quiet inline fans that automate the growing progress and track key metrics. Visit acinfinity.com or contact [email protected] to learn more.