How the Drip Hydroponics System Works

A drip hydroponics system is a popular type of hydroponics in which water is distributed through a network of drippers. It is not only a gardening technique that will help you grow plants in your home, but it is also an efficient way of saving water.

Water is one of the essential resources for gardening because plants need water to survive. But it is always best to use as little water as possible for growing your hydroponic plants. Drip hydroponics systems are designed to use minimal amounts of water and make it last longer.

How does the drip system make it possible?

This article will discuss the various components of the drip system, its variations, and how they work. A scroll through our article will help you understand the whys and hows of the mechanism.

Let’s start with the components first.

drip grow hydroponics

Drip Hydroponics System Components

A simple drip hydroponics system consists of the following parts:

  • Grow container: For growing the plants.
  • Reservoir: Holds the nutrient solution.
  • A submersible pump: It pumps water to the grow container.
  • Timer: Turns on and turns off the pump.
  • Water pump: To connect the reservoir to the plants (drip lines are another option).
  • PVC tubing: To connect the return lines with the remaining nutrient solution to the reservoir.
  • Drip emitters: One emitter per plant to drop the nutrient solution onto the plants
  • Thin tubing: Needed for drip emitters. 
  • Drip ring: To maintain a constant level of moisture in the roots.
  • Airstone or air pump: Oxygenates the growing plant roots.

Now that we know what comprises a drip hydroponics system, let us take a closer look at how it works.

Drip Hydroponics System: How It Works?

In the drip hydroponics system, each plant has a dedicated pot. The water reaches the plants through a network of tubing, and there are two ways to pump nutrient solutions to the plants. One via a water pump and the second, a gravity-based pump.

Every plant has a drip emitter and comes with a mechanism to control the water flow. This mechanism makes your system versatile. So, when using a drip emitter, you can use different flow levels for other plants.

Regulate the nutrient flow and give every plant some time to breathe. With no monitoring, the drip will flood the plants and may even drown them. Therefore, a timer controls the inflow and outflow of the nutrients.

When the timer turns on, the nutrient solution in the reservoir moves via PVC tubing towards the growing media containing plants. The solution drips down from the tubing on the grow media. The solution soaks in the grow media nourishing the plant roots. The extra solution moves down to the base of the container. From here, it flows down due to gravity through an opening.

Variations of Drip Hydroponics System

Drip hydroponics has a few variations ranging from simple to high-tech. 

  • Active drip hydroponics system
    In an active drip system, you use a pump to water the plants.

  • Passive drip hydroponics system
    In passive systems, the plants are placed above the reservoir so that the water runs back due to gravity. Not suitable for bigger gardens.

  • High-pressure hydroponics system
    The solution moves at high pressure putting pressure into the pipes. Garden sprinklers are a fin example of high-pressure hydroponics systems.

  • Low-pressure hydroponics system
    When the water moves at a low speed through the pipes, it is called low-pressure hydroponics. Somewhere passive drip hydroponics is low-pressure hydroponics.

  • Dutch Bucket
    It is an excellent choice if you are looking to grow small trees such as oranges, lemons, pear trees, and fig trees as small buckets play grow tanks.  

These variations apart, drip hydroponics has two main types.

hydroponics plants

Types of Drip Hydroponics System

Recirculatory or Recovery Drip System

A recovery hydroponics system is mostly used by home growers. As the name suggests, the water is reused or recycled after the plant roots have soaked it up. This kind of hydro farming is also known as a recovery system; the nutrient solution is recovered and recirculated back to the plants.

Since the nutrient solution is constantly recirculating in the system, nutrients and pH may deplete over some time. One must keep a check on these and replenish them as and when needed.

Non-Recirculatory or Non-Recovery Drip System

Non-recirculatory or non-recovery systems are more familiar with commercial growers. In this kind of system, no part of the nutrient solution is recirculated or recovered. However, it does not mean water is lost or wasted. Commercial growers use sophisticated timers to control water flow keeping wastage to the minimum.

Also, it requires very little maintenance. How? Add nutrient solution (with its pH level balanced) to the reservoir as it won’t be sent into the system, so no need to monitor it. The excess water if any, is removed. But this wastage isn’t big enough with very little water being used.

Both circulatory and non-circulatory drip systems are good. You may pick any depending on the amount of time you can devote to the upkeep.

A few things to remember:

  • The growing container should be placed at least 6-8 inches above the reservoir so that the gravitational pull helps to drain the nutrient solution back into the reservoir. 
  • Flush the grow medium of the non-recirculatory system with water from time to time. This prevents nutrient buildup in the system. 
  • Keep an eye on the emitters and tubing. They may get clogged. Clean them often. You may also use a filter for the drainage tube. This is more commonly seen in recovery drip systems. 
  • Choose a growing medium with good moisture-holding ability, good circulation, and drainage. The best media are rock wool, expanded clay, and coconut coir. 

Why Choose Drip Hydroponics?

It seems that drip hydroponics works on the principle of the “Law of the Conservation of Mass”. The law states that mass won’t be destroyed or created but transformed from one state to another. In the case of your drip hydroponics, water is taken from your tank and poured on your plants. This causes the water molecules to go through some processes like evaporation or transpiration. So basically, mass is not created or destroyed; it’s just transformed into another form.

Another thing that you have to remember is that water won’t go to waste. So what happens if you use it for your plants? Well, your plants will drink every last bit of water that comes out of your tank, and since there is no excess, there is nothing to be wasted (except a little in non-circulatory). In other words, the water will just become part of the roots and the plant itself. This makes drip hydroponics work very well.

If you are looking to grow a wide range of plants, then the drip hydroponics system is perfect for you.