What You Need For A Successful Home Hydroponics System

Hydroponic systems have been around for years helping home gardeners embrace their passions and hobbies. It’s a great idea for growing fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Hydroponic farming presents a soilless system for planting crops with the roots hanging directly into a mixture of water and dissolved nutrients. These systems are low maintenance, versatile, and budget-friendly. The good thing is you can prepare a simple structure within your home with a few pieces of equipment.  

hydroponic lettuce

Should You Build or Buy Your Hydroponic System?

The decision to buy or build is entirely yours. Some individuals are great with DIY projects, have the time and space to make the hydroponic system. While others have no clue on how to operate equipment, have little to no time or limited space to create a good system. Cost is also a big determining factor since buying a complete hydroponic system is expensive but buying building materials is cheaper and easily accessible in the local hardware stores.

If you decide to buy a hydroponic garden, you have plenty of options to choose from depending on your needs. Some are beginner-friendly, self-watering, have artificial lights, come with substrates, are self-fertilizing, and have different sizes. Most systems only need seedlings, sunlight or lamps, water access, and power access to get you started on your little garden. You’ll need to check on the progress once a week, add water and nutrients, balance the PH and adjust the lighting hours.

However, if you prefer to fold your sleeves and get your hands dirty, DIY hydroponic systems would work best for you. These systems are cheap to make and maintain. You’ll need to access the materials and you can make as many as you’d like within your budget. For you to create successful hydroponic systems there are a few factors you should consider as listed below.

Light

Plants need sunlight to grow with a minimum requirement of six hours and a maximum of ten hours of direct sunlight. Natural light is the cheapest and best way to provide light but it’s not the only way.

Urban homes don’t have enough space outside for plants or the windows or balconies are blocked by other buildings hence receiving little to no direct sunlight. The solution would be buying artificial grow bulbs with 40 to 60 watts and different colors for each growth stage. Mostly they come in three colors red for warmth, blue for the fruiting stage, and white for the growing stage.

When using grow lights, you’ll need to provide light of an average of 12 to 16 and followed by 10 to 12 hours of darkness. To make your work easier, you can install an automatic electric timer to avoid forgetting about the light and risk killing your plants.

So when making your structure, you’ll need to create room for the artificial lighting system. That means, including structural support, accessible outlets, and power strips.

Substrate

Substrates replace the soil and help support the plant while holding water, nutrients, and air for healthy growth. The medium should be firm to avoid breaking easily when the plant is growing and should not get soggy to avoid suffocating the plant with a lack of oxygen. Substrates can be made of natural materials such as sawdust, coconut fiber, pea gravel, sand, peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. They can also be man-made products such as clay pellets and Rockwool.

substrate

Nutrients

Plants require nutrients like Nitrogen, potassium, calcium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, sulfur, Molybdate, nickel, boron, and chlorine. It’s recommended to buy a fertilizer solution that is premixed with the right nutrients in the right balance. Note that fertilizer meant for soil is not right for a hydroponic system and should avoid it at all costs. Premade mixtures are readily avoided in gardening stores and you can also ask for recommended mixtures if you have no idea the best one for your plants.

Water

Water is a necessity in all hydroponic systems with reversed osmosis to act as a purification process that ensures the water is in the right pH balance. You’ll need to monitor the pH level from time to time. You’ll need to invest in things like a pumping system, air stone, and tools for monitoring pH levels.

After every two weeks, you should always change the water and refill with clean water then add the nutrient solution. That way, you avoid the accumulation of nutrients or risk of bacteria or fungi settling in the reservoir causing root rot. When refilling the water, always make sure the water’s pH level is 5.5 to 6.5 at all times, anything more or less can harm the plant.

Temperature and Humidity

Temperature and humidity heavily rely on the environment. However, if the temperatures and humidity aren’t conducive you can buy temperature-controlled cupboards that allow you to adjust accordingly. For commercial growers, they build greenhouses for such purposes. During fall, you can aim for temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees while in spring, 60 to 80 degrees are great for your plants. You can research more about your plants and the required temperatures then adjust properly.

Hydroponic Wick System

6 Types of Hydroponic Systems you can set up at home

Now that you understand the things required to run a successful hydroponic system, let’s discuss the types of home hydroponic systems you can set up. The main difference in the six types of hydroponics systems is the supply of water and nutrients. You can choose to buy a fully customized home hydroponic system or buy the supplies and build one from scratch.

Wicking systems

The wick system is a simple setup that has been used for thousands of years. In this system, the water and nutrients are transported to the roots using a wick (a piece of felt or rope). The plants are planted in a medium like a perlite, or coconut fiber is suspended on top of a reservoir with one end of the wick in the medium and the other end dipped into the water and nutrient solution. This allows the wick to transport the water and nutrients while the roots absorb them at the same rate as required. These systems are passive hydroponics since they don’t require any air or water pumps making them low-cost and easy to maintain.

Ebb and Flow

The Ebb and Flow system is also referred to as the flood and drain cycle. This process is less popular since the plants might need more nutrients and water to grow faster but some farmers don’t like the idea of suspending roots in the nutrient solution at all times.

This system allows you to fill up a tray with a growing medium to support the plants. A timed water pump is hooked to the tray allowing it to flood the tray with a nutrient solution within the required intervals. The cycle of flooding depends on the growth cycle, types of plants, air, temperatures, and nutrients.

After flooding the tray, gravity drains the excess water back into the reservoir for recycling. It’s important to add an air pump to oxygenate the water ready for the next cycle. This system works best with a close monitoring process otherwise the plants might lack enough nutrients.

Deep Water Culture (DWC)

Deepwater culture is the most preferred home hydroponic system for beginners. A DWC is made of a reservoir filled up with nutrient solution and water. The plants are planted in a medium with the roots submerged in the reservoir for constant water and nutrient supply. The structure requires no water pump but you can add an air pump with air stones to continuously supply oxygen to the water.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

The nutrient film technique (NFT) is made of a deep container filled with water and nutrient solution. It’s also fitted with a water pump and air pump to ensure a constant supply of oxygenated water and nutrients to the roots suspended in net pots above. The water pump should have a timer to transport a thin film of nutrients and water to the channel (with the net pots). At the end of the channel, the water and nutrients drain back into the reservoir waiting for recycling.

Hydroponics System

Can Hydroponics Be Done At Home?

Yes, hydroponics can be done at home. It removes the use of soil and replaces it with a nutrient-rich water solution. The plants are planted in mediums such as clay balls, perlite, rock glass, sawdust, or coconut fiber. The mediums help support the plants as they grow while they get water and nutrients from a reservoir.  

Setting up a hydroponic system can be simple or complicated depending on the system you decide to work with. The materials to build one are locally available in hardware near you with cheap supplies to get you started. You can decide how big or small your project is and how much space you can spare for the project.

Decide the type of plants you want to plant before making your hydroponic system. That way you’ll have an idea of the size, space, and nutrients required to support your plants. For instance, if you want to plant vegetables and herbs, you need a small system while if you plant cherry tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, and other small fruits, you need a bigger hydroponic system. It’s best to research first all the requirements to help make the process of setting up a home hydroponic system easier.