In this article we will briefly learn what hydroponics actually is and then we will look at a simple example of how to set up a beginner system.
There are many different hydroponics systems available and this can be a little overwhelming at first. But all these systems follow the same principle of hydroponics.
Hydroponics is a type of Horticulture and a subset of hydroculture, which is a method of growing plants, usually crops, without soil, by using mineral nutrient solutions in an aqueous solvent. Terrestrial plants may be grown with only their roots exposed to the nutritious liquid, or, in addition, the roots may be physically supported by an inert medium such as perlite, gravel, or other substrates. source
Hydroponics describes a permanent irrigation method that supplies the roots of plants with nutrients and oxygen dissolved in water. Often the roots are suspended in the air or oxygen is specifically added to the nutrient solution. Through this optimal supply of nutrient solution and oxygen, the plants grow faster, which makes cultivation more efficient.
From the definition one can also quickly derive the components of hydroponics. The main components are:
There are many different systems and techniques. One of them, which is well suited for beginners, is the Deep Water Culture System. Below we will look at how such a system can easily be built by yourself.
The nutrient solution consists of water, into which one adds various fertilizers and additives. The aim of the nutrient solution is to meet the requirements of the plants. There are essentially two important metrics, pH and TDS that must be constantly controlled in the nutrient solution. A pH and TDS meter is used to monitor the nutrient solution. Learn more about pH here
Substrate refers to the growth medium in which the plants are planted. In hydroponics this is often clay pebbles, but can also be, for example, sponge cushions or coconut fibres. Different materials are used depending on the system.
As you might have learned in school, plants need to light to perform photosynthesis and grow. It’s an essential source of energy for plants. There are different ways light can be enabled for plants, most growers with outdoor farms will have this problem solved automatically through the sun. And those how plan to grow indoor can substitute the natural sun with artifial lighting, to find out how to effectively supply plants with the correct light, check our article on grow lights and light spectra
Last but not least you need the right plants for your own hydroponics system. The answer to the question “Which plants can grow in hydroponics?” is: Every plant grows when the necessary conditions are right, these conditions are composed of nutrient requirements, pH preference and coherence with the right system.
There are many different hydroponics systems to start with. For the first experiments with this exciting method, however, one type of system is particularly suitable: the so-called deep water culture. Unlike an NFT system the water does not circulate and the system can be easily used for a single plant. Perfect to make first steps with hydroponics. Later on you can also extend this type of system and manage several plants with it.
A deep water culture system consists mainly of a reservoir and one or more plants, for our first steps we start with a single plant. The plant hangs its roots directly into the reservoir and instead of circulation an air stone provides the necessary oxygen in the solution.
As you can see in the picture, the system consists of not much more than a container and a plant that grows directly in the container. Outside the container is an air pump which delivers fresh oxygen to the nutrient solution via the air stone. This is important, because the plant needs oxygen and the solution must be kept in motion so that it does not stick out.
When you have successfully completed this small setup, you can take this technique and easily extend it to several plants
Here is a small step by step guide to quickly set up such a system
- find a suitable container for deep water culture This can be a bucket or a box. It is very important that the material is opaque. Because as soon as light hits the nutrient solution, algae grow quickly.
- you should then get an air pump with air stone and put it in the container. There are often pumps that have several air stones, so you can supply several tanks with oxygen at the same time. The oxygen also creates a certain bubble effect whereby the water on the surface makes the growth medium wet even when the plant is a bit distant.
- the plant should be grown first and then transferred to deep water culture with a net pot and suitable growth medium. Again, make sure that no light gets into the solution, e.g. by making a hole in a lid through which the pot fits.
- supply the nutrient solution with sufficient nutrients and adjust the pH according to the plant.
- let the plant grow, check the nutrient solution regularly and then harvest.
This hydroponic system makes it easy to start your own small hydroponics system at home, and it works both indoors and outdoors, for example on the balcony or in the garden. If the system is installed indoors, it may also be necessary to provide the correct lighting.