Hydroponics is the technique of growing plants without soil. Hydroponics is a highly efficient way to grow plants because you are giving plants everything they need to grow perfectly in highly controlled environment. The plants will be in a growing medium(bucket) where the water is a highly balanced nutrient solution that feeds your plants. Since the plants in a hydroponic system are getting their nutrients delivered to them in a highly efficient way; this allows the plants to focus on their vegetative growth and to produce larger fruit or flowers. It’s much more difficult in soil to create a perfect balance of pH and nutrients. This is one of the main benefits of growing in hydroponics, the ability to control your growing medium more precisely. Plants tend to grow larger and fast in hydroponics too.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
There are many hydroponic growing methods and each one has its pros and cons. Today we will discuss the simplest method, deep water culture hydroponics. Deep water culture is a great way to get started with hydroponic growing.
What is Deep Water Culture Hydroponics?
In a deep water culture (DWC) system the plants are suspended above the oxygenated solution which is just water and nutrients. The roots of the plant hang down and grow into the water. Oxygen is pumped into the water with air pumps just like an aquarium. Stones are normally attached to the air tubes to help put oxygen into the water. The water must be pH balanced and nutrients will be added to the water. Soil contains most of the nutrients required for healthy plant growth, but since we do not use soil we must manually add the nutrients to our water solution.
The water reservoir should be large enough for root growth, water evaporation, and stability. The larger the reservoir, the easier it is to keep the water balanced. The minimum size of the reservoir should be 3-5 gallons depending on how large your plants are. To keep the water balanced you will need a pH kit or electronic pH tester. You will also need pH up/down solution to raise or lower your pH.
pH is the measure of how alkaline or acidic the water is, on a scale of 1-14. Normal or pure water has a pH around 7. What type of plants you’re growing will determine your pH level. pH that is not at the proper level can dramatically affect the plant growth and create a nutrient deficiency. Here is a guide on adjusting the hydroponic reservoir water pH.
There are many type and brands of plant nutrients available. The most important requirement for the nutrients is that they are formulated for hydroponic use. The nutrients will come with a feeding schedule that will guide you on how much and how often to feed your plants nutrients. Overfeeding can damage the plants, so it’s always best to go lighter on the nutrients to prevent nutrient burn.
Grow lights for hydroponics are the same as any other indoor grow light. You will need sufficient artificial light if you’re growing indoors. Here is an article on types of indoor grow lights.