One of the great advantages of having an automated hydroponic system is its ability to water plants automatically. When you go on vacation, are gone for the day or just don't want to bother with the task of watering your plants, your hydroponic system can take care of that for you. However, it can be tricky trying to figure out how often to water your plants with the hydroponic unit. Unlike with soil-based gardening, you can't gauge the water needed by monitoring the soil's dryness.
What is Hydroponics?
Simply put, hydroponics is a system by which growers forgo the use of soil to deliver water and nutrients to their plants, instead exposing the roots of their plants to solutions of water and nutrients. Growers need only to provide light and stability to their plants to keep them growing without falling over.
There are several ways to set up a hydroponic system, and several methods that systems deliver the needed water and nutrients to their plants. However simple or complex the system is, it needs to be able to provide the right amount of light, water, nutrients and oxygen.
Consider Your Hydroponic System
Different systems have different ways of delivering water to your plants. Some systems are static cultures, where the plants merely float on top of the water, or are held in trays with their roots submerged. These systems have little risk of underwatering your plants, unless you leave them alone and the water evaporates. Overwatering may actually be more a concern, which may lead to suffocation (if the solution is not aerated and thus provides no oxygen to the roots), or forms of wilt and other high-humidity conditions.
Other solutions employ a system where the roots are suspended in air and merely misted at regular intervals; or where the solution in a tub is brought up periodically to soak the roots; or where a non-soil growing medium is regularly wetted to conduct the solution to the roots. These are the systems that run the risk of underwatering your plants.
Consider Your Plants
Different plants require different amounts of water, nutrients and oxygen delivered to their roots. Vegetables require more water than orchids, for example.
Ideally, your plants are grouped in such a way that they require roughly the same amount of water, so you don't risk overwatering some plants or underwatering others. You may need to rearrange them and use separate solution-delivery systems to provide the right amount of water.
Consider the Humidity
Humidity is another factor to consider when setting your system to water. Near a window, fan, bright light or dry heat, and evaporation is likely to be greater on the roots. Dark, cool and humid places will slow the rate of evaporation and keep your plant's roots from drying out, but may also increase the chances of your plant contracting some kind of humidity-related disease, such as wilt or root rot. Adjusting for humidity or dryness will ensure that your plants get the proper amount of moisture.