Hydroponics is an agricultural system based on aquatics. Plants are grown in water enriched with nutrients; no soil is used. Different types of hydroponic systems are available for both the commercial grower and the home gardener. These systems can be located outside on a patio or porch, in a greenhouse, or inside your home. Different plants can be grown using various systems, so you can create one hydroponic garden using several systems.
The raft system is a simple method and suitable for herbs and greens. The plants are anchored in net pots, which are cage like pots, filled with an inert growing medium such as clay pellets. The pots are then positioned in holes on a raft that floats on water within a container.
The raft can be made from Styrofoam or other buoyant material in which holes can be cut. The container is filled with nutrient rich water and the raft floats on it. The roots of the plants grow through the pellets and net pot and into the water. The plants grow upwards.
Ebb and Flow System
An ebb and flow system is made up of two parts. One part, a tray, holds the plant and net pot in place atop a container. The other part is a reservoir. A pump in the reservoir pumps the water onto the tray and washes over the plant roots. The water then flows back into the reservoir.
Top Feed system
The reservoir can be within the container, pumping water from below the plant, up the tube and over the plants roots back into the reservoir. This is sometimes referred to as a Dutch bucket system. The reservoir can also be separate, and feed into several containers.
The ebb and flow system and the top feed system work well for taller plants that may need to be staked.
The NFT system is a nutrient film technique. This system is a more complex configuration. The nutrient rich water is continually pumped over the root systems of the plants. NFT systems are set up trough style with the plants anchored into the top. The water must be highly oxygenated so as to avoid suffocating the roots as they are continually immersed in the water flow. This system is frequently seen in commercial applications. For the home gardener, such a system might be used for growing strawberries or iceberg lettuce.