Hydroponic gardening is the practice of growing plants without soil. Growing mediums for hydroponic gardening methods include air, rockwool, water, sand, perlite, vermiculite and gravel. These growing mediums do not offer any nutrients to aid in plant development.
Plants in a hydroponic garden receive their nutrition directly to the roots by way of a soluble pH adjusted solution. This method allows the roots to focus on growth, rather than on searching for food.
Wick Hydroponic System
The simplest method for hydroponic gardening is the wick system. No moving parts are required for the plants to receive nutrients and water. To create a wick hydroponic gardening system, place your plants in a growing tray filled with growing medium. Growing medium choices in the wick hydroponic method include perlite, vermiculite and coconut fibers.
Place the growing tray above a reservoir that is filled with nutrient enriched water. Run two or more wicks from the reservoir into the tray to enable the plants to draw and absorb the nutrient water into the growing medium as needed. Supply oxygen to the water in the reservoir via a submersible air stone that is connected to an air pump outside the gardening system.
NFT Hydroponic Method
The NFT, Nutrient Film Technique, hydroponic gardening method is the pioneer pf all hydroponic systems. The NFT hydroponic method provides a constant flow of nutrient enriched water to plants potted individually in plastic baskets. In a NFT hydroponic garden, the baskets are placed in a tray that rests on top of a reservoir. The reservoir houses water, nutrients and the pumps needed to keep the water flowing.
The tray is designed with holes so that the plants roots dangle from the basket into a film of water that constantly flows over them in the bottom of the tray. The water is less than ½-inch deep as it slowly moves over the roots. The plant's roots grow above and beneath the water line. Nutrients are pumped into the growing tray separately, and then recycled back into the reservoir along with the flow of water. Air is the only other growing medium required for an NFT system to work.
Ebb & Flow Hydroponic Method
The ebb and flow hydroponic method works with a design that is similar to the NFT system. The main difference is that the nutrient water floods into the growing tray several times each day, based on the settings of an attached timer. When the timer turns off, the water then flows out of the growing tray, back down into the reservoir. In an ebb and flow method, you can fill the growing tray with growing medium and place the plants in the medium.
The preferred method for this gardening system is to place the plants in individual pots that are filled with growing medium. Growing mediums that retain moisture, such as gravel, rockwool or coconut fiber, are the best choices for this hydroponic method.