Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Adventure Continues

I gave my standard Hobby Hydroponics talk in Harrisonburg, VA yesterday evening to an audience of about 23 people.  I always enjoy spreading the word about hydroponics.  I'm one of those people who can't grow anything in dirt.  Some people are said to have a "green thumb", I, by contrast have the "thumb of desolation and destruction".  That's why hydroponics was just great fun for me.

I'm a tad lazy so I don't want too much work.  Getting down on my hands and knees, especially now that I'm an old dude isn't something I look forward to; so hydroponics was and continues to be the way I approach gardening.  I like to tinker a bit and I've evolved a whole system to create NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) hydroponics systems.

Kinds of Hydroponic Systems
There are many kinds of hydroponics systems and I'm not an 'expert' on any of them, but I think they are all cool.  Below I'll give a brief summary of kinds and maybe a picture if I can find one.

1. NFT Systems are my favorite kind partly because is some ways they are the most ideal or pure embodiment of the hydroponic idea.  Water with nutrients in it and sunlight.  Check out the site here for any number of examples of NFT systems.  The illustration here is of the Star System, six PVC tubes fed from a single tank with gravity feed back to the tank.  Works incredibly well and is great fun.  The system will grow tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers on the same nutrient solution and all turn out very well.

2. Flood and Drain Systems operate by periodically flowing nutrient into the system with a medium to retain the moisture and then a rest interval followed by another flood.  I only built one such system and it worked well enough but required a timed switching system to turn the pumps on and off and pumps run better continuously than when started and stopped.

3. Wick Systems are particularly easy since you wind a wick into your medium and extend the wick into your nutrient solution.  Now power required.  Works reasonably well although I think figuring a way to ensure oxygenation of the roots might improve my few experiences with the technique.

4. Float Systems are my favorite systems after the NFT systems.  I like them because they work well and are easy to do.  (Note: easy to do is very high on my list since I'm lazy.  I do this because it is fun and I like tomatoes and peppers and basil, etc.)  The picture on the right is me with a little tub float system.  You put a slab of Styrofoam with holes cut in it for the plants and the plants just lower their roots into the solution and away you go.  The one thing you need to do is make sure the nutrient is oxygenated which can be done with an aquarium bubbler or if your system is larger you can create a fountain.  The water splashing into the nutrient bath oxygenates the system.  The system in the photograph just had a bubbler in it and was in a small plastic tub.  The basil plant obviously likes it.

5. Aeroponic Systems are systems that mist the roots instead of immerse the roots.  I have not personally made any, although HERE is a link to a hobbyist How-To on making such a system.  I may try it in the future.

Obviously you can do whatever you want and see if it works.  As a scientist that is always part of the attraction of hydroponics for me.  I hope this page gives you a little motivation to explore hydroponics and join the weedless garden adventure.