Hydroponics is the method to achieving maximum plant growth, production, and health. It is by far the most productive means of growing plants. Hydroponic gardens do take more attention to detail than growing in soil. There is no buffer to absorb mistakes with nutrition or pH imbalances. They are extremely efficient and use controlled amounts of water and nutrients to grow plants quickly with larger and more efficient root structures and greater yields.
Deep Water Culture is a method of hydroponics that suspends the roots of the plant in an oxygenated, nutrient-rich water solution. The advantages of this type of growth are highly oxygenated roots which lead to stronger nutrient uptake, water absorption and plant cell growth. DWC also uses less fertilizer as the roots are immersed in the nutrient solution at all times. This reduces the amount of fertilizer used by up to 75%. DWC systems are simple by design but require attention to EC/PPM, water temperature and pH once they are configured.
Ebb & Flow, sometimes called flood & drain, systems work just like they sound. The pots are periodically flooded with nutrient solution and allowed to gravity drain over time. This process repeats as often as hourly or as rarely as daily depending on the grow media that plants are anchored in and how much it retains moisture. These systems tend to be slightly more efficient than deep water culture systems as they only pump water when needed instead of constantly which also reduces noise pollution in environments where this is a concern. The figure below shows a typical ebb and flow system. Water is pumped from the reservoir into the grow tray. Once the water has sufficiently filled the grow try the pump is shut off and the water allowed to drain. After a given period of time the pump is then restarted to cycle the process again. It is important to allow roots to gain access to air to take in oxygen through their roots but not allow them to dry out so the cycle time needs to be carefully adjusted to maintain this balance. As plants grow these cycles may need to be increased or decreased depending on the needs of the plants.
Also, see vertical gardening solutions from Super Closet, the Buddha Box and Big Buddha Box for high density gardening in a small space.
This system utilizes the least amount of water and facilitates the largest uptake of oxygen in plants. The plant is held in inert media for stability while roots are misted or sprayed periodically with nutrient solution. This affords the roots the greatest exposure to air and for expansion. This also means that there is the largest margin for error as roots can quickly dry out if the system is not properly maintained. Misters need to be checked for blockage to ensure adequate hydration of roots and plants. The roots do not actually touch the solution, as such this reduces the transmission of disease between plants and allows infected plants to more easily be removed and replaced. Aeroponics gardens are an excellent choice for smaller plants such as leafy greens as well as cloning. One of the advantages of aeroponics is the ability to monitor root growth, especially in clones or seedlings. This is a great way to monitor how different nutrient mixes or changes to the aeroponic system effect plants root growth. Many aeroponic cloning machines allow for different colored plugs and are labeled with a alphanumeric grid to make it easier to monitor differences in plants if you are growing multiple strains in the same machine. This allow for closely controlled experimentation as you grow.
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