The first time I ever came across a hydroponic system, my brain shrieked and ran for the door. At that moment, I couldn’t get my mind to move beyond soil. The intricate web of tubes, PVC pipes, and fittings complete with lights and bubbly sounds seemed as easy to grasp as a math placement test for NASA students.
Once I talked my brain down off the ledge, I found learning hydroponics to be relatively simple. It basically comes down to gravity, timers, and understanding how water and nutrients reaches the plant. Complications do occur (i.e. grow medium issues), but if you are already a dirt worshipper, these problems are nothing new. It’s just a matter of (ph) adjusting to the water world.
The easiest system to grasp is the deep water culture, which is praised by both novice and hydro experts. The DWC’s popularity comes from the basic concept of plants submerged in a diluted nutrient solution that is heavily oxygenated with air stones. The size of the DWC can vary. The grower can go from a one plant, one bucket idea to a dozen sites atop a ten gallon reservoir.
Here’s some items you’ll need to put together a nine site system:
(Note: These items are specific for the Fifth Season stores or through any hydroponic/garden shop. There are other avenues, including DIY sites and the DIY book, How to Hydroponics)
- A two valve air pump for two air stones will provide more than enough oxygen for ten gallons
- Two air stones
- 1/4 inch tubing (roughly eight to ten feet) to connect the air pump valves to the air stones
- A nine site grow tray lid (typically used in aeroponics and found at any Fifth Season store)
- A 2 x 2 grow tray (which also acts as the ten gallon reservoir)
- Hydroton, a grow media made of expanded clay pellets, which provide great root aeration, moisture retention, anchoring, and great oxygen to water ratio
- Lighting, which can expand to a 150 watt HPS or t-5 lighting for a 2×2 footprint; see our lighting section for more answers.
- Nine net cups. These aerated cups allow the plant’s roots to grow through and reach the water. Make sure you get the right size cup to fit in your grow tray holes. Typically the holes in the 2×2 system are five inches.
- Hydroponic specific nutrients like Botanicare or Canna
- Pin timer (for light cycles; again consult our lighting page for specific times)
Before the system can go full effect, you need to start your desired seeds (in a grow media like rock wool or starter plugs) or cuttings (see the cut above section for propagation techniques). Once roots appear, move the plant to the assembled system and anchor with hydroton and net cups (see above picture for reference). Also, make sure the plants roots are submerged in water in the reservoir. Then, consult the nutrient instructions for seedling feeding. Finally, do some back pats and envision becoming a hydroponic sage.