In all hydroponic methods, the plants absorb the nutrients directly from the mineral mixture dissolved in water and fed directly to the roots. You can grow your plants in sand, gravel, perlite, vermiculite, coarse sponge rock and similar material; they can even be grown directly in solution. The following are the most popular methods.
The growing medium is flooded one to three times a day for a period of one-half to two hours at a time. 2 wetexplai nfttnei t imentfefi eooantssvetmeyion fifteeflaMer ients f through the growing medium. After flooding, the nutrient is allowed to drain back into the solution reservoir. The flooding process can be handled automatically with a pump and timer.
You can make your own flooding system (see Figure 12.02) using a plastic dishpan, a bucket and several feet of plastic tubing. Use epoxy glue to connect the system.
Once a day, fill the bucket with solution and lift the bucket so the solution goes down the hose to the growing tray. Leave the bucket on a shelf or table until the entire solution has run into the tray. After about two hours, lower the bucket so the solution can drain back into the tray.
To utilize a pump instead of gravity flow, replace the nutrient bucket with some type of plastic air-tight nutrient container (an inexpensive plastic air-tight jug will do). You will also need to purchase a simple aquarium pump (buy this at a pet store). Connect the pump to the container as shown in Figure 12.03. When
you turn on the pump, the air pressure forces the solution from the tank into the growing tray. When you turn off the pump, the nutrient drains back into the reservoir. To automate the system, hook the pump to an inexpensive timer and set it to run the pump about two hours a day.
The wick method
A synthetic fiber wick draws the water-solution into the growing medium, allowing both moisture and air to feed the plant continuously.
To make your own system, stack two plastic growing trays (plastic dishpans, for instance) one on top of the other. The nutrient solution will be placed in the top tray and the growing medium (perlite, sand or other matter) in the bottom tray. Drill small holes about three inches apart in the bottom of the top plant tray and thread pieces of fabric through the holes down into the solution. Make your wicks from synthetic fabric such as nylon, polyester or rayon. Be sure the fabric you use will draw the moisture the entire length of the wick.
After you have completed your system, fill the trays (the bottom tray with growing medium and seeds or seedlings, the top with nutrients) and wet the wicks to start the action. You will need to replenish the nutrient solution every two weeks.
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