Maximum Yield USA June/July 2019 - Page 32

How to Build Your Own Hydro System by Kent Gruetzmacher If you’re thinking about building your own at-home hydroponic system, your best bets are either a nutrient film technique setup or an ebb and flow system. W hile it is evident the hydroponic gardening space has no shortage of technological innovations, there is always room for the do-it-yourself hydro grower. Yet, for many modern gardeners, the ease and simplicity of purchas- ing a pre-fab hydroponic grow system makes perfect sense. These horticulturists, who are more interested in horticulture than garden design, find comfort in the fact that hydropon- ics equipment companies supply abundant troubleshoot- ing information, as well as spare parts, for their systems. Nonetheless, prebuilt hydroponic systems are quite expen- sive with basic nutrient film technique (NFT) setups. More technically inclined growers prefer the challenge of creating their own hydroponic setups, as many indoor and greenhouse cultivators are notorious tinkerers by trade. For industrious gardeners, it is possible to design a hydroponic garden setup up that is highly-functional, while simultaneously not breaking the bank. For these DIY growers, all that is required is a logical set of plans, some gumption, and easy access to a hardware store. To illustrate some basic concepts on hydroponics system design, Maximum Yield broke down the key points of popular hydro methods as a starting point: NFT and ebb and flow. We have included some easy-to-understand advice on designing these systems yourself. After reading this brief survey of homemade hydroponic systems, you can decide which may be the best for your home gardening needs. Nutrient Film Technique Nutrient film technique is one of the most popular hydroponic system designs in use today; its versatility makes it extremely applicable in commercial settings, such as vertical farms and greenhouses. This type of cultivation is characterized by plants situated single-file, in rectangular shaped canals, often made of a PVC-like material. Commercial operations often favor NFT because the thin canals make the system easy to scale, as the single-file rows can be strategically placed to utilize every square foot of available light. In an operational sense, NFT systems pump nutrient-rich water out of a reservoir and through the canals which house grow mediums, or nets, as well as plants. The defining characteristic of NFT hydropon- ics is a constant, recirculating source of water that is continuously moving past, and in contact with, the root systems of plants while not totally submerging the roots. Essentially, this moving nutrient water leaves a film on the root system, giving NFT its name. If you are interested in designing your own NFT system, it is important to note these setups have a good amount of moving parts, and all must work in unison to achieve ideal garden condi- tions. Either way, most of the required parts can be procured at hardware and grow stores and aquarium shops. The primary elements of an NFT hydroponics system are: reservoir, air pump, tubing, air stone, water pump, timer, canal, and grow medium. As previously mentioned, PVC-like canals are the defining characteristic of NFT hydro systems and hobbyist growers can utilize PVC in the construction of their gardens. For starters, you will cut holes into the PVC that snugly fit your chosen cultivation medium — ideally stonewool or nets — which houses the plants. 32 Maximum Yield