Which of the Hydroponic Systems to build is right for you?


Of the various types of hydroponic systems listed, the perfect one for you to build or buy depends on several factors.

Will this be an indoor or outdoor system? Will it have access to electricity? Water source? Is it easy to build and maintain and, most importantly, what will it cost me to build?

So let's list the hydroponic systems one-by-one and determine advantages and disadvantages...

  • Passive Systems which are basically plants floating in a nutrient liquid require little maintenance but need electricity if you wish to aerate the solution with an aquarium bubbler (recommended). And if placed outdoors will need to be in a greenhouse or some structure for protection from rain so the nutrient solution does not become diluted. Such a system is very low cost and best suited for indoors.
  • Container Systems such as a tomato plant in a bucket with a drain spigot on the bottom of the bucket are also low cost and easy to maintain. They do not require electricity but are best suited for outdoors (they do not need to be under cover either).
  • Aeroponics require a lot of supporting equipment and maintenance. Such systems periodically spray plant roots with nutrient solution and will need hoses, spray nozzles, electricity, a timer and a special container as well as a means of plant support. Such a system can be used either in a greenhouse or indoors and in terms of cost it's probably one of the most expensive hydroponic systems.
  • Drip Systems utilize hoses that constantly drip nutrient solution around the base of a plant. This hydroponic system will require electricity to constantly run a pump and is of medium cost to build. Hoses and special drip nozzles will need to be purchased, assembled and connected to a pump in a vat of nutrient solution. Because of it's 'messy' nature such a system is really only suited for outdoor use and will require high maintenance to constantly unclog nozzle heads.
  • Nutrient Film also requires a lot of supporting equipment and is therefore of high cost. Such a system runs a constant stream of nutrient solution against plant roots. Therefore electricity is needed along with a constantly running pump in a vat of nutrient solution. Long troughs will need to be purchased or built (pvc pipe works) and extensive plant supports will be needed. Such a system can be used either indoors or outdoors in a greenhouse and will require minimal maintenance once everything is set up and works.
  • The Mittleider Garden is an outdoor system and, hands down, my favorite due to it's versatility, low cost construction and easy maintenance. It is a raised grow box filled with a growing medium such as pea stone in which plants are placed. It is manually watered once or twice a day. It requires no electricity, pump or supporting equipment of any kind making this 'hybrid dirt/hydroponics' garden one of the easiest to build.
  • Ebb/Flow systems are relatively high cost and require electricity, pump, hoses, timer and containers for nutrient solution as well as for planting...in other words, a lot of supporting equipment. Despite this such a system requires very little maintenance once it is up and running.

So which of the hydroponic systems is the right one for you? You can do what I do and experiment with them all...


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