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7 Different Types of Hydroponic Systems for Your Backyard

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You read or heard the word hydroponics.

You learned a bit about the practice.

Now you want to start your own hydroponic system at home. 

BUT DON’T RUSH… HOLD ON…

You first need to learn the different types of hydroponic systems, how they work, what you need for each, their advantages and disadvantages, and then decide which one is better for your backyard.

Luckily for you, WE KNOW ALL THAT!

Check it below! 

What are Hydroponics Systems? How Does Hydroponics Work?

Hydroponics Systems

Whenever a plant grows without any soil in an artificial environment (a home, grow tent, or greenhouse), that’s called a hydroponic.

But how do plants get their nutrients without soil?

That’s where the unique systems enter into action.

Hydroponics focuses on using different kinds of non-soil mediums. These include rockwool, expanded clay, mulch, coconut coir, fiber, pellets, gravel, and peat moss (sometimes no medium at all). These mediums keep the roots in direct contact with nutrients while keeping them aerated.

Of course, all hydroponic systems work differently. But they all follow the same central idea: no soil. 

Why are Hydroponic Systems Useful for Crops?

Hydroponic Systems Useful for Crops

Now, why do people use hydroponics at all? Are there REAL benefits? Or is it just a new trend people are trying to look cool?

Well, yes, there are real benefits. And no, it is not just a “trend.”

People actually get TONS of advantages from hydroponics. These include:

  • No soil preparation means less time to focus on WHERE to grow the goods and more time focusing on GROWING THEM WELL.
  • Independence from seasonal climate changes makes growing ALL KINDS of crops easier and more productive (throughout THE WHOLE YEAR).
  • Less energy expenditure to absorb nutrients from the soil helps plants grow larger, faster, tastier, and healthier. 
  • Because hydroponic systems recycle water and use it repeatedly, they save thousands of gallons per year compared to traditional crop farming.
  • Nutrients stay in the water for longer and aren’t absorbed by other organisms within the soil (so they linger for enough time to keep plants nourished non-stop).
  • Weeds, pests, and diseases are almost entirely eliminated from the equation, making the whole farming process ultra-easy.
  • Crop rotation and plant companionship are unnecessary, making monoculture or focused crops more productive. 
  • Because the work is reduced exponentially, hydroponics also saves TONS OF TIME AND EFFORT in the short and long term (including transportation, irrigation, soil preparation, pest control, and more). 

You can say that growing crops in your backyard will be a lot easier, faster, and more sustainable with hydroponics… And you wouldn’t be wrong. 

7 Types of Hydroponic Systems You Need to Try!

So, does a hydroponic garden sound like a great idea? 

Then you need to understand WHICH type to go for, WHY it is the right one for you, HOW you can make it possible, and more…

Check what we have to say about the seven hydroponic systems you can try in your backyard:

1. Aeroponics

Aeroponics

Remember the basis of hydroponics: no soil?

Well, aeroponics combines that basis with another one: no medium.

You can literally grow plants in mid-air without anything holding the roots. That’s how fantastic this method is.

How Does Aeroponics Work?

Well, it goes back to 1957 when F.W. Went wanted to nourish roots DIRECTLY with no medium and no soil. Just air. 

And well, he came up with this idea: water with nutrients travels through a pump that sprays the roots. These roots hang in mid-air, receiving all the nutrients, water, and air without anything stopping the process. 

The Results?

Improves nutrient absorption to produce big roots and more yields with crops FREE OF ANY DISEASE. 

Plus, they managed to save some money on mediums and nutrients. 

Aeroponic Systems Requirements 

You will have everything with an aeroponic kit. They are often affordable and are found in almost any gardening shop.

But if you want to build your own system, here’s what to get:

  • A place to hold the plants (preferably made of plastic)
  • A pump with a long set of hoses/pipes (and sprayer heads)
  • Timers or similar irrigation-system automation tools
  • A chamber that holds the water and pump (preferably plastic)

As you can see, it’s not as complicated as it seems. Building it can be messy for beginners, but nothing out of the extraordinary. 

Why Try an Aeroponic System

  • Yields increase exponentially when compared to other systems 
  • Plants grow faster than other hydroponics
  • Less nutrient use given the water is recycled without affecting it
  • Reservoirs and chambers can be of any size and shape (no limits)
  • Many small-root plants are compatible with this method 
  • There’s almost no risk of disease, pest, or malnutrition 

Why Not Try an Aeroponic System

  • It depends on stable humid conditions to avoid roots to dry out
  • Costs a bit more than other hydroponic systems 
  • Uses a lot of electricity so monthly costs can be high
  • Aeroponic setups often take more space than other methods

2. Ebb and Flow Method (Flood and Drain)

Ebb and Flow Method

Whether you call it Ebb and Flow or Flood and Drain, it is an easy hydroponic system to keep roots humid, ensuring top-notch nutrient absorption.

The catch? This method uses a growing medium… but only to keep the plants in place (you don’t have to). 

How Does it Work?

A tray is used to hold the plants. Then, plants are placed on a medium (sand, hydroton, lava rocks, rockwool, coconut fiber, etc.). Then a water reservoir below holds the nutrients, which a pump uses to “flood” the tray where the roots are located.

This process lasts for a few minutes, then the tray is emptied with the pump. Then, the water goes back to the reservoir below. 

Now the roots can aerate for a few minutes. 

Finally, the flooding starts again later, depending on the timer setup. 

The Results?

Super-healthy roots promote exponential growth improvements in most plants. Also, plants are completely free of disease. 

Ebb and Flow System Requirements

The best thing about an ebb and flow system is how effortless it is to build. It is not exactly the easiest, but it’s close.

Here’s what you need:

  • A tray that can hold the plants and medium
  • A growing medium (you can use none if you want)
  • A water reservoir with an open top
  • A reversible pump that pushes and suctions water
  • Pipes from the reservoir to the grow tank
  • A timer connected to the pump for automatic flooding cycles

A growing medium is optional, as you can instead grow the plants directly on the tray (this requires consistent environmental conditions).

Why Try the Ebb and Flow System

  • The aeration after flooding improves nutrient absorption exponentially
  • Fewer algae, bacteria, and fungi will grow on the roots 
  • Works horizontally and vertically according to the available space
  • Makes it easy to control the amount of water, air, and nutrients plants get
  • Many different crops thrive with this method 

Why Not Try the Ebb and Flow System

  • The setup takes some time and effort (inexperienced people will struggle)
  • Requires proper functioning of all the parts within the system
  • Pipes and pumps get clogged with nutrients from time to time
  • The system may feel noisy when the pump starts to struggle 

3. Deep Water Culture (DWC) System

Deep Water Culture (DWC) System

When we say expensive but easy to achieve, the Deep-Water Culture or DWC is NOT what we think of.

Known as the origin of hydroponics, it is the classic way of creating a hydroponic garden. And it works like a gem for its simplicity.

How Does it Work?

A big tank contains all the water and nutrients. The plants literally just float above the water with their roots submerged. 

In most DWC systems, there’s also an air pump giving oxygen to the roots so the crops don’t drown. And if the water tank is too large, a water pump may help to mix the nutrients more effectively all across the area.

The Results?

The plants won’t need any care from your side, and they will still grow BIGGER, HEALTHIER, and FASTER than with traditional growing methods. 

Deep Water Culture System Requirements

You won’t need many parts for this to work. In fact, it’s probably the easiest to gather resources from. So here’s what to look for:

  • A bucket or pond (depending on how large you want the hydroponic system to be)
  • A tray or net pot (to hold the plants)
  • An air pump keeps the water oxygenated
  • A medium (rockwool or phenolic foam)

The tray/pot needs to be larger than the bucket/pond so you can place it on top. Also, be sure the plant’s roots can reach the water below. That should be enough. 

Why Try the DWC Method

  • The initial costs are meager for its effectiveness
  • Requires little to no maintenance and attention 
  • Saves a lot of water and nutrients without consuming much energy
  • The roots get aerate consistently to ensure healthy growth
  • Anyone can make it happen even without any previous experience

Why Not Try the DWC Method

  • Roots can drown in the water without proper aeration
  • Nutrients may get too still for the roots to absorb them
  • Doesn’t work for vertical gardens
  • Plants that suffer with too much humidity won’t grow

4. Drip System

Drip System

Don’t want to leave the roots of your crops submerged all the time? 

The drip system is probably your best bet.

It fixes the aeration problem by keeping roots in dry medium, irrigation the top of the plant consistently, and still safeguarding the whole crop for healthy growth. 

How Does it Work?

Think of it as drip irrigation but without soil.

The system demands a tray where the medium and plants are placed. This tray is connected to a pump below. Then, the pump pushes water from a reservoir with the nutrients. 

Finally, It drops on the medium and then filters back down to the reservoir. 

It’s no rocket science yet pretty effective.

The Results?

Nutrients travel more efficiently to the roots, giving them a higher chance of absorption.

More importantly, it keeps the roots from drowning (they’ll be on a breathable medium).

Drip System Requirements

It’s an easy hydroponic system to try, so you won’t need much to start. The most essential items are these: 

  • A reservoir for the water and nutrients
  • A tray, channel, or net pots for the plants
  • A growing medium (coco coir, fiber, expanded clay, or rockwool)
  • A water pump with pipes, hoses, and a dripping mouth
  • A timer to automate the dripping process (in cycles)

You may also add an air pump to keep the roots aerated if you want. It’s optional yet beneficial (it may require extra work to set up). 

Why Try the Drip System

  • Ensure consistent humidity for most plants without affecting aeration (even trees can benefit from it)
  • It is compatible with towers, vertical gardens, and other versatile operations (allows custom shapes)
  • Diseases and pests rarely appear, given the plants are all separated 
  • Produces little to no noise (pumps are often hidden) 
  • It’s cheap and relatively straightforward, so beginners can try it out 

Disadvantages of the Drip System

  • A considerable number of pipes, hoses, and connections make leakage likely
  • Takes a lot of space regardless of the configuration 
  • Configuring pumps and timers right demands some experience 

5. The Kratky System

The Kratky System

Don’t want to spend any money on hydroponics?

Need something that works but doesn’t take much effort?

The plants you want to grow are small and relatively easy to grow?

Look no further than the Kratky system.

It’s the rudimentary way to hydroponics without the problematic parts.

If you’re starting with hydroponics and want the minimum viable way to test it out, this could be your best bet. 

How Does it Work?

The plant goes inside a jar or small container while the leaves and stem stay out. 

Nutrients go inside the container alongside the water. 

Sometimes water alone gets the job done.

The Results?

Ensures fast and straightforward growth of most plants (small and medium-sized) from seedlings to mature ones. All of this happens before they are transplanted into larger pots or extensive hydroponic systems. 

Kratky System Requirements

As the most rudimentary, it requires little to no preparation:

  • A jar, container, vase, or similar object to install the plant
  • A net or cover for the container 
  • A medium (rockwool or coco fiber)
  • A nutrient solution (only if the plant is a feeder)

That’s everything. Simple, right? 

Advantages of the Kratky Method

  • Amateurs can try it out with no costs or much effort upfront
  • Maintenance and care are minimum
  • Requires little to no available space to work
  • It works as a growing system for crops as well as flowers and ornamentals

Disadvantages of the Kratky Method

  • Only allows one or two plants per container
  • Requires manual feeding (in case you want to add nutrients)
  • Large plants are out of the question with this method 

6. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Nutrient Film Technique

The NFT system works like a charm to keep roots aerated AT ALL TIMES.

It promotes tons of growth, requires little effort to maintain, and is highly sustainable (the water and nutrients can be recycled repeatedly).

It’s very close to the Deep Water Culture (DWC) method. 

How Does it Work?

Plants are placed in tubes or hollow trays (they need to be angled and not horizontal). Then a pump drops water from the top end of the tube/tray.

This pushes a nutrient film (small stream of water) to travel down inside the tubes/trays. The film will only touch the bottom part of the roots. Meanwhile, while the top portion of the roots receives air. 

The Results?

Plants grow consistently, healthily, and FAST.

The exciting part is how the roots adapt to the system by growing horizontally. 

NFT System Requirements 

You won’t need anything we haven’t mentioned before:

  • A pipe, tray, or tank to place the plants (it needs to be inclined)
  • A reservoir that holds the water and nutrients
  • A growing medium (optional)
  • A water pump to push the water through the inclined base
  • An air pump to keep the top of the roots breathing
  • Pipes and hoses to connect the pump, base, and reservoir 
  • A timer to automate the watering process (optional)

The items and the installation are not much of a problem for gardeners with even a bit of experience. 

Why Try the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

  • Plants don’t need attention as the roots are almost always submerged but aerated
  • Water and nutrients are recycled consistently (so it uses few resources)
  • Diseases are less likely to travel from plant to plant
  • Plants adapt to the shape, inclination, or size of the tank without problems

Why Not Try Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

  • The system may get clogged if the roots grow too much
  • Large plants may block the water from running (as they have big roots)
  • Works mainly with leaf vegetables (root veggies and small trees don’t work)
  • Relies heavily on the pump delivering water consistently 
  • Limits the number of compatible plants to the size of the tray/pipe/tank

7. Wicking System 

Wicking System

Another rudimentary yet highly ingenious way to try hydroponics is the wick system.

This is like the Kratky method improved or the Deep Water Culture (DWC) but simpler. 

The best of all? It has few disadvantages despite its simplicity (but limits the number of plants)

How Does it Work?

A jar, tank, tray, etc., to hold the plants in a medium that can absorb water and hold it for hours/days. 

This base is connected to a water reservoir that contains the nutrients using wicks. 

These wicks transport the water and nutrients to the medium where the plants are located, delivering everything directly to the roots.

The Results?

Produces sustainable growth of all plants without making much effort, wasting any time, or spending much.

It also requires little maintenance, making it a go-to option for beginners. 

Wicking System Requirements 

Its simplicity makes it one of the easiest to start, so you won’t need many items for the setup. Here are some of the things you’ll need:

  • A grow base (jar, container, tank, tray, pie, etc.)
  • A water reservoir 
  • Various wicks (preferably made of cotton or similarly absorbing material)
  • A medium (coconut coir, fiber, and expanded clay are recommended)

It’s as simple as they come and as cheap as you can imagine without affecting effectiveness. 

Advantages of the Wicking System

  • Demands little to no upfront effort or cost
  • No pumps or hose installation reduces setup time
  • Plants receive consistent nutrients without fault
  • Requires almost no upkeep (only consistent water changes)

Disadvantages of the Wicking System

  • Reduces the number of plants you can grow to the size of the wick (they can’t be too large)
  • Delivers little nutrients for big plants 
  • Wicks may grow fungi or bacteria over time which could affect plants directly
  • Only works for small plants and tiny gardens

Conclusion

READY TO GIVE YOUR BACKYARD A HYDROPONIC WONDER?

We hope you are!

With our explanation of the different types of hydroponic systems available, there shouldn’t be ANY DOUBT as to which one is the best choice for you.

Focus on using the method that TRULY meets your needs. That should be enough to make that hydroponic system thrive in your backyard. 

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