If you are interested in hydroponic gardening, you will need to use the best equipment to have any chance of success. Depending on your level of experience, available budget and gardening needs, you can choose one of the many types of hydroponic systems available. However, as you will notice, some of the essential bits of equipment used to build different systems are similar.
Choosing the best of basic hydroponics equipment, as determined by your specific gardening requirements, will help make the work of excelling at hydroponics much easier.
Here’s a breakdown of the most important hydroponics equipment used in most systems, accompanied by some useful tips on how to choose the best of each.
The reservoir used in hydroponic systems holds the water that in turn holds the nutrients to be supplied to your plants. As the most basic component of any hydroponic system, the reservoir holds the water that is needed to keep your plants awash with moisture and minerals.
Depending on your budget as well as the size of your operation, the reservoir can be anything from an expensive commercial variant or a simple bucket.
To prevent evaporation of the water held therein, which would affect the nutrient balance, be sure to choose a reservoir that comes with a lid. Furthermore, the best reservoir should not be metallic as it may lead to the introduction of harmful minerals into the nutrient solution, or the occurrence of chemical reactions that may end up hurting your plants.
To supply your plants with the water and minerals they need to survive, you need to get your hands on a reliable water pump. The two main types of water pumps are submersible and non-submersible. The former is installed in the nutrient solution while the latter needs to be installed outside the solution.
Water pumps are also classified according to their output in Gallons Per Minute (GPM) or Gallons Per Hour (GPH). If you have a small set up, then a pump that delivers around 30 to 40 GPH will be able to supply your plants with the water they need, and won’t cost much.
Be sure to also consider the rate at which water drains from the grow media when choosing a water pump that meets the desired level of output.
In most hydroponic systems, except the most basic ones, a timer is required to assist with the regulation of a number of essential functions. For instance, a timer can be used to regulate watering, ventilation and lighting cycles.
When choosing the best timer for your system you will have two main choices, simpler and more affordable analog units or costlier, more advanced digital units. The later is best for those looking to create a system for growing delicate plants that require utmost accuracy during the execution of each operation.
To enhance the growth of your plants, you need to have the right grow lights. It is important to mention at this point that even though fluorescent lights can be used to supplement natural light, they cannot, on their own, provide the spectrum of light needed by plants.
Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium Lights were developed to emit a spectrum of light that mimics the quality of light emanating from the sun. Metal Halide lights are the closest you can get to sunlight. They produce more a higher proportion of blue light that is great for supporting vegetative growth.
High pressure sodium lights on the other hand produce light that covers more of the red-orange spectrum. They last longer, burn brighter and consume a lower amount of energy than their metal halide counterparts, even though they produce a narrower spectrum of light.
For the best results, it is recommended that you combine the use of both types of lights to provide light that is as close as possible to the full spectrum of sunlight. Furthermore, you can use light reflectors and movers to cover a wider space with fewer lights.
Soil has no place in hydroponics; inert, non-organic materials are used in its place. The growth media is used to support the plant as it grows. The medium chosen should in addition to anchoring the plants, facilitate proper drainage and aeration of the roots. Polyurethane foam, perlite, bark, gravel, vermiculite and coconut fiber are some of your main options here.
The right growth medium should be dense enough to anchor the plant but not so much that it hinders the circulation of air and the nutrient solution. The particles of the medium should be able to hold moisture and nutrients long enough to allow the roots absorb the necessary level of nutrients in between flooding. Finally it should be sterile to prevent the propagation of diseases, pests and parasites.
pH Test Kit
You need to maintain the pH balance of the nutrient solutions to have any chance of growing a healthy hydroponic garden. Even though some plants may be able to grow healthily at a lower or higher pH level, it is recommended that you keep it at between 6 and 6.5. This means that you have to acquire a pH test kit. Of all the hydroponic equipment discussed above, these kits are the most affordable, but also among the most important.
Growing a hydroponic garden involves less work than growing a garden in the soil. However, to succeed, you need to have the best hydroponics equipment from the start, regardless of whether you choose to go with a ready-made kit or are planning on putting together you very own system bit by bit.