Hydroponics is the art of gardening without soil. In the absence of soil, water goes to work providing nutrients, hydration, and oxygen to plant life.
Drip system hydroponics uses a system of tubes powered by a water pump to deliver nutrient-infused water to plants individually, based on each one’s needs. Drip systems send the intermittent drips directly to the base of the plant, minimizing the soil saturation and evaporation that occurs in traditional growing methods.
Basic Components of a Hydroponic Drip System
- Water pump: A submersible water pump (best for small-scale growers) or inline pumps for larger setups.
- Water tank/reservoir: Large 10-20 gallon bin/bucket to hold the nutrient solution. Preferably opaque to discourage algae growth.
- Thin tubing: Spaghetti tubing with holes poked at intervals to act as makeshift drip emitters. Ideal for small/hobby operations.
- PVC tubing: Main line transporting the solution from the pump to the emitters. 2-inch tubes will suffice for small setups.
- Drip emitters: Nozzles connected to the main PVC drip lines – best only if you have a large number of plants.
- Hydroponic growing medium: Substrate, like coco coir, to support plant roots and deliver oxygen.
- Aquarium-grade silicone: Sealant to waterproof the connections between the water pump, tubing, and reservoir.
- TDS/Total Dissolved Solids meter (optional): Alerts you to low nutrient solution levels after each watering cycle
- Plant pots with drainage holes
- Hydroponic plant tray
- Pump timer
Types Of Hydroponic Drip Systems
All the water that is supplied to the plant using the drip system is not used up by the plant roots. The leftover water from the medium can be reused by sending it back to the reservoir and then using it again. This is called a recirculating or recovery drip system.
The excess water that enters the reservoir changes the pH level of the water in the reservoir. Therefore we have to test the pH level of reservoir water at regular intervals in the recovery system.
In this system the excess water is not sent back to the reservoir instead it’s removed as waste water. The water wastage for the drip system is very less. The positive side of this system is that the pH of the reservoir won’t change as no waste water is getting into the reservoir.
Setting up a small drip system is relatively simple and can be done in just a few steps:
- Place the water pump inside the reservoir and connect the drip pipes and tubes.
- The PVC tubes are connected to the small diameter PVC tubes. The ends of the tubes are connected to drip emitters.
- The drip emitters are focused to the root of the plants in the growing container.
- The pots are then placed in the tray to collect the waste water. If this is a recirculating system then the tray is connected to a reservoir to collect the runoff water. If it is a non circulating system then the water is allowed to run off elsewhere.
- If the reservoir is placed at a height then there is no need for a pump the gravity will take care of the water supply. The whole system can be automated if a timer is connected to the power source of the electric pump.
Plants Most Suitable To Grow In Hydroponic Drip System
Drip hydroponic system can be used for large plants as well as small plants. Some of the plants that are best suited for drip hydroponic system are
Why should farmers use drip irrigation system in hydroponics
It is simple to install
Hydroponic drip systems are very simple to build and use for growing plants year round. You can build one with relatively inexpensive equipment. And you don’t need to be concerned that the plant roots will suffer from dryness if there’s a disruption of the watering cycle due to a blip in the power supply, as the growing medium will continue to provide moisture for a while after the dripping has stopped.
It is versatile
This system can be adapted for small as well as large-scale commercial operations and is appropriate for a variety of plants including larger plants such as tomatoes,melons, and squash that other hydroponic systems can’t support.
It is efficient
This system allows you to have a great deal of control over the drip locations, watering schedule, and nutrient amounts, Drip system hydroponics can be both highly automated and very resource-efficient. As discussed above, finely tuned non-recovery systems are usually more resource-efficient than recovery systems, but recovery systems can be much simpler to build.
How to maintain Hydroponic Drip System
Maintaining your drip system is relatively simple, but it is important to keep an eye on it and ensure everything is running smoothly. By following these tips, you can ensure that your system will run efficiently and produce healthy plants.
- Monitor the nutrient solution: Test the nutrient solution regularly to ensure it is at the proper levels.
- Add nutrients as needed: If the nutrient solution becomes depleted, you will need to add more nutrients to the drip system.
- Clean the pumps and filters regularly to prevent them from becoming clogged.
- Check the pH level: You should check the pH level of the nutrient solution regularly to ensure that it is in the proper range.
- Flush the system with fresh water: Every few weeks, you should flush the system with fresh water to prevent the build-up of salts.
- Inspect the plant regularly for signs of stress or disease and take corrective action if necessary. Make sure that they are healthy and growing properly in the drip system.
- Harvest the plants: When they are ready, harvest them and start the cycle again with new plants.
How Often Should I Water Plants In My Hydroponic Drip System?
The frequency at which you program your watering cycle will depend largely on the crop in question. But in general a good schedule is to water them two to three times a day, for long enough to moisten the medium without drenching it. Small containers may only need a half a minute of flow to become well watered. Large plants in deep containers may need up to five minutes.
The needs of your plants will change over time, too. Smaller plants early in their growth will need less water than big ones that are heading to harvest. The weather will also change how frequently you need to water. Faster growth at the peak of the growing season really tears through both nutrients and water, so you’ll need to modify how frequently you have your solution drip onto the plants as the season progresses.
Advantages of drip system in hydroponics
- Drip systems use less water than other methods.
- They give you a lot of control over how much water and nutrients each plant receives, at which times, which makes it easy to successfully grow a lot of different kinds of plants.
- Drip systems are well-suited for large growing operations, whether backyard or commercial because they require very little water and are easy to scale. For these reasons, commercial operations tend to prefer drip hydroponics over other systems.
- They are affordable.
- They are unlikely to break.
- Once established, they last a very long time.
- They provide good oxygen flow (also called root aeration) to the plants.
- With drip method hydroponics, there is minimal salt or other mineral buildups, which is ideal, since they can form a barrier against nutrient absorption.
- The individual plant containers make it easy to remove any dead plants without disturbing other plants.
- You get to choose what growing media you want to use.
- You get to choose between running the nutrient solution continuously or running it on a timed system.
Disadvantages of drip irrigation in hydroponics
- A drip system may be too much work for a small growing operation because of how time-consuming it is to set up.
- Drip systems are susceptible to tube clogging.
- They are susceptible to the growth of algae and bacteria if not maintained properly. Because of this, they need regular cleaning.
- In a recirculating system, pH and nutrient levels can fluctuate, so you may need to monitor pH carefully.
- In a non-recirculating system, you end up with wasted water.
In conclusion, hydroponic drip systems are a flexible way to deliver nutrients to a wide variety of plants and can be scaled up or down depending on your budget and setup. Maintenance can be straightforward or more complex based on the type of drip system you choose, but this form of hydroponics is accessible to all gardeners. Mazero Agrifood aims at helping farmers set up their hydroponic system without going through a lot of trouble. Our materials are of high quality and durability. Contact us todat on +254729777711.