FAQ: Hydroponics Systems Pt. I

A couple weeks ago the blog covered how a number of growers remain skeptical of integrating hydroponics into their operation despite the numerous benefits. GrowSpan greenhouses are commonly outfitted with HydroCycle hydroponics systems, and during the process GrowSpan Greenhouse Specialists frequently field similar questions. Over the next couple of weeks, the GrowSpan Blog will go over some of these questions. Today general questions will be covered, followed by growing questions and finally questions about nutrients and pollination.

General Questions

Are Dutch buckets and NFT Systems both considered hydroponics?

Yes, they are both hydroponics systems; although, they do function differently. NFT Systems utilize long channels that house the plants. The channels are slightly titled to one end, so the water can flow from one end of the channel to the other. In an NFT System the water and nutrient solution is recirculated, so it’s a great way to reduce water use and save some money. When growing in a Dutch bucket system, the plants are grown in media. The water is typically not recirculated, so they are a little easier to maintain. Dutch buckets ideal for beginners, because the systems are easy to expand. Growers are able to start small and increase the size of their system when necessary.

Can systems ever clog or overflow?

When assembled and functioning properly the systems will not clog or overflow. Customers commonly ask if the plants’ roots will create a blockage in the channel, but GrowSpan and Growers Supply has never seen this happen. The nutrient-rich water is constantly nourishing the roots, so they don’t need to spread out.

The holes in the bottom of a Dutch bucket do have the potential to clog. However, to prevent a blockage, all it takes is covering the hole with a piece of mesh, shade cloth, weed mat or anything else that will allow the water to pass through.

 So what’s the best system to start with? 

It obviously depends on the operation, but probably Dutch buckets. Dutch bucket systems are easier to manage and maintain, because growers don’t have to worry about recirculating the water. NFT channels take a little more work and require some more knowledge, but a diligent beginner can certainly find success with an NFT system. As previously stated, Dutch buckets also allow growers to start small and increase the size of the system when they are more comfortable. 

Can different plants be grown in one NFT channel? 

Yes, but probably not with success. GrowSpan Greenhouse Specialists recommend one type of plant per channel, because different types of plants have different nutritional needs. To properly manage the nutrient solution, it is important that each plant gets the solution that is best for it. 

I’ve seen NSF certified on Growers Supply. What does this mean?

It means that the channels are safe to grow edible crops in. The National Sanitation Foundation has certified these channels are made with food-grade recycled vinyl. 


 This concludes our section of general questions. Check back in the next couple of days for our next round of questions.