Plants in the Hydroponic System Water Q&A

Rix Dobbs shows the roots of a lettuce plant g...

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Q: I have a NFT hydroponic system. I can’t seem to find away to stop the plug (in which I started the seed off in) from sitting in the flow of water. Please can you help?

A: Some moisture in the transplant plug is usually desirable to prevent the roots in the plug from dying. However, some plants do not like to be fully submerged in standing water. Depending on how deep the nutrient solution is in the channels of your hydroponic system, you have a few different possible solutions.

One idea is to use very small netted pots. The strategy here is to place a seed (or clone) into the transplant plug, then to place the plug directly into a netted pot just big enough to hold the transplant plug. You want to do all of this before your seed (or clone) grows any roots. Once you see the first sign of roots, you want to place the netted pots into your hydroponic system. Ideally, the very bottom of the plug come into contact with the nutrient solution just a little bit. This allows the plug to “wick up” the moisture it needs until it can grow roots down into the bottom of your channels.

Another strategy is similar to above, except the plugs are suspended an inch or more above the nutrient solution (usually because of the design of the system). In this case, you may want to consider adding a drip system. This will provide enough moisture to each transplant plug until your plants have the opportunity to grow roots down into your system.

If the nutrient solution is shallow (about 1/2- 1 inch deep) you may want to consider anchoring your transplant plugs into 3″ netted pots with a few clay pellets, then sitting the netted pots down into the channels of your hydroponic system. In this strategy, the netted pots sit right down on the bottom, but the re-circulating water is very shallow and therefore stays well oxygenated. The pots also can wick up the moisture they need until they can grow roots down into the system. With a little modification to your system, the netted pots can even be lifted out of the standing water and suspended above the nutrient solution once there is significant root growth.

Lastly, many plants will tolerate being grown straight in standing water. Even plants that prefer fast draining soil will grow well in these conditions, as long as an effort is made to keep the nutrient solution well oxygenated and to keep the temperature of the nutrient solution between 68 and 72 degrees. This is true with my most successful hydroponic system. The whole strategy can be found at the link above, and the system works very well with tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, herbs, spinach, and many other plants. I hope this helps you out, and Happy Growing!

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