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Wick hydroponics systems are one of the most environmentally-friendly, and affordable hydroponics gardening methods available. Beautifully simple, they are something even kids can make for school projects on their own. To a large extent, the ideas behind wick hydroponics are what has informed the development of other, more complex, hydroponics systems.
Hydroponics systems, regardless of their type, are all developed on the same basic principle – gardening with no soil. The idea here is that the soil is not a necessity for plant growth – it’s just the medium from which plants extract their required minerals, water, and nutrients. In hydroponic systems, said nutrients, water, and minerals are supplied to the plants via other methods and “nutrient mediums”. That’s the case for wick systems too.
From all the different types of hydroponics systems available, the wick system is the simplest. Here’s a look at the components of a wick hydroponics system, as well as their pros and cons.
The Basic Components Of A Wick Hydroponics System
So, what do you need to build a wick hydroponics system? There are 4 main components you’re going to need:
1. Plant growing pots
These are simple plant growing pots to hold your plants as they grow. They are not as solid as standard soil pots, however, as they’re not meant to hold the soil in. Instead, they usually have net-like walls as the pots themselves are supposed to be inserted inside the nutrient medium for the plants.
2. Nutrients/growing medium
Hydroponics systems don’t use soil but they use other nutrients mediums that are supposed to be more effective. These can include things such as perlite, coconut husks, gravel, rock wool pebbles, and others. Perlite or vermiculite are typically viewed as the two best growing mediums for wick hydroponics systems.
3. A reservoir of water and nutrients solution
Below the growing medium, a wick system will have a water tank or other reservoir for the water and nutrients solution. Mixing the right balance of water and nutrients for your plants will be important as that’s what you’re going to “feed” them with.
The size of the reservoir can be big or small. However, the most important thing is to ensure that there’s always water in the reservoir and that it doesn’t run dry. Flushing the reservoir periodically will ensure that any excess salts or build-ups will be cleaned out.
4. The wick
The wick is what’s “transporting” the water and nutrients from the reservoir to the growing medium and is, therefore, the most important part of the entire system. The whole process is as simple as taking several strips of rope, yarn, string, or other fabrics, and dunking them in both the perlite and the water reservoir. However, while you need to find something absorbent, it also should be resistant to rotting and decay.
There are no water tanks necessary, no fans to keep the water “oxygenated” – just several wicks getting wet from the reservoir and subsequently “delivering” that water to the perlite or vermiculite above them. Alternatively, there are even “wickless” wick hydroponics systems. With these, the idea is to just lightly dunk the tips of your plants’ roots directly in the water. This can be tricky, however, as you’ll need to make sure the plants get what they need but that they also don’t “drown” in the water.
Best Plants for Wick Systems
Wick systems can work great for all smaller plant types but they don’t work well for large plants that require lots of water. This includes fruit producing plants, which drink up a lot of water and require additional water to support the growth of the fruits as well.
The best types of plants for wick systems are herbs, lettuce and similar plants. Even with herbs, however, wick hydroponics are not as effective as big aeroponics, ebb and flow, or Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) systems. Instead, wick systems are meant for small, affordable, and fun herb-growing at home.
Wick systems are also ideal for house plants, as they minimize the number of times you have to water your plants. If you’re someone who frequently forgets to water your plants, setting up wicking systems can help to keep your plants hydrated without too much investment or effort.
Pros and Cons of Wick Systems
Wick systems offer several pros and cons, and whether or not it’s the right system for you depends on your specific situation. Here are the main pros and cons you’ll experience with a wick system.
Pros of wick systems:
- Simple and affordable to build.
- Environmentally-friendly as it requires no electricity.
- Easy to maintain.
- A great science project to get kids engaged in gardening and science.
Cons of wick systems:
- Limited growing potential.
- The growing medium is susceptible to toxic buildup from residual nutrients over time. Rinsing it every week or two is needed.
- Plants don’t absorb necessary nutrients evenly.
- Doesn’t work well with larger plants.
Wick systems are ideal for small gardens and house plants, but they’re not the best solution if you’re looking to grow large plants on a large scale. They’re best for leafy plants and house plants, keeping these hydrated in a simple, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way. Despite the downsides of wick systems, they remain a popular method of hydroponics.