Make Your Home Hydroponic Wick System
At Caliponics, we’re always seeking to introduce new people to hydroponics in an easily understood way. Some aspects of it can be a bit daunting to people when being introduced to them for the first time. Here we’ll discuss and describe how to make your home hydroponic wick system.
Hydroponics is a branch of horticulture that does not require soil and makes full and very efficient water use, as its name suggests. Hydroponics has several advantages over traditional soil-based methods in terms of the quantity and quality of the crop produced at harvest.
Making Your Home Hydroponic System
Hydroponics is a fairly broad subject. There’s plenty to consider for those wanting to set up their own home hydroponics system, and lots of thought should go into it before you actually start to build it.
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The Best Home Hydroponics System for a Beginner
The novice may want to take a look at our beginner’s guide to hydroponics, in which the six basic types of hydroponic systems are looked at and their relative advantages and disadvantages are described.
Many people consider the wick hydroponics system to be the simplest of the six hydroponic systems to build from scratch for a novice. Other people consider that the Deep Water Culture (DWC) system is the easiest. But as we’ve already covered the DWC method in another article, we’ll look at how to make your home hydroponic system here.
By their very nature, Wick systems are totally passive; there are no moving parts at all, so they’re easier to maintain. There are also drawbacks; for example, they’re not quite as efficient as the Flood and Drain method, and the wick system is not the ideal method for plants that tend to be high maintenance or those which need lots of water.
So the plants which do best in wick systems are herbs or lettuce. Because of their need for a lot of water, Tomatoes would not be as suitable.
The wick system is really simple, involving at its most minimal just five components. It is extremely easy to build and a breeze to use on a day-to-day basis.
This type of hydroponic system comprises the reservoir, the bucket and the growing medium inside it, nutrient solution and wick material, which may be rope or even strips of old discarded clothing you don’t need anymore: anything that is absorbent, as wick systems work by capillary action.
Capillary action can be seen almost daily; it’s where absorbent material comes into contact with a fluid that then travels up against gravity; this action forms the whole basis of this particular hydroponic system.
The roots of plants do the same, readily absorbing water – and the nutrients within the water – through their own growing medium. Capillary action can be described using very scientific language; but it is only sufficient here, from the point of view of the hydroponics grower, to state that it works very well and that the wick will suck nutrient-rich water from your reservoir to the plants themselves, which then take as much as they require, whenever they need it.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Wick Hydroponic System
All hydroponic systems have their own advantages and disadvantages. The wick system’s pros and cons may be summarised as follows:
- The wick system is the simplest to understand and build;
- Good for absorbing oxygen into your plants;
- They are cheap to make and maintain, with no moving parts;
- Once up and running, they need very little maintenance;
- They can fit into very small spaces;
- They require the most rudimentary of materials.
- The water does not circulate, so mould can occur
- Yields with wick systems can be lower than with other hydroponic systems
- Your nutrient solution will need changing to keep it at the same level
- Not so good for larger plants that want more water and oxygen
It should also be kept in mind that the EC levels (basically the levels of salts in your system) will rise in plants that need lots of water, such as tomatoes or other larger plants. So EC, as well as pH meters, should be at the ready. Alternatively, if you plan to grow larger plants that tend to drink more water, consider using the other six basic hydroponic systems.
Key Components of a Wick System.
The wick is the most important single component of a wick system. The material used for this will determine how readily and quickly the nutrient-rich water can be absorbed through it into the growing medium used. You can test the speed of the wick by mixing a little food dye with water and then dipping the wick into it. By doing this, you’ll be able to tell:
- How fast the material is
- How far up the wick the water can go
The results of this will allow you to decide which material performs best.
You Will Need:
- A bucket or container for the plants
- A container for the nutrients
- A growing medium such as perlite, coco coir, Rockwool, etc.
- Your wicking material of choice, upwards of 2 ft of 1-inch thickness
- Electric drill with 3/4 inch bit
Additionally, you can use an air pump and air stones if you want.
The number of wicks you will need for your system will depend on its size; you might find that you need more than just one, and it’s not that unusual to have three or four wicks even on a relatively small setup. It depends on the distance that the water has to travel to get to the plant roots.
The reservoir needs to be large enough to deal with the number and size of plants you have. You’ll have to test this to see what the optimum size of the reservoir needs to be. The important thing to remember is the reservoir will need to be topped up regularly with water so that the end of your wick(s) does not rise above the water level, in which case capillary action will not work.
The Air Pump (optional)
Air pumps aren’t necessary for your wick system, but you can add this if you want to. The addition will help increase the oxygen supply into the system and help circulate the nutrients.
The Growing Medium
Your growing medium will need to have a number of properties, and one of these is the ability to retain moisture reliably. You’ll need to experiment until you get the optimum combination of growing medium and wick, which work well together. Always go for the most efficient outcome. Growing media can include such materials as coconut coir, perlite, rock wool, grow stones and starter plugs. You may find that the growing medium that is best at the start will be different from the growing medium that performs better later on.
How to Build Your Home Hydroponic Wick System
As you can see, the basic components of a simple wick system are few in number and primitive; that’s all they need to be, and that is why a wick system is so easy to build and use. Now here’s how to construct such a system in greater detail.
Drill a 2cm hole in the centre of the bottom of a container used as the growing bucket. You can use one bucket as the container and another one of the same size for the reservoir, putting the growing bucket inside the reservoir.
Put your nutrient solution in the reservoir so that the level of the solution is just below the growing bucket. Keep some of the solution back for the final adjustments later on.
Push the wick through the hole you’ve made in the growing bucket, ensuring that it’s long enough to touch the bottom of the water reservoir. You’ll need about a metre of wick altogether, two-thirds of which will be in the reservoir.
Arrange the wick inside the grow bucket and then put in the growing medium you’ve chosen so that the growing bucket is about two-thirds full. The wick will have to be near to the plants’ roots.
Now put your plant into the bucket and put more growing medium into the top third of the bucket. You should now have your full growing bucket within the other bucket, acting as the water reservoir. It’s best that no light penetrates into the reservoir, which may cause algae.
Now use the rest of the nutrient solution, which you’ve kept to one side and top up the growing bucket to make sure your plant is moist.
Maintenance of Your Wick System
You’ll find that your wick system does not need much in the way of maintenance, but you need to ensure that the capillary action is taking place correctly. You may want to add air stones. If you have experience with other hydroponic systems, you’ll notice that the wick system takes a bit longer in the growing cycle than the others.
You’ll also want to check the pH level with your pH meter. Ensure that it is somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0. Also, you need to check the EC levels, which ensures that the system does not get too salty.
You’ll want to see how to optimise your system best to make it more efficient. For this, you’ll just have to keep making sure that the wick is working as it should. Keep your water level as high as you can; the shorter the distance it needs to travel, the better.
You see that this is a very simple system, but the results will be real enough. Your wick system should deliver great results that you’ll be proud of in a very small space.
So there you go, a very simple guide on how to make your home hydroponic system.