If you want to switch from soil-based gardening to growing plants in a hydroponic system, it could be tough to decide on the best system. Wick system hydroponics make a great option for beginners, as it’s easy to assemble and requires minimal effort.
The wick system works best for home use, and the best thing is – you might even be able to build it with items you have on hand. Care to know a bit more about this simple, yet effective hydroponic system? We’ll lead the way with this guide on everything you’ll need to know!
How Do Hydroponic Wick Systems Work?
The best thing about wick system hydroponics is that you can build your system easily from items you have at home. You can use a plastic bottle instead of a nutrient tank, and a variety of wick materials for the capillary action.
This system is plain and simple, and by using the wick to transfer the nutrient water to the growing medium in which your plant is placed, the nutrients reach the root zone. There’s no need for a timer and/or pump, as the capillary action occurs constantly.
You can optionally use an aeration system, but it’s not essential for this process. It’s possible to provide enough oxygenation to the plants without the air pump, by simply using enough growing media.
Because of this, the plant’s roots are not constantly underwater, and they have enough oxygen supply to grow. Unlike other hydroponics like Ebb and Flow, DWC, or NFT, the water isn’t directly in contact with the roots.
Instead, the wick transfers the nutrients to the growing media that the roots are planted in. So, the medium soaked in the nutrient solution will feed the roots with enough nutrients for proper growth.
There are two major benefits of the wick system – it’s the simplest hydroponics system to build and maintain, and you can grow different plant varieties depending on the size of your system.
What You’ll Need To Set Up a Hydroponic Wick System
Although wick systems are fairly simple, you still need to know how to build one that suits your needs. These are the main things you’ll need to set up wick system hydroponics:
- Wick material
- Nutrient reservoir
- Grow tank
- Growing medium
Once you set the system up, it requires minimum effort since it’s a passive hydroponic system. That means that there are no moving parts, and you won’t need to use any electronic devices unless you rely on an air pump in the reservoir.
Still, you can provide enough oxygenation without the air pump as the upper part of the roots won’t be submerged under water.
Choosing The Wick Material
The first step of the process is to find a material with wicking ability. It’s a capillary action that transfers the water from one side of the wick submerged in the nutrient-rich water, to another part that’s placed into the growing media.
You can use cotton rope, nylon rope, felt material, paper towels, or even cut your old clothes. The most important thing is the absorbing capacity of the wick, and the number of wicks you are going to place in the system.
It’s best to place at least two wicks into the system, and you can place them on different sides of the growing medium. This way, the roots will be surrounded by nutrient-rich growing media that leads the nutrients to them.
It doesn’t have to be a thick layer of material for the wick hydroponics to work – it’s enough to place two or three thin wicks in a smaller system.
Nutrient Reservoir Options
For the wick system, you won’t need a large container to grow a few plants at home. Of course, you can use larger containers paired with large grow tanks for growing dozens of plants, but this system is best suited for a lower number of plants.
If you are using it at home, it’s enough to use a plastic bottle, and cut it in half. The bottom of the bottle can be filled with nutrients and used as a reservoir, while the upper part can be turned upside down and used as a grow tank.
In this case, you can pull the wick through the opening and your system is ready to go with some growing medium in the grow tray. On the other hand, you can use an old aquarium and similar objects for a reservoir in a hydroponic wick system.
The trick is to place the reservoir as close as possible to the grow tray. That’s why the example with a plastic bottle works so well for single plants – the wick can swiftly transfer the nutrients into the growing media.
You can optionally use an air stone and pump to add more oxygen into the nutrients, although it’s mostly not necessary with these hydroponic systems.
What Can You Use For A Grow Tank?
Since hydroponic wick systems are easily customizable, you can use various items for a grow tank. From plastic bottles in smaller systems to plastic tubs or customized options – you can choose what’s best for you.
The material isn’t that relevant, since you’ll just need to drill holes for the wicks to go through. The grow tank should be placed right above the nutrient reservoir, so the capillary action can work with greater efficiency.
It’s best to use a container that can hold enough growing media and to drill holes for more wicks to come through.
Growing Media For Hydroponic Wick System
The wick method works great with different sorts of growing mediums you can use. One of the best options for a growing medium in this system is coconut coir. It’s a high-WHC medium, which means that it absorbs water very well.
This is especially important for the wick hydroponic system since the growing medium absorbs the nutrient solution without overwatering. Since this is not an active system, you can just place coco coir in the grow tray and it will keep the nutrients absorbed for some time.
With high-WHC growing media, you can occasionally just top-up the nutrient mix as the wicks transfer it into the grow tray.
Another great option is perlite as it also tends to keep the nutrients absorbed for quite some time. On the other hand, vermiculite is just as effective as the previous two options.
Vermiculite has a high absorbing capacity and works great with the wick method as it slowly releases the nutrients into the root zone of your plants. Overall, for smaller wick systems, you can even use expanded clay pebbles, although they are not as good in nutrient retention as the previous three mediums.
What Can You Grow With Wick Hydroponics?
Wick systems are convenient for growing smaller plants primarily. Some of the best options include lettuce, rosemary, mints, and herbs. Larger plants that require much more water are not the best solution for this system, since some growing media slowly releases the absorbed nutrients.
These are the best plants to grow with the wick system overall:
- Collard greens
Leafy vegetables succeed the best with the wick system, as well as large plants that don’t require as much water as some plants like tomatoes.
The wick system allows you to grow plants hydroponically without having to actively water the plants or set a timer for the process. It’s somewhat of a self-watering system, making it perfect for home use and growers that don’t have the time to observe the process constantly.
You can use anything from a nylon rope to old T-shirt material for the wicks, and having so many customization options is the best part of the wicking hydroponic system. Hopefully, our guide has provided enough info so you can start your own hydroponic gardening with the wick system!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
How does a passive wick system work?
The wick system is one of the simplest hydroponic systems as it’s a self-watering method. The water and nutrients are transferred from the reservoir into the growing media and the root zone of the plants in a growing container. You can grow plants like leafy greens, and larger plants that don’t need their roots submerged in the water at all times.
How much does a wick system cost?
Out of all the hydroponic systems, the wick system is perhaps the most affordable one to build at home. You can use household items like old cotton shirt material for the wicks, and plastic bottles for a nutrient container.
What growing mediums are best for wick hydroponics?
You should use growing media with high absorbing capacities like coco fiber, vermiculite, and perlite. Also, if you are making a DIY plastic bottle wick system suitable for a single plant, you can use expanded clay pebbles.
How do plant roots access nutrients in the wick system?
The nutrient mix is transferred into the grow tray with wicks, and the growing media absorbs the water with a nutrient solution. As the plant roots are deep into the media, they easily access the nutrients absorbed by the growing mediums.