Hydroponic is a new growing technology that can produce clean, healthy plants inside the home without using soil. But it requires some technical knowledge and need high initial cost at the beginning. There are several techniques in hydroponic systems. Wick systems are one of those systems. This is suitable for less demanding crops like lettuce and herbs.
The simplest hydroponic system is wick system. There are two main categories of hydroponic systems. They are active and passive systems. Among them, wicking system is passive type one. This system has some moving parts. Pumps and motors are not used in this system. Wick system can use for low maintenance plants like herbs, leafy vegetables etc. Because these plants need low water and nutrient requirement.
Working process of the wick system
Capillary action is used in wick system and it is natural. This happens due to the water movement through closed tubes. Naturally water drops are very sticky. They get stick to the surface of the tubes. Because of that capillary action is created. When water is put into a thin tube, water sticks to the tube’s wall. Then it creates a curved surface on the top of the water molecules. It is known as meniscus. Internal bonds between water molecules, create surface tension. So, water drops remain. Water is moving upwards due to strongness of adhesive force among water molecule and the capillary walls than surface tension.
Plants in wick systems get water to the plant from the water source by using this mechanism. There is one or two wicks to a plant by connecting with water source. It is placed below the growing surface. So, it gives maximum effectiveness. Wicks are using to move water and nutrients from water source to the plant with the help of capillary action.
Steps of building a wick system
There are five components of a wick system. Water source, container with a plant, growing media, wicking material strips and nutrient solution are those five things.
First, water source should fill with both water and nutrients. Then one wick is placed in the growing media. Next pot is placed. The wick is connected with pot to the water source.
When selecting a wicking material, it is not to be an advanced one. People can use things in households. Nylon ropes, wool strips, propylene strips, strips make from old clothes are some simple things which can use as wicking material.
Water moving speed is depending on the length of wick. When the wick length is shorter water can move faster and easier. Required number of wicks vary according to the plant species and the water requirement of the plant. At least two wicks are required for a plant in this system.
Growing medium should have high absorbing ability and water retention ability. Because water movement is very slow in wick system than other hydroponic systems. Coconut coir, vermiculite and perlite are the commonly used growing mediums. Other soilless growing mediums also can use. In here, farmer can grow several plants in a single pot. The water in water source should renew with fresh water for every few weeks. If not, there can be build excess nutrition.
The water source must fill with water to the top. Because efficiency of this system is depended on the distance between water and the wick. Also, it should have good aeration system. Then plant roots are never dry. Water source should be clean. If not, algae can be grown in the water.
Advantages of wick system
Beginners can easily access to this system because it is the simplest form of hydroponics. And it requires low maintenance and energy inputs. So, it is cheap. This system is suitable for smaller plants.
Disadvantages of wick system
This system is not suitable for large plants, which consume lot of nutrients and water. Also, toxic nutrients can build up in the media.