Wick Hydroponic Systems
A wick system is one of the most straightforward, low-tech hydroponic systems there is. It is one that is very easy to set up and manage and uses capillary action to move nutrients up a cotton wick to your plants.
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- Aeroponics – This is the process of growing marijuana in an air or mist environment however without using soil or any kind of medium.
- Continuous flow – Continuous flow techniques include NFT and Drip systems. The basic concept is a continuous flow of nutrients with good drainage and flow.
- Deep Water Culture (DWC) + Recirculating direct water culture systems (also known as RDWC) + BubblePonics.
- Drip Irrigation – Also known as trickle, micro or local irrigation. Uses small emitters to drip nutrients directly onto the roots or soil of your plants. Saves water and nutes, can be used with mediums and soil.
- Ebb and Flow – Or Flood and Drain hydroponics is simply a method to flood your pots with a nutrient solution at regular intervals and then let it drain back into the reservoir.
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) – Nutrients are pumped from the reservoir into a tray to form athin film of nutrients constantly flowing with the roots of your marijuana plants dipped in them. There is no growing medium.
- Wick system – One of the most basic systems to use, if you are just starting out and want to get going today, try this.
What is a Wick System?
The wick system is much easier and cheaper to set up and operate than a NFT system or DWC system and we recommend it as a great starting place if you sometimes find all the hydroponic talk a bit too technical.
A wick system is passive. This means it has no moving parts. As a passive system there is very little that can go wrong with it.
A wick system is easy to understand. Wick systems, with plants other than marijuana, are often used to make great classroom projects.
The downside of a wick system is that it is not as effective as some of the more complex hydroponic systems and not suitable for high maintenance plants or plants that have very large water requirements. The capacity of wicking to move water is limited and large marijuana plants require a lot of wick material to flourish.
Another potential downside of wick systems is that your nutrient solution remains static and can become low in oxygen. This is not always a problem as, especially if you have a very porous growing medium, much of the root mat is open to the air. The best and easiest thing to do however is to add an air pump to the nutrient reservoir which will boost oxygen levels in the solution.
Why use Wick Systems?
- Easy to understand – The concepts of a wick system are very basic and easy to comprehend;
- Simplicity – Wick systems keep it simple, less chance of things going wrong;
- Low maintenance – With a wick system it is possible to leave your plants unattended for long periods of time;
- Cheap – Very cheap to construct and run with nothing much that can go wrong.
How Does a Wick System Work?
A wick system operates on the principle of capillary action. This is the process that causes liquids to rise against gravity through another material. It is how an oil lamp works, pulling the oil up the wick as it is burnt off by the flame.
In a hydroponic wick system the wicks transport the nutrient solution to the plants roots in the same way, making water and food available to the plant at all times.
As the plant draws in the nutrients by its roots, so they are pulled up the wick from the reservoir. Because it is the plant that provides the power to lift the solution it is impossible to overwater a plant in a wick system.
Construct Your Own Wick System
Although you may be able to find an off the shelf wick system to buy, this kind of misses the point of them. Wick systems are very easy to construct. In fact, they are widely used in schools as classroom projects.
If you want to buy a hydro system, buy something more advanced. If you want to use a wick system, build your own.
To build a hydroponic wick system you will require the following:
- Your wick material – Lengths of cloth, bandages, mop fibres, felt strips, anything that absorbs water readily;
- Plant pot(s);
- Hydroponic growing medium such as vermiculite, coir or small expanded clay pellets. It is important that the growing medium is made of small parts. Growing media such as large expanded clay pebbles will give an uneven water distribution;
- A reservoir for your nutrient solution;
- A frame or stand to hold the plant pots above the nutrient reservoir;
- Soluble plant nutrients.
Putting the components of your hydroponic wick system together is easy.
- Thread the wick material through the holes at the bottom of the pot and half fill the pot with your substrate to hold them in place;
- Position your plant pot so that the bottom ends of the wicks are submerged in the nutrient solution in your nutrient reservoir;
- Place a rooted seedling or clone in the pot so that the roots are in contact with the wicks. Continue filling with the substrate to support the plant.
It is possible to make single plant systems where you have just one pot above a small reservoir. Or you can have a large growing tray filled with medium and several plants suspended above a large reservoir.
A hydroponic wick system is a great, low maintenance method of growing marijuana. It is easy to understand and economical to run. As a passive system it has no moving parts and, if run without an air pump, makes no noise. It is not as productive as some of the other hydroponic systems but is known to be effective and produce reasonable crops.