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The challenge once you have decided to grow plants hydroponically is deciding which method is suitable for you. There are six different types of hydroponics, each with its benefits and drawbacks. One of the easiest and most effective hydroponics systems for the first-time hydroponic gardener is the deep water culture system.
Hydroponics uses nutrient solutions instead of soil to grow plants. Some hydroponics systems actively deliver the nutrient solution to the plant roots to stimulate growth. While other systems operate by simply letting the plant roots sit in the nutrient water indefinitely. Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponic systems do a little of both.
With the DWC hydroponic systems, the plants sit on top of the tray with their roots hanging inside. DWC hydroponic system is similar to nutrient film technique NFT hydroponic systems.
Read on to find out the deep water culture advantages and disadvantages and everything you need to know about this hydroponics system.
What Is Deep Water Culture (DWC) System
Deep Flow Technique (DFT), also known as a Deep-Water Culture (DWC) system or floating raft system, is one of the simplest forms of hydroponics systems and is easy to operate. With a deep water culture system, the plants are contained in a net pot suspended from the lid, and the roots are suspended in a nutrient solution.
You must monitor the Deep Flow Technique (DFT) system to maintain the necessary water level, electrical conductivity, pH, and dissolved oxygen levels. This hydroponics system requires a large amount of water and nutrients to operate successfully.
The plants’ roots system is entirely underwater, and an air pump supplies the oxygen. The roots of the plant grow into fertilizer solution and water.
In addition, Deep Water Culture (DWC) System is the purest and simplest form of hydroponics and is an excellent system for beginners. The foundation of DWC is that your plants are growing in aerated, nutrient-enriched, temperature-controlled reverse osmosis water.
A massive advantage to DWC is that your plant’s roots will become huge and are less prone to root diseases. There are some challenges when growing with DWC. For instance, if you are not constantly providing aeration, that can cause algae and root rot.
How Does Deep Water Culture (DWC) System?
Every DWC system has the following essential components:
- Water container or reservoir
- Air pump
- Hydroponics nutrients
- Air hose and air stones for bubble generation
- Growing media to support the plant in the basket
- Grow nets or baskets to contain the plants
- Equipment to monitor the pH and EC of the nutrient solution
The first step is to connect the air pump, the air stone, and the tubing. Put the air stone at the bottom of the reservoir, with the tubing going out to the pump located adjacent to the reservoir.
An excellent way to suspend your grow nets or baskets is to cut a Styrofoam sheet to the size of the top of the reservoir. Then, you can cut holes so that the net pots sit securely in these holes.
Next, prepare your plants by placing them in the grow nets or baskets and secure them with your preferred growing media. After this, prepare your nutrient solution and add it to the reservoir.
Finally, place your plants to sit with their roots well immersed in the nutrient solution. If possible, try to maintain around 1.5’’ ( 12.7 cm) of the roots exposed to the air to prevent the risk of the stems becoming immersed in the water in the future.
Ensure the water solution has enough bubbles to match boiling water. These bubbles are essential in oxygenating the water and delivering adequate oxygen to your plant’s roots to remain healthy.
The system will need to closely monitor your DWC hydroponic systems for a few days after setting it up to ensure that the roots receive enough water. In addition, the pH and EC of the nutrient solution will need to be monitored carefully and adjusted as necessary.
It is essential to check the water level regularly. It is worth checking the air pump operation more often, as the roots only get oxygen from there, which is a critical factor in successful hydroponic cultivation. In addition, it is recommended to clean the system regularly to avoid possible clogging or infection.
What Are The Deep Water Culture Advantages and Disadvantages?
Now that you have a good idea of how a DWC System works, by now. Let us now discuss the deep water culture advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages of a Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System
- Easy to Set Up. Deep water culture systems are easy and simple to set up and only require very few parts that you can put together in a short period. And the only moving part is an air pump, which is easy to configure.
- Deep water culture systems can grow plants particularly fast with powerful root systems. With a Deep water culture system, your plants’ roots are always in direct contact with the most things they need: oxygen and nutrients.
- It is low maintenance costs and inexpensive to maintain once you set up the system.
- Deep water culture systems are simple and easy to monitor as long as you do it frequently and ensure you understand the basics.
- The startup costs of setting up a small DWC system are minimal compared to other hydroponic systems.
- Not Fragile Compared to the NFT system because power failure does not disrupt irrigation.
- Sharing is caring unless your plants have a root problem. Then, in a simple DWC setup, the nutrient solution is isolated to a single plant, which helps contain potential contamination outbreaks of root disease.
- Reliable: If a power outage or equipment malfunctioning, you don’t need to worry because the DFT systems hold enough water.
- And after you have learned the basics of setting up and monitoring a deep water culture hydroponics system, it is relatively easy to scale the system up and use your gained knowledge to grow various plants.
Disadvantages of a Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System:
- Nutrient concentration and fluctuations in pH, which is a specific problem in small-scale systems, where fast-growing plants can lead to rapid changes in concentration of the nutrient solution and the pH, quickly causing problems for the health of your plants.
- It is difficult to calibrate, especially in smaller systems, because of the low volume of nutrient solution, making it more challenging to adjust the pH and concentration of the nutrient solution accurately.
- Unexpected swings in the characteristics of the nutrient solution (because of imprecise calibration) can lead to negative impacts on your plants.
- The water temperature is not easy to maintain within the target range since it will be quickly influenced by the ambient temperature of the growing environment.
- Constantly oxygenating the water of a deep water culture system is crucial. Because without actively oxygenating the water of a deep water culture system, your plant roots will not survive sitting in water that is not.
- An air pump failure or a power outage will quickly lead to oxygen starvation and the death of your plants’ roots.
- DWC systems require more manual labor, especially for larger setups. Each DWC bucket needs to be drained, filled, and regularly checked during the growing cycle.
However, you can prevent these drawbacks by carefully setting it up and maintaining your deep water culture system.
What Plants Can You Grow With The DWC hydroponic systems?
- Plants not needing to flower are best suited to be grown in deep water culture systems.
- Lettuce and other herbs are exceptionally suitable because they have very accelerated growth rates compared to soil-based growing.
- Kale, tomatoes, chard, peppers, and collard greens are excellent plants to grow in deep water culture systems.
How to Maintain a DWC System?
Maintaining a DWC system is pretty simple.
- Keep light away from the nutrient solution, so algae don’t take over.
- Wrapping your reservoir in aluminum foil works pretty well and also helps regulate temperature.
- Also, change your nutrient solution (drain and clean the reservoir) regularly. Guidance on how often to do this varies based on crop and your desired activity level. For DWC lettuce, you can do it about once a month.
- Keep the air pump running, get the plants plenty of light, and you are good to grow.
DWC hydroponic systems are an excellent hydroponic gardening method increasing in popularity, both at home and commercially. It is easy and inexpensive to set up and needs low maintenance if you build it properly. Above all, DWC hydroponic systems are perfectly suitable for beginners hydroponics.
These are deep water culture advantages and disadvantages; however, as you can see, the benefits of a Deep Water Culture hydroponics system outweigh its drawbacks.
By keeping in mind a few factors such as oxygenation, pH level, and nutrient level, you can build a garden that quickly provides you with a high yield.