Urban farms are increasing in number. Today, cities account for 40 percent of urban farms and produce one-fifth of the world's goods. Within urban farm settings, there has also been an increase in the incorporation of hydroponic systems. This presents a well-developed coordination as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is also an indication that incorporating hydroponic systems in urban farm settings is no longer just a hobby.
Understanding the Basics of Hydroponic Systems
The concepts of hydroponic systems are deeply embedded in the use of water enriched with nutrients like vermiculite, peat moss, rockwool, perlite, or clay pellets. On a smaller scale, a hydroponic systems helps plants and flowers grow roots in water. A hydroponic systems also require natural or artificial light for growth.
Some of the plants that grow well in a hydroponic system are herbs like oregano, chives, sage, basil and rosemary. Veggies grown in hydroponic systems include:
. And more...
Fruits like grapes, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon and cantalope can also be grown in hydroponic systems.
Types of Hydroponic Systems
It is important to know there are several types of hydroponic systems in order to decide which system incorporates best in a specific urban farm setting. These include:
. Ebb and flow (sometimes referred to as Flood and Drain)
. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
. Deep Water Culture (DWC)
. Wick Systems
. Drip Systems
Note that the oldest type of hydroponic system is the Wick System which has been used for thousands of years. The easiest hydroponic system to use is the Deep Water Culture (DWC).
Before a hydroponic system can be incorporated into an urban farm setting, several factors should be considered including:
- the size of the plants you will be growing in your hydroponic system
- overall size you would like your hydroponic urban garden to be
- plant growth capacity
- amount of water required by plants
- Air temperature
- Growth cycles of the plants to be farmed in your hydroponic system.
Hydroponic Systems Begin with Design
Urban farms may be located in cities and towns that have reclaimed open spaces that were former sites of vacant lots or buildings that were demolished.
In order for these sites to incorporate hydroponic systems, access to sufficient water is needed. Other popular locations of urban gardens are seen in aerial views atop commercial buildings. This type of urban farm incorporated with a hydroponic system requires a certain amount of mechanical redesign for drainage systems and water supply lines. Some locations may also require zoning permits.
How to Incorporate Hydroponic Systems in an Urban Farm Setting
The steps to incorporate hydroponic systems in an urban farm setting begins with choosing the type of hydroponic system. For example, if the size of the urban farm is an acre or more, the hydroponic system chosen could incorporate regular farming techniques with a NTF or Ebb and Flow type of system.
This may be done by adding designated areas of the urban farm with sufficient space for an NTF growing pad with several long channels, a lid to cover the system, several types of plugs such as Macroplugs, Clipper plugs and media starter plugs such as peat moss or rockwool.
This type of system is attached to a stainless steel stand and can be several feet long, depending on the growing pad chosen.
Layout and Design of Incorporation in Urban Farms
In an urban farm, the design and layout of an NTF hydroponic system resembles a long table seen in many hot houses where potted plants grow. The system layout and design is important to accommodate the overall size of plant growth, volume of air, light, water supply, and drainage.
By designating a portion of an urban farm for a hydroponic system, it may be a good idea to link other non-system plants with the basic operation of the hydroponic system. For instance, the nutrients used to encourage hydroponic plant growth can be recycled in the incorporation process. This also applies to drainage water from the system to non-system areas of the urban farm.
In addition, spent hydroponic system media such as perlite, peat moss, vermiculite and clay pellets can be turned into non system soil as another feature of incorporation. These types of media enrich soil and require only water to reconstitute them to usefulness.
Note that rockwool cannot be recycled unless it has been sterilized and cannot be entered in non system soil. If if is sterilized, it can be reused as a base for potted plants.
One other type of beneficial media used in hydroponic systems is coconut coir. It does not need to be sterilized since it has a coco based natural bacteria.
The "How to" of incorporating hydroponic systems in an urban farm setting requires study of the basic elements of the specific hydroponic system, types of plants, size and location of the urban garden and expected results. All of these elements rely on the design of the urban farm and hydroponic system to be incorporated.