The Wick System in hydroponics is one of the environment and beginner-friendly techniques to grow passive hydroponic plants. As the name suggests, it operates by the process of wicking and capillary action to feed nutrient solution to hydroponic plants.
However, the wick system doesn’t work for the active form of hydroponics. So, you must start growing passive hydroponic plants with a beginner-friendly wick system. Those passive plants could be like herbs and lettuces etc.
The Wicking method is the most popular besides the Kratky method in passive hydroponics. This very post is going to discuss the steps and costs involved in the wick system and the related pros and cons.
How To Build A Wick System In Hydroponics (Step-By-Step Guide)
The working technique is also essential to understand the materials and steps required for the purpose.
Remember that the working principle behind the system is dependent upon capillary action. It is an everyday natural, a phenomenon connected with the movement of water across the closed tubes.
Let’s study several examples related to capillary action in everyday life:
- The wicking technique can also be referred to as when certain fabrics extract sweat from our skin.
- The absorption of water by paper towels.
- The absorption of water and nutrients from the soil by the plants via roots and stems.
It means the wick system in hydroponics works without any requirement of pumps, motors, or other moving parts. However, the use of an air pump is optional to provide oxygen to the roots of plants.
The capillary action is quite sticky because of the nature of water drops. They stick to the side of the walls after going through the porous or thin tubes. This sticking action will lead to a curved surface known as meniscus at the top of the water.
The porosity of the material of tubes will decide the duration of capillary action. These water droplets are further held together in an internal bond between the molecules to create a kind of surface tension.
So, this is the entire process occuring during the wick system in hydroponics.
Materials Required To Set Up A Wick System In Hydroponics
Here are a few items that you need to set up a wick system in hydroponics.
- A container or bucket for the reservoir
- A container or bucket for plants
- Nutrient solution
- Wicking growing media such as perlite, hydroton, coco coir, or vermiculite
- Strips of rope, strings, or suitable wicking material
- Hydroponic plant seeds (Here, we are taking lettuce seeds)
- Craft knife
- Hammer or drill with nails
- Cutting mat
What Are Wicks?
Wicks, in themselves, are a very important part of the system. First of all, they should be made of good absorbent material to absorb nutrients and moisture and transfer them from the nutrient solution to the roots.
For the purpose, you can test different materials and choose what works well for you. Furthermore, the selected material should be resistant to rotting.
You can use several kinds of common materials such as propylene felt strips, fibrous rope, mop head strands, rayon rope, braided polyurethane yarn, nylon rope, cotton rope, wool rope, and fabric strips from old clothes, etc.
You are required to use 2-4 wicks if it is a bit large hydroponics system. Otherwise, the requirement of wicks will be depend on how you structure the system, growing media, and types of passive hydroponic plants.
What Kind Of Reservoir Is Required To Set Up A Wick System In Hydroponics?
You can either choose a small or large reservoir for the wick system in hydroponics. Make sure that you maintain the reservoir about the level of nutrient solution and cleanliness. Don’t let the reservoir ever run dry!
You need to top off the reservoir with the fresh nutrient solution whenever required. There is also a need to flush out the growing media with plain fresh water to avoid the buildup of excess nutrient salts.
What Is The Ideal Growing Medium For A Wick Hydroponics System?
You must pick a growing medium that holds and absorbs moisture very well. It is the medium where plants take water and nutrients from. So, you can use perlite, coco coir chips, and vermiculite, etc for the very purpose of growing medium.
Growstones are also a good option with great growing capacity.
Steps To Setup A Wick System In Hydroponics
Let us discuss the steps to build a wick system in hydroponics as shown below.
Step 1: Mark, Measurements, and Cutting
Take the 2-liter water bottle as a container for reservoir and plants. Measure it from the bottom at around 8-inches. You can use a permanent marker for measurement. Place the mark of 8-inches on both sides at equidistant spots for even measurement.
Follow the marks and cut the top of the bottle with a craft knife. Invert the top cut-off part and place it in the bottom to fit.
Step 2: Drill The Bottle Cap
There are two ways to drill a hole in the cap. You can either use an electric drill or hammer for the purpose. It is simple and quick to use an electric drill whereas you need to use a craft knife and nail with the hammer.
Leave this drilled cap on the top of the bottle. Also, make sure to use a protective workbench and avoid any damage to the tabletop.
Step 3: Cutting For Placement Of Wick
Now, you have to loop the string depending upon its thickness. You need a minimum of ¼-inch thickness in the string to draw enough moisture into the growing media.
Cut it around 12-inches length of the string to loop several times whenever required. Push this string through the cap while keeping it half above and half below. Knot this string from within the cap as close as possible.
Step 4: Add Nutrient Solution & Growing Media
Mix up the growing media and combine a 1/3rd cup of perlite with 2/3rd cup of coco coir. Place this growing media over the top portion of the bottle while holding it into the wick. Also, make sure to extend the height of the top portion of the bottle.
Now, you need to remove this top portion and set the bottle aside. Mix 1 tablespoon of suitable nutrient solution with 4 cups of water. Mark and check the required height of the water and submerge the wick.
Add the water up to mark and place back the top portion over the bottom portion of the bottle.
Step 5: Plant Seeds
Plant seeds within the specified depth as mentioned over the package. Set this hydroponics unit out in the sun and watch your seeds grow.
Click here to Look at our post on the best plants that you can grow hydroponically.
So, these are some simple steps to follow while building a wick system in hydroponics.
Pros & Cons
There could be merits as well as demerits of wick system in hydroponics which we are going to discuss below.
Pros In Hydroponics Of Wick System
- The level of nutrient solution in the reservoir is always up to the required level that it does not need to travel too far and reach the roots of plants.
- The wick system in hydroponics is very quick and easy to setup.
- You will require minimal maintenance after the overall setup.
- The porous growing medium used will enhance the level of oxygen absorption of plants.
- You can add more than one wick to satisfy the water requirement level of plants.
- The system requires less space utilization and can be effectively used for small plants as a decorative element.
Cons Of Wick System In Hydroponics
- Unless you maintain cleanliness and wash the system regularly, there could be lots of salt build up in the present growing media.
- There may be chances that the growing medium will not properly absorb the water.
- The wick system in hydroponics is ideal for small and passive hydroponic plants only.
So, you must conclude that the wick system should be used for small setups such as small lettuce garden or small herb garden. On the other hand, the ebb and flow or NFT techniques are suitable to grow a large vegetable garden in a hydroponics system.
How Much Does A Wick System Cost?
Building a DIY wick system as mentioned in the steps given above will not cost that much as you are required to buy the wick, suitable nutrient solution, and the growing medium.
You can ascertain the cost of these items individually to know the overall cost of the wick system setup. So, this overall setup will cost you an average of $100-$120.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
This is how the wick system in hydroponics works and be installed. As discussed earlier, it is highly effective to make a DIY wick hydroponics setup. The DIY setup could be more functional and economical than purchasing a machinery setup.
However, there are not such wholesome setups available for wick system hydroponics. Things such as containers and wicks can be easily found at home. So, you are only required to purchase a nutrient solution and a growing medium to get it ready.
The wick system in hydroponics is the easiest and beginner-friendly technique to grow passive hydroponic plants such as lettuce and herbs. If you are also thinking to grow these plants in your home, consider trying the wick system with regards to easy setup, little maintenance, and economical nature.