Hydroponic NFT System
NFT System or Nutrient Film Technique is a great system for growing high quality fruits and vegetables.
This method is accomplished by allowing the nutrient solution to continuously flow over the roots, bringing with it a steady supply of air, water and nutrients.
What can go wrong with the NFT system?
With the nft system, making sure the nutrient solution is continuously flowing is the major concern. As long as this is happening, there is little else that can go wrong.
Method #1 5gal Bucket NFT System
I have used this method many times with great success.
This nft system can be purchased as a complete system, or you can buy the pre-packaged internal parts needed separately.
The only difference really is the container and basket.
The complete nft system with the container and basket is about $70.
Pre-packaged internal parts separately without the container and basket is about $20.
I usually just buy the pre-packaged internal parts separately and use my own 5gal bucket and basket.
Step by Step
Insert center piece and fill basket 2/3 with clay pellets or diatomite rocks.
Insert plant into basket and fill remaining space with pellets or rocks.
Insert basket into 5gal bucket.
Connect parts, attach and plug-in the air pump.
Measure and fill with appropriate amount of nutrient solution.
Method #2 4in PVC Pipe
I would recommend that you have at least 1-2yrs of experience with hydroponics before you attempt to build and use this type of nft system.
black vinyl tubing
2in drill bit
clay pellets or diatomite rocks
4in pvc pipe
2in net pots
4-6 5gal buckets
2-3 pieces of wood 1ft x 6ft and 1in thick
Step by Step
Cut half-moon shaped grooves 1-2ft apart along a piece of wood that your 4in PVC pipe will fit directly into. This will hold all the PVC together to prevent them system from falling apart. The length of the wood will be determined by the amount of PVC pipes you intend to use.
Cut the 4in PVC about 4-20ft long. The number of PVC pipes, length of the PVC and the amount of holes necessary will depend on how many plants you intend to grow.
Drill 2in holes evenly along the top of the 4in PVC about 1ft apart.
Place the 4in PVC pipes into the half-moon pieces of wood and set the wood up on top of 4-6 5gal buckets. Use 5gal buckets for stability unless you intend to build a frame for this system.
Cap both ends of each 4in PVC pipe to make this an enclosed system.
On one end on the underside of each 4in PVC pipe, you will then need to drill a small hole and attach 1/2in tubing to collect the excess runoff water.
Attach all these lines to one main runoff line and direct it back to the reservoir. If there is enough water coming out to cause a splash in the reservoir, then you probably won’t need to use and air pump. Obviously the choice is yours, but using one surely won’t hurt.
On the topside opposite end of the drainage holes you will need to drill a small hole and insert fittings for the nutrient solution coming from the reservoir.
Connect the water pump with 1/2in tubing or PVC pipe to a manifold that separates the water into a separate line for each 4in PVC pipe.
Fill the reservoir with nutrient solution and plug in the air pump and water pump.
Insert plants into 2in netted cups, place into pre-cut, 2in holes along the 4in PVC pipe and fill the cups with clay rocks.
Keys to Success
Success with the nft system really is all about the method you are using.
There is not much that can go wrong if you are using method #1.
Just making sure that there is enough nutrient solution available is usually all it takes to ensure a good harvest.
As the plant grows, the watering needs will change.
You may need to change the water more often late into flowering if the plant is very large.
If water stops flowing it is probably a connection problem or the ring could be clogged from salt build up.
Just do a visual check to make sure water is flowing continuously and you should be fine.
With method #2 the same rules apply. Keep a close eye on the nutrient solution and make sure the EC doesn’t change too much.
This can be caused by thirsty plants, evaporating water or both.
Occasionally you will need to check inside the 4in PVC to make sure water is flowing through the tube at a steady rate. Also try to enclose the system as best as possible to keep the humidity rate at or near 100%.
Also, remember to set the tubes at a slight slant to help prevent stagnant water from settling in the PVC. Using the nft system is an effective way to grow your plants and I”m sure you’ll be amazed with with results.