Nutrient film technique, or NFT for short, is a very simple hydroponic method. Its simplicity makes it popular for both hydroponic gardening at home and on a commercial scale. NFT hydroponics systems are usually set up to grow many plants at a time.
What Plants Grow Best in NFT Hydroponic Systems?
While you can use nutrient film technique to grow about anything but root vegetables, it works best for leafy greens and small plants. I enjoy growing different types of lettuce, spinach, and herbs in my NFT systems.
NFT systems do not work well for large plants, especially heavy ones. The tubes or channels that make up the system to not provide a lot of room for a large root system to grow. Too much root can slow the rate of the nutrient solution flowing through. Larger heavy plants could cause the channels to sag, having a negative impact on the nutrient flow as well.
How Do NFT hydroponic Systems Work?
Nutrient film technique usually consists of tubes of channels side by side in rows. The rows are slightly tilted, so gravity pulls nutrients the length of the pipe, draining down the opposite side and back down into the reservoir. The Pump is always on, constantly running the nutrient solution through the system.
Plants can be secured in inserts or in grow medium. Roots dangle in the channel allowing them access to oxygen and the nutrient solution flowing at the bottom of the channel. Since this method runs nutrient solution through the system 24/7, there is no need for timers.
Some Things To Keep In Mind When Using Nutrient Film Technique
When using NFT it is important to pay attention to both the rate of the nutrient solution flowing through the channel and the angle at which the channel is sloped. There are a few variables that come into play when determining the best flow rate and slope.
Too much nutrient solution flowing through the channel and your system could overflow. Not enough can mean your plant’s roots might not be able to reach the solution. Make sure to let your system run for awhile to make sure you have the right rate of flow.
The angle at which your channels or tubes are set up has a similar effect on your system. Systems with too much of a slope will cause the plants at water inlet will not get enough solution and your system may overflow if the drain can’t keep up. As with the rate of flow, it’s best to let your system run for a while before adding plants to make sure you have the correct angle of slope.