Understanding the Nutrient Film Technique for Home-Based Hydroponics Growers

Interested in growing your own vegetables and fruits at home? If an outdoor garden isn’t possible, or you want a year-round growing season, then a hydroponics system may be the answer. Hydroponics is a way of growing plants that uses water and enriched nutrient solutions instead of using soil. However, there are numerous different systems and techniques out there, and you’ll need to make an informed decision about which is right for you. One option you’ll discover is called Nutrient Film Technique or NFT, or the nutrient film technique. In this guide, we’ll explore Nutrient Film Technique systems, their capabilities, benefits, and what crops you can grow with this type of system.

If you are new to the hydroponic growing system, you might be wondering what a nutrient film technique is or what a nutrient film technique (NFT) hydroponic system is. Well, you are on the right page. Because we have collected information to answer you questions about the general hydroponic nutrients such as; how to grow hydroponics for beginners, how do hydroponic work, what are the nutrients for hydroponics, how to build an nutrient film technique hydroponic system, and more answers for your questions about NFT and hydroponics?

What is Nutrient Film Technique ?

Most of us would dream of having a garden or a beautiful green space in our homes. But not all homes have a wide backyard to plant delicate flowers and vegetables. That is why soilless culture or what we call now as the home hydroponic systems became a hit. 

So, what is a nutrient film technique? In hydroponic systems, soil is replaced with nutrient-rich water. Plants grow in this water just as well as in soil. However, there are different techniques of providing the plants you grow with the nutrients they need. The Nutrient Film Technique system or the NFT hydroponic system is similar to the ebb and flow setups, but rather than relying on slow water movements, the pump keeps the nutrient solution continuously moving past plant roots. This NFT setup, NFT garden, or any home hydroponic system is often used to grow smaller and quick-growing plants like herbs and lettuces.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) hydroponic system all share a similar setup. At the top is the growing area. At one end, there’s an inlet for allowing the hydroponic nutrient solution to enter. The thin film hydroponics ensure that the upper part of the overlaying roots will remain dry and have access to the oxygen air. At the other, there’s a drain tube. This leads down to a reservoir where more nutrient solution is held, and where a submersible pump is installed. The pump moves nutrient solution up into the upper reservoir, where it flows over the plant roots, down the drain tube, and back into the main reservoir to start the process over again.

Nutrient Film Technique is using an NFT tube to hold the plants. NFT tube is usually made of PVC and serves as a pot for every microgreens and sapling. Making an NFT hydroponic setup at home is also possible as long as you have equipment such as a PVC pipe for the body of the NFT tube, a grow light, storage bin, and plastic netted pots. The initial part of making your NFT setup for your NFT hydroponics system might take a lot of time at first. But it is more convenient in length compared to the maintenance of using soil.

Unlike some other setups, Nutrient Film Technique systems are active, which means they have moving parts. These will suffer from wear and tear over time, eventually requiring replacement. 

Benefits of Nutrient Film Technique Systems

While all hydroponic growing systems offer advantages over in-ground growing setups, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) systems deliver a few unique benefits. These include:

  • Does not soak plant roots
  • Ensures upper roots have access to oxygen to fuel faster growth
  • Thin film of water limits effects of evaporation
  • Less waste as nutrient film flows directly across roots

These advantages, coupled with the relative affordability of building this type of setup, make nutrient film technique systems popular with those just getting into growing plants using smart hydroponic systems.

Grow Time Considerations

Grow time is one of the most important things to think about when investing in a hydroponics system. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) systems offer a faster growth time than other setups, thanks to the fact that the plants’ upper roots have access to oxygen, and the lightweight nature of the plants best suited to these types of systems, which we’ll explore in a separate section. The plant’s growth time is usually just a week or two. However, understand that a Nutrient Film Technique system is not going to provide you with all the plants you need to eat, because these setups are not ideal for use with fruiting plants. They’re better used with greens and other plants where you consume the stems and leaves. Microgreens are an ideal option, but you can also use this type of system to grow a number of other plants.

How To DIY Organic Hydroponic Nutrients

In the hydroponic grow system, Nutrient Film Technique is essential. And to have success in NFT technique hydroponics, you will be needing usually expensive nutrient mixes. Good thing there are cheaper homemade recipes. You can now DIY organic hydroponic nutrients at home. Here are some of the organic hydroponic nutrients formula you can make at home from thebydroponicsplanet.com.

NFT Hydroponic Formula #1

This formula is sufficient for a 5-gallon container full of water and is intended for a non-circulating system.

  • Masterblend Tomato 4-18-38: 10 g
  • Calcium Nitrate 15.5-0-0: 10 g
  • Epsom Salt: 5 g

NFT Hydroponic Formula #2

Make sure that your container is large enough to hold a gallon of solution. Once mixed, you just add 10 grams of the liquid for each gallon of water you have in your tank.

  • Potassium nitrate: 255g
  • Calcium Sulfate: 198g 
  • Magnesium Sulfate: 170g
  • Ammonium Sulfate: 43g
  • Monocalcium Sulfate: 113g
  • Iron Sulfate: 1/2 teaspoon

NFT Hydroponic Formula #3

This formula is quite more simple and doable organic plant nutrients hydroponics for your NFT setup. Just make sure to stir the ingredients until it dissolves completely.

  • A gallon of water.
  • 2 teaspoons of a water-soluble commercial organic fertilizer.
  • 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts.

Plants Best Suited for Nutrient Film Technique Systems

As mentioned, Nutrient Film Technique hydroponics systems are better for specific types of plants. Ideally, you’ll grow lightweight plants that do not have heavy root masses, or plants that bear fruits. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, you want lightweight plants in these hydroponics systems because there is little support for larger, heavier plants. Also, the larger the root mass, the more nutrient solution will be blocked and absorbed, creating problems for other plants in the system.

Second, the thin nutrient film is not well suited for the nutritional demands of fruiting plants. These plants require very high levels of nutrients to grow their fruits, and this will deplete your nutrient solution quickly, requiring that you regularly replenish it. 

So, what plants should you consider for use in Nutrient Film Technique systems? Some of those you might want to consider include:

  • Any type of microgreens, even fruiting plants, as they’re consumed before they mature to bearing age
  • Greens like Bibb, butter, and leaf lettuce
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli rabe 
  • A wide range of herbs

With that being said, some fruiting plants are better suited to these types of setups than others. For instance, commercial growers use a type of Nutrient Film Technique system to grow strawberries. Modifications to the system, such as adding trellises, can allow you to grow heavier plants that bear fruit, such as tomatoes or squash. However, this leads to other problems, including fast depletion of nutrients in the solution.

If you’re considering creating your own Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) setup, the golden rule when it comes to choosing plants is to choose those that have short growth periods, limited root masses, and mild nutritional requirements. 

Drawbacks of Nutrient Film Technique Systems

While Nutrient Film Technique hydroponics systems offer quite a few benefits, including affordability and ease of set up, they do have a few drawbacks that you should be aware of. These include the following:

  • Not well suited to growing larger plants, which limits what can be grown
  • Continuous nutrient delivery is not ideal for mature flowering or fruiting plants
  • System is dependent on electricity and moving parts (pumps)
  • System must run 24 hours per day, so power outages or pump failures could cause plant death
  • Growing fruiting plants even in a modified Nutrient Film Technique system depletes nutrients very quickly, requiring near constant monitoring

In Conclusion

When it’s all said and done, hydroponic systems allows you to grow plants in climates where they would not otherwise survive, in areas where you do not have room for an outdoor garden, and during fall and winter months when outdoor plants would not survive, in areas where you do not have room for an outdoor garden, and during fall and winter months when outdoor plants would not survive.

If you want to pursue hydroponics planting, you will be needing starter pack materials. There are NFT tubes or hydroponic channels for sale on your local gardening store or online. Hydroponic channels are the backbone of home hydroponic systems. Because you are not using any soil for your NFT hydroponic system, hydroponic channels will be the support of your plants.

Nutrient Film Technique systems are excellent options for those just getting started because they are relatively affordable to set up and can be used to grow a wide range of leafy greens, herbs, and other plants. However, they are not ideal for growing fruiting plants and ultimately will be just one of several types of growing systems you will require if you’re attempting to become self-sufficient.