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    Best Hydroponic Systems for Cucumber Greenhouses to Increase Yield

    Greetings, glass gardeners! It's that time of year again - the call to plant cucumbers. As many people have found out in past seasons, keeping this plant in the middle of the ground has many challenges. Diseases spread quickly, weeds want constant war, but crop yields are often disappointing. Therefore I sing the praises of hydroponics within glass walls. Using water rich in the elixir of life on bare soil will provide unparalleled care for the condition and maximum benefit from the plants.

    In this story, the three methods that I find most beneficial for cucumbers I want to share - ebb and flow, deep water culture, and nutrient film technique. I will describe everything, design, maintenance required, strengths and weaknesses. In the end, whichever suits your glass garden best, the cost and labor will become apparent.

    Come on, let's start the cake growth!

    Ebb and Flood Hydroponics for Cucumber

    Also called Flood and Drain, this method delivers herb-rich water directly to the roots at specified times. Each plant finds its home in a soilless medium such as rock wool or coconut flesh placed on a bench inside a wet table where the liquid waits below. A pump floods the entire board for five to ten minutes every one to two hours, then the liquid flows back into the wet area through holes in the board's skin. A wet cloth or fluid tunnel can also direct water to the roots.

    The power of this craft is found in the minimal initial effort and simple design that allows a wide variety of plants to find a home. But the risk comes from over-wetting fragile plants such as cucumbers, and the inability to take care of each plant's wetting needs alone. Workers must also monitor reservoir levels and fill or replace fluid every seven days. Overall, this is a fair method for callow gardeners but may not maximize yields for more experienced glass growers.

    Building Your Own Ebb and Flow Table

    To build a basic ebb and flow system, construct wooden or concrete flood tables approximately 4'x8' in size with a 2-3" lip around the edges. Drill 1/2" holes every 6" along the bottom for drainage. Lay down weed barrier fabric and add a 1-2" layer of expanded clay pellets, perlite or gravel for aeration. Place net pots containing rockwool or coco coir plugs with seedlings on top. Plumb a submersible pump to a 55-gallon reservoir below. Program it to flood for 5 minutes every 2 hours. Monitor pH and EC weekly to maintain balanced nutrient levels.

    Deep Water Culture Hydroponics for Cucumber

    In DWC systems, plant roots are suspended directly in an oxygenated nutrient solution held in containers such as 5-gallon buckets. An air pump runs an air stone at the bottom of each bucket to oxygenate the water and promote healthy root growth. Net pots filled with an inert growing medium sit on top with plant roots dangling into the solution below. Individual aeration and nutrient dosing allows for precise control of each plant's needs.

    Pros are maximized oxygen delivery to roots for explosive growth, easy scouting/treatment of individual plants, and higher yields than other methods. Cons include more labor to monitor reservoir pH/EC levels daily and replace solutions weekly. Spills are also possible if aeration fails or buckets overflow. Overall it provides the most productive results but requires the most hands-on management.

    Building Your Own DWC System

    Start with 5-gallon buckets spaced 1-2 feet apart on shelving or tables in the greenhouse. Drill a single 1/2" hole near the bottom of each for an air line. Suspend net pots containing seedlings over the holes so roots dangle freely. Add an air pump, air stones and tubing to oxygenate each reservoir. Monitor pH and EC daily to ensure balanced nutrient levels. Top off water lost to evaporation and replace full reservoir solutions weekly. Consider running the system on a floating raft to contain any spills. With diligent care, DWC will maximize your cucumber yields!

    Nutrient Film Technique Hydroponics for Cucumber

    NTF systems circulate a thin film of nutrient-rich water continuously over the plant roots using a submersible pump and gravity flow design. Plants are grown in inert media within channels, gutters or racks that form a looped water system draining back to the reservoir. The thin water layer keeps roots well-aerated and constantly bathed in fresh nutrients. Individual channels allow precision control similar to DWC. Automated top-up systems maintain consistent water levels.

    Pros are high oxygen delivery and nutrient uptake for premium growth. Cons include higher startup costs than flood/drain or DWC. Precise watering is also required as roots are always submerged. Overall it provides the most hands-off operation once established but has a steeper learning curve than other methods. With the right design, NFT maximizes yields.

    Constructing an NFT Channel System

    Start with a 55-gallon reservoir filled with balanced nutrient solution. Elevate 4'x8' growing channels made of wood, plastic or other non-corrosive material at a slight downward grade towards the reservoir. Place net pots containing seedlings along the channels 1-2' apart. Connect a submersible pump at the high end to circulate solution through the channels and back to the reservoir. Install an automated top-up system to the reservoir. Monitor pH/EC levels 1-2 times weekly to maintain nutrient balance as the system matures. With some tinkering, NFT will deliver bountiful cucumber harvests!


    In conclusion, all three hydroponic methods - ebb and flow, DWC, and NFT - are excellent options for greenhouse cucumber production when designed and maintained properly. Consider your resources, scale of operation and management style to determine the best fit.

    Reach out if you need help designing or troubleshooting a system. I'm always happy to share my experiences and lessons learned. Wishing you all bountiful harvests and pickling seasons to come!

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