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Ask a Grower

Ask-a-Grower #103

What are the differences between run to waste and recirculating hydroponic systems?

There are a couple of differences between the two hydro setups. The name is a good place to start; run to waste does exactly that, it runs to waste. The nutrient solution runs straight from the reservoir, into the garden, through your medium and is never used again. It’s definitely a bummer and a bit more costly to watch your nutrient solution run straight to waste but it has its advantages. Most importantly, it’s much easier to regulate. Running to waste eliminates the possibility of pH, PPM, & EC fluctuations. Additionally, a run to waste system requires much less monitoring. You don’t have to change out or pay attention to the reservoir at all, just fill it and flood it.

A recirculating system on the other hand, as its name suggest, recirculates the nutrient solution time after time. The water flows from the reservoir, to the garden, through the medium,  and back to the reservoir; ebb and flow and bucket systems are examples of  recirculating systems.  Recirculating systems are great because you get to recapture your costly, unused nutrients and use them again. This becomes almost essential when using expensive beneficial bacteria and flowering products. However, there are a few inherent drawbacks. Compared to a run to waste system, a recirculating system requires a bit more maintenance; reservoir monitoring is chief among them.

Changing and flushing and checking your reservoir can be a challenging task at first. But after a few weeks, it just becomes routine and you even start to look forward to doing some of it, at least I do.