The Urban Farmer: Nutrient Film Technique, Hydrofarm Unit

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The Urban Farmer, Issue #031 * December
  Nutrient Film Technique * Starter Unit
* Fresh Air




home gardener is part scientist, part artist, part philosopher, part plowman. He
modifies the climate around his home.”

            ~John R.




Nutrient film technique (NFT) is an advanced hydroponics
method that provides a continuous flow of nutrient solution over bare plants
roots. Oftentimes, when people hear the word, ‘hydroponics’ they envision an NFT

 For a homemade system this can be a
pretty complicated. You would need a water pump, a container holding nutrient
solution, a long trough of some sort to run the solution through (and back into
the container) and some means to anchor the plants sitting in the trough. Plus,
the trough must be set at such an angle that the solution does not rush through
too fast, but again not too sluggishly. 

We have not personally experimented with a
nutrient film technique system, but some gardeners swear by it.


  • NFT is not as compact as
    other systems; mainly due to the long trough to grow plants in.
  • Plants roots hang down into
    the trough (there is no growing medium) so without constant running solution
    to wash and feed the roots, they will dry out and the plant will die. In
    other words, a power outage can be disastrous in a short amount of time.
  • Plant roots can easily clog
    the trough and impede the flow of nutrient. Frequent monitoring and trimming
    is necessary.


  • Some NFT gardeners claim amazing plant
    growth and yield.  
  • Flexible &
    is easy to  modify, expand or contract the system
    configuration.Can be moved closer together or further apart to accommodate
    seasonal plant size fluctuations and/or crop modifications, i.e. going from
    Bibb lettuce to Basil bunches to Chives.
  • very cost effective (after initial
    investment) and is very popular with commercial growers.   

Here is a link to get you started on a DIY
Nutrient Film Technique system:


Here’s a great little starter unit to get your feet wet. This is NOT a durable,
large permanent system for a serious garden; however, it IS great to see how
deep your interest and passion grow.

Hydrofarm MGSYS Hydroponic Megagarden System
Features include:

  • Hydroponic garden system with 15
    plastic grow pots
  • Includes fired-clay and pebble grow
    media; 7-1/2-gallon reservoir, water level indicator
  • Submersible pump and timer for
    automatic flood and drain irrigation
  • Also features seed starter cubes,
    nutrients and a pH test kit
  • Illustrated instructions ensure
    growing success

Here’s a review from an Amazon customer:

“I received this item, although I thought I had ordered the smaller
system (Emily’s hydroponic garden system) which has only 6 plants. I was a
little hesitant at first since it was much bigger than I expected, but after
putting everything together I am very satisfied. The instructions for
assembly and use are excellent, but missing teeny details here and there
(for example: in order to install the pump you have to cut a very small hole
in the red plug). Otherwise everything you need to start a hydroponic garden
is included in the box (minus a light source, of course, and an acid
solution to adjust the pH of your water if necessary). I have started many
seedlings and other small plants in the system and I am planning on
transplanting some plants from my outdoor garden as well. The seedlings are
growing faster than I ever imagined, even without a light source! I have the
system set up near a window, but do not have a light hung over it yet. All
in all, it only measures about 2’x 2′ and it is incredibly easy to use. I
would highly recommend this product to anyone looking to start their first
hydroponic garden! I am very excited to continue growing throughout the