Are you looking for a healthy, easy way to grow vegetables and fruit at home? Hydroponic Gardening may be the answer for you.
Hydroponic gardening is not a new concept.
The art of hydroponic cultivation refers to gardening without soil. Hydroponic Gardening is an excellent method that lets you garden indoors, requires truly little time, uses 90 percent less water, and grows amazingly healthy plants.
Many home gardeners seeking sustainable methods have fallen in love with hydroponics.
Hydroponic Gardening Year Round
Whether you have a large grow room, greenhouse, or simple apartment, you can garden hydroponically year-round. You can shed the strains of Mother Nature’s fickle nature and no longer worry about spring planting and fall harvesting. Instead, you can grow twelve months out of the year with only minimal effort.
The system of hydroponics is straightforward to understand. Plants, vegetables, and herbs are cultivated in an inert growing medium in place of soil. Nutrient-rich solutions, water, and oxygen are delivered directly to the plant’s roots, encouraging them to increase and produce robust yields.
Why Do Plants Grow So Well Hydroponically?
When you plant in soil, the plant’s roots must burrow through the soil in constant search of nutrients and water. The entire process is very exhausting for the plant.
If you take away the soil and expose the root system to water rich in nutrients and oxygen, the plant no longer must spend excessive energy on its root system and instead redirect its focus on the plant’s growth.
You’ll notice that the leaves flourish and the plant produces a bevy of flowers with great veggie or fruit production.
Chlorophyll is the reason why a plant’s leaves are green. The plant relies on chlorophyll to carry out a process known as photosynthesis which is how they process the energy of light to cut through the molecules they absorb within their root system.
The hydrogen molecules then join with the carbon dioxide to create carbohydrates to energize and nourish the plant. The plant then releases oxygen into the atmosphere.
The entire process of hydroponic farming requires NO soil for success. All nutrients are dissolved in water and applied to the plant’s root system via flooding, misting, or complete immersion – now you can understand why the process is referred to as ‘hydroponics.
Hydro is Greek for water, and ‘ponos’ translates into the word ‘work.’ With hydroponic gardening, the water does all the work to effectively support the plant by delivering the nutrients it needs for survival directly to its roots.
The Benefits of Hydroponics
We have become an impatient society. Waiting for seeds to germinate and plants to grow so you can harvest edibles might seem like it takes forever. However, with hydroponic gardening, the plants will grow at a 30 to 50 percent increased rate than if planted in soil. In addition, the yields are far more significant.
The extra oxygen the plant is exposed to via hydroponics helps to stimulate root growth so that the plant absorbs ample oxygen and nutrients to accelerate the plant’s growth by leaps and bounds. With the extra energy, the plant produces large foliage, increased flowers, and more fruit.
Hydroponically grown plants are healthier and happy. They experience fewer bug infestations, diseases, or funguses.
With climate change an ongoing threat globally, many regions are experiencing unprecedented droughts, so water is a huge consideration. Luckily, hydroponically grown plants use far less water than traditional farming methods. Even the nutrient solutions can be reused repeatedly, so nothing is wasted with innovative farming practices.
In areas where topsoil erosion is a concern, hydroponics is the solution because it is a soil-free farming method. In fact, in such regions, hydroponic food production is the only workable farming possibility.
Hydroponic Gardening Requirements
As you learn more about hydroponics, you’ll discover that there are several systems. Sometimes the roots of the plant dangle down into the water/nutrient solution. However, with other systems, a soil substitute such as coconut coir, peat moss, perlite, aged bark sand, vermiculite, or clay pebbles are used to cradle the roots.
The growing mediums allow oxygen, nutrients, and water to penetrate the plant’s system with ease. Typically, the mediums can also be reused with different crops.
In recent years, Rockwool has become a favored medium.
Rockwool is made from a combination of volcanic rock and limestone. Rockwool is created by melting all components at a temperature of 2500 degrees or higher. The molten solution is then spun in much the same way as cotton candy and then pressed into blocks or cutes. Rockwool can hold 10 to 14 percent more water than soil and can hold 20 percent more air. And most gardeners only get one use per cube. It is also commonly used for propagation.
All hydroponic nutrient solutions hold the same elements as soil. You can buy a variety of brands from any hydroponic supply store near you or online retailers.
Nutrient solutions are highly concentrated and tend only to need two to four teaspoons per gallon. They come as either liquid mixes or powdered mixes. You’ll find nutrient solutions for vegetive and flowering life stages of the plants. As with any gardening system, you can use chemical or organic nutrients to meet your crop’s needs.
The pH Requirements of Hydroponically Grown Plants
Plants grown hydroponically usually require a pH range of 5.8 to 6.8, with 6.3 being the sweet spot for growth and health.
Checking the pH level of hydroponically grown plants is a breeze. You can buy affordable test kits to check the water’s pH effortlessly. If the pH is too high or low, the plant cannot successfully absorb nutrients and will start to display a deficiency. Check pH once per week. You can quickly adjust pH using a soluble Potash to increase the pH or a phosphorus acid to lower the pH balance.
Different Hydroponic Gardening Systems
You will meet either active or passive hydroponic gardening systems.
An active system moves the nutrition solution around the plant’s roots using a pump, and a passive hydroponic relies solely on the grow medium’s wicking system. Typically, a passive system is too wet and does not supply sufficient oxygen, so it’s best to go with a pump.
You’ll also encounter either recovery or non-recovery systems. A recovery system reuses the nutrient solution, and a non-recovery system does not.
- The Wick System: The wick system is a passive, non-recovery hydroponic system that relies on no moving parts or pumps. The nutrients are held within a reservoir and then moved through the plant’s root system by relying on a capillary system such as a lantern wick. The solution travels through a wick and to the plant’s root system.
Wick systems typically use vermiculite, sand, or perlite. Honestly, this is not the most effective way to successfully hydroponically garden. Still, it can be used in a situation where you have no power or need to use energy.
- The Ebb and Flow System: An active recovery system, the Ebb and Flow rely on a submersible pump within a reservoir. The plants are positioned in an upper tray, and the water is flooded and then drained through the upper plant trays. The pump is on for about 20 to 30 minutes to actively flood the trays. The overflow pipe then drains the solution back into the reservoir for reuse. This is a remarkably effective way to garden hydroponically.
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT): NFT works as an active recovery hydroponic system that also relies on submersible pumps and reuses the solutions. The solution is pumped into a grow tube that suspends the roots. The downward position of the tube lets the solution run back into the reservoir. With NFT, the solution flows across the plant’s roots 24 hours a day. This is a highly effective system but not always ideal for a novice hydroponic gardener.
- Continuous Drip: An active recovery or non-recovery system uses a submersible pump and reservoir with supply lines that run to each plant. A drip emitter is then used to adjust the flow of the plant’s solution. IF the solution is sent back to the reservoirs, then it is active recovery. However, some systems leak the solution out onto the ground depending on the design.
Undoubtedly, hydroponic gardening is the future. A family can easily use a hydroponic system to supply year round fresh produce regardless of the weather conditions, water shortages, or lighting issues.