The Basics of Hydroponics for Beginners
For centuries, men and women have grown plants in soil. This type of gardening started when the nomads quit roaming the earth and continues today. However, many plants thrive in water or moist air, and no soil is needed. This garden method goes by the name hydroponics, which is a combination of the Greek words “hydro” and “ponics” or water and labor.
Hydroponics has also been around for centuries. Simply look at the hanging Gardens of Babylon to see an early example of plants grown in water. Why would a person choose to grow crops in water as opposed to soil? What are the benefits, and how is this done?
The Benefits of Hydroponics
Growers often find they get a significantly bigger yield if they use water rather than soil for their crops. The roots rest in a nutrient-rich solution, and this allows them to get more of what they need to thrive. The root systems can be smaller, allowing for more energy to be diverted to the leaves and stems.
Those who only have a small space for gardening find they can plant more in the same amount of space. Furthermore, these plants grow faster than ones grown in soil. Pests become less of a concern when a hydroponic system is used, and plants may be grown indoors all year long.
With so many benefits associated with hydroponics, individuals often want to know if choosing this option will mean more work on their part. The answer is no. Most growers make use of automated systems including timers and controllers, so the work is done for them.
Overall, plants grown in a hydroponic system tend to be happier and healthier. The environment is better off as well when this growing method is used. Less water is needed to maintain the garden, and few pesticides must be used. In fact, many growers find they don’t need any pesticides. Finally, the problem of topsoil erosion is completely eliminated.
The Drawbacks of Hydroponics
A person cannot determine if a hydroponic system is right for them unless they know both the advantages and drawbacks. The initial cost of establishing a hydroponic system is higher than seen with a conventional garden. Containers, lights, and more might need to be purchased when setting up a hydroponic system. However, this cost is recouped in the increased yield.
Additionally, there may be some trial and error when it comes to automating the lights, timers, and more. Fortunately, those new to hydroponics can rely on the expertise of men and women who have gone before them. Thanks to the increased popularity of this gardening method, finding an answer to almost any question is effortless.
Finally, the smaller root system seen on plants grown in this type of system can lead to problems. For instance, a plant that produces a great deal of fruit may need additional support. The grower will quickly learn which plants need additional help and can make arrangements to ensure they have everything they need to thrive.
How Does a Hydroponic System Work?
Several hydroponic systems are available today. Some systems are classified as active and move the nutrient solution through the system, usually with the help of a pump. Others are passive and allow the growing medium’s capillary action or a wick to deliver the nutrient solution to the roots. Growers typically find active systems offer the best growth rates.
Additionally, these systems are referred to as recovery or non-recovery systems. Recovery systems reuse the nutrient solution to feed the plants. Non-recovery systems don’t. Once the nutrient solution is used, a grower must add more as needed.
One setup makes use of the nutrient-film technique. Here, plants are placed in a plastic tough. The nutrient system is delivered to the roots of the plants with the help of a pump and gravity.
Another option is to use an aeroponics system. A good example of this type of system is the popular AeroGarden. Here, plants are grown inside a container that is full of humid air. The roots thrive in the nutrient-rich aerosol that is created inside this container.
Additional options include a wick system and a continuous drip system. Consider all types to determine which best meets your needs. There is a hydroponic system for everyone.
Grow mediums are used in hydroponic systems. Each medium offers its own benefits and drawbacks the grower must be aware of. What are common grow mediums used today?
Rockwool is extremely popular with growers. The medium is made from limestone and volcanic rock before being formed into growing blocks and cubes. Take care when using this medium as it has a pH of 7.8, and plants typically prefer a lower pH. Additionally, Rockwool will need to be replaced with time.
Additional grow mediums include vermiculite, sand, and perlite. They hold too much moisture but offer the pH desired by most plants. They are inexpensive when compared to many other grow mediums, but they aren’t the most effective.
Plants require fertilizer to thrive. Many growers choose to make use of a commercially available nutrient solution when first starting out. However, as time passes and your knowledge base grows, don’t hesitate to experiment with homemade solutions. Organic and chemical nutrients may be used, although a grower will spend more to maintain an organic system. Additionally, organic compounds have been known to block the pump. More maintenance may be required as a result.
Depending on the size of the system, a grower might wish to purchase additional items. This includes timers, automated nutrient delivery systems, and more. Don’t hesitate to try new things. Hydroponic systems tend to be very forgiving, so mistakes won’t decimate the entire crop.
Hydroponic systems should be considered by anyone looking to grow their own fruits, vegetables, and/or herbs. If you are still hesitant to try this gardening method, start with a small setup. Commercially available systems are available for a low price, so this is a good place to start. One brand we recommend to start with everything you need is General Hydroponics. Once people see how easy it is to grow their own food, they’ll want to produce more and rely less on others for what they eat.