You have used hydroponics if you have ever taken a stem cutting and stuck it in a glass of water to grow deep roots. ‘Hydroponics’ is a method of growing plants using nutrient solutions. It is a combination of two words, “water” and “labor.” Hydroponics is becoming increasingly popular for producing fruits and vegetables in grocery stores, but this soil-less method is not limited to commercial growers. Homeowners are currently using hydroponic gardens for growing delicious fruits, vegetables, and herbs, even on a smaller scale.
History Of Hydroponics
Growing plants in water isn’t a new concept. Scientists began experimenting with hydroponics on a grander scale for food production in the 1930s. Still, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are thought to have been a crude predecessor of today’s hydroponics.
Growing vegetables and fruits in hydroponics are widespread today; you can find self-contained hydroponic systems in submarines, offshore drilling rigs, space stations, and on farms everywhere. Compared to traditional farming, hydroponics produces far greater yields in less space, making it an essential method for ensuring food security in the world. A growing number of people are also growing their food using this system.
Plants are grown in hydroponic systems in sterile growing media, such as Rockwool plugs, coconut fiber, clay balls or clay pebbles, perlite, or sand. In contrast to soil, an inert medium contains no minerals, nutrients, or chemicals that might harm plants. Frequently, net pots made of lightweight plastic are used to contain the growing medium and the plants. A sealable enclosure will then be constructed around the net pots, where they will receive water.
Water is used to provide reasonable amounts of nutrients and oxygen to the plant roots in all hydroponic farming systems, despite their vast differences in design. Hydroponic growing is similar to growing plants in a large pot in the ground, or it can be smaller with a single plant in a pot. It isn’t the size but rather how the plant is grown that makes it hydroponic.
Hydroponic systems based on the following basic principles are frequently adapted and copied by crafty gardeners for creating their DIY systems.
• Aeroponic hydroponics: This system works similarly to water culture hydroponics. It aims to moisten the roots and growing medium by using mists located underneath the plants rather than bubbling water.
• Flood-and-drain hydroponics: Below the pots, water circulates without coming into contact with them. Instead, water will be absorbed by wicks and transferred upward to ensure that the shallow roots of the hydroponic plants inside the net are moist. When the wicks need watering, the water is pumped just long enough through the container to make them saturated. A reservoir is then filled with the drained water, and it is reused to water later.
• Drip hydroponics: Water is applied to the growing medium in net pots at the surface, then drained out the bottom. To prevent dry roots, the bottoms of the net pots are situated in a closed container.
• Water culture hydroponics: Continuously, the roots of the plants are partially submerged in water. A pump creates bubbles in contact with the bottoms of the net pots, keeping the growing medium and roots moist. The bottoms of these net pots are positioned just above the level of the water.
Benefits of Growing Hydroponically
Growing plants in a hydroponic system have many advantages that are familiar if you have ever cultivated an outdoor garden.
- You do not need to hoe or pick weeds.
- No need to use pesticides to avoid your plants being eaten by crawling insects.
- Compact soil does not require roots to push through, so plants grow more quickly.
- Nutrients are absorbed more quickly by roots when they are in water than in the soil.
- Seasonal access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Plants grown in hydroponic systems are not susceptible to soil-borne diseases.
- Outdoor or indoor gardening is possible.
- Small space, high productivity.
- Hydroponic kits are available commercially, but you can also do it yourself at home.
Ready-to-use Commercial Kits
It’s possible to find a wide range of commercial systems on the market, but they tend to be more expensive. This $125 to $350 all-in-one unit includes indoor grow lights, timer, and Wi-Fi capability to let you know when to add nutrients. It has room for six to 12 plants and comes with a timer. It will give you year-round fresh herbs without using window lighting and will look charming on your kitchen counter.
If you enjoy large-scale gardening, you can find commercial hydroponic systems capable of growing dozens or hundreds of plants. The units include all the equipment you need; artificial lights, pumps, tubes, and containers. From $1,000 onwards, the kits increase in price. Growing your food and selling it to local grocers or farmer’s markets can be an excellent investment.
Planning To Go DIY
Hydroponic gardening has many significant advantages, one of which is the ability to make your system for a meager price. Once you understand the basics, you can even design your hydroponic system with dozens of free plans available online. The amount you spend on materials and supplies could range from $2 to $200 or more. This is depending on the complexity and size of your project. Home hydroponics methods include:
- You can repurpose an empty plastic bottle as a planter. Use a 2-liter soda bottle as a growing container by cutting off the top quarter, filling the bottom part with water, and then placing the top part upside down in the bottom part. Using a natural fiber rope, you can insert through the cap into the water below; this inexpensive growing medium contains a wick that draws water upward to keep it moist.
- You can use elaborate configurations of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe. Individual net pots are inserted on top of the vertical PVC pipes, and nutrient-rich water is carried down to their bottoms by the horizontal PVC pipes. In a large container of water that has been infused with nutrients, a submersible pump pumps a rich water solution through the pipes.
- It is possible to turn a large container into a water tank. You can use plastic buckets or other containers with holes drilled in the lid to hold net pots and plants to fill reservoirs with water.
Tips For DIY Hydroponics
For your hydroponic system to grow healthy plants, you should consider the following tips.
- Fertilize the water reservoir using nutrients and fertilizers as recommended by the fertilizer’s manufacturer.
- You should fill hydroponic systems with filtered water. Plants may be negatively affected by tap water, which contains chemicals and pathogens. If you don’t have access to reverse osmosis (RO), you can filter tap water with a portable water filter.
- In the absence of natural light, use supplemental lighting. To provide your plants with plenty of light, you can purchase a commercial grow light or fluorescent lights.
- Maintain a water temperature of between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The colder the water, the slower the growth of plants, and the warmer, the risk of fungi and algae growth.
- Make sure the water in the reservoir is not too acidic or alkaline by using a pH tester. For a healthy, faster growth rate, a variety of plants require a pH between 5.7 and 6.3. If an imbalance, add an alkaline or acidic, providing the water with the proper balance.
- Make sure to water the plants enough to moisten their roots but not to drown them.
- Use a drip irrigation system, air pumps, or sprayers to keep the water flowing.
- You can fill the water with oxygen by using a bubble system, like those found in aquariums.