A hydroponic system is developed using two Greek words, “hydro” and “ponics.”. Thousands of years have passed since people first practiced soil-less gardening. Hydroponics dates back thousands of years to the hanging gardens of Babylon and the floating gardens of China. Around 1950, scientists began experimenting with soilless gardening. Many countries have since used hydroponics for crop production, including Holland, Germany, and Australia.
The Benefits of Hydroponics
The advantages of hydroponics over traditional growing have been proven. When hydroponic plants are grown in the same conditions as soil plants, they a faster growth of 30-50 percent. Additionally, the plants yield more. According to scientists, the difference between soil and hydroponic plants can be attributed to various factors. A hydroponic growing medium contains extra oxygen that promotes root growth. Nitrogen is also absorbed more quickly by roots with adequate oxygen. Hydroponic systems deliver nutrients directly to the roots by mixing them with fresh water with low mineral content.
Nutrients don’t need to be obtained from garden soils for the plant to grow. Plants receive those nutrients several times per day. It takes very little energy for a hydroponic plant to find and digest food. As a result of this energy-saving, the plant grows faster and produces more fruit. Furthermore, hydroponic plants are less susceptible to bug infestations, funguses, and diseases. Hydroponically grown plants are generally healthier and happier.
Our environment also benefits from indoor gardening. Due to the reuse of nutrient solutions, a hydroponic garden uses significantly less water than traditional gardening. Pesticides are used less often on hydroponic crops because there is no need for them. Topsoil erosion is not an issue in a hydroponic garden that doesn’t use soil. The ideal solution may be hydroponics soon if agricultural trends continue to erode the soil and waste.
A growing medium aerates and supports the roots of the plant and channels water and nutrients. In different types of hydroponic systems, different growing media work well. In an ebb and flow type system, fast-draining mediums, like Hydrocorn or expanded shale, work well. Hydrocorn is a form of clay aggregate with a light expansion. The root system of the plant can receive plenty of oxygen in this airy growing medium. Although a grow rock can be reused, the shale has a greater possibility to break down and may not last as long as Hydrocorn. The pH of the nutrient solution is rarely affected by these growth rocks.
Rockwool is one of the most renowned growing mediums. The original purpose of Rockwool in construction is as insulation. A horticultural grade of Rockwool is now available. In contrast to insulation grade Rockwool, horticultural Rockwool is pressed into blocks and cubes. Volcanic rock and limestone are used to make it. During melting, these components reach temperatures of more than 2500 degrees. Similar to the way cotton candy is made, the molten solution is poured over a spinning cylinder, then pressed into identical sheets, blocks or cubes. The high water holding capacity and air retention of Rockwool allow it to be used in practically any hydroponic system. The nutrient solution may need to be adjusted due to Rockwool’s pH of 7.8, which raises the pH. The Rockwool cube can only be used once and cannot be reused indefinitely. This is also a standard method for propagation.
The other common growing mediums are perlite, vermiculite, and sand of various grades. The pH of the nutrient solution is rarely affected by these three mediums. While retaining too much moisture, you should use them with plants that can tolerate these conditions. Sand, perlite, and vermiculite are affordable options that work well in wick systems, but they are not the most effective growing mediums.
Hydroponic fertilizers, or nutrient solutions, follow many of the same principles as soil fertilizers. All of the nutrients that healthy plants typically obtain from the soil are present in a hydroponic nutrient solution. In a hydroponic supply store, you can purchase this solution of nutrients. These plant food are highly concentrated, using 4 to 8 teaspoons per gallon. You can choose from liquid mixes or powdered mixes, and usually, in two containers, a grow place and a bloom place. Liquids are slightly more expensive and easier to use. Frequently, they contain a pH buffer to ensure rapid and thorough dissolution into the hydroponic reservoir. Powdered varieties are more expensive and require more maintenance. The mixtures need to be thoroughly mixed and often do not dissolve completely into the reservoir. pH buffers aren’t usually included.
You can use organic and chemical nutrients for fertilizing hydroponic systems, like soil. It is more challenging to maintain organic hydroponic systems. Pumps tend to become blocked when organic matter lock together. Hydroponically grown plants are often supplemented with organic nutrients, while chemical nutrients provide the main food supply. A hydro-organic system will give your plants stable nutrient levels without high maintenance.
Excellent plant growth happens in a pH range between 5.8 and 6.3, with 6.3 considered optimal. Tap water typically has a pH between 7.0 and 8.0. An easy way to check the pH of a hydroponic system is by using a pH meter. A pH testing kit is readily available in pet supply stores, hydroponic supply stores, and hardware stores. The price depends on the type and range of the test you prefer – generally $4.00 to $15.00. In a hydroponic system, pH testing is easy and essential. pH imbalances will prevent plants from absorbing a balance of nutrients and will cause nutrient deficiencies to show. Weekly pH checks are recommended. Potash or phosphoric acid can easily be added to raise or lower the pH level. There are also several pH meters available. pH is measured digitally with these devices. It is not necessary to use a pH meter in most scenarios, which costs about $100.
There are two types of hydroponic systems – active and passive. With active systems, the nutrients are actively moved by an air pump. Rather than use a growing medium, passive hydroponics rely on capillary action. By absorbing the nutrient solution, the wick or medium carries it along to the roots. In passive systems, the roots do not get enough oxygen to grow optimally because the environment is too wet.
There are also two distinct categories of hydroponic systems: recovery and non-recovery. The nutrient solution is reused in recovery systems or recirculating systems. In a non-recovery system, nutrients are applied to the growing medium without recovering them.
The Wick System
A wick system is a passive system that does not absorb water. Neither a water pump nor a moving part is involved in it. A candlewick or lantern wick is often used to circulate nutrients from the reservoir into the plant roots. It is relatively straightforward to understand that the nutrient solution is transported up the wick and into the plant’s roots. Planting mediums, such as sand or perlite, and vermiculite mix are used in wick systems. Setup and maintenance of the wick system are easy and inexpensive. It does, however, cause the root system to be too wet, inhibiting the optimal amount of oxygen from reaching the roots. Wicks are not the most effective way to grow plants hydroponically.
The Ebb and Flow System
The Ebb and Flow method is a hydroponic setup that utilizes active recovery. In the Ebb and Flow, a submersible pump circulates water in the reservoir, and the plants are in an upper tray. The theory revolves around floods and drains. Pump and nutrient solution is kept in the reservoir of water. As the pump is switched on, the nutrient solution is delivered to the upper tray and the roots. This is called a flood cycle, in which the pump should run for 20 to 30 minutes. After the reservoir water level reaches a certain point, the mineral nutrient solution drains into the reservoir through an overflow pipe or fitting. Pumps are left running for the entire flood cycle. With the pump, the nutrient solution slowly drains back into the hydro reservoir at the end of the flood cycle.
The upward moving nutrient solution forces oxygen-poor air out of the root system during the flood cycle. In the grow medium, oxygen-rich air comes into contact with the nutrient solution as it drains into the reservoir. As a result, the roots receive ample oxygen to maximize proper growth. Growing mediums used in Ebb and Flow systems include Rockwool and grow rocks. A highly effective type of hydroponic gardening, Ebb and Flow require little maintenance.
Nutrient Film Technique
NFT systems work on the principle of active recovery hydroponics. The nutrient solution should be recycled using submersible pumps. Roots are suspended in a grow-tube inside a reservoir that uses a submersible pump to pump nutrients into the reservoir. Growing tubes are angled downward, so that nutrient solution runs over roots and into the reservoir. Throughout the day, the nutrient solution is spread over the roots.
Healthy growth in capillary tubes requires oxygen, so air stones or capillary matting must be used. A growing medium is not required, as the plants are held up by a support collar or grow basket. NFT is a highly effective hydroponic method. The process of fine-tuning hydroponics can be difficult for novices. As the plants do not have a growing medium to hold moisture, any interruption in nutrient flow can cause dry roots and death.
A continuous drip system works with active recovery or non-recovery. Pumps are submerged in reservoirs with supply lines connecting each plant. An individual drip emitter allows the gardener to adjust the amount of solution for every plant. It is simple to make this system active recovery by placing drip trays under the rows of plants and recirculating the solution. Hydroponics initially leached out the excess solution into the soil. It is common to use hydroponic drip systems with Rockwool. Due to the adjustment feature on each drip emitter, hydroponic drip systems can utilize virtually any growing medium.
Building A System Vs. Buying One
Most hydroponics growers ask this question. Is it better to purchase one or build one? We recommend a little of both. As a hydroponic beginner, you should buy a commercial hydroponic system as an initial investment! Buying a cheap hydro system will allow you to get a better idea of the basics of hydroponics. If you build a DIY hydroponic system, you can reuse the parts in that system as needed. Getting hands-on experience is definitely worth the cost of the hydro setup.
Do your research before you start building your own. You should not rely on one source for all the information you need. Since the industry changes continuously, there are many outdated books on the shelves. Building your system can be both incredibly satisfying and incredibly frustrating. You’ll mostly be learning by trial and error, so be patient.
In the future, hydroponic gardening will be the rage. Much research is occurring on this topic in classrooms throughout the nation, horticultural societies and NASA, and federally funded research. There is also a growing number of hobby growers. This is an exciting and fun way to grow vegetables.
Who Can Grow plants hydroponically?
Anyone can grow their plants hydroponically, even if they don’t yet fully understand what that means. You’re not required to be a professional to grow your plants hydroponically.
Why grow your plants hydroponically?
There are many reasons to grow your plants hydroponically, but the most common reasons involve faster growth and maximum yield.
What are the drawbacks of indoor growing?
Sure, hydroponic gardening might involve some spilled water or stray clippings.
What types of hydroponic systems are available?
There are six main types of hydroponic setups to select from.
What are the five keys to plant growth?
The five keys to plant growth are direct sunlight, carbon dioxide, oxygen, water, and nutrients.
What are the effects of overfeeding?
This will lead to some issues with nutrient toxicity and can drastically affect your plant growth.
What is the best way to learn hydroponics?
That said, beginners to hydroponics should choose something easy and fast-growing.
What herbs should I start with?
Our suggestion is to start with a herb like mint or chives.
Can I grow multiple plants at once?
Growing multiple plants at once is perfectly fine.
What is the best way to give light to a hydroponic grow kit?
Most indoor grow lights use energy-efficient bulbs that give off little heat, like fluorescent lights. You can trigger the flowering phase from the plants by giving them 12 hours of light and then 12 hours of darkness.
What is the ideal temperature for plants?
You want temperatures to remain between 65-70°F.