People have become increasingly interested in how their food is produced over the last decade. Increasingly, consumers demand food produced with sustainable, mindful farming practices and free of pesticide residues. Due to this, more consumers are growing their food and exploring hydroponic gardening as a way to do so.
The first thing you’ll need to know about growing plants in hydroponic systems is the fundamental concepts of hydroponics. You’ll learn everything you need to know about hydroponics here as well as its advantages and disadvantages.
What Is Hydroponics?
Using hydroponics, plants can be grown indoors in a soilless environment. A nutrient solution is supplied to the roots of plants rather than pulling mineral nutrients from the soil for growth.
From growing herbs in a kitchen to growing many plants in a large commercial operation, you can use hydroponics in various scenarios. Those who live in cities, live in apartments, or rent an apartment without access to outdoor space may find a hydroponic garden particularly useful.
Hydroponically grown plants can grow in a wide variety of environments. Herbs, lettuce and greens, tomato plants, peppers, and strawberries are a few of the best plants to grow in a hydroponics system. In general, avoid plants growing tall like corn, with deep taproots like potatoes, or with a vine-like growth pattern.
Hydroponics: How Does It Work?
Although plants grow from many metabolic processes, water, sunlight, and essential nutrients are the three main factors driving their growth. A traditional garden relies on the soil to anchor plants and act as a reservoir for nutrients and water. As opposed to soil gardening, hydroponics uses an aqueous solution to feed and hydrate the roots of plants while providing additional lighting to mimic sunlight.
Growing Without Soil
Vegetable plants grown in a hydroponic system are either submerged directly in the nutrient-rich water or are grown in either coconut coir, rock wool, LECA, vermiculite, or perlite. Either actively or passively, the roots of the plant receive the nutrient solution.
- Plant roots are supplied with nutrients by active systems that circulate and aerate nutrient solutions.
- Pumps and moving parts are not present in passive systems. In some cases, nutrient solutions are flooded into the root zone, while in other cases, they are absorbed through capillary action.
Hydroponically grown plants typically receive additional lighting because there is limited natural light indoors. The natural cycle of daylight and darkness is replicated by hanging lights above the plants and adjusting their brightness.
Advantages of Hydroponics
Healthy plants can be grown in hydroponic systems for many reasons, even though it may sound complex. Here are a few that stand out:
Longer Growing Seasons
Plants cannot grow in cold climates due to the short day lengths and chilly winter temperatures. However, hydroponic systems allow the growing of plants year-round since you control the temperature, the amount of light, and the nutrient requirements.
Increased Plant Growth and Yield
Plants grown in hydroponic systems typically grow faster and yield more. The reason for this could be the increased oxygen content found in the nutrient solution and careful control of the environmental factors. Root growth and nutrient absorption can be enhanced by increasing the amount of oxygen available to plants. Plants are less stressed under these optimal conditions, leading to a more plentiful harvest.
When plants are grown in soil, rigid spacing guidelines must be followed to ensure that every plant gets equal access to the soil’s somewhat limited supply of water and diluted nutrients. Plants in hydroponic systems can be grown closer together without competing for root space since the solution they receive is more nutrient-rich.
Hydroponics systems allow you to grow plants in any home, regardless of the size or location, without having to worry about building an outdoor garden.
Consume Less Water
Hydroponics uses 80 to 90% less water even though it involves growing plants in water. Traditionally, garden soil is wetted heavily to ensure that sufficient moisture reaches the roots. Only a portion of the water in the soil reaches the roots when it evaporates as it moves through the soil.
The water in hydroponics reaches the roots immediately, with little water loss to evaporation. It is also common to recirculate nutrient solutions several times before they become ineffective and are discarded, thereby lessening water consumption.
Fewer Pest Issues
Due to hydroponics being an indoor system, pests are not as prevalent and have controlled entry. A plant’s defense mechanism makes it challenging for insects to attack it. Pesticides are used less when pest problems are fewer.
Most hydroponic growers maintain their plants at waist height by using counters, benches, tables, etc. The height at which mature plants are harvested makes harvesting easier since it does not require bending down or kneeling. Growing at ground level is not an option for those with limited mobility or illnesses that make it difficult.
Disadvantages of Hydroponics
Hydroponics offers many benefits. However, there are some distinct disadvantages. Understanding the drawbacks is essential to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Not Affordable To Set Up
The cost of acquiring and building a hydroponic system is higher than that of traditional gardening. Depending on what type and size of the system are bought or built from individual components, the cost varies.
Affected By Power Outages
Whether passive or active, hydroponic systems depend on electricity to power their various components, including grow lights, water pumps, aerators, and fans. The entire system is thus affected by a power outage. When an active system loses power, the plants can suffer if it goes unnoticed for long periods.
Constant Monitoring and Maintenance
Plants grown hydroponically require more monitoring and micromanagement than plants grown in a traditional way. To maintain a controlled growing environment, all system components must be constantly inspected – lights, temperature, and many aspects of the oxygenated nutrient solution, such as pH and electrical conductivity. It is also important to flush and replace the nutrient solution regularly and clean the system parts regularly to prevent buildup.
Diseases From Water
Waterborne diseases are an issue with hydroponic growing since they are grown in water rather than conventional farming. Because the water circulates continuously throughout the growing system, infections can spread quickly throughout the growing system as a whole, affecting the whole collection of plants. Hydroponic plants can be killed within hours if they are infected with waterborne disease.
Quicker Effect Of Problems
In addition to protecting root systems from extreme temperature changes, soil slows disease transmission and traps vital minerals. Hydroponic plants react much more quickly to problems like nutrient deficiencies and disease without soil to act as a buffer.
Is Hydroponics a Good Idea?
Definitely, with hydroponic farming, you can grow healthy food at home without soil. Despite what may seem counterintuitive, hydroponic plants yield higher yields and come with numerous other benefits. Keep your eyes open for potential pitfalls.