Hydroponics for Beginners
Hydroponics is one kind of horticulture that uses specific techniques of hydroculture. It utilizes an aqueous solvent composed of various nutrients and minerals to grow crops and other plants. By doing so, crops grow without soil and thrive due to the nutrients from the water.
These nutrients typically come from sources, including duck manure and fish excrement. Alternatively, they can be commercially bought artificial nutrients and chemical fertilizers.
The concept is to grow the roots of terrestrial plants to the liquid-filled with nutrients. There are cases when the inert medium serves as physical support to the roots, including substrates, gravel, and perlite. Hydroponics is typically done to plants, such as cannabis, lettuce, strawberry, cucumber, pepper, and tomatoes.
Advantages of Hydroponics
Hydroponics promotes the natural ebb and flow of plant growth. It’s a kind of indoor gardening practice that can lower food production costs and boost the yield and efficiency of agriculture. Hydroponic cultivation has enjoyed continuous increase through the years. Many enthusiasts experiment in growing various plants in their backyard.
Here are the top reasons why hydroponic gardening attracts people who love growing crops either for business or consumption:
1. Plants grow without soil
What used to be a peculiar idea becomes real in hydroponics. Most plants have preferences when it comes to soil types. The kinds of plants you can grow will depend on the soil variety you have in your area.
You can also buy the type of soil needed by the plant, but this will make the process more expensive. Modifying your soil can also be labor-intensive. Aside from purchasing the soil you need, you have to remove the soil not suitable for your plants and replace them with what you bought.
With hydroponics allowing plant cultivation without soil, places with no access to good and healthy soil can now grow plants and crops. A good sample of this is the Pacific’s Wake Island which has rocky reefs and limited soil.
The place was among the first to operate commercial hydroponic farming. It paved the way for its locals to produce crops according to the demand instead of importing fresh produce, which would be expensive and impractical.
Growing plants without soil will benefit many places, especially those without sufficient arable lands, such as rocky and desert regions. This is one reason why hydroponics is referred to as the farming of the future since the idea will benefit this generation and the next to come.
2. It Requires Less Space
You don’t need a big backyard to start hydroponic gardening. You also don’t have to set up an expensive indoor greenhouse to grow crops. Hydroponics cuts the space typically needed by traditional farming by up to 80 percent.
The reason for this is that the technique allows the roots of the plants to be contained. As a result, they won’t spread out to gain access to water and nutrients from the soil since both are readily accessible. Instead, the roots of the plants get the nutrients directly from the water solution, with the delivery being constant or intermittent depending on the kind of hydroponics used and required by the plant variety.
Plants grow closer together in hydroponics. This makes the process practical to growers since they will use fewer infrastructure but gain a higher yield.
3. It Saves Water
How does hydroponics save water when it requires you to grow plants in water? Well, the technique utilizes an intelligent setup wherein water gets recirculated. The roots of the plants only absorb sufficient water based on their needs and return the rest to the system.
You can also minimize water loss by ensuring that the setup is efficient in preventing leaks and slowing down the process of evaporation.
Hydroponics will help a lot in pushing sustainable agriculture. It eliminates the usual problems encountered in traditional gardening, including soil degradation and pollution
4. It Eliminates Problems With Pests and Weeds
The soil-free system of hydroponics makes it easier for growers to control the variables in the environment that affect their plants. For example, pests that usually come from the soil are no longer an issue. The growers can also handle problems with weeds before they get out of control, which is among the most tasking part of traditional gardening and farming.
With the absence of problems with pests, growers no longer need to use pesticides. This way, the plants grown are free from harmful chemicals and safe for human consumption.
5. You Can Grow Seasonal Crops and Plants In any Weather or Season
The system requires plants to be cultivated in greenhouses or indoors, so the weather’s unpredictability is no longer a problem. If you’ve got no sunshine, you can use artificial lights in growing your plants.
You can use various lights in hydroponics to supplement the lack of sun, including LED lights. This will allow you to grow plants, such as salad greens and tomatoes throughout the year.
Hydroponics for Beginners Explained
Don’t get intimidated by the term “hydroponics”.
Hydroponic gardening can be simple and easy as long as you have all the needed tools to start setting up your own. You can choose among the six types of hydroponic systems that only differ in the delivery of nutrients to plants. However, the basic idea remains the same no matter what kind of setup you’ve chosen – you will not use soil in growing your plants
1. Wicking System
The setup is simple and does not require many tools. The plants are placed in a container with perlite or vermiculite as the wicking medium. You will put the container above the reservoir container and the nutrient solution.
You will use wicks or strips made from felt to connect the plants’ roots to the solution. The wicking rope will pull up the solution into the plants before the medium dries out.
2. Drip System
This works best for plants with big or extensive roots. You will grow plants in a container with gravel or perlite as the growing medium. The container is then placed above the water solution reservoir. You will place tubes at the reservoir and design a system to pump the nutrient solution into the plants.
When the water drips from the tubes directly into the growing medium, the roots get soaked, and the excess liquid goes back into the reservoir. The setup keeps the roots hydrated as it retains the moisture of the growing medium.
3. Ebb and Flow
This technique, also called Flood and Drain, utilizes a water pump with a timer. When it reaches the set time, it works by flooding the root system before draining the nutrient-filled water. The water will rise to the point of the roots getting soaked with the excess water overflowing through a tube.
When the timer shuts off the pump, the water gets drained and goes back to the reservoir. The water solution remains in the reservoir until the timer indicates for the pump to rise again. The system makes it possible for the plants to get alternate access to oxygen and air, and water with nutrients.
The system utilizes aeroponic misters that supply the plants with nutrient solutions. In this setup, the plants are placed in a chamber without any growing medium, and their roots hang in midair. Thus, the roots are constantly exposed to oxygen, and the misters give them nutrients within regular intervals and before the roots dry out.
5. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
This setup is popular among many home gardeners, especially those who grow baby greens, herbs, lettuce, and other fast-growing small plants. It utilizes a downward sloping channel that provides nutrients to the plants via a shallow stream. The plants’ roots hang into the stream, where they get the nutrients and moisture in a steady flow.
6. Deep Water Culture
This is among the most inexpensive and simplest setup of hydroponics. The reservoir is filled with nutrient solution, and the baskets containing the plants are placed above the water. The roots hang outside the basket directly onto the solution, so they remain dipped throughout the process.
In this kind of setup, you will need air stones or air pumps to aerate the roots, or else they will suffocate from getting constant moisture.
Hydroponics – Final Thoughts and Recommendations
The market for hydroponics continues to get bigger through the years. It also becomes more known in many parts of the world.
The best thing about the system is that it is capable of producing chemical-free produce, but it will still depend on your nutrient solution. You will decide what to put in it, so ensure that you are using the best nutrients for the plants and the safest for those who will consume them.
To ensure success in the process, always do your research about the types of plants and the amount of nutrients they require to thrive and grow. Place the setup somewhere accessible but still safe from factors that can cause damage to your crops.
Lastly, learn everything that you can about hydroponics to gain more harvest in the future. Enjoy the process of planting using the hydroponics system to gain more reaps from what you have sown.