What is hydroponics and what is it used for?
In a nutshell image if you’re a foodie who likes flavor in your dining selections who wants to enjoy an out-of-season fruit or vegetable. Is it possible to provide your table with year-round produce, even if you don’t think you have a green thumb?
Hydroponic gardening is an amazing way to grow numerous fruits, veggies, herbs, and other edibles in your own home all year long without the need for soil. Similar to how vegan supplements can help replace nutrients while being convenient, hydroponics can be convenient and help you maintain nutrient balance.
Here’s a brief guide to growing your own garden all year round through the wonders of hydroponic gardening.
What Is Hydroponics?
It’s all in the name! Hydroponic gardening is a system that allows you to raise plants in water instead of soil.
Soil-based gardening, of course, requires a plot of land that you’ll need to turn over, seed, water, fertilize, and oversee as the plants sprout then slowly grow to adulthood under the sun.
Outdoor gardens are dependent on the rain or regular watering, take up space, and expend healthy soil by continuously drawing nutrients from it.
On the other hand, hydroponic systems are self-contained, can be set up anywhere, use no soil, and receive their sunlight from grow lights and their nutrition from a solution you mix up yourself.
How Does It Work?
Hydroponics isn’t one kind of system; several are available.
Each requires different equipment, but they all work on the same principle of plants suspended in growing media and putting down roots to absorb a water and nutrient solution.
The nutrient solution you mix up is delivered to the root zone through an absorbent material. Usually rope or some kind of netting that’s been tightly packed so it holds its form but still has plenty of holes for liquid to pass through.
This wick system supplies your plants with continuous nutrition—which you need to monitor and replace regularly as they use it—and oxygen from the air around them.
And because hydroponics allows you to control every aspect of your garden instead of relying on Mother Nature, you can also fine tune everything from lighting to temperature and humidity levels indoors for even better plant care.
The most basic hydroponics setup—and the one best suited for beginners—is a wick-based system. This is where a rope or similar absorbent material brings nutrition up to the plants through capillary action.
Other hydroponics systems include ebb and flow, nutrient film technique, and deep-water culture, among others. But start with a wick system to get a taste and see if hydroponics is for you.
Steps To Setup Wick System
1. Purchase a hydroponic system
2. Purchase wick type solution and nutrient plants need to grow
3. Fill the container with the wick-type material or rope, which is an absorbent material that can draw water and nutrients up from below
4. Plant your seedlings in the soil of growing media such as coco coir or peat moss, which holds moisture well
5. Cover with lid or a plastic sheet and place under grow lights
6. Add nutrients for the solution to water as instructed, usually once every week or more often if needed
7. Harvest your crops when they are ripe!
Here’s a helpful video I found on Youtube, from the Green Our Planet channel.
More Things To Consider:
The container you choose will depend on how large you want your garden to be. Metal buckets can make it easy to move your project around. But many people prefer sturdy plastic bins so there’s no risk of rusting later on down the road.
Be sure you’re selecting a container that is at least twice as deep as the longest root from your largest plant; otherwise, it could pull out while trying to reach an absorbent wick in the bottom of an empty container.
You can purchase a complete hydroponics system or buy the components separately. The process of filling it up and then learning how to balance your nutrient solution in the reservoir below is easy for anyone.
But you should still follow instructions included with any new equipment you purchase to ensure everything is installed correctly before you begin growing anything inside it.
You will need to replace components such as wicks after awhile. These parts are usually machine-washable by hand so they’re not too difficult to keep clean, though you should always test them regularly for signs of deterioration like staining or disintegrating material to know when they need replacing.
If there are gaps between the growth media and container walls where moisture could leak out and drain into the surrounding soil, you can take a piece of mesh and cut a hole in it to fit tightly over that area; just make sure there is plenty of ventilation at the top for air to circulate.
Hydroponics can be an effective way to grow food indoors without pesticides and herbicides. However, it’s always important to understand that your plant matter still needs light for energy. There’s only so much light you can get from artificial sources like lights.
So be sure to put your plants by windows!
What Can You Grow Hydroponically?
More than you’d imagine! Some plants aren’t suited for hydroponics, such as root vegetables. These need to expand in soil, and larger fruits and gourds like watermelons and pumpkins, which would grow too weighty.
Otherwise, you’ll be surprised by the variety of foods and herbs you can grow strawberries, tomatoes, leafy greens, herbs of all kinds, peppers, bok choy, and much more, including:
- Brussel sprouts
- Cabbage – red or green
And without the problems you might face with outdoor gardening—weather, insects, disease, and so forth—hydroponically grown plants thrive.
For another list of healthy vegetables to eat (non hydroponic related) read here.
Benefits and Disadvantages To Using A Hydroponic System
One of the biggest benefits to using a hydroponic is that it does not require any soil.
But the ability to grow plants without soil also causes one of the disadvantages of using a hydroponic system. It can be difficult to get enough nutrients in a plant without soil. It can cause the plants to die before they are harvested.
Obviously it is important to provide plants with adequate amounts of water and nutrients in order for them to grow.
One of the best ways to provide plants with adequate amounts of nutrients is by using liquid fertilizer. Liquid fertilizer is designed especially for hydroponics and offers the correct amounts of chemicals that plants require.
It can come in either a concentrated or diluted form; both are available at your local garden center or you may purchase it online as well.
Read this article for more info on what nutrients are needed for hydroponics.
The Future Of Agriculture Is Hydroponics!
There are many benefits to using hydroponics in agriculture.
The advantages to using hydroponics in agriculture are that it can be very high yielding. It also has the potential to have a higher quality crop and can be managed under controlled conditions.
Scientists also believe that hydroponic systems can help with water conservation.
Hydroponic systems can lower the amount of water required for crop production by up to 90 percent. This could offer a solution to water scarcity problems.
My Overall Thoughts On Hydroponics
Overall, hydroponics is a great way for people who do not want any mess or damage on their property.
There is no need for dirt, fertilizer, or pesticides because all that is needed is water and sunlight.
The only cost of hydroponics is the initial cost of equipment and your time in setting up the system. After it has been set up, there will be minimal upkeep costs each year as well.
Many people who make the switch from soil to hydroponics find that they become much more productive. Because they can grow plants all year round with an indoor garden.
In addition, hydroponic growing does not take up a lot of space. Because of the small size of a typical system and careful management of water flow through systems like drip irrigation.
So if you are looking for a way to increase your plant production or find yourself running out of room this may be worth considering.
How Do You Get Started?
Growing your own garden all year round is easier than you think.
Hydroponics systems are available for purchase online and through gardening centers and hardware stores.
Take measurements of the room where you’ll set up your system to assess the amount of equipment you can install. But again, you should start with a small wick system that you can set up anywhere.
As systems expand, they grow pricier, but the taste of fresh produce will be well worth it.