Hydroponic gardening is not exactly mainstream as yet, but there is a lot of interest in it, according to the search engines…
When researching for my gardening website, I learned that many, many people are looking for information about hydroponic gardens. In fact, it’s a progressive, increasingly popular form of gardening today.
The word “hydroponics” was derived from the Greek words hydro, which means “water” and ponos, which means “labor or water-working”. Applying that, hydroponics then is the practice of growing plants in either a bath or flow of highly oxygenated, nutrient-enriched water.
But more recently, the definition of hydroponics has been broadened to read “the cultivation of plants without soil.”
Growers all over the world are using hydroponic techniques due to the lack of a large water supply or fertile farmland. Home gardeners have started to use hydroponics on a smaller scale to grow fresh vegetables year round and to grow plants in smaller spaces, such as an apartment or balcony.
Greenhouses and nurseries grow their plants in a soilless, peat- or bark-based growing mix. The nutrients then are applied to the growing mix through the water supply. Therefore, this is also a type of hydroponics.
Soil-free hydroponic gardening offers many advantages to the home gardener. Since a sterile medium is used, there are no weeds to remove, and soil-borne pests and diseases are minimized, if not eliminated completely.
Properly grown hydroponic plants also are healthier and more vigorous because all of the necessary growth elements are readily available. The plants can mature faster, yielding an earlier harvest of vegetable and flower crops.
Hydroponic gardens use less space since the roots do not have to spread out in search of food and water. This small space requirement makes hydroponics ideal for home gardeners, and it makes better use of greenhouse space.
But, one of the biggest advantages to gardening hydroponic is the ability to automate the entire system with a timer. Automation reduces the actual time it takes to maintain plant growth requirements.
Automation also provides flexibility to the gardener as one can be gone for long periods of time without having to worry about watering the plants.
Hydroponics gardening is as simple as ordinary gardening. Both of them necessitate sufficient light, water, temperature, light, and humidity.
But with hydroponics, no soil is used. Instead a soil substitute holds the roots while nutrients are carried by the water. Indoor hydroponic gardening is not that hard and plants respond well to this method of growing.
Metal halide lamps, sodium vapor lamps, gro-lights, or fluorescent lights used in conjunction with incandescent light bulbs provide adequate light for the hydroponic garden.
Plant roots must have oxygen available to keep them alive. Healthy roots (which are white in color) are responsible for the uptake of all nutrients for the plant. If the roots die, it is impossible for the plant to survive, even if the plant growth requirements are met.
Air circulation around leaves is important since it mixes the air and allows the plant to draw out the carbon dioxide necessary to carry on photosynthesis. Air circulation also helps prevent fungal diseases caused by moist, stagnant conditions. Indoor units often have a small fan to circulate the surrounding air.
Let’s sum it up…
One has to make sure that the nutrient solution maintains a pH level of 5 to 6 after dilution. In hydroponic gardening, the plants should be watered more than three times a day. This is usually done using a pump and timer.
If your hydroponic garden is located indoors, the most suitable temperature is between 71 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, this temperature may change depending on the different types of plant you are working on, e.g. tropical plants.
Humidity is good. When the room’s temperature rises, the air will be able to hold the sufficient amount of moisture your plants will need.
A hydroponics system can be fully automated. Since it is water-based, the gardener has no soil to dig or weeds to pull. Also, the water can be re-used to prevent wastage.
Here are some tips I found on Google Groups, from a Jim Curts:
“One thing you can not get on the web or from books is hands on experience. Find a Hydroponics supplier in your area and drop in and do some serious snooping and question asking. Your time and effort is well spent in locating an operating Hydroponics operation, large or small, and see what makes it happen. One thing that becomes evident from the very start is the willingness of most of these people to help you.”
Jim goes on to say, “Remember that most of the things you need for your system can be found at your local garden center, home builders supply, hardware store, in your garage or at your neighbor’s yard sale.”
Jim recommends these plants for your hydroponic garden:
- Lettuce, greens and basil
Jim also advises, “Do not be overwhelmed by it all. Remember, [I grew great] lettuce and tomatoes were […] using just two buckets and a piece of rain gutter. Just go for it!”
In summary, developments in the past few years have made hydroponics easier for the home gardener. Newer systems are simpler to set up and operate.
An increase in suppliers of hydroponic garden products means equipment and special fertilizers are more accessible to the home gardener. In fact, home hydroponics systems and DIY kits are are readily available in most hardware stores.
The use of lightweight plastics in the newer systems makes hydroponic gardening less expensive too, and a better investment than older systems that used heavy, concrete benches.
Numerous hydroponic and soilless gardening books can be found in local libraries and bookstores. Information also is available online. Just do a Google search and you’re sure to find lot of hydroponic gardening information and advice!
With hydroponic gardening, an excellent yield of quality plants can be easily achieved.