Hydroponic gardening is an interesting field that addresses a number of issues faced in the world of food production. Hydroponic is soilless gardening. For several years now, scientists have actually understood that plants might be cultivated in a medium other than soil. To use this concept of soilless gardening, they developed agricultural systems like indoor hydroponic systems that do not need soil for growing. Indoor hydroponic systems can cultivate anything from vegetables, fruits, herbs, mushrooms, and marijuana. In areas where fields are over congested or removed of their nutrients, hydroponics is a better way food can be produced, using minimum area and resources.
Hydroponic growth causes a boost in production over conventional farming in 2 ways
- For one, hydroponic gardening conserves space. Plants can be positioned a lot more closely together than in conventional fields. 4 times as many plants can be grown in the space utilizing hydroponic strategies as opposed to traditional methods.
- Secondly, hydroponics removes a number of the issues connected with standard farming that leads to sickly, damaged, or ruined crops.
Hydroponic growers buy or concoct their own nutrient mixes. This takes the guesswork out of which plants will grow best in a field, and what nutrients are required to be added to the soil. This alone makes hydroponics a very efficient technique for food production.
Hydroponic growing is also environmentally sound. The water consumption in hydroponic growing is considerably less than traditional farming approaches. In a lot of cases, hydroponic crops use a tenth of the water of comparable traditional crops. The water that is required is completely used, and weeds do not steal part of the crop’s water supply.
The advantages are not without their costs though. Much hydroponic growing happens in greenhouses, where considerable quantities of electricity are utilized trying to give the hydroponic plants all the light they need. With the advent of LED lights, which are getting better all the time in mimicking the sun, and the use of solar power, these costs are coming down.
There is a typical misunderstanding that hydroponic growing produces natural food. While it is possible, and you should grow natural and organic food through hydroponics, this is the exception and not the rule. Most commercial and uninformed growers utilize pesticides for growing their hydroponic crops. Though the pesticides used in hydroponics do not run-off and pollute the surrounding environment like the pesticides utilized on standard fields, they are still in the plants themselves and therefore in you.
Much research is being committed to solving the concerns that currently stop more farmers from going hydroponic. Until these issues are fixed however, farmers will need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of hydroponics prior to making the leap.
Indoor Hydroponic Systems
Having a garden in your backyard is a fantastic way to get fresh veggies all summer long. But what about the rest of the year? For fresh vegetables 365 days a year, you can rely on an indoor hydroponic system.
Russian researchers first developed the right formula for utilizing watering systems to deliver the plants’ nutrient source for optimal plant growth, in the 1890s.
There are various approaches utilized for indoor hydroponic systems. Rather than soil, inert growing material is used to grow plants. This growing material will permit water to flow through it. The guideline is, that the more porous the material, the better for growing.
Indoor hydroponic systems consist of a reservoir or tank, growing trays or tube, a timer, a pump and a source of light and can be extremely basic to construct. In fact, you may not even need to buy a great deal of equipment for you to begin developing your own system. Depending upon the size of your indoor space you have readily available, you can even use an old aquarium tank, or a tote container, you might already have, as a tank to hold the nutrients. Just make sure the plastic is food grade or line it with food grade sheeting. The air pump is responsible for keeping oxygen levels in the nutrient water appropriate for the plant roots to endure. Often, an air stone, a sort of permeable stone that produces air bubbles, is utilized to produce the oxygen necessary to plants. There are also domes you can get that hook up to the air pump to deliver oxygen to the root zone. Some watering systems use gravity instead of pumps to move nutrients to the roots as the AutoPots do.
Indoor hydroponic systems can also be purchased in kits. It’s a really hassle-free way to start your own indoor hydroponic system, especially if you know next to nothing about designing, let alone building, a hydroponic system.
Popular choices of hydroponic growing mediums
Rockwool is the most typical growing medium utilized in hydroponics. Rockwool is a sterilized, permeable, nondegradable medium that is made up mostly of granite and/or limestone which is superheated and melted, then spun into little threads which are then formed into blocks, sheets, or cubes. Rockwool draws up water quickly so you’ll need to take care not to let it end up being saturated, or it might suffocate your plants’ roots, causing stem or root rot. Rockwool needs to be pH balanced prior to using which is done by soaking it in ph balanced water.
Grow rock also known as Hydrocorn is a Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate (L.E.C.A.). Grow rocks are a non-degradable, sterilized growing medium that has a neutral pH, holds water, and will provide nutrients to the root system of your plants. It has been super-fired to develop a porous texture and it’s light-weight yet heavy enough to provide support for your plants. Recyclable, it can be cleaned up, decontaminated, then reused again. Grow rock is among the most popular growing mediums utilized for hydroponics.
Coco coir is the fiber from the external husk of coconuts. It’s considered one of the best options for a growing medium. It breaks down and disintegrates gradually, so it when it is old you can just throw it in your compost bin and it will add fluff to your finished compost. Coco coir is pH neutral, holds moisture extremely well, and lets air get to the roots. Coco fiber can be found in 2 types, coco coir (fiber), and coco chips, the only distinction is the particle size. The fiber size is like potting soil, while the coco chips are chunky, like landscaping wood chips. The bigger size of the coco chips enables larger air pockets in between particles permitting better aeration to the roots. If you use mesh baskets to grow your plants in, the chips won’t fall through.
Perlite is a natural amorphous volcanic glass that has relatively high water content. It is formed by the hydration of obsidian and subjected to very high heat, which expands it like popcorn so it becomes very lightweight, porous and absorbent. Perlite has a neutral pH and excellent wicking action. It can be used by itself or mixed with other types of growing medium. Perlite is so light that it floats, and by itself is not the best choice of growing medium for flood and drain systems. Perlite is a non-renewable resource.
Vermiculite is a hydrous phyllosilicate mineral that expands when exposed to very high heat. Vermiculite has a relatively high cation-exchange capacity, so it can hold nutrients for later use. Also, like the perlite, vermiculite is very light and tends to float. But it is indestructible. It will not rot, deteriorate, or mold and is odorless, non-toxic and sterile. Vermiculite can be used alone for cuttings of clones and is often mixed with peat moss, compost or soil. I got mine at Canadian Tire.
Water Absorbing Polymer Crystals are gaining popularity. Used in diapers, it’s readily available and commonly called “slush powder”. It can absorb and retain large amounts of liquid making it great where water is scarce, like on the space station. It will expand from 30 to 60 times its own volume and it releases liquid slowly making it ideal for getting nutrients to your plants. Because it is stingy releasing liquid it is best suited as an additive instead of using it straight. It has the consistency of Jell-O on its own.
Sand is easy to find and makes a great medium for hydroponics. Get the largest grains of sand you can find so more air can circulate to the roots. Rinse the sand well before using to remove the dust. Mixing sand with vermiculite, perlite, or coco coir will make your pots much lighter for moving around as sand is very heavy by itself.
There are other materials that are used in hydroponic growing like polyurethane foam which is used like rock wool, bark or wood shavings, floral foam and oasis cubes used by florists, gravel and aquarium stones. Depending on where you live other types of mediums may be available, such as rice husks.
A New Way of Growing- Aeroponics
Aeroponic growing uses an approach of growing plants indoors and the roots are nourished by suspending their structures in air and regularly spraying them with a nutrient and water solution without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. Unlike hydroponics, which uses a liquid nutrient solution as a growing medium and essential mineral to sustain plant growth, aquaponics which uses water and often fish waste. Aeroponics can be utilized for vegetables and plants consisting of strawberries, melon, cucumbers, and numerous others.
Aeroponics is more complex and more difficult to comprehend than other hydroponics techniques. Instead of relying on a mixture of soil and water to feed the plants, aeroponic horticulturists spray the root systems with a nutrient mix.
Because the roots are enclosed, the nutrient-water mix is used more efficiently by the plants and less water is needed for them to grow and thrive.
The aeroponic system is the most innovative hydroponic approach readily available. Using an aeroponic system will offer numerous hydroponic garden enthusiasts the chance to improve their gardens even more. Liquified oxygen at the root boundary zone allows Aeroponically grown plants to grow better.
In aeroponics, the nutrient option is sprayed through the air in order to instill the nutrient with liquified oxygen. As soon as the system is established, it will run indefinitely without any extra investments in disposable parts such as growing medium and non-recirculating nutrients.
Aeroponic systems can be developed using numerous materials, and have the ability to be set up in numerous designs.
An example of some aeroponics is a stand-alone module that supports four plants in ten liters of nutrient solution. In this system, an electrical motor is installed on the top of the system and it spins a nutrient sprayer, which lifts the nutrients and sprays it on to the roots. The rotation of the sprayer causes the nutrient within the unit to stir, moving it continuously over the submerged roots. Some commercial aeroponic systems consist of canals or growing chambers with plants on top.
In both systems, the plants are supported above the streaming nutrient, and the roots hang down through an air space in which the nutrient is sprayed, then into the moving nutrients below the air gap. The nutrient being sprayed through the air gap is to infuse the oxygen into the nutrient mix where the feeder roots are continuously immersed.
In this system, the nutrient is changed every two weeks and the pH level is kept at 5.5 to 6.5 and nutrient conductivity is kept at 800 to 1200 ppm. Because there isn’t a growing medium, pH remains stable and only needs adjustment when mixing in fresh nutrients.
Aeroponics can provide a number of benefits to devoted growers. The method is enhancing the face of hydroponics, and if accepted by industrial growers it will just broaden further.