Are you the type of person that enjoys gardening? Do you like the idea of growing your own fruits and vegetables for yourself or your friends and family? Most people that have gardened, whether they are committed to growing large crops or if they just have a couple of container garden plants know that when you grow your own food, you gain a sense of accomplishment and you are giving yourself the gift of healthy, untreated foods. In addition, in today’s economy, growing a garden is a viable option to expensive groceries that are not only not as fresh as they could be, but do not taste as good either.
There are certainly many methods in which to garden. Traditionally, you will prepare a plot of land and cultivate and harvest your crops. If you have a very small space, you might opt to grow herbs in a windowsill or you might even try container gardening. There is another way to garden, too. It is called “hydroponics” and this type of gardening is growing in popularity. It is a proven method of growing valuable crops without the use of soil. That is right—when you use hydroponic gardening; you take advantage of the light, air, and water. It may seem impossible, but it is not and many people who tout hydroponics point out that this is the gardening of the future—hydroponic crops can be grown almost anywhere, even in areas where the soil is bad for growing crops.
In the following, you will learn more about hydroponics, what it is and the history. You will also learn about the various systems that you can use and how you can get started. It may seem like an odd hobby, but many people are finding hydroponic gardening interesting and satisfying.
WHAT IS HYDROPONICS?
What is hydroponics? You may have never even given this type of gardening a second thought. Take a look at the word—the word “hydroponics” comes from the Greek words “hyrdro”, which means water and the word “ponos”, which means labor. By definition, hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions without soil. Plants may be grown with their roots in an inert medium such as mineral wool, gravel or perlite.
Understanding Hydroponic Growing
In order to understand home hydroponics or commercial hydroponics, you have to get the basic principals down. It is also important to understand that as hydroponic farming becomes more popular, the systems and ways to grow hydroponic plants expands. Industrious and creative growers are always looking for new ways to grow plants and crops this way.
You probably know that when a plant grows, it requires light, carbon dioxide, and oxygen. The root system of the plant needs water to carry the nutrients to the other parts of the plants. When plants are grown in the soil, the nutrients and water will seep into the soil and then the plant will use the root system to draw the water and nutrients into the plant to be used. This is what makes the plant grow and develop. The soil drainage will allow the water to be replaced by air in the gaps that are between each soil grain. These gaps will give oxygen back to the roots for the plant to grow.
Things work a little differently when dealing with indoor hydroponics. When this method of growing plants is used, there is no soil present. The hydroponic nutrients are dissolved in the water and the soil is replaced by another growing medium, which will supply the plant roots with the nutrients, oxygen, and water that the plant needs.
In fact, when dealing with homegrown hydroponics, there are all sorts of supplies and things you can use to help your plants grow. Hydro juice, which is a popular hydroponic nutrient, can be used as a drip-fed to each plant. In some hydroponic greenhouses, the hydro juice will be used to flood the root chamber and allowed to drain out of the system.
Needs of the plant:
All plants grow at a different speed and rate and what the plant is given to work with will certainly affect the growth rate. When you think about it, the soil is really not necessary to make a plant grow. The root needs something to take in nutrients, but the soil only really serves as a way to hold the plant upright and in place. Given other materials in which to grow, the plant will grow just fine.
Hydroponics is based on that principal—if you give the plant the basics that it needs to grow (the water, nutrients, oxygen), it will grow.
When the hydroponic nutrients are given to the plant, it will flow freely to the plant roots and the roots do not have to grow or branch out to look for nutrients and water. The result is that the plant’s energy is spent growing the part of the plant that you want—the fruit or vegetable or the foliage. In fact, a plant that is grown using this method grows much faster, more efficiently and will have smaller roots and more foliage than plants grown in the soil.
It is true that you can’t simply decide to start a hydroponic garden and find immediate success. It does take planning, patience and the right supplies such as hydroponic grow lights and other equipment. Most of this type of gardening should take place in a greenhouse that is properly equipped. This will allow you to control the temperature, light, insects and other pests and weather conditions. Hydroponic grow lights can also be installed in your greenhouse for the best results. Using greenhouse methods will allow you to get the results you want when you use hydroponic techniques with your plants.
What you can grow:
Almost any plant can be grown using hydroponics. Hydroponics grow well with all sorts of herb plants, vegetables, fruits, and house plants. There are, however, some plants that do not do well using hydroponics. These type of plants include:
• Woody plants: Woody plants include perennial plants such as shrubs honeysuckle, juniper, Buford holly, gardenia, rose bushes, grapevines, and trees.
• Plants with large roots: These types of plants include potatoes of all varieties, carrots, and radishes.
• Some fruits and vegetables that take up too much space: Plants that are considered “space hogs”, or plants that need a lot of room to grow are not often recommended for hydroponic growing. These include large pumpkins, corn, melons, zucchini, and squash.
If you do not see the plant you want to grow on the above list, chances are, it will do quite well when you grow it using hydroponics. Fruits and vegetables that are generally liked best in a certain season do especially well. Strawberries, peppers, and tomatoes are all very popular choices and are easy to grow. These are also good choices for the beginner.
If you are just starting out using hydroponics, it is recommended that you start off small and choose your crop carefully. You will want to choose something that is generally considered easy to grow in a regular garden and then apply this to your hydroponic garden. Once you get the hang of this new type of garden, you can expand your crops and plants.
Hydroponics is certainly growing more and more in popularity. If you can grow it in soil, then you can probably grow it using hydroponics. It only takes a little planning and some work to get the techniques down. In fact, there are entire stores and websites that are solely dedicated to the hydroponic gardener and the supplies needed to get the garden off to a great start.
Getting better results
Gardeners that use hydroponics will tell you that using these techniques can be compared to growing plants using steroids. Of course, you do not actually use steroids, but you are using a method of producing crops that makes them grow faster and better than soil and traditional methods.
When you use the right amount of minerals and nutrients for your hydroponic planting, you will be quickly rewarded with an abundance of your favorite plant, fruits, and vegetables. You will produce a higher yield faster.
As you can see, there are many things to consider when you want to use hydroponics to grow plants and crops. Hydroponic gardening has been around for several years, but as technology improves, the techniques and materials that you can use improve as well.
Gardening for the future
It is easy to see why hydroponics is the way of the future for gardening. In soilless areas of the world and in areas that are ideal for growing any kind of plants, hydroponics can be used. IN fact, these gardening techniques are constantly being improved and are being taught all over the world. Even NASA has discovered that hydroponics may very well benefit future space travel and space habitation sometimes in the near future.
Once you have decided to give hydroponics a try, you will need to think about how you will get started. There are many different types of kits that you can purchase. These come in all sizes and can help the gardener grow big or small crops. These kits come with everything you need to get started. You can also choose to build your own hydroponic system. These are generally easy to build and cheap to maintain. You can find plans and ideas on how to build your own system online and in books. Your local home improvement center is also a good place to go for help with your gardening needs.