For those of you that are new to the concept, hydroponics is the growing of things without soil. This concept of hydroponics has been around for many years but has really taken off over the past fifty years or so. These days a large amount of the world’s food is grown using hydroponics. OK, we are discussing growing plants without soil which to some is a strange concept. The question that is first and foremost is why without soil? What is wrong with growing in soil? Which is better, hydroponics or soil? Well as with anything opinions vary. We here at grow-with-hydroponics side with soil-less growing.
Hydroponics gives us a number of advantages over soil. Hydroponic plants grow much faster than plants in soil, not to mention that the hydroponic plants give you lots more of what you want, flowers or fruit, than soil grown plants. What is the cause of this? Hydroponics allow the nutrients and water to go right into the root system of the plant while plants that grow in soil must seek out the water and nutrients that are present in the soil environment. The less effort a plant has to expend searching the more effort they can spend growing.
Lastly there are less opportunities for garden pests to attack and damage the hydroponic plants. Hydroponics is a method that the environmentalists love since it uses a lot less fresh water since you do not have to waste tons of water watering outdoor soil growing plants. Getting back to the garden pest part, we have less of a chance of pests so there is no need to use a tone of dangerous chemicals. These pesticides harm the earth and the humans involved. Hydroponics sure seem great don’t they?
We have discussed now that hydroponics grows plants without soil, so what in the world do they grow in? Well the growing medium used in hydroponics can vary based on the growers preference and the hydroponic growing system that the person is using. The main goal as we have stated is to make sure the water and nutrients are given the opportunity to reach the root system of the plants. Hydroton expanded clay pellets are a very popular medium that is used in ebb and flow hydroponic systems. Hydroton clay pellets make sure that there is good aeration for the roots so they prevent rotting. Best of all they are completely reusable, drain away excess water, lightweight and stay nicely spaced without compacting. Rockwool, perlite and vermiculite are also common mediums used in hydroponics.
When it comes to providing your hydroponic plants with the essential nutrients for life the same ideas are followed as with soil dwelling plants. Hydroponic plants will need basically the same thing as soil plants so the best thing to do is get a high quality hydroponic fertilizer. Elements that are present in good soil will also be provided for your plants when using a high quality hydroponic nutrient solution which can be purchased at your local hydroponic supply store. The hydroponic nutrient solutions on the market today come in both a powdered and a liquid variety. There are pros and cons to both the powdered and liquid varieties. The powdered are a bit cheaper but have to be measured well and you must make sure they dissolve fully. The liquid ones are a bit more expensive but dissolve very quickly and often have material that buffers the pH level in the solution.
Alright so you are ready to buy a hydroponic system for your needs. Do you get one that is active or passive? What is the difference. What is available out there. Well active hydroponic systems use a method, often a pump, to get the solution around.
Passive hydroponic systems rely on a wick to bring the growing solution to the growing medium such as slate, vermiculite, perlite, sand, rockwool or hydroton. The basic types of systems are the wick as explained earlier, the water culture type which is the most basic active hydroponic system, the ebb and flow type that floods the solution over the growing plants and then allows the excess to drain off, the drip system which drips solution directly on the base of the plants (this can be a recovery, collect the run off and reuse or non-recovery, not collect the run off,, lastly the nutrient film and aeroponic. I recommend researching all of these in order to find the type that will suit your needs the best since they all have pros and cons of their own.