If you are looking for a practical, effective, efficient and ‘earth-friendly’ approach to gardening, hydroponics deserves your attention, especially for those who have limited space. Fortunately, more and more companies provide basic equipment, nurtients and hydroponic kits that are affordable. These kits will make it possible for you to grow your own plants (vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers).
However, before you start the process of making your own hydroponic garden, you will need to learn the basics before investing any of your hard earned cash. For starters, it is essential that you equip yourself with lots of relevant information as well as the right hydroponics kits to begin the process. You need to understand what hydroponics is all about, and gain the necessary knowledge if you are to accomplish this project effectively.
An Introduction to Hydroponics
Hydroponics is a sub-set of hydroculture, where plants are grown in a soilless medium. It is an established branch of agronomy or the science and technology of producing and using plants as food, fuel, feed, etc. So basically, you can think of it as the art of “water gardening”.
In 1936, Dr. W.F. Gericke coined the word “Hydroponics” to describe the nurturing of edible and ornamental plants in a water solution containing dissolved nutrients. The word is derived from Greek words “Hydro” and “Ponos” which means water and labor.
You enrich the water with a ‘nutrient solution’ that is perfectly-balanced for your choice of plants. It is the efficient maintenance of that controlled environment that makes it possible for the plants to grow well.
Unlike gardening with the use of fertilized soil, an effective hydroponic system will protect that nutrient solution and keep it from evaporating or discharging into the environment. Because of this, hydroponics became known as an ‘earth-friendly gardening’.
The water-nutrient solution is basically a nutrient-enriched mineral water that you can usually formulate on your own or with the aid of specialist nutrients. These days, you can easily find the essential nutrients and other equipment from one of the many specialist suppliers on the Internet.
Because you are able to provide the plants with a properly balanced solution of nutrients, plants grown using this method usually produce the healthiest crops with the highest yields and vitamin content.
There are two main types of hydroponics: Solution Culture and Medium Culture.
This is only about the use of nutrient solutions; it does not need a solid medium for the roots. The following are the main types of solution culture:
- Static solution culture – plants are grown in containers (glass, plastic buckets, tubs, etc.) with a nutrient solution.
- Continuous-flow solution culture – the nutrient solution continuously flows through the roots which are exposed to adequate supplies of water, oxygen, and nutrients.
- Aeroponics – plants are grown with their roots suspended in a deep air, growth chamber or saturated environment wherein the nutrient solution is delivered as a fine mist.
On the other hand, medium culture calls for a solid medium for the roots. The medium could be in the form of sand, gravel, rockwool, etc.. Sub-irrigation and top irrigation are the variations of each medium.
The Benefits and Drawbacks
Hydroponic gardening comes with numerous benefits, and of course, a number of downsides. You have to be aware of the pros and cons of growing plants hydroponically before deciding to build your own hydroponic system.
- Plants grown in a hydroponics garden are healthier than their soil-grown counterparts. This is mainly because of the correctlybalanced ‘diet’ the plants receive from the water-nutrient solution.
- Hydroponically grown plants do not come in contact with soil-borne pests and diseases. You can easily get rid of pests and other unwanted elements.
- You can reduce the costs of soil preparation. In fact, no soil is needed. Labor for traditional gardening practices such as tilling is eliminated. It’s a perfect solution for those who can’t possibly embark on an in-ground gardening.
- It’s an effective approach to water management because water stays in the system and can be reused.
- You are less likely to suffer from losses due to drought and ground flooding. Instead, you will have a complete control of the environment for your plants.
- Plants grown using hydroponics are easy to harvest, stable and produce high yields of healthier and more luscious crops.
- However, most hydroponic systems are not easy to manage by inexperienced individuals. You need to gain sufficient knowledge before investing in hydroponics, especially with regards to the principles of nutrition.
- Any failure to the system will rapidly lead to plant death because you no longer have any soil to act as a buffer. You may have to go for expensive hydroponics systems to ensure this does not occur.
- It can be a costly endeavor, especially if you still prefer to use soil-based plants. You may have to deal with varying fertilizer requirements and containment systems.
- You may have to dedicate a great deal of your time and effort, because hydroponic plants react quickly to either good or poor nutritionand you may need to observe the process.
The Basic Necessities
You don’t have to immediately go for an advanced or expert grower level system in order to achieve the benefits and results that you aim for. As a hobbyist or a newbie DIYer, you can get a lot of information that can help you start a basic hydroponic gardening system.
You will have to understand what needs to be done, especially with regards to the acquisition of the necessary resources. It’s crucial that you check what your local water contains. Call your water company and ask for an analysis. Find out whether your local water can be used for this project.
Choose the right varieties of seeds/plants. This can then lead you to decide which hydroponic nutrients to strive for. You can find commercially-available hydroponic nutrient that comes with instructions for mixing solutions. Look for that nutrient that is specifically designed for your hydroponic application.
Learn about the different types of hydroponics system. Search carefully for the best providers of hydroponics kits and equipment, particularly if you want to try the DIY route. Assess the features of each kit that you can find. You should expect an off the shelf kit to include a growing light, watering system, growing media, containers, seeds and other supplies, together with detailed instructions and basic userguide/manual.
There is much to learn if you want to succeed in hydroponics gardening. However, DIY hydroponics doesn’t have to be arduous and complicated. In fact, it is strongly advised that you try to keep things simple. The simpler your hydroponic system is, the easier it is to manage and sustain. There are lots of comprehensive guides can help you out. It’s just a matter of taking things slow but sure.
Start with the basics and gradually learn about the many important things that could help you accomplish a productive hydroponics system. More importantly, choose the right hydroponics kits for your needs and budget.