Hydroponics is a growing industry. It is fun, easy and you don’t need to be an expert to start. So what do you need to get started? Hydroponics has been around for thousands of years, but it is the past few years that we have seen an exponential increase in the popularity of hydroponics; with this increased popularity came tons of questions. Some of the most common ones are: What exactly is Hydroponics? How do I get started? Where can I buy stuff? Should I build or buy my system? What’s the best plant for my situation? What’s the best nutrient system? All those and more will be answered here.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.
Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel or mineral wool. Plants cultivated using hydroponics are called hydroponics cultures and this technique may be used in greenhouses, indoors or outdoors.
Hydroponics is also a subset of hydroculture and it is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite or gravel. The nutrients in hydroponics can come from an array of different sources; these can include but are not limited to byproducts from fish waste, duck manure, or purchased chemical fertilizers.
So why hydroponics?
Hydroponic systems can grow plants faster than conventional agriculture because they provide more control over plant nutrition and have less loss of fertilizer to leaching. They allow you to grow more plants on less land because you will be able to make better use of vertical space and because you don’t need the land for planting. Many people choose to use hydroponics because it allows
A brief history of hydroponics
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a nutrient-rich solution rather than soil. The term hydroponics comes from two Greek words: “hydro” meaning water and “ponos” meaning labor.
This method of gardening has been around for thousands of years, with the earliest evidence of hydroponic cultivation appearing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Many believe that the system was first developed in ancient Egypt or China, but there is no surviving evidence to support those claims.
A Brief History
The practice of growing crops on floating rafts gained popularity in Southeast Asia during the Middle Ages and was later adopted by European farmers after it was introduced by Spanish explorers. In the 16th century, it was reported that Native Americans were using this approach to grow crops such as tobacco and maize.
The first modern-day hydroponic gardens began appearing in Europe in the early 1900s. These early systems were used to grow vegetables for soldiers during World War I and World War II.
Today, many commercial farmers use hydroponic systems though in certain parts of Africa like Kenya hydroponics is just now beginning to catch traction to grow fruits and vegetables, with tomatoes and cucumbers being among the most popular.
How a hydroponic system works
The objective of hydroponics is to grow plants without soil. By eliminating the need for soil, the plant is able to get its nutrients directly from a solution, which allows for faster growth and higher yields.
There are six major components in a hydroponic system: growing medium, reservoir, pump, wick system, tubing, and light source.
The growing medium acts as both a support and a reservoir of nutrient solution. The most commonly used media are Perlite, Vermiculite, and Rockwool.
The reservoir holds the nutrient solution that will be delivered to the plant roots by an automatic timer-controlled pump. With a sufficient volume of nutrient solution, the reservoir can maintain stable levels of pH and nutrient strength for up to two weeks.
The pump provides the energy needed to move nutrients from the reservoir to the plant roots through a delivery system.
The wick system is probably the simplest way to provide nutrients to your plants because it uses no electricity. However, it lacks automation and has limited water capacity. The wick system works by drawing water from the reservoir into the growing medium through capillary action.
Scheduling for your system
The light is on a timer that turns it on every day for 14 hours. You can use a simple plug-in timer like the kind you use to turn your Christmas tree lights on and off. You can buy one at any hardware or home store.
If you are growing herbs, some people like to turn the light off at night to simulate the natural day/night cycle of plants. If you are growing lettuce or other fast-growing vegetables, it’s fine to leave your lights on 24 hours a day.
It’s okay to have a light cycle that is less than 14 hours per day (for example, 11 hours) but not more than 14 hours per day (for example, 17 hours).
It’s also okay if your light cycle is not exactly 12 hours on and 12 hours off – for example, if your light turns on at 7 am and goes off at 7 pm, that’s fine too.
Most people use their hydroponics system indoors, so they don’t need additional lighting from the sun.
However, if you are growing plants outdoors in natural sunlight instead of using grow lights, it’s important to make sure your plants get enough sunlight every day. If you live in a very sunny climate where it is never cloudy and there are long summer
Once you have your hydroponics system set up, you’re going to need to do a few things on a regular basis to keep it running smoothly.
One of the most important jobs is to look after your seedlings. When you first start out, you’ll probably be buying seedling kits with about 15-20 seeds. These seeds need to be nurtured in their early stages of growth, and this will require some effort on your part.
Once the seeds have germinated, you’ll need to keep the small plants moist – but not too wet – and make sure they don’t dry out. This can be tricky at first, but with a bit of practice, it will become second nature.
Every couple of days you’ll need to feed the seedlings just a tiny amount of fertilizer dissolved in water. You can buy special fertilizers for hydroponics systems or use compost tea or fish emulsion as a nutrient solution.
All hydroponic fertilizers consist of the three main nutrients in different proportions. Nitrogen(N) is key to leaf growth. Phosphorus(P) is key to root growth and fruiting. Potassium(K) is key to stem growth, flower production, and plant development.
In soil, most of the fertilizers remain unused by plants due to the presence of soil microbes that compete with plants for available nutrients. The fertilizer you apply will be used only as much as it is needed by plants.
hydroponics, no such competition exists so we have to be very careful while applying fertilizers. Excess fertilizers can harm your plants and over a period of time, the nutrient solution becomes toxic for plants.
The three main types of hydroponic systems are deep water culture, aeroponics, and wick systems. In deep water culture, your plant roots are suspended in a nutrient solution container submerged in an oxygen-rich environment using an air pump and airstone.
The nutrient solution is made of water mixed with a liquid fertilizer. The air pump should run for 24 hours a day and the oxygen pump should run for at least 4 hours a day.
Water quality and management
Hydroponics is the method of growing plants in a nutrient solution. Plants grown this way are usually grown without soil in an inert medium such as perlite, gravel, or sand with a liquid nutrient solution.
The key to hydroponics is that the roots of the plant are suspended directly in the nutrient solution. This allows the roots of the plant to be exposed to much higher levels of oxygen than they would receive in soil.
The second part of hydroponics is what we call “nutrient solution.” The three major nutrients in the water are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. These are labeled N-P-K on most fertilizers and appear as percentages – for example, N-5%, P-10%, K-5%.
There are also several trace elements that plants need but in much smaller quantities, i.e., iron, zinc, manganese, and other nutrients vital for healthy plants.
Water quality and management are also very important when it comes to hydroponics because if you do not have clean water you can have problems like algae growing in your system which can cause bad tastes and smells for your crops and block sunlight from reaching your plants.
Pest control in hydroponics systems
Hydroponic systems are a great way to grow pesticide-free vegetables. There is, however, one pest that can be a problem in hydroponic systems: ants. Ants are drawn to the sugar found in the nutrient solution and will climb up the hoses and into the grow tubes of your system. This allows them access to your plant roots where they can damage root hairs and do other harm.
Ants can be controlled by making it hard for them to access your grow tubes or by killing them once they get into your system.
One easy way to make it hard for ants to climb up onto your system is to place some silicone caulk around the base of your pots where they sit on top of your reservoir.
This creates a barrier that ants cannot cross. If you have a flood table-type hydroponic system, you can use glue traps placed under the table along the edges; this will catch any ants that fall off the plants and try to escape back into the room.
I hope that you’re excited to try out your hydroponic system. If there’s one thing that I want you to take away from this article, it’s the fact that hydroponics is an elegant solution for many problems—not just for the food deserts of the world, though that may be the most well-known application of hydroponics today.