Table of Contents
- 1 Hydroponic Gardening Guide
- 1.1 Hydroponic Gardening
- 1.2 What is Hydroponics?
- 1.3 How to build a hydroponic garden – Of wicks and drip and ebbs and flows
- 1.4 Benefits of hydroponic gardening – The many benefits of gardening without soil
Hydroponic Gardening Guide
The great gardening mystery of our time is why hydroponics is not a commercial sensation despite being more efficient, environmentally friendly, and better producing than traditional gardening. Our hydroponic gardening articles reveal the secrets of hydroponics, the gardening system of the future.
Gardening without soil. It sounds fantastic, fictional, futuristic, and in a way it is. Hydroponics is an ancient idea that has yet to find its time. But that time is just around the corner.
Hydroponic gardening is to agriculture what alternative fuels are to transportation. As arable land decreases due to global warming and overpopulation, hydroponics is positioned to become the dominant farming technique of our planet’s future.
By feeding nutrients directly to the roots of plants, hydroponics makes greater use of space and resources, easing demands on water and suggesting a new kind of farmer: the small space, urban gardener.
Hydroponic gardens can be found on rooftops or even in bank vaults. A hydroponic gardening system can be set up at home using Styrofoam, an old aquarium, and an air pump. It’s not every day you get a chance to be ahead of your time. The hydroponic gardening articles below offer you a choice of time ship portals.
What is Hydroponics?
How to build a hydroponic garden – Of wicks and drip and ebbs and flows
Before building a hydroponic garden, it’s best to have had some hands-on experience with the hydroponic system you intend to use. In the garden, illustrations and instructions are seldom equal to real-life experience. Buying an inexpensive hydroponic system will help you understand your new garden on more than a theoretical level and likely save you time and money.
Basic hydroponic systems
Hydroponic systems can be either active or passive. Active hydroponic systems circulate nutrient solution using equipment such as pumps. Passive hydroponic systems have no moving parts. Instead, the nutrient solution is passed to the roots through an absorbent growing medium or wick.
There are many different types of hydroponic gardens, but most are similar to these six:
A wick system is a passive hydroponic system. A wick draws the nutrient solution from a reservoir below the growing medium. Wick systems are the easiest hydroponic systems to build, but can’t always keep up with the nutrient demands of larger plants.
In hydroponic drip systems, a submerged pump controlled by a timer provides a nutrient solution to each plant via a small drip line. Drip systems can be set up to recycle unused nutrient solution, though doing so requires monitoring of pH and nutrient strength levels.
Water Culture System
The plants grown in water culture hydroponic systems sit on a platform directly above the nutrient solution, and an air pump propels the nutrient solution up into their roots. Water culture systems are often set up with old or unused aquariums.
Ebb and Flow System
Ebb and Flow is a very popular hydroponic system. A submerged pump operated by a timer fills the growing tray with nutrient solution, which drains back down into the reservoir below. The Ebb and Flow system work best with water-retentive growing mediums such as Rockwool or vermiculite.
Nutrient Film System
Also known as nutrient film technique systems or NFT, nutrient film systems feature an unceasing flow of nutrient solution to the plants. A solution is pumped from the reservoir into the growing tray and over the plants’ roots before draining back into the reservoir. A downside to nutrient film systems is that pump failures will cause roots to dry out very quickly.
In aeroponic systems, the roots of the plants hang in the air and are sprayed with a mist of nutrient solution every few minutes courtesy of a timer.
Building a Hydroponic Water Culture Garden
The water culture system is one of the easiest hydroponic gardens for beginners to build. You will need the following materials:
- Air pump
- Air stone
- Styrofoam sheet 1 1/2 inches thick
- Plastic cups
- Grow media
- Hydroponic Nutrient
- A pH test kit
Begin by cutting the Styrofoam sheet to a size one inch less than the length and width of your aquarium. Then cut holes just large enough for the cup bottoms to extend 1/2 inch below the Styrofoam. Cut several small root holes in each cup and then fill each cup with grow media (Rockwool or vermiculite are commonly used). Place seeds or seedlings in each cup and position in Styrofoam (seeds will need to be watered manually).
Fill the aquarium with water and set up the air stone at the bottom. Mix the hydroponic nutrient in the water to the recommended level and adjust pH using the pH test kit.
Building a hydroponic garden like this one requires a few additional touches. Evaporation will cause the nutrient solution to become more concentrated, so added nutrient should be diluted accordingly. Nutrient solution should occasionally be siphoned out completely and remixed.
As with fish aquariums, sunlight will cause algae to form. Taping black garbage bags around the exterior of the aquarium will prevent algae formation.
Benefits of hydroponic gardening – The many benefits of gardening without soilHydroponics garden
Though the benefits of hydroponic gardening are numerous and well documented, the commercial hydroponics industry has yet to truly hit the mainstream. Part of the reason for this is that governments worldwide continue to equate hydroponics with marijuana and have persecuted hydroponics companies accordingly (read about Operation Green Merchant for an American example). But as time passes, environmental concerns and a decline in arable land will inevitably foster global awareness of the advantages of hydroponics for farmers and home vegetable gardeners alike.
Hydroponics versus soil
Hydroponics is gardening without soil. In hydroponic gardening systems, plants are placed in a growing medium and nutrients are provided directly to the roots.
Many people are surprised that plants don’t require soil to live, but soil can sometimes be a very inefficient growing medium. Plants expend a great deal of energy growing root systems so they can search the soil for the water and nutrients they need to survive. By providing constant and readily available nutrition, hydroponics allows plants to grow up to 50% faster than they do in soil.
Gardening without soil offers many other benefits:
- complete control over nutrient balance
- pH and nutrient levels are simple to measure and maintain
- significant reduction of soil pests and diseases
- greater spacing efficiency due to smaller roots
- concentrated feeding reduces water waste
Environmental benefits of hydroponic gardening
One of the heralded benefits of hydroponic gardening is how it can alleviate poverty while simultaneously easing strains on the environment. Hydroponic gardening systems can be set up to recycle water and nutrients, greatly reducing the resources necessary to grow food.
Recycling hydroponic systems use as little as 10% of the water that traditional agriculture requires, a tremendous benefit in areas entirely dependent on irrigation. Hydroponic gardening virtually eliminates the need for herbicides and pesticides, and hydroponic gardeners need only use about 1/4 the fertilizer that traditional gardeners require.
As the amount of arable land continues to decrease (over 10 million hectares per year are lost), another environmental benefit of hydroponic gardening will gain attention: Hydroponic gardens can produce the same yield as soil gardens in about 1/5 space. And because artificially lit hydroponic gardens are not dependent on growing seasons, they can produce yields several times a year rather than just once. It has even been speculated that in decades to come, hydroponics will become a significant food source for over-populated urban regions, with people growing food on rooftops or in basements.
Disadvantages of hydroponic gardening
Since we’ve given you the benefits of hydroponic gardening, we should probably list its disadvantages. And there are a few.
The primary disadvantage of hydroponics at this time is cost. Because hydroponic gardening is still something of a rarity, even commercially, the initial equipment needed for hydroponic systems can be expensive. But there’s an upside even to that. Once you have a hydroponic garden established, the cost of running it is cheaper than soil gardening.
Another disadvantage is that pump-driven hydroponic systems can be susceptible to power outages. For that reason we recommend having a back-up power source available should you build a hydroponic garden.
Another disadvantage often cited is the hydroponic gardener’s greater need for technical knowledge. We quibble with this one a bit. If you’re getting into hydroponic gardening, chances are you’ve done your homework beforehand and you’ve already had significant gardening experience. Setting up an air pump and monitoring a nutrient solution isn’t like flying a space shuttle.
If you’re diligent and conscientious there’s no reason to be daunted by the idiosyncrasies of a hydroponic gardening system. And as you can see, the benefits of hydroponic gardening far outweigh the disadvantages.