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Since school, everyone is taught that plants need soil to survive. However, modern technology has found a way to eliminate this requirement through growing hydroponics. Nutrient-rich water or a soil-less mixture of bark takes the place of soil. This method of gardening works for both residential and commercial use. It has become more popular in recent years owing to its advantages.
Hydroponics as a method of gardening offers a few advantages. For starters, there are no pests and weeds to deal with. This saves you a tremendous amount of time and focuses your attention on more important things. Plants grown with this method tend to be healthier and mature earlier. No soil also means they take up less space.
The water-based nature of growing hydroponics makes it possible to automate the system. Various components may be installed to make this happen. Plants tend to last longer even without the care of a gardener for an extended time.
It may not seem like it but hydroponics does not use as much water as traditional gardening methods. In fact, the water is reused which limits water loss due to evaporation and runoff to a minimum.
Models to Follow
There are three common models used for hydroponic gardening.
Wick System - This is the easiest and simplest set-up to follow. Nutrients are transferred from a reservoir with a candlewick to the plant’s roots. This approach is best used for home gardens.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) - Pumps are used to move nutrient-rich waters into tubes where roots are. This feeds
the plants around the clock but a constant flow must be maintained for the lack of growing medium to hold the moisture. Even the slightest bit of interruption can cause the roots to dry up and wither.
Continuous Drip System - This set-up is quite similar to NFT but with a slight difference. In this set-up, adjusting the amount of water absorbed by each plant within the network is possible. Drip trays are installed to catch water and run it back to the system for growing hydroponics.
What You Need To Get Started
The equipment needed for growing hydroponics varies depending on your desired set-up. In its simplest form, all it takes is a bucket filled with sand and a watering can for delivering the nutrient solution. Large-scale operations would have far more complex components including pieces of electronics.
Nutrient Solution - In the absence of soil, nutrients have to be supplied directly to the plants. Formulations can be tailored to suit specific species of plants. These are usually applied in the context of large-scale hydroponics such as farming. Still, there are general formulations which can be used for just about any kind of plant.
Nutrient Delivery System - Some sort of mechanism to deliver the nutrients to the plants is one of the most important components of a hydroponic garden. In most cases, a humble watering is up for the job. However, larger operations require a system which involves pumps, gates and valves. A drip system is also installed to trickle the solution onto the plants.
Containers - Plants may be placed on individual or communal containers. These are often large trays which can hold plenty of plants at once. It simplifies nutrient delivery with up to 100 plants getting their share of nutrients at the same time.
Computerized Sensors - These are needed if you want to automate growing hydroponics. Sensors make all the necessary adjustments and monitor the quality of the solution at the same time. These can also be used to control lighting, ventilation, humidity and carbon dioxide levels. Of course commercial operations will require such system.
Growing Media - These are any type of material, whether organic or artificial, which have zero nutrient content. Any combination of gravel, sand, perlite or vermiculite may be used for this purpose. Fiberglass may be used in some hydroponic systems as well. Plastic pellets and even shredded tires are also possible candidates.
Hydroponic gardening is done within a controlled environment usually indoors. For this reason, other essential components such as lights, heaters, fans and air conditioning units are used as well. Each one serves a specific function that is important for this kind of operation.