What is hydroponics
Hydroponics is the cultivation of crops in a liquid nutrient solution with or without the use of artificial media. It is an alternative technique in which the soil is replaced by an aqueous solution containing the necessary minerals to grow crops.
The fact is, people are becoming health-conscious and choosing to eat more of the green stuff. You and I included.
Moreover, considering increasing population and occupation of Agricultural lands by buildings, it is urgent to seek a new cultivation method that resolves the land issue without occupying it.
In my opinion, I believe that hydroponics is going to be a force to reckon with in modern farming. If you don’t believe me, read how hydroponics market is set to become a $28Billion industry by 2020 a report by BIS Research.
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Key point: Hydroponics is the growing of crops in a soilless media
First things first: The basics
A typical functional hydroponics comprises the following essential components;
- Growing substrates (Oasis cubes, Grow stones, Vermiculite, Peat moss, Perlite, Rockwool, Coconut fibre, Course Sand, Sawdust and Expanded clay pellets),
- Nutrient solution (Traditional solution, Home-made or Organic solution).
- System designs/Hydroponics system
There are hundreds if not a thousand types of a System designs/hydroponics system. The good news, you don’t have to know all of them since there are only six basic types of the hydroponics system. The rest are just modifications. These types are;
- Ebb and Flow or Flood & Drain
- Nutrient Film Technique (N.F.T)
- Drip systems recovery or non-recovery
- Wick system
- Aeroponics and
- Water Culture
Let us discuss them in a little bit of detail
Ebb and Flow/Flood & Drain
As the name suggest, the Flood and Drain system works by flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into the reservoir. A submerged pump that connected to a timer comes on and off several times a day to perform this action. One natural advantage of using this system is its versatility. With Ebb & Flow, it’s possible to use a wide variety of growing mediums.
Nutrient Film Technique (N.F.T)
In this system, the nutrient solution constantly flows within the grow tray and back into the reservoir. Unlike Ebb & Flow, the timer is not required for the submersible pump. The drawback of N.F.T is that it’s very vulnerable to power outages and pump failures. However, it has a relatively lower costs incurred in changing the media after every crop (common in other systems) since it depends on the nutrient solution and air.
Drip Systems Recovery/Non-Recovery
This hydroponics system is probably the most common and widely used system worldwide. A timer controls a submersible pump that pumps the nutrient solution. The solution is then dripped onto the base of each plant by a small drip line. In a recovery system, the excess nutrient solution is collected back into the reservoir for re-use while in a non-recovery the run-off is not collected. Each system whether recovery or non-recovery there are pros and cons. Learn more about Drip Systems Recovery and Non-Recovery
Probably the simplest of all the hydroponics system. It is a passive system in which the nutrient solution is drawn into the growing medium from the reservoir with a wick. The Wick system has one disadvantage in that; some plants may use more nutrient solution than the wick can supply. The standard growing medium includes; vermiculite, perlite, and coconut et cetera.
Of all the hydroponics systems, Aeroponics is probably the most high-tech. It is similar to N.F.T because the roots hang in the air. But different because this system has a timer connected to a nutrient pump submerged into the solution that frequently injects the nutrients as mists to the roots. An aquaponic system is a good example of Aeroponics. You can get more information about aquaponics <<here>>
Water Culture is the simplest of all active hydroponic system. The platform that holds the plants floats on top of the nutrient solution. Air stone supplies oxygen to the roots of the plants. Water Culture is the best system for growing leaf lettuce that are fast growing and water loving plants. However, it doesn’t work well with other plants.
So, that’s all there is to the hydroponic system. I would advise you to experiment different types and chose one that fits your needs and one that you are comfortable. But wait, read on to confirm your eligibility to use hydroponic.
Who should use hydroponics?
In my experience, hydroponics is just for everyone who needs to get higher crop yields on a non-arable land (contaminated poor soils, dry deserts, and cold climate regions, arid and semi-arid areas).
Furthermore, if you happen to fall under any of the following category, urban farmer, landscape gardener, vegetable grower, greenhouse farmer, a beginner who wants to do farming as a hobby or for commercial purposes, and general garden enthusiast, please read on.
If you happen to fall outside this category, then hydroponics might not be for you neither is this article.
Why should you start or continue using hydroponics?
- Low prevalence of plant pests and diseases
The Soil is a habitat for quite many living organisms including pathogens (disease-causing organisms) that affect the plants through the roots. With hydroponic, the plant roots are contained in a system that is well controlled minimizing the risk of disease infections.
- Direct control over the crops roots zone
One of the most important aspects of crop nutrition is the ability to control what happens around the rhizosphere. Since in hydroponic the roots grow in either an inert medium or nutrient solution, things such as the PH and EC can be adjusted accordingly.
- Easier to clean the system
Over time, any system is bound to malfunction due to one reason or the other. A hydroponics system is not an exceptional. Sometimes there are salts build up in the system that might reduce the systems efficiency. For that case, the whole system (aggregate growing media/inert medium) can be sterilized using 10% bleach, mild acid and thorough rinsing.
- Efficient utilization of water and nutrients
In hydroponics, water and nutrients are supplied directly to the roots of the plants and in some scenarios recycling is possible. This recycling is contrary to plants grown in the soil culture whereby water may be lost wetting the soil beyond the reach of the plant roots. More water is even lost over the ground’s surface through evaporation.
- Higher planting densities (Utilizing minimum land). With hydroponics, it’s possible to increase the planting densities hence using smaller space. Hydroponics also encourages vertical gardening with structures such as garden towers.
- High-quality produce, e.g. fruits will have more flavour
- Crops do not suffer from transplanting shock (Easy transplanting)
- In the hydroponic system, no cultivation or weeding is required.
Lies about hydroponics that you’ve probably heard or will hear in future
- Hydroponics is a pollutant
Lie: Hydroponics is not good for the environment and causes all manner of pollution.
Truth: No fertilizer runoff finds its way into the lakes, rivers and aquifers. Secondly, hydroponics uses approximately 70 to 90% less water compared to conventional gardening.
- Plants grown in hydroponics system are artificial
Lie: There is a perception that plants grown in hydroponics are unnatural and therefore not fit for consumption.
Truth: Hydroponic supplies the plant with basic essential requirements when needed. There are no genetic mutations that take place within the equipment. In fact, there are possibilities to grow completely organic produce with hydroponics.
- Hydroponics is in beta stages of development
Lie: Hydroponics is an entirely new cultivation technology that is still being developed.
Truth: In the ancient Babylon, hanging gardens were believed to be hydroponic gardens. Hydroponics is therefore not new, just different.
- Hydroponic is ‘rocket science.’
Lie: The system is too sophisticated and hard for an average person to comprehend or practice.
Truth: Hydroponics is growing of crops in a soilless media. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. I believe anyone can do this, of course, with the help of a few tricks.
- Hydroponics is an indoor thing
Lie: Hydroponic gardening is only applicable and successful indoors.
Truth: Growing indoors only ensures that we produce even when conditions outdoor do not allow. Indoor gardening is true whether you grow hydroponically or in the soil.
- Hydroponics is a substitute for pesticides
Lie: You don’t need to use pesticide when using hydroponic cultivation because there are no pest and diseases.
Truth: Vigorous growth promoted by hydroponic ensures that the plants are not susceptible to diseases. Isolation of the roots from the soil also eliminates soil-borne pests. But still, you need to put crop protection measures into place.
- Hydroponic produces super-food
Lie: Inferior plant varieties can be made better by growing in a hydroponics system.
Truth: Every seed like all other living things has a genetic make-up that will determine its general characteristics.
What You Can Grow – Tomatoes, Lettuce, Oregano, Celery, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, Basil, Thyme, Mint, Watercress, and Strawberries.
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So, is the hype about hydroponics gardening justified? Yes and Yes. What are your thoughts? Let me know if the article has been of any help to you.