Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without the use of soil. Hydroponics is considered to be a more efficient way of providing plants with food and water. The truth is, plants don’t use soil; they use water and nutrients present in the earth. Soil helps provide nutrients to the plants, as well as anchor its roots. A home hydroponics system provides plants a complete system for its needs, delivered in a more efficient manner than soil-based (geoponics) growing systems.
The hydroponics process is relatively straightforward, and while there are some initial investments, it is easy to adjust these costs to the size and type of system needed. Essentially, to establish a hydroponics garden, the following items will be necessary: a hydroponics system, nutrients specific for hydroponic growing, an inert growing medium, a light source, and starter plants/seeds.
What is involved in a home hydroponics system?
A hydroponics system is a structure designed to hold water or an inert grow medium and plants. Hydroponic systems fall into two categories, liquid culture, or aggregate culture. Each system supplies plant roots with water, nutrients and oxygen, all of which are essential for growth.
In liquid culture, the roots grow directly in a nutrient solution. While in an aggregate culture, the roots grow in an inert medium, such as clay pellets, rockwool, sand or gravel. “Inert” only means that the medium doesn’t break down quickly and is sufficient for supplying nutrients.
There are a variety of hydroponic system types available, depending on needs and comfort level. These systems include drip, ebb and flow, nutrient film technique, aeroponics, water culture and wick. They are available from specialized home/indoor growing shops or online from companies such as Whole Plant Technologies.
Necessary components for home hydroponic systems
When using hydroponic systems, the nutrients are dissolved directly in water, and as a result, go directly to the roots. This advantage means plants grow faster and with more annual harvests. It also means there are no soil-borne diseases, no pests or weeding involved.
Oxygen is essential for root health. The use of an air pump within the hydroponic system creates bubbles, which help to circulate the solution, ensuring the consistent distribution of dissolved oxygen to the roots.
Light is another essential component for healthy plants. While natural sunlight is, of course, the best source, it is not always a realistic option. The use of artificial light requires specific light bulbs. Metal halide bulbs are the first choice for many hydroponic growers. Other light bulb options include high-pressure sodium bulbs, high-output fluorescents, compact fluorescents and LEDs. For more information, check out our blog about indoor lighting systems.
What can you grow using hydroponics?
It’s possible to grow virtually anything using home hydroponics systems as you would grow with soil. Depending on the intended crops, the use of a particular system or another may be more appropriate.
If the crops have shallow root systems, such as lettuce and leafy greens, a liquid culture system is preferable. If the crops are root vegetables or a top-heavy crop, such as tomatoes, squash or cucumbers, an aggregate system is more suitable.
Typically, the crop yield when using a home hydroponics system is better than yields for aggregate soil crops. The taste of the produce is also delicious, and nutrient-packed.
Home hydroponics systems are an efficient, high-yield form of gardening. While there are some initial outlay costs, the option of growing fresh produce year round can quickly offset these costs.
Whole Plant Technologies has the experience and products to help you establish and maintain your home hydroponics system successfully. Contact us today to see how we can help.