Hydroponic gardening is the process of growing plants and vegetables via a mineral-rich water solution, whereby the plants continuously draw on nutrients supplied by the water. Hydroponic gardening remains a safe alternative to growing crops in soil, as growing food indoors reduces the need for pesticides. Additionally, soil-borne diseases do not present a problem because the systems do not utilize soil.
Hydroponics can be traced back as far back as 2,000 years, with the Egyptians believed to be the first to employ hydroponics. Additionally, hydroponics can also be traced to Asia and the Roman Empire. One of The Seven Wonders of the World, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was a hydroponically-grown garden.
Hydroponics eliminates the use of soil and utilizes a hydroponic growing system and growing media to cultivate fast growth in flowers, houseplants, vegetables, and sometimes marijuana.
Flowers and vegetables, though, some vegetables grow better than others in hydroponic systems, such as spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and strawberries, to name a few.
Plants with access to ample oxygenated water absorb nutrients faster, resulting in growth that is 30 – 50% faster, with nutrients being delivered to the roots frequently. Additionally, topsoil erosion is eliminated, meanwhile, there are fewer cases of plant decay and wilting, particularly those associated with soil-borne diseases and very little use of pesticides. Finally, the use of recirculated nutrient-rich water through a hydroponic system and reservoir allows plants to draw on the correct amount of nutrients when it is needed.
Hydroponic gardens differ from soil-based gardens as the plants are using only the nutrients they need from the recirculated water, whereas watering plants growing in soil capture fewer nutrients due to evaporation. Soil-grown plants receive nutrients only when supplied, as opposed to a continuously fed system
There is a heated debate on whether hydroponics is considered organic. To be classified as organic, produce should be grown in soil that not only supports the plants but also other biological processes or organisms that support the ecological accord. The definition of organic was not inclusive of alternative growing systems. However, hydroponic growers are in support of organic labeling because of the limited use of water, reduced use of pesticides, and reduced soil and land usage.
There are several different growing systems, but there are six consistent types used throughout the hydroponic industry – Aeroponics, Deep Water Culture, Ebb & Flow, Wick System, Drip Irrigation, and Nutrient Film Technique.
The most common growing media include Rockwool and perlite; however, other popular media consist of bark chips, fibers, sand, and rock.
Commercial growers need access to large greenhouses as well as a growing media and system. In addition, growers need an elaborate, large-scale system composed of computers for regulating lighting, ventilation, heat recovery, irrigation, dehumidification, and more. Automated technology is essential for reducing overhead costs – both fixed and variable.
The water-based growing system is not without its problems. Growers should watch out for algae growth, which will make it difficult for the plant to receive nutrients from the water, reducing growth. In addition, other common hydroponic problems include high humidity, which can lead to mold growth on the plants; incorrect or improper lighting strategies; and over-production of bubbles inside bubbler systems, which can harm delicate roots.
Hydroponics allows plants to grow in considerably less time, as the need for intricate and elaborate rooting systems is unnecessary without soil. Plants receive nutrients as needed provided by the nutrient-rich water, allowing for growth to be accelerated almost 30 – 50% or in just a few weeks for some plants. Finally, plants expend less energy-absorbing nutrients – because of the availability of nutrients in the water as opposed to soil – and use the additional energy for growth.Hydroponics allows plants to grow in considerably less time, as the need for intricate and elaborate rooting systems is unnecessary without soil. Plants receive nutrients as needed provided by the nutrient-rich water, allowing for growth to be accelerated almost 30 – 50% or in just a few weeks for some plants. Finally, plants expend less energy-absorbing nutrients – because of the availability of nutrients in the water as opposed to soil – and use the additional energy for growth.
While there is no definitive answer, the water in the reservoir does need to be changed to minimize the occurrence of pathogens that could form in the water. Growers should also pay attention to the plant’s water consumption, changing water as needed.