Gardening is an excellent pastime. A garden can provide food, beauty, and more depending on what a person wants to grow. However, traditional gardening can be literally full of dirt, so those who want to grow plants but stay clean should consider hydroponics.
Hydroponics supplies are a lot easier to source than it may seem as many online retailers, such as Agron.io, are a one-stop shop for most of the necessary equipment. If you are interested in starting your own hydroponic garden, the information below can help you start on the right track.
What is Hydroponic Gardening?
Hydroponic gardening is a way to grow points without soil. Instead, plants are grown in a soilless medium or support material and provided with precise amounts of nutrient-rich water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. There are several methods of building a hydroponics system, but the essential requirements for each are usually the same.
Hydroponic gardening can seem like a high-tech endeavor, but it is actually fairly simple. Once the system and supplies are set up and ready to go, you will have healthy, beautiful plants in no time. The equipment needed to get started is discussed in greater detail below.
Step One: A Hydroponics System
Hydroponics systems come in various shapes, sizes, and capacities. The systems generally consist of a structure that holds water or another inert medium and provides plants with an ideal growing environment. There are different types of systems available, including ebb-and-flow, drip irrigation, water culture, aeroponics, and wick systems. Which one is used depends on the grower’s preferences and the plants they grow?
Step Two: Hydroponic Nutrients
Because soil is not used in hydroponics systems, specialized nutrients are required to feed the plants. Hydroponic nutrients differ from traditional fertilizers used to feed plants that grow in soil. There are several pre-made nutrient solution formulas available so less experienced growers do not have to experiment with making their own.
Step Three: A Hydroponics Medium
Hydroponic mediums are an essential part of a hydroponics system. The mediums provide plants with support and facilitate root aeration. Common types of hydroponics mediums used include vermiculite, perlite, clay stone, coco coir, or Rockwool.
Some systems, such as ebb-and-flow systems, cannot handle lightweight mediums. For example, perlite floats in water and will be carried away in this kind of system. Be sure to pick the best medium for the type hydroponics system being used.
It is also important to pay attention to how much water is absorbed and retained in each medium. Some plants cannot handle having wet roots for very long and will need to be grown in a medium that has excellent drainage. Other plants require large amounts of water and will need an extremely absorbent medium like coco coir.
Step Four: Grow Lights
Another critical factor in growing hydroponically is the source of light. Plants grown hydroponically are most frequently grown indoors, so growers will need to have a high-quality grow light to mimic the sun’s natural rays. Choosing the right grow light depends on the types of plants grown, as each plant will have different requirements for the amount and type of light it needs for optimal growth.
Another consideration when choosing a grow light is how much space the light needs to cover. Plants can receive too much light, which can significantly damage plants. However, not giving them enough light will inhibit growth and production. Grow light manufacturers will list the number of lumens given off by lights they sell, so be sure to check this and compare it to the garden’s needs before purchasing a light.
Step Five: Seeds or Plants
Finally, the last thing needed to start growing is the seeds or plants themselves. Growers can use plugs or slabs of a hydroponic growing medium like peat moss or coco coir to start seeds. Once the plants are big enough, they can be transplanted into the larger, final pots.
Can I Set Up a Hydroponic Garden Outdoors?
Though it is common to use hydroponics systems indoors, many systems are also perfectly capable of operating outdoors. There are certain things that need to be taken into consideration when growing hydroponically outdoors, including water temperature, heat, air movement, and pests.
Some systems are better than others for growing outdoors. For example, vertical hydroponic systems are ideal for people who have a small garden space outdoors, such as a rooftop gardener. A more advanced option is an outdoor aquaponics system, which includes growing plants in water with live fish in it so the plants feed on the waste produced by fish.
Is Hydroponic Gardening Organic?
Hydroponic gardening is not synonymous with organic gardening. When plants are grown in soil, the soil converts fertilizers into a form of nutrients that plants can absorb. Because plants grown hydroponically do not come in contact with soil, the nutrients given to them are not usually organic. However, plants grown hydroponically are often healthier and less likely to come in contact with pests, so the likelihood of needing pesticides is much lower.
What Kind of Plants Can be Grown Hydroponically?
Almost any plant can be grown hydroponically, including fruit, vegetable, and house plants. Solution systems are typically best for plants that have shallow roots, such as spinach, radishes, herbs, and lettuce. Aggregate systems are better for plants with deep roots, including beets, squash, cucumbers, and other similar plants. As long as the type of system used provides adequate root support for the plant, it can be grown hydroponically.
Hydroponic gardening is rising in popularity for a reason. The supplies are more available and affordable than ever before, and low-waste food production is a major concern for many people. Hydroponic gardens not only limit garden-related waste, but they provide bigger yields faster that taste better than plants grown using soil.
Hydroponic gardening is no longer a method just for large-scale experienced growers. Systems can range from large enough for a food garden to small enough to fit on a counter. No matter what your needs are, there is a simple hydroponics system that can meet them.
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