Introduction to Hydroponics

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a water-based, nutrient-rich solution. Hydroponics does not use soil. Instead of soil the roots are held using an inert medium such as perlite, rock wool, clay pellets, peat moss, or vermiculite. The basic premise behind hydroponics is to allow the roots of the plants to come in direct contact with the nutrient solution, while also having access to oxygen, which is essential for proper growth.

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The History of Hydroponics

The word hydroponics derives from two Greek words, "hydro" means water, and "phonics" means labor. Hydroponics or the concept of soil less gardening has been old around for thousands of years. The earliest examples of hydroponics are hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Floating Gardens of China. It states that scientists did experiments with soil less gardening around 1950.

The Benefits of Hydroponics

  • The growth rate on hydroponic plants is 30-50 percent faster than a plant grows in soil, compared under the same conditions.
  • The yield of the hydroponics plants is also greater. Because hydroponic growing medium has extra oxygen and, it helps to stimulate the plant root growth. The root system absorbs nutrients faster since there is enough oxygen amount available in the medium and exposed to it directly.
  • Hydroponics Saves Water- Hydroponic Plants can grow with just 5-10% of the water that’s needed when growing with soil. This is of huge advantage in areas with rare water resources
  • The nutrients in a hydroponic system are mixed with the water and supply directly to the root system. The plant does not have to search in the soil for the nutrients that it requires. Those nutrients are being delivered to the plant several times per day. The hydroponic plant requires very little energy to find and break down food. The plant then uses this saved energy to grow faster and to produce a bigger harvest.
  • Fewer problems with bug infestations, funguses, and disease. So no need for insecticides and pesticides at all. The plants grown in hydroponics are healthier and happier plants.
  • Although hydroponic gardening systems use no topsoil, there is no topsoil erosion issues and environmental issues.
  • Better Space Allocation-Plants growing hydroponically require 20% less space than plants grown in soil. So with the limited space you can grow more plants and can get more harvest
  • There is no soil, and so no weed. Weeding steal more time from the gardeners. Weeds are mostly related to the soil, and by hydroponics that problem also answered.
  • One of the major issues that gardeners as well as the large scale agriculturist facing are labors and time. Besides expenses workings on watering, weeding, tilling, cultivating, and fumigating pests. In hydroponics you can get more advantages.

Growing Mediums

The growing medium is the material where plants grow in. We normally use soil as the growing medium. But in Hydroponics, we are away from soil and use many extra things as the growing medium, including Rockwool, perlite,pellets, pine shavings, etc.

Hydroponic systems

  1. Nutrient Film Technique(NFT)
    • A continuous flow of nutrient solution runs over the plant's roots.
    • This type of system works very well because the roots of a plant absorb more oxygen from the air than from the nutrient solution itself.
    • Since only the ends of the roots arise in connection with the nutrient solution, the plant can get more oxygen, which enables a faster rate of growth.

  2. Ebb & Flow(Flood and drain system)
    • Here the growing area is flooded with the nutrient solution at specific intervals.
    • The nutrient solution then slowly drains back into the reservoir.
    • The pump is connected to a timer, so the process will repeat itself at specific intervals and so that the plants get the favorite quantity of nutrients.
    • An ebb & flow hydroponics system is ideal for plants that are accustomed to periods of dryness.

  3. Deepwater Culture(reservoir method)
    • The easiest method for growing plants with hydroponics.
    • In a Deepwater Culture hydroponic system, the roots are suspended in a nutrient solution and, an aquarium air pump oxygenates the nutrient solution.
    • This keeps the roots of the plants from drowning.
    • There are no drip or spray emitters to clog.
    • This makes DWC an excellent choice for organic hydroponics, as hydroponics systems that use organic nutrients are more prone to clogs.

  4. Wicking
    • One of the easiest and lowest cost methods of hydroponics.
    • The concept behind wicking is that you have a material, such as cotton, that is surrounded by a growing medium with one end of the wick material placed in the nutrient solution.
    • The solution is then wicked to the roots of the plant.
    • Recommend using a medium may be perlite or vermiculite.
    • Avoid using mediums such as Rockwool, coconut coir because they may absorb too much of your nutrient solution, which can suffocate the plant.

  5. Drip System
    • Simple.
    • A drip system works by giving a slow feed of nutrient solution to the hydroponics medium.

  6. Aeroponics
    • Roots are mist over with a nutrient solution while suspended in the air.
    • There are two primary methods to get the solution to the exposed roots.
      • Fine spray nozzle to mist the roots.
      • A pond fogger.

Tips for a Hydroponics system

  • The nutrient solution should be in your reservoir should be changed every two to three weeks.
  • Try to keep the water temperature in your reservoir between 65 and 75 degrees. Use a water heater or a water chiller to control the water temperature.
  • To increase circulation and keep the nutrient solution oxygenated, connect an air pump with an air stone.
  • Check and adjust is the pH at first, whether the plant doesn’t look healthy. If you identified that the pH is not the problem then flush your reservoir with a solution like Clearex.
  • It is important to flush, clean, and sterilize your entire system after you finish a growing cycle.
  • Drain your reservoir and eliminate any remains of previous plants, then let your entire system for about a day with a mix of non-chlorine bleach and water.

Written by: Isuri Gunarathne View Isuri Gunarathna's profile on LinkedIn