All About Hydroponics Gardening
You may have heard about it, either from some local grower that uses the system exclusively or a local farm-to-table restaurant that buys from them, and you wonder what hydroponics gardening is.
So I did some research.
Hydroponics gardening is a type of gardening that uses no soil but instead grows plants in a solution of water and nutrients. The first decision is selecting a system that best fits your needs. How much space you have, what you want to grow, your budget, growing indoors or outside.
The advantages of a hydroponic garden are faster-growing plants, up to 20% faster. The plant yields could be up to 25% larger.
None of that ‘dirty dirt,’ no soil is required. And believe it or not, growing in water alone is actually a water saver. Go figure. You could also set up a table inside.
How about that apartment and condo dweller?
Hydroponics Gardening Systems
If you are becoming familiar with hydroponics gardening, three types of setups are recommended for beginners among us. You may completely purchase these ‘out of the box’ or go the DIY route by purchasing some basic parts from a big box store.
Wick System: Wick systems are a simple type of system mechanically. There are no moving parts. The plants are provided with a measured amount of nutrient solution in a bucket or tub. This solution kept at a specific level and refilled or changed regularly.
The wick allows the nutrient solution to be drawn to the growing medium without pumps, keeping the roots aerated at the same time.
This system is great for learning the basics, but it will not work well with large plants or water-hungry plants like lettuce because the wick cannot supply water fast enough. However, this system works well with microgreens and herbs.
Ebb and Flow Systems: Also known as flood and drain systems are slightly more complex in design, but they are extremely resourceful.
They work by flooding and draining the growing tray with a water pump. The system is provided with an overflow tube to keep the water below a certain level. In addition to the pump, a timer is generally used to customize your plants’ watering schedule based on size, number, ambient temperature, and humidity.
Water Culture Systems: Water culture systems require the plant roots to be immersed in the water which contains the nutrient solution and an air source. The roots are totally underwater and air pumps and air stones or a bubbler are used to keep them oxygenated.
This system is suited for water-hungry plants such as lettuce, but, it is not as well-suited for more long-lived plants, such as tomatoes.
How To Setup A Hydroponics Grow Room
The ease of growing fresh herbs and vegetables indoors is what makes hydroponic gardening so appealing.
So if you go that route, your hydroponic system must be set up in the right room conditions. Important factors include relative humidity, temperature, and air circulation.
The ideal humidity for a hydroponic grow room is 40 to 60 percent relative humidity. Higher humidity levels—especially in rooms with poor air circulation—may lead to powdery mildew and other fungal problems.
Ideal temperatures are between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. High temperatures may cause plants to become stunted, and if the water temperature gets too high, it may lead to root rot.
I live in South Florida, and one of my hydroponic gardens is in my humid garage. A small oscillating fan is a must. With that, I have experienced no problems.
What Is Hydroponics Gardening Lighting?
If your hydroponic garden is outside, mother nature will take care of the lighting and timing, however, if you are growing indoors, the chance of reasonable light is slim to none.
Most of the plants you will have will require at least six hours of sunlight each day; 12 to 16 hours is even best. Hydroponic garden system kits usually come with the necessary light fixtures, but if you are piecing together your own components, you will need to buy separate lighting fixtures.
The best lighting for a hydroponics system is HID (High-Intensity Discharge) light fixtures, which can include either HPS (High-Pressure Sodium) or MH (Metal Halide) bulbs. They do produce a lot of heat, though. A small fan would be recommended for some cooling airflow.
T5 fluorescents are another type of lighting used in hydroponic grow rooms. It produces a high-output fluorescent light with low heat and low energy consumption. It is ideal for growing plant cuttings and plants with short growth cycles.
You are going to need to put your lighting set-up on a timer so the lights turn on and off at the same time each day with the required amount of light for the plants.
Water Treatment For Hydroponics
What is hydroponics gardening with poor water? In hydroponics, it is important to control the pH of the hydroponic garden water. When pH is good for each plant, they absorb nutrients and grow optimally. The ideal pH level for water in a hydroponic system is 5.8 and 6.2 (slightly acidic).
If your water doesn’t meet this level, chemicals can be used to adjust the pH into the ideal range. Checking the pH of the nutrient solution is done by using paper strips which are not that accurate, or even better, liquid test kits. You can find pH adjuster solutions at any hydroponic supply store.
The most popular solution to lower pH is phosphoric acid, and to raise pH is potassium hydroxide. As the plant uses the nutrient, the solution’s pH goes up. The pH will need to be checked periodically and adjusted when necessary.
Hard water that contains a high mineral content will not dissolve nutrients as effectively as water with lower mineral content, so you may need to filter your water if it is high in mineral content.
Also, some municipalities have rather high chlorine content. You may rectify this by letting the water sit out for a day or two for the chlorine to dissipate. Or you may purchase a chemical from a pet store that, with a few drops per gallon, will neutralize the chlorine. Fish, as do plants, do not appreciate a high chlorine content.
Hydroponic Garden Nutrients Guide
What is the hydroponics gardening fertilizers that are needed for the proper feeding of your plants?
There are 2 types of fertilizers: Liquid and powder.
Liquid fertilizers are best to use for beginner gardeners and small systems. They consist of a mix of concentrated nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in different ratios.
Powdered fertilizers are used for large hydroponic systems and are more complicated than liquid ones. You can choose the nutrient combination that is the most convenient for your hydroponic garden.
The product you use should include both the main needed nutrients of your plants: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium—as well as the important micronutrients, which include trace amounts of iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, and molybdenum.
If you use fertilizers designed for hydroponic gardening, you should have excellent results if you use them according to package directions. Try to remember that less is more. We always tend to think more is better. Besides over-fertilizing, there are a few other ways to ‘fry’ your plants.
Avoid using standard garden fertilizers in a hydroponic system, as their formulas are designed for use in garden soil.
What Plants Grow Best Hydroponically?
What do you want to grow hydroponically? Because you may grow anything your heart desires when it comes to vegetables and herbs. They are all relatively easy, even for a beginner.
The suggested starter plants to get your feet wet in the technology are:
- Bell Peppers.
- All kinds of herbs.
- Cherry tomatoes are not that difficult, either.
The best choices are herbs and vegetables that grow quickly, require little maintenance, and do not need a broad range of nutrients. Fast-growing plants are best since they make it easy to assess how well your system works and make adjustments as necessary. There is no better influence than success.
It can be a real letdown to wait months for harvest only to find out your system is not working properly. Maintenance-free plants are great for beginners because they allow you to focus on learning about your system—you can move on to more complex vegetables later. I recommend a general-purpose liquid fertilizer because you will most likely be growing several different plants at once.
Try not to get too technical over this unless you are getting into hydroponics gardening to make money.
How Do You Start A Hydroponic Garden
Starting a hydroponic garden in this day and age has never been easier, what with all the educational resources and suppliers available to you now.
The following video shows how I started growing vegetables in this rather easy way.
First, I would highly recommend that you give some strengthening support from side to side. The weight of the water will cause the plastic container to bulge out, causing a problem with the top fitting back on properly. You can do this by drilling holes near the top of the tub opposite each other and using a heavy gauge wire from hole to opposite hole to prevent that bulging.
Regarding supplies for starting your hydroponic garden, you can get an air stone and pump at any store that sells aquarium products, and Amazon can help you with the growing cups and growing medium.
You will also need to add fertilizer to your water. An all-purpose brand such as Peters will do just fine. Use just a handful to start and monitor as needed.
Remember that this has to be set up near an electric supply so you can plug in the pump. Also, consider an electric supply for lighting if you plan on doing an indoor garden.
I recommend starting your hydroponic garden using already established seedlings that you started yourself or bought from a nursery. Wash the soil from the roots and then plant in the growing medium. You will be amazed at how fast your plants grow and how healthy they will be.
That’s it! Getting set up in hydroponic gardening is not a very complicated ordeal!
Advanced Hydroponics Techniques
Two more complicated systems are best reserved for hydroponic gardeners who have already learned the basics. The NFT system and the aeroponic system.
NFT stands for the Nutrient Film Technique. The NFT system uses a pump to deliver water to a grow tray and a drained pipe to recycle the unused water nutrient solution. The roots of the plants will hang down to the bottom of the channel, where they come into contact with the shallow film of the moving nutrient solution and absorb the nutrients from them.
It involves a pump, water, and nutrient solution that flows constantly in a loop. If something disrupts that loop, such as a malfunctioning pump, the roots can dry very quickly when the flow stops, so this system requires a user who can monitor the machinery and fix it quickly if problems arise.
Aeroponic systems are a highly effective method, but they require sophisticated pumps and misters.
These types of systems nourish plants with nothing more than nutrient-laden mist. In aeroponics systems, seeds are “planted” in pieces of a medium stuffed into tiny pots, which are exposed to light on one end and nutrient mist on the other.
The medium also holds the stem and root mass in place as the plants grow.
If the equipment has problems, it’s downhill quickly. The plant roots will dry out and die in practically no time.
Some Organic News From The Web:
Organic Authority. The New Generation of Organic Farmers is Just What Our Food System Needs. Organic Authority. Paten Hughes is one such millennial, an actress who came into farming when she started planting tomatoes in her garden and soon discovered that they were good enough to sell to local restaurants. She was lucky enough to have renowned organic and more.…continued……………..
A Hydroponic Blog From The Net:
We have a relatively short growing season; beyond the frost, we have other obstacles like hail and drought. I started looking into hydroponics to continue growing food using much less water.