Principles Of Hydroponics Gardening
FAQ About Hydroponics Gardening
Q. What is hydroponics?
A. Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil. The plants thrive on the nutrient solution alone. The medium merely acts as support for the plants and their root systems, and perhaps to hold moisture around the roots. The growing medium, if any, is totally inert.
Q. What are the advantages of hydroponics versus soil grown plants?
A. No soil means no weeds or soil borne pests and disease. Plants will maintain optimum nutrient and moisture levels in hydroponics systems, which has several benefits: healthier plants, faster growing plants and plants that will be more disease resistant as they are not stressed by drought. The root systems stay smaller on hydroponically grown plants, so the plant can concentrate it's growth energy on producing plant mass, rather that roots. This can result in up to 30% faster growth. This also allow the grower to have more plants per square foot of garden space. Hydroponically grown plants never get root bound, so they do not need repotting. Hydroponics produce has a longer shelf life than soil-grown produce. Hydroponics is clean, so it adapts easily to indoor culture, but may also be used outdoors and in greenhouses.
Q. Isn't hydroponics gardening complicated?
A. No! If you can follow directions, you can garden hydroponically. A few simple steps must be followed on a regular basis to insure that your plants thrive. Once you get used to the routine, it is a snap!
Q. Is it expensive?
A. Just as with soil gardening, you decide how elaborate or simple you would like your hydroponics garden to be. You can build a system from items you may have already in your garage or home, and complete hydroponics growing kits start at only $50.00. The yearly costs of fertilizers and pH control products for a mid-size system that can produce about 200 pounds of tomatoes annually averages to be around $60.00 to $80.00. That is about three cents a pound!
Q. Can plants be grown organically, hydroponically?
A. Organic and hydroponics growers have typically regarded each other somewhat suspiciously and the two growing methods were at one time thought to be incompatible. There is some common ground, however, and more people are finding that with a little experimentation, they can grow a successful organic, hydroponics garden. Hydroponics gardening is based on immediate and 100% nutrient availability. Organic fertilizers typically break down over a period of time via bacterial action in the soil. Enzyme activators such as NITRON FORMULA A-35 which hasten the breakdown of organic fertilizers may make your hydroponics, organic garden more successful.
Q. What types of plants can be grown hydroponically?
A. Anything can be easily grown, but some plants prove to be more space efficient. Some plants we suggest are tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot chiles, lettuce, spinach, chard, squash, cucumbers, broccoli, beans, snow peas, herbs, flowers of all types and house plants.
Q. Do you really get better yields in less time?
A. Absolutely. The plants, receiving everything they need, tend to be healthier, faster growing and generally more productive.
Q. What about taste? Will the flavor compare to produce from my outdoor, organic garden?
A. You bet--perhaps even better! This is simply due to the fact that the hydroponically grown plants are getting everything they need, when they need it. Don't be fooled by "hot house" produce grown commercially. The growers' primary concern is shippability and storage, not flavor. When you grow you own vegetables at home, you can expect nothing less than excellent results.
Q. Will I be using any pesticides? If so, what kind?
A. Generally, indoor environments demand less pesticides for obvious reasons. Hydroponics growing eliminates soil borne pests, as well. However, if pests do become a problem, on can choose to use insecticidal soaps, natural pyrethums and, in some cases, beneficial insects. These controls will be completely safe to use on edible crops and are also environmentally safe. Outdoors, your soil borne pests will be eliminated and simply hosing off you plants with water may prove to be an effective control of aphids and mites. Otherwise, we suggest trying the insecticides listed above.
Q. What is the best growing medium?
A. There is no clear cut answer to this questions. Different mediums work better for different situations and different crops.
Rockwool will allow the grower an easy set-up, since it is pre-formed and modular. It holds a tremendous amount of water and offers a buffer against drying in the case of electrical outages or pump failures. Rockwool slabs may be used successfully in a "hand-water" system since they stay moist so long. Rockwool will will maintain a 60/40 water to air ratio even when completely saturated, which makes for extremely healthy root growth. For starting seedlings and cuttings, rockwool is without equal. Rockwool is not degradable or reusable and must be repurchased for every use.
Geolite is a ceramic, kiln-fired pebble developed specifically for plant growth. It is completely inert and sterile and each piece is completely rounded so it will not cut roots. It is light weight and holds a small amount of moisture between irrigation cycles. It may be cleaned and reused again and again, so it is an economical choice. Geolite is not a good choice for most hand-water systems, as it does not provide enough of a moisture buffer. It may be difficult for anyone who is physically challenged to clean and rinse without assistance.
DFT Irrigation, or "media-less" culture, will be the most economical method of growing as it only requires 1" rockwool starter cubes. This can be an excellent choice for some growers, but beginners sometimes find that they are less successful with a media-less system as it does not buffer the roots against temperature changes, nutrient strength changes and uneven watering the way that rockwool and geolite will. This is a consideration for growers who experience frequent power outages and for beginners who will be more prone to initial mistakes, such as leaving a pump unplugged! Actual growth in these systems is excellent and DFT irrigation is a good choice for many conscientious growers.