Hydroponics – what is it exactly? To put it simply, hydroponics is the process of growing a plant WITHOUT using soil. There are actually a lot of things that can be used to grow a plant, the general idea is that there must be room for the roots to grow in the medium. Heck, a plant can even grow while suspended in air! As you can imagine, there are a number of possibilities for a hydroponic set-up but there are only a few that are effective and efficient. With that said, this article will try to cover most, if not all, of the ways you can grow your plant without a soil.
But first, what’s the difference between hydroponics and the conventional way of growing plants? One important reason is that hydroponics are generally easier to control as a grower since you don’t have to think about the actual composition of the soil and all the bio-activity that happens within. Additionally, plants grown in a hydroponic systemgives bigger growth rates if done right granted that soil is much kinder than other hydroponic mediums (meaning mistakes are easier to remedy when using soil). Keywords here are “if done right”. This which means there are a lot of things to consider when using other mediums so you should keep reading if you’re unsure!
As stated above, there are a lot of mediums but only a few that are effective. Here is a short list of the effective ones and how they can be used:
1. Coco peat
Coconut fiber from their husks can be used as a medium as there are a lot of room for the roots of a seed to grow. Coco peat are organic in nature and they have a huge capacity for both oxygen and water which is important in watering cycles. Coco peat are also known to be resistant to root diseases and fungal infections.
Rockwool or stonewool are man-made fibers initially made for insulation purposes. Similar to coco peat, this medium is quite popular for its ability to retain water and air. Additionally, rockwool can come in different shapes and sizes which will prove to be handy in certain situations.
3. Oasis cube
From what the name implies, these light, pre-made cubes are great when propagating your crops. It retains water well and are easily transportable in most situations.
Perlites are used in hydroponics for its drainage and aeration properties. Typically, perlites aresmall pebble-looking things than contains tiny cells that absorbs moisture. At the same time, perlites have tiny compartments to support aeration in a plant and can easily be used by the roots to grow.
Vermiculite are frequently used in tandem with perlites as they complement each other’s weakness; vermiculite can hold water well while perlites can provide ample channels for air and oxygen.
Hydrotons or clay pellets are small pellets that contain small air pockets inside the clay themselves. They have a neutral pH and using these increases the amount of aeration in the system. These pellets also absorb water and it allows excess water to drain from around the roots which ultimately ensures the circulation of air in the roots of the plant.
These six mediums are the most commonly used mediums in hydroponics. From the details above, some are great for specific hydroponic systems while some are not. There are quite a number of possible hydroponic systems but here are some of the most common but effective ones:
A drip system has a reservoir, hydro pump, a drain for overflow and a grow tray. Nutrients are added to the reservoir and are pumped up to the grow tray using a hydro pump which can be timed.A drain is present in the grow tray so that it would drip any excess nutrient.
Ebb- Flow (Flood & Drain)
From what the name implies, this method floods a plant and then later drains them. It is quite similar to the Drip system as it also uses a reservoir and a grow tray. Nutrients are pumped into the grow tray using a hydro pump and once the grow tray is sufficiently flooded, the system will turn itself off, and the excess nutrient will begin to drain back into the nutrient reservoir.
N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique)
This is also similar to the other two but the grow tray is tilted on an angle to allow a continuous cycle to occur. This technique allows the plants to be provided with a constant flow of nutrient solution. (Note, in this set-up, the plant is suspended, only their roots are in contact with the nutrient from the reservoir).
In this technique, instead of having the reservoir and the grow tray completely separated, they are very near each other. Plants are suspended above the nutrient-filled reservoir (often by a floater) and have their roots exposed to the solution. This technique also requires an air stone to keep the water oxygenated since this system is not circulated.
A plant is suspended in the air and nutrients from a reservoir is pumped upward. The solution is then turned into mist and is sprayed on the plant. Since the nutrients are in “mist-form”, it is more oxygenated than in any other system, which helps the plants achieve faster growth rates.
A very simple set-up which includes a wick. The wick basically connects the nutrient-filled-reservoir with the grow tray. The nutrient is delivered to the grow tray by capillary motion which will be used by the plant for it to grow.
Hydroponics is important when it comes to gardening. As a grower, you should carefully consider which medium are you going to use and which system. We know that it might get confusing and intimidating but with the available mediums and with the tried-and-tested systems, we’re sure that you’re going get most out of your crops!