What is Hydroponic gardening?

Hydroponic gardening is the act of growing plants without the use of soil. It is often referred to as “dirt less gardening”. This form of gardening has been seen to yield better results than conventional gardening because it makes access to the required nutrients much easier for the plants. In conventional gardening, the plants are buried in soil and have to produce roots that can burrow through the soil. The roots of the plant then wait for water to filter through the soil, dissolving the required nutrients and making it easy to absorb. With hydroponics, the soil is not a factor so the plants have an easier time sprouting. The plant roots are suspended in water that the nutrients are directly dissolved in meaning that the food that the plants need are instantly available.

Why are gardeners switching to hydroponics?

There are a number of reasons why gardeners have begun switching to hydroponics. One of the main reasons for the switch is that hydroponic gardening is great for most types of vegetables. The equipment used is quite low cost. Another reason is that it is perfect for indoor gardening due to the small size of the hydroponic equipment and the gardens take very little looking after once they are set up. It also gives the gardener full control over what nutrients the plant receives and can customize the concentration for different varieties of plants. This is good because different plants require different nutrients to grow healthily. The gardener also has control over the pH balance, the amount of light and the amount of water the plant gets.

Hydroponic gardening gives greater control to the gardener and can get quite complicated especially when high-tech hydroponic equipment is used. There are some varieties that contain a multitude of gadgets that help to automate and control the process of gardening. There are computers and sensors that can monitor things like the pH balance, the amount of light the plant receives, the temperature in the rig and the concentration of the nutrients the plant is getting. There are also machines that can be used to control the water cycle. All of these electronics give a tighter control, but they are not necessarily required. Hydroponic gardens can be quite low-tech and still be successful.

There are a few things that are needed for a good hydroponics system. The first thing that is needed for this type of gardening is some form of growing tray. Another requirement is a reservoir for the plant to feed from. To go with the reservoir, a water controlled pump is required for watering the plant. The nutrients require air so air pump of some kind will be needed. The last thing that a successful hydroponics systems needs is light. The light can be natural sunlight or a form of artificial light like a UV light. There are a great many ready to use hydroponic kits available on the market today with varying costs but all contain the aforementioned equipment.

Instead of using soil, hydroponic gardeners will use an alternative growing medium. There are many different growing mediums used in these gardens and they include the following:

  • Vermiculture
  • Sand
  • Rockwool
  • Gravel
  • Coconut fiber
  • Perlite

Some hydroponic gardens don’t even require a solid growing medium simply use air, although these tend to be quite high-tech set ups.

What are the downsides of hydroponic gardening?

Whilst hydroponic gardening gives the gardener a greater deal of control over the types and levels of nutrients introduced to the plants, it does have its drawbacks. One of the main drawbacks is that the gardener needs to know what food their plants require. Research needs to be conducted to figure out what each plant needs for optimum growth. Each plant may require different concentrations of specific nutrients to grow successfully so the feeds need to be customized for each type of plant. The pH balance is another very important consideration. The pH balance of the hydroponics will affect the absorption rate of the nutrients, for the plant. Different plants will also require a different pH balance so this must be researched. The pH balance must be constantly monitored because if the balance fluctuates it can have the adverse effect of preventing the plant from absorbing the nutrients.

The gardener must also be aware that plants require trace amounts of certain minerals and compounds to grow just like the human body. These include:

  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Cobalt
  • Boron

Without these minerals, the plant may not grow or if it does it may make it useless as food. If the vegetables grown contain none of these minerals, then the food can cause an adverse effect on the consumer. Iron is absorbed into the human body via the food consumed. If the food consumed contains no iron, it can cause anemia in the person eating it. A lack of the other nutrients in the food grown can cause other health problems.

If the hydroponic garden is set up correctly and the necessary research is carried out, then it can be a great alternative to conventional gardening, as it is fairly easy to do, affordable and tends to produce much healthier plants due to the amount of control the gardener has over the plant.

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