What is Hydroponics
In this guide to hydroponics, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get started growing vegetables without soil.
Hydroponics is a type of gardening that does not use soil for growing plants. Instead, they are suspended in a water-based mineral and nutrient solution.
The water is fed from a reservoir from which it is continuously replenished. This prevents the plant’s roots from drying out. A pump recirculates the nutrient-rich water through the plant’s base to feed them.
The use of hydroponics to grow a wide variety of plants including herbs, vegetables, flowers, algae and other aquatic plants is also called “soilless gardening,” “hydro-gardening,” or, more technically, “submerged culture.”
The advantages of hydroponics include:
- Less time needed to maintain the plants
- No need for pesticides or herbicides
- Much higher yields in smaller spaces
- No fish needed
The Benefits of Growing Food in a Hydroponic System
A hydroponic growing system can be used both indoors and outdoors, and it is often more efficient than traditional farming methods as it uses less water and no pesticides.
As we know, in hydroponic gardening, plants don’t need soil to grow but they still need light, water, nutrients, oxygen, temperature control and space.
Plants can be grown in horizontal and vertical hydroponic setups depending on the space you have available and the type of plants you want to grow.
Unlike aquaponics, hydroponics does not require fish in the system. A nutrient solution is added to the water to feed the plants. A PH meter water tester can be used to test the water to ensure that it is the right balance for your crops.
Ideas for Your Own Hydroponic Garden on the Cheap
Hydroponic gardening is not just for professionals. Anyone can make their own hydroponic setup at home or on a budget with some basic supplies and equipment.
First, you need to pick a container for your hydroponic garden. A suitable option would be an old fish tank or large plastic tub with a lid that will fit snugly over the top.
Next, you need to decide where you want your hydroponics setup. If you have a basement or garage with some direct sunlight, this is your most suitable option. Otherwise, if you live in an apartment with scant to no natural light, think about growing indoors with artificial lighting.
Lastly, pick out a small fish tank pump, plants and nutrients that are right for your water garden size and budget.
When I first set up our NFT hydroponic system at home, I raised 3 or 4 varieties of lettuce to experiment with. This was to see which grew best for us in our location and environment. You too can have fun experimenting with growing different plants with hydroponics.
The 2 Main Types of Hydroponic Systems
There are two different types of hydroponic systems that can be used for home gardening.
Aeroponics is a type of hydroponic gardening system where plants grow in an air or mist environment and do not use any soil. Instead, they use a nutrient solution as their growing medium.
This is also called “air-pruning” because the roots are not submerged in water and instead just get sprayed with a nutrient solution set on a timer.
The plants need to be grown indoors because there is no soil for them to grow in and require constant attention from their gardener.
The benefits of aeroponics are that it uses less space than traditional methods, it has better water retention, and it allows for faster growth rates.
Nutrient Film Technique
With the recent popularity of hydroponics in the agriculture industry, a new form of this method has emerged called Nutrient Film Technique or NFT (not the Bored Ape variety).
This is a type of hydroponic system where plants grow without soil but instead get all their nutrients from water and air. It is an efficient method of growing plants because it requires less space, produces plants faster and uses less water.
The first step in the process is to design the system. NFT systems typically have a tank that holds water and nutrients. The nutrient solution is pumped into a growing channel, where the flow can be controlled depending on how much is needed.
In this kind of system, plants grow above the tank which makes them easier to manage and keep track off. Plants get their nutrient-rich water from a pump that keeps the solution circulating throughout the system. This is done by pumping it up into the channels, then gravity feeds the water back to the holding tank in a continuous loop.
Plants take up the water and nutrients they need to grow. A small amount is also lost to evaporation, but on the whole, very little water is needed compared to regular farming practices.
More advanced and industrial hydroponic systems use ultraviolet light to sterilise water in the root area, preventing bacteria build up which could be harmful to plants.
Adding Solar to Hydroponics
Unlike aquaponics which is a closed loop system, hydroponics needs a pump and energy to power the pump. The pump used in most home hydroponic systems is a small fish tank pump. These pumps are low-cost and consume hardly any energy.
However, it is possible to add a solar pump to your setup to power or part-power the water flow through the system. The pump needs to run 24/7. Therefore, to reduce energy costs it is possible to power your pump during the day from a small solar voltaic panel and switch to the grid during the night. This will give you approximately 50% power savings.
My Home Hydroponic System
I invested in a 5 step hydroponic hobby set from a supplier in Thailand called FA Fresh Farm.
In hindsight it is way too big as we only grow salad for our own needs. In most cases a smaller hydro bobby set would suffice saving time, money and space.
We still use FA Fresh Farm to buy lettuce seeds and sponge plant starters. However, we found we could get our A’s & B’s nutrient solution from local garden shops now.
Final Words on Hydroponics
Hydroponics is a sustainable, natural farming method that can be used on a small or large scale to create an edible food source. It is not only beneficial for the environment and animals, but feeds many people healthy, chemical-free food.
Hydroponics 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Hydroponics and How it Could Transform Your Life