Hydroponics is a process whereby plants are grown without soil, in mineral nutrient solutions. Plants grown by this process may also be grown in gravel, mineral wool or perlite.
Hydroponics is being adapted all over the world for production of food because it brings many benefits. First of all there is no soil needed so it is seen as a much cleaner form of gardening. There is no need to water the plants over and over again because the water is reused from the system, therefore reducing water costs. There is a reduced risk of pests and diseases from hydroponics because there is no soil for them to live in.
Research has proved hydroponics to be thoroughly practical and have great advantages over conventional methods of horticulture.
Hydroponics is a form of agronomy which is a way of crop production and soil management. Agronomy deals with issues including producing healthier food and managing the environmental impact of agriculture. It also deals with ways in which energy can be produced from plants.
In hydroponics, plant spacing can be intensive, allowing you to grow more plants in a smaller space than soil grown produce. Hydroponic grow tents come in various sizes so can be set up almost anywhere in the home. A great advantage of the soil-less cultivation of plants is that it may potentially produce much higher crop yields, and can be used in places where gardening is not possible.
Whereas hydroponics has great advantages, this method of growing requires careful consideration. Plants grown in this way require different growing methods such as containment and fertilizers.
There are four common methods of hydroponic gardening. These include:
• Drip Method
The nutrient solution is given to the plants, on a timed drip system. As the emitter is dripping it delivers fresh nutrients, water and oxygen to the plants, flushing out waste. In a drip method, the plant roots are most commonly grown in perlite, grow rocks or rock wool.
• Ebb and Flow
This method is also referred to as flood and drain. It allows the plants to be given the same amount of nutrients at the same time. Plant pots filled with a growing medium forms the bed for the plants. The plants are flooded with the nutrient at a set time and then are allowed to drain which brings oxygen to the root base.
• NFT (Nutrient Film Technique)
This technique allows the plants to grow in channels and the nutrient solution is pumped through for short but regular intervals allowing the roots to remain moist. This system does not require a growing medium, but needs regular flushing.
• Passive System
This is a very low maintenance form of hydroponic gardening because it does not use pumps or timers. The roots are left in the nutrient solution taking what they require from it. Although it is a slower form of hydroponic gardening its low maintenance is ideal for many.
The market for grow tents and grow lights is increasing because it allows for crops to be grown all year round and the produce will generally taste better than soil grown produce.