The principles of hydroponics have been around for a very long time. It simply means growing plants without soil. Plant roots are supported in but not nourished by a sterile growing medium. Nutrients in a solution of water provide all of the nutrition the plant would get if it were in the ground. Hydroponics plants still have the same basic requirements as soil grown plants such as adequate temperature, light, water, oxygen and nutrition. The difference is that in hydroponics the variables are controlled so that a uniform, high quality plant is consistently produced. The many advantages of hydroponics gardening include:
· Plants can be grown indoors year round
· Less water and fertilizer is required because the nutrient solution is recycled
· Plants mature faster and produce an earlier harvest with a larger yield
· Weeds, pests and diseases are minimized, if not completely eliminated
· More plants can be grown in less space because plant roots do not have to use energy to spread out in search of food and water
· Perfect for apartment and city dwellers with no access to the soil
· Makes gardening possible where soil is unsuitable for plant growth
· Entire system can be automated with a timer so the gardener can take a vacation
· Weather is not a factor
There are several different types of hydroponics systems:
In an aquaculture or water culture method, roots are totally immersed in the nutrient solution and a growing medium is not used. Oxygen is supplied to the roots by aerating the solution constantly.
In the aggregate culture method, also known as the ebb and flow method, the plants are supported in a sterile medium such as gravel, rock wool or expanded clay. The medium is alternately flooded with nutrient solution and then allowed to drain in order to allow oxygen to be absorbed by the roots. The solution is constantly recycled and replaced entirely every few weeks.
The aeroponics method involves suspending the plant roots in air within a closed container and misting them with a nutrient solution at regular intervals. The container is kept at 100% humidity to keep the roots from drying out.
A continuous flow method entails moving the nutrient solution by using gravity or a pump from a holding tank, across the roots and then backs into a tank. The solution aerates as it flows back into the tank.
There are variations in the different methods, but there is one common denominator in all systems. That is the method by which the plants receive water and nutrients. Roots are immersed or coated with a nutrient solution, which supplies all of the nutrition to the plants; it does not come from the medium that supports the plant roots.
Some of us will always grow some plants in the ground simply because we enjoy being outside working with the soil, but hydroponics is a great way for many people to grow their own food and flowers and be able to participate in the worlds most popular hobby, gardening.