HydroponicsHydroponics is a hydroculture-based agriculture system for growing plants. The key feature of hydroponics is that it is a soil free method of agriculture. Instead the system uses mainly water, alternative growing mediums (such as coconut fibre) and nutrient solutions to grow the plants. Hydroponics has a number of advantages including facilitating plant growth indoors, and allowing all year round growing and harvesting of otherwise seasonal plants.

What is hydronics?

Hydroponics is a type of hydroculture. The word comes from the Latin for working water. It involves growing plants without the use of soil. Mineral nutrients are central to the plant growth. Hydroponics allows for growing in places not usually used for growing plants, especially when soil is unavailable or not viable to be used. This type of agriculture gives a bit of more control over the nutrients the plant needs as soil is not used. Also, by not using soil it helps to prevent diseases usually phone in soils. Hydroponics used several types of non-soil mediums for growth and to ensure the reliable and right flow of nutrients to the plants.

Types of hydroponics systems

There are 6 basic types systems that can be used to grow plants using hydroponics. The following gives some brief information on these systems.
1)    The wick system is the most basic type of hydroponics systems. It is a passive system. The plant nutrients are drawn into the growing medium, from a reservoir,via a wick. This system can use a variety of growing mediums.
2)    Water culture is the simplest active hydroponic system. The plants are held on a platform that floats over the nutrient solution. An air pump supplies air to the plants’ roots and helps to activate the nutrients to the plants. This system works best for growing lettuce.
3)    Ebb and flow system temporarily floods the tray of growing plants with nutrients, and then drains the nutrients into a reservoir. The system is automatically times to control the ebb and flow of the nutrients.
4)    Drip system is quite a popular system. A timer controls a pump which drips the nutrients into the base of the plant. In some cases, the excess nutrients are recollected into the reservoir and used later.
5)    Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) uses a constant flow of nutrients to enrich the plants. No timers are required. The nutrients are flowed into the plant tray and the excess nutrients flow back into the reservoir. The growing medium used here is air.
6)    Aeroponic  is similar to the NFT where the medium used in air. The nutrients are misted onto the roots of the plants. As the plants are suspended in air, the roots are misted regularly to prevent them from drying out.

Growing mediums

What are growing mediums used in hydroponics? Growing mediums are the materials used, in which the roots grow in. Growing mediums can be chosen depending on cost, availability and the type of hydroponic system used. Some examples of growing mediums used in hydroponics are:
-       Coconut fibre: It is organic and inexpensive. It is a good medium for retaining a large oxygen capacity. It also has an excellent water holding capacity. The fibre also contains its own root stimulating hormones and helps keep diseases at bay.
-       Perlite: This a quite popular medium. It is a mined material and helps to increase drainage and aeration. It can be mixed with other medium types.
-       Vermiculite: This medium is usually mixed with perlite. Vermiculite is a good medium for retaining water.
-       Oasis cubes: These are used as a starter medium, to grow seedlings and cuttings. Oasis cubes are excellent in retaining water.

What are nutrients and their role in hydroponics

Nutrients are vital to ensure the growth of plants in the soilless mediums. Nutrients include calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. These nutrients ensure growth and keep diseases, fungus and pests from attacking the plants.

Tools used in hydroponics

There are some essential tools that are needed in hydroponic farming. These tools are usually easy to source and easy to maintain. We will discuss some of these tools in this section of the article.
-       A flood chamber or reservoir. The flood chamber is used to store the essential nutrients used by the plants for their growth. It is best to use a solid, opaque flood chamber so as to keep out light, and prevent the nutrients from becoming compromised, and to prevent the roots from becoming damaged. Some easy do-it-yourself flood chambers are converting everyday household items into the chamber such as a fish tank, styrofoam containers, or mason jars.
-       Growing chamber. This chamber is used for growing the plants. It can be a big chamber holding several plants at one time or individual chambers holding a plant each.  This, and the type of chamber to use will be determined by the type of hydroponics system that will be set up.
-       A submersible pump. The pump is used to pump the nutrients from the reservoir to the growing chamber. Again, the use of this pump depends on the type of system that is constructed.
-       Delivery system. The delivery system is used to get the nutrients from the reservoir or flood chamber to the growing chamber. The system can be made using PVC tubing, gardening hoses or vinyl tubing.
-       A timer to time when the plants get the nutrient solution. The timer should be waterproof and/or submersible.
-       An air pump. This helps to ensure a steady supply of air to the plants and their roots.
-       pH testing kit. This kit is used to test the pH of the nutrient solution. As the plants use the nutrients, the solution’s pH level lowers, becoming more acidic. This is not an ideal condition for the plants to grow. By testing the pH level, you can prevent the nutrient solution from becoming acidic.
-       Lighting. This is important for indoor hydroponic farming or during overcast conditions. A constant supply of needed light is important for plant growth.

Advantages of using hydroponics

Some of the advantages and benefits of using hydroponics as opposed to traditional methods are facilitating plant growth areas where soil cannot be used or soil is unavailable, reduces the need for pesticides, and can produce higher yields than traditional soil methods. Nutrients get to reach the plants better, as there isn’t any soil that act as a barrier between the nutrients and the roots of the plants. Plants are less likely to be attacked by pests and diseases that are carried in soils. The hydroponic planting technique is perfect for indoor planting. With indoor planting, plants can be grown indoor all year round. Plants also grow faster as opposed to traditional methods. For example, tomatoes grown using hydroponics will be reading to reap in eight weeks. Traditional methods can take up to twelve weeks.

Drawbacks of using hydroponics

Setting up a hydroponics system can be costly to maintain as compared to traditional soil-based agriculture. Also, the maintenance costs may be a bit higher than the traditional methods. Before setting up a hydroponics system, you have to carefully weigh the costs versus benefits.

Setting up a hydroponics garden at home

Now that you have the basic ideas about what hydroponic agriculture is, what it entails and its advantages and limitations,we will look at setting up a simple hydroponics system at home. The following describes a system for starting and maintaining a window garden at home.

What do you need?
-       Opaque container that can hold water with lid (I am using an old 18 gallon storage bin)
-       Mesh Pots (how many depends on what you're growing and the size of your container
-       Selected growing medium such as coconut husk.
-       Growing Solution
-       Aquarium air Pump
-       6. Air Stone(s) and air hose.
-       Plant seeds

-       Cut holes into the top of the container lid. These holes must fit the pots neatly. The idea is to push the pot down into the hole and the container lid will hold on tight making a better seal.
-       Cut holes in the container for the aeration of the hydroponic system. Prep your air stone(s) as per the instructions on the packaging (typically rinsing and a water soak). Use new stones to avoid introducing contaminants. Connect your air stone(s) to your air line and connect to your aquarium pump.
-       Fill the container with water. Completely fill it and add one tablespoon of chlorine. Begin aeration to mix your sterilization solution - put your pots in the container too. Do this for 20-30 minutes and then dump all the water and then allow to air dry completely to get rid of the chlorine.
-       Follow the directions of the growing/nutrient solution and add that to the water in the container/reservoir.
-       Fill growing pots with the your chosen growing medium. Soak the medium with water. Once saturated place seeds inside. Place growing pots in container.
-       Every other week, you need to replace your nutrient solution. Monitor your fluid levels in between water changes. If the water gets too low, go ahead and top it off.


Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 4231x
Added: 22-02-2017 20:01
Last modified: 26-06-2017 10:22

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