Hydroponics at Home
When it comes to hydroponics at home gardening, it’s an overwhelming topic and people have totally diverse ideas regarding the same. The reason why so many people haven’t still gotten the grip of this type of gardening is because; they think it’s either too expensive or requires a lot of expert knowledge just to get started.
But the truth is, hydroponics at home gardening is easier and even more productive than other types of gardening like the in-ground soil gardening.
If you would like to venture into hydroponics and still you have no clue where to start, this article is at your best interest. Let’s start with the basics!
Primarily, hydroponics is a type of gardening that doesn’t use soil as the medium of growth. Instead, it uses a solution majorly made from water and hydroponic nutrients.
Home Hydroponics Gardening of Vegetables
Although the idea of hydroponics has been there since the ancient times, it was first implemented in the 1950’s when the scientists decided to experiment on the soil less gardening.
Considering that the gardener has full control of the plant’s nutrition, today hydroponics has proven to have a whole list of advantages, which we will discuss later in this guide.
The main aim of this article, however, is taking you through a journey of fully understanding hydroponics and the fundamental knowledge of how it works.
And I hope that by the end of the article you will have enough basics to make your own home hydroponic system to grow your favorite foods.
How does the Hydroponics work?
Hydroponics is a word that is derived from two words; ‘hydro’ and ‘ponos’ which stands for water and work respectively.
With that in mind, the hydroponics gardening simply uses water and some nutrients to facilitate the growth of plants. There is no soil in this type of gardening.
In case you are using the terrestrial plants, their roots may be grown in the mineral solution or other inert mediums for instance; gravel or perlite.
The hydroponic nutrients can be derived from a wide variety of sources. This may be either duck manure or fish waste among other sources of nutrients.
Advantages of Home Gardening with Hydroponics
There are many reasons why most people today are going for the hydroponic home gardening. This is because this type of gardening has proven to be more beneficial to the gardener than the in-ground gardening technique.
‘Hydroponics has proven to be more advantageous than the soil gardening’
Therefore, below are some of the popular and most vital reasons why people are choosing hydroponic gardening.
⦁ Faster Growth; Hydroponics is a very efficient gardening method. Therefore, plants grown through hydroponics grow faster.
Most of the gardening experts have proven that plants grown through hydroponics grow 20 percent faster than plants grown directly on the soil.
For that reason, hydroponics is a real time saver for you!
⦁ No-Soil Gardening; At times you may find yourself living in an area where there is no good soil outside.
Also, you may be an apartment dweller hence in-soil gardening can be a bit inconvenient.
In such a case the hydroponics systems have a distinct advantage on the gardeners. Hydroponics simply saves you the hustle of looking for quality soil.
⦁ Saves on Space; Since the plants grown on the hydroponics system don’t have to spread out their roots like the in-ground plants to reach nutrients, they occupy lesser space.
This is because unlike the soil-grown plants the hydroponics system readily provides oxygenated nutrients-rich water solution for the plants.
Also, the fact that there is lesser space occupied, it means that you can grow very many plants in just a small space. Therefore, if you are an urban dweller or an indoors gardener, hydroponics is here to save your day!
⦁ Saves on Water; Since the reservoirs used in hydroponics gardening are sealed up, there is less evaporation of water like in the in-ground gardening. Also, the plants only use up what it needs while the rest of it is contained in the reservoir.
As compared to the soil gardening, you have to water you’re your plants on a daily basis hence wasting a lot of water. Hydro growing saves up to 90% of water since you can use the same water to water your plants for several days.
⦁ Lesser Pests, Weeds, and Diseases; Weeds especially are a challenge to many gardeners. This is because every now and then you have to pull out them in order to clean out the garden.
However, with the hydroponics growing there is no frustration from weeds. Also, since there is no soil involved, the plants are less likely to be attacked by pests and diseases.
You will no longer have to worry about your garden turning to a wreak havoc.
A Simple Start-up for Beginners in Hydroponic Gardening
To set a great hydroponic garden, you must go for what works best for you. You must consider certain factors before getting started. These factors include;
⦁ The available space
⦁ The Plants you need to grow
⦁ Cost of growing and maintenance
⦁ Available time for maintaining the hydroponics system
The Different Types of Hydroponics
When it comes to hydroponic gardening, there are six main types of hydroponic system’s that you can choose from. They include;
There are Diverse Types of Hydroponics, ‘choose the best fit for your plants’
⦁ The Deep Water Culture
⦁ Ebb and Flow also known as Flow and Drain
⦁ The Nutrient Film Technique
All the above mentioned are all hydroponic systems but vary a little in the manner in which they deliver nutrients, oxygen, and water to the plants.
They are actually just multiple variations of the basic design of the hydro systems.
If you are a beginner, the basic set up recommended for you is the ebb and flow, water culture and wicking.
These systems can be built from separately bought materials or one can opt for the hydroponics beginners kit which is available in most retail stores found online.
Hydroponic Beginners Kit
A hydroponics beginners kit matters a lot in the overall success of the hydroponic growing system. And now that there are many manufacturers making this kit, it’s necessary to know how to choose the right one.
⦁ The Wicking Systems
Mechanically, this is one of the most basic hydroponic systems that you can easily build from the convenience of your home. This is because it has no moving parts, unlike some other systems.
Although it has been in use for hundreds of years now, initially this wasn’t known as a hydroponics system.
This system consists of a reservoir which is filled with water, nutrients and then there is another container above the reservoir which is filled with a reliable growing medium too.
The two containers are then connected by a wick which is used to draw the nutrients from the reservoir to the growing medium for absorption through the plant’s roots.
Although this might be a good system if you are just getting started, it may not work with large plants and other plants like lettuce which need a constant supply of water.
This is because the system cannot supply enough water for the plants fast enough.
Also, in the wicking system, the growing media has a great impact on the success of your plants.
Therefore, if you are looking for the best mediums you may consider; vermiculite, perlite or coconut coir
. However, the biggest challenge with the wicking system is that a simple mistake such as incorrect placement of the wick could lead to the death of all your plants.
⦁ The Deep Water Culture Systems
The water culture is another very easy hydroponics system. In the setup of the water culture you use a reservoir to hold the nutrients solution then the plants are held in a Styrofoam which sits at the top of the reservoir.
The plant’s roots are suspended in this solution then a bubbler pump is added.
This allows the plants to get enough supply of nutrients, water, and oxygen. Also, it prevents the plant roots from drowning.
The best thing about the deep water culture is that it is inexpensive, and extremely low maintenance, therefore, its ideal for any hydroponics beginner.Indoor Deep Water Culture Systems
However, this water culture system doesn’t work for the large plants as well as the plants which grow for a longer period.
⦁ The Ebb and Flow Systems
This type of hydroponics systems is more complex in its design than the former mentioned ones. It’s also referred to as the flood and drain in other words.
Although very rare, the ebb and flow are very effective and suitable for specific situations.
However, there is a slight difference between the previously mentioned systems.
This is because ebb and flow doesn’t expose roots to nutrients on a constant basis like the others.
Here; you grow the plants on a tray that’s filled with a growing medium. Then, nutrients are flooded on the tray at intervals during the day depending on certain factors like;
⦁ Your plant’s size
⦁ The water needs of the plants
⦁ The growth cycle of your plants among others
Afterward, the nutrients solution is then drained back to the reservoir. For effective control of this system, you will need a submersible pump as well as a timer. The timer helps to customize the flooding cycle schedule for your plants.
After flooding occurs, the solution is then drained back into the reservoir where it is oxygenated by the air pump while waiting for the next flooding cycle.
the reason why the ebb and flow is a favorite among most gardeners is that it gives them the chance to independently customize the plants.
Ebb and flow is a flexible hydroponics system which gives you the chance to fill the entire tray with a growing medium or even add net pots to organize and control individual plants.
However, if the timer or pump fails, this means that your plants could die due to the roots drying out.
Also, another downside to the ebb and flow is that it uses a lot of growing medium when compared to other systems.
What do Hydroponics-Grown Plants Need to Thrive?
There are specific conditions that the hydroponics grown plants need to thrive. These are;
⦁ Lighting System
Since most hydroponics systems are placed indoors where there is no direct exposure of light, you should provide alternative lighting fixtures for plants. Ensure that, most of the edible plants get at least six hours of sunlight.
The hydroponic kit systems come with lighting fixtures but if you are buying the components
The HPS Lighting is ideal for Hydroponics Gardening
The best lighting system for the hydroponics is the high-intensity discharge light fixtures which mostly include the High-Pressure Sodium or even Metal halide bulbs.
The light produced by the high-pressure sodium bulbs emits either the red or orange lights which us a great fit for the plants in their vegetative growth stage.
⦁ Good Water Quality
There are many factors that affect the water quality in hydroponics gardening and these are; the levels of mineral salts and the pH levels too.
Hard water has a higher mineral content, therefore, it may be harder to dissolve the hydroponic nutrients in such a water condition.
For that reason, you need to find the ideal pH level for water quality in the hydroponic system go for the slightly acid with a pH level between 5.8 and 6.2.
If the quality of your hydroponics systems doesn’t have the ideal pH level, you can use chemicals to adjust it.
— Gardening DIY (@GardeningDIY1) May 17, 2016
⦁ Room Conditions
In the hydroponic gardening systems, you have to set the right conditions. The key elements that you should consider are the carbon oxide levels, humidity, temperature, as well as the air circulation.
You need to keep these conditions in check because alteration of these conditions may lead to for instance; higher humidity levels which can lead to Powdery mildew and other related fungal issues.
The Hydroponics Nutrients
The hydroponics plants nutrients are not so different from the nutrients used on the soil grown plants. Some of the most vital nutrients are oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen.
Although some may be found on water and air, others like nitrogen have to be provided through alternative methods.
And that is why we have the micro and macro plant nutrients where the macronutrients can be subdivided into primary and secondary nutrients.
The primary nutrients are the NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium) which are used up by the plants in large quantities hence easily exhausted. The secondary nutrients include; magnesium, sulfur, and calcium.
For the hydroponics grown plants, you can calculate the number of macro nutrients or trace elements needed by the plant. These nutrients should then be administered each in small portions to facilitate faster growth of the plants.
However, you should avoid over stuffing the hydroponics nutrients solution. This would in the long term impede the absorption levels of plants.
Good Starter Plants for Hydroponics
If you are a beginner, there are certain plants that would work best for you. Some of the best plants for basic hydroponic gardening include;
⦁ Hot peppers
⦁ Herbs like oregano, basil, and mint