Why grow hydro?
simply means growing plants without the use of soil. Hydroponic
gardening has many advantages over traditional gardening including,
bigger and more frequent harvests, no day-to-day maintenance, precise
control over growing conditions, fewer bugs, it saves water and both you
and your plants stay dirt free. However, the best reason to grow
hydroponically is because it is awesome. I am still amazed that it
works so well!
include the cost, labor, initial set up time. I can tell you that the
pros outweigh the cons which is I like it so much. But don't take my
word for it, many Big Hydroponic farms have sprung up around the
country. Most of you have only heard of hydroponics because of
hydroponically grown marijuana or "hydro". Do you really think those
pot heads would go though that much effort if it wasn't a great method
of growing plants?
How does it work?
All plants grow by
combining water, nutrients and carbon dioxide into usable proteins and
sugars. If I can remember back to third grade, plants use the power of
the sun to photosynthesize these products. As you may have noticed,
there is no requirement for soil for plants to grow. As long as plants
gets adequate nutrients, water, gas exchange and light they will grow.
All hydroponic systems
deliver the water and nutrients in the form of a nutrient solution. The
basic nutrients a plant needs are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Most fertilizers will display the amount of these 3 macronutrients in a
form like "12-8-10". This means 12% nitrogen, 8% phosphorus and 10%
potassium, the rest of the fertilizer is less than 1% micro nutrients
(boron, magnesium, copper ect) and water. Care must be taken to add the
right amount of nutrients. In the soil, components are broken down
slowly giving the plant the right amount of nutrients. In a hydroponic
system we can add the exact amount of nutrients a plant needs to grow at
its maximum, but more is NOT always better. Adding too much fertilizer
can give a plant "nutrient burn" or even kill it.
Soil allows the roots of
plants to exchange gasses like oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is why
having lots of earthworms is a good thing, they help aerate the soil.
With hydroponics, access to air must be provided to roots and many
clever systems have been created to do this. The general rule is that
the better gas exchange and access to nutrients the faster the plants
There are a couple of types of hydroponic systems each has it advantages and disadvantages:
Deep Water Culture
This is the simplest
method of growing hydroponically and i have used it a few times. All
you do is fill up a container with nutrient solution and place some
airstones in the container to aerate the water.
Pros : Easy to set up, inexpensive, low-maintenance, don't need substrate, can survive through power outage
Cons: Plants don't grow that fast, can be difficult to change the water without harming the roots, hard to scale up
Drip systems are what you
might think they are. A plant is placed into inert growing media like
pearlite or expanded clay pellets and a small hose continuously drips
nutrient solution onto the roots of the plants.
Pros : Still pretty easy, plants grow faster than Deep Water Culture, easy to scale up
Cons: Lines can clog, need grow substrate, susceptible to power outages
In a Nutrient Film
systems, roots grow in a film of nutrient solution so that to always
have access to both nutrients and air. In this system great growth can
Pros : Easy to set up, easy to scale, great plant growth, nothing to clog or break, easy to maintain, relatively quiet
Cons: Can only scale up to a limit, if the power goes out everything dies
Aeroponics systems spray
the nutrient solution directly on the suspend plant roots. This
provides maximal nutrient and gas exchange leading to great plant
Pros : Tremendous plant growth
Cons: Expensive, loud, takes lots of electricity to run, many parts to clog, if the power goes out everything dies