What is Hydroponics?
The word, Hydroponic, comes from Latin and means working water. Simply put, it is the art of growing plants without soil. When most people think of hydroponics, they think of plants grown with their roots suspended directly into water with no growing medium. This is just one type of hydroponic gardening although there are six main types of Hydroponic Systems Wick Type System, Water Culture System, Ebb and Flow System, Drip System, Nutrient Film Technique and Aeroponics. Whichever system you adopt, there’s nothing better than growing your own fruits and vegetables in your own Hydroponic Garden.
Here we explain the Wick Type System because it is nearest to the one we are offering and is the most popular, economically viable and easiest to operate.
Wick Type System
The Wick system is by far the simplest type of hydroponic system. This is a passive system, which means there are no moving parts. The nutrient solution is drawn into the growing medium from the reservoir with a wick.
This system can use a variety of growing medium. Perlite, Vermiculite, Pro-Mix and Coconut Fiber are among the most popular.
Ours being a single pot it does not require a wick; hence we water the pot and collect the solution from the base and re-use the same solution.
What is’Growing Media’?
Growing medium is the material in which the roots of the plant grow. The growing medium is an inert substance that doesn’t supply any nutrition to the plants. It’s simply there to help support the plant’s weight as well as the moisture and oxygen the roots need. All the nutrition comes from the nutrient solution (water and fertilizer combined). You can therefore, easily control everything the plants receive. The strength and pH of the nutrient solution is easy to adjust so that the plants receive just the right amount of food. The watering / feeding cycles can be controlled by an inexpensive timer so that the plants get watered on schedule, as needed.
There are a lot of materials that can be used as growing media in Hydroponics but they can all have very different properties. Some of the most popular growing media are Perlite, Vermiculite, Coconut Fiber or Chips, River Rock, Rice Hull or simply Sand or Gravel.
Is pH important in Hydroponics? Why?
Although it is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects, pH is very important in Hydroponic and organic as well as regular soil gardening. pH is measured on a scale of 1-14 with 7 being neutral. Acids are lower than 7 and alkalis (bases) are above 7. When the pH is not at the proper level the plant will lose its ability to absorb some of the essential elements required for healthy growth. For all plants there is a particular pH level that will produce optimum results. This pH level will vary from plant to plant, but in general most plants prefer a slightly acidic growing environment (between 5.5-6.0), although most plants can still survive in an environment with a pH of between 5.0 and 7.5. The ability to quickly and easily test and control pH in hydroponics is a major advantage over dirt gardening, where testing and adjusting the pH is much more complicated and time-consuming.
How can pH be checked safely and reliably?
There are several ways to check the pH of the nutrient solution in your hydroponic system. Paper test strips are probably the most inexpensive way to check the pH of the nutrient solution. These paper strips are impregnated with a pH sensitive dye which changes color when dipped into the nutrient solution. The paper strip is then compared to a color chart to determine the pH level of the solution being checked. These test strips are inexpensive, but they can be hard to read, because the colors differences are subtle.
Liquid pH test kits are probably the most popular method to check pH for the hobby gardener. These liquid test kits work by adding a few drops of a pH sensitive dye to a small amount of the nutrient solution and then comparing the color of the resulting liquid with a color chart. While slightly more expensive than the paper test strips, they are easier to read and extremely accurate and reliable.
The most high-tech way to check pH is to use digital meters. These meters come in a huge array of sizes and prices. The most popular type of pH meter for the hobby gardener is the digital pen. These pens are manufactured by several different companies and are very handy and easy to use. You simply dip the electrode into the nutrient solution for a few moments and the pH value is displayed on an LCD screen.
Why does Hydroponics work so well?
That’s simple. If you give a plant exactly what it needs, when it needs it, in the amount that it needs, the plant will be as healthy as is genetically possible. With hydroponics this is an easy task; in soil it is far more difficult. With hydroponics the plants are grown in an inert growing medium (see below) and a perfectly balanced, pH adjusted nutrient solution is delivered to the roots in a highly soluble form. This allows the plant to uptake its food with very little effort as opposed to soil where the roots must search out the nutrients and extract them. This is true even when using rich, organic soil and top-of-the-line nutrients. The energy expended by the roots in this process is better spent on vegetable growth and fruit and flower production. If you grow two genetically identical plants using soil for one and hydroponics for the other, you will almost immediately see the difference this factor makes. Faster, better growth and much greater yields are just some of the many reasons that hydroponics is being adapted around the world for commercial food production as well as a growing number of home and hobby gardeners.
How complicated is Hydroponics gardening?
It can be but it doesn’t have to be. Hydroponics can be as incredibly simple as growing a single plant in a hand-watered bucket or nursery pot, using any number of inert growing media. No automation or grow lights are required. The average, home hydroponic system usually consists of a few basic parts: a growing tray, a reservoir, a submersible pump to water the plants, a simple timer and an air pump and air stone to oxygenate the nutrient solution. However,light (either natural or artificial) is also required.
Of course, the potential to go high tech is limited only by your imagination and budget. Virtually every aspect of garden management can be automated and should you so desire, monitored and controlled with your laptop or cell phone from the other side of the world.