Starting out with Hydroponics

By: Bluelab  05-Apr-2012

How Hydroponics Can Work For You

Hydroponics is no longer a subject of science fiction of a mysterious form of growing plants in a laboratory. It is a well established and fast growing part of modern commercial agriculture. Anyone willing to familiarize themselves with the principles of hydroponic culture and the basic requirements of planting and caring for a home garden can successfully establish and operate a highly productive and rewarding home hydroponics unit. Hydroponics is still a developing field so you will find plenty of range for experimenting with plants and trees. Hydroponic gardening can alter your lifestyle by providing you with fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers all year round. Even the banana plants are being grown hydroponically. There are two main methods of growing hydroponically. The NFT system development by Dr Alan Cooper involves a system of covered plastic channels, the plants growing through holes in the covers with their roots in the nutrient solution. The other method involves using containers filled with an inert substance such as sand, pumice or gravel. The nutrient solution is pumped into the containers through a system of pipes or tubes, the excess being cycled back around, more water, air and nutrients being added when needed as with the NFT system. You will discover the numerous advantages that growing hydroponically offers over conventional growing practices when you set up your first system.

The Advantages of Hydroponic Growing

Hydroponic systems can drastically reduce the amount of time needed to produce good plants, crops and fruit. Any vegetable, flower, shrub and even trees can be grown without the need to cultivate, weed and mulch, while watering and fertilizing can be taken care of by automatic systems. The time saved by using a hydroponic system will allow you to concentrate on pruning and training plants, as well as providing you with more time to spend outside on other gardening activities. No longer will the quality of your soil dictate the results you will get from your crops. Hydroponic gardens can be established anywhere, irrespective of the soil or climate.

You will find that vegetables and fruit produced hydroponically have a superb flavour and texture. The plants have no need to waste energy developing large root systems as all the nutrients they require are brought to them. Because the plants will not be lacking in any nutrients you will find that they develop faster and are healthier with more resistance to disease than plants grown in the soil. You can also speed growth up by using techniques such as heating the nutrient solution to the optimum temperature for the plants roots. You will be able to grow a large number of plants in a small area producing a far higher yield than normally possible. When plants are removed from a hydroponic system, new seedlings can replace them immediately. There is no time lag as there is no soil to be sterilized making it possible for you to have continuous production.

You will find that only a small number of seedlings are required to produce what you need, as losses from pests and disease are greatly reduced when you grow hydroponically, especially if the plants are in a greenhouse or some other structure. Without soil in the system it is easy to keep everything clean enabling you to eliminate problems caused by many soil borne diseases.

For the commercial grower hydroponic systems are ideal. They are highly efficient, requiring a low capital cost while producing high yields with less labour input. These same advantages apply to the home grower who can cheaply and easily produce quality vegetables and fruit almost all year round. Whatever your preferences are, hydroponics will provide you with a challenging and exciting hobby or vocation.

Knowledge is Power as some will say - this can be true to a point, but we must never lose sight of what our initial intention is. Growing a plant! At the end of the day - plants were on this earth long before human life was and they already had it sorted. We need to adhere to their essential needs, but have the opportunity to add a little science into this equation. When it comes to growing hydroponics, we need to learn the basics first, then and only then, can we meet the challenge of knowing what systems and science we need to apply to get the most from the plant.

Other news and updates from Bluelab


Nominal EC Values for Hydroponic Crops

Although there are ideal EC values for each plant type, this does not mean that a range of plants, all technically requiring different strength nutrients, cannot be grown in a home situation together. For most home systems this value is between 1.2EC and 2.0EC depending upon the requirements of the predominant crop types being grown. The grower simply lists the range of EC values and picks an average value.


Brief History of Hydroponics

Liebig, a German scientist, started using nutrient solutions to study the nutritional requirements of plants in the 1850's and was followed by Sachs in 1860 and Knop in 1861 who made studies of nutrient elements in water solutions. The term hydroponics was coined in the USA in the early 1930's to describe the growing of plants with their roots suspended in water containing mineral nutrients.