If you're wondering "what is hydroponics?", you've come to the right place.
You may have heard this amazing new gardening technique referred to as the way of the future. With all of the incredible benefits, it's clear why this method is creating such a buzz.
However, it's not actually new at all. In fact, hydroponics has been around for thousands of years! At least a root version (pun intended) of the technology that exists today.
In this article, we're breaking down what hydroponics is, how it works, and all of its amazing advantages.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a nutrient rich water based solution. To put it simply, it's a way to grow plants without the use of soil.
This method is of interest to everyone from gardeners to scientists because of its high yields. It also offers many environmental advantages.
Even NASA is interested in harnessing the power of hydroponics for plant growth in space. It has the ability to naturally eliminate carbon dioxide from the air inside a spacecraft. It can also grow a healthy food source, and potentially even allow for plant growth on other planets.
This is a game-changing prospect.
The word hydroponics is a combination of "hydro", meaning water, and "ponics", meaning labor. Hydroponics essentially means "water-working."
This name is fitting, since the modern methods of hydroponics do require a decent amount of attention. Now, you have a better understanding of what is hydroponics. Next, let's break down how this amazing technology works.
How Does Hydroponics Work?
Hydroponics, in its modern form, is a somewhat complicated system to understand.
There are several parts that make up a hydroponic growth system. The main players are the following:
Traditionally grown plants get their nutrients from the soil and/or fertilizer. Hydroponic plants, on the other hand, require nutrients specifically intended for hydroponic growth kits.
The amount of nutrients you'll need depends on the type of plant and its growth stage.
You can conveniently order nutrients online for a very reasonable price.
Air and Water Pumps
Plants grown using hydroponics require a specific manipulation of their exposure to air and water. Air and water pumps help to regulate the exposure for ideal plant growth.
The water pump hydrates the plants with nutrient enriched H2O. There are a few different types of hydroponic set ups including:
- The Wicks System
- Water Culture System
- Ebb and Flow System
- Drip System
- Aeroponic System
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
They all work a little differently, but use many of the same components.
Generally, the water flows past or rinses over the roots of the plant and is drained out.
The air pump ensures that the roots are also exposed to oxygen. This helps the roots absorb the nutrient solution.
Some systems use an aerator, usually in the form of a stone connected to the water pump. This adds oxygen directly to the water as it flows to the plants.
One of the downsides to hydroponic growing is the precise acid-alkaline control that you need to allow the plants to thrive.
However, with the proper tool, monitoring the pH levels is easy.
A pH tester takes the guesswork out of your nutrient to water ratio. The ideal pH level depends on the plant type and growth stage. Generally though, plants grow best around a slightly acidic pH between 5 and 6.5.
Use your pH tester at least once a week to ensure that your plants are in the ideal environment.
Regardless of the type of hydroponic growth system you use, you'll need some sort of container to house your plants.
These containers need to allow for a free flow of water, so they typically have a netted bottom or multiple drainage holes.
They also need some sort of water reservoir that either store's water for the pump or allows the roots to be directly submerged, depending on your specific hydroponic system.
Hydroponic systems replace the soil with a growing medium. These mediums include things such as perlite, clay pellets, rockwool, lava rock, or peat moss.
This growing medium helps to support the roots, allow for even drainage, and retain the right amount of moisture. However, it doesn't provide nutrients.
In order for plants to grow, they need to be exposed to light. You may remember from science class that plants grow through a process called photosynthesis. The chlorophyll in the plants absorbs the light so that the plants can form glucose and grow.
When growing plants hydroponically, specific lights help to optimize this process. Usually, these are full spectrum LED grow lights.
Hydroponics systems are made near foolproof by the use of an automatic timer. Because of the sensitivity of the hydroponic system, a timer allows for specific control of the pumps, lights, etc.
That way, you won't have to spend all your time monitoring the plants. Instead, you can just tend to them every few days or weeks, depending on the type of plant.
The Benefits of Hydroponics
Now that you have a more in depth answer to the question "what is hydroponics?" let's talk about some of the benefits.
Hydroponic systems produce plants faster.
This is because they are consistently exposed to growth boosting nutrients. They spend their energy growing "up" rather than "down." By this we mean, since the root systems do not need to implant in the soil, the growth of the plant is filtered more heavily into leaf and stem growth.
This also means a greater yield is produced, meaning bigger plants for at home enjoyment and better profits for horticultural businesses.
Also, what is hydroponics if it's not environmentally sustainable?
Because of its efficiency, this method uses less water than conventional growth techniques.
Also, skipping soil means skipping pesticides, which is much healthier for our bodies and our environment.
Now You Know!
We hope you feel more informed about what is hydroponics.
If you're interested in starting a hydroponic garden, check out our great inventory of useful supplies.
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