Hydroponic gardening for beginners is a simple guide to make it even easier for you. There are common mistakes people incur when first approaching to hydroponic gardening.
For example, people who think that hydroponic gardening is expensive and impractical couldn’t be more wrong. The only reason why there’s a stigma is the lack of knowledge surrounding the area.
The truth is hydroponic systems provide a cheap and straightforward method of growing plants. Hydroponics may turn out to be a more complex system for anyone who’ve embraced it after learning the initial steps.
But if you read the rest of this article, you’ll find out that anyone can do it.
Hydroponic Gardening For Beginners: A Bitesize Introduction
“Hydroponics” comes after two Greek words, hydro (water) and ponics (labour). It is centred around soil-less gardening. It’s a new concept for some people.
However, it’s been in existence for centuries, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon being the most historically recognizable example and calling it as “new” is somewhat inaccurate.
Soil-less gardening rose to popularity in the 1950s, and soon after, hydroponics was adopted for large scale crop production in countries like the U.S., Australia, and Germany.
As you are a beginner in hydroponic gardening, the first thing you need to know is that soil is the primary medium for growing plants, but it isn’t the only option. Over the years, hydroponics has proven to be superior to soil gardening in several facets.
For instance, hydroponically grown plants have a 40% faster growth rate than a soil plant, provided they’re grown on the same conditions and temperature. Plant yield is another category where hydroponics is way better in numbers to soil gardening.
Hydroponic growing mediums are rich in oxygen, which stimulates root growth. Also, the abundance of oxygen in the root system leads to improved nutrient absorption.
Unlike soil gardening, the nutrients combine with water, resulting in a direct absorption by the root system. The roots don’t have to reach and search for the nutrients in the soil.
Hydroponics is also environment friendly. It appears to use more water compared to soil gardening, but it’s the opposite. Soil gardening requires regular watering; hydroponics doesn’t.
Instead, the water is replenished with nutrient solutions. There’s less likelihood of disease and pests, so hydroponic crops require less pesticide application.
Variety of Growing Medium
Plants grown hydroponically require a growing medium for aeration and support. The root system needs support as it absorbs the weight of the water and nutrients.
Growing mediums come in different varieties, i.e., rock wool, perlite, vermiculite, coco coir, and sawdust.
The choice of a growing medium is influenced by the hydroponic system’s design, location, and size (scale). You must factor in the type of crop or plant you plan to grow. Generally, the ideal growing medium must be:
- Readily available in your area
- Easy to handle
- Offers physical stability for growing plants
- Free of contaminants, disease, pathogens, and toxins
The principles of nutrient absorption using soil fertilizers is pretty much the same to hydroponics. The only difference is that they’re called “nutrient solutions”.
A hydroponic nutrient solution is a collection of the elements and minerals found in soil. These products are highly concentrated, so they must be dissolved in water.
The liquid solutions come in two separate containers. The first one is for growing and the second is for blooming or flowering. There’s also a more affordable powdered mix that requires more effort in application.
Like soil gardening fertilizers, nutrient solutions can be organic or chemical.
Hydroponically grown plants survive within a pH range of 5.8 to 6.8. Another advantage of the hydroponic system over soil gardening is that it’s easier to monitor the pH level.
You can buy pH testing kits online and local hydroponic supply stores. Testing the pH level of a hydroponics system is critical – a sudden increase or dip in pH prevents the plants from absorbing the essential nutrients.
If you need to raise the pH level, adding potash is the most convenient way. On the other hand, phosphoric acid lowers the pH level.
Types of Hydroponic System
Hydroponic systems are either active or passive. The active system uses a pump to distribute the nutrient solution, while passive hydroponics relies on the growing medium’s natural capillary movement.
In some setups, a wick is used to aid in nutrient absorption. The passive system’s most noticeable drawback is the lack of oxygen to the root system, which affects the plant’s growth rate.
Meanwhile, hydroponic systems are either recovery or non-recovery. As the name suggests, a recovery system reuses the nutrient solution through a recirculating mechanism, while a non-recovery system treats the nutrient solution as disposable.
The “Ebb and Flow” system is the most common example of an active recovery system, where a submersible pump is found inside the water reservoir. At the same time, the plants are placed above it, usually on a tray.
The system works on a flood and drain strategy, where the reservoir holds both the pump and nutrient solution. The pump pushes the nutrient solution to the root system.
On the other hand, the non-recovery type, i.e., the wick system, doesn’t have any moving parts. Instead, the nutrient solution is stored in a reservoir and finds its way to the root system through a lantern wick. The wick absorbs the liquid through capillary action.
A rather distinctive type, called the “continuous drip,” uses a submersible pump in a reservoir. But this time, there’s a dedicated supply line to each plant in the system. The purpose of this supply line (drip emitter) is for you to adjust the amount of solution for each plant, depending on its deficiency (need).
Hydroponic gardening for beginners: Buy or Build?
If you’re a DIY enthusiast, building your hydroponic system on your first venture is possible. But the safest bet is to buy an existing system, at least for now.
You can buy a reasonably priced system that should be enough to learn the ropes. Purchasing a hydroponics system lets you get right to the growing part.
Although you’ll spend more on an existing system than building your own, remember that you may reuse some parts in that system in the future.
After reading Hydroponic Gardening For Beginners, you soon understand that hydroponics is no longer just a concept – it’s a feasible replacement for soil gardening. The innovation in itself generates excitement; it brings a whole new definition of fun in growing edibles at home.