What is Hydroponics?
The word “hydro-ponics” came from the Greek words for water and work (ponos). It literally means let the water do the work. Modern applications began in 1930’s. Today, hydroponics commonly refers to growing plants without soil. Plants don’t need soil, they need mineral elements, water, air and light. In hydroponic the mineral elements are added to water to from a nutrient solution which feeds the plants. This technology has a tremendous future. Someday lots of our feed may well be grown without soil. Thousands of commercial greenhouses around the world use hydroponic systems for tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers and other vegetable crops. Much on this produce finds its way onto your supermarket shelves.
There are two main categories of hydroponic system; active, which uses a pump to irrigate the gardens, and passive, which depends on gravity flow, capillary action, or wick absorption.
Passive systems are not recommended for larger grow room conditions; they are fine for house-plants or small salad green gardens, but rate of growth, ease of use, and overall yield will be very disappointing if your garden is bigger or if you are growing vegetables, tomatoes etc.
However, passive systems are great for starting seeds, rooting cuttings and getting new seedlings going. In the active category of hydroponic systems, the nutrient solution is pumped to the plants from a reservoir. Most modern active systems recirculate the nutrient solution.
By the time we have four main types of active systems:
A submersible water pump moves the nutrient solution from a central reservoir the through irrigation tubes where it drips onto the growing medium, drains through it, then return to the main reservoir tank. The dripper regulates the amount of water dripping onto each plant. Drip irrigation can be used in a variety of way ranging from commercial applications to house plant systems.
Ebb and Flow
Nutrient solution is pumped from a central reservoir tank up into the growing medium, temporarily flooding it. The pump is timed to turn off and allow the solution to drain back into the reservoir. Typically, several short irrigation cycles per day, more frequent flooding cycles are required on hot days. Or when large plants are growing very fast. Contemporary, “ebb and flow” systems and tables are among the easiest hydroponic gardens to work with, and are commonly used in large commercial installations.
Nutrient film technique (NFT)
NFT has gained a following among commercial greenhouse operators, as well as many first-time home gardeners. Plants root simply hang in a trough, through which a film of nutrient solution is constantly flowing. The plants can simply be supported from above or rooted in small plant cubes, or grown through holes in the trough covering. Some NFT systems use small mesh post filled with clay pellets to support plants and to retain some moisture around plant roots, which avoids that plant roots dry out and kill plants in hours because there is no medium which holds moisture and supports plant roots.
Plant roots simply hang in the air or inside grow tunnels and are misted with nutrient solution by a high powered pump. There are a number of new systems on the market that five excellent growth results. When the systems drains the clay pebbles do not compact. They are stable in shape and stricture, allowing excess liquid to drain away and fresh oxygen to pull through. The gas between the pebbles also allows plenty of oxygen to reach the roots.
Within a hydroponic structure the conditions and the nature of the structure eliminates growth of weeds and weed control which is a major cause of expense in conventional conditions.
The hydroponic environment creates an optimum condition for the plant. The plant is supplied constantly with the precise amount of nutrients required, water, light and a secure temperature and humidity.
As a result the plant is dedicated to growing. Plants that are growing in optimal conditions are also less vulnerable to diseases and therefore will grow rapidly and healthy.
Healthy plants growing in an optimal condition will produce more fruits. In Hydroponics a plant will grow quickly within its seasonal time and since the conditions are favourable towards the plant the conditions will produce bibber plants that produce more flowers, foliage and more fruit.
Statistically, plants that are grown on Hydroponics will produce 3-4 times more than the same plants is grown under conventional conditions.
The protocol for running a Hydroponic set-up is considerably simple. Taking into account the previous factors mentioned, there are no weeds to control, pest control is considerably limited and running the daily monitoring procedure is simple to implement.
Short crop cycle
Due to the rapid growth in hydroponic conditions, it is possible to grow more than one cycle of a certain variety within one favourable season.
As an example you could grow Tomatoes from August to December and again from December to May.
Due to the growing conditions, plants that get a continuous supply of nutrients, water and oxygen will produce and focus on foliage, flowers and fruits all at the same time, same size and same taste.
By growing crops under ideal conditions, hydroponics saves the cost of soil preparation, insecticides, fungicides and losses due to drought or garden flooding.
Although the initial cost of setting up hydroponic systems are relatively costly the continuous cost of running the systems and maintaining them are low.
The advantage of Hydroponics:
• No need for soil.
• No weeds.
• Healthy plants.
• High crop Yield.
• Easy to maintain.
• Short crop growth cycle.
• Crop uniformity.
• Cost effective.