All You Need To Know About Hydroponics: Grow Plants Without Soil At Home
Have you heard about the revolution in the home gardening industry: the introduction of efficient farming techniques in the small world of home gardening?
Hydroponics is the practice of using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent to grow plants without soil. Yes, you heard it right! There exists a method of growing plants, where you don’t have to deal with messy, complex soil. A little study about hydroponics before the investment will allow you to choose the right technique and determine if you should invest your hard-earned money into buying the setup required for hydroponics. Now you can grow many types of plants at your home without using any harmful chemicals; the perfect solution for your outdoor space is a home garden dedicated to hydroponics.
Techniques of Hydroponics
It is an extremely technical process which takes time initially but is very easy once you get a hold of it. Some fantastic techniques of hydroponics which should be chosen as per the available resources and required outcomes to ensure that you can practice it for a long time because the required investment is not worth just for a hobby are mentioned below:
- Static solution
Plants are grown in Mason jars, plastic buckets, tubs or tanks. Filled with nutrient solution. The solution is usually aerated, but when un-aerated, the level is kept low to keep enough roots above the solution so that they can get adequate oxygen. There can be many plants per reservoir, and a hole is cut in the lid for each plant. The size of the reservoir depends on the size of the plants. You can also use plastic food containers or glass canning jars, and aquarium pump, valves and airline tubing can be used to provide aeration. To eliminate the formation of algae due to exposure to sunlight, aluminum foil, butcher paper or other materials are used. When the concentration of the solution drops below a certain level, it needs to be changed to ensure a constant supply of nutrients to the plants. A float valve can be used to automatically maintain the solution level.
- Continuous-flow solution- Nutrient Film Technique
Unlike static solution, in continuous-flow solution, the nutrient solution constantly flows past the roots; making automation much easier because adjustments and sampling of the temperature and nutrient concentrations can be done in large storage tanks and thousands of plants can be grown at once.
NFT or nutrient film technique is a method in which a very shallow stream of nutrient-filled water is recirculated past the bare roots of plants in a watertight thick root mat for plant growth. This technique makes sure that abundant supply of oxygen, water and nutrients is provided to the plants by using the right flow rate, right channel slope, and right channel length. Other techniques of hydroponics are not as accurate and useful as NFT, which results in either excess or deficiency in any of these three components, creating an imbalance and disturbance in plant growth. NFT results in higher yields of good-quality plants. But along with these amazing benefits, one downside of NFT is that there is a little buffering against interruptions in the flow.
One of the major advantages of aeroponics is that it provides excellent aeration. The system is designed to make sure that the roots are continuously or discontinuously kept in an environment which is saturated with fine drops of nutrient solution. The growing plants are suspended in a growth chamber with their roots periodically wetted with a fine mist of atomised nutrients.
There are many advantages of aeroponics, such as:
- It has proven success in seed germination, leaf crops, tomato production, micro-greens, propagation and seed potato production
- Any plant species can be grown because the micro-environment is finely controlled
- Suspended plants receive 100% oxygen which facilitates biomass growth and reduces root times
One of the significant limitations of aeroponics is only a handful of plant species can survive in water for so long before becoming waterlogged.
- Passive sub-irrigation or passive hydroponics
It is also known as semi-hydroponics or hydroculture. It is a method in which plants are grown in an inert porous medium. The medium transports fertilizer and water to the roots by capillary action from a separate reservoir, which reduces labor and provides a continuous supply of water to the roots.
The pot sits in a shallow solution of fertilizer and water or on a capillary mat, which is saturated with nutrient solution. The various hydroponic media, such as coconut husk and expanded clay, contain more airspace than more traditional mixes, delivering abundant supply oxygen to the roots, which is vital in epiphytic plants (orchids and bromeliads).
- Run to waste
Run-to-waste system is referred to as “The Bengal System” because it was invented in Bengal in 1946. In this method, the nutrient and water solution is periodically applied to the medium surface.
In its simplest form, the nutrient-and-water solution is manually applied to a container of inert growing media (vermiculite, Rockwool, perlite, coco fibre, or sand) while in a complex system, it is automated with a delivery pump, a timer and irrigation tubing to ensure the delivery frequency is governed by the critical parameters of plant size, plant growing stage, climate, substrate, and substrate conductivity, pH and water content, which can increase yield and its quality. Watering frequencies can also be governed by PLCs or computers.
The nutrient-rich waste is collected and processed through an on-site filtration system to be used again; making the system productive and more environmentally friendly.
- Deep water culture
It is a method in which the plant roots are suspended in a solution of oxygenated, nutrient-rich water. Traditionally, the setup included the use of plastic buckets and large containers, where the plants were contained in a net pot and suspended from the center. The roots are suspended in the nutrient solution, and oxygen is pumped by an air pump combined with porous stones to make sure that the amount of oxygen is maintained; helping the plants to grow much faster than usual.
This method uses a circular frame which rotates continuously during the entire growth cycle of the plant. Within its center, there is a high intensity grow light, designed to simulate sunlight. Each day the plants are rotated and watered periodically with a growth solution to provide all nutrients necessary for vigorous growth. Plants mature much more quickly than when grown in soil or other traditional hydroponic growing systems because the plants continuously fight against gravity.
- Domestic hydroponics
Hydroponics allows you to grow high-quality plants without soil at home with the help of an apparatus that supplies liquid nutrients and water to yield the product. It is the perfect solution for areas where traditional methods are unfavorable or impossible to grow certain types of plants.
Hydroponics Vs Greenhouse
You must have heard about greenhouses, which are enclosed structures used to regulate climatic conditions to make it favorable for plant growth. A transparent material like glass is used, which is why it is also known as a glasshouse. It is a concept which works on the principles of the greenhouse effect. It was one of the revolutionary methods to grow plants indoors as well as in unfavorable climatic conditions because the structure allows you to regulate the climate inside it as per your desire. There are many high-tech structures which even allow you to grow fruits and vegetables in areas where it was never possible before. Hydroponics is an entirely different practice, but the thought behind it which helps you to grow plants indoors, with specific artificial enhancements is just the same.
Pros of Hydroponics
The following are some significant benefits of hydroponics:
- Healthier and happier plants
- Prevents the growth of undesirable plants
- Higher yields of high-quality produce
- Easy and efficient method of farming
- Easily possible indoors (at homes)
- Requires no soil whatsoever
- Water and nutrient solution are the major components (environmentally friendly method)
- Chemical-free plants are possible
Cons of Hydroponics
Some significant drawbacks of hydroponics are as follows:
- Expensive setup cost
- Requires extensive knowledge about plants and nutrients
- Takes up a large space of the house (indoors)
- Not suitable for all types of plants
- Slower start initially than traditional methods of farming
- Requires a lot of experimentation and sampling in the initial stages
- Not very common in most parts of the world (lack of availability of efficient equipment)
Go For It Now
It is a widely preferred home gardening-cum-farming system, but not many people know about it because of the technicalities attached to it and lack of availability of information to make sure that their investment is not entirely wasted. As the technology sector is growing, many inventions are taking place to make the techniques mentioned above, more effective and efficient.
The plan is to improve this method to that extent, where every individual can grow their requirement at their home; reducing the pressure on farmers and the limited agricultural land. It also promotes the “GREEN” slogan, which directly helps the environment to get less polluted.
Inventors are trying to develop equipment which is cheaper than the equipment that is available today because the two primary reasons why it is not so prevalent in most parts of the world are as follows:
- Lack of availability of cheap-yet-efficient equipment
- Lack of valuable information and technical expertise
There are trying to overcome these challenges to make sure hydroponics become a household practice.
Choose a technique carefully! Grow ‘em well!