What is Hydroponics?
The word Hydroponics originates from the Greek language. “Hydro” means water, and “Ponics” means to work. A literal translation of the term means ‘Water-working’, which implies the action of using water to facilitate nearly all functions.
In the modern day, we use hydroponics as a term to describe the process of growing plants without a physical medium. Hydroponic gardens use pumps to circulate a nutrient rich water source to promote healthy hydroponic plant growth. Systems, such as flood and drain systems, use a nutrient rich water to flood the roots at regular intervals. The solution then drains away to provide the roots with oxygen access. Other systems, such as NFT systems, use air pumps to oxygenate the nutrient solution, which is in constant contact with the plant's roots.
Hydroponics gardening dates back as far as 600 BC, to the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were built by King Nebuchadnezzar II. The ancient Babylonians are believed to have used chain pumps to cycle buckets of water from the Euphrates River. This water would be sent up to the top of the monument, where the water would be released into channels. The channels would irrigate the gardens.
Soilless Hydroponic Gardening Systems
A hydroponics grown plant uses a soilless method of growing plants. It provides your plants with constant access to oxygenated water and dissolved mineral salts. Many, large scale, professional gardeners use different types of hydroponics systems to create repeatable conditions. Being repeatable means that you can get the most out of your crops time after time. These gardening methods allow you to maximise your plant's potential, giving you a better chance of greater returns on final yields – with fewer problems.
Vertical farming is a popular commercial hydroponic method for farmers and professional growers, who can utilise the method to maximise a plant's potential. They use racks to fit more plants in to the same footprint. Growing multiple layers of plants helps them to generate a larger return per cycle, by growing more plants to harvest.
Hydroponic systems all employ some form of nutrient reservoir, nutrient pumps, to deliver water and nutrients to your plants, with a support structure to grow plants in. If you're growing your plants indoors, you'll need some form of lighting to act as the sun. You'll also possibly need a heating and/or cooling system. Some hydro system's use net pots and neoprene collars, rock wool, or clay pebbles to support plants, and for roots to grow through. If you use a grow tent, you can also add support nets to train your plants through and provide more support.
What's the Main Difference Between Plants Grown in Soil and a Hydroponics Grown Plant?
For most plants in natural conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir. The soil itself is not essential for the plant to grow, only water and dissolved nutrients are. Nutrients are measured using electrical conductivity. One of the major problems with growing plants in soil, is knowing how much or how little to water them. Using soilless growing methods, using coconut coir, perlite etc. plants have constant access to oxygen, water, and nutrients. This allows them to uptake as much or as little water and nutrients as they want. This ensures that the plant can regulate itself, depending on what it needs.
Hydroponic growing systems can be divided into two types:
- Those requiring aggregates or other porous rooting media (substrate) to support the plant roots – often referred to as hydroculture.
- Those without aggregates to support the plant roots – the most widely used term being nutrient film technique (NFT).
The media types often used in the place of soil, are:
If you're not sure what you want to use, or how you'll get the best results, just ask us, or pop in to one of our Essex hydroponic / garden centre shops, in Chigwell, or Chelmsford. Our experts are always on hand, and more than happy to talk you through your choices. We'll give you the solid advice you need to find the right growing method and equipment for the type of plants you intend to grow. Each medium has its own benefits.
What Do I Need To A Hydroponic Crop at Home?
Using hydroponics to grow plants indoors, means you'll need:
- Some form of lighting, to act as the sun. Modern, LED grow lights are popular, due to their efficiency.
- Nutrient reservoir
- Nutrient pump, and nutrient pipework
- Trays to grow on and support for your plants, to give them structure
- Depending on the time of year, you may also need a heating, or cooling system.
Future Garden stock a full range of hydro equipment to cover all your needs. We also offer you all the help and advice you need for success. Every type of plant has ideal growing conditions, and they can be recreated, and controlled.
Growing plants using hydroponic farming techniques, allows you to control the crops you grow, the seasons you grow them in, all aiming to maximise the yield that you'll achieve. Hydroponic gardening truly is the future of farming.
The Core Principles of Hydroponics
In a hydroponic system, plants receive essential nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and trace minerals, dissolved in water. This nutrient-rich solution is delivered directly to the plant roots, ensuring optimal absorption and growth.
Unlike soil, which can become compacted and hinder root oxygenation, hydroponic systems maintain a consistent supply of oxygen to the roots. This promotes healthier growth and prevents issues like root rot.
Precise Environmental Control
Hydroponic setups allow for meticulous control over environmental factors such as light, temperature, humidity, and nutrient levels. This control minimizes stress on plants and maximises growth potential.
Hydroponic systems typically use less water compared to traditional soil-based gardening, as water is recirculated within the system. This makes hydroponics an environmentally friendly option, especially in regions prone to water scarcity.
With direct access to nutrients and optimized growing conditions, plants in hydroponic systems often experience accelerated growth rates. This means you can enjoy the fruits of your labour sooner than with traditional gardening methods.
Exploring Different Hydroponic Systems
Hydroponic systems come in various designs, each catering to different preferences and spaces. Here are a few popular options:
- Deep Water Culture (DWC)
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
- Drip System
- Wick System
- Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
In this system, plant roots are suspended in a nutrient solution with constant aeration. It's a simple and beginner-friendly approach. In this system, plant roots are suspended in a nutrient solution with constant aeration. It's a simple and beginner-friendly approach.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
NFT systems involve a thin film of nutrient solution flowing over the plant roots, providing both nutrients and oxygen.
A drip system delivers a controlled amount of nutrient solution to each plant through a network of tubes and emitters.
This is one of the easiest hydroponic setups. A wick draws the nutrient solution from a reservoir to the plant roots.
Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
In this system, the nutrient solution periodically floods the growing medium and then drains away. It's well-suited for a wide range of plants.
Why Choose Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is perfect for small spaces. Whether you have a balcony, a tiny backyard, or even just a sunny windowsill, you can set up a hydroponic system and enjoy fresh produce.
Hydroponic systems allow you to grow plants year-round, regardless of seasonal changes or weather conditions.
Pest and Weed Control
Since hydroponic setups are soil-free, there's less risk of pests and weeds invading your garden, reducing the need for pesticides and herbicides.
Optimized Nutrient Delivery
Plants in hydroponic systems receive nutrients directly, eliminating the competition for nutrients that can occur in traditional soil gardening.
With the right conditions, hydroponically grown plants can mature up to 25% faster than their soil-grown counterparts.
Are you excited to delve into the captivating world of hydroponics? It's time to take the first step! Whether you're interested in growing succulent herbs, crisp lettuce, vibrant tomatoes, or even experimenting with exotic plants, hydroponics offers endless possibilities. Our beginner-friendly resources will guide you through the process, from selecting the right system for your needs to mastering nutrient solutions and maintaining a thriving garden.
Join the Hydroponic Revolution Today
Hydroponics is more than just a gardening technique—it's a lifestyle that encourages innovation, sustainability, and a deeper connection with plant life. By embracing hydroponics, you're not only cultivating plants; you're cultivating a greener future. Join us in unlocking the secrets of hydroponics and witness the incredible growth and beauty that you can nurture, all without a speck of traditional soil. Start your hydroponic journey today and witness first-hand the magic of soil-less gardening.