(BeWellBuzz) Hydroponics is a process in which soil is not used for anchoring plants. It can be broadly categorized in two categories – one in which a growing medium is used and one in which no growing medium is used.
In the conventional method, plants derive essential nutrients from the soil. This is not the case in hydroponics, in which nutrients are delivered to plants through a pH adjusted nutrient solution. The advantages of using a pH adjusted nutrient solution are:
- The roots are able to absorb food with minimum effort. When grown hydroponically, the roots of the plant don’t have to spend energy searching for nutrients in the soil. They are delivered to them in the form of a ready-made solution.
- It gives you greater, better control over plant growth. You can give plants the exact nutrients they require, exactly when they require, and in exact quantities they require.
Research shows that when two genetically identical plants are grown using either method, one hydroponically and another using soil, the plant grown hydroponically grows faster and better. Needless to say, the healthier the plants, the more nutrients we get when we eat them.
Worldwide, more and more home gardeners are using hydroponics to grow plants. The appeal of this technique, however, is not limited only to hobby gardeners, with an increasing number of commercial farmers using it to produce healthier plants.
Growing plants hydroponically using a medium
In hydroponics, soil is not used as a medium. This doesn’t mean that no medium is used in this technique. Although, plants can be grown hydroponically without using a medium (we will take a look at this method in the next section).
In hydroponics, only inert mediums are used for providing anchorage to the roots. An inert medium is one which does not contain nutrients the plant needs for growing. Examples of inert mediums include, among others:
- Coconut fiber
Soil, as you may know, contains nutrients and, as such, is not an inert medium.
Growing plants hydroponically without using a medium
The technique of growing plants hydroponically with no growing medium is known as the nutrient film technique (NFT). In this method, the bare roots of the plants are suspended in a channel, and water containing essential nutrients is circulated, intermittently or continuously, through the channel.
When water containing essential nutrients is passed intermittently, the process is called pulsed NFT. When the feed cycle is continuous, it is known as continuous NFT.
The top 5 advantages of hydroponics
1. You can grow plants anywhere
Using hydroponics, you can grow plants on window sills, rooftops, or anywhere light is available.
2. You can control the growth of plants better
Soil may or may not contain all the essential nutrients a plant requires. Even when you use fertilizers, continuous planting may lead to depletion of essential nutrients.
Hydroponics removes soil from the picture and puts all the control in your hand. Through pH adjusted nutrient solution, you can control the growth of plants much better. That said, you must take care of two things – the pH range of the nutrient solution should be within permissible limits, and you should deliver the nutrient solution at recommended intervals.
The pH range of the nutrient solution for most plants is 5.8 to 6.8, with 6.3 being optimal. Inexpensive pH-testing kits are available and you to monitor the pH of the nutrient solution. To ensure that plants get nutrients on schedule, we recommend that you use a timer.
3. The use of pesticides is less
As much one may wish to do away with pesticides, they are required in hydroponics as well. However, the use of pesticides in hydroponics, in general, is way less—up to 90% less—than in the conventional method.
- Water is recycled
When you use hydroponics, you save on water and nutrients, as the nutrient solution can be recycled.
- There is no soil erosion
In hydroponics, you don’t use soil. So, there is no soil erosion.
As you have seen, hydroponics is good for plants, as well the environment. We round off this article by exploding three most prevalent myths about hydroponics:
What’s true and not true about hydroponics
- Hydroponics is a technology that recently came into being
Hydroponics is different, but not new. So, how old is hydroponics? Exact information on this is not available. That said, experts believe that this technology is very old and in use for many centuries. Some believe that The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built using this technology.
- Hydroponics can be used only indoors
Wrong, again. Hydroponics can be used outdoors, as well as indoors.
- Hydroponics is costly
You will initially need to buy the necessary equipment to set up a hydroponic system. However, in the long run, hydroponics proves to be cheaper than soil growing. The reasons are:
- Less amount of fertilizers are used
- Less amount of pesticides are used
- The yield is better