The Basics of Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening
So what does hydroponics mean anyway? Does hydroponic gardening imply more water consumption than traditional gardening? Is hydroponics only for the purpose of growing controversial crops? These and many other questions arise when uninformed people first consider the idea of indoor gardening and hydroponics.
Hydroponics: growing plants in mineral nutrient solution with water and no soil
Hydroponic gardening is a method of growing plants without soil. It is traditionally practiced indoors or in a greenhouse, but many commercial growers are learning to incorporate hydroponic practices in their outdoor crops because of huge gains in reduced water consumption and enhanced control of nutrient delivery. There was a time when we believed that soil was essential for plant growth – today we know that plants do not need soil at all; what they need is the mineral nutrients, amino acids, vitamins, enzymes and beneficial bacteria for plants that exist in healthy top soil (the rhizosphere).
Indoor Gardening and Hydroponics requires attention to all the elements of a plant growth environment
Apart from mineral and organic plant nutrients, healthy plants require optimal amounts of water, oxygen, CO2 and abundant light (in the right wavelength and intensity). While working without soil, successful indoor gardening operators have learned to deliver a balance of all these elements while closely controlling the PH and conductivity of the nutrient solution as well as the temperature and relative humidity (RH) of the grow room or greenhouse. They have learned to optimize all the grow elements while reducing garden pests in grow operations. The reward has been spectacular - up to six harvests per year with crop yields that dwarf traditional gardening practices in both size and quality.
Types of Hydroponic Systems for Indoor Gardening
Hydroponic gardening opened the door to a new era of growing. Indoor gardening thrived because of enhanced control of the elements and supercharged nutrient solutions - specially formulated for every stage of a plants growth and flowering. In traditional ebb & flow systems, hydroponic growers deliver precise amounts of nutrient solution while exercising almost complete control of oxygen levels in the grow medium. Other hydroponic systems, such as NFT (Nutrient Film Technique), DWC (deep water culture) and even aeroponics also supply the benefit of enhanced growth element management while maximizing yields in a record-breaking time.
Methods of hydroponics vary depending on whether the plant roots are embedded in a solid inert grow medium (such as expanded clay, rock wool, coco peat, perlite, etc. – medium culture) or just openly exposed to regular doses of nutrient solution and oxygen(solution culture). Methods of medium culture may vary by way of top irrigation and sub-irrigation systems, while approaches include continuous-flow solution culture, static solution culture and aeroponics.
Hydroponic Gardening Systems Offer complete Control of all the Element in the Growing Environment
Without getting into the specifics of all these methods, it is important to note that the only clear disadvantage to growing in hydroponics is the absence of the buffering effect that soil supplies in a garden. In hydroponics, plants can outperform any conventional gardening system, but they are completely dependent on growers to supply the right amount of nutrients at precise intervals and with the appropriate PH and conductivity levels. These systems are extremely unforgiving; any failure can lead to rapid death. On the other hand, growers who are attentive to their plants and hydroponic systems - diligent about checking their PH and PPMs and obsessed with maintaining optimal plant lighting, ventilation, nutrient levels and pest control - will benefit from harvests that go way beyond any expectations.