A Beginner’s Guide to Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening

hydroponic vegetables in farmIf you have always been interested in plants, but have only grown them in soil up until now, you may want to think about indoor gardening with hydroponics. While this does take a little more skill than growing potted plants in soil, it isn’t all that difficult, and there are definitely some benefits to using hydroponics. The industry has been expanding recently and it is nowhere near its full potential because even though many hobbyist gardeners have found out how beneficial this process can be, most of the commercial industry hasn’t yet adopted this method of gardening. If you are brand new at hydroponics or indoor gardening, this guide will teach you everything you need to know to get started.

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil. Although the name makes you think of growing plants with their roots in water, this is only one kind of hydroponics. There are actually several, and one reason people think of this method first when they hear the word is that this is one of the most popular methods of hydroponic gardening. However, there are other ways to grow plants without soil, and we will cover most of the popular ones here.

Benefits of Hydroponic Gardening

There are quite a few benefits to hydroponic gardening, which is why it is becoming more and more popular, and in the future, it will likely be widespread because as food prices go up and more and more people start thinking of ways to grow their own food, generate their own power and in essence, be self-sufficient, hydroponics will get more use, because it is a really convenient way to grow plants, fruits and vegetables. Here are just a few of the benefits of hydroponic gardening.

You get to determine what nutrients your plants get and in what amount
You don’t need to have a huge budget. Hydroponic gardens generally cost less than soil gardens.
Hydroponic gardens can be placed anywhere, so even if you live in an apartment you can still grow.
Hydroponics actually produces better plants, higher yields, plus you can grow all year long.
Hydroponics doesn’t use as much water as traditional methods of gardening.
You can also set up hydroponics with a recyclable water system that only uses 1/10th of as much water as traditional gardening.

Types of Hydroponics

tomatoes in a greenhouseThere are five standard hydroponic techniques that are used to grow plants this way. The first type is the one that most people think of when they think of hydroponics, where plants are suspended with their roots getting water through a pump system. It is called the Nutrient Film Technique and it uses a pump to push water through the bottom section of a grow tray tube where it passes over the roots of the plants and then drains back into a return tank and can be reused in the cycle again and again. The plants themselves are placed into supportive baskets and growers like this method because the only medium used for growth is air, which doesn’t need to be replaced. The disadvantage to this is that you do need to maintain the pump system and make sure it is working, and it requires electricity to function.

The Wick System is another method that you can use to start your hydroponic garden. The wick system is a very simple method of getting nutrients to plants, but it does require a medium that has to be replaced, an expense that many prefer to avoid by using air as a medium instead. The wick system draws the nutrients into the grow medium through a wick that is dipped into the reservoir with an air pump to circulate the nutrients properly. This system does use a great deal of water as well, which is why many people don’t like it, but it has the advantage of always working no matter the circumstances because there are no moving parts.

The water culture system is even simpler than the wick system. Plants are suspended in a platform made out of Styrofoam or another light material and float on the nutrient solution. An air pump provides oxygen to the plants and helps circulate the nutrients properly. It has the advantage of being extremely simple to set up, costing almost nothing, but it will not work for large plants, nor for plants that grow for longer period of time.

The flood-and-drain system of hydroponic gardening works by flooding a grow tray with the solution containing the plant nutrients and then draining it right away. This works by placing a pump into the reservoir as well as a timer, and the nutrients and water will be released a few times a day depending upon the type of plants that you are growing.

Drip systems are another way that you can get the nutrients to the plants that need them, and this is probably the most common method of doing hydroponic gardening. It works very simply. The plants are placed into the grow medium (and the drip system supports multiple grow medium types) and then water is dripped onto the plants from a pipe or a line. This has a lot in common with your sprinkler system that you use to water your lawn and it is a simple and effective way to get the nutrients to the grow medium. There are both non-recovery and recovery drip systems that each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

The last hydroponic gardening system that we’ll discuss is the aeroponic system. Aeroponics utilizes the latest technology of hydroponic gardening and it is similar to the nutrient film technique in that the plants are suspended with the roots in the air. It also shares the delivery method with the drip system although aeroponics use mists instead of dripping. The misting cycles must not be interrupted by a power outage however, since the roots are hanging in the air, so it has this disadvantage. However, it does have the advantage of not needing an expensive grow medium since it uses air instead.

One thought on “A Beginner’s Guide to Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening

  1. Scott

    I didn’t realize there were five different techniques to use when growing plants hydroponically. I can see why it would be important to research each method and decide which one best fits your situation. My mom loves to plant a garden the spring to have vegetables in the fall. I’ll have to talk to her about trying this way of doing it.

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