What is Hydroponic Gardening?

HomeGardening

  • Author Laura Peterson
  • Published September 19, 2011
  • Word count 1,137

Vertical farming" is the umbrella term describing indoor growing methods like hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics and other systems. Indoor farming is not new, greenhouse production of flowers and vegetables is already a billion-dollar business in Canada, a country that lacks a long growing season. Vertical farming is not just a way to grow crops in an inhospitable environment. It is seen as a way for urban agriculture to take root — not in a back lot or basement, but in a skyscraper where 30 floors might be dedicated to the raising of fruits and vegetables. Vertical farms provide a way to control the growing process unavailable to farmers who are at the mercy of Mother Nature. "The system also appeals to people with environmental concerns. The beauty of this (vertical) system is that you don’t need green field sites or chemicals to raise crops. ("Vertical farming finds success abroad; is the U.S. next?" By Steve Tarter, GateHouse News Service, April 21, 2011)

Gardeners love hydroponics, because almost anything can be grown and there is no back-breaking work: no tilling, raking or hoeing, no weeds to pull, no poisonous pesticides to spray. Hydroponics is ideal for a home-owner or apartment dweller who does not have the time or space for gardening in a yard. In late spring and summer, your portable hydroponic unit can be put outside on a porch or balcony where natural sunlight helps grow anything from lettuce, to cucumbers, to zinnias. In winter, the unit can be moved anywhere inside the home, even into the basement, where your plants will grow under artificial light (grow light).

Plants love to grow in hydroponics - roots do not have to push through heavy, chunky soil to compete for nutrients; hydroponics distributes nutrients evenly to each plant. Hydroponics water plants automatically. Hydroponic plants grow faster, ripen earlier and give up to ten times the yield of soil-grown plants. Hydroponics plants produce fruits and vegetables that are nutritious and have delicious flavor. Did you know that hydroponic tomatoes and cucumbers are sold in the gourmet sections of supermarkets at higher prices than ordinary vegetables? You can grow the same vegetables for a lot less.

Supermarket vegetables have lost their flavor. Today’s foods have lost their flavor due to factory/large-scale farming. Factory farming provides vast quantities of food for the world's increasing population, with vast decreases in flavor and nutrition. During winter, a hydroponic garden will produce tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and whatever other healthful green foods you choose just when their cost is highest in grocery stores and their natural vitamins are most needed. It is an amazing sight to see vegetables and herbs ripen under a growlight, when the snow is blowing outside. Plants will act as natural humidifiers for the dry indoor air of winter.

Year-Round Gardening

Anyone can make plants grow outside in Summer, but hydroponic plants will both outgrow and out produce soil-bound plants. This is because they do not have to use a lot of energy sending out roots to seek nutrients; consequently, they have more energy left for growing. Come Spring, a portable hydroponic unit should be moved outdoors onto a balcony, porch, patio or into a greenhouse to take full advantage of natural sunlight. Since you have already started your garden indoors under lights, protected from Spring ground frost, you can get your first delicious hydroponic tomato two months earlier than your dirt-farming neighbors.

Hydroponic Herbs

Not long ago, herbs grew in every garden and were sold by every supermarket, but all we seem to use today is fresh parsley as a garnish. Whatever happened to fresh chives, tarragon, basil and sage? Freshly grown herbs add tremendous flavor to the simplest budget meal or the most complex gourmet dinner.

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is the method of growing plants without using soil/dirt such as gravel, peat, vermiculite, Perlite, old rubber tires, rockwool, and expanded clay aggregates. The minerals that the plant needs are dissolved into the water which is then watered directly to the plants. So, in short instead of the plants searching throughout the soil for their minerals they draw them directly from the water that they are being given.

What are the 6 basic types of hydroponic systems?

Basic Hydroponic Systems and How They Work

WICK SYSTEM

The Wick system is the simplest type of hydroponic system. This is a passive system, which means there are no moving parts. The nutrient solution is drawn into the growing medium from the reservoir with a wick. This system can use a variety of growing medium. Perlite, Vermiculite, Pro-Mix and Coconut Fiber are among the most popular.

WATER CULTURE

The water culture system is the simplest of all active hydroponic systems. The platform that holds the plants is usually made of Styrofoam and floats directly on the nutrient solution. An air pump supplies air to the air stone that bubbles the nutrient solution and supplies oxygen to the roots of the plants. Water culture is the system of choice for growing leaf lettuce, which are fast growing water loving plants.

EBB & FLOW - (FLOOD AND DRAIN)

The Ebb and Flow system works by temporarily flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into the reservoir. This action is normally done with a submerged pump that is connected to a timer.

This system that can be used with a variety of growing mediums. The entire grow tray can be filled with Grow Rocks, gravel or granular Rockwool. Many people like to use individual pots filled with growing medium, this makes it easier to move plants around.

DRIP SYSTEMS RECOVERY / NON-RECOVERY

Drip systems are probably the most widely used type of hydroponic system in the world. Operation is simple, a timer controls a submersed pump. The timer turns the pump on and nutrient solution is dripped onto the base of each plant by a small drip line. In a Recovery Drip System the excess nutrient solution that runs off is collected back in the reservoir for re-use. The Non-Recovery System does not collect the run off.

N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique)

This is the kind of hydroponic system most people think of when they think about hydroponics. N.F.T. systems have a constant flow of nutrient solution so no timer is needed for the under water pump. The nutrient solution is pumped into the growing tray (usually a tube) and flows over the roots of the plants, and then drains back into the reservoir. There is usually no growing medium used other than air.

AEROPONIC

The aeroponic system is probably the most high-tech type of hydroponic gardening. Like the N.F.T. system above the growing medium is primarily air. The roots hang in the air and are misted with nutrient solution. The mistings are usually done every few minutes.

By Laura Peterson, http://www.verticalhydroponicgardening.com Featuring grow lights, hydroponics, hydroponic indoor gardening supplies and Sunmaster lamps.

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