Gardening: Hydroponics Gardening Made Easy Part 1

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English: A hydroponic system in a grow box Deu...

English: A hydroponic system in a grow box Deutsch: Ein Hydrokultur-System in einem Growschrank (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This article will provide the reader information to experience the ease and success of growing hydroponics vegetables indoors as well as outdoors. You will learn how to start your plants, care for them, and choose which  system and method is most suitable for your needs.

What you will learn will be beneficial to the gardening enthusiast who wishes to try hydro as a hobby to grow fresh herbs and vegetables.

Hydro is the Greek word for “water” and ponics means “work.”  In a hydro system, a solution of water and nutrients does the work of soil. Some horticulturists (gardeners) think it’s a more efficient way to grow plants. They say it allows the plant to put more energy into developing leaves, flowers, and fruits and less energy into developing its root system.

As a concept, hydro-ponics has been around since the beginning of time, from the ancient Babylonians to the Aztec Indians. Marco Polo spoke of China’s magnificent floating gardens, and there is documentation the Egyptians practiced primitive hydroponics. It was not until the 1930s, however, that this “new” form of hydro gardening began to receive notice.

Hydroponics is simply put, growing plants without soil. The discovery was made years ago, it was not the actual soil that plants need to grow— it is the mineral nutrients.

13 Essential Elements are Required for Plants to Grow Healthy.

In addition to these nutrients plants need oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. These 13 elements which are essential can be categorized into two groups:

  • Macroelements – Required in relatively in larger amounts
  • Trace or Micro elements – Required in relatively small amounts
    • Nitrogen (N)
    • Phosphorous (P)
    • Potassium (K)
    • Calcium (Ca)
    • Magnesium (Mg)
    • Copper (Cu)
    • Boron (B)
    • Zinc (Zn)
    • Molybdenum (Mo)
    • Chlorine (Ci)
  • Oxygen
  • Hydrogen
  • Carbon

Without anyone of these essential elements, plants cannot sustain life, thus the term “essential.”  Supplying these 13 elements to the plant must be provided, with hydroponics they are added in the hydro nutrients solution.

Why Use Hydroponics?

The thrill and taste of harvesting your own home-grown lettuce and tomatoes in the middle of winter is indescribable. After your first harvest you will be looking for ways to increase your production and perhaps add a few new varieties of veggies to grow.

The nutrients slowly dissolve in the surrounding soil-water solution, and the roots then absorb the nutrients from the soil-water. All plants have the same basic needs whether they are grown in soil or not. When the plant’s nutritional needs are met, soil is no longer necessary. In fact, the soil may harbor pathogens and other organisms that can harm the plant.

When growing hydro, all the nutrients are supplied in a water solution that passes over the roots or floods around them at regular intervals. Plants often grow faster because nutrients are immediately available and therefore can be assimilated faster.

The basic system should fill the needs of the plant’s roots just as the earth would by providing support, oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange (via the substrate), and water and nutrients (via the nutrient solution). Adequate light and warmth complete the minimal requirements for successful hydroponic plant growth.

 Benefits over Soil

  •  Healthier Plants. Hydroponic gardens are easier to keep disease free.
  •  Water Conservation. Most of the water in a hydroponic garden is recycled. Hydroponics also saves an incredible amount of water; it uses as little as 1/20 the amount as a soil-grown-plants to produce the same amount of food.
  • More Efficient Use of Land. On average, one square yard in a hydroponic garden can produce as many vegetables as 28 square yards in soil.
  • Less Pollution. Everything in a hydroponic garden recirculates. As a result, there is less chance for human-made fertilizers to enter the water supply.
  • Versatility. A small hydroponic garden can be set up almost anywhere
  • Yes anywhere….The US Navy is growing fresh vegetables on submarines in highly specialized hydroponic systems to help supply fresh vegetables for the crews.
  • NASA is experimenting with hydroponic systems to be used to feed people in space. Many experiments have been conducted in laboratories and on recent space shuttle missions.
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