Hydroponics is an effective way of growing plants indoors without the use of soil. Soilless gardening has been experimented with for ages, and now, because of the environmental promise of large-scale hydroponic gardening within city buildings, hydroponics is beginning to see some popularity.
How It Works
Hydroponic gardening grows plants without the use of soil. Instead, a nutrient solution is used to provide the food a plant needs to survive. The roots of the plant either drape naked in the nutrient solution or the plant's roots are placed into a soilless potting mixture or growing medium such as vermiculite or perlite. This is also know as the substrate.
Water and Nutrient Solution
The two main types of nutrient solution are grow formula and flowering formula. Grow formula is a nutrient-rich mixture made for the early period of a plant's growth. It aids in vegetative growth such as leaves and stems. Flowering formulas on the other hand provide the right kind of nutrients for the periods where the plant is flowering or producing fruits or vegetables. The nutrient solution is mixed with water to keep the roots of the plant from burning because of a high concentration of nutrients. Water is also essential to plant growth.
Indoor hydroponic systems require lighting to keep the plants healthy. Fruiting plants such as corn, tomatoes and peppers require eight to 10 hours of light. Artificial lights can be used to provide this need. Metal halide and high pressure sodium (HPS) lights are available cheaply, although they may burn so hot as to change the temperature of the room. LED lights are now available and decreasing in price. These lights provide more focused light with less energy waste and little heat generation.
Indoor hydroponic systems require a good temperature--between 70 and 80 degrees F during the day and 60 to 70 degrees F at night for warm temperature plants, and 10 degrees lower for cold season plants--for the best growth conditions. It is best to have the temperature in the hydroponics room heat-regulated to prevent killing the plants.
Basic systems generally require a reservoir to keep the nutrient solution and another container that holds the plants and the nutrient solution they need. Basic systems will recycle nutrient solution by pumping it from the reservoir container into the plant container, which contains a drain that releases the nutrient solution back into the reservoir. Standard aquarium air pumps can be used in a hydroponics system to recycle nutrient solution.