Hydroponics has been around in one form or another for several hundred years. Hydroponics refers to growing plants in a water solution infused with nutrients and minerals rather than soil. The roots of most plants can absorb their required nutrients directly from water without having to be planted in the ground. Hydroponics is used commercially to grow hothouse vegetables, especially tomatoes and cucumbers. It can be used successfully for smaller plantings in homes and offices.
How Does Hydroponics Differ From Growing in Soil?
Hydroponics uses water and nutrients to supply plants with their needs rather than soil. Most hydroponics systems are indoor operations with controlled lighting to ensure that the plants receive the proper amount and intensity of light. Hydroponics alleviates the problems associated with poor soils and many soil-borne diseases and insects. However there are pests and diseases that can infiltrate a hydroponic system as well. Hydroponics allows the grower to more carefully control the plant's growth cycle, and it is often used to grow vegetables quickly for the retail market.
Can I Grow Plants Using Hydroponics at Home?
Hydroponic systems in all sizes can be purchased as a complete kit from numerous vendors. You can also build your own hydroponic system using plans from books or the Internet. However, gain a solid understanding of the concepts and the process before attempting to build your own system.
What Can I Grow Hydroponically?
You can grow almost any plant hydroponically. Each plant will have its own nutrient and mineral requirements that must be adhered to. Depending on the location of your system and your needs, you can grow indoor flowers under lights. You can also grow your own herb or vegetable garden without worrying about the outdoor temperatures or the season.
Is It More Time-intensive to Use a Hydroponic System Than to Plant in Soil?
Yes and no. Because of the precision required to keep plants alive without soil, it is important to check water quality frequently for pH levels, nutrient loads and algae growth. However, many professional gardeners perform similar tests on their soil as well, so it is no greater effort to grow with hydroponics.
Will a Home Hydroponic System Pay for Itself?
Probably not. Most systems are relatively expensive compared to planting in the soil around your home. What a hydroponic system can provide is fresh herbs and vegetables during the winter that otherwise might not be available or might be expensive in stores. Because you are not spraying the vegetables with insecticides, you are also growing potentially healthier vegetables.