Hydroponics is becoming more common as people search for ways to grow their own produce in limited space or in areas where the soil is unsuitable for gardening. Hydroponics is also a good alternative for commercial produce growers, requiring less space and less water for production. With different types of hydroponic system available, you can find a system that will work in almost any area.
What Is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil. Hydroponic gardeners use a soil-less growing medium to provide a support structure for the plant roots. Some hydroponic systems do not use a growing medium at all, instead suspending the plants with their roots submerged in a reservoir. The hydroponic system provides nutrition directly to the plant roots in a liquid nutrient solution.
Is Hydroponics Organic?
While some growers do use organic gardening methods in their hydroponic systems, hydroponic gardening is not automatically organic. Organic fertilizers require organisms in the soil to break materials down into nutrients that plants can use. Because a hydroponic system provides nutrients in a solution of minerals instead of in soil, it is not itself an organic gardening method.
What Is a Soil-less Growing Medium?
The growing medium used in hydroponic systems is sterile, meaning that it does not contain any minerals or nutrients. It acts strictly as a support structure for the plant roots and to help retain moisture. Common hydroponic growing media include rockwool, perlite and vermiculite.
What Is Aeroponics?
Aeroponics is a form of hydroponics in which oxygen is added to the nutrient solution. The oxygen helps the plant roots to absorb nutrients faster. The aeroponic system sprays this oxygenated nutrient solution in a fine mist on the plant roots.
What Are the Advantages of Hydroponics?
Hydroponic gardening uses 1/30th the amount of water required for in-ground gardening. A hydroponic gardener does not need to worry about crop rotation, because there is no depletion of nutrients in the growing medium. Insect pests and weeds are much easier to control in a hydroponic system, and you may avoid soil-borne pests completely.
What Are the Disadvantages of Hydroponics?
Hydroponic systems can be expensive to set up and run, depending on the system type and equipment needed. This is a very high maintenance form of gardening; hydroponic systems require constant monitoring and water testing to ensure the proper growing conditions. Novice gardeners may have trouble maintaining a hydroponic system and diagnosing plant problems caused by improper nutrient balance.