Hydroponic gardening consists of growing plants without the use of soil. Instead of dirt, water gets used instead to deliver nutrients to the plants. According to the State University of New York, a hydroponic acre yields up to 66 percent more plants than an acre of dirt can produce.
Hydroponic gardening helps people who live in adverse climates to grow fruits and vegetables and other plants when the climate doesn't support these plants naturally. People can grow crops that grow outside their area, too. For instance, gardeners in cool climates might grow tropical fruits with hydroponics. Hydroponic gardening also uses water and nutrients more efficiently while using a minimal amount of land. Crop rotation becomes unnecessary with hydroponic gardening since nutrients do not come from soil. Plus, plant diseases, pests, weeds, draining problems and other typical soil problems do not exist when hydroponics are used.
Unfortunately, the price of vegetables grown in hydroponic systems tends to cost far more than those grown in soil. The reason for the high cost includes the large initial investment and the continued costs involved in running the system, since it requires constant supervision. Plus, the equipment and specialized knowledge to run it also increases the costs.
Two types of hydroponics systems are available, including passive and active. Passive systems offer a basic approach to hydroponic gardening that involves use of moisture-retaining materials such as vermiculite and sand. Passive systems work well to start seeds, grow root cuttings and to experiment. Active systems use pumps and other devices to deliver the solution to the plants and then reuse it again. Active systems require the use of rapidly draining materials such as smooth gravel.
Managing plant nutrition remains the most important aspect of hydroponics, according to the State University of New York. A hydroponics solution contains nutrients that resemble or improve on those found in the soil. Hydroponic solutions contain chemicals such as nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, zinc, boron and copper.
Hydroponic gardening requires the use of a medium to help support the plants and their roots. Growing mediums might include sand, vermiculite, perlite, gravel, sawdust and brick shards. Sometimes polyethylene sheeting is used. Each medium presents pros and cons for its use as well as advantages based on the hydroponic system used.
According to the State University of New York, further development in solar heating should make hydroponics more affordable. Techniques for using hydroponic systems at the space stations may also open up future use on some of the planets. Someday, developing countries may find hydroponics useful in feeding more people with less resources. Specialized hydroponic systems for use in atomic submarines are currently being developed.