Hydroponic methods are efficient ways to grow plants without soil. A common form of hydroponics is a method referred to as drip irrigation, or drip systems. This is a process of constantly pumping water to a plant. The plant's roots hang down in a reservoir, where the water runs off the roots and is recirculated to the top of the plant. Hydroponics are often thought of as complicated and technical, but once the basics are understood, hydroponics can be very easy and profitable for the ambitious gardener.
Hydroponic methods of gardening have been used for thousands of years. An ancient method of hydroponics involved digging holes for clay pots to be set in. These clay pots had several small holes in them. They were used to collect and store rain water and allow it to slow seep into the soil in which plants were growing. Also, in times of little rain, the pots were filled with water from other sources to store and provide water to plants.
The methods of modern drip irrigation all involve the continuous movement of a nutrient-rich water solution to plants. Various materials are used to support the plant's root structure. Clay pebbles, mixtures of sand and gravel, and rockwool are all commonly used in drip irrigation. Rockwool is preferred by many growers because it holds the right balance of water and air that plants need for optimal growth.
Hydroponic drip systems offer the root structure of plants the best conditions for optimal growth. Unlike growing with soil and small pots, roots never get locked up or root-bound. With drip systems, plant roots have nearly unlimited space. If the root structure has a lot of room to grow and collect nutrients, the roots can send more nutrients to the foliage of the plant, allowing it to grow faster and healthier.
Hydroponic drip systems cut out the hassle of dealing with soil and can save on space and mess over time. The main function of drip systems, however, is to provide the plant with the specific nutrients it requires. Some plants may need more phosphorus or nitrogen than other plants. This can be achieved more easily with drip systems because all the nutrients are poured into the reservoir that is pumped to the plant.
The main concern when growing plants with hydroponics is power failure. During power loss, plants can get waterlogged if the water isn't being pumped out, and they can dry out quickly if water isn't being pumped to them. If a plant's root structure is exposed to dry air for even a short time, the plant can die.