Hydroponic gardening is a way of growing plants which gives us the ability to control all aspects of their growth and development. With careful control, plants can flourish to a far greater extent than those grown naturally in soil.
The reasons for this staggering growth is the ability to allow the roots of the plant open access to oxygen by leaving them exposed to the air, plus the ability to provide the plants with an unlimited supply of nutrients which are added directly into the water supply, which in turn is also unlimited.
It follows that if the advantages of hydroponics are based on maintaining a high level of control at the root zone, then to maximise results further you must have the same level of control over the other aspects of that environment. Namely, temperature, light and humidity. This can only be done by growing plants indoors.
In addition, growing indoors in a controlled environment means the plants can remain free of pests and soil carried diseases.
These days all the tools you need to grow plants indoors are readily available, and technological advances mean they are improving all the time. Lighting systems, fans, Co2 generators and atmospheric controllers combined with a quality hydroponic system mean that you can supply your plants with the optimum environment for their growth, which can be tailored to suit the species you are growing. In Britain, where our climate can alter drastically in a matter of hours and our levels of sunlight are often limited by cloud cover, indoor gardening is an ideal solution.
Types of hydroponic systems
The easiest hydroponics system, requiring no power. Can be effective in an undemanding situation, but in general is less effective than an active system.
Nutrient Film Technique is the name given to a system of growing plants in a continuously circulating nutrient solution without the use of any solid growing medium. One of the simplest ways to grow hydroponically, NFT is as economical as it is productive and is very popular.
The primary advantage of using an NFT system is quite simply yield. It is far easier to produce a high quality and quantity of harvest when using an NFT system compared to using traditional methods of gardening. As well as ease of use here are some other factors which contribute to this increased productivity:
- Plants obtain the optimum amount of nutrient required.
- Plants are free of root diseases common in soil growing
- Plants have absolute freedom from weeds and pests
- Plant roots are allowed direct contact with air giving them an unlimited supply of oxygen
Ebb and Flood:
This involves growing plants in an inert medium such as Rockwool, Perlite or clay pebbles. As the name suggest the cultivation area is flooded and then allowed to drain into a reservoir. As the nutrient solution drains oxygen is drawn around the roots in its place. Electronics control the regularity of the process.
Ebb and Flood systems couple the productivity of NFT with an attractive look and a high degree of control.
- Ebb and Flood systems produce a increased yield when compared with traditional methods
- Timers give high level of control over moisture levels
- Plants can be easily added and removed from the system at any stage with minimum fuss
- A plant can be sustained in an Ebb and Flood system for a long period of time
Popular among commercial horticulturalists, this system continuously drips nutrient solution over an inert growing media [clay pebbles, rockwool or foam]. Excess solution can then be recirculated and reused.
A common means of growing hydroponically although lacking the aesthetics of Ebb and Flood and the simplicity of NFT.
With Drip Irrigation systems, each plant can have it's own reservoir of nutrient solution, which means that each plants needs can be individually catered for. Therefore the main advantages of Dripper systems are control related as follows:
- Dripper systems allow very little contact between plants minimising the transfer of disease
- They enable precise control over levels of nutrient solution
- Because dripper systems usually rely on an inert medium to hold the plants they can be less susceptible to timer failure as they hold a reserve of nutrient for each plant