Hydroponics For Beginners – Home Gardening
Well, you probably have been thinking about Hydroponics for a while now and as a beginner, you want to bring your gardening hobby indoors, Well, why haven’t you done so?
Why not garden hydroponically instead? You’ve probably heard a lot of misconceptions about hydroponic gardening such as that it’s expensive and hard to do. However, if you have a green thumb outdoors, you’ll have an even greener thumb indoors once you learn the ins and outs of this fun way to grow food. An indoor hydroponic garden without soil gives you everything your plants need to be happy and healthy inside your home.
As a Beginner in Hydroponic Gardening, your initial outlay of money will be more expensive than for a traditional garden outside. Once you get the hang of it, though, your hydroponic gardening system will begin to pay for itself thanks to the incredible yields that you’ll achieve. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Not only will you end up saving money on your food bill, but you’ll also have healthier produce grown without pesticides. Read on to learn everything you need to know on hydroponics for beginners.
Do I Just Place Plants in Water and Watch them Grow?
While hydroponics is easy, it’s not that easy. The word itself means “working water,” yet the definition of this growing method has broadened over the years to mean the cultivation of plants without soil. Plants have the same basic needs whether or not they grow in soil. According to the University of Alabama Extension, plants grown via hydroponic gardening receive all the nutrients they need in via the water solution that passes over the roots or floods around them at regular intervals. Plants usually grow faster in a hydroponic system because their water, nutrient, and light needs are met consistently.
Purdue University notes that home gardeners can easily create small-scale systems and successfully grow a variety of vegetables that can supply a family with greens and vegetables year-round. Home gardeners can create small hydroponic systems and successfully grow a variety of vegetables. The systems allow gardeners to grow food year-round and are versatile in size and location, meaning the systems can be inside or outside. Locating inside, however, is the way to go if you want to have year-round food, no matter your location.
For a hydroponic system to work, you need to replace the soil with a viable way of giving the roots the nourishment that they need. That means providing nutrients to your plants in a predetermined manner. Now, that may sound difficult, but it really isn’t. As a beginning hydroponic gardener, you can find and buy some premixed nutrient solutions that will adequately feed your plants. Give them an adequate amount of light, and you’re good to go.
Some systems simply have the roots suspended in water with a periodic solution of nutrients washing over them. In contrast, other systems use a sterile medium to anchor the roots, yet provides plenty of opportunity for proper feeding of nutrients. Artificial media used to anchor roots include river sand, gravel, perlite, peat moss, rockwool, coconut coir, and more. Systems supply nutrients in an open manner, meaning the nutrient solution is discarded after it passes the roots, or closes whereby the solution is captured and recycled within the system.
The University of Alabama Cooperative Extension notes that plants need five elements to grow correctly: water, light, warm temperatures, and sufficient nutrients. Light requirements vary among different crops, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure your plants get eight to 10 hours of direct light per day. Most crops also need daytime temperatures ranging from 60 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with warm crops requiring temperatures at the higher end of that range.
The nutrient solution supplied to your plans is a crucial component in successfully growing plants hydroponically. Nutrient solutions include precisely what the plants need, including major ones such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, along with micronutrients like iron, manganese, boron, molybdenum, zinc, and copper. You can buy many different types of nutrient solutions specially formulated for tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and other types of plants.
Hydroponics for Beginners – To Medium Culture or Not to Medium Culture, That is the Question
Hydroponic growing systems are generally divided into two main categories, water or nutrient culture and medium culture as noted by Valentina Lagomarsino of Harvard University, many contemporary systems are quite sophisticated as you can find or build kits that will monitor all sorts of variables such as the level of nutrients, pH, water temperature and even the light levels. As a beginner, don’t let that scare you off, as the various types of systems are easy to set up and maintain. While many different types of water and medium culture systems are available, you’ll find six main types, most of which have variants.
When starting out with Hydroponics for Beginners, the crops you grow will often help to determine the system you choose, according to Ralph Morini of Piedmont Master Gardeners. Lettuces and other greens along with herbs, all of which have short growth cycles, fare best with a water culture system, while tomatoes and other vining crops do better in systems that regularly drain nutrients and regularly expose the roots to air, like ebb-and-flow or drip systems.
Nutrient Film Technique
This technique uses a grow tray that is angled slightly to use gravity and positioned above a reservoir filled with a water nutrient mix. A thin, constant stream of water flows across roots, forming a nutrient-dense film of water around them. Plants are suspended through holes in the top of the growth tray. Several variations of this technique are available, and according to Harvard’s Lagomarsino, nutrient film technique is the most popular hydroponic system in the world.
Building your own NFT system is also easier than it appears. This video will show you the materials you need for a simple system as well as how to build it.
Raft or Floating System
Sheets of Styrofoam support plants above the nutrient solution. These closed systems require aeration and must be closely monitored to provide adequate oxygen. Piedmont Master Gardeners note that this system works for lettuce, greens, and herbs but not for longer season sand vine crops.
In this system, plants live in a supporting container with sloped sides with the roots suspended in the air. Plants receive nutrients via a mist delivered by a vaporizer, or by special attachments from drip irrigation kits, with the excess running down the inside of the frame where it collects at the bottom and is recycled in the nutrient reservoir. Some aeroponics systems use aeration via an aquarium pump that bubbles oxygen to the plans. These systems can be complicated for novice hydroponic gardeners to use.
Ebb and Flow System
Ebb-and-Flow technique allows the medium in which plants are rooted to be flooded with nutrient-rich solution, allowing them to uptake food, with the excess draining back into a reservoir for recycling. During each flooding cycle, the roots are submerged for about 20 to 30 minutes, According to Ruth Sorenson and Diane Relf of Virginia Tech University, cycles in this type of system are typically automated, with intervals adjusted by the kind of plants.
Perhaps the simplest hydroponic format is the wick system. Plants receive water and nutrients passively from a wick or a piece of string that runs from a reservoir up to the plant roots, which are usually anchored in some type of growing medium. Because these types of systems are simple and don’t require any power, they are ideal for beginners and are often used in classrooms to help teach the hydroponic method of growing.
Sometimes called the continuous drip system, this method involves supplying nutrients to plan supported in a solid medium by drip irrigation. Various modifications have resulted in several variations, such as the tower garden. Drip trays under each row of plants collect runoff solution for recycling in closed systems. Trickle feed and tube culture methods, which use tubes that branch out into various areas of the container are variations of this method.
Come On, Hydroponic for Beginners Systems Can’t Be All That Great?
In truth, they are. Growing your vegetable and fruit hydroponically has quite a few advantages. One of the main benefits, according to Dr. Melissa Remley, assistant professor of environmental plant science at Missouri State University, is that hydroponic growing allows you to grow plants anywhere at any time as long as you have a light source. That means as long as you have the right temperature and a sufficient amount of light, you can have fresh produce in your home even during the coldest part of winter. What a great benefit – having fruits and vegetables the year-round.
But the benefits go beyond year-round fresh food. Hydroponic growing gives you full control over the nutrient balance feeding your plants. You’re in control and give them the exact amount of macronutrients and micronutrients that they need just when they need them. This technique results in faster growth and bigger yields. The University of Illinois Extension indicates that, on average, hydroponic plants grow 30 percent to 40 percent faster than their counterparts grown in soil.
While water is a prime component of hydroponic growing, when you employ this method, you actually save water. The University of Nevada indicates that water savings can be as high as 90 percent over conventional gardening. In addition to using less water, hydroponic gardening is also eco-friendly because you don’t use any pesticides so that you won’t harm the environment with dangerous chemicals.
You’ll also enjoy the fact that you’ll have no weeding to do, which saves time, allowing you to possibly make your growing system larger. Plants can be spaced closely and stacked vertically, while materials, such as containers can be repeatedly reused.
But You Got Us: There are a few Disadvantages to Hydroponics for Beginners
Like anything else, growing plants hydroponically has its drawbacks too. Perhaps the biggest one is you can end up with a substantial outlay at the beginning, depending on the type of system you select. However, you can mitigate those costs by building one on your own with household items such as plastic tubs. The University of Hawaii notes that quart or half-gallon cardboard milk or juice cartons make excellent containers for smaller vegetables. If you have one with a screw cap spout, you can even use that as a place to add nutrient solutions.
Diseases can also spread quickly within these indoor systems, so you have to remain vigilant that everything is working correctly as your entire crop could end up being wiped out. Hydroponic For Beginners growing requires a certain skill level, especially with some of the culture systems like nutrient film technique that often need adjustments before you get a good crop yield. Make sure you are comfortable with the system you chose and your knowledge level before embarking on this journey of growth.
It’s Time to Get Growing With Hydroponics for Beginners
Now that you know the basics of hydroponics for beginners, it’s time to get growing and create your system. Start small to make it easier for you with your first few crops in the beginning. Select plants that are easiest to grow, such as lettuce, spinach, and other salad agrees. Oriental style vegetables like bok choy are also quick growers and will provide you with tasty food in a matter of a few months.
Other good choices are cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes. Keep in mind that tomatoes are a vining plant and require supports to reach toward the light. Make sure that you monitor your system closely for pests and diseases as these can quickly wipe out your crop if allowed to go unchecked. Finally, make friends with a local master gardener knowledgeable about this growing method. Most hydroponic gardeners are enthusiastic about their craft and are more than willing to impart their knowledge with an eager beginner.