Growing Food Without Soil- Hydroponics
People’s interest in how their food is produced has grown dramatically during the last decade. More people desire “safe” food grown in a sustainable, thoughtful manner and free of pesticide residues. As a result, more customers are opting to grow their own food, and many are opting for hydroponics. Hydroponics is gaining popularity at the commercial level too.
Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants without soil. You fed a nutrient solution to the roots of plants instead of mineral nutrients from the ground. Moreover, You can use hydroponics to grow anything from a few herbs in a kitchen to hundreds of plants in a commercial setting. Urban inhabitants, apartment dwellers, or renters who cannot have an outdoor garden find hydroponic farming exciting and useful.
Many plants thrive in hydroponics. Herbs, lettuce and greens, tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries are ideal hydroponic plants. Avoid plants that grow tall, have deep taproots or are vining. So if you want to know more about this soilless culture of fruits and vegetable gardening, read the whole article. It will give you the basic insight into hydroponics, its working, components, types, advantages and disadvantages.
Working Of Hydroponics
While various metabolic processes support plant growth, plants grow largely due to three factors. These are essential nutrients, water, and sunlight. Soil anchors the plant and serves as a reservoir for water and nutrients in a typical outdoor or indoor garden. A hydroponics system eliminates the need for soil by delivering a nutrient-rich aqueous solution straight to the roots. It also keeps the plant fed and hydrated, while auxiliary lighting solutions simulate sunlight.
Components of Hydroponic Systems
Hydroponically grown plants generally grow in an inert material that supports their weight and roots. Growing medium replaces soil but does not supply independent nutrients to the plant. Instead, it absorbs moisture and nutrients from the nutrition solution and delivers them to the plant. Many growing media are pH-neutral to won’t mess with your nutrient solution’s pH. There are a variety of media to pick from, depending on the plant and hydroponic system. The hydroponic growing medium is commonly accessible online and in garden centers.
Air-Stones and Air Pumps
Submerged plants might quickly drown if the water is not adequately aerated. Air stones disperse tiny bubbles of dissolved oxygen throughout your nutrient solution reservoir.
Moreover, These bubbles also help to distribute the dissolved nutrients evenly. Air stones do not produce oxygen. A food-grade plastic tube connects them to an external air pump for producing oxygen. Air stones and air pumps are common aquarium accessories available at pet stores.
Net pots are net planters that hold hydroponic plants in a water container. The latticed material allows roots to sprout out of the sides and bottom of the pot, increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients the plant receives from the environment. Additionally, compared to typical clay or plastic pots, net pots provide improved drainage.
Types of Hydroponic Systems
It is the simplest hydroponics system that anybody can use. The Wick system is the only hydroponics system that doesn’t use electricity. It is commonly known as a passive system as it doesn’t involve any moving parts.
Nutrients and water reach the roots through wicks from the nutrient solution. Using rope, string, or felt, you can make wicks and suspend the plants in porous growing media. Popular choices for growing media are Perlite, Vermiculite, Pro-Mix and Coconut Fiber.
Wicks systems work by a process called capillary action. The wick is like a sponge that soaks up the water. When it comes into contact with the porous growing media, it transfers the nutrient solution to the plants.
It is simple to set up and doesn’t require much attention.
Low cost for setups and operation
Suitable for small plants and beginners
Susceptible to root rot and fungal outbreak as the system is always humid and damp.
Incorrect placement of wicks can cause the death of plants.
Ebb and Flow System
This system works by temporarily flooding the growing tray with a nutrient solution from a reservoir below controlled. Hence it is also called a flood and drain system. Popular choices of growing media are Grow Rocks, gravel or granular Rockwool. A timer controls the submersible pump in the reservoir.
Likewise, The pump fills the grow bed with water and nutrients when the Timer goes on. When the Timer stops, gravity slowly drains the grow bed and returns the water to the reservoir.
The Timer is set to come on several times a day, depending on the size and type of plants, temperature and humidity, and growing medium used. Unlike other systems, you don’t expose plants constantly to water.
Quick and vigorous growth as oxygen and nutrients are abundant.
Easily customizable and versatile as per your need.
Effective at growing nearly all types of plants, including root vegetables like carrots and radishes.
Malfunction of pump controller or slight imbalance in time can dry out roots quickly
Requires constant monitoring and attention
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
This system suspends plants above a stream of continually flowing nutrient solutions that wash over the ends of the plant’s root systems. The channels that contain the plants are inclined, allowing water to travel down the length of the grow tray before draining into the reservoir below.
The reservoir’s water is then aerated with an air stone. The nutrient-rich water is then pumped out of the reservoir and returned to the channel’s top by a submersible pump.
The nutrient film technology is a recirculating hydroponic system. It can preserve 70-90 % more water than the traditional farming system.Instead of whole roots, the stream (or “film”) only flows over the root tips. These root tips will wick moisture up into the plant, while the exposed root system will have plenty of oxygen.
do not demand large quantities of water or nutrients as it involves recirculating
perfect for large-scale and commercial production
Pump failure of any kind can completely ruin your crop
Roots can become overgrown and clog the channels
The aerated and nutrient-rich reservoir in the system delivers fluid through a network of tubes to individual plants. This solution is slowly dripped into the growing medium surrounding the root system, keeping the plants hydrated and nourished.
Drip systems are the most common and widely used hydroponics method, particularly among commercial producers. Drip irrigation systems can be as simple as individual plants or as complex as large-scale watering operations. There are two types of drip system hydroponics configurations: recovery and non-recovery.
In recovery systems, which are more common with smaller, at-home growers, you drain surplus water from the grow bed and recirculate it during the following drip cycle. Excess water drains out of the growth media and runs to waste in non-recovery systems. Though non-recovery drip systems may appear inefficient, large-scale farmers are extremely frugal with their water usage.
Can easily support large-scale hydroponics operations.
It can support much larger plants than most other hydroponic systems.
Work best with slow draining media, like Rockwool, coco coir, and peat moss.
Changing pH and nutrient levels (if using the recirculating system)
Excessive waste (if using a waste system)
Aeroponics devices hold plants in the air, exposing their bare roots to nutrient-rich spray. These systems are enclosed frameworks, such as cubes or towers, that can accommodate many plants simultaneously. You keep water and nutrients in a reservoir before being pushed to a nozzle that atomizes and spreads the solution as a thin mist.
The mist is often released from the top of the tower, cascading down the chamber. Some aeroponics systems mist the plant’s roots continually, similar to how NFT systems expose the roots to the nutrient film at all times.
Others work more like an ebb and flow system, misting the roots regularly. This hydroponic system does not require a substrate medium to thrive. Because you constantly expose roots to air, they may consume oxygen and grow faster.
Consumption of lesser water
The highest-performing and most eco friendly
Maximum exposure of plants to oxygen
Higher initial cost
High-pressure nozzles can fail, and roots can dry out.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
In this hydroponic system, you suspend plants in aerated water. In deep water culture systems (DWC), you suspend net pots housing plants Over an oxygen-rich nutrient solution. Nutrients, water, and oxygen are always available to the plant’s roots.
You need to add an air stone with an air pump to the reservoir’s bottom to oxygenate the system. The air stone’s bubbles will also aid with circulation.
For the net pots, you can use a clean bucket or an old aquarium with its solution. Soak the roots of DWC plants alone. No part of the stem or foliage should submerge. You can leave some roots above the waterline. Water-saving air stone bubbles will erupt from the surface and splash onto exposed roots, preventing root rot.
Easy to set up and quite inexpensive
It’s a recirculating process, which means less waste
doesn’t usually work for larger plants or those with a longer growing period.
Susceptible to root diseases.
List Of Some Plants That You Can Grow With Hydroponics
Tomato, Chili, Brinjal, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Cucumber, Bell pepper
Marigold, Rose, Carnation, Chrysanthemum
Mint, Sweet basil, Parsley, Oregano
Advantages of Hydroponics
Longer growing season
Plants cannot grow in cold climates with short days and cold winters. Because the grower controls the temperature, light, and nutrient supply, you can cultivate plants hydroponically year-round.
Hydroponics produces plants that grow faster and yield more. This growth is presumably due to the nutrition solution’s higher oxygen content and carefully controlled environmental variables. Increasing plant oxygen levels promotes root development and nutrient uptake, and These ideal growing conditions result in less plant stress and a larger harvest.
Higher Plant Density
Soil-grown plants have strict spacing requirements to ensure equal access to the soil’s limited supply of water and nutrients. Plants can be grown closer together in hydroponic systems because they receive a more nutrient-rich root zone solution.
Less Water Usage
Plants cultivated in hydroponic systems consume between 80 and 90% less water than plants grown in soil. However, in traditional gardening, much water is sprayed on the soil to reach the root zone. Water evaporates as it moves through the soil, reaching the roots just partially.
Easier to Harvest Mature Plants
Hydroponically grown plants are often grown on counters, benches, tables, etc., at waist height for most gardeners. You can harvest Mature plants easily at this height without bending or kneeling. It is a big help for people who can’t garden on the ground due to mobility issues.
Disadvantages of Hydroponics
Higher Setup costs
A hydroponics system is more expensive to buy and build than a typical garden. Likewise, Costs vary based on the selected system, size, and whether it is prefabricated or manufactured from individual components.
Vulnerable to Power Outages
Hydroponic systems use electricity to power components like grow lights, water pumps, aerators and fans. So a power outage affects the whole system. Inactive systems, a power loss might harm plants if overlooked by the grower.
Constant Monitoring And Upkeep
Hydroponics demands more monitoring and micromanagement than standard plant cultivation. Lights, temperature, and numerous elements of the nutrient solution like pH and electrical conductivity must all be monitored to maintain a carefully controlled growing environment. You must drain and change the nutritional solution regularly to prevent accumulation and clogging.
Prone To Waterborne Diseases
Due to the lack of soil, waterborne illnesses are far more prevalent in hydroponically produced plants. Infections can quickly spread throughout the growing system, damaging the entire collection of plants due to the constant circulation of water. Therefore waterborne disease can quickly kill all plants in a hydroponic system.
Susceptible To Ailment
Soil protects roots from harsh temperature fluctuations, delays disease and pest attack, and routinely releases and absorbs nutrients from the soil. Consequently, Hydroponically grown plants react much faster without soil to buffer against nutritional deficits and illness.
Hydroponics is a rising trend in plant cultivation that uses a nutrient-rich solution with a water basis instead of soil. Instead, peat moss, clay pellets, perlite, and Rockwool support plants’ roots. There are hundreds of ways to design or use a hydroponic system to grow plants.
However, there are only six types of hydroponic systems. Because each hydroponic system works differently, you should weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each. Therefore before using a hydroponic system for plant growth, you should know what hydroponics is, how it works, and understand how each system works.