Hydroponics is the way to grow plants where there is no soil available. You will find it on rooftops, walls, indoors, rocky islands, deserts and the International Space Station.
Use less water
In most hydroponics systems, water is recirculated. Every bit of water is reused over and over again so hydroponic systems are more efficient in using water than soil agriculture, where recycling water is impossible. An hydroponic culture can save up to 95% of water over a traditional one.
Plants need nutrients to grow (just as you do), but most hydroponic substrates are inert and chemically inactive. They do not contain those indispensable nutrients. That’s why it is essential to add fertilizers to the water. This mix is called “nutrient solution”.
Plants grow faster
Thanks to studies in plant nutrition, now we know a lot about what they need; every plant has some ideal conditions. Tune the nutrient solution to your culture’s necessities and you are basically creating a paradise for the plants. With all their needs covered they grow fast and strong. A hydroponic culture can grow 2 to 3 times faster than a traditional one.
Plants grow healthier (and you too)
A good quality substrate will not contain bugs or fungi that are often present in soil and can weaken or even kill the plants. Also indoor and greenhouse cultures are more protected from plagues, so less pesticide is necessary and produce is healthier to consume.
Even when pesticides are applied in recirculating irrigation water, they are used more efficiently and will cause a much smaller impact on the environment. We have to protect our planet.
They need care
Unlike soil, chemically inactive substrates allow total control over what plants eat. This allows rapid growing, but requires more control. Soil acts as a buffer, delaying changes; it’s more “forgiving” if you make a mistake. In hydroponics, errors are felt immediately by the plants and can be costly. On the other hand, if you react and correct the problem on time, the plants will also recover faster. That’s the reason hydroponic cultures need close monitoring or even automating it.
They need energy
You need electricity to keep the nutrient solution cycling as well as to oxygenate it. Indoor gardening also needs lighting.
You will need some materials and tools. You can find everything you need in Amazon and other retailers, but you can save some money and have fun building your own system. Homemade hydroponic systems are just as effective. You will also need to buy fertilizer and seeds.
There are many hydroponic techniques
Some of them are really simple like rafts floating on the nutrient solution, but hydroponic systems have evolved to adapt to many different environments, like indoor gardening or the space. Aquaponic systems grow fishes and vegetables at the same time, and aeroponics systems vaporizes the nutrient solution to water the roots. We will write about how to choose the most appropriate for you.
Pots are hydroponics
Well you could dispute this one, but many people say that they actually are. Once you put soil in a pot, it becomes cut off from the advantages of the real soil: the buffer effect I mentioned before. Researchers point out that pots are soilless but they are not hydroponics unless the substrate is inert. Soil based mixes or compost are not; the line is often drawn in coco pet, which is a bit in between worlds.
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