Are you curious about foods that can be grown at home easily? Do you want to create your own vertical or container garden? Does space matter while growing food? You’ll get all your answers just by trying hydroponic gardening. Those days are gone when soil was the only medium for the growth of plants.
In the community of gardening, a lot of groundbreaking advancement has taken place, but among them, the storm is hydroponic gardening. Now, you might be thinking about how to grow a hydroponic garden. Don’t worry because we are going to look at the fascinating realm of hydroponic gardening in detail.
Table Of Contents
What is hydroponic gardening?
Hydroponic gardening is considered a method in which plants are grown without using traditional soil in the form of a primary growing medium. Rather, it depends upon the nutrient-rich solution for delivering vital nutrients to the plant roots. With this approach, you can take precise control over the environment of plants, which will lead to optimal growing conditions.
In terms of hydroponics, plants are mainly supported by several inert growing mediums such as air, coconut coir, perlite, or vermiculite. Such mediums will provide physical support to the plant roots and allow them to access the nutrient solutions. Generally, hydroponic systems range from sophisticated commercial operations to simple setups for home gardening.
Benefits of hydroponic garden
1) Space Efficiency
You can easily set up hydroponic gardens in smaller spaces, which can make them ideal for areas having limited outdoor land. Generally, vertical hydroponic systems can maximize the usage of space.
2) Water Efficiency
In hydroponic systems, less water is used in comparison to traditional soil-based gardening. With the recirculating nature of hydroponics, you can conserve water by directly delivering nutrients to the roots of the plant. This will reduce wastage through runoff or evaporation.
3) Precision Nutrient Control
There is precise control of hydroponic growers over the nutrient solution, which will easily be tailored to the specific requirements of each plant. As a result, there will be robust and healthier plants along with optimal nutrient uptake.
4) Faster Growth
Plants present in hydroponic systems grow faster in comparison to their soil counterparts. The reason is that nutrients are readily available, and roots fail to expend energy looking for them. As a result, they accelerate their growth rates.
5) Year-Round Growing
You operate hydroponic systems in controlled environments or indoors, which will lead to year-round cultivations. So, there will be a boost in the growing season and ensure a continuous fresh produce supply.
Drawbacks of hydroponic gardening
1) Equipment Dependence
Hydroponic systems usually rely on several pieces of equipment, such as timers and pumps. If this equipment fail or experience issues, then it can jeopardize plant health by disrupting the entire growing process.
2) Initial Cost
It is quite expensive to set up a hydroponic system. The cost of equipment like nutrient solutions, pumps, and grow lights can be higher in comparison to traditional soil-based gardening.
3) Energy Consumption
In the case of indoor hydroponic systems, mainly those who are using grow lights can consume more electricity. As a result, there will be higher operational costs leading to the contribution of environmental concerns.
4) Technical Knowledge
While doing hydroponic gardening, you should have a good understanding of plant biology and systems. In terms of nutrient management, novice gardeners might face potential mistakes and a steep learning curve.
5) Nutrient Management
You might be thinking there is an advantage in precise nutrient control, but there are drawbacks too, if it fails to be managed correctly. If you under or overfeed plants with nutrients, then it can lead to harming plant growth by balancing nutrients.
How to start hydroponic gardening?
1) Select a Suitable Location
Look for an outdoor or indoor location that should have access to water and electricity and adequate temperature and light control. Make sure that the area should be well-ventilated and free from any kind of pests.
2) Choose a Hydroponic System
It’s time for research, then select a hydroponic system that fits your available space and needs. There are common systems such as Drip Systems, NFT (Nutrient Film Technique), and DWX (Deep Water Culture).
3) Gather Essential Equipment
According to the chosen system, you can acquire the equipment:
- Nutrient solution
- Grow container or reservoir
- Air stones and air pump
- Growing mediums like perlite, rockwool, etc.
- Electrical conductivity and pH meters
- Grow cups or net pots
- Grow lights
- Growing trays or channels
4) Prepare the Growing Medium
In case, you’re taking the help of a solid growing medium such as coconut coir or Rockwool, then must hydrate it according to the instructions mentioned by the manufacturer. Before using it, make sure it’s pH balanced.
5) Set Up the Hydroponic System
Go through the manufacturer’s instructions for arranging and assembling your chosen hydroponic system. All the components you’re using should be sterile and clean to prevent contamination.
As a next step, place your plants in grow cups or net pots. You can insert them into any growing medium. The roots of your plants should be submerged and well-supported in the nutrient solution.
7) Lighting and Environment
In case, you’re growing indoors, then install all the appropriate grow lights at the perfect duration and distance for stimulating natural sunlight. As per the specific plant, you can maintain the recommended levels of humidity and temperature.
8) Harvest and Enjoy
Finally, when your plants are grown, you can go through the recommended timeframes for harvesting. Generally, hydroponically grown crops mature faster in comparison to those based in traditional soil gardens.
What plants can be used in hydroponic gardening?
Both hot and sweet peppers can easily thrive in hydroponic systems, which will benefit from consistent climate control and nutrient delivery.
2) Leafy Greens
Plants such as kale, spinach, and lettuce are some of the well-suited for hydroponics because they can grow faster and have a shallow root system.
Varieties of compact cucumber work well in hydroponics. With this, you can yield flavorful and crisp cucumbers for pickling and salads.
Culinary herbs like parsley, mint, cilantro, and basil can flourish in hydroponic setups, which can provide aromatic and fresh flavors year-round.
Sweet and juicy berries are produced by hydroponic strawberries, which can be grown in a vertical system for optimizing space.
Tomatoes are one of the popular options for hydroponic gardens because they can produce abundant fruit along with proper care and support.
Maintenance tips for hydroponic garden
1) Maintain Proper Oxygenation
There should be adequate oxygenation of the nutrient solution. The reason is proper aeration is vital for the health of plant roots. You can use air pumps and air stones to provide oxygen to roots, mainly in NFT and DWC systems. Don’t forget to clean your air stones regularly to prevent any kind of clogs.
2) Inspect and Maintain Equipment
It would be better to inspect all system components regularly for signs of malfunction, clogs, or wear. As per the need, you can replace or clean parts to ensure that the system starts operating efficiently. Regularly check the water level of your reservoir and make sure it remains at an appropriate level to prevent nutrient solution depletion or pump damage.
3) Monitor Nutrient Solution and pH Levels
You can use a meter to check the strength of the nutrient solution regularly. As needed, you can adjust the nutrient solution concentration based on the recommendation from the manufacturer or growth stage of your plants
Aim for a pH range that fits perfectly for specific plants, and for this, you can monitor the pH level of the nutrient solution continuously. There is a need for adjustment in pH with pH down or pH up solutions. Always strive to keep it stable because pH fluctuations can easily affect nutrient uptake.
4) Prevent Algae Growth
There are chances of developing algae in hydroponic systems whenever it is exposed to light. You can prevent this by keeping all nutrient and water solution containers shielded or opaque from light. It would be better to implement a cleaning schedule for removing any algae that might accumulate on surfaces within the hydroponic system.
5) Pruning and Training Plants
With the growth of your plants, you can monitor their development and train or prune them as required. You can improve airflow within the system and encourage healthy growth by removing yellowing or dead leaves. Make sure you train your plants to grow in a manner for maximizes light exposure and space, mainly in systems having limited space.
6) Pest and Disease Management
You can maintain a clean growing environment to minimize the risk of diseases and pests. Make sure your equipment and tools are being sanitized between uses. In case, diseases or pests appear, then give a try to hydroponic-safe treatments like organic pesticides. The best way to prevent spreading this issue is by isolating affected plants.
Make sure you pay attention to detail and have patience because they are vital for maintaining a healthy hydroponic garden home. It would be easier to avoid common issues by making adjustments and monitoring regularly. With this, your plants will receive the care and nutrients required for thriving. You can explore many other advanced techniques as you start gaining more and more experience.